A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation (ABOH)

Meet our Board of Directors

Randy Hertog  |  Board Chair

Randy Hertog

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

Gary Brausen  |  Board Vice Chair

Gary Brausen

Gary’s personal connection with lung cancer started in November of 2010 when he first noticed a persistent cough while playing competitive hockey and coaching his youngest son’s team. As a nonsmoker athlete, lung cancer never entered his mind, yet he knew something was wrong. After several months and multiple misdiagnoses, he received a phone call on March 15, 2011 that would forever change his life forever. Gary was diagnosed with stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer. After lung surgery, four rounds of difficult chemotherapy and 7.5 weeks of radiation, Gary is considered cured of the disease.

Since his diagnosis and recovery, Gary has dedicated his life to mentoring patients and to A Breath of Hope’s mission to defeat lung cancer. His own experience has helped him also understand the terrible stigma that keeps lung cancer off the general public radar with the facts hidden and the research drastically under-funded.

Gary has been married for more than 20 years to the love of his life, Rosey. Gary and Rosey have two sons, Bennett and Alec, and make their home in Bloomington, MN.

Teri Kast, MS  |  Board Secretary

Teri Kast

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.

Sue Huff  |  Board Treasurer 

Sue Huff

In 2018, Sue Huff lost her husband, Bill (a non-smoker), to small cell lung cancer. Bill was originally given less than a year to live, they had 10-year old twins at the time so this diagnosis did not work for their family.  Bill had a strong desire to be a father to his twin boys and loved life.  

Sue supported her husband through his 11-year battle to fight the disease, while also being a mother, caregiver, cheerleader and advocate for the best healthcare for her husband. Bill’s faith was and continues to be an inspiration for Sue and her boys.  

In her professional life, Sue spent over 30 years with Medtronic, most recently as the Sr. Director of Global Conventions leading the global exhibit design program for all businesses and geographies. She is now Treasurer of ABOH, supporting their efforts in helping to find a cure for lung cancer.

Justin Ballsrud  

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  

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 Elswick  

Emily Elswick

Emily has a passion for improving outcomes for lung cancer patients – and she’s fortunate enough to live that passion every day in her professional role at Medtronic as Vice President and General Manager of Lung Health.

Emily’s diverse roles over 14 years in the medical device industry – including sales, management, program and market development, strategic account management, and most recently building the marketing organization for the Medtronic Lung Health business – has given her a unique perspective of healthcare and the role each of us play 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 where she manages a team focused on the professional development of Medtronic women 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 matches Emily’s passion for improving lung cancer outcomes is her passion for the Hoosiers!

Bruce Forsyth  

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth is proud to be on the ABOH Board and has been a passionate researcher in lung cancer throughout his industrial career spanning over two decades. As a Senior Research Fellow with Boston Scientific (BSC), he led a clinical immersion team at the Mayo Clinic to identify unmet needs in the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer.

He has implemented multiple product launches for improved tissue biopsy, local focal ablations and ultrasound detection of peripheral nodules. He is a strong advocate for cancer prevention and screening and has formed a community education team (CRAFT) sponsoring cancer seminars and fund-raising events.

He obtained his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota where he was inducted as an industrial fellow in the Institute of Engineering for Medicine (IEM). He enjoys an active lifestyle with his wife and 4 children through traveling, coaching sports, hiking and biking.

Jonathan Hovda, MD, MBA  

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 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.

Andrew McPherson 

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 Opheim 

Julie Opheim

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.

Manish Patel, DO 

Manish Patel, OD

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.

Lori Shipman 

Lori Shipman

Lori graduated from Penn State in 1991 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 wife and mother of three active teenagers. Lori and her husband Carroll live in Shorewood, MN and enjoy spending time outdoors and on the lake with their three children.

Bruce Machmeier 

Bruce Machmeier

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.

Nancy Torrison, Executive Director

Nancy Torrison

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 nonprofit 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, 30,000 families follow the work of the foundation, annual revenue has grown from $200,000 to over $1,200,000, research investment has surpassed the $2.5 million mark, and new programming offers hope, support, and education for hundreds of thousands of patients and families globally.

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 ABOHLF, 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 23% and A Breath of Hope has become a key player in the national lung cancer field.

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