American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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We're Thankful... For You

It has been an incredibly exciting year in the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, full of policy advancement and growth in our You’re the Cure network. None of our success could have happened without the work of you, our many dedicated advocates.

We are thankful for you.

Our DC advocates worked hard and accomplished two major policy wins so far this year: a tobacco funding policy that went into effect as of October 1, as well as a Worksite Wellness healthy vending and procurement policy win. These deserve major congratulations! As our year progresses, we know without a doubt we will be able to achieve even more success across our affiliate.

We are thankful for you.

Advocates and staff have been working together at Heart Walks across the affiliate to recruit new You’re the Cure members, and educate walkers on our policy issues for this year. Since July 1, we have seen our You’re the Cure network grow by over 5,000 new advocates who have been adding their voice to our campaigns to help us make even more progress this year. We would like to share a very large "thank you" with all of our advocates who joined us early in the morning to help us accomplish this growth!

We are thankful for you.

In August, we reached out to our advocates to participate in our August Recess activity and help deliver lunch bags with puzzle pieces to their federal legislators in support of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. This policy’s aim of protecting strong nutrition standards for school meals was just one of many opportunities for advocates to get to know their advocacy staff and other advocates, as well as their legislators, on a deeper level while completing offline actions – actions which have resulted in a direct, positive impact on their communities.

We are thankful for you.

Recently we were able to offer a virtual Volunteer Summit in AHA offices across the nation, which brought together high level volunteers, board members, and staff to discuss the new Community Plan 2.0. We had four volunteers attend. Tracey Perry shared her experience: "The Volunteer Summit was an excellent opportunity to review the Community Plan 2.0 and National Agenda of AHA. It was then very helpful to review our local Charlotte Market and see how our Health Assessment compared. We discussed ways to increase engagement of volunteers, increase prospects, and focus on the three top Health Priorities for 2015.

We are thankful for you.

Nothing causes our hearts to sing more than when an advocate has that feeling of making a true difference. Ginnie Gick summed up one of her experiences as an advocate. "Being able to participate in the Rally for Medical Research on Capitol Hill really brought home the importance of advocating for the funding that is so necessary to support the fight against heart disease and stroke. I met so many incredible people who are struggling with the challenge to live a normal life in spite of their risk or illness, and every one of us deserves the opportunity to ask for and receive the benefit of advancements in medicine."

We are thankful for you.

Over the next several months, our states will begin their new 2015 sessions and there will be a host of new opportunities to amplify your voice through advocacy. Without your passion and involvement, the American Heart Association would not be where we are in the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, passing policy that keeps communities healthy.

Thanksgiving is why.

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Richard Benson

Richard Benson, MD/PhD, District of Columbia

“I’m looking at the man in the mirror.” When it comes to preventing heart disease and stroke, the #1 and #4 most common causes of death in the US, respectively, I think of those famous and poignant words by the late great Michael Jackson many years ago. As a neurologist who has dedicated his life to diagnosing, treating and preventing strokes, I am often faced with the unenviable job of having to tell some individual or family member that they or someone that they love has suffered a stroke. The largest tragedy of this unrehearsed, but all too common narrative is having to explain that heart disease and stroke are largely preventable diseases.

Surprisingly, although many people have some knowledge of these common killers, they have ignored their own health or personal responsibility related to the development and/or treatment of these diseases.

As a physician working in an acute care hospital, I automatically start the complex series of ruminations, studies, and medications that any well trained doctor makes when faced with either of these life or death situations, regardless of person, situation, or insurance status. But as a human being and a person of faith, my heart bleeds as I think, “if only this person had had a better diet, exercised more, decreased his salt intake, took her medication, visited his doctor, then perhaps this could have been prevented.” Although far from perfect, health care providers have standards of training and care that we must uphold. But as a society, the most important weapons in the fight against these two common killers (e.g. eating right, exercising, and seeing your doctor regularly) are often left abandoned.

The most effective way to decrease the numbers of people suffering from heart disease and stroke, is for “the man in the mirror to make that change” in his/her lifestyle. You are the cure!



Dr. Richard Benson (left) with Michelle Williams (formally from Destiny’s Child) and Dr. Rani Whitfield (the hip hop doc), both National Power To End Stroke Ambassadors

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Come Help Us Grow Grassroots at Fall Heart Walk in DC!

Heart Walk is an opportunity to come play with us, help make walkers aware of our advocacy efforts, and engage them in the You're the Cure grassroots network. We need your help manning our You're the Cure booths at this event to spread the message! Take a look at the coming Heart Walk event in the District and let us know if you can help.

