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Fireside Chat with Star Jones

Fireside Chat with Star Jones

– I’m honored to be joined
today by attorney, author and noted television
personality Star Jones. 10 years ago, Star became the American Heart Association’s
National Ambassador when she experienced her own
open heart surgery adventure, that I know she’s gonna talk with us a little bit more about, and then she went on to compete on the NBC television
celebrity Apprentice program on our behalf and she managed
to raise more than $300,000 on the premier episode of that
in support of our mission. (audience applauds) She also raised more than
just a little awareness. Now, some of you may have
heard bits and pieces about Star’s journey, but we’re gonna talk a
little bit about that today because in the time since
her experience, her journey and the way in which she
came into contact with us, she’s been paying it forward by empowering new generations of women to know their risk of
cardiovascular disease and today, we’re gonna reflect on her
commitment to our organization and learn a little bit more about the time that she spent since her experience, what keeps her energized and I know she’s gonna talk
to us about focus and her work because if she’ll tell
you heart health matters and it remains a front-burning issue for everybody everywhere and
we don’t need star to remind us that one in three women will
die of cardiovascular disease. It’s the leading killer. A note before we begin, we’ll have a chance to take
questions from our friends who are here in the live audience at the American Heart
Association offices in Dallas, as well as those who are
watching on the internet. Whether they’re our staff who
are watching on livestream or whether they’re our friends
who are watching on LinkedIn and if you’re watching on
LinkedIn or on the livestream and you want to submit a question, whatever platform you’re using, there’s a way to submit that question. So with no further ado,
let’s get going and start. Jones, welcome to the
American Heart Association and thank you for all that you do. (audience applauds)
– Thank you. I actually feel like I should
be welcoming some of you because I’ve been here for 10 years. This is like my home. The American Heart Association is literally what wakes
me up in the morning, it’s the reason I can
wake up every morning now in a heart healthy situation,
so I’m home right now. – Well, we’re reminded
that it’s been 10 years since you had your experience. How are you feeling and how are you doing? – I actually am in
probably the best health that I’ve ever been in my whole life. Emotionally perfect,
I am a newly-wed, wife and a new mother of a 14 year old son who seems to think I’m the cat’s meow, so I’m very happy right
there and health wise according to the imminent
Dr. Valentin Fuster, the former president of the
American Heart Association, who was my cardiologist who
diagnosed my heart disease, I am one of the few people in
America in good heart health. – Congratulations. – Yes, I brag about that. (audience applauds) I have to tell you though for
the vast majority of my life I thought my law degree
was my greatest asset and Saturday Night Live
does it best, Tracy Morgan, ’cause you know I’m a lawyer and he used to pick on me all the time because I wore it like a badge of honor. Well, my new badge of honor is
I’m a heart disease survivor. So you know I’m a heart disease survivor and a heart disease thriver because I have made heart
disease that badge of honor. This little zipper down
the center of my chest means I’m still here and still I rise and it’s my job to do the
same thing for other women. – Well, before we look forward, maybe we can just take
a moment to look back and help some of us who might be watching who aren’t as intimately
familiar with your story. It always helps to hear the story. Would you mind sharing it briefly again? – You know, absolutely. I’ll go back to really
before the diagnosis. For my entire adult life, and I do mean my adult life. From the time I was 18
years old in college ’til I was 41 years old, I
was obese or morbidly obese. There came a time where
for my 40th birthday I had 40 girlfriends come
with me to the Caribbean for a big blowout celebration and I was completely overweight,
I was obese at that time, but in the year between my
40th birthday and my 41st, I think I gained 75 pounds, so as of the time of my 41st birthday, I was topping the scales
somewhere around 300 pounds. I stopped weighing myself and a friend of mine came to me and said, “I’m so worried about your health, “I’m afraid that I’m going
to not have heard from you “for a couple of days and then
come over to your apartment “and you’ve died from a
heart attack or a stroke.” She said we’ve gotta do something and I think I made up my
mind right then and there that I needed help. I needed an intervention,
so I spoke with my doctors and one of them happened
to be a cardiologist, Dr. Valentin Fuster, because in order to have
a medical intervention, you have to have a series of
doctors, at least back then, that could say you could be successful, but these are things
