Women have been short-changed in matters of the heart and medicine. So says Barbra Streisand, who has been trying to address the problem with her support of the Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
She’s hosting and will perform at a hot-ticket fundraiser for the org on Thursday at her Malibu compound that also will feature a meet and greet with President Clinton and a perf by Josh Groban.
“I’ve always been disturbed by gender inequality,” Streisand said. “In a way it’s why I made ‘Yentl,’ (about) a woman in a man’s world who was not allowed to study because of her gender.”
Heart disease has traditionally been associated with men, who have been the focus of research in the field for the past 50 years, despite statistics indicating that heart disease kills more women each year than all forms of cancer combined, according to Streisand and Women’s Heart Center topper C. Noel Bairey Merz. Since 1984, more women have died from the condition than men, they add.
Merz even refers to the “Yentl syndrome,” which she describes as “if you look like a man you get treated like a man. And if you look like a woman, you don’t cut the mustard and you don’t get treated.” The distinction is important, since the small-vessel dysfunction that leads to heart disease in most women has gone largely undetected by prevailing methods. “Women are different physiologically,” Streisand said. “They have different plumbing.”
Women’s health became Streisand’s philanthropic focus about five years ago, according to Marge Tabankin, exec director of the Barbra Streisand Foundation. “And this is the area she picked because she felt it was an epidemic literally hiding under a rock,” Tabankin said.
Streisand initially ponied up $5 million to endow the center, which opened in 2006. She’s pledged roughly twice that amount in advance of Thursday’s event, which is close to meeting its $20 million goal, with tickets topping out at $100,000 a couple.
Tabankan has no doubt they could have pulled in even more coin had the event been held in a bigger venue.
“My waiting list is like a who’s who in Hollywood,” Tabankin says. “It’s hilarious.”