Board of Trustees

The Transplant House of Cleveland Board of Trustees is comprised of very committed volunteers, each of whom has been touched by organ transplantation and the special patients and family members whose lives are changed by that gift of life. With many hundreds of families coming to Cleveland each year for evaluation and surgery, each of us believes it is time for Cleveland to create its own home-away-from-home for transplant patients and their families.

Board Members


Joanmarie Button


Joanmarie has both a personal and professional passion for Transplant House of Cleveland. Currently the Director of the Cleveland House Program at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeast Ohio, a 55-bedroom home-away-from-home for families of pediatric patients, she has 20 years of experience in managing hospitality housing. Joanmarie and other family members have received organ transplants at the Cleveland Clinic, and she has provided online support to kidney transplant patients and families coming from out of town. Her previous work experience was in corporate human resources and professional relations.


Gordon R. Bowen

Vice President

Gordon is the Chief Executive Officer for Lifebanc, the organ and tissue recovery agency serving Northeast Ohio. He has spent most of his career in the organ and tissue donation and transplantation industry serving in a variety of roles.  Bowen, a certified Procurement Transplant Coordinator and Medical Technologist, serves on a variety of state, regional and national advisory boards and committees related to organ and tissue donation and transplantation.


Art Thomson


For more than 25 years, Art Thomson has been working in healthcare – most of this time in organ transplantation. Art has shown tremendous support for all local donation-related initiatives at both Lifebanc and within the Cleveland Clinic Health System. Currently, the Administrator for the Digestive Disease Institute and the Transplant Center at Cleveland Clinic, Art recently served as Treasurer for the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

Ken DiPippo

Kenneth DiPippo, MHA, RN, LNHA

Ken has worked in the Health Care industry for over 30 years and currently serves as Chief Nursing Officer/Agency Administrator at University Hospitals Home Care Services. In this role, Ken oversees a team of 340 staff members and a patient census of over 1,800. At the start of his career, Ken spent 17 years as Administrator for two Skilled Nursing Facilities on Cleveland’s West side. During this time he also pursued his Nursing Degree and earned his RN, which lead to an opportunity to manage three Urgent Care Centers at UH. This also afforded the opportunity to remain close to providing patient care and enhancing the patient experience. With the encouragement to grow professionally at University Hospitals, Ken earned his Master of Health Administration from Ohio University, leading to an Administrator position managing 10 active practices for Women’s Health. In a volunteer capacity, Ken has previously served on Parish Council and as Booster Club President for six years, at St. Francis of Assisi in Gates Mills, Ohio.

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Nancy Hancock Griffith

Nancy Hancock Griffith, Principal and Co-Founder of the law firm of BauerGriffith, LLC, has served as an attorney and consultant in the field of exempt organization representation, and philanthropic and gift planning, since 2005. She has held fundraising leadership positions with The Cleveland Orchestra and the Music School Settlement, prior to which she practiced corporate and securities law with the law firm of Thompson Hine, and then as Vice President in the corporate law department of KeyCorp. Nancy graduated magna cum laude, Order of the Coif, from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, and received her Bachelor of Arts in Music and English, graduating summa cum laude, from Concordia University in Ann Arbor. Nancy currently serves on the boards of directors of Cleveland Play House and the Hermit Club.


Bridget Cougevan Howard

Bridget Cougevan Howard serves as the Executive Director of the Institutional Review Board at the Cleveland Clinic, which protects the rights, safety and welfare of individuals recruited to participate in research activities. Bridget was previously an attorney specializing in health law at a local law firm, and was associate counsel in the Law Department at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.


Kay Kendall, MSW

Kay Kendall, MSW has worked in outpatient mental health settings for the first 14 years of her social work career. She began working at the Cleveland Clinic as the Heart Transplant Social Worker and for 22 years she has been involved in the evaluation process of these patients and she has followed pre and post heart transplant patients and also individuals who have mechanical circulatory support devices placed. Kay has conducted research projects exploring patient’s quality of life pre and post-transplant. She has presented and published the results of these studies. Kay has been a member of the Society for Transplant Social Workers and was appointed to the UNOS Ethics Committee and the UNOS International Relations Committee in 2010.


Heather Mekesa

Heather Mekesa is the Senior Director of External Relations at Lifebanc. Prior to her current role, Heather was the Chief Operations Officer and the Director of Hospital Services at Lifebanc. She has also worked at the Cleveland Clinic in multiple roles related to organ donation. Heather earned a B.S. from Kent State University and a MBA from Cleveland State University.


Erica Miller

Erica Miller, Past President of Transplant House of Cleveland, brings 15 years of experience from New York City, where she created a 10-bedroom facility for transplant patients visiting Mt. Sinai Medical Center. Her husband is currently director of Liver Transplantation at Cleveland Clinic.


Matthew Miller

Matthew Miller is a Managing Partner at JumpStart Ventures. Matthew has 25+ years of tech startup founder/leadership, venture/private equity investing, and corporate innovation experience. Immediately prior to joining JumpStart, he was Vice President of Healthcare with BioEnterprise. Matthew received an M.B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh – Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and a Bachelor’s degree in Education and Biology/Chemistry from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Matthew received a liver transplant at Cleveland Clinic in April 2015 and since that time, he and his wife, Lisa Vegas, have devoted most of their free time to volunteer work centered on the advancement of efforts designed to ensure a successful and emotionally supportive transplant experience for others.


Candice Monroe

Candice Monroe is an Ethics and Compliance Manager at the J.M. Smucker Corporation. Candice obtained a Bachelor’s degree from John Carroll University and a Master’s of Arts degree from The University of Akron. Candice is an avid volunteer for Northeast Ohio’s Organ Procurement Organization, Lifebanc, and Donate Life America, and is a committee member for the Canton, Ohio American Heart Association’s Heart Ball. Candice and her older sister are heart transplant recipients, so her passion for organ donation and the gift of life has allowed her to cross paths with an amazing organization—THoC.


Anthony Panzica

Anthony Panzica is President & CEO of Panzica Construction Company in Cleveland. Tony earned a B.S. degree in civil engineering from Purdue University in 1975 and his professional engineering license shortly thereafter. Mr. Panzica’s primary role as President/CEO is to market and maintain relationships with our clients. He carefully monitors client satisfaction, quality control and provides timely issue resolution.  For the past 37 years, Anthony has served on a variety of boards and committees in the nonprofit sector and maintains an active role in industry-related groups. Currently, he is serving as president of the Construction Employers Association.

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Julie Plescia

Julie Plescia is the Clinical Nurse Manager-Lung Transplant at the Cleveland Clinic. Julie has nearly 20 years experience in the medical field with a particular emphasis on organ procurement and transplant medicine. Before her current role, Julie was the Nurse Manager at University Hospitals' Transplant Institute and was the Director of Organ Services for Lifebanc where she coordinated organ procurement and preservation teams. She earned a B.S. in Nursing and a MBA from Ohio University.


Phil Ryan, CPA, MBA

Phil Ryan is a partner at Cohen & Co., a tax, assurance and advisory services company. Phil's expertise focuses on developing close relationships with clients and overseeing the assurance engagements for closely held businesses, private equity firms and private equity owned companies. With 20 years of experience, including 12 years at a Big 4 firm, he delivers innovative solutions to drive measurable business value to a variety of industries, including renewable energy, industrial and consumer products, manufacturing, private equity, distribution and wholesale, and service. Phil earned his B.S.B.A. in Accountancy and his M.B.A. from John Carroll University. He lives in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, with his wife and their four children. In addition to coaching sports for his children, Phil is an avid Cleveland sports fan and loves spending time outside with his family and friends.

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Chris Van Ausdale

Chris Van Ausdale is the SVP, marketing leader at Westfield Bank, a community bank located in Northeast Ohio that provides comprehensive personal, business, and agency banking products and services. As the Marketing Leader for Westfield Bank, Chris focuses on acquiring new customers and deepening existing customer relationships by developing marketing strategies and building out new functionality. Chris has over 20 years of marketing experience and prior to Westfield Bank, she worked in marketing roles of increasing responsibility at KeyBank and Applied Industrial Technologies. Chris earned a B.A. in Business Administration and a Minor in Art from Bluffton University and an MBA from Ashland University.

Chris was on the board of JD Breast Cancer Foundation for 5 years and served as president for 3 years prior to joining Transplant House of Cleveland.


Brian Vitale, In Remembrance

Brian Vitale served as Trustee from 2017 until his passing in November, 2020.  Brian Vitale was Senior Partner, Vitale, Caruso & Associates in Warren, New Jersey. Vitale, Caruso & Associates is a 46 year old Financial Planning/Investment Advisory company with assets under management in excess of $150 million. Brian was involved with many charities over his long career, but Transplant House of Cleveland holds special meaning. He and his wife, Diane, spent seven months living in a hotel across from the Cleveland Clinic pre- and post-liver transplant, which he received in December 2013. Transplant House was not open at that time, and Brian and Diane understand the need for housing and community support in Cleveland for transplant patients and their families, and therefore gave generously to this cause.

Associate Board

The Associate Board was created by Candice Monroe, who received a heart transplant when she was 15-years old. Over time, this group has attracted young professionals with personal experience or interest in supporting and advocating for the organ transplant community and who love Transplant House of Cleveland.

If you would like to get more information about joining the associate board, please contact us.