About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. Founded by six cardiologists in 1924, our organization now includes more than 22.5 million volunteers and supporters. We fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide critical tools and information to save and improve lives. Our nationwide organization includes 156 local offices and more than 3,000 employees. We moved our national headquarters from New York to Dallas in 1975 to be more centrally located. The American Stroke Association was created as a division in 1997 to bring together the organization’s stroke-related activities.
What We Do: To improve the lives of all Americans, we provide public health education in a variety of ways. We’re the nation’s leader in CPR education training. We help people understand the importance of healthy lifestyle choices. We provide science-based treatment guidelines to healthcare professionals to help them provide quality care to their patients. We educate lawmakers, policymakers and the public as we advocate for changes to protect and improve the health of our communities.
Our Lifesaving History
Before the American Heart Association existed, people with heart disease were considered to be doomed to complete bed rest – or worse.
But a handful of pioneering physicians and social workers believed it didn’t have to be that way. They conducted studies to learn more about heart disease, eventually leading to the founding of the American Heart Association in 1924.
“We were living in a time of almost unbelievable ignorance about heart disease,” said Paul Dudley White, one of six cardiologists who founded the organization.
The early American Heart Association enlisted help from hundreds, then thousands, of physicians and scientists. The association reorganized in 1948, transforming from a scientific society to a voluntary health organization composed of both science and lay volunteers and supported by professional staff. Since then, the American Heart Association has grown rapidly in size and influence – nationally and internationally.
In 1975, the headquarters moved from New York City to Dallas to be more centrally located. Volunteer-led affiliates formed a national network of local organizations providing research funding, education, community programs and fundraising.
In the 1980s, the association became a much more visible champion of public health, starting advocacy efforts that remain active today locally across America in all 50 states and in Washington. Large gifts allowed the association to support new research projects and education programs, including more efforts to address heart disease and stroke in women and minorities.
Meet the team
Chief Medical Officer for Prevention and Chief of the Center for Health Metrics and Evaluation
Mark Creager, M.D., FAHAPresident
Mark Creager, M.D., FAHA, is 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.
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Alvin Royse, J.D., CPAChairman
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. A volunteer since 1997, Dennis 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.
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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.
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Steven Houser, Ph.D., FAHAPresident-Elect
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.
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Bernie DennisImmediate Past Chairman
Bernie Dennis is the immediate past chairman of the American Heart Association. 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.
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Elliot Antman, M.D., FAHAImmediate 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.
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Raymond Vara Jr.Treasurer
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.
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Nancy BrownChief 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.
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Meighan Girgus, MBAChief 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.
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Rose Marie Robertson, M.D., FAHAChief Science 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.
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Sunder D Joshi, FCAChief 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.
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Suzie UptonChief 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.
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Gerald Johnson, MBAChief 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.
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John MeinersChief 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.
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Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., FAAFPChief 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.
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Laura SolChief 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).
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