Dr. Tissa Kappagoda, a professor of medicine and clinical cardiologist, was the Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation, the Coronary Heart Disease Reversal Program and several other programs dedicated to preventive cardiology at the U.C. Davis Medical Center for 25 years. Upon his retirement in 2012, he established a non-profit corporation, the Foundation for Health through Knowledge and Action with the goal of leveraging community-based resources to provide cardiovascular health programs to individuals with limited means or access to such services. The Foundation partnered with Sacramento State to develop the Cardiovascular Wellness Program
The Cardiovascular Wellness Program started in the fall of 2013 with a cohort of a dozen UCDMC cardiac rehabilitation maintenance program participants. Dr. Tissa Kappagoda attended regularly and exercise sessions were supervised by Linda Paumer and Mary Sheikh, both retired from UCDMC cardiovascular medicine programs. Nursing supervision was provided by Joyce Mikal-Flynn from the CSUS nursing school. Three graduate students also participated, one in family studies and two exercise science majors.
The Wellness Program has expanded into a large and vibrant community. From the initial 12 participants, the program roster has grown. Over 100 people have enrolled and currently 35-50 attend regularly. Student opportunities have expanded as well, with 6-15 students completing internships each semester. Educational classes are now held three days per week following exercise sessions. Classes may include, core lectures from Dr. Kappagoda’s curriculum, nutrition education taught by a registered dietitian, CSUS faculty, physicians, the program medical director, and student interns.
The Program continues to evolve, with continued new participants as well as new opportunities for students. CSUS faculty see the potential for research with our population. Expansion goals include additional exercise session time and development of online resources for remote learning. Creation of a medically-supervised session devoted to under-served community members as well as opportunities for exercise testing are being considered. Additional collaborations with other CSUS departments (speech pathology, social work) are developing. There is a need to establish funding opportunities to facilitate these expansion goals as the current all-volunteer staffing cannot adequately manage this expansion and those are being explored.