Board of Directors
We thank the extraordinary individuals who commit their time, wisdom and resources to ACHA. This group oversees our leadership and our activities. Each one of our members brings a special connection to CHD, special talents and strengths to our organization.
The Board meets once a month to discuss ACHA matters. Each member spends at least 12 hours a month working for ACHA. These activities range from fundraising to working with ACHA Board committees, volunteers and staff. Their contributions, both individually and as a group, are vital to advancing ACHA’s mission and advocating for people living with CHD.
The 2018 Board of Directors
Barry Meil, Board Chair, a resident of Potomac, MD, develops commercial real estate in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Meil serves on the board of several health-related charitable organizations and runs the Meil Family Foundation. He also previously served on the ACHA Board of Directors from 2008-2013. Barry’s wife Wendy is an ACHA Ambassador. His son Jason was born with tetralogy of Fallot in 1981. Jason had corrective surgery in 1984 and is currently being seen at Children’s National Medical Center in D.C.
Cindy Huie, Vice Chair, lives in Mesa, AZ, where she and her husband, Richard, own and operate a landmark seafood restaurant. She is the mother of an adult with CHD; Andi was born with sub-aortic stenosis and has had one surgery at the age of nine years. Cindy and her daughter discovered ACHA in 2007 when they were in search of adult CHD care. They both attended the ACHA National Conference In 2008 in Philadelphia and came away very impressed with ACHA’s commitment to improving and prolonging the lives of heart defect survivors. Cindy previously served on the ACHA National Board of Directors from 2011-2016. She has actively sought to develop relationships with both CHD and ACHD medical professionals in Arizona as well as participating in awareness events with local CHD organizations. Cindy has co-chaired the Arizona Congenital Heart Walk for eight years now and often speaks to parent groups about ACHD and ensuring their children transition to the proper adult care.
John C. Fernie, Immediate Past Chair, became curious about ACHA as his young adult child with congenital heart defects discovered ACHA. They found that the organization provided extremely important support and encouragement through its forums, previous local groups, conferences, leadership and educational opportunities. John attended the 2011 ACHA national conference and was very impressed with the professionalism that ACHA exhibited during the conference as well as the commitment of patients and medical professionals to ACHA. His professional experience includes a stint as a college professor and subsequently 32 years in management positions in the finance and real estate industry. John, who has two adult children, is currently a Trustee on the Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation and has served on the governing boards of several for-profit and non-profit organizations.
Kevin Gordon, Treasurer, hasn't allowed his complex congenital heart defect (d-TGA) to keep him from a wonderful life and a successful career. Professionally, Kevin has significant experience in retail sales, sales management, advertising, marketing, consumer research, technology development, e-commerce, retail concept development, strategic planning, venture capital, mergers and acquisitions, financial strategy, and new ventures. After 20+ years in corporate life, much of it with Best Buy, Kevin spent another decade as a founding partner in a retail strategy consulting firm. Personally, Kevin has traveled much of the world, and continues to pursue his passion for friends, books, music, theater, photography, sports cars, and (spectator) sports. Kevin finally hooked up with the Adult Congenital Heart Association after he attended the 3rd National Conference held at the Mayo Clinic in 2004. Kevin is excited about the opportunity to use his skills to help others with CHD learn more about their condition. Kevin lives in Minnetonka, MN, and Palm Springs, CA, with his wife, Michelle Traeger, and Squirt, their adorable Maltese.
Nicholas Pottebaum, secretary, is an experienced finance and accounting professional, currently serving as a business analysis director at CNA, a large insurance carrier in Chicago. Prior to his current role, Nicholas was a consultant in CNA’s financial planning and analysis group, and before that he held various positions at KPMG in both audit and business valuation consulting. Nicholas holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in accounting and is a Certified Public Accountant and Chartered Financial Analyst. Nicholas was born with a coarctation of the aorta that was diagnosed and surgically repaired when he was 11. He became actively involved with ACHA in 2014 and is passionate about creating awareness around the need for CHD-specific medical treatment to save and extend lives. Nick resides in Chicago with his wife, Andrea, and son, Robert.
Dr. Jamil Aboulhosn is a cardiologist specializing in adult congenital heart disease. He is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is the current Director of the Ahmanson/UCLA Adult Congenital Heart Disease Center. He currently holds the Streisand Chair in Cardiology at UCLA. He is a renowned ACHD specialist with a focus on interventions and imaging in this population. He has performed and participated in a variety of clinical research projects in the field of adult congenital heart disease. He and his Center are involved in a number of multi-center clinical research trials and he is a founding member and former president of the Associations for Adult Research in Congenital Cardiology (AARCC). He serves on the ACHD Guideline Writing Committee for the ACC/AHA and the ABIM ACHD Board Examination Writing Committee.
