The Ohio State University Alumni Association

College of Public Health grad shares a key takeaway of the CDC’s Million Hearts initiative.

Steven Reiss

Matthew Ritchey

Matthew Ritchey takes a big-picture view of our hearts.

A senior epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ritchey conducts research related to national cardiovascular health projects such as the Million Hearts initiative. He earned a master of public health degree from Ohio State in 2007 and currently works within the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention.

What’s the most important takeaway from Million Hearts to improve our health?

We all need to focus on the ABCS of heart health:

Aspirin use when appropriate
Blood pressure control (Only about half of Americans who have hypertension have their blood pressure controlled.)
Cholesterol management
Smoking cessation (Tobacco use is a big risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease.)

Why is the Million Hearts initiative so important for our country’s health?

Heart disease and stroke are the first- and fifth-leading causes of death in the United States. Million Hearts brings together key partners who are needed to improve population health and implement proven, effective and inexpensive interventions that decrease the burden of cardiovascular disease. This five-year initiative set an ambitious goal of preventing 1 million heart attacks, strokes and other related events by 2017.

How did Ohio State prepare you for your career?

My experience in the College of Public Health Program for Experienced Professionals was wonderful. The flexibility of the program allowed me to keep my career at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and come to Columbus to do course work over long weekends. Within my cohort, we had many people with considerable public health experience and people like me with clinical experience. It resulted in rich discussions in class. We were able to hear and understand different perspectives, and that’s valuable when you move outside the classroom into your work life.

What advice do you have for students and young alumni?

Make sure you take some time to be introspective. You need to understand where your passion lies. In public health, there are lots of opportunities to figure out where that passion will best serve: whether it’s at the grass roots, state or national level. Take full advantage of opportunities to explore working in each of those types of environments. If you do, it will be personally enriching and make you a better overall public health professional. As your career progresses, you will find that those prior experiences, even if they aren’t directly related to the role you are currently working in, will provide you with the diversity of skills and knowledge needed to best address any public health problem you are presented with.

How’s life down south at CDC headquarters?

Even though I live in Georgia — SEC country — I’m still a Buckeye. If you yell O-H around Atlanta you can usually get an I-O!

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