Local heart surgeon creates program to teach kids how to prevent heart disease

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Middle school students at the Brickell Academy in Virginia Beach are listening intently to a lecture that could one day save their lives.

"The wire goes in here and sits in your heart.”

Heart surgeon Dr. Robert Lancey is describing how he opens clogged arteries after people have developed heart disease.

It’s the Heart Health Academy at Bon Secours.  He teaches young people about the lifestyle choices that cause heart disease so they don’t end up on his operating table.

News 3 anchor Beverly Kidd surprises Dr. Robert Lancey with a People Taking Action award

"What I do in the operating room saves people, but it's like closing the barn door once the horse is already gone. And we’re treating a disease that is very preventable.”

The Bon Secours surgeon created the program when he practiced medicine in Cooperstown, New York, and brought it to Hampton Roads in 2014.

He donates his time each school year, holding interactive seminars in middle schools where students see videos, exercise and at the end of the session, have a heart-healthy lunch.

The goal? To teach them now how to adopt a lifestyle that will set them up for a heart healthy adulthood.

"So, you leave the hospital with a piece of metal in your heart for the rest of your life to keep your blood vessel open.”

The number one risk factor in developing heart disease?  Smoking.

Nimish Nookala says he learned a lot of things that surprised him in the seminar.

“The legal age for smoking is 18, and I would have never thought that people wouldn’t have the sense not to give a young person and get them addicted to smoking, something so dangerous to health at such a young age.”

Related: Educator uses gardening to help students appreciate the environment 

Also, what you eat is key to preventing heart disease.

Ellery Wetzler's parents are doctors, and she says they've taught her to be aware of what she is eating, but there are some things that really matter to which she previously didn't give a lot of attention.

"I’ll probably think about more of what I’m eating. I read labels, but I never thought about cholesterol. I really don’t think about that.”

During the lecture, I was waiting in the wings with a microphone in hand waiting to surprise the good doctor.  When he asked for volunteers, I stepped forward.

“Dr. Lancey, I’ll be a volunteer!”

And we surprised him with a People Taking Action award, along with a $300 gift card from our community partner, Southern Bank.

Students and teachers gave Dr. Lancey a big round of applause.

Do you know someone who's worthy of a People Taking Action award? Click here to nominate them! 

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