Our (ph)ight against pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is directed at funding research and development of novel diagnostic tools to advance early detection and diagnosis. We are dedicated to educating the gatekeepers of medicine as to the early warning signs of PAH – and providing them with the necessary tools to screen PAH candidates through efficient and less-invasive methods. Our mission is to “rule in” PAH early and efficiently to give those living with this disease every opportunity to live extended and quality lives after diagnosis.
Board of Directors
Meredith Wilharber knows all too well about Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. It took her mother’s life when she was 12 and reappeared in her own life when she was diagnosed at 34. She is a stay-at-home mom to two boys – ages three and one. Being told she had a disease known as the "silent killer" put the (ph)ight in her to do everything in her power to help others that are currently or will be in her shoes one day.
She and husband, Randy, founded the Blue Lips Foundation to further educate, raise awareness and fund research dedicated to early detection and screening of the disease. They decided it was their time to make a difference in the fight against PAH.
It wasn’t until his wife’s diagnosis that a relatively unknown disease became a reality for Randy Wilharber. He had heard the story of her mom’s passing when Meredith was a young girl, but didn't fully understand what the disease was or what it meant to live with the condition. As Meredith’s family members, Randy and their two kids see the bad and the ugly of the disease every day.
Randy is motivated by how much is still left to be understood about PAH. Since the date of Meredith's mom's passing in the early 1990s, research and treatment of the disease has progressed. Dedicated physicians now have an understanding of how to attack the disease and fight back against elevated blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries, but there is much more to do before a cure is found. Meredith, and others who are diagnosed, are at the mercy of medications to slow the progression of the disease. Others, unaware that they possess this condition, are likely to suffer from heart failure and premature death.
Randy and Meredith founded Blue Lips with the vision of advancing research and funding for early detection, new screening methods and early onset treatment. The long-term outlook for those suffering from the disease is greatly improved when treatment begins in the early stages. There is currently a great void in this area of the fight against PAH. Early screening and detection is desperately needed to save the lives (and improve the quality of life) of those who harbor this terrible condition.
Randy is a partner at the Peddicord-Wharton LLP law firm with a practice primarily focused on commercial litigation, product liability, and personal injury.
Derek Hetland, a Territory Manager for St. Jude Medical, Inc., is passionate about pulmonary arterial hypertension for a variety of reasons - the general public knows little about the disease, no cure exists presently and too much time passes from symptom onset to diagnosis. He became involved with the Blue LIps Foundation primarily to raise awareness about PAH. His close friend was recently diagnosed with this deadly disease and Derek has had to witness firsthand the physical and emotional stress it causes. He is dedicated to raising knowledge and funding to help find a cure as well as to establish a better screening process to properly identify and diagnose PAH.
Meredith Beasley knew little about pulmonary arterial hypertension until March 30, 2015, when she learned that her neighbor, Meredith Wilharber, had been diagnosed. From the little information Meredith possessed, it seemed an impossible diagnosis. How could the woman living next door - an energetic mother, wife and friend who looked perfectly healthy - have PAH?
Meredith wants to make sure that when a person hears the letters PAH, they are as familiar with it as they are with more prevalent diseases, such as HIV – not because the number of diagnoses has risen, but because people are making great strides to cure the disease.
Meredith is an account manager at Iota, an organization that designs customized wellness programs for companies.
Erica Vinyard graduated from the University of Iowa College of Nursing in 2002. She worked for 5 years in the surgical ICU and another 4 years in the surgical ICU, medical ICU and cardiovascular ICU at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Currently, she stays home with her three young boys and also volunteers at the free medical clinic through Waukee Area Christian Services. Through her work in the healthcare field and also because of a personal connection (her uncle and a good friend were both diagnosed with the disease), she has witnessed firsthand the burden and stress that the PAH diagnosis can bring to a person and their family.
Erica is passionate about the Blue Lips Foundation becoming a leading research funding organization in the battle against PAH.
Amy Varcoe has worked in healthcare marketing for more than 10 years at UnityPoint Health – Des Moines. Amy's true passion is story-telling and being able to share the initiatives, projects and stories to make a connection to people. Working in healthcare and watching people fight diseases, illnesses and chronic medical conditions has guided Amy to volunteer for enhanced medical treatments for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. I am honored to serve the Blue Lips Foundation to fund research for early detection and work with world-class health organizations to make a difference in our life-time. Amy is a graduate of the West Des Moines Leadership Academy, served on the Waukee YMCA Board, youth sports volunteer for the City of Waukee and volunteers at Lutheran Church of Hope. Amy holds a Masters degree from Boston University in Health Communication and a Bachelor's degree in Public Relations and Electronic Media from Wartburg College. Amy is married to Nick and have three children, Evan, Wyatt and Lucy and reside in Urbandale.
Chris Bagby chose to get involved with the Blue Lips Foundation because, like many others, he didn’t know much about the disease until he had a personal encounter with it. Although there has been some progress to treat PAH, Chris sees an important opportunity to increase awareness and early detection research funding. He is passionate about pulmonary arterial hypertension because it impacts over 25 million people and can be devastating to families if not detected early and treated. Chris is a Senior Vice President for Wells Fargo Bank and is a Corporate Credit Portfolio Manager with credit oversight of the Wells Fargo Home Lending and Wealth, Brokerage, and Retirement businesses.