The American Heart Association’s annual Heart Mini is one of the region’s largest fundraisers, annually drawing some 25,000 walkers and runners together to raise funds to fight leading killers: heart disease and stroke.

Madisonville-based Medpace Inc., a full-service global clinical research organization, last year stepped up as a major Heart Mini corporate sponsor and has also teamed with the AHA to fund development of fitness walking paths at more than a dozen area businesses and other locations including the concourses at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Penelope Bucknell, Medpace’s vice president for human resources, discusses the company’s role in better health and the Heart Mini, slated for March 14 and 15 in downtown Cincinnati.

What prompted your commitment to the Heart Mini?

There are several reasons. We’re growing very rapidly as an organization in Cincinnati and globally. We really feel we’re a hidden gem and we wanted to become more visible here because we have our roots here, starting in 1992.

When we started to look at where we might want to align ourselves, the American Heart Association seemed to be one place that really fit with our business from a business and people perspective. We’re a research organization and cardiovascular research has always been an area of strength for us although we work in a wide cross-section of therapeutic areas.

How many people does Medpace employ?

Globally over 1,800 and about 800 are here in Cincinnati.

How did the walking path project come about?

We kicked it off about the same time we stepped up with our sponsorship of the Heart Mini last year.

We’re a very health conscious company. We offer a healthy, free lunch to employees and have an in-house fitness center. Walking paths fit into that. It’s a really positive thing to be involved in because we all know how important walking and exercise are to a healthy lifestyle. We wanted exposure in the community, but we genuinely wanted to give back to the community in a way that really aligned with our mission.

We brainstormed with the Heart Association about some of the places to have attractive walking paths, such as university campuses, hospitals and those sorts of things. Our funds are going toward mapping out the paths and signage so people know where to turn when they’re walking.

Why is employee health important to Medpace?

First, it’s part of our culture being in the business we are in, drug development. The second thing is, as an employer, it’s inherently good to provide facilities for your employees. We generally feel it’s the type of thing we want our employees to do not only because it’s positive in terms of their health but also, hopefully, if they are fit, that’s positive in terms of their work and staying motivated and engaged in their work.

What’s been the response from your employees?

The walking path at our site is getting quite a lot of use from our employees. We’ve also had letters of appreciation from some of the other sites saying people really like the paths and are using them a lot.