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Barbra Streisand's Change of Heart

What the famous singer, actor, and director is doing to change the state of women's heart health.

WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

On screen, Barbra Streisand's newest role as therapist Rozalin Focker (seen in Little Fockers, which opened in late December 2010) alongside Robert DeNiro, Ben Stiller, and Dustin Hoffman, shows just how in tune the legendary performer is with matters of the heart.

But in real life, the two-time Academy Award-winning actor, director, and singer takes her commitment to a whole new level with her highly public role helping to raise funds for research at Cedars-Sinai's Women's Heart Center in Los Angeles. Recently, the eight-time Grammy Award winner wrote out these answers in response to WebMD's questions about why she's pulling out all the stops to transform women's cardiac health.

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Q: Of all the important health issues to champion, what inspired you to advocate for women's heart health?

A: I have always been an advocate of women's issues working with my foundation, and I have been outspoken on issues of gender inequality throughout my career. When I discovered that gender inequality still exists in the medical sciences when it comes to research and treatment of heart disease, I was stunned. Given that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in our country, more than all cancers combined, I knew I had to get involved to make a difference.

Q: How are you personally helping transform women's heart health?

A: I have committed to raise $10 million, and I will match up to $5 million of it. These funds will be dedicated for research, treatment, and education on women's
heart health. In addition to raising money, it's also imperative to raise awareness about this issue.

To really engage people around the country, we launched an Internet fundraising campaign with a company called Crowdrise, a new online fundraising community that unites people to raise money and volunteers for important causes. I have never done anything like this before, but we have asked people to donate whatever they can -- $10, $20, $50 -- to crowdrise.com/barbrastreisand. The outpouring of generosity has been wonderful and inspiring to see. We still have a lot of money left to raise, but the early response has been very positive.

Q: Why did you choose to work with Cedars-Sinai's heart center?

A: Although there are other institutions around the country doing gender-specific work in the area of heart disease, the Women's Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai is among the few places leading the way in this effort. Also, the center is led by the brilliant and accomplished C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, who has received numerous awards recognizing her as one of the field's leading experts on preventive cardiology, women's heart disease, and mental stress.

It made sense for me to focus my time and resources at Cedars given that this work was being conducted right in my own backyard at one of the premier hospitals in the country. And the research outcomes conducted by Dr. Merz and her team will help women all over the world.

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