About Us - Bios

Updated:Oct 20,2015

Nancy Brown

Chief Executive Officer

Nancy Brown has been Chief Executive Officer of the American Heart Association (AHA) since 2009. Under her leadership, the AHA announced its bold 2020 Goal of improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent, while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent. The 2020 Goal reflects the AHA’s key priority of instilling a culture of health by improving prevention and emphasizing lifestyle modification. Brown’s leadership was instrumental in creating the AHA’s Life’s Simple 7, seven key steps that are essential to achieving ideal cardiovascular health (Manage Blood Pressure, Control Cholesterol, Reduce Blood Sugar, Get Active, Eat Better, Lose Weight, Stop Smoking).

In addition, Brown has led the AHA in launching major new initiatives including the Cardiovascular Genome-Phenome Study – a ground-breaking research enterprise focused on fulfilling the promise of precision medicine, the Science & Technology Accelerator, the CEO Roundtable, the Innovation Think Tank, and the organization’s first-ever global strategy.
Brown has held multiple leadership positions since joining the AHA in 1986, including eight years as Chief Operating Officer before being named CEO.

In addition to her work with the AHA, Brown is a board member and co-chairperson of the Steering Committee of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care. She is also the Immediate Past Chairperson of the National Health Council and serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the National Health Council, Research!America, and on the Boards of Directors of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the American Legacy Foundation and the Valentin Fuster-Mount Sinai Foundation for Science, Health and Empowerment, among others.

Brown earned a Bachelor of Science degree in communications and advertising from Central Michigan University.


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.


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. 


Sunder D. Joshi, FCA

Chief Financial Officer/Chief Administrative Officer

As Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer, Sunder Joshi is responsible for a wide range of operations at the American Heart Association.

In addition to overseeing the finances of the association, he also is in charge of technology, human resources, facilities and many other business functions necessary to keep a nationwide organization operating effectively.

Joshi began his career at the American Heart Association in 1984 as Director of Internal Audit. He held several key positions before being promoted to Chief Operating Officer, Business Operations, of the association’s Western States Affiliate in 2003. There, he oversaw a wide variety of business functions.

Joshi was named Chief Financial Officer for the entire organization in 2006, and added the Chief Administrative Officer title in 2009.

Joshi holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Bombay University, is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales, and received his CPA certification from the Colorado Institute of Certified Public Accountants.


Suzie Upton

Chief Development Officer

As Chief Development 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.


Mark Creager


Mark Creager, M.D., FAHA, is president of the American Heart Association for its 2015-16 fiscal year.

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

Creager is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of Vascular Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. On July 6, 2015, Creager assumes the position of director of the Heart and Vascular Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and professor of medicine at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

He was the 2011-13 chairperson of the association’s Research Committee and served from 2002 to 2005 as inaugural chairperson for the organization’s Council on Peripheral Vascular Disease. He is also a past chairperson of the association’s Strategic Planning Task Force. He has published more than 440 scientific papers, and was the lead editor of the 2012 textbook, “Vascular Medicine, 2nd Edition: A Companion to Braunwald’s Heart Disease.”

Read profile on Mark Creager

Alvin Royse


Alvin Royse, J.D., CPA, is the 2015-17 chairman of the board of the American Heart Association.

As chairman, Royse 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.

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

Read profile on Alvin Royse


Raymond Vara Jr.


Raymond Vara Jr. is the 2015-17 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.



James Postl


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

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

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.



Steven Houser


Steven Houser, Ph.D., FAHA, is president-elect of the American Heart Association. He is director of the Cardiovascular Research Center and Laura H. Carnell Professor of Physiology at Temple University in Philadelphia.

He was the 2013-15 chairperson of the association’s Research Committee and is a member of the Advocacy Coordinating Committee, Corporate Operations Coordinating Committee, Executive Committee, Manuscript Oversight Committee, Nominating Committee, and Science Advisory & Coordinating Committee.

A volunteer since 1995, Houser is also a longtime member 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.


Bernie Dennis

Immediate Past Chairman

Bernie Dennis is the immediate past chairman of the American Heart Association. Dennis is owner of Dennis Associates, LLC, a management consulting firm in Sudbury, Mass., which he founded after retiring in 2004 as vice president at Oracle Corporation. Previously, Dennis was an executive at Eastman Kodak.

A volunteer for more than 15 years, Dennis was the association’s secretary-treasurer in 2011-12, chairman of the association’s Founders Affiliate from 2008 to 2010, and is also a past chairman of its Rochester, N.Y. Division. In 2010-11, Dennis chaired the association’s Workplace Giving Initiative, and has also been active in engaging employees from leading companies in volunteerism.

As chairman from 2013 to 2015, Dennis’s leadership and business acumen were critical to developing key AHA initiatives including the 2014-17 Strategic Plan, the Life is Why branding and marketing platform, and the Vision for Volunteerism movement. Dennis has also been a passionate supporter of AHA advocacy priorities including CPR in Schools and smoke-free air legislation, and represented the association at meetings with the National Insitutes of Health and with Capitol Hill legislators at the organization’s 2015 You’re the Cure on the Hill event.


Elliott Antman

Immediate Past President

Elliott Antman, M.D., FAHA is the immediate past president of the American Heart Association. He is professor of medicine and associate dean for clinical/translational research at Harvard Medical School and a senior physician in the Cardiovascular Division of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

A highly respected leader in cardiovascular research, he has authored or co-authored more than 700 scientific articles and led numerous multicenter trials. Antman has been an AHA volunteer since 1977, and among his many leadership roles, he chaired the association’s Committee on Scientific Sessions Program in 2011 and 2012.

As president, Antman emphasized the importance of technology and data strategies in advancing cardiovascular and brain health and improving patient outcomes. He chaired the AHA’s first-ever Data Summit in April 2015 and provided key guidance for the association’s inaugural Health Tech Summit in September 2014.