About Us - Bios

Updated:Mar 28,2018

John Warner, M.D., FAHA


John Warner, M.D., FAHA is the 2017-18 president of the American Heart Association. He is Executive Vice President for Health System Affairs, UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Also at UT Southwestern, he is the Jim and Norma Smith Distinguished Chair for Interventional Cardiology.

As president, Warner is chief volunteer scientific and medical officer, responsible for medical, scientific and public health matters.

Warner is chairperson of the association’s Science Advisory & Coordinating Committee and also a member of its Advocacy Coordinating Committee, Corporate Operations Coordinating Committee, Executive Committee, and International Committee. He was the 2012-14 president of the association’s SouthWest Affiliate, and the 2010-12 president of its Dallas Division. He has been a member of the association’s national board of directors since 2014.

He has been a leading voice in local advocacy initiatives in priority areas including smoke-free air, CPR training, and systems of care. He chaired the association’s Advocacy Coordinating Committee from 2014 to 2017.


James Postl


James Postl is the 2017-19 chairman of the board of the American Heart Association. He is the retired president and chief executive officer of Pennzoil-Quaker State Company.

As chairman, Postl is responsible for the overall administration of business affairs, public relations and fundraising and will preside over meetings of the board of directors and Executive Committee.

Postl has been a member of the AHA’s Board of Directors since 2010, and is also chairperson of its Executive Committee and a member of its Advocacy Coordinating Committee, Audit Committee, Corporate Operations Coordinating Committee, International Committee, and Nominating Committee. He was the 2014-16 chairman of the association’s SouthWest Affiliate and co-chaired the organization’s International Committee from 2013 to 2015.

Postl became a volunteer in 2001 in the Houston area, and has played a leading role in fundraising for local events including Heart Walk and Heart Ball. He chaired the Houston Heart Walk in 2003.


Bertram L. Scott


Bertram L. Scott is the 2017-19 chairman-elect of the board of the American Heart Association. He is senior vice president of population health and value based care at Novant Health.

Scott was the 2013-16 chairperson of the AHA’s Communications Coordinating Committee, and is currently a member of the organization’s Board of Directors, Advocacy Coordinating Committee, Corporate Operations Coordinating Committee, Executive Committee, and Institute for Precision Cardiovascular Medicine Executive Committee.

In 2015, he received the AHA’s Award of Meritorious Achievement, which is presented annually in recognition of outstanding national volunteer service.


Dr. Ivor Benjamin M.D., FAHA


Ivor Benjamin, M.D., FAHA is 2017-18 president-elect of the American Heart Association. He is director of the Cardiovascular Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Benjamin is chairperson of the association’s Research Committee and a member of its Board of Directors, Corporate Operations Coordinating Committee, Executive Committee, International Committee and Science & Advisory Coordinating Committee. He is also a longtime member of the association’s Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences and Council on Clinical Cardiology.

Benjamin is the recipient of numerous medical honors, including the Pioneer Award of the National Institutes of Health and the Dr. Daniel D. Savage Memorial Service Award of the Association of Black Cardiologists.


Alvin Royse, J.D., CPA

Immediate Past Chairman

Alvin Royse, J.D., CPA is the immediate past chairman of the American Heart Association. Royse is a retired senior partner with the national accounting firm of Deloitte, where he was Global and U.S. National Managing Partner for Tax Industries and Tax Marketplace Development.

A volunteer since 1997, Royse was the association’s secretary-treasurer in 2012-13, chairman of the association’s Western States Affiliate from 2008 to 2010, and is also a past chairman of its San Francisco Metro board. In 2010, he was named the Western States Affiliate’s Volunteer of the Year. His leadership and business acumen have been critical to the development of key AHA initiatives, including the 2017-20 Strategic Plan and Strategic Value Proposition.

He is currently a member of the Hillsborough, California City Council and previously served two terms in the North Dakota State Legislature.


Dr. Steven Houser, Ph.D, FAHA

Immediate Past President

Steven Houser, Ph.D., FAHA is the immediate past president of the American Heart Association. He is senior associate dean of research, chairperson of the department of physiology, and director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at Temple University in Philadelphia.

A volunteer since 1979, Houser has been a passionate champion of the association’s research program and its critical role in inspiring the careers of young investigators. He was the 2013-15 chairperson of the association’s Research Committee.

Houser is also a longtime member and past chairperson of the association’s Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences. In 2013, he received the council’s Distinguished Achievement Award and Thomas W. Smith Memorial Lecture Award.


Raymond Vara Jr.


