Speaking from the Heart: UNCW Freshman Joins Healthcare Leaders in Nation’s Capital

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Living through six heart procedures and navigating the cost of her medical care has affected every aspect of Cassidy Collins’ life. Though she is only in her first year at UNCW, she has concerns about finding a job after graduation which will give her good, affordable insurance throughout her life.

Collins was born with a congenital heart defect. She spoke in Washington, D.C. on March 16 as an American Heart Association patient representative. She joined leaders from the AHA, the American Medical Association, the American Diabetes Association and the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network to voice significant concerns about the American Health Care Act. The Hickory native became involved with the AHA about 10 years ago, when she started speaking at elementary schools throughout North and South Carolina.

“When I was younger, I was the only person my age who needed yearly check-ups at the cardiologist,” she said. “Volunteering for the heart association helped me meet others living with heart defects, strokes and other chronic conditions.”

While raising awareness for congenital defects, Collins discovered her passion for public communication. In middle school, she began travelling to Raleigh to advocate for the AHA during their annual State Lobby Day, speaking to legislators about the importance of maintaining health awareness and disease prevention funding. She also travelled to D.C. twice to advocate for National Lobby Day. In 2015, she was selected as an AHA Youth Advocate.

Collins has ambitious plans to double major. “I have wanted to study at UNCW since middle school,” she said. “Originally, I was attracted to UNCW because of the film program. However, as I realized my passions lie in writing and public service, my focus changed to communications and creative writing.” She intends to specialize in public relations, once she declares communication studies as one of her majors. She is involved with TealTV, Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) and the Com Studies Society.

Student success and increasing post-graduation career placement are major initiatives of UNCW’s Strategic Plan. The passion with which Collins is approaching her academic career and volunteer work embody those ideals. 

A link to the March 16 press conference where Collins spoke is available online (she speaks at 23:00).

-- Caroline Cropp