Board of Directors

AAKP is proud of our National Board of Directors, please click on photo for biographical information.

    PRESIDENT, former AAKP Vice President

    Richard A. Knight is President of the American Association of Kidney Patients’ Board of Directors. He is a former hemodialysis patient who received a kidney transplant approximately eleven years ago. He is former Vice President of the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) and former Chair of the Public Policy Committee and a member of the Board of Directors of the Mid Atlantic Renal Coalition (MARC). He was recently appointed to the Steering Committee of the Kidney Precision Medicine Project (KPMP) housed at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

    Mr. Knight has a background in public policy and Congressional operations based on both his professional experience on Capitol Hill where he served in various roles including communications, policy and Legislative Director as well his advocacy work as a kidney transplant patient. While working in the U.S. House of Representatives, Mr. Knight was served as a liaison to the Congressional Black Caucus for his Member of Congress and was involved in substantial work with the House Energy and Commerce and Small Business Committees. Mr. Knight’s knowledge of Executive Branch agency budget and procurement policies is based on direct experience as a Federal government contractor and as a ten-year co-chair of the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber of Commerce annual regional government procurement fair. READ MORE

    VICE PRESIDENT, former AAKP Secretary

    Mr. Abel is a kidney transplant patient from Morgantown, West Virginia. Mr. Abel is a self-employed Property Manager for Abel Enterprises, LLC. He currently owns and manages residential and commercial properties, including one large dialysis facility and a facility housing a large CKD clinic, both in rural West Virginia.

    In 2005-2007, he was integrally involved in the conducting some of the 25 free kidney disease screening events that helped more than 1,800 West Virginians, many of which were in conjunction with the NKF of the Alleghenies’ Kidney Early Evaluation Program. He assisted in the garnering of political support of state government for showcasing the screening programs and World Kidney Day recognition at the state Capitol. Mr. Abel has been a member of AAKP since 2010.

    Ms. Kitsen has over 45 years of experience in the field of end stage renal disease. She began her career as a renal social worker at Yale New Haven Hospital for 10 years. For 35 years, she served as executive director for the End Stage Renal Disease Network of New England. She has participated in several advisory task forces and HHS funded projects. She has specific interest in and has published articles on topics related to quality improvement, patient safety, end of life management and ESRD public policy. Currently, she is treasurer of Donate Life CT, serves on the board of the American Association of Kidney Patients and is doing consultant work for nonprofit organizations. She has worked many years to promote patient empowerment and believes in the Mission of AAKP.
  4. EDWARD V. HICKEY III – Secretary and Chair, AAKP Veterans Health Initiative, U.S.M.C.

    Mr. Hickey is an attorney with O’Melveny & Myers, an international, 800 lawyer firm with 15 offices in the world’s financial and political centers. He is a member of the Litigation Department and Director of the firm’s eDiscovery staff attorneys, a role in which he leads all O’Melveny staff attorney operations firmwide. He served as an Infantry officer in the U.S.M.C. as a Lieutenant with postings in Quantico and Camp Pendleton. His distinguished public service career includes posts on Capitol Hill as an Administrative Assistant, as a Special Assistant at the United States Department of Commerce and, following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, as the Senior Advisor for Homeland Security for the Director of the Office of Personnel Management under President George W. Bush. At OPM, Mr. Hickey also served as liaison to Veteran Service Organizations nationwide, including the Vietnam Veterans of America, AMVETS, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. Mr. Hickey coordinated extensively with elected leaders and staff in the U.S. House and Senate as well as the White House to represent veteran stakeholder interests in the preservation of veteran’s legal rights during reforms to U.S. Civil Service laws. He is a recipient of a Silver Helmet Award from AMVETS.

    In addition to his role at O’Melveny & Myers, Mr. Hickey is actively involved with community service efforts in California through the Inner City Law Center of Los Angeles, which services veterans and their families in the Los Angeles, California area. He is also active in the Armed Forces Committee and Veterans Legal Service Project of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, which works to identify and address opportunities to assist veterans, active military personnel, and reservists with their legal needs.

  5. PAUL T. CONWAY – Chair of Policy and Global Affairs; Immediate Past President Mr. Conway serves as Chair of Policy and Global Affairs; Immediate Past President American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP), America’s oldest and largest independent kidney patient health education and advocacy organization. Mr. Conway has managed kidney disease for thirty-seven years, including more than two years on dialysis and, for the past twenty years, as a kidney transplant recipient. He is actively involved in multiple patient-centered national health care transformation initiatives aimed at increasing the inclusion of patient preference information (PPI) and patient reported outcome (PRO) data across Federally-administered and funded programs and evaluation processes. He was recently named by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as the Chair of the new FDA Patient Engagement and Advocacy Committee (PEAC) for medical devices and by was selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to serve as a Member of the External Evaluation Panel for the NIH Kidney Precision Medicine Project (KPMP). He serves as a Patient Voice Editor for the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN) and is the recipient of a 2017 President’s Medal from the American Society of Nephrology (ASN). READ MORE


    In 1982, Kent was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a disease that causes scarring in the glomerulus of the kidney and is notorious for additional health problems including large amounts of protein in the urine, loss of protein in the blood, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. In 1987, Kent received a kidney from his brother, Kip. For the past 30 years, Kent has been on immunosuppressive drugs that are essential in guarding against rejection of the transplanted kidney but also can have harmful, long-term side effects.
    Kent has participated in chronic kidney disease research reviews for the U.S. Department of Defense, as a mentor for potential transplant recipients, on the steering committee for Nephcure International, and is currently doing peer review on research being conducted by PCORI (Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute). Kent is a registered nurse, currently working part time with Peterson Hospice and is active in his church. Kent has two daughters and four grandchildren.
    Ms. Browne is an Assistant Professor for the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. She has a Master’s in Social Work since 1995 and PhD since 2008. Ms. Browne has been working in the kidney disease field for 17 years. She started her social work career in dialysis, and worked for 13 years as a dialysis social worker across the country. She became very active in the kidney disease community in every community she has lived, leading her to local, state, national and international service for kidney disease. She served on patient and professional committees for ESRD Network 1, 9, 10 and t; serving on boards and committees for the local and national NKF; and recently on committees and projects for ASN and DOPPS including ASN’s Patient Education committee. Ms. Browne has been a member of AAKP since 1995.
    Mr. Fowler is a healthcare executive with over 30 years of Life Sciences experience in pharmaceutical commercial and R&D organizations. His career has encompassed a breadth and depth of skills and experiences. During his career, he has demonstrated leadership in sales management, training, public affairs, global marketing, patient advocacy, and patient marketing. He formed his own patient advocacy and patient engagement consulting business in 2014, “The Voice of the Patient, Inc.” Based upon his personal experiences of having a pre-emptive kidney transplant in 2004, he has a deep passion for patient advocacy and patient engagement.
    Lisa is a kidney transplant patient from Conway, AR and is a financial and marketing professional and Mortgage Loan Officer on the Bancorp South corporate team. Her skills include financial planning, marketing and development. Lisa is an Ambassador for the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency (ARORA) and active with awareness efforts for AAKP, the PKD Foundation and the Alport Syndrome Foundation. Lisa is the former Vice President of the Conway AK Health and Rehabilitation Board, former Director of Programs and Development for the American Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the former Director of Development for an Arkansas non-profit aiding those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and a Member of the School Board and Marketing Committee for St. Joseph School. She is the past president and a member of the Conway Rotary Club, a member of the Conway Noon Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the FCLI Faulkner County Leadership. She has served previous appointments on AAKP’s Board of Directors since 2013 and is the Co-Chair of the AAKP Program and Development Committee.
  5. patrick-gee-sr-cropped
    Patrick Gee is a former Peritoneal Dialysis Patient and two and a half years into a kidney transplant that he affectionately named, “Lazarus.” As a Healthcare Consultant/Consumer Advocate, he is very passionate about advocating on behalf of the underserved, undervalued, disenfranchised communities of fellow kidney. Patrick’s advocacy focus is for a more comprehensive and universal healthcare, effective and realistic patient engagement, health educational tool kits being dispensed in low income communities, social, moral and ethical injustices and perspectives concerning genetic differences and research and a better quality of life for kidney patients. Patrick serves in the following capacities:

    • Quality Insights Renal Network 5 Chair, Patient Advisory Committee & Member of Medical Review Board of Directors.
    • CareDX Ambassador
    • Member of ASN’s Diabetes Kidney Disease Collaborative Task Force
    • American Association of Kidney Patients BOD and Ambassador
    • National Kidney Foundation’s Kidney Advocacy Committee & Y&YK Instructor
    • NCC National Patient and Family Engagement Learning and Action Network (NPFE-LAN) Legacy Team
    • Center for Dialysis Innovation Patient Advisory Board. Kidney Research Institute Patient Advisory Committee.
    • Donate Life DC Ambassador
    • American Kidney Fund Ambassador & Kidney Health Coach
    • Chronic Disease Coalition Ambassador & Southeast Region Co-Chair
    • APOLLO Research Study Steering Committee APOL1’s Community Advisory Committee member, representing the Cleveland Clinic
    • Global Cardio Vascular Clinical Trialists Forum International  Faculty Member
    • PCORI Ambassador
    • Kidney Patient Advisory Committee (KPAC) Member, Representing Network 5.
    • Kidney/Diabetes/Hypertension Educator at FACES of Hope, Richmond, VA., non-profit organization that works with children suffering with childhood obesity.
    • Patient Family Advisors Network Member
    • Kidney Health Initiative’s Patient Family Partnership Council Member
    • Otsuka Pharmaceutical Advisory Board Member for their Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease campaign.

