The 8th World Congress: A Pivotal Milestone for Children’s HeartLink 

Published August 31, 2023
Last revised Sept. 5, 2023

Once every four years, the global community in pediatric cardiology and cardiac surgery convenes for the World Congress of Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery. This year, for the 8th World Congress, over 5,700 experts and advocates gathered, making it the largest meeting of its kind. For Children’s HeartLink, the World Congress wasn’t just another event—it was a rare, invaluable opportunity. 

From hospital partners and medical volunteers to board members and our own staff, the event unified the people who breathe life into our mission. The World Congress enabled us to not only discuss the practice we deeply care about, but also to strategize on expanding access to cardiac care for children worldwide. Here’s a glimpse inside this monumental occasion.

congenital-heart-disease-call-to-actionWe spearheaded the advocacy committee for the event and secured 1,500 endorsements for the Washington D.C. Call to Action on Addressing the Global Burden of Pediatric and Congenital Heart Diseases prior to the start of the conference. The Call to Action was announced at the opening ceremony and promoted throughout the meeting. 


The Global Health and Advocacy Village brought together a community of NGOs and patient and family organizations working to improve access to pediatric and congenital heart care globally. Along with our advocacy partner, the Global Alliance for Rheumatic and Congenital Hearts(Global ARCH), Children’s HeartLink played a leading role in bringing nearly 100 organizations from 36 countries together in this hub to advocate for children. Bistra Zheleva, David Overman, M.D. from Children’s Minnesota and Amy Verstappen, President of Global ARCH co-chaired the Global Village.

 This was an excellent opportunity to see old friends and meet new ones! Our president Jackie Boucher was spotted with Harikrishnan AM from Children’s HeartLink Center of Excellence Amrita Hospital, Kochi. Hari works with 3D printing to build models of hearts for children with congenital heart disease.   


Many of our partners, volunteers, Board of Directors and International Advisory Board members attended the conference and contributed their expertise and insightful questions to lectures. We sponsored 20 partner representatives from Children’s HeartLink partner hospitals to attend the congress. 


We were grateful for the opportunity to come together, share ideas and celebrate our collective accomplishments over dinner with our esteemed International Advisory Board members. Their guidance and expertise continually shape Children’s HeartLink’s mission and empower us to reach greater heights. 


Several Children’s HeartLink partners and staff members contributed posters and presentations, including a landmark lecture from Bistra Zheleva, our vice president of global strategy and advocacy. Her presentation highlighted the urgent need for equitable access to cardiac care. You can still view our presentation schedule for more information. 


Bistra gave several presentations, this one on pivotal data that not only outlines the landscape of pediatric cardiac care but also highlights Children’s HeartLink’s transformative role in this arena. 


A special shoutout goes to our International Advisory Board member, Liesl Zühlke, MB ChB, D.C.H., MPH, Ph.D., who brought attention to our impactful Invisible Child Series. It’s experts like Liesl who help amplify our message and our mission. 


Adriana Dobrzycka, one of our country directors, took the stage to speak about the global challenges and opportunities that shape nursing education. Adriana was joined by Unnikrishnan from our partner hospital Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh, India. He shared invaluable insights about his experience with the Nursing Scientific Committee. Since 2014 the committee has organized special Nursing Sessions at the annual Pediatric Cardiac Society of India (PCSI) conference in collaboration with Children’s HeartLink.

Their collaborative presentation underscored the transformative power of education and partnership in enhancing cardiac care globally.


Pictured here are Adriana (center) and Unnikrishnan (left). They’re joined by Children’s HeartLink nursing volunteer Dr. Anna Fisk at Boston Children’s Hospital (second from left), Bistra Zheleva, vice president of global strategy and advocacy at Children’s HeartLink (second from right) and PGIMER nurse, Sunil (far right).


Kathy Jenkins, M.D. with Boston Children’s Hospital, moderated a discussion where Bruna Cury Borim (center), a dedicated nurse from Children’s HeartLink Center of Excellence Hospital da Criança e Maternidade in Brazil, spoke on the subject of Quality Improvement (QI) in pediatric cardiac care. Bruna highlighted Children’s HeartLink as an example of effective and sustainable change. 


Bruna also spoke on QI in a presentation where she gave a shout-out to Children’s HeartLink’s model as collaborative partnership with sustainable solutions. Look at that full room! 


Dr. Balu Vaidyanathan from Amrita Hospital, Kochi presented on prenatal diagnosis and gave a shout-out to trainings done by Children’s HeartLink (see our logo on his screen)! 


Dr. Mahesh Kappanayil from Amrita Hospital in Kochi speaking on heart care in low resource settings. 


We were thrilled to host over 90 global partners and volunteers for breakfast! It’s not every day that we can gather so many champions of the Children’s HeartLink mission in one room. We’re thankful to all who could attend! 

Also while we were in D.C. 


Strategic Meetings: We led a delegation of representatives from the world congress to USAID and the World Bank where we held insightful discussions raising awareness and forging new relationships. 


Diplomatic Outreach: Children’s HeartLink representatives met with the embassies of Malaysia (pictured) and Brazil to talk about the important work happening in their countries on behalf of children with congenital heart disease. Further investments and government involvement is critical to the success of our current and future partner hospitals. 

The 8th World Congress was not just an event; it was a seminal moment that brought together the leading lights in pediatric cardiology and cardiac surgery. We left the Congress invigorated, not just by the opportunities that lie ahead, but by the profound sense of responsibility we all share. The conversations, the presentations, the collaborations—they were all milestones that point to one thing: the promise of a better future for children around the globe who need cardiac care. 

As we look forward to the next World Congress in 2025, we’re filled with a sense of urgency. The insights and alliances forged in this gathering will propel us to reach more children, in more places, more effectively than ever before. Here’s to the next chapter in making pediatric cardiac care accessible for every child, everywhere. 


About Children’s HeartLink
Children’s HeartLink saves children’s lives by transforming pediatric heart care in underserved parts of the world. The global nonprofit organization (NGO), partners medical volunteers from top teaching and research institutions with doctors, nurses and health care professionals in Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam to develop or improve pediatric cardiac care programs. Since 1969, the organization has reached more than 1.5 million children.