Texas Medical Center executives put their healthiest foot forward for the American Heart Association’s National Walking Day, which took place April 6. Credit: Scott Dalton
Texas Medical Center executives put their healthiest foot forward for the American Heart Association’s National Walking Day, which took place April 6. Credit: Scott Dalton

TMC Has Heart

The Texas Medical Center has formed a partnership with the American Heart Association to promote heart-healthy living in Houston

TMC Has Heart

3 Minute Read

When cardiothoracic surgeon Robert C. Robbins, M.D., became president and chief executive officer of the Texas Medical Center in Nov. 2012, he brought with him his passion to reduce heart disease. Robbins is part of the Houston local board and the Southwest Affiliate Board of Directors for the American Heart Association. After creating the partnership between the medical center and the American Heart Association, Robbins enlisted the help of medical center executives and employees to help
raise awareness about heart disease.

“As a surgeon, by the time patients get to me, it’s too late to talk about preventing heart disease,” Robbins said. “We need to work on prevention on the front end to reduce fatalities, and the partnership with the American Heart Association does exactly that.”

As the leading cause of death in the nation, preventing heart disease has always been important to Texas Medical Center Chief Financial Officer Denise Castillo-Rhodes.

“Heart prevention is near and dear to my heart. Not only is it the number one killer for all Americans, but being Hispanic, my family and I face even higher risks of cardiovascular diseases because of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes,” Castillo-Rhodes said. “I love the work I am doing with the American Heart Association because I can see our work making a positive impact on our community.”

For the past year, Castillo-Rhodes has been serving as chair for the Go Red for Women campaign here in Houston. On May 6, Castillo-Rhodes and her committee will be hosting the annual Go Red for Women Luncheon at the Royal Sonesta Hotel Houston.

The luncheon focuses on preventing heart disease and stroke among women by promoting healthy lifestyles and providing fundraising for education, research and awareness of the disease. As city sponsor of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, the Texas Medical Center will be helping Castillo-Rhodes reach the American Heart Association’s fundraising goal of $1 million.

“We will welcome 500 Houston community members, government officials, business professionals, the medical community and many others to celebrate women’s heart health and the collective passions women possess, while addressing the importance of combating the number one and number five killers of women—heart disease and stroke,” Castillo-Rhodes said.

Larry Stokes, senior vice president of human resources and shared services at the Texas Medical Center, is the 2016 chair for the Houston American Heart Association Heartwalk. The annual walk is the premier fundraiser for the American Heart Association and is a critical piece of its campaign to promote physical activity and heart-healthy living while raising awareness about heart disease.

The walk, which will be held Nov. 5, will take place on the Texas Medical Center campus for the first time. Since the first responsibility of the medical center is to accommodate patients and hospitals, Stokes and his team were tasked with strategically planning entrances and exits for 30,000 walk participants as well as a route for them to walk in the medical center without interfering with ambulance and patient traffic.

Each walker sets their own personal goal for their walk and they can dedicate their walk to a loved one or a cause they believe in. More than fundraising, though, the medical center hopes to raise awareness of heart disease among all of the participants.

“We are planning to have 30,000 walkers come out for the Heartwalk and our main goal is to share information and knowledge with each walker,” Stokes said. “If someone sets a goal of $5 or $500, that is fine, but we are really focusing on raising awareness.”

Internally, the Texas Medical Center has implemented several initiatives to promote heart-healthy living among its institutions. TMC02 is a cross-institutional program that promotes making healthier choices in vending machines and in the cafeterias through a stoplight system based on calories. Employees have also participated in health and wellness screenings, step-counting challenges and Weight Watchers.

“As a medical center, all of us are impacted in some form by heart disease, whether it be professionally or personally,” Stokes said. “This partnership gives the medical center and all of the institutions a chance to look across the street and remember how much we do have in common and how this collaboration with one another is a good thing for the medical center and those we serve.”

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