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VCU Health, city leaders partner to make Richmond a “Stroke Smart City”

The Stroke Smart campaign aims to raise awareness about stroke symptoms in an effort to reduce delays in treatment.

A large group of city council members and VCU Health team members standing together. VCU Health team members receive a proclamation from Richmond City Council marking their partnership to make Richmond a Stroke Smart City. (VCU Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

By Sara McCloskey

VCU Health is uniting with the city of Richmond and partner organizations to spread awareness about a medical emergency affecting 1 in 6 Americans in their lifetime.

“Seconds matter. Becoming a Stroke Smart City requires the support of our whole community,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said. “Whether it happens [in a city building] or in the home of one of our residents – we all must be prepared to respond in the proper way.”

The Stroke Smart City campaign aims to educate all residents of Richmond about the signs and symptoms of stroke. Mayor Stoney and Richmond City Council announced the partnership between the city and VCU Health during a city council meeting this week, offering a public declaration of thanks to our team members for working to make Richmond a “happy and healthy place.”

“As a pastor for over 20 years, I cannot tell you how many church members I have visited who were rehabilitating from a stroke. This issue is also personal for me, my mother died from a stroke,” city council president Michael Jones said. “We must be Stroke Smart. We must be vigilant and do all that we can to live healthy and live smart. So, thank you, [VCU Health], for all that you do.”

The public health initiative emphasizes the importance of being able to spot a stroke and about calling 911 immediately so individuals suffering from a stroke can receive hospital-level care quicker. Medical professionals highlight how receiving treatment within 3 to 4 hours once symptoms of a stroke begin can improve health outcomes.

VCU Health is especially qualified to provide high-quality stroke care, as the first certified comprehensive stroke center in Virginia. More than one-third of stroke patients admitted to VCU Medical Center are transferred from other hospitals.

Venkata Ramana Feeser, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at VCU Medical Center and a lead on the Stroke Smart City campaign, says it’s crucial for patients to get to the hospital as soon as possible for some treatment options to work effectively.

“About two million brain cells could be lost every minute a stroke goes untreated,” Feeser said. “We can make a difference one patient at a time, one citizen at a time.”

Female doctor speaks at a podium.

Venkata Ramana Feeser, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at VCU Medical Center and a lead on the Stroke Smart City campaign, tells city council members and the public how important it is to learn the warning signs of a stroke. (VCU Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

Sometimes called a brain attack, a stroke happens when something blocks the blood supply to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. After experiencing a stroke, an individual can have lasting brain damage, long-term disability or die.

Compared to the rest of the commonwealth and nation, Richmond has seen higher numbers of hospitalizations and deaths caused by strokes in recent years.

“The stroke death rate in Richmond is 80 per 100,000. Sadly, the rate for African Americans is 100 per 100,000 people,” Sheryl Garland, VCU Health chief of Health Impact, shared as part of a VCU Health and city of Richmond public safety announcement. “Becoming a Stroke Smart City will help address this disparity and save lives.”

As part of the proclamation declaring Richmond’s campaign to become a Stroke Smart City, Richmond officials and VCU Health are encouraging residents, businesses and community organizations to participate in the Stroke Smart campaign: Spot-a-Stroke, Stop-a-Stroke, Save-a-Life.