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Faces of Heart Health

American Heart Association.
|Photography by Matthew Shelley
Seated Left to Right: Valerie Oswald, Vice President of Development; Jenny Eyer, Community Impact Vice President Standing Left to Right: Renee Gadson, Heart Challenge Vice President; Diana Rivas-Smith, Cotes du Coeur Gala Vice President; Chris LaTurno, Region Senior Vice President; Karen Fleig, Senior Director of Communications and Marketing Director; Samantha Eppler, Go Red for Women Vice President

The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit focused on the prevention and treatment of heart disease, claims Dallas as its home. A dynamic North Texas team is a relentless fundraising force and advocate for the citizens of North Texas to enjoy longer, healthier lives. 

Region senior vice president Chris LaTurno leads a staff comprised of Samantha Eppler, Go Red for Women vice president; Jenny Eyer, Community Impact vice president; Diana Rivas-Smith, Cotes du Coeur Gala vice president; Renee Gadson, Heart Challenge vice president, and Karen Fleig, senior director of communications and marketing. These execs focus on eradicating cardiovascular disease and stroke, as heart disease continues to be the No. 1 killer and stroke remains the No. 5 killer of all Americans.

But the Association is fighting back. Last year, the Dallas division led the advocacy for the city of Irving to go smoke-free. They continue to reach thousands of patients through blood pressure monitoring initiatives and educating North Texas about the simple “2 Steps to Save a Life with Hands-Only CPR.” The goal is to make sure that at least one member of every family in North Texas knows bystander hands-only CPR. In partnership with the North Texas Regional Area Council, a formal policy now ensures stroke patients get to the most appropriate stroke facility based on severity no matter where they live in the region.

To support these programs, the Dallas team hosts several annual fundraisers. Its signature Heart Walk raised more than $5.5 million and focuses on new ways to boost physical and mental health. CycleNation™ empowers the community to use all types of bikes to get brain and heart healthy while raising funds to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. Côtes du Coeur annually welcomes 1,200 attendees and celebrates nearly $55 million in mission investments during its 32-year history.

The Go Red for Women movement, celebrated in February, raised more than $1.9 million and empowers women to take charge of their health in hopes to change the statistic that one in three women will lose their life to cardiovascular disease. A key focus area for the Go Red movement is closing the gender gap in research in STEM. As the Dallas team focuses on future health strategies and goals, they are excited to prepare for the celebration of the American Heart Association’s 100th Anniversary in 2024.

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