A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation (ABOH)
Meet our Board of Directors
Randy Hertog | Board Chair
In 2016, Randy lost his wife, Renee, after a short one-year battle with lung cancer. Soon after, he discovered the A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation community and wanted to get involved to honor his wife’s memory and assist where he could. Randy’s wife had no symptoms when Stage 4 lung cancer was discovered accidentally on a chest x-ray for a broken rib. The diagnosis was a complete shock to his family. After learning about ABOH’s mission to save lives through research, improved awareness and increased screening for earlier detection, and support of families coping with lung cancer, he decided to volunteer and support the mission.
Randy retired from Medtronic in 2018 and became a partner in a small health and wellness business located in Charlotte, NC. During his Medtronic career, he provided financial leadership and oversight to several businesses, and helped develop and oversee their short- and long-term business-wide strategies and business development.
Randy is a native of Minnesota and an avid Gopher fan. He has two daughters who are currently attending college – Madison at the University of MN and Katelyn at Iowa State University
Manish Patel, DO | Board Vice Chair
Dr. Patel is a medical oncologist at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota. He is a lung cancer specialist caring for patients and doing research on new therapies for lung cancer. Dr. Patel was the proud recipient of the first A Breath of Hope Research Fellowship in 2014. His research is focused on immune therapy for lung cancer and he is testing novel forms of immune therapy in the laboratory and in clinical trials. He has remained active at A Breath of Hope over the years speaking at numerous events and currently serving on the Board of Directors and Research Committee. Dr. Patel is dedicated to advancing the treatment of lung cancer – finding better and safer forms of treatment that result in better survival and, ultimately, cure of patients with this disease.
Dr. Patel and his wife, Sheetal juggle busy medical careers while raising three lively boys. He is an avid lifelong tennis player and enjoys taking the family on hikes, camping and skiing.
Teri Kast, MS | Board Secretary
Teri received her BA in Nursing from the College of St. Catherine and her MS in Nursing with a focus in Oncology from the University of Minnesota. She has over 30 years of experience in oncology nursing, the last 22 years as a Clinical Nurse Specialist with Thoracic Surgery/Thoracic Oncology at the University of Minnesota.
She helped create one of the first multidisciplinary lung cancer teams in the state of Minnesota and was involved in the design and implementation of the Lung Cancer Screening program at University of Minnesota Health.
Teri is recently retired and enjoys spending time with her family and grandchildren. She is inspired by the work of ABOH and is excited to be on the team.
Lori Shipman | Treasurer
Lori graduated from Penn State and has built her career in Human Resources. She owns her own consulting company that provides HR Strategy Services to companies in the Twin Cities metro area.
Lori is a lung cancer survivor, diagnosed in March of 2016. When a cough would not go away for months on end, she advocated for more testing. She was misdiagnosed for months with pneumonia, a lung abscess and a lung bacterial infection. As a nonsmoker, she was shocked by her stage 1A lung cancer diagnosis but is grateful for the early detection that led to a full recovery. Lori’s treatment involved major surgery to remove the right lower lobe of her lung and she continues to receive scans every six months.
Lori has been involved with ABOH since August 2016 as a frequent volunteer and event participant. She is passionate about teaching others that anyone can get lung cancer, and looks forward to advocating for broader screening criteria. Lori knows that early detection is key to an improved lung cancer survival rate.
Lori is a busy working mother of three active teenagers. Lori enjoys spending time outdoors and on the lake with her three children.
Justin Ballsrud received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice from St Cloud State University in 1999. He completed the senior management and supervision series from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and is a nationally certified emergency medical technician.
He has been a police officer for South Lake Minnetonka Police Department for 19 years. Over his career, he has had many additional responsibilities including event management.
Justin has been volunteering with ABOH since the first Twin Cities Ling Run/Walk in 2007. His wife, Shanna and his mother-in-law, Judy Golz were founding members. His dedication to the fight against lung cancer has been consistent. He lost his mother-in-law, and recently lost his aunt Gloria to lung cancer.
Justin and Shanna have been married for 12 years and they have three children, Preston, Gavin and Azalea. They reside in Victoria.
Abbie Begnaud, MD
Dr. Abbie Begnaud is a southerner who now makes her home with her husband in Minneapolis. Prior to joining the University of Minnesota faculty in 2013. Dr. Begnaud attended medical school at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Following her residency, Dr. Begnaud spent three years as a Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellow at the University of Florida.
