Since 2004, the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign has sought to educate women on the importance of knowing their risk factors for heart disease, which claims more lives each year than all forms of cancer combined.
“One in three women will die each year from a cardiovascular event,” says Monica Wharton, senior vice president of legal affairs and general counsel for Regional One Health, and the chair of the 2016 Go Red for Women campaign in Memphis. “We have to ensure women are educated on the lifestyle changes they can make to help put an end to heart disease.”
Wharton’s desire to get involved with the American Heart Association came after a family member passed away suddenly from heart disease.
“He was only 47 years old and had been married for less than a year,” she says. “I was asked to chair just a few weeks after he passed, and given the impact of his death on my family and my understanding of the impact of heart disease in our community, I knew I had to get involved.”
For the past year, Wharton and her leadership team – which includes executives from Lipscomb & Pitts Insurance, Southeastern Asset Management, Baptist Memorial Health Care, First Tennessee, and MLGW, among others – have been fundraising and planning for the 2016 Go Red for Women Luncheon, which will be held on Thursday, June 2nd at the Great Hall & Conference Center in Germantown.
“The luncheon is our opportunity to educate executives and women in the community on the risks associated with heart disease, and to share the mission of the American Heart Association and the Go Red for Women campaign,” Wharton says.
The luncheon kicks off with an hour-long health and wellness expo, which includes sponsor booths providing health messaging, screenings, and CPR training.
Go Red for Women is sponsored nationally by Macy’s, and since the campaign launched in 2004, the company has contributed more than $55 million to support the movement. Go Red is locally sponsored by Regional One Health, Cigna, Ashley Furniture Home Store, Caesar’s Entertainment, Baptist Memorial Health Care, Ring Container Technologies, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Advanced Dermatology, and Visha Skincare, among others. Media sponsors include Local 24 Cares, Entercom, La Prensa Latina, Contemporary Media Inc., and Lamar Outdoor.
Dr. Purvisha Patel, owner of Advanced Dermatology and founder of Visha Skincare, has been a sponsor of the event for two years.
“As a dermatologist,” explains Patel, “I am dedicated to helping people stay healthy and feel great about themselves, which ties in perfectly with Go Red for Women’s focus on teaching women to understand their bodies and helping to educate them on better ways to take care of themselves. Having a husband who is a cardiologist, I see firsthand how important it is to raise awareness for women and heart disease.”
Education is a key component to the luncheon program, which also includes testimony from a local survivor and culminates with a survivor fashion show coordinated by Judy Strong, My Stylist at the Macy’s Oak Court location.
“I have had the honor of fitting the survivors for the past several years,” Strong says. “To see the diversity of heart disease in the survivors is eye-opening. It’s not just a man’s disease; it impacts all of us.”
Fashion show model April Armstrong was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – a hereditary disease of the heart muscle that can lead to heart failure – in 2006 at age 26. The mother of four first participated in the fashion show in 2015.
“The fashion show is an opportunity for me to share my story with others,” she says. “It really drives home the fact that heart survivors are such a diverse group. We come in all ages, shapes, and sizes.”
For Wharton, the event also allows her to champion a movement empowering women.
“There is a saying that ‘women bring movement, and movement brings change,’” she says. “I am hopeful that through women coming together to learn more about their leading killer, we can bring change for the better to this issue.”