President, American Heart Association
Professor of Neurology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Attending Neurologist on the Stroke Service at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
Mitchell Elkind, President of the American Heart Association, is a tenured Professor of Neurology and Epidemiology at Columbia University, and Chief of the Division of Neurology Clinical Outcomes Research and Population Sciences (Neuro CORPS) in the Neurology Department.
Dr. Elkind received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, and trained in Internal Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and in Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital, both in Boston, MA. He completed a fellowship in Vascular Neurology and Neuroepidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center under the mentorship of Dr. Ralph Sacco. Dr. Elkind holds a Master’s degree in Epidemiology from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health.
Dr Elkind’s research focuses on stroke prevention, inflammatory and infectious biomarkers in stroke risk prediction, atrial cardiopathy, immune therapy for acute stroke, and vascular causes of cognitive aging. Dr. Elkind is the Principal Investigator of several independent investigator awards from NIH/NINDS, including the ARCADIA trial of apixaban vs aspirin for atrial cardiopathy in cryptogenic stroke; the Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS), an epidemiological study of stroke risk factors; the Neuroprotection with Statin Therapy for Acute Recovery Trial (NeuSTART), a clinical trial evaluating short-term high-dose statin therapy in acute stroke; and the Levels of Inflammatory Markers in Treatment of Stroke (LIMITS) study.
Dr. Elkind also has a longstanding commitment to medical education and research training. In addition to leading the Columbia Neurology residency and fellowship programs, he serves as editor of the AHA/ASA Stroke journal’s new International Stroke Early Career and Training Section (InterSECT). He runs NIH-funded research training programs for residents and fellows. Dr. Elkind has served on several AHA/ASA committees, including 3 terms on the National Board of Directors (2014-2020), 2 terms as Chair of the ASA Advisory Committee (2016-2020), and co-chair or member of several writing committees for guidelines and scientific statements. He co-chaired the writing committee for the 2012 scientific statement on the inclusion of stroke as an outcome and risk equivalent in vascular disease risk scores, and currently serves as co-chair of the stroke section of the annual statistical update.
Dr. Elkind lives in New York City with his wife (novelist and children’s book author Rachel Vail) 2 sons (Zachary and Liam), and a pet tortoise (Lightning).
Rapper and Songwriter
Cheryl and fellow New Yorker Sandra “Pepa” Denton met during college and quickly became friends, bonding over their passion for medicine and rapping. The two nursing students recorded their first song “Show Stoppa” as a favor for a friend who needed help on a school project, and the single hit number 46 on the Billboard R&B chart. After signing with an independent label in 1985, they took the male-dominated rap industry by storm and pushed the boundaries in hip-hop. Their influence was felt all over the world and people from all walks of life were playing their song “Push It” everywhere, from aerobics classes to the clubs.
Cheryl uses her legacy to shed light on health issues, such as AIDS with Salt-N-Pepa’s hit song “Let’s Talk About Sex,” and more recently, by leading a campaign about stroke with the American Heart Association.
In selecting honorees each year, we seek to celebrate the achievements of exceptional individuals who embody our values of health, respect, and care for all. This year, we are ecstatic to honor Cheryl “Salt” James for her genuine commitment to elevating the health of young people and their families. As part of this celebration, we will launch “Let’s Talk About Salt,” a collaborative project with Hip Hop Public Health, the American Heart Association, and Cheryl to generate awareness about salt consumption and educate youth and families about the dangers of hypertension and high blood pressure.
Founder and Executive Director, The Campaign Against Hunger
Melony Samuels, a humanitarian, visionary leader and staunch advocate for food equity has dedicated her life to the improvement of the lives of marginalized people and the strengthening of food and financially insecure families. Dr. Samuels has more than 20 years of experience as a pioneer in the anti-hunger community and Founder and Executive Director of The Campaign Against Hunger – one of the most robust, direct client services anti-hunger organization in the country. It is with enthusiasm and vision that she addresses the needs of many food-insecure communities and the ability to produce exceptional results in a demanding environment. Dr. Samuels has worked extensively to bring social change and racial equity in communities of low-income families through advocacy, connecting and maximizing resources. Her enthusiasm led her to develop models that can be easily implemented by other grassroots organizations and which has been replicated throughout the country and prevalently, with acknowledgment, throughout the City.
Before investing in the anti-hunger community, Dr. Samuels worked as the Chief Executive Administrator for Full Gospel Tabernacle of Faith Inc., a multi-faceted ministry that impacts communities in India, Pakistan, Jamaica, and the United States. She assisted in the launching of several churches across the globe and developed food systems in third world countries. In this capacity, she also served as a Pastor and President of the Full Gospel Tabernacle of Faith Inc. where she wrote empowerment materials and hosted conferences across several countries. In this role, she served as a liaison between local churches and their community.
