Last month, we introduced you to the new national volunteer leaders of the American Heart Association- and this month we’re pleased to bring you some insights directly from our new President, Mariell Jessup, M.D., a practicing cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Check out my Q&A with Dr. Jessup…
Q: In addition to your career focused on patients with heart failure, what is your motivation to be involved with the AHA?
A: “Many of my closest family members have been struck down by cardiovascular disease, including my father, who died suddenly at age 69, and my husband, who suffered a myocardial infarction at age 45.
Q: As the Association’s President, how do you think advocacy fits into the big picture of the AHA?
A: “Advocacy is our battle front to change our communities. The only way we are going to achieve our 2020 goal [to improve the overall cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent by 2020] is to not only change the way people live their lives, but to change the systems and communities in which people live as well. If people can’t breathe smoke-free air, or our children have no healthy options for school lunch, or there is not enough research dollars to enable new discoveries, then we will not get to goal. “
Q: As an active advocate, what did you think about your experience at You’re the Cure on the Hill- our federal lobby day in Washington, D.C.- this spring?
A: “The stories of my fellow advocates brought tears and empowerment to so many as we heard why individual volunteers overcame their losses to fight for a better outcome for others. I was struck by how much our message needs to be heard, and how many voices need to be participating so that we are heard. Legislators are first and foremost politicians and they do want to hear from their voters. This is our civic duty to talk to them and their duty to listen.”
Q: As you begin your tenure as the President of the AHA/ASA, what are your top priorities?
A: “My biggest priority is to help all the various volunteers of the AHA/ASA know about the other parts of our wonderful organization. I believe that life is enhanced through engagement and volunteerism, and I know that the AHA/ASA can be a source of great fulfillment to many people in the future. My second priority is to use newer technologies to reach out to an even greater number of people, to teach, to engage and to listen to all Americans, so that we can achieve our mission.”
Q: What would you tell fellow volunteers about AHA/ASA advocacy?
A: “Get involved with You’re the Cure! It is easy, it is addictive, it is fun, and even competitive, but, most of all, it is effective.”
I am alive today because of the AHA and their heart walk. I was in congestive heart failure. At the walk I had my blood pressure taken and encouraged to go to urgent care. Several times in my life a Dr. thought I had a heart problem but with no negative results I was told it was asthma and put on medication for that as well as blood pressure medicine. This time they did the same test and no clogged arteries. With more testing they found that half of my heart wasn''t functioning and said it was due to a virus. That still leaves me wondering if what ever virus caused it could come back. I do have a pacemaker/defibulator. One year later I am doing so many things that I have missed out on because of a wrong diagnosis. I got tired of complaining to different Dr. about the same problems and being told that it was my change in life and asthma that was causing my problems. I thank the Lord everyday for having me involved in the heart walk. I also have lost my dad and a husband to heart problems. Thank you for being involved. Donna