Raising awareness about women’s heart health
“Women need to be educated about female cardiovascular disease, and the medical community must be propelled toward change,” says Barbra Streisand.
The Academy Award®-winning actress, director, and performer is providing much-needed fuel to this cause. In 2008, the Barbra Streisand Foundation gifted a $5 million endowment to Cedars-Sinai to create the Barbra Streisand Women's Cardiovascular Research and Education Program at the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center.
C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center, calls the Streisand Program a vital addition to its expanding scientific and therapeutic arsenal. “We need these kinds of endowments, this type of leadership,” says Dr. Bairey Merz.
Ms. Streisand has contributed to women’s health programs through the Streisand Foundation since 1986. A longtime force in human rights, the Streisand Foundation decided to make a significant contribution to the city of Los Angeles. The Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center—with its gender-specific research, education, and clinical care—proved a perfect fit.
Like others, Ms. Streisand was “absolutely shocked” when she read the deadly statistics of heart disease. It claims the lives of a half million women a year in the United States. At least 40 percent of women do not survive their first heart attack.
Ms. Streisand’s involvement in this issue may have been predestined. A 1991 editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine first described the lack of understanding of women’s heart disease as the “Yentl syndrome.” The reference is to one of Ms. Streisand’s most popular films. Its heroine is forced to disguise herself as a man to attend school.
The Streisand Program focuses on education for both patients and physicians. “We’re on the cusp of understanding the uniqueness, in terms of gender, in the way symptoms of heart disease present themselves,” says Ms. Streisand. “What gives me hope is knowing that the Center is here for us.”