Mission Statement, History, and Scientific Advisory Board

Mission Statement

The Bicuspid Aortic Foundation is committed to promoting the well being of those affected by thoracic aortic disease and supporting the pioneering work of dedicated aortic physicians on the leading edge of treatment. There are several aspects to this, as expressed by the Foundation mission statement. Bicuspid Aortic Foundation Mission Statement The Bicuspid Aortic Foundation's mission is to: • promote the well being and longevity of those affected by bicuspid aortic valve disease, thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection, and any and all related conditions • provide information and educational resources for patients, their families, and the general public • encourage and support medical professionals and research scientists in exchanging information and advancing understanding of bicuspid aortic valve disease and thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection, their underlying causes, and the optimization of care for these conditions • seek research funding for bicuspid aortic valve and thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection conditions


The Bicuspid Aortic Foundation originated in Los Angeles, California, in 2002. It began with a shared recognition of the need for advocacy in the treatment of all thoracic aortic conditions, regardless of cause, including bicuspid aortic valve disease. The Foundation is led and guided by individuals who understand the challenges faced by those with an aortic condition and the importance of advancing medical and surgical treatment through research. In its early stages, the Foundation focused on broadening the understanding of bicuspid aortic valve disease, other aortic conditions, and the needs of those who have them. The launch of the BAF website in 2004 has given the Foundation the opportunity to reach out to anyone seeking information about thoracic aortic disease, regardless of the underlying cause. The Foundation is a California non-profit corporation with Federal tax exempt status under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Scientific Advisory Board

Chairman -  Sharo S. Raissi, MD, FACS, FACCP Dr. Raissi is a cardiothoracic surgeon practicing in Los Angeles. He is board certified in general surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, and surgical critical care medicine. Simon Body, MD Dr. Body is Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School, and an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. His vision led to the BAV-Genetics research effort, which has blossomed into an international collaboration of centers studying the genetics of BAV. Randall B. Griepp, MD Dr. Griepp is Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. From its inception in 1988, Dr. Griepp has been the Program Director of the Aortic Surgery Symposium, a two day biannual conference with an international faculty focusing on the surgical treatment of aortic disease. John Harold, MD, FACC Dr. Harold practices cardiology in Los Angeles. Eric Isselbacher, MD Dr. Isselbacher is Associate Director, Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center and  Co-Director of the Thoracic Aortic Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Teruhisa Kazui, MD, PhD  Dr. Kazui has now retired after serving as Professor and Chairman, Department of Surgery, and Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery, at Hamamatsu University School of Medicine, Hamamatsu, Japan. Nicholas T. Kouchoukos, MD   Dr. Kouchoukos practices thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at Missouri Baptist Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri. His areas of  specialization include surgery of the aortic root, thoracic, and thoracoabdominal aorta. He is active in many professional organizations and was President of the Society of Thoracic Surgery in 1999. Cheryl Maslen, PhD Dr. Maslen is  professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, and Molecular & Medical Genetics in the OHSU School of Medicine, and is Associate Director of the OHSU Heart Research Center. Wouter Schievink, MD  Dr. Schievink is Director of Neurovascular Surgery at the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Jason Sperling, MD Dr. Sperling is the Sub-Specialty Director of the Thoracic Aneurysm and Bicuspid Aortic Valve Program at Valley Heart and Vascular Institute in New Jersey.
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Board of Directors

Chairman and President - Ms. Arlys K.Velebir Ms. Velebir resides in southern California. Her husband has bicuspid aortic valve disease and has undergone surgeries for aortic valve replacement (twice) and ascending aortic aneurysm resection. He also suffered an extensive stroke due to valvular strands. Other family members have also been diagnosed with BAV/TAD. Vice Chairman Emeritis - Ms. Fiorenza Courtright- Lucas Ms. Courtright Lucas resides with her husband in southern California. She has undergone ascending aortic aneurysm surgery. Member - Robert Gies Mr. Gies lives in western Montana. He successfully underwent surgery for BAV, ascending aortic aneurysm, and the MAZE procedure was also performed. Member  - Ms. Carrie Mettler Ms. Mettler lives on a ranch in northern California. She has bicuspid aortic valve disease, which also affects another member of her family. She has had a pacemaker for many years and successfully underwent brain aneurysm surgery in January, 2004. Treasurer - Dr. Sharo S. Raissi, MD, FACS, FACCP (Please see biography under Scientific Advisory Board) Secretary - Ms. Terry Lopez  Ms. Lopez lives in Hawaii. She brings her experience with familial aortic disease, which has affected several family members, to the Foundation. Member - Ms. B.J. Sanders  Ms. Sanders, a pediatric physical therapist, resides with her family in coastal North Carolina. She has bicuspid aortic valve disease.

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