Well respected in all quarters, she has served on the Steering Committees for both the Manhattan Borough President and the Politics of Food Conference and currently sits on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Vital Brooklyn Task Force and the Council on Hunger and Food Policy board. She has given a TED Talk and has received numerous commendations for her work. She serves on the Advisory Board for the Food Bank For New York and she is the founder/ former president of the Bed-Stuy Providers Network, a collaborative group of eighteen (18) emergency food programs in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community, where she helped secure start-up funding.
Dr. Samuel’s philosophy is that only through strong partnerships can lasting change arise. Dr. Samuels has demonstrated true leadership and has incubated community activism and mobilized resources to ensure that food-insecure New Yorkers are not denied a fundamental human right to wholesome food. She continues to lead the fight against hunger and has often echoed the sentiment that “No one in New York should go hungry.”
Director, Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation
Patricia “Patti” Mae Doykos is director of the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation whose mission is to promote health equity and improve the health outcomes of populations disproportionately affected by serious diseases and conditions. In January 2020, she also took on the role of lead for the newly launched Bristol Myers Squibb Health Equity Initiative. Patti has over 23 years of experience and leadership in transformative corporate philanthropy & corporate social responsibility, product brand and strategic communications, and health equity & social justice.
Patti works on strategy, evaluation, communications, policy advancement and organizational development for the Foundation overall and currently leads two health equity focused national grants programs which provide funding for the development, testing and scaling of innovative models of specialty care delivery for diverse and medically underserved populations facing cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and cancer in the US and Brazil. She has also developed and led U.S. and international grant making and public-private partnership programs for global HIV/AIDS, women’s health, diabetes, cancer and serious mental illness. Among her current service roles are inaugural chair of the board of the Center for Global Health Equity at Dartmouth-Geisel Medical School, board of advisors member for Dartmouth-Geisel Medical School, advisory board member of the Center for Global Health at Rutgers University, and trustee of Phillips Academy Andover.
Prior to joining the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation in 2002, Patti worked for five years on the business side of Bristol Myers Squibb leading International Public Affairs for the company’s HIV and infectious disease marketed products and cancer research & development pipeline program.
Patti holds a BA from Dartmouth College for majors in Government and German, MA in German Literature & Language from the University of Virginia and PhD in the same from New York University both with a concentration in Cultural Studies. She shares her love of Hip Hop with her son, Culver.
Senior Partner, Finn Partners
A Senior Partner at Finn Partners, Helen oversees the agency’s award-winning Actions Speak Louder D+I program, while also developing consumer-engaging campaigns for a variety of clients. Building strategic alliances for client brands to net tangible results is simply all in a day’s work for Helen. Her connectivity has fostered relationships with some of the most iconic figures in the worlds of art, music, entertainment and architecture, all while making a career by making a difference. Most recently, Helen led the team that launched Hip Hop Public Health’s breakthrough COVID-19 music video PSAs, 20 Seconds of More and 20 Segundos o Más, yielding more than 200 million combined media impressions and three million views on YouTube in the span of just four months. Helen’s love of Hip Hop and its power to drive change was honed as a promotions intern at the legendary KISS-FM radio station in New York City where she worked alongside and learned from DJ Red Alert, Chuck Chillout and others.
Helen has a knack for bringing people together towards a greater good. Her ability to find common ground with people is a big part of what makes her so good at what she does. She is equally comfortable managing communications around urban music tours for the Seagram’s Gin family of brands as she is with a global classical music initiative celebrating the Silk Road with Yo-Yo Ma for the Smithsonian. In the area of health, Helen was recognized with a Multicultural Marketing Campaign of the Year Award for Believe in Healthy BP, a national hypertension program featuring Yolanda Adams. She was also responsible for media relations for Be Sickle Smart and Taking Charge of Breast Cancer with Larenz Tate and Lynn Whitfield, respectively
Helen is a graduate of Dartmouth College and holds an MS degree from Boston University’s College of Communication. Named one of the 25 Most Influential Black Women in Business by The Network Journal magazine, Helen is a member of the global social service organization, The Links, Incorporated, a Charter Member of the Pi Theta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority Incorporated and a board member of the New York Urban League. In her spare time, this born and bred Harlemite enjoys cooking and Italian cinema.
Partner, 40 West Advisors
Melinda is a serial entrepreneur, with a passion for creativity and connecting people with ideas. A former healthcare investment banker at Dillon Read, Melinda went on to co-found the premiere online marketplace for entertaining, PlumParty.com, bringing together the most innovative products that inspired customers to bring together families and friends. PlumParty was recognized by Time Magazine as a top 50 retail site, and Melinda was featured on The Today Show as an entertaining pro. She has since worked in a broad range of industries, using her strengths in bringing together the best teams to help achieve remarkable outcomes. Melinda is the co-chair of the Family Council at Sanctuary for Families, a volunteer at Central Synagogue helping members talk about end of life with their families, and a very proud member of the HHPH Advisory Board.
Melinda is inspired daily by the kindness and authenticity of her children, Charlotte and Oliver. A native New Yorker, she is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School.