you’re going need to do and when I tell you I embraced
that change relentlessly. So I prepared myself for
what the changes would be and on the day of weight loss
surgery, I weighed 307 pounds and I will never forget
feeling, as a former prosecutor, I would not allow my family and friends to get an autopsy report that says morbidly
obese, black woman, dead. I was not gonna have that on my autopsy under any circumstances. So I was going to make the changes. The surgery was very successful. The first year after weigh
loss surgery I lost 80 pounds, which we attribute to
the weight loss surgery, but that’s when the star had to kick in and I changed my diet,
changed my lifestyle, I started walking instead of riding, and trust me, I have never
met a driver I did not love, so me walking was a big deal. I took up a sport. Of course I picked the one
that I could wear cute clothes, so I took tennis and I
really changed my life. So over the course of that next year, within two years I had lost 160 pounds. I lost a whole human being. So my body was feeling
good, but in reality, it had mask symptoms that I
didn’t know anything about and that’s something
that I really want people to understand about obesity. It can mask what’s going
on in the rest of your body because you attribute
everything that you’re feeling to I’m big, I’m overweight. That’s why my heart’s beating too fast or that’s why I can’t breathe or that’s why I feel lethargic. Well, I wasn’t overweight at that point. I was not obese and I was playing tennis, I was doing spin class,
I was taking Pilates. I was making good food choices and I started to notice
some shortness of breath. I was feeling really fatigued and not that sort of I’m
so busy and fabulous, I’m tired, fatigue. No, the I can’t get out of bed fatigue. When I would go from seated
to standing too quickly, I would get lightheaded and
I knew those weren’t symptoms that I should be having because I was healthy in my mind. After years and years of
not taking care of myself and being sedentary and being lethargic, literally sitting on my rear end, I said, well you know
what, this is not right and I’m gonna figure out what it is. So I remember very distinctly, I had to go to lunch with
some girlfriends in Manhattan, so I fit Valentin Fuster into my schedule. Don’t ever tell him
that part of the story. I show up at Mountainside Hospital in these five inch Jimmy
Choo boots, leather pants. This was January, I’ll never forget it. Fur coat, lashes and the
whole nine yards, okay? So I walk in there, Dr. Fuster,
I’m just not feeling well. Things are… I don’t know what’s going
on so can you tell me. Now interestingly enough,
about six months earlier I had some fluid around my heart and they sent me up to the
cath lab and they drained it and he said let’s do an echo and so of course, we do the echocardiogram and I was so used to that
test, it didn’t bother me. So I’m in there just being fleeting around and then the thing that you hate is when the technician says, “I’m going to get Dr. Fuster “and he’ll be right back
to explain things to you.” So I’m like okay, now
you gotta get the boss so I know something’s up. So he comes in and he tells me, “I’m a little concerned. “There appears to probably
be some fluid back “around your heart and it
shouldn’t have happened “in the last six months
so I want to send you “to the cath lab and I want to drain it.” So I arrogantly said, well
I’ll come back after lunch, not a problem, we’ll just do it then. He said, “No, we’re gonna do it now.” I said, well right now? I have to make changes. He said, “Yeah, you do. “So we’re gonna go upstairs “and we’re gonna take care of it now.” I said, okay well, what floor? And I remember putting the
coat on my arm, what floor? He goes, “Sit in a wheelchair.” I went oh, hell no. I’m not getting wheeled
through Mountainside, are you kidding me? And he said, “You’re getting in the
wheelchair, that’s serious.” I knew right there something was wrong. So they wheeled me up to the cath lab. They extract literally one liter of fluid from around my heart on that day and Fuster and I really
want to all the people that talk to physicians and
clinicians, he was relentless. It wasn’t enough for
him to take that fluid. He said, “This should not have come back. “Something else is wrong,
so I’m going to admit you.” And for two days I had a series of tests. The single worst test in
the history of the world, the transesophageal echocardiogram. The fact that I still know
how to say it is ridiculous, but at the end of those two days, there were a myriad of
things wrong with my heart. They discovered I had a subaortic membrane and that because of my sedentary lifestyle for so many years, my aorta
stop functioning correctly, was not opening and closing
the way it was supposed to, that I had the bloodflow was not working the way it was supposed to. I’ll never forget. I called my best friend
who was my internist and I said, Holly, they
say something is wrong, and she said, “Well,
what does Fuster say?” And Dr. Fuster said, “We’re going to need to
do open heart surgery.” I’m not even sure that
I heard it correctly, you’re gonna need to do open heart surgery and I said, what do you
