Barbra Streisand Raises $22 Million for Cedars-Sinai Heart Disease Center (Exclusive)

Dr. Noel Bairey-Merz, left, and Barbra Streisand
Dr. Noel Bairey-Merz, left, and Barbra Streisand
 

Barbra Streisand has exceeded her goal of raising $20 million to boost a regenerative-medicine research fund and efforts to fight heart disease among women, a source close to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center tells The Hollywood Reporter.

“Barbra has now brought over $22 million to this cause, including her own generous gift of $10 million in matching funds,” says Dr. Noel Bairey-Merz, director of the program which in June was re-named the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center.

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Streisand played an active role in helping secure significant donations through her personal contacts with Ralph Lauren, Ronald Perelman, Sumner Redstone, Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg, Irwin Jacobs, Haim Saban and others. She also helped persuade New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to make a $1 million gift.

Some of those efforts came during a fundraiser Streisand held June 15 at her Malibu home, where couples paid as much as $100,000 to attend. Streisand sang at the event, which also was attended by President Bill Clinton, who saluted the entertainer for her efforts on women’s health.

"Women need to be educated about female cardiovascular disease, and the medical community must be propelled toward change,” Streisand told THR. “Just like with breast cancer, the impetus must come from women themselves striving to become empowered to reduce their risks for heart disease.”

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Streisand has been a supporter of the former Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute since 2007, when she learned that heart disease is the number one killer of women. More than 500,000 women die each year in the U.S. from cardiovascular disease -- exceeding all the female deaths by cancer -- and most research had been done on men, without regard to the major differences among women who are affected.

"I consider myself a well-informed person," Streisand said in a recent speech, "but when I heard these facts, I was stunned. Very few people know this. And until recently, almost no one talked about or paid attention to an epidemic that women are dying from throughout the world."

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The money Streisand has raised goes not just to research and treatment but to educational programs and prevention efforts as well. These will help men as well as women. Heart disease is also the number one killer of men in the U.S.

"Heart research done on women also helps men as well," Streisand said in her recent speech. "Take stem cell research, for example. Recently, Dr. Merz and I were talking about the work of a colleague who is trying to grow the first human heart in a petri dish. She had a breakthrough in her study when she found out that using only female stem cells was the solution. She discovered that using male stem cells didn’t work; they got totally lost. And, as we know, men -- even male stem cells -- won't ask for directions.

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"Joking aside," Streisand continued, "the heart is an amazing organ, and first and foremost we need to focus on prevention. Women’s lives are becoming increasingly demanding as they juggle the responsibilities of being wife, mother and helping to support the family. We need to take better care of ourselves. We need to slow down, reduce stress, eat better, make time to exercise … because the heart is a precious organ that needs to be protected."

The Streisand Foundation has made grants to national organizations to support work on women’s health, as well as the environment, voter education, protecting civil liberties, civil rights and nuclear disarmament.

Streisand returns to concert touring this fall with events planned in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Toronto, Chicago and elsewhere. She also returns to the big screen in the upcoming holiday season, starring with Seth Rogen in the Paramount comedy The Guilt Trip. Streisand is also an executive producer on that movie, which will mark her first on-screen appearance since Little Fockers in 2010. 

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