The Pulse Has Moved!


Peek at, you’ll see a new and refreshed Children’s HeartLink website! Along with that, we decided to move our blog over and live on the new site. Going forward, you’ll find all new blog posts here.

We’re thrilled with how the website turned out, and we hope you like it as well. Many thanks to Software for Good, based in the Twin Cities, for collaborating with us on the site design and development work.


Get to Know Children’s HeartLink: Emily Dale



What is your job at Children’s HeartLink?
I am the international programs analyst at Children’s HeartLink. I help the organization and our partners better understand and define the outcomes and impact of our collaborative work through program monitoring, data analysis and evaluation. I also coordinate our partner programs’ involvement in a quality improvement effort of the Global Forum on Humanitarian Medicine in Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery, managed by Boston Children’s Hospital, called the International Quality Improvement Collaborative for Congenital Heart Surgery in Developing World Countries (IQIC).

Where did you go to school?
I graduated with a Psychology and Spanish bachelor’s degree from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN. I went on to receive a Master’s degree in Public Health (MPH), with a concentration in global health promotion, from The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services in Washington, D.C.

What career path led you to begin working at Children’s HeartLink?
Through a Gustavus internship, I was introduced to the field of global health as a Children’s HeartLink intern, nearly 12 years ago! It was through Children’s HeartLink that I first learned of my passion for global health. My work in various maternal and child health focus-areas has given me the opportunity to work in multiple countries including the U.S., Liberia, Uganda, India, Ecuador and Russia. It is so fulfilling for me to return to the fantastic place where it all began: Children’s HeartLink!

Emily in Liberia

Emily and Bess volunteering at the Children’s HeartLink Tiramisu for Two tasting with Lunds and Byerly’s

What do you love about your job?
Children’s HeartLink’s approach to partnership and development is one that truly prioritizes relationship-building across cultures and program sustainability. These are two of the most important facets of international work, and I am honored to be part of the team that works in this manner. I also love the opportunity my role affords me to dig deep into detailed data but to also be part of the bigger picture discussions about international development and quality improvement. Finally, I love the face-to-face time I get to spend working with our partners both in their countries and when they are here in the U.S.

When you’re not at work, where can we find you?

I am typically over-sleeping, babysitting, swimming, at yoga class, watching movies, watching the MN Vikings or out exploring the Twin Cities that I love! I’m often at public health events through my involvement with the Minnesota Public Health Association as well. In the summertime, I like to spend time on the lakes in northern Minnesota.

What are some of your personal interests or hobbies?
I enjoy studying and practicing Spanish, watching documentary films, swimming, spending time with children, and shopping for bargains with my sister, Julia.

Tell us about your family. Any kids? Pets?
I grew up in Minnesota and have a mix of the common Scandinavian-German-Irish heritage that is typical of many Minnesotans. My family all live in the Midwest. I don’t have kids or pets of my own, but have plenty of chances to enjoy other people’s children and pets when I babysit and house sit!

Emily and her siblings

What is one thing that most people would be surprised to learn?

Emily and Veera at the Kingdom of Dreams

I have been babysitting for about 20 years. I thoroughly enjoy spending time with kids, and find them to be hilarious. I also know how to hypnotize people–but I never utilize that skill while babysitting, of course.  Also, though I live in Minnesota, I absolutely do not like winter at all.

What’s one of your favorite personal quotes?
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better.” – Mother Teresa

What’s your favorite place to travel – either for fun or on a Children’s HeartLink trip? Where have you been?
I love traveling anywhere and everywhere! Mexico will always be a favorite.



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This year, something unique will take place on Tuesday, November 27, 2012. It’s being called #GivingTuesday, and with your help it will make history. The goal of #GivingTuesday is to launch a day of giving at the start of the annual holiday shopping season and to show that holiday shopping can be about both giving and giving back.

People everywhere including retailers, charities, online organizations, community centers, individuals, families and more will come together with one common purpose: to help others and encourage ways to give more, give smarter and celebrate the great American spirit of contribution.