RSVP to come work the booth with us!

  • Greater Washington Region Heart Walk: Saturday, November 8 at National Mall, between 9th & 12th Sts and Madison & Jefferson Aves; volunteers needed 8:00 am - 12:00 pm

We'll have fun: volunteer for the You're the Cure booth to help grow grassroots at Heart Walk! Send a quick email to let me know you plan to come help us recruit!

Want to join or captain a Heart Walk team instead? It's easy! CLICK HERE to get signed up to help raise critical dollars that help reduce the impact of heart disease and stroke.

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WIN! Tobacco Cessation Funding Granted

The American Heart Association and our You’re the Cure advocates and partners made a big win this month!

After years of campaigning to increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation in the District, our efforts have finally been rewarded. On October 1, 2014, DC Council granted $2 million dollars to the District’s tobacco control program. This has been a long, hard campaign that will save a lot of lives, and is something to be celebrated!

The Need For Funding:
Twenty percent of District residents smoke, and 700 die from tobacco related causes each year.

DC tobacco taxes rake in $35 million dollars annually, yet, as little as three years ago, none of this funding was going towards tobacco prevention and cessation efforts in the District.

The Center for Disease Control recommends that $10.7 million be dedicated to the District’s tobacco control program each year. DC has long lagged far beneath this recommendation. Before the funding increase at the beginning of the month, DC’s tobacco control program did not even have enough funding to adequately support the District’s Quitline.

Although the District is still far from CDC’s recommended $10.7 million, this $2 million increase is a huge leap in that direction.

Shout out to Our Partners and Volunteers:
The American Heart Association has been working to increase budget appropriation for tobacco control for a long time and is thrilled with this recent $2 million appropriaton.

We would like to give a big thanks to our partners who helped us achieve this win:
        American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
        Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids
        DC Tobacco Free Coalition

We would also like to thank our many You’re the Cure advocates who helped make our campaign a success.  Our advocates contributed greatly to the cause by making phone calls, drop-by visits, face-to-face visits, sending letters in the mail, bearing oral testimonies, acting as spokespeople, and putting on rallies.

Thank you! Your efforts have made a world of difference in the success of this campaign.

Hope for the Future:
We are confident that the health department will make the most of the funds it has been given for tobacco prevention and cessation efforts. We, along with our partners, will continue to work diligently to secure the CDC-recommended funding level of $10.7 million. This is the start of great things to come concerning tobacco cessation and prevention efforts in Washington, DC.












(Thank you to Catherine Christiansen for development of this blog post)


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Connect the Dots: Prevent Disabilities from Stroke

Stroke is the number one cause of disability and the fourth leading cause of death across the United States and in the District.

Knowing the warning signs of a stroke is vital to a person’s outcome because the moment a stroke hits--the clock starts. Each minute that a stroke is left untreated, two million brain cells are destroyed. This dramatic destruction of brain cells contributes to the loss of major functions and abilities—if not death--in the patient.

How can we fight against stroke and reduce death and disability in our community?

The Stroke System of Care Act of 2014 is a leap forward toward this goal. The stroke bill will create a system of greater coordination of care among those treating stroke patients. This will help to ensure that patients will receive the medical attention they need, in a timely, efficient manner.

For example, greater coordination of care will include emergency responders phoning the hospital the moment they know that someone has had a stroke. This will give doctors time to prepare for the patient’s arrival, so that as soon as the ambulance arrives at the hospital, the doctors will be ready.

The bill also requires hospitals and government to work together to create “transportation protocols” so patients are taken to the hospital best able to care for them, not necessarily to the closest hospital.

These simple steps will do wonders in improving patient outcomes. You may ask, “What difference will a few minutes make—why does it matter if the emergency responders call ahead?” During a stroke, three minutes is all it takes for six million brain cells to be destroyed—this could mean the difference between being able to speak after the stroke, or having to relearn how to.  Now isn’t that worth a phone call?

“This is a vital step for connecting the dots,” Dr. Amie Hsia, Medical Director of the MedStar Washington Hospital Center Comprehensive Stroke Center, says.  “This is about optimizing the system for the best care of our community. When the medical system follows the proper protocols, we give stroke patients the best chance for a good recovery, and that’s what we‘re here for, first and foremost.“ 

The stroke bill would give the Department of Health authority to recognize hospitals’ status as a Comprehensive Stroke Center (CSC), Primary Stroke Center (PSC) or an Acute Stroke Ready (ASR), if they have achieved standards by a national accrediting body.

Patients visiting these accredited facilities will have peace of mind knowing that they are being taken care of by top of the line providers following established protocol.

