Why these Raymond James leaders "Go Red" for women
A Q&A with Raymond James Bank EVP, Chief Operating Officer Amanda Stevens and Raymond James Trust VP, Trust Consultant Corliss Taylor
Cardiovascular disease kills approximately one woman every 80 seconds in the U.S. The good news is, 80% of cardiac events may be prevented with education and lifestyle changes.
For Raymond James Bank EVP and COO Amanda Stevens and Raymond James Trust VP and Trust Consultant Corliss Taylor, giving back to Go Red for Women, the American Heart Association’s signature women’s initiative, is personal. Both women sit on the Executive Cabinet of the Tampa Bay division of Go Red for Women and have each made it their mission to support research and education around heart disease in women.
In honor of Wear Red Day – a national movement in which people across the U.S. don red attire in support of women’s heart health – Amanda and Corliss sat down to discuss their involvement with the organization.
Q: In your own words, can you tell me about the mission behind Go Red for Women?
Amanda: The mission is to make sure that we are adequately funding research and education for women specifically in the area of cardiovascular health. For me, it’s really important because women experience symptoms differently than men, and for so many years, the majority of research was really not equal. And the impacts on women are so much different. So from my standpoint, that’s really the mission and why I’m involved.
Corliss: They’re true to what they do: They research and they educate. And those are the two topics that are near and dear to my heart. I believe if you’re not growing, you’re regressing. They help people grow every time they enter this arena, whether it’s a monthly call, a webinar, a luncheon … And what I was able to see was people concerned about the betterment of a subset of people that mean so much to me, women. So for me, it means someone is trying to make my life better.
Q: Do you have a personal connection to the cause – one that you feel comfortable sharing?
Amanda: I do, I am a stroke survivor. You wouldn’t guess this, and this is one of the reasons education is so important. I’m a very active person; I run up to 50 miles a week and always have been very active. But a few years ago, I was on vacation and started experiencing some different symptoms, and my teenage daughter said, “Mom, I think you’re having a stroke.” And I thought I was fine, I thought I just wasn’t feeling well. So I said, in 30 minutes, if I still have symptoms, you can make me do something about it. So 30 minutes later, I still can’t really see; I can’t feel; I couldn’t walk straight. So upon her insistence, we went to the hospital, and my symptoms started to get a lot worse. They were able to diagnose the stroke and treat it with blood thinners. People experience stroke symptoms so differently from one another. But after a few days, I started to feel a lot better. Ruined my vacation, but that’s OK!
They never did figure out why I had a stroke, but now I’m doing all these things to try to prevent it from happening again, because 25% of people who have a stroke will have another one. And a lot of people who have this, don’t recover that quickly. So I think I was very fortunate that, number one, my daughter could recognize symptoms and insist on looking into it, and that the hospital did all the tests they needed to do. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t gone to the ER and been treated so quickly. So that research and education is so important. This can happen to anybody. You just don’t know. And if anybody can learn from my story, that’s what it’s all about.
Corliss: My family does not have a history of heart disease, but my friends do. So I have a couple of friends who have been impacted. And my husband’s family has been plagued with this. My husband’s father has been diagnosed with heart issues. So I was already involved with the American Heart Association, and when I started hearing what he was going through, I was able to give him some information. And typically African Americans have more issues in this area, and the education they’ve provided has been priceless. I’ve been able to use it to give back to my family and friends. It has touched my life to be able to do that, but it has also made me feel more prepared to address this with my husband and his family.
Q: What do you hope to achieve in the future with Go Red for Women?
Amanda: If I can help fund the research to identify what we can do to better prevent strokes and cardiac arrest in women, that’s my number one mission. But number two, if I can just get to one or two other people and impact their knowledge to help them save theirs or somebody else’s life, that’s my goal.
Corliss: I want to bring something that I’ve learned to someone and hear them go, “Oh! I should do that.” And then follow up and find out they did it. So not just give them the information, but I want to tell somebody about it, and they think it’s so valuable for them that they actually do it. For instance, on a call this morning, I was telling someone about eating better. You know, you should stop eating at about 6 or 7 at night, drink more water, and stay away from fried foods. And I ran through some lists of foods, and they were like, “Oh! I guess that’s true. I could do that.” And then later I got a text: “Hey, I’m having grilled chicken!” Do you know what that means to me? I’m like, yes! And it made me feel like I had done something. Will grilled chicken save her life? I mean, it will help – at least I believe it will – and I felt like I had a part in it. So going forward, I want to talk with somebody, see that they have an “aha” moment, and then see them actually implement it.
Q: What are some immediate steps that women, and people in general, can take to live more heart-healthy lives?
Amanda: Know your numbers. You need to know what your baseline is – your heart rate, cholesterol, blood pressure – so that you can know what you need to improve, and so that if you do experience a health event and need to go to the hospital, you can be ready to tell them what is normal for you and what is not. I think that’s the most important thing you can do for yourself is know your numbers.
Corliss: I’m a proponent of give the information, dig into it, research, learn more, uncover it, and make sure that in all you’re getting, you gain an understanding. If you don’t understand something, then you need to find out who can help you. You need to understand what it is that will change your life for the better. Baby steps – it doesn’t have to be colossal, just do something that will improve your life, even in incremental steps.
Go Red for Women advocates for research and swift action for women’s heart health. That’s why Raymond James associates, the American Heart Association and people across the U.S. will “Go Red” for women on Friday, February 5. Learn more about Go Red for Women and their mission at goredforwomen.org.
Sources: American Heart Association, Go Red for Women, Cleveland Clinic