#GivingTuesday is not a new giving platform, but a call to action to celebrate giving and encourage more, better and smarter giving during the holiday season. It’s an organizing principle to encourage the creativity and energy of Americans to work together for good.

Children’s HeartLink decided to join #GivingTuesday because the aim is simple and the mission undeniably good: to increase charitable giving by all Americans.

Kathy Calvin, CEO of UN Foundation had to say this about #GivingTuesday: “#GivingTuesday offers America a new narrative, challenging us to think beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday and reminding us that the spirit of the holiday giving season should be about community and not just consumerism. The most meaningful gift we can give our children, loved ones, friends and neighbors is the commitment to work together to build a better world.”

If you would like to donate online to Children’s HeartLink, please click here. To donate by phone, please contact Jennifer Jacobsen Giese at 952-928-4860 ext. 23 or email her at

24 Hours of Giving: How You Can Help Children’s HeartLink


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Children’s HeartLink is participating in GiveMN’s Give to the Max Day, a day where thousands of Minnesota nonprofits come together to raise millions of dollars in just 24 hours. On Thursday, November 15, you can become part of this record-breaking day of generosity by donating to Children’s HeartLink. We rely on donations of all sizes to support our programs to help children with congenital heart disease get the care and treatment they need to live.

In addition to the money raised, there are some additional incentives to participating in Give to the Max Day:

  • Children’s HeartLink could receive an extra $2,500-12,500 for receiving the most dollars on Give to the Max Day!
  • Every hour, an individual donor will be randomly chosen to receive a Golden Ticket and have $1,ooo added to their donation.
  • At the end of Give to the Max Day, one donation from across Minnesota will be randomly selected for a $10,000 Supersized Golden Ticket!

When: Thursday, November 15, 2012


Follow all the Give to the Max Day news on the GiveMN Facebook page, the Children’s HeartLink Facebook page, or on Twitter by searching for #GTMD2012.

Know More Funny Business


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If you happen to find yourself in downtown Minneapolis during the annual Minnesota Art Benefit Exhibit, we encourage you to swing through the IDS Center Crystal court to view the latest batch of 3D, mixed-media artwork by Peter Geyen. This exhibit, running through November 10, raises awareness and funds for Children’s HeartLink! Each of the original eight pieces are mounted onto steel easels which stretch up to 12 feet upward and took nearly a year to design and create. Media used in the artwork ranges from cast metal to fiberglass to wood and blown glass.

Our office took a trip to view the collection and meet Peter Geyen and Jed Staack, the men behind the art.

Jed Staack and Peter Geyen

There’s a large wooden box set up for monetary donations, and Children’s HeartLink appreciates the contributions people have been giving. We also thank Peter and Jed for helping us raise awareness of congenital heart disease and helping us assure that children around the world have access to quality care for the treatment of heart disease by putting on this fun and fascinating art show!

Check out some of our pictures of their pieces (although our photos don’t do them justice):

Thank you, Jed and Pete!

Brazil is in the House!


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Children’s HeartLink staff with the Brazilian nurses in the center: Bruna Teixeira Leite Cury, R.N., Sirley da Silva Pacheco, R.N. and Fabiana Gonçalves Oler, R.N.

The Children’s HeartLink office enjoyed the company of three pediatric cardiac nurses from Brazil this week! On Tuesday, we enjoyed lunch with the nurses, Bruna Teixeira Leite Cury, R.N., Sirley da Silva Pacheco, R.N. and Fabiana Gonçalves Oler, R.N., from our partner site Hospital de Base, in São José do Rio Preto, Brazil. The Hospital de Base’s pediatric cardiac program began in 2002 and since opening its doors has served the needs of cardiac patients in the region as well as surrounding states. It was the first time for two of the nurses, Fabiana and Sirley, to travel to the United States. They got to experience quite a few fun Twin Cities attractions – the Guthrie, Mall of America, Stone Arch Bridge, along with some fantastic restaurants.