This bill would ensure that hospitals’ quality of care is recognized by the public and emergency responders, and that stroke patients receive the best care at the right hospital. Recognizing this national accreditation is the new seal of quality in D.C.

Click here to voice your support and help pass this bill.


<Special thanks to You're the Cure Advocate/Intern Catherine Christiansen, for her help crafting this blog post>

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Find Who Cares Like You Do

You care about helping Americans live healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.  We know you care because you are a You’re the Cure Advocate, supporting our efforts to change policies that impact this.

But we desperately need more like you – people willing to take simple actions to help drive the messages to legislators.  We’re hoping you know a few you can inspire for us.  Here are a few easy things you could do:

  • Ask your friends and family to be active advocates – they probably care as much as you do, and many will have stories of their own that help them understand how critical our mission is to saving lives. Send them to to join.
  • Forward our emails to your contacts and tell people how important this is to you.  Ask them to help.
  • Use the sharing buttons that appear on the webpage after you’ve taken action on each of our alerts to post to social media and engage your own following to be part of the solution.
  • Know a small (or larger) group you could present to, to invite their participation?  This could be a huge help!  Faith groups, community groups, social clubs, and parents groups are all good places to start. We have tools and materials to make it easy, and you earn credit as an advocate for doing a ‘recruitment event’ for us.  It can be as informal as you like, and we can help prepare you.  Call or email any AHA Advocate Contact in your state to get connected with staff who can help.
  • Hold a House Party to introduce our mission to friends and family, or any group you’re part of, and get them on board.  It’s easy and fun, and a very meaningful way to make sure your own people are part of the network.  See all the scoop on how here
  • Know a company, organization, church, or alliance whose members or employees might care?  All they’d have to do is circulate a quick invitation from us to be part of the cure.  If you have a contact there and can open the door for us to tailor an invitation and get it out to their people, that could be a big recruitment win! 

You can contact us for guidance on any of these, and do be sure to tell us when you’re doing something to help recruit. (Here’s the link again to find AHA contacts in your state.)  It’s important we know how we’re growing our network, and we want to be sure your record reflects your work with us.

Right now we’re working hard to position ourselves for a successful policy session, and need to be sure our advocate network is strong and ready.  Every single voice is needed to make sure the messages are heard by our lawmakers.

Help us find other people who care like you do. It could mean all the difference when the time comes and we have to pull out the stops to help a bill pass.



<photo credit to Eneas on Flickr>  


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Joye Mullis

Joye Mullis, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

As with all children, my son’s story began well before his birth.  I had a fairly easy pregnancy, tainted by a couple of scares early on, but then all appeared well at my 20-week ultrasound. 

I was healthy.  Baby was healthy.  Life was good.

At 28 weeks, I had a second ultrasound to check on the baby’s growth and that sent my husband, Jeramie, and me into a fast-moving downward spiral of more ultrasounds, stress tests, and worries.  By the time our son, Ethan, was born on March 8th, 2009, I’d had a total of five ultrasounds, all attempting to diagnose what would be two birth defects – one urological in nature and one orthopedic.

“But...” an OB assured us, “...all of his major organs are healthy and strong!”

However, about eight hours after Ethan’s birth we learned that the doctor was not completely right.  After struggling to nurse and being an overall quiet newborn - two major red flags that weren’t apparent to us first-time parents - it was discovered that Ethan had also been born with a critical congenital heart defect known as Pulmonary Atresia.

My post-partum nurse was bringing Ethan back to our room from his newborn screening when she noticed that “he just didn’t look right”.  She wheeled him back into the nursery, hooked him up to a pulse oximeter, and found that his oxygen saturation level was in the mid-60s.  That discovery began a flurry of activity, unbeknownst to us, which culminated in someone coming to our room hours later to tell us about the broken heart of our brand new son.

Ethan was rushed to Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina where he stayed for a total of nine and a half weeks, and where he underwent his first open-heart surgery at just three days old.  He had a handful of surgeries during that time – one of which was to implant a permanent pacemaker – and he also survived full cardiac and pulmonary arrest.

Over five and a half years, and three open heart surgeries later, Ethan is now thriving! His story is that of strength and resilience.  It's a story about rising above the brokenness and turning something so tragic into something so beautiful. It has taken a lot of work to get Ethan where he is today, and it all began with an observant nurse and a sticky light.  One simple test saved my son’s life and could do the same for countless others.

I’ve been known to say that the diagnosis of Ethan’s heart defect didn’t just break one heart – it broke three.  While Pulse Ox screening can’t take away the heartache of surgeries and complications, it can be the start of a lifetime of success for a baby born with a congenital heart defect.  It was for Ethan, and every baby born in North Carolina deserves that same start. 





