AAKP is proud of our National Board of Directors. Please click on photo for biographical information.
- RICHARD KNIGHT, MBA
PRESIDENT, former AAKP Vice President
Richard Knight received his MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and his B.A. from Hampton University. He is a results-oriented business strategist with diverse experience in public and private sectors in Finance, Accounting, Business Development, Healthcare, and Non-Profits. Entrepreneurial experience includes starting and running several ventures. Currently, he is a business strategist, providing patient engagement consulting for healthcare organizations and businesses developing tools designed to leverage patient input and preferences in their care plans and quality measures. He serves as an adjunct professor at Bowie State University (BSU). He is a founding member of BSU’s College of Business Advisory Council.
Mr. Knight is a healthcare professional and a former hemodialysis patient. He received a kidney transplant approximately fourteen years ago. He is President of the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP), which is the oldest and largest, independent kidney patient organization in the United States.
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 served as a liaison to the Congressional Black Caucus for his Member of Congress. He 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.
As a policy expert and a national kidney patient advocate, Mr. Knight was appointed to serve as a member of the National Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) Advisory Council. He was appointed to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) Visiting Committee. Mr. Knight is the CoChair of the NIDDK Strategic Plan Stakeholder Engagement Subgroup. He was also appointed to the Steering Committee for NIDDK’s Kidney Precision Medicine Project as well as the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative (CTTI), which is a public-private partnership to develop and drive adoption of practices that will increase the quality and efficiency of clinical trials. He has served as a member of six Technical Expert Panels (TEPs) for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Assistance (CMS). He was a member of CMS TEPs focusing on Emergency Department Readmissions Hospital Readmissions, the Fistula First Breakthrough Initiative, and recently on the End Stage Renal Disease Dialysis Facility Compare Star Ratings for the Arbor Research Collaborative for Health and the University of Michigan Kidney Epidemiology and Cost Center. He serves on the National Kidney Disease Education Program’s (NKDEP) Health Information Technology (HIT) Working Group. He also serves on the Steering Committee for the Precision Medicine Coalition’s More Than a Number Committee. Mr. Knight also serves on numerous Advisory Councils for industry partners on matters such as increasing patients in clinical trials and increasing minority participation in clinical trials.
- Thoughts on Juneteenth, From AAKP President Richard Knight
- CJASN Article: An Evolving Continuum of Care for the Kidney Disease Patient Will Help The Transplant Center Navigator
- CJASN Article: A Patient's Perspective on Advancing American Health Intitiative
- Video: Clinical Trials in Kidney Disease: International Perspective on Patient Engagement
- World Kidney Day 2021 article: Living well with kidney disease by patient and care-partner empowerment: kidney health for everyone everywhere
- EDWARD V. HICKEY III VICE PRESIDENT, former 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.
Suzanne Ruff is a living kidney donor, and her professional finance experience includes service as a tax consultant at GE Fleet Services, real estate manager, bank teller and legal administrative assistant. Outside of AAKP, Suzanne has been a volunteer for The PKD Foundation since its formation in 1982. She has served as Co-Chair of the Finance Committee of the Twin Cities PKD Chapter from 2006-2010. Suzanne’s professional writing experience includes positions as a freelance writer for the MN Eden Prairie News and the Charlotte Observer and she is the author of the award-winning, non-fiction book, The Reluctant Donor that chronicles the past seventy years of polycystic kidney disease (PKD) within her family. Suzanne’s family has a strong legacy with the AAKP that dates back to the 1980s, when while living in Florida as a young adult, Suzanne used to type the newsletters and stuff envelopes for the AAKP (known at that time as the National Association of Patients on Hemodialysis and Transplantation (NAPHT)) of which her father served as a National Board of Director.
Suzanne, herself, has been a member of the AAKP Board of Directors since 2013 and is currently a member of the Executive Committee (EC), having served on this committee since 2017. As a actively engaged member of the EC, Suzanne has been instrumental in implementing AAKP’s integrated National Strategy, developed and approved by the BOD in 2014, which ensures that all organizational activities, including major corporate sponsorships and small dollar direct mail and online fundraising programs, national stakeholder and education initiatives, and federal policy and Congressional engagements, and budget aligns with the Association’s mission and prioritized activities. During Suzanne’s tenure on the AAKP Board, she has served on various committees including the Nominations Committee, Programs/Development Committee and Strategic Communications Committee and she has worked closely with Board leadership and the Executive Director to refine the ongoing activities that fall under the Centers for Patient Engagement and Advocacy as well as the Center for Patient Education and Research. Suzanne has served as a key contact for companies supporting AAKP activities and as a kidney disease subject matter expert on the AAKP Speaker’s Bureau, at the national level since inception in 2019. Beyond executive leadership responsibilities, Suzanne regularly contributes her skills and expertise to the organization, authoring numerous articles for AAKP’s blog and aakpRENALIFE magazine (samples below).
