The Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute Education Center may be one of our urban village’s clearest examples of how a community of healing opens its doors and resources to become a “go to” place where free programs are aimed at securing freedom.
Sound too good to be true? So did the goal of turning heart diseases from some of the country’s most feared “killers” into traffic hazards on the road to healthier living. When recognized, unmasked and addressed they turn from roadblocks into guardrails. That’s the philosophy I’ve observed in action at the Institute. Under the direction of Education Specialist Jody Scopa Goldman whose tenure began in 2012, the focus has shifted from programming around special events to consistent and continuous offerings that cover the spectrum of presentations and events featuring resources. Issues, answers and options.
Patients, current or past, who have been treated at any of New York-Presbyterian Hospital or Weill Cornell-Medicine’s facilities, along with staff and members of the wider local communities who have called or emailed inquiries, will receive an alert describing the treasure trove of Institute presentations, programs and events for the coming month. For example, one of three Heart Healthy Talks offered in May “It’s Never Too Late to Start Exercising” will be presented by Golda Widawski, MPT, who is typical of the highly qualified staff members who volunteer for Institute programs. Successive Tuesday afternoon talks will look at “Herbs as the Spices for Life” and “Be Fast with Stroke.”
May begins with individual Blood Pressure Screenings, offered three times n the month; and includes the increasing popular “Hands Only CPR; “ twice per week Perelman Mile-plus” lunchtime walks around the Hospital and the East River Esplanade; the increasingly popular one-hour evening Zumba sessions. (An example of the volunteer staff’s commitment is that the Zumba instructor is so eager to “give back” after a day of therapy for young children, that a recent move that significantly lengthened her commute has not moved her to reconsider her 7PM classes.) Topics and opportunities in other months might range from the energizing effects of aromatherapy to tips on how to achieve healthy sleep.
Program Manager Goldman credits the success of the continuing monthly program to the skill, generosity and commitment of the team of volunteers who take on their offerings in addition to their full schedules as NYPH staff. She credits these committed professionals’ wide and deep experience of their individual subject matters for the consistent growth and increasing popularity of the programs.
Seeing all of them involved in two of the “fixed stars” of the annual programs: February’s National Heart Month and June’s CPR Awareness Week” those who benefit from these especially ambitious undertakings could be forgiven for wondering if Goldman would qualify as some sort of Pied Piper of heart health and preventive medicine. The June Program will feature an alliance aimed at training “civilians” as potential first responders. Each Wednesday Jody conducts an outreach program with the Black Car Safety Program that focuses on Hands Only CPR. It has expanded to involve both “black car” and Uber drivers preparing them to respond to emergency situations by employing the best techniques of chest compression. Families are also encouraged to avail of the training and to reward their efforts each leaves with a kit including a blow up dummy and a DVD demonstrating the techniques learned at the session.
Future goals of special importance include increasing and expanding programs of the sort currently in practice in collaboration with Dalio Institute of Cardiovascular Imaging, a Weill Cornell Medicine program. The Institute is collaborating on a Women Peer Mentor Program research study. It is hoped that such a mentoring program could put exchange of experiences to work in the effort to foil “The Lady Killer,” with tools of information and informed understanding.
The Hospital has a collaboration with Women’s Heart Alliance (WHA). The ongoing relationship includes expanding on the #getHeartChecked events. The initiative is championed by Ronald O. Perelman with NYPH and in the West by Barbra Streisand with Cedars Sinai. NYPH’s Holly Andersen, MD is the program’s medical advisor. The Woman’s Heart Alliance is putting Heart Disease as “The Lady Killer,” in its cross hairs by encouraging female program participants (though males are not excluded) to become committed to the consciousness raising preventive measures of the #getHeartChecked campaign. The program encourages commitment to conversation and screenings with one’s health care providers directed at medical history, lifestyle factors and screenings that will help women intelligently assess and practically address the risk factors that when ignored could strengthen the hand of “The Lady Killer.”
I left my conversation with Jody Scopa Goldman grateful to the high school mentor in Arlington Heights, Illinois who steered her away from the classroom teaching of science and math and sent her on her way to a career described in a booklet called “Healthy Heart Tips for Your Busy Life” and ascribed to The Heart Health Professionals of NYPH.
The modern nursery rhyme says:
The best six doctors anywhere
And no one can deny it
Are sunshine, water, rest and air
Exercise and diet.
These six will gladly you attend
If only you are willing.
Your mind they’ll ease
Your will they’ll mend
And charge you not a shilling.