by Jaclyn Youhana Garver
There’s the sense of general loss you get from statistics: One in five U.S. females die from heart disease, which makes it the leading cause of death for women in this country, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for white and Black women, and one in 16 women 20 years and older have coronary heart disease.
Then there’s the more acute loss from personal experience: Raylene Rospond’s father was just 44 when he died of heart disease. She was 20.
“Anytime you’re a kid and you’re experiencing something (like sickness) with your parents, it can have a huge impact,” says Rospond. “It was really something, especially as I grew up. When you reach the age when you outlive your parents, it’s just really impactful.”
Rospond is 2021’s chair for Go Red for Women, an American Heart Association program to end stroke and heart disease in women. At this year’s annual event, which is May 25, Rospond hopes to raise $200,000 for education and research. There’s also the more general goal of educating the community about heart disease, especially as it affects women.
“The first step toward community education,” Rospond says, “is including women of color on the event’s leadership team.” According to Go Red for Women, nearly one in two Black women 20 years and older have heart disease, though just one in five believes she’s personally at risk.
Rospond also is prioritizing fundraising efforts to appeal to Black and minority women, in the hopes of increasing their attendance numbers at Go Red for Women. In addition, she hopes to diversify the offerings from event vendors, assuring info booths and items for sale are of interest to all attendees.
Rospond grew up in Iowa, and she moved to the region in 2014 for work. She is the associate dean of clinical affairs and outreach professor of pharmacy practice at Manchester University in Fort Wayne. She is passionate about helping women lower their risk of heart disease and stroke, so when the chance came up to chair this year’s event, she knew it was the right fit.
“You know how sometimes opportunities just become available when you’re looking for something that fits you and your passion?” she says. When last year’s chair “asked me to be a part of it, it was just the right thing that fit me personally.”
Currently, Go Red for Women will be hosted at Parkview Mirro Center for Research & Innovation, and Rospond says she’s hopeful that doesn’t change; however, the possibility to move to a virtual event is present, depending upon this spring’s COVID-19 numbers and state recommendations. Despite the coronavirus and the calls for the community to stay home during the global pandemic, one key Go Red for Women message is this: The hospital is still the safest place to receive treatment for heart attack or stroke. If you have either, do