Introducing the American Heart Association's

Women of Impact

Text and photos courtesy of American Heart Association


To place even more importance on the health needs of women, the American Heart Association this year established a new initiative, the Women of Impact – a peer program in which influential community leaders educate others about the dangers of cardiovascular disease and stroke and bring the work of the AHA’s Go Red for Women movement to life.


Five local women nominated to participate in the inaugural program include: Dr. Maria Baldasare, interventional cardiologist at Northwest Health; Gena Johnson Bumgarner, vice president of sales and distribution K-12 at Tyson Foods Inc.; Stephanie Martinez, sales and replenishment analyst at PPI Beauty; Tina Winham, Walmart outdoor lead at Spin Master; and Kristine Joji-Wood, senior merchandise director for fresh bakery at Walmart.


The five are on an eight-week crusade to increase awareness about cardiovascular disease while raising funds that will ultimately have a direct impact on the heart health of Northwest Arkansas as a whole.


“These amazing women have joined a team of changemakers dedicated to making a lasting impact on the heart health of our community,” says Mellissa Wood, corporate market director for Go Red for Women in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.


Nominees are encouraged to mobilize their personal networks to form an impact team, set a goal and engage others in the mission of the AHA by pursuing activities such as training others in CPR, advocating to legislators for healthier communities and contributing to Research Goes Red.


The woman deemed to have made the biggest impact will be named the 2021 Northwest Arkansas Woman of Impact Award winner during the May 21 Heart of Northwest Arkansas, a virtual event encompassing the Go Red for Women Luncheon, Heart Ball and Paint the Town Red. The Northwest Arkansas Woman of Impact award is sponsored by Procter & Gamble.

Interested in learning more about the Women of Impact? Contact Mellissa Wood at

DR. MARIA BALDASARE has a personal connection to heart disease – which is why she chose to become a cardiologist. “When I was in medical school, my father had to undergo quadruple bypass surgery,” she says. “My father’s symptoms were atypical, and if it was not for the cardiologist that saw him, he would not be alive today.” Baldasare got involved with AHA because “women in general are under-diagnosed and under-treated throughout medicine, especially when it comes to cardiovascular [issues].” One way to lower mortality in women is to educate them about how heart disease presents itself differently in women than in men.

STEPHANIE MARTINEZ has a connection to heart disease through her grandfather, who is a heart attack survivor. Diabetes also runs in her family. “I champion fellow women, and Latinas, who don’t put their personal health first,” she says. “Heart disease doesn’t discriminate against gender, race or politics.” Her team of leaders will “light the path to better health and self-awareness.”

GENA JOHNSON BUMGARNER came face-to-face with heart disease when her mother experienced a ventricular tachycardia (heart attack) about five years ago. The experience led her to get involved in the Go Red for Women movement as a Woman of Impact in order to educate others and raise awareness. “I am passionate about heart health as it has had a direct impact on my family. This provides a great opportunity to bring additional awareness through a multi-prong approach to educate and drive awareness of heart disease.”


KRISTINE JOJI-WOOD lost her grandmother as well during valve replacement surgery. She says she became a Woman of Impact to bring awareness of heart disease and stroke in younger women and to change the current trajectory of heart attack rates for women under 50. “I’m going to use my voice and my platform to support others in creating micro changes in their lives for macro health benefits, such as moving throughout the day, managing stress and partnering with health care professionals for annual checkups.”

TINA WINHAM lost her beloved grandmother to heart disease, and she is doing what she can to make sure more women understand the risks of not taking care of their heart. “There are so many steps we can take — easy things like knowing your blood pressure and other numbers — to safeguard your heart health,” she says.




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