Meet our Senior Director of Communications, Elizabeth Warmka!
What is your why?
My son and my sister are why I work for more research dollars and a healthier world. My dad died last year due to complications of heart failure brought on by a genetic heart defect called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It turns out my sister also has the condition and is likely looking at the need for a heart transplant down the road. I’m thankful for the advances in research that have created new medications that have stabilized my sister’s condition buying her more time and better quality of life, but the simple fact is there is no cure for HCM or heart failure. I also worry that my son could have inherited this condition. My sister’s future and my son’s future are why more is left to be done.
What brought you to be an advocate for the American Heart Association?
Advocating for heart and stroke issues is not only part of my job as the Minnesota Senior Director of Communications for the AHA but heart disease and stroke is very personal to me. So many of my family members have been impacted by these diseases and their lives taken too soon. Advocating is a tribute to them and it makes me feel empowered – that I am doing my part to make sure the future is of heart and stroke care is better for my son and all future generations.
What issues or policies are you most passionate about and why?
I’m most passionate about issues of health equity and access – whether that be to clean in-door air, sufficient health insurance, safe places to walk and bike, or healthy food access. Minnesota is always held up as this beacon for great health but that is only part of the picture. We have significant health and economic disparities among our Black, Asian, Hispanic and Native American populations. This is an area where we can do better and we need to do better. I don’t have the answers but I am hopeful that AHA can be part of the solution to address these issues.
What is your favorite advocacy memory or experience so far and what made it great?
Having been with AHA for over nine years, there are so many successes I’m proud to have been a part of from the historic statewide smoking ban to creating a statewide stroke system to watching local volunteer AmandaJean be selected to speak from the U.S. Capitol steps on how the Affordable Care Act helped save her life.
But one accomplishment that stands out is when we passed the CPR in Schools Bill to ensure all Minnesota students learn Hands-Only CPR before graduation. We were one of the first few states to pass the bill and we did it because of the strong support we got from our volunteers, survivors and the media. It was exciting to see our volunteers and survivors come out in big numbers and interact with their elected officials one-on-one. And with the added pressure of media coverage the bill jumped over several hurdles on its way to getting passed. It was the democratic process in motion.
What is your favorite way to be active?
Walking my dog and playing with my 4-year-old son.
What is your favorite fruit or vegetable?
Honey Crisp apples (one of Minnesota’s best creations)