Raymond Vara Jr. is the 2015-18 treasurer of the American Heart Association.

Vara is president and chief executive officer of Hawai‘i Pacific Health in Honolulu, Hawaii. As treasurer, he is responsible for the funds and securities of the American Heart Association.

He is the 2015-16 chairperson of the association’s Corporate Operations Coordinating Committee and Budget Review Subcommittee, a member of the Audit Committee, and has been a member of the Board of Directors since 2011. He was the 2009-11 chairman of the association’s former Pacific Mountain Affiliate.  


Nancy Brown

Chief Executive Officer

Nancy Brown has been Chief Executive Officer of the American Heart Association (AHA) since 2009. The Association is widely known and highly respected as the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated to preventing, treating and defeating cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

During her tenure as CEO, the AHA has become a global leader in the discovery and dissemination of heart disease and stroke science. Notably, under Nancy’s leadership the Association announced its bold new 2020 health impact goal: To improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent. Nancy’s drive to set a brave long-term goal, at a time when many other organizations were focused on short-term needs, has provided a rallying point for the Association’s millions of volunteers, staff, and donors.

Nancy has also led the organization to a number of significant advances in the time that she has served as its top staff executive, including: a laser focus on prevention and improving cardiovascular health; instilling a culture of innovation spearheaded by the AHA’s Innovation Think Tank, which has developed a number of critical new mission-aligned and revenue business enterprises for the Association; creating the AHA’s CEO Roundtable, comprised of CEOs of many of the largest and most influential corporations in America focused on innovating new solutions for health in the workplace; spearheading the AHA’s Institute for Precision Cardiovascular Medicine, a ground-breaking research enterprise focused on fulfilling the promise of individualized medicine; launching One Brave Idea™, an unprecedented, $75 million research collaboration with Verily and AstraZeneca; developing the Association’s first-ever integrated global strategy; and launching new revenue strategies to expand individual giving/major gifts and increase the Association’s revenue and mission impact.

In addition to her tireless efforts for the AHA, Nancy shares her passion for improving the health of individuals in the U.S. and globally by serving as a member of the Boards of Directors of, the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care, Research!America, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Truth Initiative, and the Valentin Fuster-Mount Sinai Foundation for Science, Health and Empowerment; as a member of the Executive Committees of Research!America; and as a member of the Qualcomm Life Advisory Board, the FasterCures Research Acceleration and Innovation Network Advisory Council, the Healthcare Advisory Board to the Bipartisan Policy Center’s CEO Council on Health and Innovation, and Leadership18. She also previously served as Chairman of the Board of the National Health Council.

Prior to being named CEO, Nancy served as AHA's Chief Operating Officer for the eight prior years. In this role she managed the Association's mission, science and operations functions and led the AHA's integrated strategy to achieve its 2010 Impact Goal to reduce coronary heart disease, stroke and risk by 25 percent. Notable accomplishments also included the creation of the AHA’s Go Red for Women to advance women’s cardiovascular health and the development of a suite of quality improvement programs including Get With The Guidelines. She has held multiple leadership positions at the AHA since her start in 1986 leading fundraising initiatives in the Michigan Affiliate, including serving as the Executive Director in Metro Detroit, as well as leading the AHA’s work as Executive Vice President of the former Massachusetts and former New England Affiliates. Prior to joining the AHA, Nancy also served her home state of Michigan as Director of Development/Deputy Director of the Endowment Campaign for the Michigan Cancer Foundation, and as Special Events Director for Mount Carmel Mercy Hospital in Detroit.


Suzie Upton

Chief Operating Officer

As Chief Operating Officer for the American Heart Association, Suzie Upton oversees the association’s nationwide fundraising and volunteerism efforts.

She is accountable for volunteerism strategy and fundraising that includes the field campaign, planned giving, individual and major gifts, and corporate relations. She is also accountable for creating additional revenue sources through innovative approaches to fundraising and new business models.

Growing revenue and volunteer resources is critical to saving and improving lives through research and education. These resources are key to achieving the association’s 2020 Impact Goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.

Upton joined the American Heart Association in 1990 and was promoted to Vice President of Development in 1998. She was named Executive Vice President of Development in 2002 and Chief Development Officer in 2010.

Upton earned her degree in business administration in marketing/management from Baylor University.


