April 2023 | The JLC Hosts Women’s Health Forum

The Junior League of Cincinnati (JLC) hosted a Women’s Heart Health Forum in April, educating members on signs, symptoms, prevention, and how they can help empower our communities to elevate awareness about women’s #1 killer, heart disease. Keynote speakers included Dr. Odayme Quesada, medical director and founder of the Women’s Heart Center at Christ Hospital, Tricia Sunders, VP of Development with the American Heart Association (AHA), and Renee Mahaffey Harris, President/CEO of The Center for Closing the Health Gap.

Sustainer and past president, Judy Dalambakis

Sustainer and past president, Judy Dalambakis

When asked about planning the event, JLC President, Kate Fortlage, shared that “Judy Dalambakis, sustainer and past president of the JLC, suggested that the JLC ask Dr. Quesada to speak to our members. As a prominent doctor, who is specifically studying heart health for women of all ages (with a special focus on young women), we are fortunate to have someone with her passion and training helping patients in Cincinnati and we appreciate her willingness to speak to our members on this important topic. After we got Dr. Quesada on board, the planning team found two health-related nonprofits to come and share more about their work and the needs in our community. It’s important, as a training organization, that we both learn and understand how we can take action.”

Dr. Odayme Quesada has devoted herself to providing comprehensive cardiac care to women and shared about what to watch out for and ways women can take care of themselves. She made it clear that women’s hearts are much different than men’s hearts, and shared a staggering fact that many women can have heart attacks with completely clear arteries, and stress is a major factor.

Tricia Sunders spoke about how the American Heart Association (AHA) is working to provide assistance to women in the greater Cincinnati area. She also shared that the annual Go Red for Women Luncheon is planned for Friday, May 12 at Great American Ballpark. 

Renee Mahaffey Harris shared how her organization, The Center for Closing the Health Gap, is working to provide assistance for marginalized populations in the greater Cincinnati area. Her wisdom informed us of the inequities of women’s health for BIPOC individuals in the Cincinnati community, and urged that you cannot control the system (it’s a business) but you can control you.

The Community Impact Council planned the event based on feedback from JLC membership. Members felt that this topic is important for women and attendees were very excited to hear from this exciting panel of experts.



Dr. Odayme Quesada

Dr. Quesada from The Christ Hospital Foundation

From the start of her impressive career, Dr. Quesada has devoted herself to providing comprehensive cardiac care to women. After her graduation from the Yale University School of Medicine and residency at the University of California in San Francisco, Dr. Quesada served as a clinical fellow in cardiovascular medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and completed a National Institutes of Health research fellowship in cardiovascular disease in women. She received the CedarsSinai Heart Institute Excellence in Cardiology Fellowship Award in recognition and appreciation for work in clinical care, teaching, research, leadership, and academic achievement, as well as numerous other awards throughout her training.

Dr. Quesada was actively recruited by The Christ Hospital’s Timothy Henry, MD, Interventional Cardiologist and Medical Director of The Christ Hospital Lindner Center for Research and Education. “The phenomenal thing about the cardiovascular team at The Christ Hospital is how passionate and excited they are about creating a women’s heart center,” says Dr. Quesada. “This is an internationally well-known team

responsible for countless global, national, state, and local medical firsts for cardiac care and cardiac research. I am ecstatic to be part of a team like this, and I know we will succeed together.”

She is also the recipient of a prestigious million-dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health and, in addition to directing the Women’s Health Center, will lead a landmark research program at The Lindner Center on women’s cardiac health and disease. “The focus of this research study is to better understand why and how women with preeclampsia in pregnancy are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease later in life,” she says. Her mentor at Cedars-Sinai, Dr. Bairey Merz, pioneered the investigations on women who present with chest pain but show no presence of arterial obstruction on an angiogram — also known as ischemia with no obstructive coronary artery disease (INOCA). This innovative work deeply inspired Dr. Quesada.

Tricia L. Sunders, VP of Development with the American Heart Association

Tricia has served in the nonprofit community for over 14 years and is working toward her CFRE (certified fund-raising executive) certification. Tricia currently serves as a VP of Development for the American Heart Association where she works with corporations, major gifts, foundations, and individual donors to facilitate sponsorship and volunteering efforts. Tricia is also on the Board of Directors for the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Cincinnati Chapter, where she serves as the 2019 President. For five years, Tricia served as the Corporate Relations Director for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati where she oversaw all aspects of corporate fundraising efforts. She resides in Cincinnati with her Husband.

Renee Mahaffey Harris

Renee Mahaffey Harris, President/CEO of The Center for Closing the Health Gap

Mahaffey Harris is a committed advocate for the marginalized populations in Greater Cincinnati and the region. Mahaffey Harris leads The Health Gap in its mission to lead the efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities through advocacy, education, and community outreach. During her tenure at The Health Gap, Harris jointly implemented the City of Cincinnati’s Health in All Policy, and launched several groundbreaking community-based health initiatives including the Do Right! Campaign and the Black Women’s Health Movement, which is an Ohio collaboration with the national organization Black Women’s Health Imperative. Harris serves as a member of the Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s COVID 19 Minority Strike Force, is President of Ohio African American Health Disparities Coalition, the Co-Chair City of Cincinnati Racial Equity Taskforce and a member of the National Council on Black Health-Subcommittee on national programs. Harris was recently awarded the UC Health Humanitarian Award, the City of Cincinnati Black History Month Honoree, the Urban One National Shero Award, and the MLK Humanitarian Award. Before joining The Health Gap, Harris held executive leadership roles in the private sector including her tenures as Vice President of Community Development with PNC Bank and Director of the Greater Cincinnati Local Initiative Support Corporation. In the public sector Harris worked in leadership roles with former Ohio Secretary of State Sherrod Brown and former Congressman Charles Luken.