As soon as I landed, after a brief hold at 35,000 feet for a thunderstorm to pass, I went straight to meet with the team at Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center, a founding member of the WomenHeart National Hospital Alliance (NHA). As we ate a lovely heart-healthy lunch with quinoa, veggies and watermelon-infused water, we discussed the Center’s gold standard programs caring for women with heart disease.
Next, I had the privilege to accompany staff and WomenHeart Champion, Cathy Porter, on rounds on the cardiac floor. We chatted with two patients – one who was very well-informed and knowledgeable and the other who was anxious about her upcoming procedure and fatigued by her extended hospital stay. The highlight of the trip happened on that floor with the second patient. Cathy’s presence, encouragement, and ability to share her experience having gone through a very similar diagnosis and procedure was reassuring and comforting. It was a simple, yet powerful scene to witness – the critical impact that Champions can have during a woman’s most challenging moments full of uncertainty.
In the evening, I met with 17 of the 35 Champions based in the Kansas City area. It was uplifting to hear each woman’s heart story and to understand their commitment to and love for WomenHeart. Witnessing the strength of this sisterhood reinforces my resolve to strengthen and grow further the network of WomenHeart Champions across the United States. Before heading to the hotel, we had dinner at Joe’s Kansas City BBQ in the original gas station location. As they say, everything in moderation!
My trip also included a visit with the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, discussing how WomenHeart might work with them to enable strategic support for women and heart disease. Finally, I met with the University of Kansas Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, also an active and standout member of the NHA. We discussed how we could pilot ideas to reach women in rural communities, expand training opportunities, and address access challenges to critical elements of care, including cardiac rehab.
As I think about leading WomenHeart forward, my takeaways from Kansas City are three-fold:
- We should partner with more Women’s Heart Centers of Excellence around which to build WomenHeart Champion communities
- Community foundations provide an opportunity for funding our local activities
- Diversity and Inclusion must be core to all WomenHeart programs into the future
It has been useful to think of my Kansas City experience as a microcosm of the larger Champions program. I look forward to testing out new approaches that engage and support women who are living with heart disease to thrive and which educate those at risk for heart disease about how to live healthy, fulfilling lives. Thank you, Kansas City! Until next time.