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Good Sports Dunk for Dough

September 19, 2012

Dr. Olusegun Oyenuga throws a pitch to dunk Dr. Val Jeevanandam. Val Jeevanandam, MD, went down for the count 14 times. The chief of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery’s heckling powered several innings of fiery pitches including this fastball from Olusegun Oyenuga, MD, right.

They took the plunge for a good cause.

Five brave University of Chicago Medicine volunteers suited up August 29 for a charity dunk tank to raise funds for the American Heart Association. Administrators and physicians emerged sopping; the AHA netted more than $1,100 for the Heart Walk on September 28.

No strong-arming was involved, said organizer Holly Bunton, section administrator for Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery. “All we had to do was ask,” she said.

Dr. Martin Burke gives an underwater salute from the dunk tank window. A well-prepared Martin Burke, DO, salutes the crowd from Davy Jones’ Locker.

The dunkees included: Mona Sonnenshein, chief operations officer of the University of Chicago Medical Center; Deb Kull, vice president of Operational Excellence; Jason Keeler, vice president of Clinical and Procedural Services; Martin Burke, DO, interim chief of the section of Cardiology; and Val Jeevanandam, MD, chief of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery.

A culture of kindness prevailed at first in Wyler Courtyard. Sonnenshein sustained two splash-downs, Kull, just one, and that was a voluntary dive when the dunking mechanism failed after a direct hit.

But the gloves came off for Keeler, who wore a St. Louis Cardinals T-shirt “to attract Cubs fans because I know they can’t throw straight.”

Those were fighting words. Keeler wound up in the heated water a dozen times. “It felt like 100 times,” he admitted.

Burke drew the biggest laugh by donning goggles and flippers. He also inspired the most illegal dunks. His children, bypassing the three-tries-for-$10, seven-for-$20 rules, rabbit-punched the target to send dad into the drink.

A rocket-armed Jeff Hellstrom ensured his boss hit the water. “I knocked his goggles off,” the electrophysiology lab technologist boasted.

Pitches improved as the event progressed. Jeevanandam’s trashtalking (“There’s going to be payback!”)
inspired several colleagues to line up for more tickets.

Physician Assistant Stephanie Jackson proved to be an ace. Her fastball smacked Jeevanandam into the drink four times out of seven. “It’s all in fun. He’s a great guy and an even better surgeon,” she said.

Step up to the challenge.

The University of Chicago Medicine boasts 28 teams in the Heart Walk lineup. There’s room for more.

Register today and help the Medical Center become the most successful single-site fundraising hospital team. We are currently in third place, behind University of Illinois Hospital and MacNeal Hospital.

“We’ve raised more than $30,000. We need a big push,” said company leader Holly Bunton, section administrator for Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery. “Our goal is $60,000.”

» Visit the Medical Center page to sponsor a team.

The American Heart Association’s signature event takes place rain or shine on September 28 in Grant Park. There are one- and three-mile walk routes. Any registered participant who raises $100 or more by October 12 will receive a free Heart Walk T-shirt.

» Visit