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The District of Columbia is in a Pickle

The District of Columbia is in a pickle, but the Shared Use of School Property Amendment Act (Bill 20-320) can bring players closer to home. Literally. This bill provides more opportunity for communities to participate in physical activity, by allowing them to more easily use their public school facilities.

Many low-income communities in the District lack the infrastructure to support active lifestyles. This is especially alarming when you compare obesity rates in the District; 44% in Ward 8, compared to 7.5% in Ward 3, for example. Having more access to recreational facilities is a proven way to increase the health of a community. And this bill provides the balance to do so. It creates more environments for physical activity and it limits schools’ exposure to liability, except in cases of gross negligence.

Why is this balance so important? Because the legislation will break down several barriers that prevent the use of school resources. Currently, organizations are required to carry expensive liability insurance and pay high fees to receive a permit to use school grounds because schools are held liable for anything that happens. Few community organizations in the District can afford this level of insurance. Limiting schools’ risk through the Shared Use Bill will allow organizations to need less expensive liability insurance and more community members will be able to participate in physical activity programs.

As Councilmember Tommy Wells states in the July 14th DC Council Committee of the Whole meeting, “it is the balance that we are looking for…we all have had experiences with our local groups unable to access public facilities because of the cost to pay for liability… this is an attempt to manage that.”

The American Heart Association supports Shared Use as a tool to help communities to be more physically active. To advocate for Shared Use and be a member of You’re the Curefollow this link:

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What Is Your Why?

As you may know, the American Heart Association has kicked off our new "Life is Why" campaign. We know there are many reasons "why" you are passionate, and we’d like to know what the reasons are behind your "why!"

We are running a social media campaign focused on this question throughout the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, and would love for you to include your story via Facebook (#lifeiswhy), Instagram (@heartmaa) or Twitter (@midatlnticheart). We want to hear and see the motivation for your passion, so please join us by sharing your Why today!

What’s OUR Why?

At the August Mid-Atlantic Affiliate’s All Staff meeting, your Government Relations team was awarded the "Greatest Health Impact" award.  What does this mean? It means that your Government Relations team has most positively impacted the lives of the residents of our Affiliate through our accomplishment of passing public policy (like the Pulse Oximetry bill in North Carolina, or CPR in Schools legislation in Virginia and Maryland) and improving the health of our local communities. 

Cathleen Grzesiek, Vice President of Government Relations for the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, said "This award is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our government relations directors, grassroots directors, and all of our volunteers over the past year.  Our policy success couldn’t happen without each of them, and together, we are making a huge impact on health across the Mid-Atlantic.  Our team embodies the idea that ‘making a difference is why.’"

We could not have done this without the help of you, our You’re the Cure family!

While at times the policy process can be labored, this just proves that your resolute determination and passion have made a true difference all across the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate.

So today, it is with pleasure that we share that YOU are our why, and we hope that you will share your why with us!

You are invaluable to us, and we are thankful for you and for the great impact you have made on the health of your local and regional communities.

Thank you!

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Colleen Dudley

Superwoman’s real name is Colleen Dudley. Colleen is a very busy women, but she still finds a way to be active in her DC community, whether it’s at a hospital, as an AHA You’re the Cure Advocate, or as a volunteer.

Colleen received her bachelor’s degree in nursing at Cleveland State University and then worked as a nurse at a Neurology and Stroke Unit in Cleveland. Currently, she is the Stroke Program Coordinator at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital (MGUH) and is working toward her masters in nursing at John Hopkins University.

Despite these demands for her time, she still finds a way to be active in the DC community. Colleen often volunteers with Miriam’s Kitchen, an organization that provides nutritious meals and social services to the homeless. She advocates for nurses in DC and is a member of the American Heart Association’s DC Advocacy Coordinating Committee. Colleen has been an advocate with the AHA for over a year and a half – she became involved with the AHA because of her passion to help people live healthier lives and her experiences as a nurse. Colleen has been a committed and motivated advocate.

One moment that really stands out is when she advocated to implement changes in her own workplace. When she learned about the Workplace Wellness bill in the District (which requires 50 percent of food in government vending machines to meet healthy standards), she decided to implement a similar program in her own workplace. According to Colleen, this was a rewarding experience because she was able to “see the plan come into fruition… and get more people interested in advocacy.”  (Read more about that success HERE!)

Colleen is an advocate with You’re the Cure because she believes that the policies will make a difference in the community. To become an advocate with You’re the Cure please follow this link:


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