To save the lives of children with heart disease, we partner with organizations to train medical teams, provide education and transform health care in underserved parts of the world.
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.
Our approach has changed over the years but our commitment to helping children with heart disease has never wavered.
Meet Our Staff
Our team is hardworking, friendly and resourceful. We share a passion for making high-quality care a reality for more kids with heart disease.
Bistra ZhelevaVice President of International Programs
Anne BetznerDirector of Evaluation and Research
Walter AbramsonDirector of Leadership Giving
Chandra GruberDirector of Corporate and Foundation Giving
Faith AdamsCommunications Director
Barb SimonsonFinance Director
Andreas TsakistosCountry Director
Adriana DobrzyckaCountry Director
Bobbi MorrisEvents Manager
Veeralakshmi RajasekharIn-Country India Consultant
Rajashree PanickerMonitoring and Evaluation Consultant
Sarah LovernClinical Data and Quality Improvement Analyst
Ann OdensFinance Specialist
Courtney GeolatInternational Programs Assistant
Aleta NimlosExecutive Assistant
Kate GrzywaczProject Management Specialist
Jackie has a passion for improving lives and has spent her entire career in health care. She was named president of Children’s HeartLink in 2015. She previously held leadership positions at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation and HealthPartners, the largest consumer-governed, nonprofit health care organization in the U.S. Jackie has an M.S. in nutrition from the University of Minnesota.
Vice President of International Programs
Bistra leads the direction and strategy for our international programs. She also serves on the steering committee of the International Quality Improvement Collaborative for Congenital Heart Surgery in Developing World Countries. A native of Bulgaria, Bistra has an M.B.A. in nonprofit management from the University of St. Thomas and has studied global health at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Director of Evaluation and Research
Anne Betzner, Ph.D., oversees the organizational strategy and implementation of program impact measurement, quality improvement and research efforts, and scientific publications. Before joining our team she served as senior research scientist at Allina Health. Prior to that she was vice president at Professional Data Analysts. Anne has a master’s degree in policy analysis and a doctorate in educational psychology, quantitative methods in education, both from the University of Minnesota.
Director of Leadership Giving
Wally advances our mission through charitable giving from individuals and families. He cares deeply about connecting with people who are passionate about saving the lives of children with heart disease. Wally has worked in fundraising for 25 years, for the United Negro College Fund and Minnesota Land Trust, among others. He joined our team in 2015.
Director of Corporate and Foundation Giving
Chandra has a wealth of experience in corporate philanthropy. She worked at St. Jude Medical for 12 years, where she last served as Senior Manager of Corporate Giving. More recently she was Senior Manager of Global Philanthropy and Corporate Giving at General Motors. Chandra has leadership experience in corporate citizenship through Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship and a vast network of peers who share her passion for this work.
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.
Barb believes that providing sound financial management and advice strengthens organizations like ours, and she gets great satisfaction from helping us do a world of good. An independent consultant and an expert in nonprofit finance, Barb advises many nonprofit organizations in addition to Children’s HeartLink.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Monitoring and Evaluation Consultant
Rajie assesses and reports on the impact of our pediatric cardiac programs in the developing world. Based in Coimbatore, India, she has worked with the Public Health Foundation of India and Karnataka Health Promotion. She has an MPH degree from The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she specialized in international health systems and health priorities.
Clinical Data and Quality Improvement Analyst
Sarah divides her time between Children’s HeartLink and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, where she works as an intensive care nurse. Her first-hand experience caring for children after heart surgery equips her to offer guidance to our partners working to improve their quality of care. Sarah has an M.S. in nursing from East Carolina University.
Ann supports our vendor relationships related to finance and assists with budgeting, restricted grants, payroll, accounts payable and other key finance functions. She was previously our international programs assistant. Earlier in her career she worked as a Spanish teacher.
International Programs Assistant
Courtney came to Children’s HeartLink from Nacel Open Door, where she was a travel coordinator assisting international exchange students. She is passionate about other cultures and spent time in the Philippines working with at-risk girls.
Aleta has a deep and abiding interest in other cultures. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Minnesota in Spanish Trans-Atlantic History, focusing her thesis on the history of smallpox in Peru as part of her emphasis on the Early Modern History of Medicine. She has served as an organizational liaison to the Consulate of Mexico, and came to Children’s HeartLink most recently from Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities.
Project Management Specialist
Kate oversees IT strategy, office redesign and other special projects. Kate grew up in Poland and moved to Minneapolis with her family when her physician husband accepted a medical research position. She has an M.A. in German studies.
Meet Our Board of Directors
They ask hard questions and give us the guidance we need. They’re our best ambassadors. And they regularly go above and beyond to support our ambitious goals.
Joseph Kiser, M.D., Founder
Jackie Boucher, PresidentChildren's HeartLink
John Finnegan, Ph.D., ChairProfessor and Dean, University of Minnesota School of Public Health
Geoff Martha, Vice ChairExecutive Vice President and Group President, Restorative Therapies Group, Medtronic, Inc.
Susan Gebelein, SecretaryFounder and President, Savannah Consulting LLC
Jannie Herchuk, TreasurerAudit Partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP
Joseph Dearani, M.D., Medical DirectorChair of the Division of Cardiovascular Surgery, Mayo Clinic and Professor of Surgery, Mayo College of Medicine
David Overman, M.D., Medical DirectorCardiovascular Surgeon and Chief, Division of Cardiovascular Surgery, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Guillaume BastiaensCargill, Retired
Mary McMahon BuschSenior Vice President Emerging Markets and Australia/New Zealand, Abbott, International Division
Jeff EvansonManaging Director and MedTech Practice Lead, Life Science Practice, Navigant
Jeff HaanAudit Partner and Professional Practice Partner, KPMG’s Northern Heartland Business Unit
Tom JollieSenior Vice President, Padilla
Andrew NelsonSenior Advisor, HealthPartners, Inc, and Senior Research Fellow HealthPartners Institute
Michael O'LearyOffice Managing Partner, Ernst & Young
Heather Hudnut PageMedtech Consultant
Robert RosenbaumPartner, Corporate Group, Dorsey & Whitney LLP
Janet SchutzCommunity Leader
Dannette SmithSecretary to the Board of Directors, UnitedHealth Group Inc.
Kenneth Stein, M.D.Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Rhythm Management and Global Health Policy, Boston Scientific
Patrick StonekingAttorney, Robins Kaplan LLP
Elizabeth SweeneyChildren's HeartLink, Retired
David AndreasCommunity Leader
Thomas A. Keller IIIPrincipal, Gray Plant Mooty
Meet Our International Advisory Board
They are advocates for children's health. Their expertise in global health and cardiology are matched by their compassion and passion for a more humane world.