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Press Release
June 10, 2008
John Nash
(843) 792-0687


Charleston area couple funds sweeping cardiovascular research initiative

Charleston, S.C. – A two-phase, $5 million gift – the largest single gift MUSC has ever received – establishes an endowed chair in cardiology and funds a planned research center to probe genetic links to heart and vascular disease.

"It is our hope that one day researchers will find that genetic link to identify likely victims of heart disease and provide the early warning necessary to do something before the heart attack and not after," said Charles Volpe, a retired president of Kemet Corporation in Greenville.

Volpe said that a few years ago he and his wife, Andrea, decided to give most of their assets to charity. They picked medical research, education and the arts to benefit from their gifts, and chose genetic research in heart and vascular disease because of the tremendous impact heart attacks have had on him and his family.

"I was absolutely certain I was going to have a heart attack," Volpe said, explaining that his father, uncles and four older brothers had all died of heart attacks. "I was youngest, so it wasn’t a question of if I was going to have one, it was when.

He said that in the 1980s he was unable to convince his cardiologist in the Upstate to perform a heart catheterization on him to see if a heart attack was imminent. "The procedure was considered too risky unless you had a problem, but of course if you had a heart attack that would be the very first thing they would do," Volpe said.

"I went through three heart attacks and ended up with bypass surgery," he said. "It has been on my mind that if there is a genetic link and it can be identified, it could save a lot of lives by addressing the condition ahead of time."

Dean of the College of Medicine, Jerry Reves, MD, commented: "It’s difficult to fully comprehend just how a gift such as the Volpes’, targeted to an important problem, can serve all mankind so well. The concept of preventing heart disease by discovering markers is transformative in the way we will approach heart disease. We will be able to do this as well as anyone thanks to the Volpes’ vision and support."

Volpe has served on the MUSC Heart and Vascular Board since its formation more than 10 years ago.

Establishment of the Volpe Center for Genetic Cardiology Research begins with an initial $500,000 gift from Charles and Andrea Volpe, which was matched by the state of South Carolina to endow a professorship in cardiology. Added to the $1 million endowment will be a bequest of about $5 million from the Volpe estate. "That will be a start and whoever is holding that chair will use those funds to expand research," Volpe said.

"We’re already making great strides in that direction, so I’m thinking it will just propel it on to finding some answers." He said he hopes others also will contribute to cardiology research through the center.