Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Curtis R. Priem Experiemental Media and Peforming Arts Center Will Illuminate As a Beating Heart on Eve of National Wear Red Day

Mother and Daughter Who Live With Heart Disease To Flip the Switch To Light the Capital Region Red

February 5, 2015

Archival photo. A "glowing" image of the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center from last year. EMPAC will be illuminated red in such a way that it will beat like a heart.

Troy, N.Y.  Christie Tolosky was 24 when she died suddenly of undiagnosed Long QT Syndrome, a cardiac arrhythmia. After her death, several family members had EKGs that revealed Long QT. Her sister, Melissa Tolosky Russom, has Long QT and wears an ICD, an implanted cardioverter defibrillator that has a pacemaker in it. Russom’s 9-month-old daughter, Cora, also has Long QT and has been on medication since birth to treat it.

On Thursday, Feb. 5, at 5:30 p.m. at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Melissa and Cora will “flip the switch” that will turn 29 buildings in the Capital Region red. EMPAC will be illuminated red in such a way that it will beat like a heart.

Thursday is the eve of National Wear Red Day, when people wear red to raise awareness that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in America. In the Capital Region, staff at some 500 work sites will wear red and donate to the American Heart Association.

“We will do whatever we can to raise awareness about heart disease in women,” Russom said. “We miss Christie every day. Everyone in our extended family was tested for Long QT. It’s a congenital heart disease, but like a lot of heart disease in women, people are unaware of it. I hope all women – and men – will pay attention to their heart health, not just on National Wear Red Day, but every day.”

Guohao Dai, Ph.D., is an American Heart Association-funded researcher at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His research focuses on developing methods to utilize stem cells to treat cardiovascular diseases.

“The American Heart Association is the largest funder of heart disease research, second only to the U.S. government,” said Dai, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Rensselaer. “Heart disease requires an aggressive response, and Rensselaer is proud to stand with the American Heart Association and all of its supporters to make a difference as we continue to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans.”

“Eighty percent of heart disease is preventable,” said Dr. Adanna Akujuo, a cardiac surgeon at Albany Medical Center. “All of the illuminated buildings are a good reminder to take positive action to keep our hearts healthy.”

“The Capital Region should be proud of the way it embraces National Wear Red Day,” said Barbara Hess, chief marketing officer at SEFCU and chair of the Capital Region Advisory Board of the American Heart Association. “We raise about $1 million each year in the Capital Region, and about $2 million is currently invested in research. We certainly shine a bright light in the fight against heart disease.” 

“The American Heart Association has an aggressive goal of improving the health of all Americans by 20 percent by the year 2020, while reducing death from heart disease by 20 percent,” said Albany County Executive Dan McCoy. “Albany County stands with the Heart Association in this endeavor, by shining a light on heart disease at the Times Union Center and offering heart-healthy programs to county residents.”

“Rensselaer County is a proud partner with the American Heart Association and its effort to raise awareness and prevent heart disease.  I commend the American Heart Association for its ongoing efforts help those fighting the disease and their continuous work to prevent this disease that is the number one killer of women,” stated Rensselaer County Executive Kathleen M. Jimino. 

“It is inspiring to see all the red on National Wear Red Day,” said Sarah Baluch, director of restaurant sales for BBL, chair of the 2015 Go Red for Women Luncheon in May, and emcee of the “Buildings Glow Red” event. “I thank all the companies whose buildings glow red on National Wear Red Day and invite everyone in the Capital Region to wear red on Friday, Feb. 6, National Wear Red Day.”

To give you a glimpse of how EMPAC “will glow,” and pulse like a beating heart, here is video from last year’s event:

About the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association

The American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association are devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. The American Stroke Association is a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Contact: Katherine McCarthy                                     

Senior Regional Director of Communications                                  

American Heart Association                                                 

Office: (518) 869 -4049

Mobile: (518) 366-7920                   





Written By Jessica Otitigbe
Press Contact Jessica Otitigbe
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