Go Red for Women Pioneer to Give Keynote Address at Go Red for Women Luncheon
In 2000, when the American Heart Association wanted to begin changing the way women and heart disease were perceived and treated, one of the women they turned to was Dr. Annabelle Volgman, today the medical director of the Rush Heart Center for Women in Chicago. She is also the McMullan-Eybel Chair for Excellence in Clinical Cardiology and professor of medicine, Rush College of Medicine.
Volgman, an electrophysiologist, had been hearing from her female patients that something wasn’t right with their treatment.
“I heard from women that they were being dismissed,” Volgman said. “Young women were being misdiagnosed and undertreated. Women just didn’t believe that they could have heart attacks.”
On Thursday, May 26, at the Capital Region Go Red for Women Luncheon at the Albany Marriott, Dr. Volgman’s keynote address will talk about the progress that the Go Red for Women movement has made in treating heart disease in women. She’ll also talk about the work that still needs to be done.
“Mostly, Dr. Volgman will inspire everyone in the room to take care of their own hearts, and the hearts of the women they love,” Dr. Suzie Mookherjee, keynote speaker of the 2015 Capital Region Go Red for Women Luncheon, cardiologist at Albany Medical Center and president of the Capital Region Advisory Board of the American Heart Association, said. “So much of the progress that’s been made in treating women’s heart health in recent years is attributable to Dr. Volgman, who really is a pioneer of the Go Red for Women movement. She is also top of her field – an accomplished researcher and physician who has received many honors.”
“I would really like to emphasize mindfulness, and that women should pay attention to stress, and figure out ways to reduce stress in their lives,” Volgman said. “Women need to take time to take care of themselves.”
Volgman said that her education empowered her to advocate for women. The Philippines native went to an all-girls school in the Philippines, and when she moved to the U.S. at the age of 12, attended Hunter College High School for Girls in New York City. She went to Barnard College before getting her medical degree at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. Her residency and fellowship in electrophysiology brought her to the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics, and Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Volgman has worked closely with Lynne Braun, a professor and nurse practitioner at Rush College of Nursing, on spreading the Go Red for Women message.
“We started by speaking at Chicago’s ‘Women’s Legacy Luncheon,’ and branched out to doing more talks in different communities, and eventually other cities. In the early days, we’d be telling women they needed to go to the doctor, and the doctors would ask, ‘Why are you here?’” Volgman said. “Doctors didn’t know how to do preventative care.”
Along the way, Volgman said, she decided to build a heart center, so that women had a place to go when she and Braun told them to go to the doctor. Patients at the Rush Heart Center for Women meet with a doctor, a nurse practitioner, a dietitian and specialists, to thoroughly assess and treat their cases.
Volgman also does research, and has spent a lot of time looking at why women have a higher risk of stroke with atrial fibrillation and other issues that affect women with heart disease.
One message that Volgman will share at the Go Red for Women Luncheon is the core message of the Go Red for Women movement – 80 percent of heart disease is preventable. Volgman pointed out that for the other 20%, there are now other tests that can help predict heart disease including genetic testing. The Rush Center, for instance, now has a certified genetic counselor to help them.
“Women can take ownership of their heart health and lead a long, healthy and fruitful life,” Volgman said. “Together, we can make a big difference. If I talk to one woman, and she talks to her family and others, we start to really expand our reach.”
That reach is making a difference. Since Volgman and many other women began pioneering the Go Red for Women movement, more than 670,000 women’s lives have been saved; medical research has become gender specific; gender-specific inequalities have been identified; and physicians recognize that women’s symptoms of heart disease and their response to medications can differ from men’s. 1.1 million women have registered for Go Red for Women, and of them, nearly 90 percent have made healthy lifestyle changes.