Individuals to be considered for the Emeritus Board are those select former Board members without whom ACHA would not have existed or realized significant growth, and who have created a legacy that will last for years or even decades to come. The first emeritus board members were announced in July 2019.
“If I were to search for an important mission—a cause worth supporting and fighting for—I would hope to give it my best, my time and treasure. When my daughter was diagnosed with a CHD at 10 days I didn’t foresee the many events, fears and hope that would surface.
When I was in my 50s, my daughter found ACHA. I volunteered in different capacities over a number of years and witnessed this small organization grow and evolve through challenges but continue to find balance, support and many more members who understood its important mission.
After serving as board chair and on the board from 2013 to 2018, I know that the committed, knowledgeable and success driven staff and board members have laid a very firm foundation.
My commitment to ACHA’s mission has taken many forms. I have complete confidence that the mission will be carried forward and am gratified that I’ll be able to serve on the Emeritus board and continue to contribute in whatever ways I’m able.”
John Fernie’s professional experience includes a stint as a college professor and subsequently 32 years in management positions in the finance and real estate industries. He has served on the governing boards of several for-profit and non-profit organizations.
“I first encountered ACHA in 2004, when I attended an ACHA National Conference at the Mayo Clinic in my home state of Minnesota. Having retired early after a highly successful career, I was looking for an opportunity to give back to the community. But I never would have guessed I would find a way that was so personal.
I was born with a complex congenital heart defect, dTGA and more, but my defect wasn’t discovered until I was two years old—too late for corrective surgery and resulting in Eisenmenger syndrome. So, becoming involved with ACHA has allowed me to connect on so many levels.
After a year, I was elected to the board of directors and served a total of four three-year board terms.
Over that time, I have seen ACHA grow and focus. I have watched the medical community put real effort into serving the nearly 2 million U.S. adults living with CHD. And I have watched with pride as ACHA’s accreditation program has a constantly growing number of institutions working to meet the standards of care that were developed by our staff, our board, and our medical advisory board.
ACHA is an organization that I am truly passionate about. It gives me great pride to be selected to join the Emeritus Board.”
In spite of Kevin Gordon’s heart defect, he had a highly successful career in sales, management, photography, advertising, corporate strategy and mergers and acquisitions, most of that time helping Best Buy grow from a tiny company into an industry leader. Kevin now splits his time between a home in Minnesota and another in California.
“I am the parent of an adult with congenital heart disease (CHD). I found ACHA more than 15 years ago while my daughter was in her 20s and experiencing some increased rhythm issues. We did some online research and found the Adult Congenital Heart Association. Through ACHA’s clinic directory, we found a cardiologist who specialized in the care of adults living with a CHD.
We then attended an ACHA National Conference in 2008; we came away from that conference so impressed with the interaction between the medical professionals and the patients/families. We were inspired by the true passion and commitment of this medical community, working alongside ACHA, to promote excellence for every adult CHD patient by increasing access to the highest level of care and later developing the standards for that care.
From then forward, I became involved in ACHA, joining the Board of Directors in 2010. I served on several committees over the years, including the Executive Committee, and became the Board Chair in 2018. Also, in 2010, I began a CHD Walk in Arizona, now called Walk for 1 in 100—appropriately named as one in every 100 babies born is discovered to have congenital heart disease. 2022 will be Arizona’s 12th Walk!
I am excited to have been chosen to sit on the Emeritus Board. I will be serving beside passionate individuals who energize me. I look forward to being a part of ACHA’s continued growth.”
Cindy Huie and her husband have owned a landmark restaurant in Scottsdale, AZ, for over 41 years. Their restaurant, Salt Cellar Restaurant, aids in the Arizona Walk for 1 in 100 by asking their vendors to donate food and services. Cindy also volunteers with the University of Arizona Health Sciences Department, assisting with a CHD surveillance project funded by the CDC.
"I was born with D-TGA and had a Mustard procedure to 'correct' it. Growing up, I would annually see my pediatric cardiologist and all seemed well. So when I went off to college, I didn’t think I needed regular care. Years passed, and I started my career and family while only periodically seeing an adult cardiologist. Just before turning 40, my wife found a cardiologist that specialized in adult congenital heart disease at Children’s National. She suggested I look to ACHA for information and support.