Dr. Begnaud has an interest in the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer and other malignant diseases of the chest, and has collaborated with colleagues to launch the University of Minnesota Health Lung Cancer Screening Program; she continues to oversee all its activities. An inaugural diplomat of the American Association of Bronchology and Interventional Pulmonology, Dr. Begnaud is trained in advanced diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, as well as general pulmonary and critical care medicine. She brings critical expertise and passion to the ABOH board and will help guide the organization toward improved screening and earlier detection of lung cancer in the U.S. View a list of Dr. Begnaud’s recent publications (PDF).
Emily has a passion for changing the outcomes for lung cancer patients – as a board member that has lost a loved one to lung cancer, and working for Medtronic, one of the largest medical device companies in the world, her professional and personal life is connected by this disease.
Emily’s diverse roles over 18 years in the industry – including sales, management, program and market development, strategic account management, product marketing, general management, and currently as Vice President, Office of the CEO – have given her a unique perspective of healthcare and the role each of us plays in advancing patient care. Emily puts that perspective to good use not only in her “day job” but also as a leader of the Medtronic Women’s Network- focused on inclusion, diversity, and equity, serving more than 24,000 members around the globe.
Emily joined the A Breath of Hope Board of Directors in 2018 after a long history of supporting and partnering with the foundation through her work at Medtronic. She’s excited to apply her passion and experience to help the foundation raise awareness, increase research dollars, promote earlier detection, and improve treatment opportunities that will save lives.
Emily makes her home in Minneapolis with her husband Jason and their three beautiful children: Georgiana, Maxen, and Sophia. Formerly from Indiana, Emily and Jason are graduates of Indiana University. One of the few things that match Emily’s passion for improving lung cancer outcomes is her passion for the Hoosiers!
Jonathan Hovda, MD, MBA
Dr. Jonathan Hovda graduated from Medical School at the University of Minnesota, where he simultaneously received a Master of Business Administration degree from the Carlson School of Management. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis and fellowships in Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine and Interventional Pulmonology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Dr. Hovda has special interests in lung cancer and advanced bronchoscopy, including endobronchial ultrasound and electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine. He practices both inpatient and outpatient Pulmonary Medicine, and sees patients at the Minnesota Lung Center’s Minneapolis, Plymouth, Burnsville, and Fridley offices.
Janet Huss, MS, LP
Janet has been involved with A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation for many years as a supporter, volunteer and board member. The work of ABOH is important to Janet because her mother-in-law lost her life to lung cancer at a young age. The stigma associated with a lung cancer diagnosis makes the cancer journey even more difficult for lung cancer patients and their family members and Janet is committed to changing that stigma and the corresponding lower levels of research and support for patients.
Janet earned her BA in psychology and speech communication from Mankato State University, and a Master’s degree in Psychology from North Dakota State University. Following many years working as a psychologist, Janet began a career as a pharmaceutical sales representative working for Eli Lilly, Merck, and now Epizyme. Her professional and personal experiences have afforded her the opportunity to learn about the challenges in the prevention and treatment of lung cancer and the impacts on patients and family members. Her involvement at ABOH is one way she can make changes for those impacted by lung cancer. Janet and her husband live in Minneapolis and have two adult children and two grandchildren. In her free time, Janet enjoys time at the family cabin, kayaking, running, boating and exploring new restaurants in the city with friends and family.
Konstantinos Leventakos, MD, PhD
Dr. Konstantinos (Kostas) Leventakos is a medical oncologist focusing on lung cancer and early-stage clinical trials at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. His research focuses on bringing new immunotherapy or targeted therapy agents to patients with lung cancer. Dr. Leventakos also is active in research on cancer symptoms and shared decision-making. He is passionate about clinical trials and how they can be easier for patients and their families. Dr. Leventakos is currently the tumor chair for the lung cancer team in Rochester.
Kostas lives in Rochester, and enjoys pottery, running, and cooking. He loves traveling to Greece to spend time with his family and take care of his family’s olive trees.
Mike recently left his position as Vice-President of Oncology Operations for Allina Health, a large health system located in Minnesota and Wisconsin to consult nationwide for healthcare systems seeking to improve their oncology and patient programs. Mike’s experience includes operations and strategy development inside comprehensive cancer programs. Mike has over two decades of oncology leadership experience for both large health systems and physician groups including prior executive roles at Advocate Aurora and Sutter Health.
Mike holds a Doctoral Degree from Stanford University in International Health Policy Master’s degree from Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management. Mike has presented and published articles on oncology trends in management including value and population health initiatives.
Joseph Leach, MD
Dr. Joseph Leach is a medical oncologist who is a lifelong Minnesotan. After attending college at St. Olaf, he graduated from the University of MN Medical School with plans to become an eye surgeon. He matched at the University of Oklahoma but after spending 6 months on the oncology ward as an intern, he realized he had chosen the wrong career path. He changed tracks and completed training in medical oncology.
