Skip to Content

College of Nursing

  • Heart

Faculty and Alumni Highlight- Heart Health

February is Heart Month. According to the CDC, half of all Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors for heart disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking).

Learn more about heart health with our alumni and faculty Q&A!  

Taylor Drolshagen, Cardiothoracic Surgical Stepdown Unit, Duke University Hospital

Why does heart health interest you? 

My favorite body system to study in school was the cardiovascular system; learning the various rhythms and diseases were always incredibly fascinating to me. Heart health is a central aspect to everyone's overall health, it plays a key role in the function of every other organ. Although I work in a specialized unit, the diverse implications of heart health means I am still able to learn about and care for all the systems in the body. On my unit, I meet and care for a diverse group of patients from all walks of life and from across the country and the world, proving that heart health impacts everyone! During my time spent in nursing school in the emergency department, I enjoyed caring for and learning about patients coming in with heart problems. Witnessing the teamwork the ED nurses have when a STEMI patient comes in was one of the most amazing things!!  

How did your education at UofSC prepare you for your current job? 

The UofSC program, faculty and staff gave me not only the knowledge of nursing, but the values, passion, and ambition to utilize this knowledge toward making a positive impact on the world. My biggest role models have been my professors and clinical instructors; seeing the many paths nursing had led them all down was inspiring. I will never forget in foundations when Dr. Worthy talked about how we were not just going to become nurses, we would be Carolina nurses, and that is so true! There is something so special about how Gamecock pride is integrated into this nursing program, it empowered me to be confident and innovative in my care. Being a gamecock nurse means to never stop asking questions, always seek new knowledge, and discover new paths not taken before.

Shannon Smith, Associate Professor and Chair of Claflin University’s Department of Nursing

Why does heart health interest you? 
Heart health interests me because of someone I know extremely well who is experiencing heart disease. Her illness caused me to take a look at why health outcomes are so disparate. She has always had health insurance and kept doctor’s appointments but struggle with management in between those appointments.  Current evidence suggests that African Americans have disparate numbers in heart disease outcomes overall and 3.9 years shorter life span related to heart disease. I believe that culturally appropriate interventions are needed to help people like my friend manage heart disease and those who haven’t developed it – avoid it.   

 What do you hope to accomplish with your research?
The first goal of my research is to determine what African American young adults believe their risk factors are as it relates to cardiovascular disease.  Then, I’d like their help in developing a culturally appropriate intervention that will help them and their peers prevent. I am hopeful that I can develop research to help young emerging African Americans avoid cardiovascular disease.  I’m very interested in an approach that addresses heart health before disease processes begin.  I call it UPSTREAM CVD (Unlocking Population Specific Treatments to Render Equitable Approaches and Management in Cardiovascular Disease). 

Victoria Yandle, Nurse Manager of the Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation department within the Heart Hospital, Prisma Health Richland

What is one thing we can do to improve our heart health? 

Becoming more active can improve your heart health.  Before starting any type of exercise program, please seek guidance from your PCP.  Inactivity can increase the risk of multiple illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes mellitus Type II, stroke, and colon cancer.  Couple these risk factors with a strong genetic propensity towards heart disease and your risk doubles.  Patients ask me all the time, what types of exercise I should do to stay healthy.  I tell them it needs to be something they like, that way they stick with an activity.  If you hate walking, find something else you may like such as yoga or bike riding.  The guidelines from the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation suggests exercising at least 150 minutes per week.  If you cannot work in 30 minutes at one time, spread the exercise out in increments of 10 minutes throughout the day; it makes exercise much more achievable

Why is heart health important? 
Heart health is an essential part of life. In the early 60’s health care for a patient with a MI was very different than it is today.  Patients were placed in a dark room, strict bedrest, no windows, and almost no contact with visitors.  Later we learned, as healthcare professionals, that the longer a patient remained on bedrest the worse the outcome.  Cardiac Rehabilitation is the culmination of decreasing the patient’s fear of heart disease, educating them on the benefits of exercise, and learning to live a healthier lifestyle. 

Michael Pallon, Rn2 Cardiovascular Surgical Intensive Care Unit,  Johns Hopkins Hospital  

Why does heart health interest you?

Heart health interests me for many reasons, but I first became interested in cardiology because of my grandmother, who suffered from heart failure for many years. What keeps me interested in heart health is the chance to help and educate heart patients and their families as they go through the process and recovery of these surgeries.  

Are there any new innovation in heart health care?

New innovations in heart health and cardiac surgery continue to evolve, I’m especially interested in minimally invasive heart surgeries. Recently, new procedures have begun to come available that allow patients who require replacement of their mitral valve without a sternotomy. With this procedure a new valve is inserted using a large catheter through the patient’s femoral artery. For people who need this type of valve replacement, it is a great option for them to be able to have this procedure without the risk of having their chest opened and the extensive recovery that follows.  

Megan Cain, Clinical Assistant Professor, UofSC Nursing 

Why is heart health important?
Without offering a load of statistics, we should take very seriously that heart disease is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among men and women. When we know better, we do better—or at least that’s our goal. As a provider, I want the best for my patients and their heart health as it truly is a matter of life or death.

How do you convey this importance to nursing students?
I am an educator in the NP program where students learn about the pathophysiology of disease. There is no way to gently offer the cellular and molecular details of heart disease. They are raw and scary. What I do like to offer is the point at which the patient or provider may divert heart disease from occurring or worsening. So just a little ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, if you will, and real-life examples of how we can make a difference for our patients in relation to the crucial need for adequate heart health.


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.