Heart Association announces Carol Barr Fund in honor of congressman’s late wife

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – In conjunction with the friends and family of Carol Barr, the Central Kentucky American Heart Association has created the Carol Barr Fund.

The Fund will support research as well as STEM programming for young women in Kentucky. The Fund was created by the Carol Barr Advisory Team, a group of Carol’s friends and family who created the Fund to help honor Carol’s legacy of leadership with the American Heart Association.

Carol Barr was just 39 when she unexpectedly and tragically passed away last June due to a heart condition called mitral valve prolapse.

Mitral valve prolapse is a condition in which the two valve flaps of the mitral valve do not close smoothly or evenly, but bulge (prolapse) upward into the left atrium.

When the heart pumps, part of one or both flaps collapse backward into the left atrium, sometimes causing a small amount of blood to leak backward through the valve.

Carol was a natural leader whose magnetic personality was a light that guided her daughters, Eleanor and Mary Clay, her community, and her family.

To honor Carol’s legacy of work with Go Red for Women, the American Heart Association is working with Carol’s husband, U.S. Congressman Andy Barr, on an initiative created in Carol’s name to fund research on mitral valve prolapse, and STEM programs and scholarships for young girls in Eastern Kentucky.

The Carol Barr Fund will have two components:

  • Collaborative Sciences Award to develop new knowledge for mitral valve prolapse through a competitive grants process. Collaborative Sciences Awards work to foster innovative, collaborative approaches to research projects. Funding research is a cornerstone of the American Heart Association’s lifesaving mission. As the largest source of funding for cardiovascular disease and stroke research next to the federal government, the AHA is committed to funding cutting-edge science and building careers in science and research impacting every aspect of CVD and stroke prevention and treatment.
  • STEM Goes Red Accelerator aimed at empowering middle school girls to improve the health of Americans through careers in science, technology, engineering and math. STEM Goes Red programming teaches participants how the heart works, how nutrition impacts the heart and the importance of creating healthy heart habits early in life. The program focuses on helping young women become more involved in STEM fields, as currently only 20% of cardiologists in the country are female. By empowering young women to explore careers in STEM, the American Heart Association seeks to address the region’s STEM workforce inequities and impact innovation and economic development.

“Carol Barr was the best wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend anyone could ever have. I am grateful for the American Heart Association’s commitment to raising funds in her honor to invest in collaborative research grants to study mitral valve prolapse, and create a STEM scholarship program in her name so high school-aged women can pursue a career in a STEM field,” said Congressman Andy Barr (KY-06). “In Congress, I introduced the Cardiovascular Advances in Research and Opportunities Legacy (CAROL) Act, which will provide critical resources and generate awareness needed about valvular heart disease. Turning this tragedy into something positive is exactly what Carol would have wanted us to do, and I will champion this cause for the rest of my life.”

Barr filed the CAROL Act, on February 22. The Act will advance research through the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) on valvular heart disease to aid in the development of guidelines to identify and distinguish those at high risk of sudden cardiac death.

Additionally, it authorizes a workshop to convene subject matter experts and stakeholders to identify research needs and opportunities to develop prescriptive guidelines for treatment of patients with mitral valve prolapse.

Finally, it directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement public information and education programs to prevent sudden cardiac death, improve patient outcomes and broaden the awareness of the public concerning the public health consequences.

The date of Act filing is significant, as February 22 is Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day, a day where organizations work to increase recognition of the specific risks and symptoms of heart valve disease, as well as improve detection and treatment.

“This important legislation will increase research on heart valvular disease, its effects and treatment options, while increasing public awareness. With additional research and education, lives will be saved. We thank Congressman Barr for sharing the American Heart Association’s mission to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives,” Hal Skinner, president of Lexington Heart Specialists and president of the Central Kentucky American Heart Association Board of Directors.

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women. It claims more women’s lives than all forms of cancer combined. Go Red for Women is the American Heart Association’s signature initiative to end heart disease and stroke in women. Go Red for Women is working in communities around the world to help women understand that cardiovascular disease is their greatest health threat and that they should take action to lower their risk. Over the past 17 years, Go Red for Women has funded life-saving women’s research, advanced public health policy, championed closing gender gaps in research and STEM, and created a platform for women to address their greatest health risk – cardiovascular disease.

“It is humbling to work with Congressman Barr and the Carol Barr Fund advisory team on this project. The Carol Barr Fund will allow for more research on valve disease leading to new discoveries around diagnosis and treatments. It will also help to encourage and inspire young women in Eastern Kentucky communities to follow their hearts in STEM-related study,” Mike Turner, senior social events director at the Central Kentucky American Heart Association.

This year’s Central Kentucky Go Red for Women Experience will take place virtually on Friday, April 23, and honor Carol. Carol’s husband, U.S. Congressman Andy Barr, will be the event’s keynote speaker. Over the past 13 years, the Central Kentucky American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women events have raised over $2,000,000 for life-saving research and education.

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