A Journey toward a Healthy Heart

Living with heart disease can be daunting, but there is hope. By adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, individuals can take control of their well-being and improve their quality of life. Key practices can help people with heart disease effectively manage their condition and promote long-term heart health.

In the realm of cardiac health care, a member of the Vol nurse family stands at the forefront, showcasing exceptional compassion, expertise, and commitment. Robin Harris, clinical associate professor and chair of the RN to BSN program, has been caring for patients with cardiovascular disease for over 30 years. 

With a background rooted in clinical experience, Harris began her journey in health care when she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from East Tennessee State University. Building upon her foundational knowledge, she pursued a Master of Science in Nursing with a focus on critical care nursing from the University of Virginia. Driven by a passion for advancing patient care, she further honed her expertise through a post-master’s certificate in adult health and ultimately earned her PhD in nursing from the University of Tennessee.

Harris’s area of interest lies in the comprehensive care of patients with cardiovascular disease, particularly those with difficult-to-manage lipid disorders that place them at increased risk. 

“I worked as a nurse practitioner in a private cardiology practice and served as the clinical director of a heart failure clinic,” said Harris. “It was during that time caring for patients with advanced cardiovascular conditions that my focus expanded beyond treatment alone.”

Deeply intrigued by the potential of preventive interventions, Harris delved into researching the benefits of physical activity in patients with heart failure and the positive impact of exercise on older adults. 

“Through my studies, I discovered that lifestyle changes are not overnight miracles but a journey that individuals must undertake to incorporate better dietary choices and increased physical activity into their lives,” she said. 

She recalls impactful stories of patients who successfully made important lifestyle changes. 

“Witnessing their progress brought me immense joy,” said Harris. “Patients who embraced physical activity found themselves less fatigued, sleeping better, and often required less medication due to improvements in blood pressure and lab values resulting from weight loss.”

Those stories reinforced the understanding that lifestyle changes are a powerful tool in managing heart disease.

Harris envisions a future in health care that begins with fostering healthy habits early in life. 

“Efforts toward better cardiovascular health should not begin at age 50 but rather should be well established by age 50,” said Harris. “By educating and partnering with young people, children, and young adults, I hope to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle for overall well-being and cardiovascular disease prevention.”


Kara Clark (865-974-9498, kmclark2@utk.edu)