Setting Sail to New Heights: Highlights From MHI Leadership Training 2022

By Lisa Horn

For 71 years, MHI has charted a course to inspire hope and improve the quality of life of heart patients and their families through ongoing peer-to-peer support, education and advocacy. To continue the legacy, MHI launched its annual Leadership Training event June 25-28.

Over four days, MHI volunteers and staff joined together for a comprehensive leadership development program that covered topics ranging from building community and creating connections to developing leadership skills. The event also included the annual meeting as well as the awards ceremony that recognized the outstanding efforts of MHI volunteers. Following are the highlights.

The Mended Hearts, Inc. Leader Ship

Created around a nautical theme, the MHI Leader Ship set sail with the objective of helping leaders rebuild and reenergize their chapters and groups.

Leaders were given the tools, educational materials and program ideas that they need to reconnect with their members, hospitals and community.

Divided into 11 sessions, the program opened with MHI updates and a town-hall-style Q&A session. Executive Director Andrea Baer and staff spoke about Peer Support of the Future as well as MHI fundraisers to keep our ship afloat, awareness campaigns and 2023 events.

The Building/Rebuilding Community session showed how to construct a strong foundation for groups and chapters, whether they’re just starting out or rebuilding. The Creating Connection and Engagement session highlighted the importance of inclusion and belonging as well as actions leaders can take to create a safe and welcoming environment.

Special guest Grady Powell led the Leadership Skills for Peer Support Leaders session. Powell, a futures-oriented strategist, designer and entrepreneur, is the founder and CEO of Openfields, an integrated research, data, strategy and design firm committed to helping visionary leaders imagine and accelerate possibilities for social impact. He spoke about leadership styles and myths, using your strengths, communicating effectively and managing conflict.

The Peer Support portion of the training wrapped up with a session on Leading Meetings and Programs, which covered tools and tips for holding great meetings — in-person, online or using a hybrid model.

Next, the Advocacy session allowed attendees to learn more about MHI’s ACTION NETWORK™ and opportunities, both big and small, for speaking up. In the Marketing session, MHI’s new Marketing Toolkit was debuted so that volunteers can navigate “selling” our Accredited Visiting program, chapters, support groups or community groups to health care professionals and hospitals.

The event’s Closing Session offered last-minute tips to help attendees take what was learned and set sail with a strategy for putting it all into practice.

The Annual Meeting

The MHI Annual Meeting not only updated the membership on current programs but also recognized the achievements of the past year. In 2021, we celebrated our platinum anniversary — 70 years of supporting patients with cardiovascular disease, their caregivers and their families. Despite navigating all the challenges surrounding COVID-19, MHI had its best year on record, serving 74,626 members across 236 chapters.

In addition to visiting and education initiatives, we launched four new programs to continue providing a strong, unified voice for heart patients and their families.


MHI has the largest peer-to-peer support network in the world so no one has to feel alone in their heart journey. In 2021, 380+ hospitals were served, and patients received 46,667 total visits (32,631 of which were virtual visits due to COVID-19 restrictions) conducted by 696 accredited visitors and 678 virtual visitors.

Education Programs

One of the ways MHI empowers heart patients and their families is by providing relevant education and resources that enable them to make better decisions about their health care. In 2021, we hosted 32 webinars that were attended by 4,398 patients and families and garnered an additional 21,600 views on YouTube, totaling 5,215 hours of learning.

The Mended Hearts, Inc. ACTION NETWORK™

In partnership with CURA Strategies, we launched the MHI ACTION NETWORK to bring together a community of patients and caregivers dedicated to championing issues that impact patients, families and researchers. ACTION NETWORK members attended webinars on advocacy and fostering relation- ships with members of Congress, received toolkits and communication templates for outreach efforts and engaged with others in a closed Facebook group.

The Welcome Home Program

Patients who have heart failure are at risk of ending up back in the hospital if they don’t follow their treatment plan. To provide education and support during the critical time of transitioning from hospital to home, MHI created the Welcome Home program. Covering the 12-week period after a patient arrives home from the hospital, the program delivers a weekly educational email that helps patients become more empowered, a weekly emotional support email and a peer-support call every other week.