Dr. Leach has been in clinical practice in the Twin Cities for over 20 years with a focus on lung cancer and clinical research. He has held numerous leadership roles including past president of the MN Society of Clinical Oncology and served on the NCI Thoracic Malignancy Steering Committee. He currently sees patients at M Health Cancer Center in Burnsville and also serves as Chief Medical Officer for Prime Therapeutics.
Dr. Leach has been a strong advocate for the ABOHLF mission and has spoken at numerous events. Lung cancer became personal when his mom was diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer caught on a screening CT scan in 2020.
Outside of work, Dr. Leach enjoys spending time with his wife and two teenage children in Prior Lake.
Bruce is an attorney at Fox Rothschild LLP and an experienced transactional and business lawyer who represents clients in financings, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate governance matters.
Bruce became involved with A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation in 2017, shortly after his wife of just a few short years was diagnosed with lung cancer. She passed away after a courageous three-year battle, and he wants to make a difference in the underserved field of lung cancer.
Andrew joined the A Breath of Hope Board of Directors in July of 2021. As a lung cancer survivor diagnosed at age 28 and a nonsmoker, Andrew decided to dedicate his life to help address the many questions and challenges that lung cancer presents.
After a successful career in medical device sales and his lung cancer diagnosis, Andrew began working for a lung cancer diagnostics company, Biodesix, in 2018. He is proud of the company’s purpose to improve every patient’s care by providing physicians with swift, comprehensive, and actionable insights, and the hope that one day we will help turn the tide of this terrible disease by dramatically improving the rates of early diagnosis.
Andrew lives in Woodbury with his wife, a breast cancer survivor, and daughter. When he isn’t working, he is an avid golfer and traveler. When traveling, Andy loves the opportunity to discover each new town’s best local fare and he is partial to donuts.
Julie joined the ABOH Board in January of 2015. She is passionate about serving and giving back to the community and has led many GE efforts to rally volunteers and support local nonprofits such as A Breath of Hope. Julie has been a stellar supporter of ABOH in honor of her mother, a nonsmoker who died of lung cancer after many missed and inaccurate diagnoses. She is especially passionate about changing the stigma that keeps lung cancer tragically underfunded and misunderstood.
Julie works for Tennant Company as a Senior Manager of Field Support and Governance. She has been married for 26 years to John and has two daughters, Hannah (Winona State Graduate Class of ’21) and Amelia (University of Iowa class of ’22).
Currently living in Otsego, MN, Julie also has two dogs, Harley and Gracie.
Executive Director, Ex Officio Board Member
In 2012, the A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation board of directors made the decision to hire its first full-time director. Since its first Twin Cities Lung Run/Walk in 2007, the volunteer-led organization had grown steadily, had donated more than $400,000 to research focused on early detection and improved treatments, and had built a contact base of more than 1500 Minnesota households. However, fundraising and outreach were limited without staff and the foundation’s board knew the time had come to increase its efforts, becoming a force in the U.S. fight against lung cancer.
Understanding that this vastly underfunded and misunderstood disease is a major public health risk striking smokers and non-smokers alike, the foundation hired Nancy Torrison, a skilled and successful local business leader to help the group develop formal programming and a strategic internal structure to advance its mission. With a plan and leader in place, the foundation was now positioned to grow in impact against one of the most deadly forms of cancer.
Today, 35,000 families follow the work of the foundation, annual revenue has grown from $200,000 to over $1,400,000, research investment has surpassed the $2.5 million mark, patient education now reaches more than 100,000 patients each year, and early detection and screening education is reaching thousands of Americans every year.
Improving the current 24% five-year survival rate is the heart of all ABOH programs.
After completing her degree in French and Business Administration, Nancy started her career in Corporate America as a sales and marketing professional, yet quickly transitioned to management where she and her staff created 700% territory growth in just a few years. She was elected to her local school board where she gained important experience in advocacy, policy, budgeting, and governance. Prior to being recruited by ABOH, Nancy worked for a national fundraising company, as well as two nonprofits where she served in various leadership positions such as public relations, community and media relations, new business development, marketing, communications, and advancement (fundraising).
Nancy lost her aunt to lung cancer and understands the stigma and pain that come with this journey. Bringing her experience and her passion for fairness, Nancy works tirelessly to improve the five-year U.S. lung cancer survival rate through research and education. In 2012 the survival rate of lung cancer in our country was 14%. Now it is nearly 24% and A Breath of Hope has become a key player in the national lung cancer field.