Dr. Richard Snyder of Independence Blue Cross Receives Regional Award from American Heart Association

On February 8, 2023, local leaders come together to celebrate the accomplishments of Dr. Richard Snyder at Penn Medicine’s Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine’s CPR Kiosk. Dr. Snyder received the Leadership Legacy Award from the American Heart Association’s Eastern States Region, an award given to only a select few. Dr. Snyder has volunteered with the Association for many years, including being the Philadelphia region’s board chair. He has always been passionate about CPR, raising awareness and teaching those in the Philadelphia region Hands-Only CPR.

Why It Matters: Each year more than 350,000 people suffer out of hospital cardiac arrest, only 10% of those people survive. Dr. Snyder has played an integral role in helping to improve those odds by helping to create the CPR Ready Coalition in Philadelphia. This coalition was created in 2016 with a goal of increasing the number of people who are trained and willing to perform hands-only CPR. This coalition is comprised of: American Heart Association, American Red Cross, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, CPR/AED Public Awareness and Training Network, The Health Care Improvement Foundation, Independence Blue Cross, Independence Blue Cross Foundation, Penn Medicine, Philadelphia Fire Department, and the School District of Philadelphia.

Dr. Snyder was also instrumental in bringing the first CPR Kiosk to the Philadelphia Region, at Penn Medicine’s Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, where people can learn CPR at their own pace, and beready to help someone in crisis.

“Hands-Only CPR is a powerful tool that takes only 60 seconds to learn and can double or even triple a victim’s chances of survival. said Richard Snyder, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer at Independence Blue Cross.

Kevin Mahoney, CEO University of Pennsylvania Health System, was on hand to help present the award to Dr. Snyder, along with the Fire Commissioner of Philadephia, AdamThiel, Gregory Deavons, CEO of Independence Blue Cross  and Jennifer Litchman-Green, Executive Director of the American Heart Association of Philadelphia, all of whom shared the same sentiment, that Dr. Snyder always puts the patients and the community at large first.


Dr. Donald Wilson recognized with 2022 Watkins-Saunders Award for his work addressing inequities in healthcare

Donald E. Wilson knew he was going to be a doctor from the time he was about 9 years old. Growing up in Worcester, Massachusetts, he had gotten ill, and his family called a doctor to the house who gave him an injection.

“I got better. I was impressed,” Dr. Wilson, 86, recalled. “I said, ‘This is great, I’m going to be a doctor when I grow up.’ And I never changed my mind.”

Dr. Donald E. Wilson, Dean Emeritus of University of Maryland School of Medicine, is presented with the 2022 Watkins-Saunders Award for his work to address health inequities.

Along the way, though, Dr. Wilson noticed something. Other doctors in his community didn’t look like him.

“There was only one doctor of color in the town,” said Dr. Wilson, who is Black. “So I realized, even then, we had a deficiency of representation in terms of who you could go see – not that white doctors wouldn’t see you – but if you were more comfortable going to a person of color, you only had one choice in all of Worcester, Massachusetts.”

That trend continued when he attended college at Harvard, where he was one of seven black students in his class of 1,172. He graduated from Tufts University School of Medicine in 1962. “I never saw a black professor.”

Dr. Wilson has spent much of his career trying to change that and addressing other health disparities and inequities. In 1991, he became Dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, becoming the first Black dean at a primarily white medical school in the United States.

The American Heart Association of Baltimore & Greater Maryland is honored to recognize Dr. Donald E. Wilson as the recipient of the 2022 Watkins-Saunders Award.

Established in 2012 to honor two of the AHA’s greatest volunteers – the late Dr. Levi Watkins and the late Dr. Elijah Saunders – the award is bestowed upon individuals or organizations in Maryland that have been champions in the fight against health disparities and inequities.

The award was officially presented to Dr. Wilson during a virtual ceremony on May 19.

A gastroenterologist, Dr. Wilson said being named this year’s Watkins-Saunders honoree was surprising, but a great honor, because the award “goes beyond the discipline of heart disease and stroke, and it talks about an issue that is universal in health care in our country right now. And that’s the issue of health disparities, which in part is due to the lack of diversity of healthcare providers and the decision makers in our country today.”

While Dr. Wilson did not work directly with Dr. Watkins, he and Dr. Saunders were close. In fact, it was the latter who repeatedly encouraged him to apply to be Dean at University of Maryland, and went directly to the school’s president demanding Wilson be interviewed for the post.

