Our Mission

We save children's lives by transforming pediatric heart care in underserved parts of the world.

Our Vision

Children around the world have access to high-quality heart care.
Read Our Core Values here.


We got our start in 1969, when a young doctor serving in Vietnam asked his father in Minnesota to perform lifesaving surgery on Vietnamese children with heart disease.

Children’s HeartLink has thrived in Minnesota, a world leader in heart surgery, medical device development and global philanthropy.

We were once a medical mission organization. Now we train local medical teams in the countries where we work, making it possible for children to be treated in their own country. This is how we make a lasting impact. Last year alone we helped over 177,000 children.

Our approach has changed over the years but our commitment to helping children with heart disease has never wavered.

Meet Our Staff

We share a passion for making high-quality care a reality for children with heart disease.

  • Jackie Boucher


  • Bistra Zheleva

    Vice President of Global Strategy and Advocacy

  • Anne Betzner

    Vice President of Programs and Evaluation

  • marc vaillancourt
    Marc Vaillancourt

    Vice President of Development

  • Faith Adams

    Communications Director

  • Andreas Tsakistos

    Country Director

  • Adriana Dobrzycka

    Country Director

  • Bobbi Morris

    Events Manager

  • Veeralakshmi Rajasekhar

    In-Country India Consultant

  • Pat Tollefson

    International Programs Manager

  • Ann Odens

    Operations Manager

  • Zhanna Petersen

    Marketing Services Specialist

  • Tara Kumar

    Grant Writer

Jackie Boucher


Jackie has a passion for improving lives and has spent her entire career in health care, with a special focus on population health. She was named president of Children’s HeartLink in 2015. She previously held leadership positions at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, where she was chief operating officer and institutional officer for research, and led its Hearts Beat Back program, and at HealthPartners, the largest consumer-governed, nonprofit health care organization in the U.S. A registered dietitian, Jackie has served on the American Diabetes Association (ADA) Board of Directors. She served as editor-in-chief of Diabetes Spectrum and received the Outstanding Educator in Diabetes Award from the ADA in 2018. Jackie has an M.S. in nutrition from the University of Minnesota.

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Bistra Zheleva

Vice President of Global Strategy and Advocacy

Bistra leads our global thought leadership strategy with governments and international development institutions, and she leads our country-level growth. She has worked at Children’s HeartLink since 2003 and is a passionate advocate of improving access to care for children who need pediatric cardiac services. She serves on the boards of Global Alliance for Rheumatic and Congenital Hearts, and One Heart Health. She is also a member of the steering committee of the International Quality Improvement Collaborative, a global initiative aimed at improving cardiac care for children in low- and middle-income countries. A native of Bulgaria, Bistra has an MBA in nonprofit management from the University of St. Thomas and has studied global health at the Harvard School of Public Health.


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Anne Betzner

Vice President of Programs and Evaluation

Anne Betzner, Ph.D., oversees program development and standardization, program impact measurement, quality improvement and research efforts. Anne likes working with systems and using stories and hard statistics to improve performance for social betterment. Before joining our team she served as senior research scientist at Allina Health and was vice president for a research and evaluation firm. Anne has a master’s degree in policy analysis and a doctorate in research methods from the University of Minnesota. Anne loves serving her community through volunteering with The Martha Ripley Memorial Foundation, The Humphrey School of Public Affairs Alumni Board, The University of Minnesota Alumni Association Collegiate Council and her church.

Email Anne


marc vaillancourt

Marc Vaillancourt

Vice President of Development

Marc is a connector with a passion for building community and bringing people together to serve the greater good. A Certified Fundraising Executive, he has been active in the not-for-profit and fundraising world for more than 18 years. For the last several years, Marc has served as vice president of development and operations at Meeker Memorial Hospital and Clinics in Litchfield, MN. Prior to that he was a major gifts officer at two large health care systems and a development director for a regional community foundation. Marc is a native of Canada, equally fluent in French and English. A dedicated cyclist, Marc is also a musician and has released two albums of original piano music available on Spotify and iTunes.

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Faith Adams

Communications Director

Faith has worked in marketing communications her entire career, primarily in the medical and health care field. She worked at the University of Minnesota Foundation after a career as a consultant and writer working with a diverse group of nonprofit and for-profit clients. Health equity is a cause she cares deeply about.

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Andreas Tsakistos

Country Director

Andreas leads our programs in Brazil, China and Malaysia. Before joining our team in 2006 he worked with humanitarian aid programs in sub-Saharan Africa. He has a master’s degree from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Andreas has had wanderlust since he was a child, when he moved with his family from London to Nairobi and points in between.

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Adriana Dobrzycka

Country Director

Adriana leads our programs in India and Vietnam. Earlier in her career she worked for organizations focused on human rights, cultural competency and engaging diverse communities. Adriana has a Polish father and an Italian mother and was raised in Warsaw and Florence. She has master’s degrees in international development and public health from the University of Pittsburgh.

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Bobbi Morris

Events Manager

Bobbi is happiest when she’s planning and producing fundraising events, conferences and meetings. She’s been doing this work for a variety of organizations for 25 years. Bobbi leads the strategy and execution of our large annual fundraising event, HeartLink Gala.

