Five Questions With: Lisa Abbott

Lisa Abbott, Lifespan Corp.’s senior vice president of human resources and self-described “adventurer,” has long admired Alison Levine, leader of the first all-female team to climb Mount Everest. This year Abbott, who is serving for the second year as chair of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women luncheon, is bringing Levine to the event as the keynote speaker. 

Abbott discusses her commitment to the AHA, along with why she went to great lengths to bring Levine to Rhode Island for the Feb. 14 luncheon in Providence. 

PBN: Have you or any of your family members or loved ones had any experience with heart disease?

ABBOTT: I have a vested interest in the American Heart Association, given my family’s long history with cardiovascular disease. My grandfather, who passed away in 2019, had open-heart surgery when he was 84. He lived to be 100 years old. My father is also a heart survivor, having survived two massive heart attacks.

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My passion, though, lies more as a champion for women’s heart and brain health. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in this country and it is a disease that is largely preventable, especially if we know the signs and symptoms. And, if we know our numbers. Women are often the primary care givers to their families but frequently let their own well-being languish. We need to change that.

PBN: Does working for a health care organization support your role in Rhode Island’s AHA chapter?

ABBOTT: At Lifespan, we are keenly aware of the importance of healthy habits and knowing signs of disease. Our cardiovascular institute and comprehensive stroke center lend expertise and partnership on the important health concerns facing our patient population. Also, our workforce, as is typical in the health care industry, is largely female. Lifespan is a patient-centric organization, and also very employee-focused. We offer many well-being opportunities to our employees and invest in their health at every opportunity.

As the senior vice president of human resources and community affairs, I see it as my duty to ensure we cultivate a population of ambassadors who strive for longer, healthier lives. Lifespan has a robust partnership with the Southern New England AHA and [collaborates] for the betterment of the Rhode Island community that we collectively serve.

PBN: Why did you feel so strongly about bringing Alison Levine to Rhode Island, and how do you feel her story reflects the American Heart Association’s mission?

ABBOTT: As an adventurer myself, I have followed Alison’s incredible accomplishments for many years. She has achieved what most people – women or men – only dream about. As the team captain for the first all-female expedition up Mount Everest, one can only imagine the challenges she had to overcome to be successful.

What I learned more recently is that Alison is a heart hero and overcame three heart surgeries before her many history-making mountaineering experiences. I felt strongly that she is the perfect ambassador for the message we are sharing at the Go Red for Women luncheon. She epitomizes grit and determination and the limitless possibilities one can achieve regardless of what might otherwise seem like inherent obstacles. She is a role model to women and girls and we are fortunate to have her as our keynote speaker for this inspiring event.

PBN: Was the process of getting Levine confirmed as a speaker for the Go Red for Women event difficult?

ABBOTT: When I agreed to chair the Go Red event for the second year, I knew that we wanted to make it one for the record books. Our executive leadership team is highly engaged and committed to this cause and it was clear that we had set high goals for ourselves.

I had actually read Alison’s book on leadership and decided to write to her directly. Much to my joyous surprise, she wrote back to me and agreed to be our keynote speaker. Because she is part of a speakers’ bureau, we had to engage in that process. I am humbled that she has been so engaged in the event, and I think she will tell an inspiring story.

PBN: What are your fundraising goals this year for the AHA?

ABBOTT: Our main goal is to be a relentless force for longer, healthier lives. To do that, we need to raise awareness, and yes, money, that will be invested in research to develop cures for heart and brain disease. Go Red for Women focuses the research on conditions specific to women. Our aim this year is simple – raise more than last year!

Elizabeth Graham is a PBN staff writer. She can be reached at Graham@PBN.com.

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