They bounded from a long line of school buses early on a Saturday morning in June for the sixth annual Heart of a Champion Day. Over the next eight hours, more than 1,400 high school student athletes from across Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools received free, comprehensive medical fitness evaluations, compliments of a small army of 350 physicians, nurses, technicians, athletic trainers and volunteers who donated their time. The pace and sheer volume of patients being screened was reinforced with each new arriving bus.
In addition to the athletes, the day also featured one famous cheerleader – professional quarterback, Cam Newton. Armed with a microphone, Newton ran down the hallways while interviewing students and reinforcing the need for them to pursue continuing healthy lifestyles.
They came in a variety of sizes and athletic interests ranging from cross-country and basketball to football, gymnastics, baseball, volleyball and other sports. For many, this might be their only visit with a physician for the entire year. But the ability to confirm they had healthy hearts, lungs, bones, muscles, eyes and nutrition levels so as to successfully compete in the upcoming season was why they were there.
- David Price, MD
In the center of all the activity and much in demand was David Price, MD. As the medical director for Heart of a Champion Day, he has led the annual event since it was first offered in 2008. The assembled team and support system whirling around him seemed only to energize him more. "We do this for the kids—for the one or more lives we might wind up saving each year through our testing," says Dr. Price. "I’m very proud that we are able to provide these free tests to public school students in multiple communities. I know the work we are doing makes a difference."
Growing in popularity each year, Heart of a Champion Day now provides access to student athletes not only in Mecklenburg County but across the region. In 2013, a total of four events held in Lincolnton, Indian Trail, Fort Mill and Charlotte collectively screened over 2,500 students.
Providing a coordinated approach to care for high school athletes is what Heart of a Champion Day is all about. But a preparation for the day and the many months leading up to it also represents the coordinated effort and contributions of the hundreds of volunteers assembled from across Carolinas HealthCare System. The comprehensive screenings completed during the day are valued at $1,500 per student. Working as One, the organization’s team-based culture provided the care exactly when and where the students needed it – at no cost to them.
For a select few, the screening results may provide a pathway for those who may need additional investigation about their conditions. In the end, such information and knowledge can be game if not life changing. In January the planning for next year’s event starts all over again for Dr. Price and his team. It’s a given that on another select group of Saturdays next Spring, a long line of school busses filled with student athletes will again be pulling up for Heart of a Champion Day VII. "We’re here to safeguard the health and safety of champions both present and future," observes Dr. Price with a smile.