Dr. Lisa Cooper continues groundbreaking heart disease research

With a national epidemic of rising diabetes, obesity and heart disease, a team of African American physicians at Johns Hopkins Medical School is leading an effort to educate the public and produce a new generation of researchers and advocates promoting healthy hearts. Lisa Cooper, MD, MPH is the James F. Fries Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical School and director of the Center to Eliminate Cardiovascular Health Disparities in East Baltimore.

Cooper’s mission is to develop community partners with a community advisory board to educate the public on heart disease and to help train the next generation of researchers in cardiovascular disparities. A major component of her mission also includes conducting research to test programs to improve management and outcomes of hypertension, also known as high blood pressure.

Recently, Dr. Cooper participated in an interview for the documentary film, “Faces of Diabetes.” Research reveals a strong link between diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In the interview, she discussed the link between the rising rate of diabetes and how it impacts cardiovascular disease including heart attack, stroke and hypertension. She also had strong praises for a mentor who helped establish her dedication and approach to medical research.

Hypertension has for many years been recognized as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Studies report a positive association between hypertension and insulin resistance. When patients have both hypertension and diabetes, which is a common combination, their risk for cardiovascular disease doubles.

According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of early death among people with diabetes. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely than people without diabetes to die of heart disease or experience a stroke. Also, about 70 percent of people with diabetes have high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Compared to the general population, the CDC reports African Americans are disproportionately affected by diabetes with 4.9 million, or 18.7 percent of all African Americans aged 20 years or older suffering with the disease.

Dr. Cooper praised her mentor Dr. Elijah Saunders, a cardiologist and professor at University of Maryland Medical School. Dr. Saunders is a pioneer in conducting scholarly research on African Americans with hypertension. He was the first to coin the term— hypertension is “The Silent Killer.” He is a founding member of the International Society Hypertension in Blacks (ISHIB). In a real and meaningful way, Dr. Cooper is now expanding the research pioneered by Dr. Saunders more than 30 years ago. The baton for research on hypertension is being passed from Dr. Saunders to Dr. Cooper’s generation.

Dr. Cooper is the inaugural recipient of the American Heart Association’s Watkins-Saunders Award in 2013. The award recognizes excellence in clinical, medical, and community work focused on diminishing healthcare disparities in Maryland. Dr. Cooper trained with Dr. Elijah Saunders when she was a resident at the University of Maryland Medical Center and with Dr. Levi Watkins during her early years as a faculty member at Johns Hopkins. She describes herself as “honored and humbled” to have received this award that bears both their names.

“Dr. Elijah Saunders inspired me and motivated me as a young physician and enhanced my interest in medical research”, said Dr. Cooper. “When I was a resident training under Dr. Saunders, I was impressed about how he genuinely cared for his patients and made the young doctors realize that each patient was personally important to him. He set a very high bar for competency and caring.”

Dr. Cooper is the principle investigator for the Center to Eliminate Cardiovascular Disparities funded by a grant from National Institutes of Health. “We are grateful to Dr. Lisa Cooper for her dedication to eliminate cardiovascular health disparities,” said Maurice Hunt, founder and CEO of Diabetes Awareness Project. “All the research indicates that there is a direct connection between hypertension and diabetes, and her program will help African Americans understand that controlling one’s hypertension will probably help control one’s diabetes.”

UMES, local businessman Kick-off Nation-wide Golf program at Forest Park Golf Club

Golf is big business and an industry that generates billions of dollars for the American and international economy. While research data reveals that African Americans love to play the game and support the industry by paying billions of dollars in greens fees, purchasing golf clubs, golf balls and apparel, they are in principle not involved in the business or management of the sport.

An historic initiative to change that paradigm is being implemented in Baltimore City thanks to University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) and local businessman Carnelious Jones. Jones, a wholesale distributor of petroleum products has become the nation’s leading advocate for the diversification of golf.

Jones has developed a comprehensive strategy to diversify the game of golf and its associated industries. He has been appointed to become the first African American to serve as a national trustee of “First Tee,” an international youth development organization introducing the game of golf and its inherent values to young people.

Jones has made a half-million dollar pledge to UMES to support four full scholarships in the college’s Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) golf management. Currently, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore is the only Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in the United States to offer a bachelors’ degree and curriculum in professional golf and backed by the PGA. At the recent UMES graduation ceremony, seven degrees were conferred on graduating students, none of which were African American. There are only 20 colleges and universities in the entire United States that have such a unique relationship with the PGA.

The initiative will create a pipeline of young golfers starting in elementary schools in Baltimore that will have a pathway to UMES that offers a degree on golf management and the business of golf. Not only will Baltimore city children starting in grade school learn to play the game of golf, they will be educated on hundreds careers available in the golfing industry including the merchandising of the sport and the management of tournaments.

According a non-profit research firm SRI International, approximately 26 million golfers are part of the engine that generated $69 billion in revenue in 2011. According to the US Census Bureau, the 2011 figure is down from approximately $76 billion golf generated in 2005, but was clearly the top spectator sport in revenue compared to football, baseball, basketball and hockey. When connected to other industries such as tourism, the total impact of the golf economy swells to a staggering $177 billion.

“Jones’ gift is an extraordinary generous gift that we promise to use to achieve his goal and ours— and that is making educational opportunities available to those who deserve and will benefit by it,” said UMES President Julliette B. Bell, Ph.D.

“Mr. Jones’ transformational gift will provide UMES’s PGA golf management program with much need resources to recruit motivated students to the program,” said Kimberly Dumpson, UMES Executive Vice President who worked with Jones to establish the scholarship program.

Forest Park Golf Club will become the laboratory or guinea pig for the program that will be implemented in cities around the nation. The outreach initiative will include the adoption of 40 public schools, including those at the elementary level. At present, there is not one public high school in Baltimore City that fields a golf team for scholastic competition. Baltimore students who want to play competitive golf in high school must either attend private schools, or attend high schools in the county.

Peulah Marie Moore is president of the Forest Park Golf Course Neighbors Association that represents about 190 households surrounding the golf course. “I believe that this program coming to Forest Park Golf Course will provide an excellent opportunity for our young people to be exposed to the entire industry and business of golf. The earlier they have the exposure, the greater chance that they will stick with the game and make it a wonderful career.”

“I am excited about the new national initiative to diversify golf and the established by UMES and Mr. Jones,” said Tim Sanders, the local PGA pro who runs golf clinics and promotes gold at Forest Park Golf Club in west Baltimore.

“There is a tremendous pool of talent to pull from in Baltimore with great potential, not only to play and excel in the game of golf, but to develop a pipeline of youth who are involved in the business of golf. The next Tiger Woods could most certainly come from Baltimore with the proper training and nurturing. This initiative will set us on a path to achieve that very goal.”

For more information about clinics and the outreach initiative, contact PGA pro Timothy Sanders at tsanders@pga.com or call 410-448-4655.