With his bona fides — which included being the youngest person to achieve full professor status at the University of Illinois Medical School, and serving as physician at University Hospital and Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, New York, while serving as chair of Medicine at SUNY Health Science Center — Dr. Wilson could not be denied.

But once he was named dean, he still faced an uphill battle on several fronts.

“My first meeting with my chairs and program directors, I was in a room with 25 people, 20 of whom thought they should be the dean … who thought they could do the job better than I could. So that was an interesting start,” he said. “To say there was racial bias would be an understatement.”

Additionally, he came into the position facing the challenge of state-mandated budget cuts.

In spite of this, Dr. Wilson was able to increase staff at the school of medicine during his tenure, which lasted until his retirement in 2006. On his watch, the number of female faculty members increased by 75% and the number of minority faculty members tripled.

“I didn’t come to Maryland to increase diversity; I came to Maryland to improve the medical school,” he said. “I believe you can’t reach the best possibilities, unless you have a diverse group of people working with you and advising you. So, increasing diversity was going to help the medical school no matter what happened.”

He also implemented curriculum changes that included more practical, hands-on instruction, and he grew research funding for UMSOM from $77 million to $341 million, among the highest of American medical institutions at the time.

“We went from the fourth quintile in external research funding when I arrived in 1991, to the top quintile when I retired in 2006,” he said.

In addition to serving as dean, Dr. Wilson held several leadership positions in medical and academic organizations throughout  his career, including chairing the Association of American Medical Colleges in 2004, chairing the Maryland Health Care Commission from 1994 to 2004, and founding the Association for Academic Minority Physicians.

Along the way, Wilson also became the role model for people of color who wanted to practice medicine or enter academia.

“We started getting more students of color who were interested in the University of Maryland. Me being at Maryland as a role model, they assumed that might make it a friendlier place,” he said.

But he also served as an inspiration for others seeking leadership roles in academia.

“Dr. Wilson is so well-deserving of this award. This recognition is really important not only to Dr. Wilson, but for all of us, because he has been such a role model,” said Dr. Eve Higginbotham, who Wilson appointed in 1994 as the chair of the Ophthalmology Department at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

In doing so, Dr. Higginbotham because the first woman and first African-American to chair an ophthalmology department at an academic medical center in the United States.

“He is such a visionary. He envisioned University of Maryland being in the top medical schools in the country, and he certainly achieved that and more,” said Higginbotham, now the Vice Dean for Inclusion and Diversity of the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania.

“Him coming to University of Maryland with a strong research compass was a gift to the university, but it also gave so many of us the necessary North star for us to achieve that goal.”

Dr. William Ashley, whose father was a colleague and friend of Dr. Wilson in Illinois, said Wilson left an indelible mark on his career. As Ashley was graduating high school, Wilson offered him advice about his future. Their paths crossed again some 20 years later when Ashley came to Maryland.

“When I got to Baltimore, he was one of the first meetings I had. He was very pleased to see me and recall our conversation,” Dr. Ashley said. “I really felt very proud to have known him all these years and have him be part of my background and part of building me to where I am today.”

A neurologist at LifeBridge Health, Dr. Ashley is also the President of the American Heart Association of Greater Maryland’s board of directors and one of the chairs of the Watkins-Saunders Award Leadership committee.

Opinion: Insurance coverage for all forms of telehealth essential for equity, chronic-disease management in Maryland

Volunteer Shuron Abdullah, a retired registered respiratory therapist with three-decades of experience shares her advocacy around protecting telehealth, as told to April Dawn Shinske. Shuron is an American Heart Association volunteer and has been a Basic Life Support/Heartsaver instructor. 

“I’m cold. I’m cold.”

The pleading words of my late father-in-law, Pat, during in-person visits to his doctors have stayed with me, following his passing. Our preparations for his outings were always thoughtful. But at 95, no amount of bundling him up seemed to bring Pat complete comfort. Trips left him exhausted for days to follow.

Then, we began using telehealth–a Godsend–to meet Pat’s needs. Suddenly, everything became easier and more comfortable for Pat. He could remain warm resting in his bed, while we brought the phone or computer to him. Pat was able to visit with his regular doctor, and feel safe knowing he was in familiar, good hands. Especially as we worked through dementia and months of end-of-life care, telehealth became not only a better solution, it became essential to Pat’s wellbeing.

