Heart Walk: A Personal Journey for Baptist Health Leaders

Eight years ago, Carol Mascioli was sitting at her desk at 6 a.m., getting an early start to the work day. Mascioli, who was vice president of Baptist Hospital, had a full schedule.

“I was reading my emails, and all of a sudden I got a little dizzy. I couldn’t read the words,” she recalled. “I couldn’t figure out how to use the telephone, so I sat there hoping that someone would come in.”

A colleague did stop by. When she didn’t speak, she says, he knew something was wrong. He took her down to the emergency room. Mascioli had suffered a mini stroke.

“I had arteriosclerosis of my carotid artery,” she said. “It was a wake-up call. I have always been the thinnest person in the world all my life. Being thin also led me to think that I could eat anything. I had to change my eating habits and exercise, and be very attentive to it.”

Today, Mascioli, now chief operating officer of Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, is healthy, and inspired to spread the word about the importance of improving heart health to minimize the risk of heart attack and stroke, particularly for women. (Women are often unaware of the symptoms, which unlike in men, are generally unrelated to chest pain. )

This year, Mascioli is co-chairing the American Heart Association’s Miami Heart Walk with Barry T. Katzen, M.D., founder and chief medical executive of the Institute. Dr. Katzen’s father died at an early age of heart disease during a time before advanced treatments existed – some of which have been pioneered by Dr. Katzen. His mother died of a stroke, which became a motivating factor in driving the development of the stroke program at Baptist Hospital. This year, his brother died from effects of peripheral vascular disease, or PAD.

This year’s Heart Walk leaders bring a strong interest in improving outcomes of all types of cardiac and vascular diseases effecting thousands of people here in Miami Dade county. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in America. Stroke ranks fifth.

Progress in Prevention and Treatment

The goal of the Miami Heart Walk, set for 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., Nov. 22, at Museum Park (1075 Biscayne Blvd.), is to celebrate the progress in prevention and treatment of heart disease and to raise $800,000. The funds will be used in Miami-Dade County to provide education and research. More than 700 Baptist Health employees have signed up to walk so far, and they encourage people across South Florida to participate.

“By participating, people are going to be helping to support research that will be put back into our community. So it’s really a direct benefit not only to everyone within the Institute but everyone in the community to improve South Florida’s health,” Dr. Katzen said.

“We can’t do leading edge research without the fund-raising that the American Heart Association is very instrumental in doing,” Mascioli said.

The AHA has set a new goal for 2020, to “improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.”

The Institute shares that commitment through its emphasis on advanced technologies, research and prevention, Dr. Katzen said.

“At Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, we’re focused on high technology, minimally invasive therapies and improving outcomes, but we’re also very interested in keeping people from needing procedures in the first place,” Dr. Katzen said. “That’s why we think the alignment between the Institute and the Heart Walk is so important for us and for the community.”

The walk is also an opportunity to re-introduce the South Florida community to the Institute, which is nearing the completion of a $100 million expansion opening in 2016 on the Baptist Hospital campus. The state-of-the-art facilities will offer more space for new programs, including the Center for Aneurysm Therapy, the first of its kind, the Center for Advanced Endovascular Therapies and the Center for Structural Heart Therapy. The Institute will also include a larger gallery where physicians can collaborate and teach pioneering techniques to visiting doctors from around the world.

In addition, Mascioli said, the walk is a chance for everyone to celebrate survivors and the lives of loved ones lost to heart disease, including employees of Baptist Health like Scott Kleier, director of food services, who died of a stroke a year ago.

“We’ve ordered arm bands to recognize him,” she said, “and we’re going to be carrying torches to represent stroke prevention, to make sure that everybody knows that it could happen to anybody.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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