Karen R. Uricoli
Regional Director, Field Operations
American Heart Association | American Stroke Association
As Regional Director, Karen represents the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association in Morris, Sussex and Warren Counties, primarily working with corporations, hospitals and educational institutions to build healthier lives and a more productive workforce through implementation of the organization’s portfolio of prevention-focused wellness programs and awareness campaigns. Karen also runs the Morris County Heart Walk and 5K Run, the American Heart Association’s signature fund raising event and physical fitness awareness platform, which takes place in Parsippany each October, and drives the organization’s local Go Red for Women movement, aimed at educating the public about cardiovascular disease in women.
Karen has more than 20 years of experience working within the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, and specializes in the areas of marketing, community relations, event planning, business development and account management. Karen received her undergraduate degree in Marketing, Business Administration, from Boston University and her Master of Arts degree from Columbia University in New York City.
Karen is passionate about community improvement initiatives, is an ambassador for the Morris County Chamber of Commerce and also serves on the Chamber Health & Wellness Committee. In the past, Karen has been active with the Girl Scouts of America and her neighborhood association. Karen lives in Morris Plains with her husband and two daughters.
American Heart Association | American Stroke Association
The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. Our mission is to build healthier lives by preventing, treating and defeating these diseases America’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers. We fund cutting-edge research, conduct lifesaving public and professional educational programs, and advocate protecting public health. The AHA/ASA is divided into 7 affiliates. New Jersey belongs to the Founders Affiliate, including states from New Jersey northeast through Maine.
Our accomplishments include:
Advocacy: Enforcing that nutrition labels be placed on food products; passing laws requiring smoke-free public spaces; monitoring snack foods provided in school vending machines; Medical Emergency Response Plans for schools are in place and that defibrillators are available in airports, supermarkets, etc.
Research: Heart transplants, stents, by-pass surgery, clot-busting drugs, CPR, pacemakers, artificial valves
Professional Education and Quality Care Initiatives: We make the latest and most innovative treatment tools available to medical professionals, and in the area of quality care, we provide guidance, tools and incentives for healthcare providers to ensure the best possible care for cardiovascular patients.
Consumer Health: Through our awareness campaigns and workplace wellness programs and My Heart My Life community programs, we drive healthy behavior changes among consumers.
RxEconsult: How do you help further the mission of AHA/ASA?
Karen: The mission of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. As Regional Director, I represent the AHA/ASA in Morris, Sussex and Warren Counties, primarily working with corporations, hospitals and educational institutions to build healthier lives and a more productive workforce through implementation of the organization’s portfolio of wellness programs and awareness campaigns. I also oversee all aspects of the Morris County Heart Walk and 5K Run, the American Heart Association’s signature fund raising event and community awareness vehicle, designed to promote physical activity and heart-healthy living in an environment that is fun and rewarding for the entire family.
RxEconsult: What are AHA/ASA's strategic initiatives for 2012?
Karen: Heart disease remains the number 1 killer of Americans and stroke the number 4 killer – more than all forms of cancer combined yet the AHA/ASA reached its 2010 goal of reducing death and disability from CVD and stroke by 25% two years early. We realized that while we have been tremendously successful in saving lives and improving quality of life from cardiovascular diseases and stroke over our long history, more Americans were developing CVD problems due to poor lifestyle choices. In 2010, the AHA/ASA shifted its focus for the first time, to include prevention as a major initiative. Our 2020 impact goal is to improve overall health of Americans by 20%, while reducing death and disability from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by an additional 20% - a huge undertaking when considering that currently, fewer than 1% of Americans are in ideal cardiovascular health.
In addition to our continued commitment to funding cutting edge research, professional education and quality care initiatives, we are in the initial stages of rolling out our My Heart. My Life. platform, a robust healthy living movement that aims to motivate Americans to take make positive lifestyle changes through a range of education, advocacy and community efforts that reinforce the value of eating well and being physically active. For example, we are partnering with celebrity ambassadors in nationwide communications campaigns, with corporations in building and managing community kitchens in distressed communities and we are working with individual volunteers nationwide to provide them with educational kits so that the practical implementation of healthy eating can be customized to meet the needs of different cultures and communities and communicated in the most effective way possible.
RxEconsult: What are AHA | ASA’s prevention focused wellness programs and how do they impact health in our community and all our lives?
Karen: In 2000 the AHA | ASA established its 2010 objective: to decrease death and disability from CVD and stroke by 25%. Recognizing that obesity, due to inactivity, was rapidly becoming an epidemic in this country, the AHA launched Start!, a national movement calling on all Americans to create a culture of physical activity through walking. As Americans aged 30 65 (the workforce) were the demographic experiencing the most dramatic rise in cardiovascular diseases and stroke, due to lack of physical activity and other poor lifestyle choices, the AHA developed a portfolio of workplace wellness programs free to companies/hospitals, etc. The goal: to engage companies in educating and motivating employees to become more physically active and health conscious, with the intention that they carry that mindset home to their family and friends. These workplace wellness programs include a walking program (walking kit with materials and DVD about how to create a walking path and program), online fitness and nutrition program (HR administrators can access certain information to implement incentives for those participating), lunch and learns (our hospital partners provide professionals to educate the workforce on a number of topics), and a Fit Friendly Company designation program (which provides co-branding and publicity opportunities for companies that are in compliance with our healthy workplace guidelines). The program also introduces the many local Heart Walks/Runs that we have across the country, which build employee morale, team-building and community involvement.