Through ACHA, I was able to connect to the larger CHD community, including other TGA Mustards for the first time in my life. I also found invaluable support while facing the implantation of my first ICD. I attended my first ACHA fundraising walk in 2012 and was fortunate to be accepted to the board of directors in 2017 where I served seven years, including two as Board Chair.
Working closely with this wonderful organization, I have come to realize how much needs to be done for the CHD community. We need more understanding of how our special hearts age. We need universal acceptance that we require care from certified adult CHD cardiologists and mostly, we simply need more cardiologists and caregivers who devote their work to treating and studying adults with a CHD. I am truly grateful and honored to join the Emeritus Board where I can continue to closely contribute to ACHA in achieving these objectives while also providing that special connection to the CHD community that I found years ago."
Jeff Ishida has spent over 30 years working in architecture and land development. He is the Vice President of Real Estate Development for Costco Wholesale, responsible for expansion in the Eastern US. In his spare time, he enjoys running, paddle boarding, rock climbing and cooking for his family.
Dr. Mary Kay Klein
“I have had a unique opportunity to watch ACHA grow over the last 20+ years. My daughter, Karen Klein McNulty, one of the three co-founders, was the first President of ACHA. The office was located in our home in Boston for the first seven years.
It is amazing to me that the six priorities outlined by the original Board have come to fruition: newsletter publication, mutual support, a web presence, a national ACHD resource directory, education of the general public, and the promotion of research. The conferences, walks and other events have raised the profile of ACHA, and helped to strengthen the connections among adults living with CHD, the original impetus for forming the organization. The accreditation program has improved care, and advocacy has impacted legislation. The research grants recently awarded by ACHA are another huge step forward.
I have made many efforts to continue Karen’s work, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate more fully in ACHA as a member of the Emeritus Board.”
Dr. Mary Kay Klein is retired, after having worked in various teaching and administrative positions throughout her career. She also spent many years involved in the interfaith spirituality movement in the Boston area. She was a founding Board member of ACHA, and was ACHA’s first secretary/treasurer.
“The answer to the question 'What’s that scar on your chest?' used to be 'my sister bit me.' I hid my vulnerabilities; I thought it made me appear weak to openly admit to multiple open heart surgeries. Instead of precociously disclosing that I was born with aortic stenosis, I blamed it on the family member with the sharpest teeth. Until I found ACHA.
I’ve spent a lifetime in New York City and have always received stellar, consistent care, easily transitioning from pediatric cardiology to an ACHD specialist. I never realized how uncommon that was until my doctor suggested I attend a regional ACHA conference. It was life changing. I met other adults with CHDs living vastly different lives than me. Ultimately, I realized that access to care was a privilege and not a given and that ACHA could drive real change. Committed to the highest standards of care, raising awareness, and empowering the community voice, ACHA swept my heart.
I joined the Board of Directors in 2017, serving for seven years. I’ve co-chaired the NYC Walk for 1 in 100 since its inaugural year and welcomed every opportunity to serve this organization including in-person gatherings, committee participation, federal advocacy, Wellness Wednesday Yoga class and the pandemic-born 'ACHA Café.'
It is an honor to join the ACHA Emeritus Board and continue to dedicate my passion to this extraordinary organization and community.”
Aliza Marlin began her professional career as a musical theatre performer before transitioning into the advertising industry. Currently, Aliza is the Manager of Global Creative Awards for the IPG Health Network, the most celebrated healthcare advertising network in the world.
“I became involved with ACHA in 2007. I was introduced to ACHA by a dear friend whose son also had a congenital heart defect. Our adult son, who has tetralogy of Fallot, was having some issues and went to an adult general cardiologist. We soon realized that this doctor did not understand the intricacies of congenital heart defects. We reached out to the then-CEO of ACHA, who spent over an hour explaining the importance of my son seeing an ACHD specialist. We followed the advice and credit ACHA for saving my son’s life.
