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All Hearts Matter!

By: Aiśa Mrkulic, PharmD. Candidate c/o 2022

APhA’s Red Dress Gala continues to be their largest, not-for-profit fundraising event of the year. Welcome were members and non-members all the same. Student pharmacists from other chapters are often present—the 5th Annual Red Dress Gala being no exception! DAC Ballroom housed the festivities, as awareness was brought to the importance of cardiovascular health.

Operation Heart Chair, Adwah Yousuf, PharmD. Candidate c/o 2021, was a lively hostess that remained cool, calm, and collected throughout the duration of the night, despite recurrent technical difficulties. St. John’s and non-St. John’s student guests alike—most of whom were comprised of our LIU Pharmacy comrades—were reminded by the Chair of exactly where their money well-spent would journey to. Proceeds would take the form of donated funds to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Keynote Speaker, Dr. Penny Stern MD, MPH, Director, Preventive Medicine and a occupational medicine physician at Northwell Health’s Department of Occupational Medicine, Epidemiology, and Prevention, and the Center for Equity of Care, stole the show with her expert-word—bringing much-needed awareness to female cardiovascular health. Where better to start than a {ball}room full of aspiring pharmacists? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), data from the United States (U.S.) clearly points to heart disease as the leading cause of death.1 Moreover, as Dr. Stern pointed out, women are the largest sub-population, for which the 635, 260 deaths in 2016 accounted for 1.

Heart Disease is the leading cause of mortality in American women. Why? The disease is often perceived as asymptomatic by emergency department staff who do not hear the words ‘chest pain’ included in the utterance of women who present reporting that they feel a little off. While men give an account of what is eventually confirmed to be a heart attack by medical professionals, they often compare the sensation to that of an elephant sitting on one’s chest. Women, on the other hand, do not share this symptom of chest pain with their counterparts. Instead, they tend to experience jaw pain.

A film by Elizabeth Banks, titled ‘Just a little heart attack’, informed viewers on the subject at hand: heart attacks. The film maintained a comical and entertaining light-heartedness about it. It communicated that attacks do not present in women in the same manner in which they do in men. Most of what we know as a result of public health initiatives underemphasizes, if not blatantly disregards, the disparities in symptomology between the two groups.

The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women initiative broadcasts on its website— ‘Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year – more than all cancers combined’.2 This is reason enough to seek out more information on the signs and symptoms of heart disease in women. Provided below is a head-start: (see PDF).

Remember, there are more differences than similarities between the symptoms of a heart attack in men as compared with women. As aspiring healthcare professionals, we should all know the signs and spread awareness.

In short, the APhA’s largest, non-for-profit fundraising event of the year did not disappoint. Rather, it set a high bar for the 6th annual Red Dress Gala, as well as subsequent fundraisers to come.

APhA’s Operation Heart Chair best put the night into words: “The gala was a lot of fun and while it was a lot of work to put in, I am very grateful for all the help that I got from my fellow E-board members at APhA. It was really rewarding being able to see everything come together in time. On top of that, being able to work with our fellow student pharmacists at LIU was awesome. It showed collaboration and allyship!”


  1. Leading Causes of Death: Number of Deaths for Leading Causes of Death. Center for Disease Control and Prevention Website. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm. Updated March 17, 2019. Accessed 02/27/2019
  2. About Heart Disease in Women. American Heart Association Go Red for Women Website. https://www.goredforwomen.org/en/about-heart-disease-in-women. Accessed 02/27/2019
  3. Symptoms of a Heart Attack and Stroke in Women. American Heart Association Go Red for Women Website. https://www.goredforwomen.org/en/about-heart-disease-in-women/signs-and-symptoms-in-women Accessed 05/02/2020
  4. Heart Attack: Men vs Women. The Heart Foundation. https://theheartfoundation.org/2017/03/29/heart-attack-men-vs-women/. Accessed 05/02/2020
Published by Rho Chi Post
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