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Veeralakshmi Rajasekhar

In-Country India Consultant

Based in Coimbatore, Veera is a consummate connector and trusted colleague who develops and strengthens relationships with our program partners in India. She has worked as a social work educator and practitioner, and she has a postgraduate degree in social work from the University of Madras and a predoctoral degree in psychiatric social work from NIMHANS in Bangalore.

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Pat Tollefson

International Programs Manager

Patricia Tollefson manages program quality and evaluation through database development, data quality and program improvement projects, and also supports our medical volunteers. Before joining Children’s HeartLink, Pat managed a portfolio of leadership development programs at the University of St. Thomas Center for Business Excellence, and built learning and development strategies at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. As a former respiratory therapist, she has worked with medical teams and understands the complexity of pediatric heart care. Pat has an MBA from the University of St. Thomas and is ProSci certified in change management.

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Ann Odens

Operations Manager

Ann is responsible for the development and oversight of our operations and governance systems, including human resources, information technology, physical infrastructure, financial functions and Board administration. She was previously our finance specialist and international programs assistant. Earlier in her career Ann worked as a Spanish teacher.

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Zhanna Petersen

Marketing Services Specialist

Zhanna brings both professional and personal experience to her communications position at Children’s HeartLink. Being a parent of a child with heart disease, Zhanna is passionate about making high-quality medical care a reality for more families around the world. A native of Russia, she has taught English as a second language and worked as a freelance writer. She worked at a news agency in Moscow before she met her husband and moved to Minnesota, where she earned a master’s degree in strategic communication from the University of Minnesota. 

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Tara Kumar

Grant Writer

Tara has been working in the nonprofit sector her entire career, first in Boston and then in Minneapolis. She worked at Metro Meals on Wheels, where she managed the grant submission process and programmatic work. Before that, she helped build the skills and knowledge of Minnesota grantmakers while working for the Minnesota Council on Foundations. Prior to moving to Minnesota, Tara served as a grant writer for the United South End Settlements, a settlement house in Boston. She has a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Meet Our Board of Directors

They ask hard questions and give us the guidance we need. They’re our best ambassadors and go above and beyond to support our ambitious goals. (Information current as of November 3, 2020. All directors are independent voting members.)

Jackie Boucher, President
Children's HeartLink
Jeff Evanson, Chair
Chief Commercial Officer, Outlook Therapeutics
Dannette Smith, Secretary
Secretary to the Board of Directors, UnitedHealth Group Inc.
Taryn Lynch, Treasurer
Audit Partner, Deloitte
Mark Lewin, M.D., Medical Director
Co-director, Seattle Children's Heart Center
David Overman, M.D., Medical Director
Cardiovascular Surgeon and Chief, Division of Cardiovascular Surgery, Children’s Minnesota
Tom Armitage, M.D.
Medtronic, Retired
John Babitt
Partner, Life Sciences, EY
Guillaume Bastiaens
Cargill, Retired
Anu Codaty
Vice President & General Manager, Interventional Pain, Medtronic
John Finnegan, PhD
Dean, University of Minnesota School of Public Health
Susan H. Gebelein
Business and Leadership Consulting LLC
Jeffrey Gleason
Partner, Robins Kaplan
Jeff Haan
Audit Partner and Professional Practice Partner, KPMG’s Northern Heartland Business Unit
Geoff Martha
CEO, Medtronic, Inc.
Betsy Moran
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Retired
Darren Nauss
Founder & CEO, RAZR Marketing, Inc.
Andrew Nelson
Senior Advisor, HealthPartners, Inc, and Senior Research Fellow HealthPartners Institute
Heather Hudnut Page
Vice President of Strategy and Marketing, Philips Healthcare
Robert Rosenbaum
Partner, Corporate Group, Dorsey & Whitney LLP
Kenneth Stein, M.D.
Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Rhythm Management and Global Health Policy, Boston Scientific
Patrick Stoneking
Attorney, Jeff Anderson & Associates
Elizabeth Sweeney
Children's HeartLink, Retired
Directors Emeriti
Thomas A. Keller III
Principal, Gray Plant Mooty, Retired

Meet Our International Advisory Board

They are experts in global health and advocates for children's health, and we benefit from their advice and expertise.

James A. Rice, Ph.D., Chair
Managing Director & Practice Lead, Governance & Leadership, Gallagher Integrated
Kathy Jenkins, M.D., MPH
Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School; Executive Director, Center for Applied Pediatric Quality Analytics, Boston Children's Hospital
John C. Langenbrunner, Ph.D.
Expert Advisor on Social Health Insurance, Jakarta, Indonesia
Nick Seddon
Senior Vice President, Strategy and Transformation, Optum
Kate Tulenko, M.D., MPH, MPhil, FAAP
CEO, Corvus Health
Lijing L. Yan, Ph.D., MPH
Head, NCD Research Program, Global Health Research Center, Duke Kunshan University, Kunshan, China
Liesl Zühlke, MB ChB, D.C.H., MPH, Ph.D.
Director of the Children’s Heart Disease Research Unit, Cape Town, South Africa

Our Partners and Programs