Champions for Women’s Heart Health

Second annual WomenHeart Open House on Feb. 16 introduces you to our Champions and the support network, because support for a woman with heart disease is crucial to her recovery and wellbeing

Lizann Roberts doesn’t smoke. She didn’t have a history of high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Having a heart event in her 50s never entered her mind, but on her birthday in July 2015 that’s exactly what happened.

(Left to right) Emily Hennessee, BS, ACSM-CEP, manager, cardiopulmonary rehab and diabetes management center; Murem Sharpe, WomenHeart Champion; and Lizann Roberts, WomenHeart Champion

It started out as a typical birthday. She had lunch with her nephew and did some yard work before heading down to Florida for dinner and an overnight stay. Returning from dinner, Roberts says she felt very fatigued, “overwhelming fatigue.” When she was walking up some stairs, she started to experience severe chest and back pain.

At the emergency room, her tests showed normal results. However, the chest pains returned and Roberts’ heart attack was caught on the monitor. 

“I got a gift. I got to live that day,” Roberts says.

Following a stint of cardiac rehab at Candler Hospital, Roberts learned about WomenHeart Support Network.

WomenHeart Support Networks provide peer-to-peer, patient support for women living with heart disease by other female heart patients who have been trained to provide patient support, says Emily Hennessee, BS, ACSM-CEP, manager, cardiopulmonary rehab and diabetes management center. 

The WomenHeart Savannah Support Network meets every third Thursday of the month except March (fourth Thursday) and provides education with an emphasis on secondary prevention, as well as psychological and emotional support for female patients as they face their journey living with heart disease, Hennessee says. WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a national organization. Through a grant from the National Hospital Alliance, St. Joseph’s/Candler developed a WomenHeart program in 2015.

“Support for a woman with heart disease is crucial to her recovery and wellbeing,” Hennessee says.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. In the United States, 1 in 3 women will die from heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. Cardiovascular disease claims more women’s lives each year than all forms of cancers combined.

Roberts and “Heart Sister” Murem Sharpe are St. Joseph’s/Candler WomenHeart Champions. They attended the annual WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium and are trained to provide educational sessions during WomenHeart meetings, as well as at conferences, health fairs and to organizations and companies.

Following her heart event and learning about WomenHeart, Roberts knew right away she wanted to get involved.

“What attracted me to WomenHeart is that I was able to talk to women who I had something in common with,” Roberts says. “It’s great to be a part of a support group that is useful for you. Being with other women with heart disease is very helpful. We support each other, and we stay focused on improving heart health. It helps me be a better advocate for women.”

Sharpe agrees. She was a member of the founding team for WomenHeart Savannah and the first St. Joseph’s/Candler WomenHeart Champion.

Sharpe was diagnosed with hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HOCM), a hereditary heart disease where the wall of the left ventricles thickens over time, restricting blood flow.  Sharpe had open-heart surgery to have a septal myectomy, which is the permanent removal of the obstructing tissue. She also participated in cardiac rehab at Candler Hospital.

“I believe that doctors and nurses gave me many more years to live,” Sharpe says. “WomenHeart gave special purpose to my life. I can help other women with heart disease or at risk to find and receive care for themselves and to bring their families on their journey.”

Both Roberts and Sharpe encourage any female who’s had heart disease or is at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease to attend a WomenHeart Support Group. You can get an introduction to the network at the second annual WomenHeart Open House on Thursday, Feb. 16, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 836 E. 65th Street, Medical Arts #4, Savannah. Beverages and hors d’oeuvres will be served and guests will be able to meet the WomenHeart Champions, as well as support group members and St. Joseph’s/Candler affiliated leadership.

“We are here as ‘Heart Sisters’ to hear your stories and concerns, to share our own stories and to bring caring experts into this support circle so you can learn more and more about caring for yourself,” Sharpe says.

For more information on WomenHeart, visit sjchs.org/womenheart.


By The Numbers

Support makes a difference. A recent survey of patients who participate in WomenHeart Support Network meetings indicated that:

  • 93% felt their quality of life was enhanced
  • 85% have improved their ability to communicate with their health care provider
  • 93% have increased their understanding of heart disease
  • 85% believe that attending meetings has helped them cope with challenges in maintaining their treatment/medication program
  • 86% believe attending meetings has helped them better communicate and explain their heart disease with family members, friends, co-workers, etc.
  • 85% report improved treatment compliance and adherence
  • 78% helped them make or maintain diet/nutrition lifestyle changes


  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000