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Meet Your New Grassroots Advocacy Director

With $50 in their pockets and hope, my parents brought my sister and I from India to the United States when we were young. 4 years later, after studying at a Red Rocks Community College at night and working minimum wage jobs, they bought a house, two cars and 'a white picket fence'. Our story is like millions of others, a story of creating life, a future, from nothing but a dream. The immigrant’s life truly is art in its purest form. In that same vein, for the last 5 years I’ve been working on creating a strong, diverse advocacy and communications portfolio. With my background in health policy in Colorado, I'm eager to start making impacts at the American Heart Association.

For the last two years, I’ve worked as the Communications and Public Policy Director of the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP). As a registered professional lobbyist advocating and monitoring over 80 bills at the Colorado State Legislature, I was the in-house government relations manager for 2,200 Family Physicians giving care to 2 million Coloradans. I monitored all health related bills in Colorado and Washington DC, wrote messaging for editorials, designed all CAFP materials for events, and organized physicians for legislative action at the Colorado State Legislature and the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

I started my advocacy career working for Majority Leader and State Representative Crisanta Duran at the Colorado State Legislature. Soon after, I became the Communications Director for Daniel Kagan for HD3 – the largest house race in Colorado history. For the 2013 legislative session, I served as a communications fellow for Senator Mike Johnston and supported his efforts to pass SB213, a bill to change the school finance structure in Colorado. During my time at the State Legislature, I supported the mission and visions of my elected official offices with policy and communications like press releases, website support, writing and editing newsletters, and developing factsheets. 

I graduated two years ago from the University of Denver with a cum laude honors degree in Economics and Communications. At DU, I was the Managing Editor of the DU Clarion – a 47 employee staffed newspaper, ranking 13th for overall quality in the nation by peers. I created the DU Clarion website, managed a large budget and worked with colleagues to deliver a 36 page paper. I copyedited every article and wrote many of the major and minor pieces.

I serve on the Board of Directors for health advocacy organizations across the Denver metro area. I am active in the community and aim to serve

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Survivor Jim Myers Looking Forward to National, Local Advocacy to Lower Heart Disease

Jim Myers is a survivor, a father of 4, a husband and an advocate for the heart.

“I was young,” said Jim, “I had a heart attack 20 years ago at the age of 38. I was under a lot of stress – and was pretty oblivious to my family history. It happened when I alone, cutting Christmas trees for my family in forests of Northern New Mexico.  I had to drive 15 miles just to get back to civilization. I was helicoptered to Albuquerque some 4 hours later, so I lost some functioning of my heart."   

Years later, with a renewed sense of commitment towards healthy living and communities, Jim walked into the Albuquerque office of the American Heart Association hoping to be of help as a volunteer. His first year, he won the “Rookie of the Year 2002-2003” award for his work on the Heart Ball Gala committee.

He continued serving on various ELTs, helped as official photographer at Heart Walks, sang the National Anthem at others, then served as President of the AHA chapter from 2009-2010 and again in 2011-2013. Now he’s off the board, but currently Chairing the State Advocacy Committee and on the National Volunteer Oversight Group, meeting online and in Dallas once a year.

Jim’s day job is Outreach & Community Relations Manager at Presbyterian Healthcare at Home, but he’s found time to give back through advocacy at the American Heart Association and has made real impacts in New Mexico, speaking to the Albuquerque City Council in 2008 to ban smoking in restaurants and bars, helping stroke causes and other issues statewide.

“We worked on some pretty cool stuff last year,” said Jim, “For instance, legislation to require new born screenings for congenial heart disease. SB81 for EMS Pre-Hospital Accreditation, which made sure that stroke victims receive top level care, was also a big issue we won…unanimously.” 

April of this year marks the second time that Jim has lobbied for AHA on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  “This year, though our state delegation only had 2 appointments, I decided to walk in unannounced to our other 3 representative’s offices and make the case for more funding for the NIH and other AHA initiatives.  Turns out that constituents carry far more weight than paid lobbyist’s, so I encourage everyone to get involved with their Congress people, both at home and when possible, in Washington.”

Unfortunately, Jim’s luggage didn’t show up until the lobbying effort was over.  But being the marketing guy that he is, he sensed an opportunity. “The theme this year was ‘Step Up To The Plate,’ so I purchased a Washington National’s baseball tee (red of course).”  So while everyone was dressed to the 9’s, he was in his red t-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes.  “It was a great ‘in’ to talk about the necessity for all of us to step up to the nutritional plate for our kids.”  Jim suggests we all go to Step Up to the Plate on the AHA website – and let Congress hear YOUR voice!

