Volunteer for 23 Years: Dr. Joe Dearani Receives Founders Award



Dr. Joseph A. Dearani from Mayo Clinic received Children’s HeartLink’s Founders Award during our gala in Minneapolis on October 25, 2019. He has been a Children’s HeartLink medical volunteer for 23 of our 50 years.

This annual award was established in honor of our founder Dr. Joe Kiser, to recognize individuals who demonstrate extraordinary dedication and contributions to the Children’s HeartLink mission.

Dr. Dearani is the cardiac surgery chair at Mayo Clinic. He has led Mayo medical volunteer teams on training visits to Colombia, China, Brazil and India. He also serves as Medical Director on the Children’s HeartLink Board of Directors and has co-authored papers about Children’s HeartLink’s approach and impact.

Dr. Dearani in Colombia with Children’s HeartLink, 1998


“His imprint and impact on Children’s HeartLink have made a huge difference. From recruiting top medical volunteer teams to providing guidance and leadership to our staff and board, and sharing his expertise with doctors and medical teams around the world,” says Children’s HeartLink President Jackie Boucher. “His efforts have saved the lives of countless children.”

“Dr. Kiser was a mentor. He was a role model. He was a hero. He really was a human being extraordinaire, and he was a dear friend to me,” said Dr. Dearani after receiving the award.

“I think about the vision, the mind and the heart of Dr. Kiser. This organization started 50 years ago with one child coming over here for a charitable surgery, followed by many more children up into the early 1990s. And then we took a different approach and assembled medical teams to go and train people so that we could create a sustainable model. And now that has evolved into a program where we are training people who will be training more people. So we’ve gone from one to one million in 50 years–the seemingly impossible to the amazingly incredible.

“When I hear the words ‘compassion,’ ‘tenacity,’ ‘expertise’ and ‘community,’ to me that is the moral core of Children’s HeartLink. That’s why we are here 50 years later and one million children later.”

Children’s HeartLink now works in five countries: Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam. We focus on training in-country medical providers. The training is done in partnerships with top medical volunteer teams from the US, Canada and the UK. Last year alone, 4,000 medical providers were trained and went on to serve 171,000 children. In our 50 years, we have helped over one million children with heart disease.

Read more about our work here.