Not only were a record 127 women sworn in as members of Congress in January, a majority of the new women members were women of color. This session of Congress welcomed the first Muslim women and the first Native American women. As we celebrate National Minority Health Month, we honor the many and diverse women who have served as elected officials in Congress. Many have broken barriers and have been champions for women’s health and medical research, leaders in making strides toward women’s inclusion in clinical trials, advocates for women living with and at risk of heart disease, and allies of WomenHeart. When diverse women lead – whether in Congress or in the exam room – it’s more likely that women and people of color will be heard and their needs addressed.
Throughout the years, we have been fortunate to honor many ground-breaking women leaders at our annual Wenger Awards. In 2009, we honored Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for sponsoring the HEART for Women Act. Senator Murkowski is the first Alaska-born U.S. Senator and Senator Stabenow is the first woman to represent Michigan in the U.S. Senate. In 2011, we honored then-Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the Department of the Health and Human Services for leading efforts to raise awareness of heart disease in women. Prior to serving in the Cabinet, she was the first female chair of the Democratic Governors’ Association and only the second woman to be governor of Kansas. In 2017, we honored Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D-OH) who remains a co-chair of the Congressional Heart and Stroke Coalition and is Vice-Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Rising through the ranks as a state legislator, she broke ground by becoming the first female Democratic House leader in Ohio history.
This year, we’re proud to award the Wenger Award for Excellence in Public Policy to Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL). She is the leader of the MOMMA Act, a bill that addresses maternal mortality and recognizes the threat of heart disease in pregnancy. She serves as the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust and Co-Chairs the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls. Before coming to Congress, Rep. Kelly broke barriers in state politics in Illinois.