The Share Your Heart® Awareness Campaign

Share Your Heart provides an opportunity for patients, caregivers, family members and the health care professionals who care for them to share their hearts — powerful stories about how people impacted by heart disease use their experience to improve the lives of others. In 2021, the 204 submitted photos received 3,729 votes, and the 316 social media posts garnered a total reach of 262,732 people throughout the campaign.

Young Mended Hearts®

Young Mended Hearts officially became a national MHI program in December 2021. This peer-support program was designed to give hope and support to young adults (ages 18 to 55 suggested), filling a gap for those who are often told they are “too young to have heart disease” — yet they do.

Younger patients living with heart disease, including congenital heart disease (CHD), often don’t feel they fit in with traditional peer support groups. Young Mended Hearts offers them resources for dealing with heart disease at their stage of life.

The 2021 Award Winners

The third annual MHI virtual awards ceremony honored volunteers, health care providers, hospitals, companies, chapters and groups that contributed time and energy to support, educate and advocate for heart patients and their families for the 2021 calendar year. Congratulations to the following national award winners.

MHI Tita Hutchens Award

Kathryn Dodds; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Erica Sood, PhD; Nemours Children’s Health in Delaware

Bestowed every year in honor of Tita Hutchens, the founder of the Mended Little Hearts Program (MLH), the MHI Tita Hutchens award acknowledges outstanding service to the MLH Program. The honored individual or organization has provided exemplary support, education or advocacy for families with children who have CHD and/or have worked to increase awareness of CHD.

MHI Corporate Award

Bristol Myers Squibb

The MHI Corporate Award recognizes organizations for excellence in support- ing heart patients and their families. Given to a corporation that works directly with MHI, the awardee serves as a model of collaboration, compassion and commitment.

MHI Sydney & Helen Shuman Nurse of the Year Award

Kristy Thomas; Duke University Hospital; MLH of the Triangle

To recognize the dedication and heartfelt support that nurses provide, the MHI Sydney & Helen Shuman Nurse Recognition Award shows appreciation to the nurse who has made a significant positive difference in the field.

MHI Heart Hero of the Year Award

Kathryn Dodds, MSN, CRNP; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; MLH of the Philadelphia Region

Presented to a health care professional other than a nurse, the MHI Heart Hero Award honors those who have demonstrated compassion, commitment and caring for their patients. Recipients have shown remarkable dedication not only to patients who have cardiovascular disease but also to their caregivers and families.

MHI Newsletter of the Year Award

Joe Shocket, Editor, Chapter 028; Richmond, Virginia

The MHI Newsletter of the Year Award recognizes a chapter or group for publishing the most outstanding newsletter that demonstrates excellence in informing and educating patients and families as well as connecting them with helpful resources.

MHI Accredited Visitor Excellence Award

Gordon Bonham; Chapter 175; North Charleston, South Carolina

The MHI Accredited Visitor Excellence Award honors an accredited visitor who has grown the visiting program and MHI membership as well as increased the reach of MHI support through either in-person and/or internet accredited visiting. This may include the visiting chair of a MH chapter or MLH group. Recipients demonstrate outstanding commitment and service to those they visit, to the accredited visiting program and to the organization.

MHI Hospital of the Year Award

North Shore University Health System; Evanston, Illinois; Chapter 424

The MHI Hospital of the Year Award recognizes the hospital that has provided exceptional support and education to its members and the local community. Honorees also demonstrate outstanding participation in the mission and values of Mended Hearts and/or Mended Little Hearts in partnership with a chapter or group in its area.

MHI President’s Cup Award

Chapter 206; Palm Beach County, Florida

Bestowed upon a chapter or group, the MHI President’s Cup Award recognizes the outstanding service and demonstrated excellence of the chapter or group in its commitment to, and furtherance of, MHI’s mission, vision, values and goals.

MHI Volunteer of the Year Award

Lea Parker; Chapter 362; Sugarland, Texas

The MHI Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes MHI volunteers for going above and beyond in supporting patients and their families as well as furthering the MHI mission, vision, values and goals — all while making a positive difference in the organization and their community.

Mary M. Amato Student Edcation Award

Elaina Horne; Chapter 165; Albany, Georgia

The Mary M. Amato Student Education Award is an endowed award recognizing the impact health care professionals have in treating individuals with heart disease.

For a full list of divisional and regional winners, visit the member portal at

Thank you to all of this year’s award winners for your continuing support of MHI. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to fulfill our mission, vision and goals. Congratulations on your achievements!