South Asian Heart Center: The Need
Jasbina Ahluwalia asks Ashish Mathur, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the South Asian Heart Center at El Camino Hospital: It’s exciting to have you on. What really led you to co-found the South Asian Heart Center?
South Asian Heart Center: The Heart Attack
It was just a series of coincidences, really. It started when I had my heart attack at the age of 44. It completely came to me as a surprise and shook me up.
I was a software executive at that time, and building my career. I had done a lot of startup companies. The stress of all of that took its toll.
My genetics played out, and I had a heart attack.
South Asian Heart Center: The Research
When I did, it really shook me up. I was so scared. I tried everything, every book that’s written on heart disease and all of that. I was really scared about the next one.
In that journey in reading all of this material, I found out that South Asians, Indians in particular, have this heightened risk for heart disease.
It’s very telling when their parents or immediate family members have had these issues at the younger ages, that you are very likely to have them.
South Asian Heart Center: The Call to Action
Part of the journey was also to read up about what you can do about it, what additional things you can do to go beyond normal testing that happens in order to look for your risk.
For two years after the heart attack, I really spent time focusing on myself, and focusing on what I should do.
South Asian Heart Center: The Effect
I found that, as I started making changes, my friends started making changes. They were already cognizant when I went to meet up with them or at parties at their homes. They would always cook something special for Ashish because of my condition.
I felt that if this is having an impact on my friends’ circle, why don’t we take it beyond that and see if the community is really affected and would be open to doing something about it as well.
South Asian Heart Center: The Results
Luckily for me, I live close to El Camino Hospital, which is here in Mountain View, California.
They were looking at this issue in the emergency room and were finding out that one out of five people who showed up in the emergency room with a heart attack was an Indian in a population that was only 3% Indian, so it was a real health disparity that was staring them in the face.
I happened to attend the very first talk on the subject at El Camino Hospital. I felt that if the hospital was interested in doing something, I was ready to plunge in and create the program for them and build it up. That’s what happened in 2006.
Five years from when I had my heart attack, I had co-founded the South Asian Heart Center.
We brought together a bunch of physicians and people in the community to participate and we created the program that now is helping thousands of Bay Area residents, and also people outside the Bay Area.
Is there something comparable to the South Asian Heart Center in your town? Tell us below in the comments section.
The above is an excerpt from Jasbina’s interview with Ashish Mathur
The entire interview transcript is at: Ashish Mathur NetIP (Network of Indian Professionals) Interview – Heart Diseases and their Prevention Tools for South Asians
Listen to the entire interview on: Intersections Match Talk Radio – Jasbina’s Lifestyle Show