Maryland’s Go Red co-chairs from Johns Hopkins want to make positive impact on women’s heart health

Jennifer Nickoles, the vice president for operations and system integration for The Johns Hopkins Health System, has seen the way heart disease can impact people’s lives, especially women, both personally and professionally.

“The heart of a woman must be strong — for her family and friends, coworkers and her community — but most importantly for herself. I’m honored to be part of a campaign that inspires and empowers women to take charge of their heart health,” she said.

Nickoles and Nicki McCann, who also works at Johns Hopkins as the vice president of provider/payer transformation for the health system, are the co-chairs of the 2022 American Heart Association Go Red for Women campaign in Maryland.

Nickoles’ grandmother died of congestive heart failure, her mother has a congenital heart defect and her mother-in-law suffers from high blood pressure. Professionally, because she works at Hopkins, she frequently gets phone calls from friends or family asking to help connecting with doctors.

But it was her work at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in Florida to help with interim operations during a leadership transition that got her involved with the AHA.

“Seeing the challenges and triumphs these children and their families face was an incredibly powerful experience” Nickoles said. “ I said ‘yes’ right away to joining this team.”

Nickoles became a member of the AHA of Baltimore’s Go Red for Women Executive Leadership Team. McCann became involved with Go Red this past year at Nickoles’ request.

“Before that, I think I had an underappreciation for the impact that heart disease has on women,” McCann said. “I think sometimes we tend to think about it as something that only really affects men.”

She recalled when she was in high school, that the mother of a close friend who was in otherwise good health needed a heart transplant and stayed at the hospital for several months waiting for a heart to become available.

“That was really hard on my friend and his family; your mom is everything at that age. She received a transplant and now, 30-some years later, is the picture of health,” McCann said. “She keeps up with six grandkids and participates in the transplant Olympics. That’s pretty amazing — six grandkids might not have known their grandmother without her ability to get a heart transplant.”

Nickoles said she is fortunate to work at an academic medical center like Hopkins that is the recipient of some of the research dollars that come from the American Heart Association and campaigns like Go Red for Women, which has a goal of raising $1 million this year.

“I have a front-row seat to the discoveries and benefits that get passed along directly to our patients,” Nickoles said. “I love helping to raise the funds to support the physicians and researchers we need to develop new drugs, interventions and therapies, It’s really meaningful and exciting work.”

McCann is focused on the policy side of things, particularly when it comes to addressing disparities related to heart disease around women and women of color.

“Our leadership team is a great group of women who are particularly skilled at changing policy. There is absolutely an opportunity to make sure that women’s heart health issues are elevated to officials,” said McCann, who came to Hopkins in 2010 as the director of health policy for government affairs and previously worked for the Maryland General Assembly.

Both women are excited about being part of and working with other members of the Go Red leadership team to advance the AHA’s mission of being a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.

“When you get a lot of really talented, smart, powerful women together and they are all fighting for the same cause, we can definitely have a greater impact,” Nickoles said. “We have a real opportunity to contribute, to raise awareness and make a lasting difference.”

Nickoles earned her bachelor of science in business and management from The Johns Hopkins University, as well as a master of science in real estate. She started her career with Hopkins in 1996 and served as chief of staff for Johns Hopkins Medicine prior to her current role. She also currently serves as a board member for Howard County General Hospital.

McCann earned her juris doctorate from the University of Baltimore School of Law. She is also chair of the Maryland Medicaid Advisory Committee and of the Greater Baltimore Regional Integrated Crisis System.

Both are fellows in the Carol Emmott Fellowship program for women leaders.

National Wear Red Day is Friday, Feb. 4, 2022. Learn more about Go Red for Women and National Wear Red Day here.