RxEconsult: What is the difference between a not-for-profit organization and a for-profit organization? Is AHA | ASA a business?
Karen: Not-for-profit organizations differ from for-profit companies in that they channel surplus revenues back into furthering the organization’s mission rather than paying dividends to owners. Further, unlike for-profit companies, not-for-profits can apply for tax exempt status from the government. They tend to be organizations in the fields of education, human services and healthcare. The AHA | ASA is technically a not-for-profit organization and has tax-exempt status – however, as any successful organization or company, it is a business and must be run efficiently in order to be competitive.
RxEconsult: What are the major sources of funding for AHA | ASA and how can we all support the AHA | ASA mission?
Karen: The large majority of AHA | ASA funding comes from individual gifts and special event fund raising. Everyone can support the mission of the AHA | ASA by taking part in our various fund raising campaigns, such as Go Red For Women and the many Heart Walks (and 5K Runs) throughout the country. In order to find out more, people should go to our website www.americanheart.org to explore the various opportunities to become engaged through volunteering and/or fund raising. Everyone has a family member or loved one who has been impacted by heart disease or stroke.
RxEconsult: How does AHA | ASA impact medical practice and healthcare professionals?
Karen: The AHA| ASA makes the most innovative treatment tools available to medical professionals, and offers continuing education through multiple platforms, including online courses, webcasts and podcasts, and access to live events. In the area of quality care, we provide guidance, tools and incentives for healthcare providers to ensure the best possible care and outcomes for patients.
RxEconsult: How does AHA | ASA measure the impact of its programs on health in the community?
Karen: The AHA | ASA has an extensive system to measure the impact of its programs: through the healthcare system, by assessing patient care response methods and times, as well as outcomes, and more broadly through assessing overall health statistics of Americans. With the establishment of our 2020 objective to improve overall health of Americans by 20%, the AHA | ASA was the first organization to actually DEFINE “ideal cardiovascular”- 7 physical and behavioral metrics, through which over the next 10 years we will track our progress. We have a strong nationwide communications effort in place to encourage all Americans to “know their numbers” and to use our websites www.heart.org/mylifecheck to complete the My Life Check assessment and Heart360 www.heart360.org to help track and monitor their health information. These measuring tools are free to the public.
RxEconsult: What are some of the challenges that you face as a Regional Director?
Karen: What impacts corporate America and our community, directly impacts my job and that of anyone in not-for-profit development, as human and financial resources are what drive our missions forward. Corporate budget cuts and the loss of personal income from unemployment have made access to funding much more difficult over the past years. And, as corporations have become leaner, work hours extended and demands on our personal time more demanding, executive leaders, community leaders and people, in general, have less time to give.
RxEconsult: What are the essential skills needed to be successful in your role and how can other professionals become Regional Directors?
Karen: As development professionals, employment and education backgrounds are very diverse. The most essential attribute is to have strong communication skills, both verbal and written, because in this role, you are the “front man”, representing the organization to the corporate world and the community. You need to believe in your work and be able to present achievements and opportunities clearly to others. Strong leadership qualities and the ability to prioritize and manage time well is also important, as we are also run very leanly as an organization, and as Regional Director, we are tasked with coordinating committees, events, meetings, etc. to drive our mission forward.
RxEconsult: What are some of the major medical advancements that were funded by AHA | ASA in the last 10 years?
Karen: Countless medical advances, most taken for granted today, can be traced back to the work of the American Heart Association | American Stroke Association. Included in these, are the initial funding of research into diet and cardiovascular disease, which laid the scientific foundation for understanding dietary fat and cholesterol as major risk factors. We also played a major role in developing the heart-lung machine, which made open-heart surgery possible. We funded early work in microsurgery, which led to coronary artery surgery, neurosurgery and many other innovations. Association funding produced CPR and helped lead today’s automated external defibrillators. Over the past 10 years, the association has trained tens of millions of people in CPR; has had a significant role in developing clot-busting drugs and stents, both critical for acute cardiovascular treatment; and in the area of advocacy has helped drive clean air legislation, improved emergency care and increased funding federal funding for heart disease and stroke research.
RxEconsult: Thank you for discussing how AHA | ASA impacts our lives by supporting research and implementing programs that help all of us live healthier lives. Your role is very interesting and crucial to the success of AHA | ASA. Without funding AHA | ASA cannot continue its programs. I wish you success and look forward to speaking with you again in the near future.
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