Wonder Women: Stacy Quinn, health advocate and spokeswoman

Wonder Women: Stacy Quinn, health advocate and spokeswoman

By Jill Vitiello

Stacy Quinn
Stacy Quinn, health advocate and an American Heart Association Go Red For Women Survivor Ambassador

Wonder Women is a blog series that lets me introduce you to amazing businesswomen doing remarkable work. Today, I want you to meet Stacy Quinn, health advocate and an American Heart Association Go Red For Women Survivor Ambassador. A communication professional, Stacy became a volunteer spokeswoman after surviving a stroke at age 41.

Stacy has been my colleague and friend for many years. Physically fit, slim and energetic, a busy career woman on the go, she is the last person you would think could suffer a stroke. And yet, like one in five American women, she did. After working hard to regain her health, Stacy decided to become a Go Red For Women Survivor Ambassador, a role she uses to raise awareness of stroke in women and young people and raise money for research. For her tireless advocacy, Stacy was named a 2018 American Heart Association “Woman of Distinction Award” winner, and was a 2017 American Heart Association “New Jersey Stroke Hero Award” recipient. I asked Stacy to share her experiences here.

Q: What is the one word that you think best describes you?

A: I would have to say the word would be “compassionate.” I work in an industry where I help people live better lives, and in my spare time, I’m a health advocate in my community. In both roles, I have to see as others see and feel as others feel. The ability to recognize and share other people’s feelings is one of the most important traits in both roles.

Q: How have you trained yourself as a leader and a spokesperson to have that skill of compassion?

A: Through my own personal experience, I’ve encountered a lot of people who, honestly, haven’t been compassionate, and I know how that made me feel. I want to pay it forward to those people that were compassionate to me and understood what I was going through and helped me. I think my experience with my own health crisis helped shape that.

Q: What’s the one daily practice that energizes you the most?

A: After I wrap up work for the day, I hit the gym. I love weight training and cardio and it gives me an opportunity to listen to music. I love all kinds of music. I’ve made physical activity a part of my daily routine – even before my health crisis. It’s like getting up every morning and brushing my teeth – it’s just something that I do, and it really energizes me and puts a nice end to my day.

Q: What would you say to a woman who hasn’t been physically active, but hears your message and wants to give it a try for herself? How should she get started?

A: I got started years ago by meeting with a personal trainer. He helped shape a program for me around the goals I was looking to achieve. And now, years later, that relationship keeps me motivated. We’re always doing something different and trying new routines. It is, however, a process. You don’t see results over night. I think people become discouraged because you don’t see results as quickly as they would like.

Q: What are you most passionate about?

A: I’m most passionate about making a difference in my community, and I do that through my volunteer work with the American Heart Association | American Stroke Association. I want to help people live longer and healthier lives, and it’s an honor to partner with this amazing organization to raise awareness of heart health and women’s health. As a Go Red spokesperson and member of the Northern NJ Go Red Campaign Executive Leadership team, I spend a lot of time educating people about stroke and the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. I also serve on the American Heart Association | American Stroke Association Government Relations Committee, where I’ve been working with our government officials in New Jersey to lobby for better stroke care and other important health issues. I also enjoy meeting with leaders in our community to raise money for research and education programs. I would love one day for the world to be free of heart disease and stroke. I know this won’t happen in my lifetime, but I hope that my contributions can help us get closer to that goal.

Q: How have you used your expertise as a communications professional to increase your reach as a health advocate?

A: When most people think of stroke, they think of an older person, usually a man. But the reality is that more women have strokes than men, and more women die from stroke than men. In fact, one in five women will have a stroke in her lifetime. These statistics are really powerful, but as you know, Jill, a communicator’s data is never really a source of inspiration. I’ve been able to use effective storytelling to shed light on the reality about stroke – largely because my name, face and character don’t fit that outdated stereotype. In a small way, I’ve been doing my part to change the face of stroke and raise awareness by sharing my personal story through blogs, tweets, presentations and images. I think that I’ve been able to tell a story in a way that people can relate to it, and I think they find my story a bit surprising and realize, “Wow, stroke can happen to anyone,” and then they want to know more. How do I prevent it? How do I recognize the symptoms? I really think it goes back to telling a really good story, and I have a good one to tell!

Q: A well-told story doesn’t happen by accident, and we know as professional communicators, it doesn’t happen off the cuff. So, how have you honed your story and made it fresh and new for audiences?

A: Sometimes it’s hard because I feel like everyone’s heard my story and it starts to get old after a while. But it does have a lot of twists and turns in terms of giving people awareness of stroke symptoms, giving people awareness of stroke in women. Based on the audience, I pull in different themes from my story and the importance of living a healthy lifestyle like knowing your numbers – cholesterol and blood pressure. I think I tell the story with emotion. It’s been almost four years, and sometimes I still can’t get through the story without tearing up a little. I feel like I’m been able to tell the story in a meaningful way that resonates with people.

Q: It takes courage to talk about yourself personally, especially with people you don’t know, and you speak to a lot of audiences. How do you find that courage?

A: It was hard at first and I didn’t want to tell the story. I didn’t want to talk about it; I just wanted to move on. I talk about this a lot with the women I volunteer with: instead of just moving forward, I’m continuously reliving one of the worst moments of my life. But, at the same time, that worst moment of my life has given me so many gifts. I feel like I have to pay it forward and share that story. I’ll never know how many people my story has touched or if they remember stroke symptoms in situations and get people help, but I do know of two people that my story has helped. That’s all I need to know to make it worth the while.

Q: Which author, artist, politician, leader, public figure, or other person is the most interesting influencer for you right now?

A: There isn’t just one person. It’s all of the wonderful Go Red For Women survivor Ambassadors who I volunteer with. I have never met a group of people like this in my life. These are fearless women who faced their mortality and survived health crises. From heart attacks to strokes to rare diseases – you would never know what these women have been through. They charge through everything in their lives with gratitude and positivity, and they never let health setbacks keep them from achieving their goals. These women have taught me just how precious life is. Everything I do for my volunteer work is for those women and all women. They were there for me at a time when I didn’t have anywhere to turn, gave me an outlet, and they’ve been an inspiration ever since.

Q: Any parting words for women?

A: Yes! I always say to women, “Be the CEO of your own health.” That means knowing your numbers, taking care of yourself and, if something doesn’t feel right getting the proper medical attention because you know your body best. You are your own best advocate.

Do you have a question for Stacy or me about how you can be the CEO of your own health? Ask it here in our comments or reach us on Twitter @Healthy4Good and @JillVitiello.

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