mean open heart surgery? He says, “You have heart disease.” I literally looked at him and said heart disease is an
old white guys disease, what are you talking about? I’m not an old white dude,
I don’t eat steak every day? What are you talk… I don’t smoke cigars. It’s not my disease. He says, “No, it is “and we’re gonna need to
do open heart surgery.” And I said, well are we talking the new kind I’ve been reading about? ‘Cause you know, I’m a reporter, so I think you go through
the armpit or something. He says, “No Star, we’re gonna
have to crack your chest.” I’m not even sure what
I’m supposed to feel like when somebody tells me that. I remember sitting in his office and the rest of it I don’t remember. I remember calling my
friend Dr. Holly Phillips and saying Fuster says I have
to have open heart surgery. She said why? I said, according to him my
aortic valve is so damaged, they’re gonna need to try to repair it and if they can’t repair it, they’re gonna have to replace
it and I have to start to think about animal valve
versus mechanical valve. It was just overwhelming, it was too much. I did what any self-respecting girl with a valid credit card would do. I got on a plane and went to the Bahamas. I literally put my head in the sand. I remember telling Brooks
this the first time and he told me I could
write it in my presentation. I said, I went to the Bahamas because they didn’t have
heart disease down there. They have shirtless men
and champagne and parties and that’s what I was going to do. I was not going to be
dealing with no heart disease and my girlfriends were
on the trip with me and they said, “Take your
behind back to New York “and deal with it.” So Star took over. I came back. Dr. Fuster discovered
that my iron count was low so we had to work on that. So I had to have eight
weeks to fortify my blood and then we scheduled it for
March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. Of course, you’re the communications guy, you can appreciate. I said, there’s gonna be too
much going on in New York for the media to pay any attention to me, so that’ll be a really good
day to schedule it, okay? – No page five? – No page six. So we scheduled it for March
17th with the one stipulation. I said, Valentin, my
birthday is March 24th and I will be home for my 48th birthday. He said, yeah you will. He introduced me to the most
brilliant thoracic surgeon, Dr. Paul Stelzer, who heart doctors, they’re Gods for all practical purposes and this man was so humble and beautiful. It’s really, all of it came together. Dr. Stelzer prayed with me before we went into the operating theater. That’s just the kind of man he is. He brought Western and Eastern
medicine in with spirituality because he knew that was
important to me and I can say that I had my heart out
of my body for 22 minutes. My heart was stopped and six days later, I
walked out of that hospital. (audience applauds) In the same Jimmy Choo boots. – And we are so privileged
to be with you today and to see what has happened
in the time since then. So flash forward, I am sitting here struck by the remarkable clarity with which you are able to remember and repeat every single detail. As you look back on that experience, was there any surprises? Were there any surprises for you? – Emotionally it was a big surprise. I’ve always been in charge
of everything in my life and I think that’s something that other heart disease
survivors can understand. You feel very helpless that somebody else is now
going to be in control and I remember such a
silly thing at this point, but the first three days,
I don’t remember anything. They gave me whatever that
drug is, Versed or something that helps you not remember
whatever pain you’re in and my first conscious
moment I remember saying I want a bacon cheeseburger. Sincerely. And I started to almost
have a panic attack that I insisted that I
wanted a bacon cheeseburger and my friend who was there
at the hospital with me, he was having a panic
attack that he thought I had gone crazy and so he
had the nurses call Dr. Fuster and Dr. Fuster said, “Go get
her a bacon cheeseburger.” And so of course, my friend
Herb thought Fuster was crazy. Go get her a bacon cheeseburger so they went, they got
me a bacon cheeseburger. I put it in my hand. I took one bite. I slept for eight hours. Valentin wanted to give
me my control back. He was just so sensitive enough to know that I needed to take control. Of course, I couldn’t eat a cheeseburger three days after open heart surgery but I wanted to have control
so I wasn’t prepared for that. I also wasn’t prepared for the aftermath. Open heart surgery saved my life, but cardiac rehab gave me my life back. If you have a heart event,
you must do rehabilitation. It has been really something
that I have championed here at American Heart Association because not enough
women are told about it, not enough people are told
about it but women especially. Women think they can just
go back to their life, well, your life is changed a bit. I can tell you. I was so afraid to walk down
the street the first time and I was with the physical therapist and she said, “Why are
you walking so gingerly?” I had on the tennis
