Grateful Mount Sinai Patient Speaks Out for Heart Health in the Black Community
In September 2014, Sharon Bond attended an American Heart Association reception celebrating volunteers and advocates who help people live longer and healthier lives. The association gave out “Heart of Our Mission” awards to several cardiologists, including Icilma V. Fergus, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine (Cardiology), and Director of Cardiovascular Disparities, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
In her acceptance speech, Dr. Fergus spoke about heart disease and disparities in the Black and Brown communities. “She was so eloquent and knowledgeable,” Sharon remembers. One comment Dr. Fergus made really stuck with Sharon. The cardiologist said, “I am thankful for being given the opportunity as a volunteer and a physician to connect with the community, with the patients. When a person smiles and their whole face lights up with a simple utterance of thank you. That is when I know I’m making a difference.”
After the talk, Sharon approached Dr. Fergus and discussed her personal medical journey. Sharon had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disorder that thickens the heart muscle and makes it harder for the heart to pump blood. This condition caused a heart attack in 2011, and to treat it, Sharon underwent open-heart surgery.
After their chance meeting in 2014, Sharon and Dr. Fergus became fast friends. “I became her confidante and advisor,” Dr. Fergus says. “I felt too close to her to be her actual doctor. But I recommended she see doctors at Mount Sinai for a second opinion, as she had some doubts about her care.”
Sharon had been feeling heart palpitations every day, and she worried she was heading toward a second heart attack. She discussed it with her physician, and then, at Dr. Fergus’s recommendation, she reached out to the Helmsley Center for Electrophysiology at Mount Sinai.
Cardiologists there had Sharon wear a Holter monitor, a small device that tracks heart rhythm, for several days. The findings confirmed she was receiving the best possible treatment for her condition. Sharon appreciated the high-quality and compassionate care she received at The Mount Sinai Hospital. “I saw that they were very caring, and they took their time to listen to me about my concerns and help to ease my nervousness,” she recalls.
Sharon decided she wanted to give back to her community. She learned about the Healthy Heart Series, a patient education program developed by Dr. Fergus. It offers monthly workshops on topics such as healthy nutrition, shopping, and meal preparation. Sharon became a volunteer in 2016 and continues to this day.
“Being involved hands on gives me joy,” she says. She likes sharing the information and tools people need to improve their lives. Sharon also speaks at colleges, corporations, and other community events. In addition to Mount Sinai, she volunteers with the American Heart Association, and the Association of Black Cardiologists.
These activities inspired Sharon to start her own nonprofit organization, The Heart Speaks Foundation. She started this project in early 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York City. Her goal is to spread the word about heart health among African American and Latino women.
Sharon is doing well now, ten years after her initial heart attack. She walks four or five miles a day and watches what she eats. She follows all her doctor’s recommendations now and promptly has her annual physical and other tests. “Listen to your body, listen to your heart,” is her advice. And she’s proud to be a part of the Mount Sinai community. “I like Mount Sinai Hospital because it’s a community-based hospital,” she says. “They are out in the community, doing outreach.”