Rose Marie Robertson, M.D., FAHA

Chief Science and Medical Officer

Rose Marie Robertson is Chief Science Officer of the American Heart Association. In this role, she is responsible for the overall science and medical policies and initiatives of one of the nation’s leading science-based organizations, including its work in supporting and accelerating biomedical research, in publishing the leading medical journals in cardiovascular and stroke science, and in providing a home for the broad range of professional members of the association.

Dr. Robertson also serves as the association’s science representative to outside organizations, both governmental and private.

Before joining the association in 2003, she also served as a longtime volunteer, including a term as the association’s president in 2000-01.

Dr. Robertson is professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she created and directed the Vanderbilt Women’s Heart Institute. Her academic research career has focused on autonomic cardiovascular control. 

Dr. Robertson has served on numerous review and advisory committees for the National Institutes of Health, the American College of Cardiology and the European Society of Cardiology. She currently chairs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s National Advisory Committee for the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Award. 

She received the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Partner in Public Health Award in 2001. She is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, a founding member of the American Autonomic Society, and a founding member and past President of the Association for Patient-Oriented Research.

She received her M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1970 and trained in internal medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital and in cardiology at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. 


Meighan Girgus, MBA

Chief Mission Officer

Meighan Girgus is Chief Mission Officer of the American Heart Association, responsible for a wide range of organizational efforts that support our mission: Building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

Among the many areas Girgus oversees are strategic planning, the American Stroke Association, consumer health programs, CPR and First Aid training, communications, advocacy and healthcare quality. 

Girgus has spent much of her career dedicated to improving the quality of the healthcare delivery system. She has been integrally involved in multiple national panels and writing groups dedicated to fighting cardiovascular disease. She was a co-author of the groundbreaking “Recommendations for the Establishment of Primary Stroke Centers,” published in JAMA, which was the precedent for a radical shift in stroke care in the United States and the premise for The Joint Commission’s Primary Stroke Center certification program.

Girgus joined the American Heart Association in 1996. Before her promotion to Chief Mission Officer in 2009, she served as Executive Vice President of Health Care for seven years.

Girgus earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin, her Master’s in Business Administration from Southern California University, and completed her Graduate Marketing Certification at Southern Methodist University.


Larry Cannon

Chief Administrative Officer and Corporate Secretary 

As Chief Administrative Officer and Corporate Secretary, Larry Cannon drives the American Heart Association’s day-to-day business operations through the design and implementation of best practices and strategic planning. In addition to overseeing all financial management, he is responsible for the Association’s technology, human resources, legal, facilities and other strategic business investments and operations.

Before joining the American Heart Association in May 2017, Cannon was Chief Administrative Officer, General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer and Corporate Secretary for FTS International, Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas. FTS International is an oil and gas well completion company with operations in North America and China. Prior to that, Cannon was a corporate attorney for Jones Day in Dallas, and Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago, where he structured and negotiated domestic and international securities offerings, mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and other corporate finance transactions.

Cannon began his career as a certified public accountant with Ernst & Young, LLP. He is an alumnus of Baylor University and the DePaul University College of Law.



Gerald Johnson, MBA

Chief Diversity Officer

As Chief Diversity Officer for the American Heart Association (AHA), Gerald brings a wealth of experience in building brands and driving sales results for great brands including Lever 2000, Oreo, Chips Ahoy, Dr Pepper, 7-UP, Snapple, Healthy Choice, Orville Redenbacher and Earvin “Magic” Johnson at fortune 100 companies including Unilever, Nabisco, Cadbury Schweppes, Dr. Pepper/7-UP, ConAgra Foods and Magic Johnson Enterprises. During his tenure he’s held various leadership positions in Marketing, most recently as Chief Marketing Officer for Magic Johnson Enterprises and the Magic Johnson Foundation with accountability for leading marketing across all businesses, as well as driving revenue and sales for Strategic Alliances, Licensing and Fund Raising.

An industry leader and sought out speaker, Gerald currently holds responsibility as Chair of the Sponsorship and Event Marketing Committee for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and other advisory board roles.

From a volunteer leadership perspective, Gerald is committed to making a difference in communities nationally by serving on committees and boards over the years at The American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Catholic Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Meals on Wheels.


John Meiners

Chief of Mission Aligned Businesses

John Meiners is Chief of Mission Aligned Businesses for the American Heart Association (AHA). In this key role, John leads the development and expansion of AHA’s businesses that support its global mission to reduce mortality from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 25 percent by 2025. Additionally, he assumes responsibility for furthering AHA’s development of new products, technology platforms and services.

The four business segments that fall under John’s leadership are Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC), Workplace Health, Global Programs and National Corporate Relations. The Emergency Cardiovascular Care business is comprised of more than 4,000 training centers and 450,000 instructors who train 18 million people per year in 80 countries.

