By Ashley Benkarski

NASHVILLE, TN — You may remember him from his time on the Boston Celtics and later as coach for the Houston Rockets, but Don Chaney has traded his court strategy for ATTR-CM awareness advocacy.

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), in a joint effort with Pfizer and the Voices of the Heart program, held a virtual informational event to raise awareness of hereditary heart failure.

Hereditary transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy (ATTR-CM) is a serious and often overlooked cause of heart failure among Black/African Americans and AfroCaribbeans.

The event was hosted by Pastor Cornelius Hill of the Second Missionary Baptist Cooperative Ministries and Chaney was joined by cardiologist and Fisk/Meharry alum Dr. Don Rowe to discuss the signs and symptoms of hereditary ATTR-CM.

The two types of this condition are wild and hereditary; Chaney was diagnosed with the hereditary type that is passed down through a relative and can only be diagnosed through genetic testing. 

Dr. Don O. Rowe, MD, FACC

In most instances, those diagnosed with ATTR-CM will have genetic testing to determine the type. 

The most common gene mutation associated with hereditary ATTR-CM in the U.S., V122I (pronounced ‘vee-one-twenty-two-eye’), is found almost exclusively in African Americans, representatives said. Approximately three to four percent of African Americans are thought to have the mutation, although not all individuals with the V122I mutation develop symptoms of hereditary ATTR-CM. 

Symptoms from hereditary ATTR-CM can occur as early as 50 to 60 years old regardless of gender, representatives said. Chaney began noticing numbness in his hands which he mistook for carpal tunnel syndrome—not surprising considering his career, but this was just one of the early symptoms of hATTR-CM to come.

You can find Chaney’s story, a discussion guide and general information on hATTR-CM at

Through a series of local informational events, Voices for the Heart aims to educate communities about the signs and symptoms of hereditary ATTR-CM and provide information that encourages community members who have heart failure and symptoms of hereditary ATTR-CM to talk to their doctor.