I’m pleased to introduce you to Dr. John Warner who recently assumed the role of Chair of the American Heart Association’s National Advocacy Coordinating Committee. Dr. Warner is Chief Executive Officer of UT Southwestern University Hospitals and Clinics and is a Professor of Internal Medicine in the Division of Cardiology based in Dallas, Texas. In his new volunteer leadership role, Dr. Warner leads a group of volunteers charged with shaping the organization’s advocacy agenda and the priority issues. Let’s get to know him better in this month’s featured interview…
Q: What personal and professional connections do you have to the fight against heart disease and stroke?
A: I am the first person in my family to pursue a career in medicine, so I did not grow up always wanting to be a doctor. My father was a CPA, and had hundreds of physicians as clients, many of whom encouraged me to seek a career in medicine. I was a decent athlete in high school and college and was always interested in physiology and exercise training, and it was there than my interest in the heart was born. During that same time in my life, both my grandfathers were diagnosed with heart disease, and as I watched the limitations the disease imposed on their lives, I became even more committed to a career in cardiology.
Q: Can you tell us about your volunteer history with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association?
A: Like many Cardiologists, my first involvement with the AHA started with Scientific Sessions, attending and presenting abstracts. I served as the President of both the Dallas Division and the Southwest Affiliate and I am currently serving on the National Board. While I have enjoyed being involved in so many aspects of the AHA's mission, I have derived a lot of satisfaction from working on the Smoke-Free Dallas initiative and the W.W. Caruth Jr. Foundation/Communities Foundation of Texas Dallas County Heart Attack Systems of Care Project. My volunteer work in Dallas began as a Heart Walk captain, and last year I was so pleased to see 2000 members of our UT Southwestern community walking together in that important event.
Q: What are you most looking forward to as the Chair of the AHA’s national Advocacy Coordinating Committee? Where do you see our greatest opportunities to make an impact?
A: In 2012, I made a career move from being a full-time practicing Cardiologist to a Hospital CEO, and I did so primarily to have a broader impact. I view my AHA service as Chair of the Advocacy Coordinating Committee as a similar opportunity, taking my passion for issues of heart disease and stroke care and applying it to a broader audience. This is an exciting time to be involved in advocacy, as health and wellness are front and center in the national discussion, and we at the AHA have a unique opportunity to drive important policies and discussions which will impact the health of so many. As a parent of teenagers, I think often about how Smoke-Free environments and healthy eating will be so important to the environments in which they live and work – and to their overall health. When I think about how we can make the most impact, I think it begins with our fight against smoking and educating ourselves and our kids about healthy food choices. I know when I eat healthier, my commitment to exercise improves and exercise follows and vice versa. So I think our biggest opportunities are in creating environments where healthy eating and exercise are supported and encouraged, both for children and adults, and in working to eliminate smoking. I also think advocacy for research is really important. With the cuts in research funding we have seen in recent years, I worry that we may lose a generation of best ideas and scientists. We have to help our government, and our nation, understand that tomorrow's treatments start with today's research.
Q: How have you been involved as a You’re the Cure advocate?
A: Both in Dallas and in Texas, I have been involved in advocacy for tobacco control and systems of care for heart attack and stroke. As an Interventional Cardiologist, I know first-hand how important systems of care for heart attack and stroke are, and know that I can make a greater difference as a medical team member when continuous processes are in place to improve patient outcomes. Having seen the results of our work in Dallas, I want other cities and states to have that same opportunity to improve the health of their community.
Q: What would you tell others to encourage them to get involved with advocacy?
A: Advocacy is so satisfying because your service affects so many people. When I think about how many people benefit each day from tobacco control in Dallas, from food service workers to restaurant patrons, it makes the seemingly very small amount of time and effort I invested in that effort so worthwhile. Everything the AHA supports contributes to the health of so many, including me.