Reflections on a Legacy

The Noble Cause of Fighting for Women’s Health Equity

With the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I wanted to use her words to narrate my own journey to WomenHeart as well as our collective experiences over the last several months.

 My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant – Be your own person. Be independent. – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Growing up in an immigrant family of strong women – grandmothers with advanced degrees touting the virtues of self-sufficiency and a mother who was the breadwinner, a chemist with numerous patents and role model to her three rambunctious girls – I learned firsthand what it meant for women to be equal to men. So, as a young adult, I grew increasingly frustrated as I witnessed how systems and structures disadvantaged women, and further, women of color. This, coupled with the loss of my mother at the early age of 39, set the course of my professional trajectory into healthcare and my personal journey to live as full a life as I could imagine.

Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join. Ruth Bader Ginsburg

On Friday, September 18, 2020, I was sitting in the middle of the Virginia wilderness, decompressing from a busy week, when I heard that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) had just died. I was stunned and saddened with a slight feeling of déjà vu after the loss of each of my grannies and my mother. You see, RBG had taken on the role that my grandmothers had played while I was growing up – the role of reminding me, steadily and consistently, that fighting to improve the lives of women and to enable more women to have agency over their health, their happiness, their life is a worthy, important and vital cause. WomenHeart Champions live this every day as they put their heart into running Support Networks, educating their communities, providing emotional support and offering other women inspiration and hope. And as WomenHeart launched our first-ever virtual Science & Leadership Symposium last week, we welcomed a class of 32 incoming WomenHeart Champions, each a woman with her own story about surviving and thriving with heart disease and a collective desire to support others in their heart journeys.

Last week, as I visited the portico of the steps of the Supreme Court, while the casket of Justice Ginsburg lay in state, I said a prayer of thanks for her incredible life and for the many ways that she made our lives better. And I caught a glimmer of hope that among the crowds, which included babies, little girls and young women in their RBG collars, a whole army of RBGs are waiting their turn to have an impact on the world.

So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune. Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I know many women living with heart disease who share this sentiment, who feel like they had a second chance after their heart attack or who made positive life changes after their diagnosis. One thing that none of us could have imagined nine months ago was a pandemic so severe that over 7 million Americans have become infected and over 200,000 Americans have died, shutting down businesses, schools, and most activities of daily life, including in-person WomenHeart support activities. However, thanks to the quick actions of the WomenHeart Board, staff, Champions, funders and faculty, we have managed to reimagine and redeploy our programs virtually, ensuring that women living with heart disease continue to receive support. This new way of meeting the needs of our community has ushered in a new era for WomenHeart to incorporate digital health solutions into our toolbox as we aim to serve every woman with heart disease anytime, anywhere. And this is exactly what we intend to do.

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