shoes and the sweat suit. I said, I’m just so afraid. I started to cry. I said, I’m so afraid
that I’m going to fall and crack my chest and she
said, “You are 48 years old?” I said, yes ma’am and she said, “How many times in the 48 years “have you spontaneously fallen
and cracked your chest?” And I started to laugh. She said, “That’s not what’s gonna happen, “so stop being so afraid.” And I attacked rehab the way
I attacked open heart surgery. Three months of intense
cardiac rehabilitation. It’s the most intense bootcamp
you’ll ever go through. I could barely walk from
that door to that door when I started and you don’t graduate until you can do a sub max workout and at the end of three months, I could work for 50 minutes with one-minute intervals
every seven minutes and then afterwards,
I walked the 14 blocks back to my apartment, three
months after open heart surgery. – We are thrilled for you for that. (audience applauds) So if I may have your permission, probe a little bit about how
you came to be associated with the American Heart Association because I just listened
to you tell your tale and you very specifically
said you were not interested in attracting attention to your event and yet, you had the opportunity
to do the Apprentice. – Actually it came before then because while I was at the hospital, I started doing all kinds
of research on heart disease and all I can see was
white dudes as the face. Letterman, white dude. Bill Clinton, I love him, but white dude. Larry King, really old, white dude. I saw all the faces of heart disease, there were no other faces and people weren’t talking about it and I learned it’s the number
one killer of all women and number one killer of
African-Americans at the time, the number one killer of all Americans. I learned that and I’m
like three for three, what are you talking about? I got the phone number for
the American Heart Association and I called here. Not an assistant, nobody. I didn’t speak to… I wanted to talk to you. I called the American Heart Association. I said, this is Star Jones. I just had open heart surgery and I’m the new face of heart disease. I want to volunteer. Now, the funniest thing is I don’t think they
thought it was really me because for about a week
and a half, two weeks, I didn’t get, shall we say, a response. Well, what do I do when
I don’t get a response from the Heart Association? I called Valentin. Dr. Fuster, I don’t think they want me. He said, “Oh no, they want you.” So he made a call and
the next thing you know, I was going to be a face for
the American Heart Association to who much is given, much is required. God kept me here for a reason and it’s not to be able
to get a good table at a great restaurant in New York, it’s use your name, use your
platform to open people’s eyes to their number one risk. I need to shout it from the rooftop, because if I, Miss Smartypants,
who’s the reporter, who’s supposed to know all
of this stuff, did not know it was my greatest risk, did not know it was the
number one killer of women, did not know it was the number one killer
of African-Americans, what do I expect for other people? So I made it my business
right then and there no matter if you wanted
me or not, you got me. I’m the face of heart disease. – So tell us about the Apprentice. How did that come to pass? – He who shall not be named has, he begged me, begged me, begged me for many years to do Celebrity Apprentice. We’ve known each other
for over two decades. His family and I were
friends and they begged me and I had no reason to. I didn’t want to do reality television, but after open heart surgery, I thought well I can use you because Celebrity Apprentice
was a prime time show on NBC with a great rating and a lot of attention and I thought if I play for
the American Heart Association every single week in prime time, women’s heart disease
is on the front burner. It’s something that we all can talk about. It’s something that I can explain and I can raise money. So I plotted. I mean in every aspect of it, my opening shot for Celebrity Apprentice, I put heart cuff links on, I made sure that throughout the filming I always talked about the things that I need to do to change my lifestyle, what I was eating, exercising
so that I emphasize what living with heart
disease looked like. I don’t think people realize that I shot Celebrity Apprentice six months after open heart surgery. So all of that was done six months after and I wanted people to see, you can live with heart
disease, you can thrive. Not just be a heart disease survivor, but a heart disease thriver. And the first episode again, plotting, I knew that if you jump right in, you’re gonna get the most
attention and I jumped right in. I was whatever the captain of
the team was and our team won. The girls team won and we
raised $175,000 that episode and it was the most money
raised in the first episode ever and I wanted to make
sure I could highlight the American Heart Association, so AHA and your communications team, the brilliant, the most wonderful, loving, baby brother that I’ve ever
known, Brooks Lancaster, made all of the arrangements
