Why Irene Pollin's $10 Million Pledge Is Her Personal War on Heart Disease

Irene Pollin founded Sister to Sister in 1999 to address the disparity in the way men and women receive preventive care and treatment for heart disease. The foundation focuses squarely on women's heart health.

Knowing that heart disease isn't a condition that affects only American women, Pollin has pledged $10 million to Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America. The generous pledge will establish the Linda Joy Pollin Cardiovascular Institute at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Irene Pollin has a personal vendetta against heart disease — both of her children were born with congenital heart disease. Her son Kenneth died when he was an infant, and her daughter Linda Joy Pollin died when she was just 16. Pollin's granddaughter, Chana Pollin Galai, announced Irene Pollin's $10 million gift at Hadassah's 100th anniversary fundraising dinner, which took place in Israel.

The dinner raised nearly $18 million to benefit Hadassah's continuing work in Israel and around the world, which fits right in with Pollin's long-held desire to expand her women's heart health and prevention message outside the United States.

Just how important is this message? Heart disease kills more women than stroke, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and breast cancer combined. Although women share many of the same risk factors as men, at-risk women are less likely to be tested or treated in a timely manner. And when presenting with the same symptoms or risk factors, women are less likely to be referred for diagnostic testing that would be standard for men.

Pollin's crusade against heart disease isn't based solely on the loss of her children. Although the loss may have been the catalyst for Sister to Sister, Pollin is a psychotherapist with a master's in social work and the author of two books and numerous articles on coping with chronic illness. She's the recipient of a number of health-care awards and a member of the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Round Table, the Heart Attack Campaign Expert Panel of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health, and American Women for International Understanding.