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New Stroke Guidelines Will Change Stroke Treatment in the U.S

Each year, more than 690,000 Americans have strokes caused by blood clots blocking vessels in the brain, called ischemic strokes. Some of the clots can grow large and may require intense therapy to treat.

However, widely celebrated new research reaffirms that large blood clots in the brain are less likely to result in disability or death, if the blockage is removed in the crucial early hours of having a stroke.

Right now the standard treatment is a clot-dissolving drug called tPA. But it must be given intravenously within 4.5 hours to be effective. For people with larger brain clots, tPA only works about a third of the time.

New studies recommend doctors to use modernized -retrievable stents, to open and trap the clot, allowing doctors to extract the clot and reopen the artery nearly every time when used with tPA.

To learn more read “Clot Removing Devices Provide Better Outcomes for Stroke Patients” and visit StrokeAssociation.org to learn the warning signs of stroke.

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Nancy Birnbaum

I recently met You're the Cure advocate Nancy Birnbaum, a registered nurse who resides in College Station, Texas at the Advocating for Heart event at the Capitol. I loved the passion and enthusiasm she showed for the AHA mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. I chatted with Nancy to learn more about her and why she Advocates for Heart. 

Here's what she had to say:

I do what I can with the time that I have. What I love about the American Heart Association is that there are a lot of avenues to finding your fit. I started volunteering with the American Heart Association Go Red for Women Luncheon in College Station and found it especially easy and convenient to respond to action alerts. I like how easy it is to personalize the letter to the lawmaker and I make sure to include a comment as a nurse and a mother. As a mother of 4 grown daughters and grandmother of 9 children, I am passionate about fighting childhood obesity and keep school nutrition standards strong and healthy! I'm a proponent of healthy living so I wanted to get more involved with AHA's advocacy efforts. I decided to take a trip to Austin to participate in Advocating for Heart. Everyone I met was friendly and made it easy to visit with lawmakers and staff. 

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Look What You Did!

Your SouthWest Affiliate Advocacy team is kicking off the new fiscal year by recognizing the tremendous advocacy successes that we couldn’t have achieved without YOU this past legislative session. While we might be six states, we are one affiliate, with one mission - to fight heart disease and stroke. Here’s a look at what you did and every reason why we are celebrating with you.

Arkansas – We worked with partners to successfully refund the Private Option, Arkansas’ innovative approach to expanding access to healthcare to hundreds of thousands of residents. This will continue to help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease through increased access to preventative care, and save more lives.

Colorado – House Bill 1281, will ensure that newborns across Colorado will be screened for critical congenital heart defects before leaving the hospital, saving the lives of babies across our state.

New Mexico – Stroke patients will benefit from a more coordinated system of care when utilizing emergency services. Senate Bill 81 ensures that EMS stroke care plans will be developed by regional authorities, reducing disability and saving lives.

Oklahoma – Stroke patients will now receive more timely and a better quality of care when being transported to one of the state recognized stroke centers.

Texas – New funds in the state’s budget will expand a program that helps us identify where opportunities exist to improve heart attack and stroke care in the state.

Wyoming – Passage of Senate File 88, will improve the care that stroke patients receive through the coordination of timely and quality care by regional EMS authorities.

We hope you are as proud as we are of these new laws, as well as how they further the mission of the American Heart Association. Your involvement is critical, and we need you to continue this work. You are saving lives with every event you attend, phone call you make and every action alert you send. Keep it up!

PS. We have some new faces on our growing Advocacy Team. We can’t wait to introduce you to them in upcoming action alerts and emails. 

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Heart Healthy Summer Treat: Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Soft Serve

 If you’re like me and have a huge sweet tooth, then you know that summer means ice cream season! On a hot summer day there is nothing better than cooling off with a delicious helping of this frozen treat. 

Unfortunately, ice cream is not necessarily the healthiest option in the world, but luckily there is a guilt-free way to satisfy your sweet cravings with this simple and delicious take on a summer staple! This recipe is my absolute favorite and I like it better than any ice cream out there!

Ingredients:

-1 frozen banana

-1 tablespoon of peanut butter

-2 tablespoons of chocolate chips

-1 tablespoon of almond milk

Place all 4 ingredients into a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. Voila! Chocolate peanut butter banana soft serve!