Heather Abbott has more than 12 years of experience in marketing and business development. She is a Retail Marketing Consultant specializing in helping retailers manage their gift card programs and she also runs her own online travel business. Heather became involved with ACHA in 2005 after attending a regional event in New Jersey. Since then, she has served on the ACHA Board of Directors from 2008-2014, including several years as treasurer. She is also the Co-Chair of the Congenital Heart Walk Long Island and has been a champion of the Congenital Heart Walk program since its initial inception in late 2009. Heather is thrilled to be rejoining the ACHA Board in 2016 and looks forward to using her marketing and social media skills to help ACHA broaden its reach to congenital heart patients who are currently lost to proper care. In addition to her work with ACHA, Heather also serves on the Board of the Incentive Marketing Association and as a member of the Cornell University Council. In her free time, Heather loves to travel, read, attend Zumba class and train for runDisney 5K and 10K races. Heather has a BS and MBA from Cornell University and she resides in the greater New York City area with her husband.
Ronny Altman is a petroleum engineer and President of Altman Energy Inc. In addition to the energy business, he is an active investor in commercial real estate. Ronny has served on seven boards and as President or Chairman on four of those boards. He is a past Chairman of Goodwill Industries of Tulsa, Oklahoma. His son Brian was born with a congenital heart defect and has had two successful corrective surgeries. Altman has been a longtime supporter of ACHA and understands the role a parent plays in the care of an ACHD patient. In his spare time he enjoys traveling, cycling, spinning, circuit training and visiting his granddaughter, Stella. Ronny and his wife Judy reside in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Jeff Ishida is Vice President of Real Estate Development at Costco Wholesale who received his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is a Mustard corrected d-TGA and discovered ACHA in 2009 just before the placement of his first ICD. Jeff found it to be an invaluable source of information, encouragement and camaraderie for adults tackling the complex and uncharted process of aging with a CHD. Currently receiving care at the Washington Adult Congenital Heart Program at Children's National in DC, he is an avid climber, runner and paddle boarder who hopes to inspire other CHD patients to be as active as possible. Jeff lives in Reston, Virginia with his wife, Heather, and sons, Daniel and Mason.
Bonnie Johnson, Esq. was born with d-transposition of the great arteries and became involved in ACHA prior to her most recent procedure to repair pulmonary stenosis of her neo-aortic valve. While researching the procedure, Bonnie found the ACHA online discussion forums to be both a wealth of knowledge and a supportive community. After volunteering for over a decade with another national heart non-profit, Bonnie found her home at ACHA as the only non-profit solely dedicated to addressing the unique medical concerns of those living with CHD. Bonnie is passionate about creating awareness around the necessity of accessible, lifelong care for those living with congenital heart disease and believes no other organization is better situated to do so than ACHA. Bonnie is a graduate of Drexel University School of Law and currently practices in the area of criminal law. In her spare time, Bonnie enjoys investing in real estate and is an avid yogi. Bonnie strongly believes that aside from medical care, there is no greater way to take care of the adult living with CHD than through healthy diet and exercise. Bonnie resides in the Philadelphia suburbs with her husband, Abie, and rescue pup, Beau.
Aliza Marlin first committed to advocacy and awareness at age 15 by planning a “Jazzercise for Heart” fundraiser. She was introduced to the Adult Congenital Heart Association after transitioning to an adult CHD specialist and now serves as the Co-Chair of the NYC Congenital Heart Walk, an organic evolution of her teenage dedication. Aliza’s personal mission through ACHA is to gather the adult CHD community together to feel less isolated; to openly and honestly share their unique experiences in a safe environment. Aliza received her BFA from Emerson College in Boston and is a professional Event Planner for New York City’s most iconic and impactful events. She is a member of SAG-AFTRA, The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists as well as Actors’ Equity Association. As a means to find balance, Aliza is also a Certified Yoga Instructor. Aliza and her husband, Gary, live two blocks away from Times Square.
Michael Pernick, JD, was born with tetralogy of Fallot and became actively involved with the Adult Congenital Heart Association in 2011, shortly after his third open heart surgery. Michael is an attorney at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP, a New York law firm, where he practices in the litigation department and maintains an active pro bono voting rights practice. Prior to law school, he served as campaign manager on a number of political campaigns in New York and as the campaign coordinator for a national education policy organization. Michael is passionate about the Adult Congenital Heart Association because he believes the organization is uniquely suited to advocate for all Americans living with congenital heart defects. Michael is a graduate of Wesleyan University and NYU School of Law, and in his spare time he plays the fiddle in several bands. Michael grew up on Long Island and lives in Rockville Centre, New York.
