Shaquille O'Neal and Elizabeth Ofili, MD: Spreading Awareness of Heart Failure


Shaquille O'Neal, Ed.D, and Elizabeth Ofili, MD, discuss using unconventional mediums to engage non-patients and spread awarness of heart failure — specifically in African Americans.

While knowledge and medicine continues to advance rapidly, the unfortunate reality for physicians is that many people do not become patients until a serious adverse event.

Heart failure is no exception to this. With so many cardiologists facing this predicament, some companies and organizations have made a push to connect with non-patients through unconventional mediums.

The Shaquille Gets Real About Heart Failure campaign from Arbor Pharmaceuticals, which was one of the most discussed topics at the Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) 2019 Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia, seeks to raise awareness around the disparity of heart failure in the African American community. The campaign is a partnership between NBA-legend Shaquille O’Neal and Arbor that began in March 2019.

In addition to attending HFSA 2019, O’Neal also spent Monday afternoon leading a session at the annual meeting with Elizabeth Ofili, MD, MPH, professor of medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine and first female president of the Association of Black Cardiologists. After speaking at HFSA 2019, O’Neal and Ofili sat down with MD Magazine® to discuss the importance of educating the public on heart failure.

MD Mag: How important is utilizing media and other means of connecting with patients when teaching about heart failure?

O’Neal: It's about helping people have the correct mindset. I know there's a trillion people that think like I think. I see it everyday and I just want them to just go get checked out. That's my message. Again, I don't suffer from heart failure, I don't know what it feels like. I am not a physician. I'm not as smart as she is but I can bring you to it. For example, I don't know what they have at Whole Foods, but I know how to get there. I could lead you to a physician and when you get to the physician you'll talk about all the stuff that needs to be talked about.

I want to be the guy to say "Hey, man. I know you haven't been checked out in 3 years. Too much work? Have to babysit the kids? I have the same problems. If I can get checked out, you can I checked out," and that's what I want to do.

Ofili: And you can't underestimate that. That is just huge because what has happened over the past 6 months is every time we get to have this opportunity, there's a media outlet we do get a lot of questions where people want to know what should I do next and I think Shaq's message is a very simple one. go there and get information about how you or your family members should be advocating on your behalf. So, it's got to be those multi-faceted approach to get to this I think what many of us know is a life-threatening situation.

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