Heart health Busy week for Cayman Heart Fund volunteers

Cayman Heart Fund’s heart health fair, symposium, Learn and Live Luncheon and red dress down day are upon us this week, so the Journal catches up with the Fund’s chairman, Suzy Soto, for a question and answer session on the good work of this important Cayman charity.

Why was Cayman Heart Fund first established?

We established Cayman Heart Fund on 13 May, 2007, due to the alarming awareness of cardiac problems on the Island. As a cardiac patient myself, there were individuals who would come to me and ask questions regarding their heart health. I realised a need and contacted Dr. Sook Yin, Dr. Shirley Cridland and Kevin Doyle. They came on board and became directors and have worked tirelessly to build the CHF into today’s success.

Others who stepped up to the plate initially were Barrie Quappe, Teri Quappe, Ellen Eden, and Theresa Foster and we have new with new volunteers who have become directors: Dr. Senthil Kumar and David Dinner. One of our first projects was the war on weight or WOW, as Kevin Doyle named it. This has become very successful under the Directorship of David Dinner. 

What are the Fund’s primary aims?

We have nine primary aims:

  1. To implement educational programmes in our schools, workplaces and communities that are designed to combat heart and circulatory diseases;
  2. To implement awareness programmes to educate the public in recognising the signs and symptoms of an acute coronary event and implement screening programmes to help diagnose high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes; 
  3. To implement CPR and defibrillator certified training courses in our workplaces and communities and ensure that all rural communities have ready access to defibrillators;
  4. To improve cardiac care facilities and equipment in our hospitals;
  5. To improve diagnostic techniques for the early detection of cardio vascular disease in both women and men;
  6. To improve the diagnosis and treatment of paediatric and congenital heart disease;
  7. To improve women’s understanding of their high risks of CVD; 
  8. To improve the health of our country’s children through the promotion of a healthy lifestyle; 
  9. To support the elimination of smoking in public buildings; the elimination of trans fats from our country’s restaurants and the reduction of refined sugars in our diets. 


How have you communicated those aims to the public?

Dr. Yin is in the middle of organising our annual Heart Smart Week, which we partner with CITN. Every year in cooperation with St. Matthews University, we bring down four experts in cardiology for a seminar for all medical personnel on the island, for which they receive credits. Dr Yin also started the Learn and Live Red Dress Luncheon last year and it was a big success with a speaker educating the audience of women about their cardiac health.

The Heart Health Fair is our big free event with complimentary cardiac blood testing, with doctors standing by for anyone with questions and to help interpret their results. Other heart-related information is there and as well as a children’s corner which is organised by Dr. Shirley Cridland. This is a big event and is held at the Cayman International School Hall. This year the dates are as follows: Symposium St. Matthews, 3 March; Red Dress Luncheon Friday, 4 March at Grand Old House and the Heart Health Fair, Saturday, 5 March. All the information can be found on www.caymanheartfund.com 

How responsive has the medical profession been to your initiatives?

The medical community has been very responsive. Dr. Pickering, Dr. Addleson, Dr. Fritz Hendriks and Dr. Marlee Ellis have all volunteered with the WOW. The other doctors are very supportive. The doctors at St. Matthews have partnered with us from the beginning and Dr. Kumar, Dean of St. Matthews is a very active and contributing director.

The new Cayman Heart Fund Patron is Governor Duncan Taylor and he offers us his full support as does the Minister of Health Mark Scotland. 

How responsive has the public been?

The public is very responsive to our clinics which we run in all districts for testing. We have tested over 1,000 people with about 50 per cent in need of further medical investigation. 

What have been your most successful projects to date and why?

The WOW has been extremely successful where contestants receive education, training, testing, nutritional support and medical checks in assistance in losing weight. 

The Ken Chand Discovery Day Walk/Run 2010 has been very successful with Kevin Doyle “running” the run.

The HEALTH4YOUTH project in which we have partnered with other groups to attempt to reach children at risk has been successful. After the publicity surrounding the fact that Cayman has one of the highest incidence of childhood obesity, a task force was formed and doctors Yin and Cridland have worked tirelessly to make a difference in the schools. It is initially a three year programme, we are in the second year. We need support of the parents to make a difference in these children’s lives. 

What is the one message that the Fund would like to get out to the public with regard to heart health?

Know your cardiac-related numbers and educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of CVD. Women’s symptoms can be very different from men and women tend to put off seeking assistance until there is a real problem. Everyone needs to be sensible when it comes to heart health and always seek treatment before its too late.


Suzy Soto, right, at the Heart Fund’s Gala fundraiser last year, with Karie Bergstrom and Bendel Hydes