to connect with Dr. Fuster. Poor Dr. Fuster didn’t know
what he was getting himself into but he was going to accept the check but it wasn’t enough for me, so I asked the AHA if we could win, The Celebrity Apprentice premiered, if we could do a fundraising event so that I could try to double
it and I did, $350,000. And at the time, it was
a pretty big donation, especially for an African-American woman. Since then however, I
think it’s fair to say we’ve now raised millions,
so I’m very happy about that. – Thank you so very much. (audience applauds) And of course, well-known
people such as yourself are afforded many opportunities
to do many interesting and wonderful things
for many great causes. The Celebrity Apprentice
opportunity came and went and yet you chose to stay connected to the American Heart Association, why? – There’s a zipper down
the center of my chest. You don’t have a choice. When God tells you this is your purpose, you either walk in your purpose or God might decide to take it back, okay? So I walk in my purpose. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. Nobody needs to thank me,
I’m like thank you, okay? No, I’m here because this
is very personal to me. I wake up in the morning
thinking about heart disease, I go to bed at night
thinking about heart disease. If I get the opportunity
to be in any room, I’m advocating for heart health. Today I was blessed to be a
part of a philanthropic panel with our wonderful CEO, Nancy. I was there to support her
as she did the fireside chat with the former model, Christy Turlington who was a major philanthropist. We get through the whole morning. Christy and I, we were gonna have the girlfriend celebrity bonding moment. I take that opportunity
to say, you know Christy, since you were talking
about maternal mortality, there are studies that
connect heart disease as you and Nancy were just discussing, I host a major donor’s
luncheon in New York during heart week, heart month. I would love to have you co-host with me. Nancy, don’t you think
that’s a great idea? Nancy immediately, “Yes, I
think it’s a great idea.” At the end of the day,
Christy Turlington and I are going to be hosting the major donor’s conversation, okay? Because that is relentlessly
going after heart disease. You better use every platform you have. – So relentlessly going
after heart disease as a volunteer over the last 10 years, I imagine it’s taken you
some interesting places. Capital Hill, media luncheons. – Anchorage, Alaska. How I let Brooks talk me into
Anchorage, Alaska in February, but hey, they got heart
disease in Anchorage, Alaska, so I went there to support
the Go Red movement in Alaska. I’ve been all over this
country on behalf of AHA, small towns, big towns, hosting luncheons, giving keynote speeches, doing commercials and simply talking to other volunteers. Don’t think that just
the sitting down here and having the conversation
or raising the money is the only way that volunteerism works. The real work is in the field. It’s the survivors who put
their experience out there for others to learn from, to
use as an example, inspiration, and then the heart healthy
person is aspirational and so my work with AHA
has taken me all over to meet a variety of people,
especially women of all ages, young girls that were born
with a hole in their heart, athletic women in their
20’s who had a stroke just in the middle of the day after yoga, men who ran marathons, older women who want
to get to be even older because they’ve been
taking care of themselves. My own grandmother had a triple bypass. My mother, sadly, a year and a half ago passed away from cardiovascular disease. This is personal and it
will just be my mission just like other volunteers. I always say I’m not special when it comes to AHA volunteerism. I just have a bigger mouth
and a bigger platform. That’s it. So I represent the millions of people who are volunteering out there that you may not know their names, but trust me, you know the work. – And we’re gonna talk, ’cause I think we can get
a lot of insight from you, particularly our colleagues
across the country who are looking to connect
with and motivate volunteers and we would invite them and anyone else who’s watching online or in the room to submit
questions or raise your hand if you’d like to in the
room ask a question to Star, but as we contemplate
that, let me ask you: what keeps you energized because we certainly haven’t been shy about asking you to do
things on our behalf and you’ve clearly not been shy about your willingness to
do things on our behalf. Still, what keeps you energized? – The AHA team here is amazing. Your team of Leslie and her team and then Nancy is, she is
my mentor when it comes to philanthropy and the kind
of work that she does so AHA has kept me motivated, but one of my very favorite things to do and I know I sound like a complete nerd is scientific sessions because the cures are going
to be found in the research and I am excited every time
I get to go to sessions and hear what’s coming down the pipe, hear what’s about to start. I get frustrated because
I’ve been involved with the AHA so long now, there are a couple of issues
