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From Brigham and Women’s to the NFL, Elizabeth Nabel looks to make an impact

By | August 26th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment

 

Elizabeth Nabel: “It’s important … to stand up for what you believe in, and not be afraid to be different or unpopular to get something done.”

 

One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2015.

 

Elizabeth Nabel already was one of the nation’s premier cardiologists and researchers before she began leading the respected Brigham and Women’s Health Care system in Boston as president in 2010.

 

Yet even with such an impeccable pedigree, she has never been shy about taking risks. She took on a very visible role earlier this year as the first-ever chief health and medical advisor to the NFL. And when she was director of the government’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, she worked with commercial industries – even Diet Coke – to spread the message that women were just as susceptible to heart issues as men.

 

“For me, these positions aren’t about visibility, but about the impact I can make,” Nabel says. “I feel it’s important to be a positive deviant, to have the courage to take risks and stand up for what you believe in, and not be afraid to be different or unpopular to get something done.”

 

While the NFL recently has had its share of controversy, she sees her role as an opportunity to make sports safer for people far beyond the professional level.

 

“The NFL has the opportunity to innovate in a way that will impact the health and safety of all athletes of all kinds, at all levels. I see this partnership as a great way to apply the knowledge acquired through the efforts of the NFL to the greater population of professional, amateur and recreational athletes.”

 

Before taking on her current position at Brigham and Women’s, Nabel served as director of the NHLBI from 2005 to 2009. It was there that she sought to drive change by launching the Red Dress Heart Truth campaign that still is going strong today.

 

The Red Dress, she says, “is a symbol of women and heart disease. Our goal was to raise awareness about heart disease in women to encourage them to take action and improve their heart health.”

 

Nabel lined up 150 partners, including 50 companies, to spread awareness. That included Diet Coke, which stamped the campaign on its cans and delivered a visibility that the government agency couldn’t have touched on its own.

 

“The strategy wasn’t without risk, and it earned me some harsh public criticism from detractors who felt it wasn’t the place of government to ally so closely with industry,” she says. “But I firmly believed it was the right thing to do, and looking back I consider these partnerships instrumental to The Heart Truth’s tremendous success.” Read more…