Suzanne has encouraged AAKP’s expansion into the research, and federally funded research arena, as a living donor/AAKP representative. She has served as a Co-Investigator on the PCORI Project: Putting Patients at the Center of Kidney Care Transitions (PREPARE NOW) from 2015-2020 and is one of the authors of the recently published Engaging Patients and Family Members to Design and Implement Patient-Centered Kidney Disease Research (Read Here).Suzanne has helped organize and moderate research and patient engagement sessions designed for AAKP national and international events, including the Inaugural Global Summit on Kidney Innovation (2019) and numerous AAKP National Patient Meetings.
Passionate about kidney patients and their treatments, options, and finding a cure, everything she does in the world of kidney disease is to honor her family members who suffered and suffer from kidney disease. Suzanne’s most humbling ‘achievement’ was when she has been told, more than once, that someone decided to be a living donor after reading The Reluctant Donor or hearing her speak.
Prior to joining AAKP, Suzanne served on the Executive Committee for the NKF Living Donor Council (2010) and the NKF Peer Group program, including the Living Donor Peer Work Group. She has also been published in NKF’s The Journal of Nephrology Social Work.
Links to a sample of Suzanne’s writing on behalf of AAKP research and AAKP’s Veterans Health Initiative (VHI) is below.
- DALE ROGERSSecretary 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.
PAUL T. CONWAYChair of Policy and Global Affairs; Immediate Past President Mr. Conway is Chair of Policy and Global Affairs, and Immediate Past President, of the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP), the nation’s largest kidney patient organization. He also serves as the Co-Chair of the AAKP Annual Global Summit on Kidney Disease Innovations, a strategic partnership with The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He has managed kidney disease for forty-years, including nearly three years on home dialysis and, for the past twenty-three years, as a kidney transplant recipient. He is a policy and communications professional with several decades of experience in White House and Cabinet-wide policy implementation, management, and communications. His public service career includes posts under three U.S. presidents, three Virginia governors and in support of five presidential transitions as well as multiple recognitions, including the Department of Homeland Security Secretary’s Silver Medal for exceptionally meritorious service to DHS and America. As a national kidney policy advocate, he is a recipient of the American Society of Nephrology President’s Medal and the AAKP President’s Medal for his efforts before the U.S. Congress and The White House. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, he has worked closely with federal agencies on high-risk patient education and is a participant in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kidney-COVID Public-Private Workgroup. His current federal engagement includes roles as: Chair of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Patient Engagement Advisory Committee (PEAC) for medical device development; External Expert Panel member for the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH/NIDDK) Kidney Precision Medicine Project (KPMP); liaison to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Health Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC); and reviewer for the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (DOD/CDMRP). He has served as the chair or co-chair of multiple dialysis-related Technical Evaluation Panels for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Since 2017, he has served on successive Presidential Rank Review Boards to recommend top Senior Executive Service members of the U.S. Civil Service to the White House for consideration for presidential recognition. As a kidney advocate, Mr. Conway serves as: Patient Voice Editor for the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN); member of the American Board of Internal Medicine’s (ABIM) Nephrology Specialty Board; member of the Board of Directors’ Kidney Health Initiative (KHI); patient advisory board member for the University of Washington’s Center for Dialysis Innovation (CDI); and has served as a project team member for the FDA/Duke University Clinical Trial Transformation Initiative (CTTI) His previous federal posts include: Acting Federal Coordinator and Chief of Staff for the post-Katrina Office of Gulf Coast Rebuilding at the Department of Homeland Security; Chief of Staff of the U.S. Department of Labor; Chief of Staff of the Office of Personnel Management; Special Assistant in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; and Confidential Assistant at the Department of Education. In Virginia, Conway has served as: Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Resources; member of the Secure Commonwealth Panel for homeland security; and a member of the Board of Health Professions for medical licensing.
Published Articles:CJASN: Nephrology Nomenclature: How to Accelerate Patient Anxiety, Suppress Engagement, and Mire the Advance of Medical Innovation
Editorial: Of Presidents, Policies, and Patients
2020-2021 NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS
KENT BRESSLER – MA, RN
In 1982 after undergoing a renal biopsy, Kent was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a disease that causes scarring in the glomerulus of the kidney. In 1987, after two days of dialysis via central line, he received a kidney transplant from his brother Kip. He has been on Sandimmune (150 mg daily) and (5 mg Prednisone daily) since the transplant.
Kent is a veteran of the United States Army and a retired RN, with work experience in the Veterans Administration and the private sector for over 40 years. Kent is on the AAKP board of Directors and is an active advocate and ambassador. He is an NKF peer mentor and advocate, and is the leader of the NKF KAC region He is an active consumer Peer Reviewer for PCORI and DoD. He has written articles relating to preemptive renal transplant and immunosuppressive drug coverage. He has been an active member of Nephcure International an agency seeking a cure for FSGS.
Kent and his wife Catherine celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2019. Kent is co-founder of Kidney Solutions, a 501c that helps patients find a kidney donor without fees or charges. Kent is committed to assisting and aiding those who have kidney disease.
Douglas S. Johnson, MD, Director and Vice Chairman of the Board for Dialysis Clinic, Inc., began serving on the Board of Trustees in 1995. Dr. Johnson is a board certified internist. He received his medical training at Vanderbilt University, graduating in 2006, and completed his internal medicine training at University of Tennessee/Baptist Hospital in June 2009. Since returning to DCI in 2009, he has helped to implement initiatives to ensure financial stability of the company while also helping to develop tools to ensure excellent patient outcomes and improve patient care. One of Dr. Johnson’s most recent projects has been the development of the DCI chronic kidney disease initiative into the more formal Reach Kidney Care program. Reach Kidney Care addresses the needs of individuals with chronic kidney disease, giving them access to one-on-one counseling with a care manager and nutrition counseling with a dietitian. The Reach Kidney Care team seeks to understand individuals’ health goals and provides education about kidney disease and treatment options to allow people to live their best life while minimizing the impact of kidney disease. By working with individuals to evaluate all treatment options and encourage pre-emptive transplant when appropriate, the Reach Kidney Care team hopes to delay or prevent kidney failure. REACH care managers also provide coordination and follow up for high risk patients receiving dialysis treatment. Reach Kidney Care currently provides care to more than 3,000 patients in twenty-one locations in eight states. Improving care of chronic kidney disease and increasing transplantation is a large part of Dr. Johnson’s plan to improve the future of care for individuals with kidney disease. To demonstrate methods for improving care, Dr. Johnson led DCI’s involvement in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) End Stage Renal Disease Seamless Care Organization (ESCO) project. Under Dr. Johnson’s leadership, DCI participated in the project with six ESCO projects, three of which lasted the full duration of the CMS demonstration project. In January, 2020, DCI submitted applications to transition these three ESCOs into Comprehensive Kidney Care Coordinated (CKCC) Model organizations. DCI also assisted thirty-nine nephrology practices in their submission of Kidney Care First (KCF) applications. Dr. Johnson also serves at DCI Donor Services, Inc. In addition, he sees patients in his internal medicine practice twice a week.
JANICE LEA, MD, MSC, FASN, Executive Committee Member
Dr. Janice P. Lea, MD, MSc, FASN is a Professor of Medicine at Emory University and is board-certified in Nephrology and Hypertension. 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 a Masters of Science Degree in Clinical Research from Emory’s School of Public Health. Dr. Lea is currently a Professor of Medicine at Emory University and is the Clinical Director of Nephrology and the Chief Medical Director of Emory Dialysis which serves over 750 patients. Dr. Lea is also the Medical Director for Home Dialysis at Emory Healthcare which currently serves 130 home patients. Dr. Lea’s research and clinical expertise are in Hypertension, Chronic Kidney Disease, Health Disparities, and Dialysis. She is a nationally-renowned expert in Hypertension - designated a “Clinical Specialist in Hypertension” by the American Society of Hypertension. Dr. Lea also is designated a Master Clinician by Emory’s School of Medicine and serves as the Director of Telenephrology at Emory since 2017. In addition, she serves on the Board of Directors for the American Association of Kidney Patients. Dr. Lea has been named one of Atlanta’s Top Doctors for the past 10 years and is recognized nationally for her expertise in clinical research and patient care.