that still frustrate me. The fact that research for and about women is still not at the levels it needs to be, women are not smaller men. We are our own entity and
it’s absolutely imperative that there’d be research
as to our heart disease. The diversity and inclusion
is not where I want it to be with AHA because heart disease disproportionally
affects African-American, especially African-American women. Health equities are issues
that we get to talk about. I am so proud of the AHA
putting it on the front burner, with our president as well as our CEO. This is absolutely something that the AHA is relentless about. Legislative issues that other
people are now coming to. The issue of vaping. AHA was on from the beginning. I’m proud to be a part of an organization that really puts boots to the ground. So I’m energized because every
time I am advocating for AHA, AHA is advocating for me,
advocating for other women, and that’s really volunteerism. It’s the reason you get up in the morning. I said to you, you have
to walk in your purpose. You often don’t know what your purpose is until you’re actually walking
in it but I figured it out. Purpose is for everybody is to serve. Your job is to figure out
what best way you can serve and I figured out my best way to serve is through the heart association. – To that point, Mike from LinkedIn has just submitted a
question about his concerns. I’m paraphrasing now about
the absence or the shortage of the number of black men volunteering. How would you speak to that? What would you recommend? What insights or guidance
might you suggest? – Well, it’s something that I’ve talked about numerous times. You have to meet people where they are. It’s important to have volunteers who look like and have the same experience. It’s one of the reasons why I told a story of my obesity when we first started, because when I start
talking about heart disease, I don’t want people think
that I did everything right. I want people to hear I
take full responsibility for that which I did not do right and I think once you hear
me say that and admit it, you can hear me. I’m not some skinny girl that
you’re sitting there going, “Oh yeah, you’ve been
skinny all your life, “so now you’re gonna
tell me about my weight?” No, I had struggles and
I use that as an example because in order to get
African-American men involved, they need to see and hear
other African-American men talk about their experiences
with heart disease. Heart disease is not something
that people want to quote, brag about because in your mind
you think it makes you weak. I don’t know why but I’ve reversed it. It makes me strong because
I’m a survivor and a thriver. I know I’m in better health right now than I was before open heart surgery. I’m absolutely positive of
it and it’s not my opinion, that’s one of the best
cardiologists in the world opinion so I think we need to get more people who are willing to tell their story and turn that story into a positive. Cardiac rehab really and truly
will help in that regard. Once you feel like you
have your life back, you want to share that joy. So I would say first of
all we have to get more like-minded people involved
telling their story and we have to meet them
where they are and not expect everybody to call you on the
phone from the hospital bed. – What advice do you have
for our staff and volunteers on the ground in communities
across the country who are looking for stories like yours? – Make sure that you are willing to again, meet them where they are and I don’t mean going
into a particular area, it’s just listen to what the story is, listen to what the circumstances are. Know that when we talk
about volunteering… Food deserts are a big deal, okay? And the amount of money
that people can spend on nutrition is a big deal. How we exercise is a big deal. When we talk about making recommendations for a healthier lifestyle,
we recommend not all… You don’t always have to recommend going to a gym, belonging to a gym. Walking clubs are a good recommendation. So be creative in your advocacy and know that everybody who
is a potential volunteer doesn’t come to volunteerism
with all of the same resources, but can still be helpful. – Again, we welcome questions
from anybody who’s with us here in Dallas live or
watching on the internet. For several years now, you’ve been running a publicly traded company that advocates for
diversity in the workplace. What have you been up to there? Why don’t you tell us a
little bit about that. – Well, IPDN is a job resource and networking social platform for women for networking and professionalism and then for job seekers
and we redefine diversity. It’s not just the race is African-Americans, Asians and Latinas, it also includes the LGBT
community, the disabled, veterans and the largest diverse
group, which is women and so for the last seven years I’ve been advocating for job diversity because I look at diversity and inclusion. First of all, I’ve added equity so it’s diversity, equity and inclusion. I look at it as a business imperative, not just something that
makes you feel good, sort of like heart
disease and heart health. You’re not just doing it
because this is a great charity, you’re doing it because