Camille Richards, MSN, FNP-BC, is the program director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, MS. She received her undergraduate training at the University of Virginia School of Nursing and her graduate training at the University of Florida School of Nursing. As a Mississippi native, Camille is well aware of the medical disparities among the patient populations in the state. While researching patient education resources for her program, Camille found the ACHA website. She began communicating with the Adult Congenital Heart Association to bring attention to the unique patient issues in Mississippi in order to fill the gaps in their care. She attended the Legislative Conference in 2015 and was impressed by the impact that providers, patients and families affected by CHD have on the legislature. She joined the board in hopes of expanding CHD knowledge within her state and drawing attention to the challenges CHD patients face. In her spare time, Camille is an avid kayaker and enjoys challenging outdoor adventures with her husband, Peter.
Arwa Saidi, MB, BCh, MEd, FACC, received her degrees from the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, in 1988. She completed a residency in internal medicine/pediatrics and a fellowship in pediatric cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. After working in Dublin for several years, she returned to the United States and worked briefly in Orlando before joining the faculty at the University of Florida in 2003, where she currently serves as director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program. Residents have twice chosen her as the department’s “Outstanding Teacher of the Year.” Away from the hospital, she enjoys traveling, watching movies and running marathons.
Paul Schmidt is a career public accountant, having previously been an audit partner with Arthur Andersen and a risk advisory partner with Ernst & Young. He is currently Senior Vice President - Financial Controls for News America Marketing, following a similar role at Dow Jones, both of which are divisions of News Corporation. Previous not-for-profit experience includes Treasurer of Lifeline of Southwestern Connecticut and Treasurer of the Stamford Symphony, and Paul is currently Treasurer of the Dow Jones News Fund. Paul is a graduate of Brown University and holds an MBA from Cornell University. He was born and raised in Wisconsin where he met his wife, the Rev. Anne W. Coffman. They have lived in Connecticut for more than 30 years, where they raised their three sons, one of whom was born with transposition of the great vessels. They have relied on ACHA for guidance and support for many years with their son and Paul looks forward to joining the Board in 2018.
Susan Timmins is the mother of an adult daughter with CHD. With continual gratitude to the dedication of her daughter’s surgeons and cardiologists for providing innovative surgeries, procedures, and care from the 1980’s to present, she has volunteered over many years with several organizations and foundations committed to improving the lives of those with congenital heart defects and other serious diseases. She attended her first ACHA conference in 2006 and has participated with ACHA in DC since 2007 in advocating for CHD research funding. Susan is delighted to join with ACHA’s other board members and staff in working toward ACHA’s mission of improving and extending the lives of everyone born with a CHD. She is passionate about ensuring access to everyone with CHD to quality appropriate lifelong CHD care. She and her husband reside on the west coast of Florida where they have owned and operated a restaurant perched by the Gulf of Mexico for the past 31 years.
Ted Wagner has been active in the CHD community since his son’s 2nd open surgery in 2013. His middle son, Ben, was born with tetralogy of Fallot. Thanks to great medical teams and advances in technology, Ben has been able to enjoy a very active lifestyle. Ted is the co-founder and current co-chair for the Orange County, Ca. Congenital Heart Walk. His prior Board experience includes Habitat for Humanity, Bethany Christian Services and Art & Creativity for Healing. His professional experience includes several financial management positions in technology companies ranging from start-up to Hewlett Packard. Recently, Ted was co-owner, COO & CFO of Ascolta, a technology education company. He is currently a consulting CFO for several growing companies in a variety of industries. Ted’s education includes an MBA from University of California, Irvine and a Bachelor’s in Finance from Cal Poly Pomona. He currently resides in Orange County, Calif with his wife, Donna, and has 3 sons, all in their 20s.
Tom Wix was born with a coarctation of the aorta and a bicuspid aortic valve. Both defects went undetected until the age of 12 where he was asked to get a physical in order to try out for a soccer team. At the age of 13, the narrowing of the aorta was repaired. The bicuspid valve continues to perform normal functions and continues to be monitored with annual checkups. Tom has advanced degrees in Business and Computer Science. He has worked as an engineer, architect, consultant for numerous software related companies for over 35 years. During his professional career, he has also been an entrepreneur starting a consulting company and working for numerous companies managing the customer services departments. He has continued an active life including soccer, running, tennis, and golf and volunteering for several charities. Tom and his wife live in Alpharetta, Georgia, and he currently works for a software company as Customer Success Operations Director.