Six Baltimore-area changemakers join initiative to drive equitable health for all

Where someone lives should not dictate how long they live. Six Maryland leaders are joining the American Heart Association’s Leaders of Impact campaign in an effort to combat health inequities in the community.

Studies show a nearly 20-year life expectancy gap in zip codes across Baltimore and other parts of Maryland. According to the American Heart Association, a global force for healthier lives for all, this can be caused by social determinants of health and other barriers to achieving health equity for all communities — factors that include structural racism and access to quality healthcare .

“A lot of times, disadvantaged communities do not have access to the same healthcare systems as those who are more fortunate,” says Larry Johnson, a volunteer board member for the American Heart Association in Baltimore & Greater Maryland, and the top fundraiser for the Eastern States region for last year’s Leaders of Impact campaign (formerly known as Leaders for Life).

“The American Heart Association is in the business of saving lives and part of its mission is to address these inequities in healthcare,” Johnson adds. “Leaders of Impact is a great way to get involved and make a difference in our community, and help expose more people in your network to the amazing work this organization is doing in Baltimore and throughout Maryland.”

The Leaders of Impact initiative engages community leaders across 150 cities to take part in a seven-week challenge to improve health by raising awareness and funds to support the life-saving work of the American Heart Association.

Greater Maryland nominees were selected to take part in Leaders of Impact because of their passion and drive to make a difference. This year’s nominees are:

  • Kristen Cavey, of Bel Air
  • Courtney Pearson Chhatre, of Fulton
  • Vernon Curry, of Columbia
  • Kimberly Smith, of Rosedale
  • Tony Torain, of Owings Mills
  • Dr. Tracey L. Williams, of Ellicott City

Beginning on World Heart Day, Sept. 29, nominees will work to raise funds while engaging their networks to directly impact the health of Baltimore and Greater Maryland.

Funds raised will support the American Heart Association’s 2024 Impact Goal which aims to advance cardiovascular health for all, including identifying and removing barriers to equitable health care access and quality. Currently, the American Heart Association is working with local stakeholders and community members to address barriers and inequities around blood pressure, nutrition security, women’s heart health, and tobacco and vaping.

“We are thrilled to have these leaders join us in our relentless efforts for a world of longer, healthier lives,” said Tracy Brazelton, the executive director of the American Heart Association of Greater Maryland. “Cardiovascular disease remains a top killer in Baltimore, throughout Maryland and all across the country. That’s why it’s critical for us to engage volunteers who are passionate about making a lasting impact on their community.”

The Greater Maryland Leaders of Impact winner will be announced on National Philanthropy Day, Nov. 15, and will be celebrated at the Greater Maryland Heart Ball in spring of 2023. For more information on the Leaders of Impact Initiative or to support one of this year’s nominees visit


Editor’s note: This post was updated Oct. 11, 2022, to indicate one of the initial nominees is no longer participating in the campaign.