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Walk for Victory kicks off 32nd annual Marfan conference

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National Marfan Foundation conference attendees get set for the Marfan Foundation Victory Walk that followed a ribbon-cutting Friday afternoon at Central Park in Rochester.
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About 600 people gathered Friday for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and the Marfan Foundation's inaugural Walk for Victory at Central Park in downtown Rochester.

Former Baylor University men's basketball star Isaiah Austin , the Foundation's National Walk ambassador, led the way at an event that helped kick off the three-day Marfan conference organized in collaboration with Mayo Clinic. Austin was projected as a first-round pick in the 2014 NBA draft before being diagnosed with Marfan syndrome just days before the draft, thus ending his career.

The 32nd annual conference helps bring Marfan researchers and physicians together with patients from around the globe to network and discuss ways to improve their quality of life. Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder of connective tissue, which can impact the heart and aorta. It impacts about one in 5,000 people and can be deadly if not properly diagnosed and treated.

Mayo Clinic founded its Marfan Clinic in 2002, and clinic director Juan Bowen said Friday's Walk for Victory is critical for Marfan patients, especially those recently diagnosed. The conference itself brings patients face-to-face with world-renowned doctors for dialogue, questions and information, often in relatively small groups.

"It symbolizes that people who have this are not alone," Dr. Bowen said. "They may feel alone at the beginning, but there's a large community that cares about them and is working toward making their lives better."

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Minnesota native Andy Erikson will perform on Saturday. Erikson was a finalist on the 2015 edition of Last Comic Standing, gaining attention on the tour by blogging about Marfan, which she has, and including it in her routine.

Marfan Foundation spokeswoman Eileen Masciale said the weekend event raised about $15,000.

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Dr. Juan Bowen

Related Topics: MAYO CLINIC
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