College of Science

Leading with his heart: Student Thomas Caputo founds Clemson Heart Association


Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but it is not something typically on the minds of college students. Clemson University junior Thomas Caputo wants to change that.

Caputo founded the Clemson Heart Association, an organization centered around heart health awareness, community outreach and campus involvement. 

For the biochemistry major, the Clemson Heart Association is more than a good cause. It is personal. There is an extensive history of heart disease in his family. Caputo never knew his paternal grandfather, who died from a heart attack when Caputo’s father was 11.

“It’s definitely been emotional — not just for me but for my family as well — having started this organization, but a happy emotion for sure. Knowing you’re supporting something that means so much to not only you but also your family is important,” he said.

Avid support

Back home in New Jersey, his family avidly supports the American Heart Association, the largest nonprofit funder of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease research.  When Caputo first had the idea to establish the Clemson Heart Association, his family immediately offered words of support.

While the process of starting the organization took a lot of time and dedication, it was entirely a labor of love. His plans came to fruition last spring when the Clemson Heart Association was approved as a student organization.

“Some of my friends have heart disease within their family, as do people outside my friend group with whom I’ve been able to connect. They’ve all played a huge role in ensuring that fundraisers go smoothly and in reaching out to different areas to spark more funding,” Caputo said.

The Clemson Heart Association is involved in the community an partners with local businesses. They are looking to be a presence in downtown Clemson’s shops and restaurants. Clemson Heart Association also joins forces with the Upstate branch of the American Heart Association by promoting and participating in their events, like walks for heart health. 

On campus, the organization hosts a variety of events. Students can often be found on the library bridge selling coffee to raise money for heart disease awareness.

Making a difference

Caputo believes the organization is already making a difference. He wants to continue the organization’s fundraising efforts and increase their consistency and frequency.

“After the first fundraiser when I saw the turnout and what was happening because of our efforts, it reminded me of why I was doing all of this,” he said. “I saw we had raised a couple hundred dollars and realized we were starting to meet goals and it was tangible.”

Caputo has made an effort to get local Clemson businesses invested in the cause as well, especially as he gears up to have a Heart Walk here in the spring. While there is a Heart Walk in Greenville, Caputo wants to hold one closer to the Clemson community and encourage both students and residents to participate. Looking forward, he also wants to hold a raffle in the fall around the time of the Blood Bowl, a friendly blood drive competition between Clemson and the University of South Carolina.

Increasing involvement

“I hope to always be involved with the Clemson Heart Association, and I want to leave it in the best hands possible to be continued once I graduate,” he said. “Hopefully, I can attract even more students and build this organization into something even more significant in the future.”

Caputo plans to attend medical school after he graduates. 

Recently, he had a paper published on his research investigating the possibility of using lithium therapy (typically used in treatment of bipolar disorder) in conjunction with stem cell treatment to combat symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

One day, Caputo hopes to pursue cardiovascular-centered research and study medication that could further extend the lives of those with heart disease. For now, though, he’s content being a Tiger and spreading awareness here.

“I just want to feel like I’m making a difference,” he said. “We may not be able to raise a crazy amount of money, but I want to have some kind of positive impact on the community and spread awareness above everything else.”

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