My experiences as a primary elder caregiver coupled with my three-decades as a registered respiratory therapist, community health volunteer and American Heart Association Basic Life Support and Heartsaver instructor and volunteer make me certain that telehealth is essential for our communities–most especially communities of color like my own, where adequate healthcare access is often limited.

We must act now to be sure all insurance providers cover audio-only and video telehealth options. We must support, and ask our legislators to support, bills HB123 and SB3 to protect telehealth for all. You can help by joining the American Heart Association’s You’re the Cure network and taking action, today.

There are many ways in which telehealth increases access to care. Telehealth eliminates the need for travel, especially for people who may not have access to personal transportation. For folks dealing with chronic diseases, people who rely on oxygen as an example, finding practical ways to readily access public transportation–and to afford it–may be nearly impossible. The pandemic has exacerbated these barriers to healthcare access. Telehealth by phone or computer allows people to practice prevention and chronic disease management under the guidance of qualified healthcare professionals, reducing strain on the need for emergency care during this critical moment and beyond. The elderly and those nearing end-of-life are especially positively impacted by access to telehealth.

If you need a reason to support access to audio and video telehealth, I ask you to recall my father-in-law, Pat, and the many like him. We can’t leave our most vulnerable community members in the cold when it comes to access to healthcare–telehealth brings prevention, chronic-disease management, and wellbeing to the warmth of home.

Please Join You’re the Cure to begin taking action and contacting your lawmakers today.

-Shuron Abdullah

Bowie, MD

See more from Shuron about why it is so important to protect insurance coverage for all forms of telehealth in Maryland:

Telehealth critically-important for chronic-disease management

Telehealth essential tool for eldercare

Telehealth benefits patients on oxygen

Telehealth fosters access and equity for vulnerable 

Greater Maryland Heart Walk Chair, Chambers: “You can actually save a life by participating in Heart Walk.”

The American Heart Association (AHA) is pleased to announce that Bradley S. Chambers President, MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital and MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, and Senior Vice President, MedStar Health has been named chair of the 2021 Greater Maryland Heart Walk.

“You can actually save a life by participating in Heart Walk,” said Chambers—citing the urgency of the pandemic, and the data, challenges, and outcomes amid COVID-19 that left members of our communities impacted by cardiovascular diseases and stroke particularly vulnerable.

“You can make a difference in the lives of individuals and their family members afflicted with heart disease, who are at much higher risk,” said Chambers.

Together, with corporations and community leaders throughout the Greater Maryland area, the American Heart Association aims to raise $1,650,000 through the 2021 Heart Walk Campaign. To get involved, register your team at www.greatermarylandheartwalk.org.

Bradley S. Chambers headshot
Bradley S. Chambers

Chambers said he is especially excited to lead the 2021 Heart Walk, as he sees the planned October 16, 2021 walk at Camden Yards as a chance for renewal.

“The Heart Walk fosters cardiovascular disease awareness, and this year I hope it will also be a community celebration of being able to take a walk together again,” said Chambers.

Chambers also said he feels as “president of a hospital that takes great pride in its work in cardiovascular care,” it is important for healthcare executives like him to lead by example, “energize” the cardiovascular team at MedStar Health by celebrating the work they do every day, and “rally behind” the shared chronic-disease prevention and population efforts mutually valued by MedStar Health and the American Heart Association.

“By leading the Heart Walk, you really can impact education, awareness, screening, and prevention,” said Chambers.

Chambers also has a personal connection to cardiovascular disease. He lost his mother, an uncle, and father-in-law as a result of cardiovascular complications. His leadership of the Heart Walk is close to his own family’s heart.

“I have seen the impact of cardiovascular disease on my family—multiple family members affected—some with fatal events caused by issues that were previously undetected. Detection and treatment are so important,” said Chambers.

About the Greater Maryland Heart Walk:

The Greater Maryland Heart Walk is the American Heart Association’s mission in action. This annual celebration of life promotes physical activity and heart-healthy living for the whole family. The 2021 Greater Maryland Heart Walk has a goal to raise $1,650,000 for the American Heart Association’s life-saving mission to build healthier lives free from cardiovascular diseases and stroke. The Walk is a non-competitive, two-mile or one-mile walk at Camden Yards Sports Complex and is open to both corporate and community teams as well as individuals.

In 2020, more than 3,000 digital participants in the Greater Maryland Region raised $1,420,000 in support of the American Heart Association. We reached 1.8 million people with key life-saving messages through social media.

Complete information can be found on www.greatermarylandheartwalk.org