If you’re not a fan of peanut butter or chocolate, simply remove the ingredients from the recipe. I promise it’ll be just as good.  This is my go-to dessert in the summer, and I know as soon as you try this tasty treat, it will be yours too!

***This post is written by Advocacy Intern Taylor Fischer.

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Growing our Network in Albuquerque

We would like to thank advocates Jim Myers and Claire Dudley, who volunteered at the Heart Walk in Albuquerque on Saturday, June 6th, and supported our life-saving policy work by helping to recruit new You're the Cure advocates. Our dedicated team worked hard to gather signed thank you cards to send to Governor Martinez for her support in signing legislation into law improving health care delivery for stroke patients throughout the state. Thanks to everyone who joined in advocating for this important legislation! #YouretheCureNM

 

 

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Advocates Turn the Hill Red!

Over 380 advocates met in Washington, DC for You're the Cure on the Hill to step up for heart health. Our group of dedicated advocates met with 293 legislative offices throughout the day to advocate for increased research funding and healthy school meals. Advocates mingled with YTC networkers from throughout the nation and participated in an all day advocacy training and Heroes Luncheon. 

We know that as constituents, you truly make difference when you share your story and encourage our federal lawmakers to take action on critical health priorities. You drive our mission forward in building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke. 

Check out a recap video of You're the Cure on the Hill 2015! 

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Announcing Leading New Mexico Advocates!

We would like to recognize our Aces, Champion, and Hero advocates for their continued dedication in the fight against heart disease and stroke! Your time, energy, and passion has made all the difference in advancing our mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. The below advocates have taken action by responding to action alerts, visiting legislative offices, participating in advocacy trainings, and signing petition cards, just to name a few.

You can find your current ranking on the Community website under your profile. Check out our menu of activities here and see exactly how you can earn more points.

New Mexico

Kenya Adkins
Stacy Berry
Judy Bess
Mary Bissell
Alan Bixler
Don Bremner
Fran Briem
Leslie Collier
Gary Cronin
B. Diener
Amy Dingman
Claire Dudley Chavez
I. Engle
Rick Evans
Patricia Gilliland
Peggy Harelson
diane Kean
Enola Keller
Suzanne Lawson
Diane Martin
Jimmy Martinez
Joshua Martinez
Jose Martinez
Jim Meyers
Kelly Moore
Jim Myers
Taylor Pellegrin
Taylor Pellegrini
Peter Roche
Vicki Spanogle
Robert Taylor

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Lobby Day MVPs in the Spotlight

There were SO many amazing stories surrounding this year’s Hill Day that it was hard to narrow down our annual lobby day award winners. Not a bad problem to have! Please join us in congratulating these You’re the Cure MVPs, and then learn more about their stories in this video.

 

  • Science Advocate of the year – Dr. David Yu-Yiao Huang: Dr. Huang has been involved with AHA advocacy since 2003. From submitting expert written testimony and attending in-district meetings, to speaking before lawmakers, his passion for policy and his belief in the positive change policy can achieve has contributed significantly to big wins in North Carolina.
  • Volunteer Advocate of the Year – Theresa Conejo: Theresa has been one of the key proponents of Pennsylvania’s comprehensive smoke-free law. Last year, she signed a smoke-free op-ed which was picked up by major news outlets across the state. She also aggressively advocated for the proposed Clean Indoor Law. In addition, she recruits new You’re the Cure advocates at every opportunity. In fact, just recently, she signed up an additional 35 volunteers to join her in Pennsylvania’s smoke-free fight.
  • Survivor Advocate of the Year – Jim Bischoff: Jim’s own struggle with heart disease, as well as his experience with his son-in-law’s stroke, gives him a unique perspective to share during state and federal lobby days and meetings with lawmakers. His family history inspired him to provide leadership on stroke systems of care legislation. He also dedicates his time to tobacco issues, and attends in-district meetings with his lawmaker to discuss both of these important issues.
  • Youth Advocate of the Year – Cassidy Collins: Cassidy uses her story as a congenital heart survivor to illustrate the importance of AHA’s policy issues. At the age of 16, her resume is already quite impressive – she’s met with U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin to advocate for tobacco control funding; she has been a top fundraiser for the Roanoke Heart Walk for two years; and she has applied to work as a youth advocate for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Watch a video highlighting the award winners below!

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