In his previous position as Executive Vice President for the ECC division, the program grew by an average of 30 percent each year from 2010-2016. Additionally, John oversaw AHA’s activity outside of the United States, and the development of AHA’s global science and health improvement programs. This included the establishment of seven international AHA offices and staff to support the emerging collaborative work of AHA in science, professional education, advocacy and health improvement.

John began his career with the AHA in 1990 and has held various roles throughout the association, including Executive Vice President for the Great Rivers Affiliate of the AHA from 2006-2010 and Executive Vice President for the Ohio Valley Affiliate from 2003-2006.

Before joining the AHA, John was an associate with Dale Carnegie Training Systems and Director of Development at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. While at Eckerd, he helped develop and lead the volunteer maritime search and rescue team, EC-SAR (Eckerd College Search and Rescue).

John is a graduate of Eckerd College and the US Coast Guard’s National Search and Rescue School at Governors Island, New York.


Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., FAAFP

Chief Medical Officer for Prevention and Chief of the Center for Health Metrics and Evaluation

Eduardo Sanchez serves as Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Prevention and Chief of the Center for Health Metrics and Evaluation for the American Heart Association (AHA). Prior to joining AHA, he served as Vice President and CMO for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) where he focused on worker and worksite wellness, clinical prevention, and chronic disease management, particularly diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Sanchez led the Institute for Health Policy at the University of Texas (UT) School of Public Health as Director from 2006 to 2008. From 2001 to 2006, he served as Texas Commissioner of Health, Texas’ state health officer. He led the Texas Department of State Health Services from 2004 to 2006 and the Texas Department of Health from 2001 to 2004. And he served as the local public health officer in Austin-Travis County from 1994 to 1998.

Dr. Sanchez currently serves as Chair of the Texas Public Health Coalition (TPHC) and the National Commission on Prevention Priorities (NCPP). He co-chairs the Dallas Health and Wellness Alliance for Children. From 2008 to 2012, he served as chair of the Advisory Committee to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He serves on the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Roundtable on Obesity Solutions and on the Board of Directors of Trust for America’s Health, AcademyHealth, and the CATCH Global Foundation. He is a member of the National Quality Forum (NQF) Disparities Standing Committee on and the IOM Committee on Evaluating Approaches to Assessing Prevalence and Trends in Obesity. He serves on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow Advisory Board.

He is the recipient of the 2011 Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) Alumni Award and the 2011Texas Public Health Association (TPHA) James E. Peavy Memorial Award. In 2005, he was awarded the Texas School Health Association (TSHA) John P. McGovern Award and the 2005 American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Public Health Award. In 2004, he received the American Heart Association Louis B. Russell Memorial Award, for outstanding service in addressing healthcare disparities, by the American Heart Association.

Dr. Sanchez received an M.D. from the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical School in Dallas in 1988, an M.P.H. from the UT Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health in 1993. Prior to attending medical school, he attained an M.S. in biomedical engineering from Duke University. He holds a B.S. in biomedical engineering and a B.A. in chemistry from Boston University. Dr. Sanchez is board certified in family medicine.


Laura Sol

Chief of Staff to the CEO

As Chief of Staff, Laura Sol serves as a key staff partner to the Chief Executive Officer and has organization-wide accountability for strategic planning and new business initiatives that integrate across functions of the association. Laura is also responsible to develop strategic partnerships and relationships on behalf of the CEO, that result in highly motivated and fully engaged volunteers and partners while achieving the goals of the American Heart Association (AHA).

Laura joined the AHA’s New England Affiliate in 1999, where she worked as Vice President of Development and Field Operations for the Metro Boston area. She was promoted to Senior Vice President for the Northeast Affiliate and oversaw Development, Corporate Relations and Donor Relations. After a merger with the New York Affiliate, she became a member of the Founders Affiliate Executive Management Team and Senior Vice President for Metro Boston. In 2008, Laura was recruited to the AHA’s National Center as Vice President of Cause Initiatives and Integrated Marketing. In 2010, she assumed leadership for the American Stroke Association and Patient Markets. Her department was charged to transform research findings into consumer directed and desired programs that educate, engage and influence consumers, patients and families. Laura’s team oversaw strategic and business planning and programmatic execution for Patient conditions and risk factors.

Laura is a proud alumnus of The Ohio State University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Communications. She and her husband Jeff reside in Dallas, Texas. Her step-daughter Alice lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts.