BAKKEN INVITATION AWARD Program Outcomes
Learn how Honorees are making a difference around the world.
Learn how Honorees are making a difference around the world.
When people have access to quality healthcare, they are afforded the opportunity to better manage their own health and become empowered patients.
The aim of the Bakken Invitation is to support a global philanthropic movement of empowered patients who Live On. Give On. Dream On. and leverage their voices and their charitable initiatives to demonstrate the impact that patients can have in driving policy and societal change.
Bakken Invitation Honorees have inspired others through engaging talks, have supported key organizations that further their passions, and have strengthened their ability to influence policy makers to help ensure others are given the opportunity to better manage their health.
Medtronic Foundation supports Honorees as they shape the world by connecting them to thought leading platforms and by supporting the organizations that matter most to them.
Since 2013, the Medtronic Foundation has disbursed more than $1 million USD to nonprofit organizations to further the work of Honorees. Read about the difference Honorees are making in communities around the world.
The Medtronic Foundation has recognized 59 people who have overcome health conditions and are making a difference in communities worldwide.
Bakken Invitation Award Honorees contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by using their extra life to give back and inspire others to Live On, Give On, and Dream On. SDGs are a set of 17 goals to fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030. For more information on SDGs, visit the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals website.
Arthur Amman (USA), pacemaker
Just days after surviving sudden cardiac arrest and receiving his first pacemaker, Arthur reflected on his life and career and decided he would use his "extra time" to help improve health conditions in impoverished regions. He founded Global Strategies to meet prevention and care needs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Liberia.
Art’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Phil Bemis (USA), pacemaker & heart valve
In 2008, Phil began experiencing chronic heart problems, which caused him to pass out — seriously disrupting his active life. After receiving a new heart valve, the 82-year-old has not had a single heart problem, and his life changed for the better. Today, Phil, who began singing 50 years ago as a hobby, is a member of Alive & Kickin, a rock 'n' roll senior ensemble that performs across the Twin Cities, Minnesota area.
Phil’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Krystal Boyce (Barbados), insulin pump
Krystal Boyea has devoted much of her young life to sharing how she has lived a healthy, full life with diabetes, encouraging others to do the same. From her first online campaign to talks at the United Nations and TEDx, Krystal has become the face of diabetes in Barbados and the Caribbean. She also co-founded a groundbreaking diabetes clinic in Barbados. Krystal chose to support Healthy Caribbean Coalition in collaboration with government, private enterprise, academia, and international partners, to help prevent and manage chronic diseases among Caribbean people.
Krystal’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Allison Smith Conway (USA), deep brain stimulation
Allison was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease when she was 32. Deep brain stimulation helps her manage the symptoms, but she found few resources available for people experiencing young onset Parkinson’s. She founded Parkinson’s in Balance through the Foundation for Neurosciences, Stroke and Recovery, which offers fitness classes and support groups in her community. She connects with thousands of others through her "Perky Parkie" blog.
Allison’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
George Dove (U.K.), insulin pump
George has dedicated his life to helping others with type 1 diabetes. He says his life changed when he received an insulin pump, and he tirelessly advocates for improved access to pump therapy, traveling the globe to raise money for diabetes research through JDRF.
George’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Clint Benson Doyle (USA), implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
Clint Doyle experienced brain damage at an early age after surviving sudden cardiac arrest. Clint advocates for youth and for people with disabilities, to give them every opportunity to discover their gift and strength. Clint, who now has an ICD, leads art programs for children with special needs, where he inspires and challenges them to stay focused on their goals. Mana'olana Hope, Inc.
Clint’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Bruce Harper (USA), implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
Having experienced sudden cardiac arrest four times, Bruce realizes the lifesaving power of an ICD. This former New York Jets football player now mentors students of all ages through Heroes and Cool Kids, which he founded after his cardiac events.
Bruce’s work contributes to SDG#4 - Quality Education
Fran Heitzman (USA), pacemaker
In 1993, Fran had quintuple bypass surgery. Fourteen years later, he received a pacemaker. In 1987, he founded Bridging where he continues to volunteer. Bridging provides quality furniture and household goods to people transitioning out of homelessness and poverty. On average, Bridging distributes 11 semi-truckloads of furniture and household goods to 80 households every week.
Fran’s work contributes to SDG#1 -
Jennifer Jones (Australia), insulin pump
Jennifer lives to help people in some of the world’s most remote and impoverished regions. With an insulin pump helping her manage type 1 diabetes, Jennifer co-founded the Room to Grow Foundation and spent nine years in refugee camps on the Thailand/Burma border, providing food, medicine and educational opportunities to children.
