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Legislative Breakfast: A "Flurry" of Advocacy

Despite icy conditions that swept across much of the state, AHA volunteers, board members, and coalition partners from all over Virginia came out to enjoy a heart healthy breakfast and discuss important policy issues with elected officials on Thursday, January 18.


The morning kicked off with the American Heart Association’s own Robin Gahan, Senior Director of Government Relations thanking everyone for braving the snow and ice for the opportunity to talk about the need for improved stroke care and funding for the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund. Robin then turned the floor over to the newly inaugurated Governor Ralph Northam. A pediatric neurologist, Gov. Northam is no stranger to the importance of getting the appropriate stroke care fast. Each minute a person who has had a stroke doesn’t receive treatment, brain cells die.

Stroke is a leading cause of death and long-term disability. There are currently two stroke bills before the General Assembly:

  • House Bill (HB) 1198 / Senate Bill (SB) 868 would improve coordination between emergency services, health professionals, and treatment facilities by recognizing all nationally certified stroke centers, and
  • HB 1197 / SB 867 would collect hospital level stroke data to better track the response and outcome of each stroke to discover and implement future improvements in the systems of care.


Governor Northam greets Dr. Thomas Mattingly, former chair of Virginia Stroke Systems Task Force (VSSTF), Dr. Shon Chakrabarti, cardiologist and President of AHA Hampton Roads Board, and Dr. Maha Alattar, current chair of VSSTF.

Co-patrons of the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund, Senator Bill Stanley (SB 37) and Delegate Delores McQuinn (HB 85, HB69) spoke next about the bi-partisan, wide-spread issue of food deserts.  More than 1.7 million Virginians, in urban and rural areas, live in low income areas with limited supermarket access. Without access to a grocery store, families are more likely to suffer from diet related disease like diabetes or heart disease. Sen. Stanley represents a region of Virginia where long drives to access food in rural areas are a daily struggle. In contrast, Del. McQuinn serves an urban population facing many of the same challenges. The goal of the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund is to increase healthy food access, create jobs, and revitalize local economies.  


Senator Bill Stanley and Delegate Delores McQuinn before AHA volunteers, board members, and coalition partners as Governor Raleigh Northam, Secretary Health and Human Resources Dr. Daniel Carey (cardiologist), and other elected officials listen in about the need for the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund.

The final speaker of the morning was Tamika Quinn, a stroke survivor, mother, veteran, and business woman. Tamika shared her story of survival. A mere 10 days after her daughter was born, Tamika had a stroke. Three days later she had a second stroke. She says, “I am here today because I was treated quickly.” Tamika also grew up in a low-income community in Philadelphia that lacked access to healthy nutritious food. Her story and advocacy as a volunteer of the American Heart Association are central to our mission.  


Tamika Quinn, Go Red for Women Spokesperson, shares her story as a stroke survivor.

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