Two heart disease survivors — Katherine Leon and Laura Haywood-Cory — were honored Feb. 15 in New York City as winners of 2012 Woman’s Day Red Dress Awards for their pioneering effort to approach and encourage Mayo Clinic cardiologist Sharonne Hayes to ask her if she would study a rare heart condition called spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD).
“Presenting the Red Dress Award to Katherine and Laura was a truly special experience. Their confidence, persistence and consistent dream for a better future for all SCAD patients was obvious. I hope they now realize that they are largely responsible for reaching this better future.”
The interaction between Dr. Hayes, Leon and Haywood-Cory at the 2009 WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium at Mayo Clinic led to a pilot study to see if it was feasible to recruit patients through the use of social media. Leon, of Virginia, and Haywood-Cory, of North Carolina, had first met online in 2009 on a community support group for women who are survivors of heart disease; it is moderated by WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. For several years, Leon had been gathering information from and connecting with other SCAD survivors. They had come up with a list of research questions they thought needed to be answered. It was at the symposium at Mayo Clinic in 2009 — at which Leon and Haywood-Cory were participants — that Leon, with encouragement from Haywood-Cory, approached Dr. Hayes with her list of research questions and her bigger question: Is Mayo Clinic studying SCAD, and, if not, would Dr. Hayes consider it? “Katherine and Laura shared with me the existence of this group, which was almost twice the number that had ever been reported in research,” Dr. Hayes says. “They also showed me the quite sophisticated research agenda of questions about SCAD that members of the group wanted answered. I was inspired, to be honest.”
The resulting pilot study was published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in 2011. In addition, a story was published in the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 30, 2011, recounting their story. The successful pilot has led to two new SCAD research projects at Mayo Clinic.
“It was such a surprise and honor to receive our awards from Dr. Hayes, and on behalf of the SCAD ladies, we are eternally grateful for everything she has done for us,” Leon said.
The honor of being named a Woman’s Day Red Dress Awards winner is more icing on the cake. For Leon and Haywood-Cory, who got to walk the red capet in New York City, it really just means another opportunity to reach other SCAD survivors and let them know there is hope for discovering the cause of this condition. And they hope their work inspires others to realize they should feel empowered to make a difference.
“I’m thrilled and honored to be sharing this award and sharing the stage with Katherine Leon. It’s my hope that we have raised the profile of SCAD, and of women’s heart disease, and the need for more research on women.”
Watch the wonderful Red Dress Award acceptance speeches by Leon and Haywood-Cory: