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.
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.
“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.