The team is in Twin Cities for two weeks of training at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota followed by two weeks at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Karolyne Barroca Sanches, M.D., is joining the three at Mayo Clinic tomorrow.

We had a great time with Bruna, Sirley and Fabiana, and were grateful to connect and learn about why they love what they do at Hospital de Base.

IAB meet in DC to discuss long-term growth strategy


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On Monday, October 22, members of Children’s HeartLink’s leadership team and board of directors gathered for a high-level discussion with its International Advisory Board (IAB) in Washington D.C. Now in its second year, the IAB consists of experts in health care, public affairs and international development who provide Children’s HeartLink expertise and consultation in areas such as strategic planning, capacity building, international relations and medical diplomacy.

From left to right: Dan Wright, Ph.D., GreenPoint Group president and CEO; Carrie Ellis, Children’s HeartLink vice president of development and marketing; Senator Tom Daschle, IAB co-chair; Srinath Reddy, M.D., president of the Public Health Foundation of India; Elizabeth Perlich Sweeney, Children’s HeartLink president; Jim Rice, Ph.D., Children’s HeartLink board member; Bistra Zheleva, Children’s HeartLink director of international programs; and Andreas Tsakistos, Children’s HeartLink international programs manager. Also attending were Ilia Rodriguez with DLA Piper and via phone Richard Smith, M.D., director of UnitedHealth Group’s Chronic Disease Initiative; Kathy Jenkins, M.D., M.P.H., department of cardiology at Children’s Hospital Boston and Children’s HeartLink board member John Finnegan, Jr., Ph.D.

The objectives of the October 22 meeting were to examine potential factors that will play a critical role in influencing and prioritizing Children’s HeartLink long-term growth strategy. Among the many factors discussed were the geographic areas of highest need, socioeconomic and health care system development indicators of low and middle-income countries, and potential strategic alliance opportunities for Children’s HeartLink.

The advisors provided Children’s HeartLink and its board members in attendance with tremendous food for thought. It was an inspiring and stimulating discussion—the first of many we will have as we develop our long-term strategic growth plan over the next several months. A huge thank you to all of the advisors and board members who have volunteered their time and insight!

For a complete list of the advisors on the Children’s HeartLink IAB, see our website here.

On Your Mark, Get Set…



…GO! The 9th annual Vibha Dream Mile was a rousing success on Sunday! Around 300 runners showed up to race in the 5k and 10k runs at Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. There was also a 1-mile “fun run” for kids and plenty of games for everyone to enjoy.

Events manager Jessica Smith-Schuh and marketing and communications manager Helga Radio from Children’s HeartLink attended the event, helping raise awareness of our mission and how we help kids around the world with congenital heart disease by working in partnership with health care centers in underserved regions of the world to promote sustainable cardiac care. Vibha Minnesota is a volunteer-driven non-profit organization dedicated to creating brighter futures for underprivileged children.

Helga and Jessica from Children’s HeartLink

The weather was wonderful, the runners had a blast and we felt very honored to be a part of such a great community event. Thank you, Vibha!

Vibha’s youngest volunteer!

A mom and daughter team both won their age group brackets!

Congratulations, John Finnegan!


Children’s HeartLink would like to send a heartfelt congratulations to our board member, John R. Finnegan, PhD, for receiving the Albert Justus Chesley Award from the Minnesota Public Health Association (MPHA).

The award is named for A. J. Chesley, MD, who served 54 years with the Minnesota Department of Health and 34 years as Secretary of the Minnesota State Board of Health and Executive Officer of the Minnesota Department of Health. The award was established in 1960 to honor those members of the MPHA who have “distinguished themselves in the field of public health and who made a definite contribution to the Minnesota Public Health Association.”