We soon realized that we were not the only ACHD family who did not understand the importance of being seen by a trained specialist. In addition, we were shocked to learn how many of these people were lost to care. They thought they were 'cured' and were not following up with their doctors.
I decided I wanted to get involved in this important organization that had played such an important role in my family’s life. I joined the ACHA Board of Directors in 2009 so I could use my business and non-profit experience in order to help the rapidly growing number of adults with CHD live longer.
I feel very honored to have been selected by the board to be an Emeritus Board Member. My family and I look forward to continuing to support ACHA with our time and financial resources.”
Barry Meil is an entrepreneur who has operated several businesses throughout his career. In addition, he has served on the Board of Directors of several non-profit organizations. Barry is currently semi-retired but continues his involvement in commercial real estate.
"I went to my first ACHA National Conference in the fall of 2006 when my daughter had moved away and started college. I didn’t know what to expect, but I had a sense that there were things my daughter would need to know about living with CHD as an adult, and that this might be the place to begin learning.
Entering the conference room on the first day was profound. Here was a whole room full of adults living with CHD and family members, alongside the doctors, nurses, psychologists, who care for them. For my first time ever, I met a young woman living with the same heart defect as my daughter—and her mom. Everyone was mingling and connecting with each other and learning from each other. These were people who knew what it was like to live with CHD, people who knew there were so many unmet needs and unsolved problems, and people who were coming together to make things better.
I had come to gather information to bring back to my daughter—and I did, gathering reams of important information and resources that empowered her in learning to manage her adult CHD care. I learned there of the many ways ACHA was working to improve outcomes, and one jumped out at me as something that I as a lay person could participate in. I began traveling to Washington, DC annually to advocate with ACHA for federal legislation and funding for CHD research across the lifespan; I witnessed ACHA’s efforts leading to successful passage of two bills, funding meaningful ongoing research.
I joined ACHA’s Board of Directors in 2017 and continued volunteering in additional ways. I’ve been delighted during the time since to see ACHA’s Accreditation Program raising standards of ACHD care nationwide, the development of ACHA’s own research funding program, the formation of the Patient and Family Advisory Board, growth of Peer Mentorship, the online Clinic Directory and new Patient Resource Directory.
ACHA is an organization, and it’s also a community: a community of people living with CHD, people who love them, medical professionals who care for them, and ACHA staff, plus ACHA volunteers such as the Board, MAB, and PFAB members, Walk for 1 in 100 leaders and participants, Peer Mentors, Committee members… It’s so many committed people joining together and working together to help improve outcomes and lives of everyone born with CHD.
What ACHA does is vital—not only for every adult living with CHD, but also for every baby born with CHD who will one day become an adult.
This is a community I’m grateful for and honored to continue to be part of, now in my new role serving on the Emeritus Board."
Susan Timmins' professional life has been in the restaurant industry, co-owning and operating several restaurants with her husband over the past 40 years on Florida’s west coast. In addition to her volunteer work with ACHA, Susan also volunteers with the Congenital Heart Public Health Consortium and the Congenital Heart Initiative.
"After years of trying my hand at volunteering for numerous causes and organizations, I landed on the most logical one for me: the Adult Congenital Heart Association.
Being a lifelong CHD patient, I wanted to get behind a great cause and mission. And better yet, an organization that provides and supports CHD resources, education, and research that allows me (and others) to live a high quality and longer life.
Being a Board member for over 7 years, I have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful CHD patients, family members, and ACHA staff members with the same heart passion as me. In addition, its been a tremendous pleasure to learn more about the details of the organization and ALL the tireless time, effort and work involved to make the organization successful.
I believe EVERYONE should know what CHD is, all those impacted, and how EVERYONE can help millions of CHDers live a better and longer life. As part of the Emeritus Board, I look forward to continuing my CHD awareness and fundraising efforts to assist ACHA in every way possible—even if that involves wearing a heart costume every now and then."
Tom Wix finds himself transitioning from his full-time professional career to one of a part-time role. He continues his passion of volunteering and attempts to fit in as much running, golf, tennis, and workouts along with visiting local beer tap rooms throughout all his travels.