Florine Ministrelli and Dr. Pamela Marcovitz.
By Susan Kehoe, Ph.D.
Photography by Brett Mountain
Among the philanthropists in the greater Detroit area, few are as well regarded as Florine Ministrelli. Through generous donations, she and her husband of 40 years, Peter, founded the Florine and J. Peter Ministrelli Women’s Heart Center located on the Royal Oak campus of Beaumont Hospital.
2017 marks the 15th anniversary of the Ministrelli Women’s Heart Center, which is dedicated to the detection, prevention and treatment of heart disease in women, a disease that kills more women than cancer every year. The Heart to Heart GLAMLunch fundraiser for the center will be held on October 20 at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham. Mothers, daughters, sisters and friends will come together for a luncheon and fashion event to help raise awareness about the unique characteristics of cardiovascular disease in women. Some of the fashion partners participating in the runway show for the GLAMLunch are: Saks Fifth Avenue,
Bricker-Tunis Furs, Tapper’s Diamonds and Fine Jewelry, Tender, Dior, SHE and many others. For tickets visit Beaumont.org/givingfoundation-events.
SEEN talked with founder Florine Ministrelli and Dr. Pamela Marcovitz, the center’s director, about the success of Beaumont’s first-of-its-kind prevention and treatment center for women in Michigan.
How did the center get started?
Florine: More than 15 years ago, Beaumont invited Peter and me to get involved on a larger scale with helping patients. I wanted to do something with a prevention aspect and after talking with Dr. Pam about a heart center for women, I knew I found my passion.
Why was this initiative so critical for you?
Florine: When the center opened 15 years ago some people snickered because they thought heart disease was primarily associated with men. But the statistics were alarming: One in every three women died of heart disease. Women were not receiving diagnosis and prevention for heart disease, nor did they realize that the risk of heart disease in women was significant. On surveys, almost 80 percent of women thought that cancer, not heart disease, was the leading cause of death in women. The awareness was not there.
How does such lack of awareness happen?
Dr. Pam: When I went to medical school in the ‘90s I wasn’t taught about women’s risk for heart disease; doctors weren’t alerted to the high risk of cardio vascular disease in women. I felt we needed to educate everyone – doctors, women and the entire community to this danger. Believe it or not, women were not even included in the research at that time mainly because the frequency of women’s heart attacks went unnoticed.
Beaumont was the first center of its kind in Michigan. Our center has a full-time staff and access to all the resources and physicians in the hospital. It has helped countless patients who do not know the danger or the unique symptoms of heart disease in women.
What have we learned about heart attacks in women?
Dr. Pam: Symptoms are different from those we typically hear about for men. For example, the severe chest pain men experience is not typical in women. There can be chest pain but the more common symptoms in women are shortness of breath, indigestion, nausea and lightheadedness, pain in the left arm and even neck or jaw and shoulder pain.
Does any woman have access to the center?
Dr. Pam: We serve about 4,000 women annually. Some of their health care programs do not cover the preventive treatment we offer. The Remarkable Women Fund is a program established to help the uninsured and underinsured pay for screenings. We also offer the Women Exercising to Live (WELLNESS) exercise program for women at risk for heart disease. We want to improve all women’s odds against heart disease as well as improve the quality of women’s lives in general.
How did you make this facility so attractive to women?
Florine: We turned an ordinary sterile waiting room into a restful living room setting. It’s one of my favorite places. Wood paneling, a fireplace, comfortable chairs and sofas arranged in conversational settings fill the room. We also give our guests luxurious terry cloth robes to wear, similar to those in upscale hotels; it helps to make patients more comfortable. The chairs in the exam rooms are spa-like recliners covered in fabric that’s found in home furniture.
We also offer a holistic approach that’s important to many women. We have a massage therapist every Tuesday and the services of a dietitian. Referrals for yoga programs, guided imagery, meditation, aromatherapy and cupping (as recently seen on the bodies of Olympics swimmers) are all part of the preventive treatment. Integrative Medicine helps remove stress from women’s lives. Even though I don’t have heart disease or a family history of heart problems, I realize the importance of screening and prevention.
Has the facility grown since you started it?
Dr. Pam: Our current 5,200-square-foot facility was expanded in 2006 to add more exam rooms and two rooms for stress tests. An annex of the Ministrelli Women’s Heart Center at the Beaumont Medical Center in West Bloomfield (6900 Orchard Lake Road) opened in August. That 2,877-square-foot space includes 2D echoes, monitors, stress testing and nuclear testing to detect heart disease for male and female patients.
How do you feel about the success of the Ministrelli Women’s Heart Center?
Florine: It makes me cry with happiness when I think of the women who have been helped. I know the center has helped many women and will continue helping them long after I’m gone. NS