Two Heart to Heart Grants Awarded for 2024 

by Alex Goodman in Impact, Press Release

Alpha Phi Foundation is pleased to announce two recipients of the Heart to Heart Grant for 2024. In its thirty-first year, the Foundation created a new arm of eligibility for the Heart to Heart Grant to better serve funding in the cardiac space, whether traditional bench research or education and programming projects. Proposals were accepted in two categories: Clinical and Community. 


Heart to Heart Grant Clinical Recipient

The Heart to Heart Grant Clinical recipient is Barnes-Jewish Hospital. They will use their $100,000 grant for the project “cFAS Blood Biomarker to Diagnose Peripheral Arterial Disease in Women”. This will utilize a patented biomarker for circulated fatty acid synthase (cFAS) discovered at the hospital to help identify patient risk for developing Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). Led by Dr. Mohamed Zayed, a vascular surgeon at the hospital, he and his research team hypothesize that this biomarker is elevated for women who have a diagnosis of Type II Diabetes and that there is a correlation in these women who also have chronic limb threatening ischemia (CLTI). CLTI is the leading cause for limb amputation in the United States and is a severe progression of PAD. 

Dr. Zayed’s team also includes Dina Ibrahim, PhD and Batool Arif, who serve as the Postdoctoral Research Associate and Research Lab Supervisor, respectively. The team plans to utilize the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Biobank to recruit 500 study participants, 250 men and 250 women, to compare differences. Dr Zayed shares that “women are more likely to be affected by undiagnosed atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. With Alpha Phi Foundation’s support, we will develop a next generation liquid assay blood test that will help diagnose affected women more promptly and avoid the risk of complications. We aim to translate our findings rapidly into the clinical arena in order to help as many affected women as possible.” 

Affiliated with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Dr. Zayed and his team are excited for the opportunity to interact with members of Alpha Phi, both in creating awareness for atherosclerotic disease but also as participants in data collection for this research. Results from this study will be disseminated widely amongst the scientific and public communities, and Dr. Zayed is a well-versed storyteller for his research. He and the entirety of Barnes-Jewish Hospital are committed to producing a high yield of innovation with their grant funds, caring deeply about donor dollars not going to waste. 


Heart to Heart Grant Community Recipient

The Heart to Heart Grant Community recipient is University of Missouri. They will use their $25,000 grant for the project “Missouri CARES Heart Squad”, which embarks on a mission to increase the rate of bystander CPR and AED usage across the state, focusing on the utilization of female training manikins. Led by Dr. Julie Stilley and Kayla Riel, both emergency medicine professionals, their goal with this program is to eliminate barriers in Missourians receiving bystander intervention, as there are disparities prevalent that are both gender and race based. 

The Heart Squad is a trained group of volunteers teaching hands-only CPR in Missouri communities, and Dr. Stilley and Ms. Riel both hope to grow partnerships with local EMS agencies to reach more rural communities without immediate access to healthcare. Additionally, they plan to utilize events at the University of Missouri and social media outlets to grow their reach to as many Missouri citizens as possible. Dr. Stilley and Ms. Riel share, “The Heart Squad embodies empowered women who also aim to provide support for women’s cardiac health through reactive measures of bystander interventions during sudden cardiac arrest events. We have an aspiration to utilize female manikins to combat public perceptions on the hesitancy to perform CPR on women.” 

Both Dr. Stilley and Ms. Riel are thrilled to have the opportunity to include Alpha Phis in their project; in fact, they have a dedicated role on the Heart Squad for an Alpha Phi intern. They hope to utilize this intern to help engage with not only the Omicron Chapter, but the entire Panhellenic Association on campus. Dr. Stilley and Ms. Riel want to empower the next generation of women entering healthcare and are excited to serve as mentors to our membership. 

Jenny Hansen, Vice Chair of Alpha Phi Foundation’s Board of Directors, is a proud member of the Heart to Heart Grant Advisory Council: “We received many substantive and worthy projects to support, but I was particularly thrilled with the selection of our 2024 recipients.  Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s project hits close to home for me, as my grandmother suffered from and ultimately died from cardiac disease related to Type II diabetes.  This research project can make a significant impact in the lives of women (and men) suffering from cardiac-related diabetes complications. This year, we expanded the Heart to Heart Grant to include a community-based project; I was glad our Council chose to award this to Missouri CARES Heart Squad. In particular, I am excited to see their use of female manikins in bystander CPR training, and how that training can have a positive impact on outcomes of CPR on women patients.” 

Awarded annually, the Heart to Heart Grant would not be possible without the continued support and generosity of Alpha Phi Foundation donors and volunteers. For over 75 years, Alpha Phi’s commitment to promoting advancements in women’s cardiac care has not wavered. Alpha Phi Foundation continues to create and celebrate impact in their priority of Women’s Heart Health and looks forward to further supporting this field for years to come. 

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