Gloria Nolte
Gloria Nolte, a heart attack survivor, shares her story at the "Your Body, Your Health" event on March 7, 2014 at Hotel Albuquerque.
Credit: Sara Mota

Albuquerque women’s health got a shot in the arm with UNM Health Sciences Center’s maiden Your Body, Your Health public symposium March 7 at the Hotel Albuquerque. Expert physicians from the HSC’s School of Medicine were tapped to address common health issues affecting women – and men, for that matter – like cancer, heart attacks, dementia and chronic pain, as well as healthy aging, nutrition, dietary supplements and health screenings.

The event marshaled some of the HSC’s top oncologists, cardiologists, neurologists, geneticists and internal medicine practitioners to discuss vital health challenges and opportunities affecting New Mexican females young and old in a dual-track format. The event, one of several planned this year for the UNM School of Medicine’s 50th anniversary, also featured lunch with Keynote Speaker Katie Snapp, owner of Better-Leadership.com.

“We had a very specific mission with Your Body, Your Health,” said Sherry Wilson, HSC senior director for advancement. “This was a great day for empowering women, who historically are the family caretaker, into becoming more in tune with their own bodies. We need to care for ourselves, too.”

The morning started with opening remarks from social skills trainer and Albuquerque columnist Thelma Domenici and UNM Chancellor for Health Sciences Dr. Paul Roth. Afterward, attendees poured into the first sessions. Rooms were filled with women of all ages – friends, colleagues, mothers and daughters – and even a few men.

Albuquerque resident and recent heart attack survivor Grace Mitchell was glad she attended. “I had a heart attack six months ago and didn’t even know what was happening,” she recalled. “I remember waking up in the hospital and being told I’d had a heart attack, and thought, ‘Really? I didn’t even know I was having symptoms.’”  Mitchell offered her story as part of the, Is this a Heart Attack? session.

Joining her was 85-year-old Gloria Nolte, who suffered the same fate 34 years ago. “I was told I was fine,” Nolte explained. “Fourteen hours later I was in the hospital being treated for a heart attack. That changed my life. To this day, I’m committed to cardiac rehabilitation and have taken up walking, dancing and even belly dancing. I feel great.”

When Dr. Sonia Ponce, a cardiac fellow with the UNM School of Medicine, was asked to present, she didn’t hesitate. “I’ve always been an educator,” she said. “As a child in Mexico, I would talk to people of all ages in the community about health, and about their health in particular. Women today recognize that cardiovascular disease is a real problem, but still need more information.” Ponce really liked the dynamic of sharing a combination of physician knowledge and patient experience.

Although the symposium offered helpful advice on recognizing acute health symptoms and possible treatments for cardiac and neurological distress, there also was a strong emphasis on preventing chronic health issues and medical emergencies. Dr. Arti Prasad, founder and executive director of the UNM Center for Life Integrative Medicine Clinic and chief of General Internal Medicine at UNM, was joined by colleagues Drs. Madhu Arora, Ashley Maltz and Alisha Parada, to discuss good nutrition, the use of dietary supplements and the value of important health screenings.

Albuquerque resident and nurse-in-training Linda Thomas found the forum valuable at several levels. “I came today because I want to improve my own health, as well as my professional interactions with patients,” she said. “I particularly liked the Healthy Aging and Hormones session from an Integrative Medicine perspective.” Treatment and lifestyle options, like Mindful Based Stress Reduction, acupuncture, hypnosis and others were explored in earnest.

A significant component of the Health Sciences Center’s mission is community service. “We have exceptional health professionals who work with patients every day in our hospitals, clinics and cancer center,” Wilson said. “But, we also want to be a resource for the larger community, and this is another opportunity to improve the health and lives of New Mexicans – our ultimate mission. We plan to be back next year, bigger and better than ever.”