As far back as they can trace, every generation of Stacia Cohen’s family has been affected by heart disease and stroke. Among Cohen and her siblings, three of the four had congenital heart disease.
Two of Cohen’s siblings died in childhood, suffering from tetralogy of Fallot, a heart defect with four primary problems that ultimately impact the blood flow through the heart into the body.
“They died of things that, 50 years ago, we didn’t know enough about,” Cohen says. “With the American Heart Association’s funding of research and improvements in treatment over the last several decades, most children who are born with what they had today live thanks to those advancements.”
Cohen is the Executive Vice President for Health Services of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, and is serving as the chair of the American Heart Association’s 2022 Greater Maryland Heart Walk.
Her personal story has not only guided her support of the American Heart Association’s mission, but also steered her professionally. A nurse by training, Cohen says her family’s history and her experience with the impacts of heart health motivated her to join the medical field.
Most of her career has been spent focusing on accessible, affordable, equitable high-quality health care, she says.
“With heart disease and stroke still a leading cause of both morbidity and mortality, I think that not making meaningful progress in heart health and stroke health will continue to strain the resources and the burden that people face – not just the economic burden, but the quality-of-life burden; feeling of good health, joy and participation of life,” Cohen says.
“We are on an unsustainable trajectory and every household and every employer says every day ‘I can’t afford healthcare,’” Cohen continues. “So we’ve got to get after some of this. And I think that the Heart Walk and the American Heart Association are leaders in this space.”
She encourages people to donate to the American Heart Association or participate in events like the Heart Walk.
There are a lot of causes and organizations people can choose to support, but while some may not appeal to everyone – “Oh, that’s for other people or that doesn’t really touch me or my life,” – Cohen says all people can relate to the mission of the American Heart Association because “everybody has a heart, and we all need them to work well.”
The Heart Walk will take place in October in Baltimore. Sign up to participate or learn more about the walk at GreaterMarylandHeartWalk.org.