2012 Minnesota Public Health Association award winners (from left): John R. Finnegan, Jr., PhD, Samantha Mills, Chuck Stroebel, MPH and Linda Olson Keller, DNP, RN, FAAN

Dr. John Finnegan is a professor and dean of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, as well as the assistant vice president for public health at the University of Minnesota. Minnesota native Dr. Finnegan graduated from the College of St. Thomas (now the University of St. Thomas) in 1972. He began graduate studies in mass communication at the University of Minnesota while pursuing a professional career as a journalist in St. Paul. As a doctoral student in mass communication, he joined the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in 1980, as a research assistant. There, he led a professional media staff in developing communication strategies for the Minnesota Heart Health Program (MHHP), a major national community trial in heart disease prevention led by Drs. Henry Blackburn and Russell Luepker.

Dr. Finnegan joined the School of Public Health faculty in 1986, where he developed a research and teaching program focusing on public health and the mass media. Today, he is a recognized scholar and researcher in the field, publishing in the scientific literature, serving often on National Institutes of Health (NIH) panels, and a frequent national and local speaker on related topics. His research in health communication has focused especially on the socio-economic and community origins of differences in population exposure to health information and their relationship to health outcomes. Dr. Finnegan joined the Children’s HeartLink board in June, 2012.

Infection Control in the ICU: A critical piece of the cardiac care puzzle


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When considering the work involved in repairing the hearts of children, it’s natural to first think of the surgery or operation itself. Images of operating rooms, surgeons in scrubs and masks, ventilators, anesthesia, etc., come to mind. There’s no doubt about it – the heart operation is a central part of the repair and healing process.

At West China Hospital in Chengdu, China, a poster reinforces the importance of hand washing for ICU staff.

However, as critical as it is, a successful heart operation is only one of the many steps on a child’s road to recovery. In the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), attending physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and other medical professionals must work together to help children recover from the trauma of an operation and the stress of being on the heart-lung bypass machine. During the operation, the surgeon and operating room team hold the life of the child in their hands. After the operation, the ICU team must also work closely together to ensure a child’s successful recovery.

Over the years, Children’s HeartLink has seen the overall level of pediatric cardiac surgical skills improve in the countries in which we work. However, ICU, or critical care, skills often need extra attention. One particular issue that Children’s HeartLink sees repeatedly, is the need to reduce post-operative infections, many of which can start soon after an operation while the child is still in the ICU. Increasingly, infection control is a key area of focus during Children’s HeartLink training visits.

Medical volunteers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto have been partnering with West China Hospital in Chengdu, China since 2006. Cardiologist and intensivist Steve Schwartz, M.D., a member of the SickKids team, emphasizes the importance of reducing post-op infections. “Infection control is a crucial aspect of improving outcomes in developing countries. There are often customs and practices that are based on outdated notions of the cause of major infections and how to prevent them. By working with partner institutions on simple things they can do to reduce infections, we can have a major impact with very little cost.

“Effective hand washing, initiatives to prevent ventilator associated pneumonia and central line infections, and teaching rational use of antibiotics are all part of what we do. At our partner site in Chengdu, China, they report as much as a 90 percent decrease in infections since adopting some of these strategies,” said Schwartz.

While hospital infections are still a concern for developed countries, recent research indicates developing countries face a greater struggle. In a study published in The Lancet in January 2011[1], researchers found much higher infection rates in developing countries (15.5 per 100 patients) than in the U.S. (4.5) or Europe (7.1). The difference in intensive care infections was even greater, with developing countries reporting infection rates of 47.9 per 1,000 patient-days, compared to 13.6 in the US.

As research and experience indicate, higher infection rates lead to deaths, longer hospital stays and additional costs, yet simple, low cost measures can make a big difference. Children’s HeartLink is helping all our partner hospitals learn how to better prevent and control in-hospital infections – and saving lives in the process.

[1] Benedetta Allegranzi M.D., Sepideh Bagheri Nejad M.D., et al. Burden of endemic health-care-associated infection in developing countries: systematic review and meta-analysis,” The Lancet, Volume 377, Issue 9761, Pages 228 – 241, 15 January 2011.