Medical School Professor Edward Cooper, the new president-elect of American Heart Association, is looking to lower the high incidence of heart disease and stroke in blacks. According to Cooper, blacks are three to five times more likely to suffer heart failure than whites. In addition, stroke deaths are almost twice as common in blacks. "We want to narrow these gaps," he said. "This will require much better access to care and education." Last year, the AHA spent $71 million supporting nationwide research. The organization also sponsors school-site programs like "Tobacco-free 2000," work-site programs like "Heart at Work," and programs for physicians like "Heart Rx." Cooper added that it is important that more minorities become doctors, noting that minority doctors are more likely to practice in minority areas. It wasn't until 1964 that Cooper became the first black attending physician at HUP. "We have only one quarter of the doctors we need in minority areas," he said. The AHA, along with the American Cancer Association, is one of the two largest voluntary health organizations in the nation. The AHA has 3.2 million volunteers who are members of 2200 divisions. Cooper will serve for a year as president-elect before assuming the position of president in June 1992. Cooper is no stranger to the the AHA, having been involved for over 25 years in such capacities as Chairman of the Stroke Council and as a member of the groups' National Board of Elections. Cooper is recognized as an expert in the field of stroke prevention, having been called on to testify before Congress as recently as this past spring. Cooper spoke to the Appropriations Committee about the need for more money to be allocated for cardiology research. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. "Heart disease and stroke kill almost as many people as all other things combined, yet we don't get nearly that proportion of money for research," Cooper said. Cooper said that the reason for this lack of appropriate funding is due to "a lack of understanding." He cited a recent Minnesota study which found that only five percent of people surveyed could name the three major risk factors for heart attack: cigarettes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Cooper said the main theme of his new administration will be prevention. "We have to prevent children from having high blood pressure in the first place," he said, pointing to causes ranging from improper diet to watching too much television. Cooper praised William Kelley, executive director of the Medical Center, for his emphasis on research in molecular biology. "Here at Penn we're in the right position to find out who is at the highest risk for stroke and heart disease," he said. Although Cooper is kept busy by meetings and interviews such as a recent two hour call-in show on WHAT, he said he also enjoys spending time with medical students. "The part I most enjoy is when a student spends the day with me watching me as I work," he said with a smile.Comments powered by Disqus
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