JAMES W. MYERS III – CHAIR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS COMMITTEE, AAKP FIELD AMBASSADOR
My name is James Myers. I live in Hammond, Indiana. I graduated from Valparaiso University Law School and I have 2 MBA’s in Business and Healthcare Administration. Polycystic Kidney Disease runs in my family. I’ve lost 5 members of my family to PKD, Including my Father. I have PKD. I was fortunate. Because of my family’s history, I was diagnosed at the age of 25, and was able to put off dialysis until the age of 58. I was on dialysis for 4 years and was transplanted on April 27th, 2016. I named my new kidney Woody. Woodrow is a family name, so I did this to honor my father and my grandfather.
I am a full-time kidney advocate. I am a member of the AAKP. I hold leadership positions with the AAKP as a Member of the Board of Directors, an Ambassador for the State of Indiana. I have won several professional awards and honors including the Inaugural National Social Media Education and Advocacy Award from the AAKP and Robert Felter Memorial Award. I have been fortunate to give multiple seminars for the AAKP on Social Media and Kidney Disease and have been a Breakout Session Leader concerning the use of Social Media to advocate/raise awareness for kidney disease as well as a presentation about Facebook and it’s use to advocate for my fellow kidney patients. I helped to initiate the Pediatric Kidney Patients initiative (Kidney Pals), and I am part of the initiative for Kidneys and Veterans. I am the Chairman, Strategic Communications Committee, and a Member, 2019 National Patient Meeting Committee (Awarded).
I am an Advocate for the National Kidney Foundation. In 2019, I was named the Advocate of the Year. For the NKF, I am a Statewide Advocate for the State of Indiana, Member of the Kidney Advocacy Committee, Leader of the KAC Social Media Group and a Regional Leader of Region #5(MI, OH, IN, KY, TN). I was influential in bringing about the NKF’s Pediatric Kidney Patient Initiative. I am an Ambassador for the AAKP, the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation, the Dialysis Patient Citizens, the Renal Support Network, the National Kidney Foundation of Indiana, More Than Just Your Kidneys and Waitlist Zero.
I am a frequent speaker at the NKFI Kidney Walks in Merrillville, Indiana and Indianapolis, Indiana. I am a frequent traveler and speaker for kidney patients, including stops in 2018 at Boston, Kansas City, Washington, D.C., St. Petersburg, San Francisco and Kidney Week in San Diego.
My specialty as an Advocate is my ability to utilize social media to help my fellow kidney patients and to raise awareness of the plights of the kidney patient. I am an administrator for 72 kidney pages on Facebook, another 50+ Kidney Groups of various topics, 10 blog pages and 9 e-newspapers. I am a very experienced advocate both at home and on the hill with my Members of Congress.
My advocate nickname is Uncle Jim. If you have a kidney question or issue you need help with, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I thank the AAKP for all the opportunities they have given to me.
DAVID RODRIGUEZ AAKP Field Ambassador, Executive Committee Member
In 2008, David Rodriguez was living in Austin, TX when he was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). Three years after his diagnosis, David received his kidney transplant through the Pair Exchange Donation Program at University Transplant Center in San Antonio, TX.
Originally a native of 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 State of Texas.
David is a Field Ambassador and Public Policy Committee Member for the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP). David is a former member of the National Kidney Foundation, Texas Kidney Foundation, Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA) and a volunteer for University Health System. As a member of the Advocacy Committee for the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) and an Ambassador of the American Kidney Fund (AKF), he lobbied at our Nation’s Capital in Washington, D.C. He also lobbied at the Texas State Legislature on behalf of the Texas Kidney Foundation.
David has served with AAKP/Vertex ICF Patient Advisory Committee and the SRTR Review Patient and Family Affairs Subcommittee.
David was awarded the 2017 NKF Rita Littlefield Patient Spirit Award, 2017 TOSA Joan Wish Award for the Central Region, 2018 Texas Kidney Foundation Volunteer Year Award, and 2020 AAKP Presidential Volunteer Service Award.
In his full-time profession, David’s is a Patient Relationship Specialist at University Health Transplant Center where he visits patients at dialysis centers throughout South Texas. David uses effective marketing and community outreach programs designed for patients with Chronic Kidney Disease. David also shares his time as a bilingual speaker for a national speaker program dedicated to raising awareness about transplant options.
In his personal time, David enjoys playing golf, watching sports, and reading history and biographies.
LANA SCHMIDT, MBA, Executive Committee Member
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.