    Patrick retired from the Virginia Department of Corrections as a Major/Chief of Security. Patrick has a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Criminal Justice, with an emphasis in Public Administration from the University of Richmond, in Richmond, VA. He also has a Doctorate of Philosophy in Justice, Law and Criminology from a American University, Washington, DC. Patrick is the Founder & CEO of iAdvocate, Inc., non-profit Health &Wellness organization. Patrick is also a licensed  Minister at Mountain Movers Ministry Church, Richmond, VA.  His ministry is working with those suffering from kidney disease. Patrick’s motto is, “I am the “Voice for the Voiceless and the Face of the Faceless in the fight against kidney disease.”
    Mr. Hess is a home hemodialysis patient from Edmond, OK. He is a graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma with a major in Biology and a minor in English. Mr. Hess authored the book “Kidney Failure Won’t Stop Me”, published in July 2012. He is a former member of the ESRD Network 13 Patient Advisory Committee & the Medical Review Board. Mr. Hess has been a member of AAKP since 2010.
    A Vanderbilt-trained Internist, Dr. Johnson is Director and Vice Chair of the Board of Dialysis Clinic, Inc. (DCI). He has grown DCI’s CKD initiative into the Reach Kidney Care program, addressing needs by CKD stage, with care coordinators, nutrition counseling, and a social worker. The team treats 3,600 patients and seeks to understand their health goals and educate them about CKD, options (e.g., preemptive transplant) and how to live fully, minimize CKD impact, and slow progression. RKC will be in CMS ESCO project demos in TN, SC, and NY. Doug also serves at DCI Donor Services, Inc. and sees patients twice a week.
    Janice P. Lea, MD, MSc, FASN is a professor of medicine at Emory University and is board-certified in nephrology and hypertension. Dr. Lea graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in biology. She earned her medical degree at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and completed her residency in internal medicine and a nephrology fellowship at Emory University-affiliated hospitals. She also received an MSc in clinical research from Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health.
    Dr. Lea is the chief medical director of Emory Dialysis and is a nationally renowned expert in hypertension – designated a “Clinical Specialist in Hypertension” by the American Society of Hypertension. READ MORE
    Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) runs in Jim’s family. He has lost 5 family members to PKD, including his father. Because of my family’s history, he was diagnosed at the age of 25, and was able to put off dialysis until the age of 58. He was on dialysis for 4 years and received a kidney transplant on April 27th, 2016.
    Jim is currently employed by the Crown Point Community School Corporation as a substitute teacher. He enjoys working with children, especially those with special needs. Jim is a very active kidney advocate with many organizations. His specialty is the ability to utilize social media to help fellow kidney patients and to raise awareness of the plights of the kidney patient. He is a very experienced advocate both at home and on Capitol Hill with his Members of Congress.
    In 2008 David was living in Austin, TX when he was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). In 2011 David received his kidney transplant through the Pair Exchange Donation Program from University Transplant Center in San Antonio where he currently resides for 7 years.
    Born and raised in Brownsville, TX, David serves as a patient advocate and spokesperson for organ, tissue and eye donation, leading awareness campaigns about the benefits of organ donation throughout the Texas border regions from Brownsville to El Paso, including Corpus Christi and San Angelo. David has volunteered for National Kidney Foundation, Texas Kidney Foundation, Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, and University Health System. As a member of the Advocacy Committee, he has lobbied for the National Kidney Foundation at our Nation’s Capital in Washington, D.C. and the Texas State Legislature on behalf of the Texas Kidney Foundation. Professionally, David is a former Patient Navigator at the University Transplant Center. He also served in serval leadership positions in local, state and national political campaigns. David likes to read history and biographies, golf and the San Antonio Spurs basketball team.
    As an infant, Dale was adopted into a family with three other adopted children. When he was 12 years of age, Dale was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Some years later, as a young adult, he was diagnosed with hypertension. While working in upper management of a national food chain, the hypertension continued to escalate. As a result of job-related stress and subsequent stress in everyday life, Dale’s kidneys began to fail. Within a few years it was necessary to begin dialysis. The work-up to receive a kidney/pancreas transplant stretched for a period of 11 months. Incredibly, Dale’s adopted sister was a match. She donated a kidney while an unidentified donor provided a pancreas. The pancreas lasted 18 months and the kidney, nine years and two months at which time Dale had to once again resume dialysis. After undergoing a grueling six years and eight months of dialysis and having suffered numerous life-threatening medical situations, Dale received a life sustaining kidney transplant from an unknown donor. The transplant was well-received giving Dale a new lease on life. This gift has created for him a new focus and personal commitment to help others avoid some of the health-related hardships he has miraculously survived.
    Ms. Ruff is a freelance writer for the Charlotte Observer and author of the non-fiction book The Reluctant Donor. The Reluctant Donor was a Finalist in the MIPA book award and also received the 2015 Illumination book award. She has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She is a living kidney donor and serves on the executive Board of Directors at AAKP, the Living Donor Council of the National Kidney Foundation and volunteers for the PKD Foundation. Passionate about kidneys, Suzanne speaks, writes and volunteers about all aspects of kidney disease, organ donation and the gift of another day.
    Ms. Schmidt is a kidney transplant recipient from Liberty, Illinois. She is on the Board of Directors for AAKP – American Association of Kidney Patients, an AAKP Ambassador and member of the policy and strategic communications committees and a member of the National Kidney Foundation.

    As a National Kidney Patient Advocate, Lana has served in many capacities throughout the kidney community over the years. She has raised kidney awareness from the patients’ perspective by publishing several magazine and newspaper articles, doing TV and radio interviews and speaking at conferences and meetings on kidney disease issues. She also started the Kidney Patients Support Group in her area.

    After 13 years on dialysis Lana received a kidney transplant from the University of Illinois in Chicago using a specialized drug, eculizumab because of her high antibodies. She was the first at this center to receive this drug with a deceased donor. She is now 4 years post-transplant.

    She is passionate to raise kidney awareness throughout our nation and wants to bring positive change for kidney patients to improve the quality of care and services and help them to be more informed and knowledgeable about the disease so they can make the best decisions for their quality of life.
    Mr. Toner is the Life sciences executive with experience in both the pharmaceutical and biotechnology markets and a focus on specialty and nephrology products. Following a 20+ year career at Abbott Laboratories, Scott has worked as a consultant and employee with several start-up firms to bring innovative biotechnology products to market.