living longer, healthier lives is the best thing for our whole society. It’s the same thing for
diversity and inclusion. Having diverse opinions around the table gives for more innovation,
more creativity, better ideas, new technology. I learn more from people who I don’t have things in common with, that don’t go to the
same church that I go to, don’t shop at the same
grocery store that I shop at, might not even politically
be the same as I am, but sitting around a table
working on a project, we have that in common and that’s the way I believe
businesses should run, associations should
run, society should run and I’ve been really relentless in working in that area also. – Well and it’s clear that
we won’t be able to address the problem of ensuring
that everybody everywhere has access to longer,
healthier lives, to healthcare, to quality of life at large until and unless we can figure that problem out. – 100%. I say that DEI is a business imperative because if you think
about it for a minute, you really want to serve your
clients and your customers with a workforce that is
reflective of the consumer base. Same thing here at AHA. You want to serve the
people who are most in need with a workforce that is
reflective of your consumer base and the more we can do that,
the more inclusive it becomes and better ideas, more
creativity, more innovation and it benefits all of us. Your employees are happier, your clients and your
customers feel serviced and that returns shareholder value. That’s just a basic business principle. – More challenging nowadays to deliver that message, you think? – You know, it’s
challenging to deliver it, but I have found that more
people are talking about it and it’s one reason why
at the end of the year I am going to give up
my corporate position and finally create the consulting business that allows me to bring
all of that to bear because if there’s
anything I know how to do it’s inspire people to change. – There’s absolutely
no question about that. You know, one of the great benefits for those of us who are
sitting here with you in person is that this is the professional staff of the American Heart Association and we draw inspiration from
real people who’ve lived the real experiences and
can you give us advice or guidance as professional staff who are professionally committed to trying to solve these problems? – Keep doing what you’re doing. I am so humbled and so
proud to work for you. I think about it a lot. I remember the first time I
sat in scientific sessions and one of the studies
that were being celebrated was about a drug called metoprolol and I sat there shaking
because I know that is the drug that they prescribed for me
after my open heart surgery. It’s the drug I still have
in my purse right now. It’s the beta blocker that I wouldn’t have but for the research for the
American Heart Association. I wouldn’t have known about pet therapy. I didn’t want to be
dependent on pharmaceuticals the rest of my life. I take that baby aspirin
like I’m supposed to. I take Synthroid because my thyroid is still a little jumpy
and Dr. Fuster says there’s gonna come a
time when you won’t need the beta blockers as much, you’ll know and we got a… We started with pet therapy. I get a prescription of 30
pills a day, 30 pills a month. This is the 29th of the month, there are 24 of them still in my purse because I haven’t needed them. I’m telling you what you
do changes people’s lives, helps to fund the research,
inspires the volunteers, literally saves lives. I’m not sure if you fully appreciate that, that the hundreds of thousands, millions of heart disease survivors
will be forever in your debt, but for the AHA, we wouldn’t be here, so keep doing what you’re doing. – Well you continue to be remarkably busy and yet, you continue
to contribute remarkably to the American Heart Association. When they write the legacy of
Star Jones, what will it say? – She who has health, has hope and she who had hope, had
everything she ever needed. – And what final words would
you leave for this audience of the American Heart
Association staff and volunteers who are watching on the internet? – I would say that heart
disease can kill you, but it can also make you so much better because then you got stuff to live for and you better use every single day to say thank you, show
gratitude and pay it forward. – Can’t top that. Thank you Star Jones. – Thank y’all very much for having me.
– For being with us. Let’s give a hand to our
special guest, Star Jones, – Thank you for having me. – For sharing your experience, for helping remind us why we do what we do and perhaps giving us
some insight with respect to how we can do better
with and by our volunteers and thanks to everybody that
joined us here in Dallas, thanks to all of you who might
be watching on the internet. If you want to get involved with the American Heart Association, if you want to learn more you
can visit to learn more about it. Thank you Star Jones for everything. – Thank you. Thank you all very much. – And thank all of you for being with us. – [Star] Thank you. (audience applauds)

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