Jennifer’s work contributes to SDG#10 - Reduced Inequalities
Eric Jordan (USA), revascularization device
Eric was a professional opera singer when he suffered a massive stroke. Physicians treated him with a device to remove the blood clot in his brain and help him recover. Today, Eric is an inspirational speaker/singer and a music therapy student at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina. Eric's Bakken Invitation Award will support the music therapy program at the university by providing students with scholarships and internship stipends.
Eric’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Edward Levien (USA), neurostimulation
After losing 12 years of his life to intolerable pain, Ed found relief through neurostimulation. He has since dedicated his life to helping others suffering pain. Through Hero Dogs program, he trains and then donates service dogs to wounded veterans, providing soldiers with increased independence and improved quality of life.
Edward’s work contributes to SDG#11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
Gretchen Merrit (USA), insulin pump
Gretchen has lived with type 1 diabetes most of her life. Diabetes did not hold her back from accomplishing her goals, but it made her carefully think about her health and how she directs her passion. At 22, she began using an insulin pump, which she says made a difference in her quality of life. She pours her passion into fighting to free sex slaves in India through Freedom Firm.
Gretchen’s work contributes to SDG#5 - Gender Equality
Sara Meslow (USA), implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
Sara was first diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat at age 13. She received an ICD when she was 29 to protect her from cardiac arrest. Her love for kids and the outdoors inspired her to open Camp Odayin, a camp for kids with heart defects.
Sara’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Tracy O'Connor (USA), intrathecal drug pump to Treat Chronic Intractable Pain
As the sole survivor of a multi-car accident, Tracy was left paralyzed but determined to make a difference. With a drug pump helping manage chronic intractable pain, she is a national voice for disability awareness and works with ThinkFirst to warn thousands of kids on the dangers of risky behavior.
Tracy’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Samantha Petersen (USA), spinal fusion
Samantha was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 11. In 2012, after her spinal fusion surgery corrected the curve in her spine, then 15-year-old Sami turned her passion and newfound physical freedom into SHIFT Scoliosis , an organization she created to provide screenings and support for all people with spinal conditions.
Samantha’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
R.T. Rybak (USA), stent
R.T. suffered a heart attack. He was transported to the hospital, where three drug-eluting stents were placed to open critical arteries and restore heart function. R.T. is president and CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation and a member of the leadership council of Generation Next — a coalition of civic, business, and education leaders in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota dedicated to closing achievement and opportunity gaps.
R.T.’s work contributes to SDG#10 - Reduced Inequalities
Roberta Alves Silva (Brazil), insulin pump
Roberta was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 14 years old, which she found particularly difficult to control until an insulin pump helped her manage the disease. For the past two years, Roberta has served as a volunteer for Educational Association in Diabetes (Colônia Diabetes Weekend), a program that offers young people living with diabetes activities, support, and opportunities to share experiences.
Roberta’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
David Simmonds (Canada), deep brain stimulation (DBS)
David has lived with Parkinson’s disease since 1993. His DBS device allows him to function independently and devote his time and energy to helping others, specifically as a volunteer for the Parkinson's Society Canada.
David’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Leah Stoltz (USA), scoliosis surgery
Leah was diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis in middle school and wore a back brace before requiring surgery to correct two curves growing in her back. Since then, she has made it her personal mission to empower and support girls diagnosed with scoliosis. Leah founded Curvy Girls, an international scoliosis support group for girls with nearly 80 chapters in more than 30 states and 15 countries around the world. Leah's Bakken Invitation Award will support training for Curvy Girls chapter leaders.
Leah’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Jack Terschluse (USA), insulin pump
Jack was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 11. Receiving an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor provided him with flexibility and confidence. As a result of his new life, Jack, now 23, started a global nonprofit, Penpals United, which offers online support groups to children with type 1 diabetes in resource-poor communities worldwide. Opportunities to connect with their peers help these children and their families realize that, with the proper skills and devices, diabetes does not have to control their lives.
Jack’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Twinkle VanFleet (USA), spinal cord stimulation
Twinkle was diagnosed in 2003 with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (CRPS/RSD), a painful, debilitating and often progressive central nervous system disorder. A spinal cord stimulator has helped manage her pain, and she has expanded her advocacy efforts on behalf of those with neuropathic pain disorders from online to in-person events. Power of Pain Foundation.
Twinkle’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Sheila Vasconcellos (Brazil), insulin pump
Sheila Vasconcellos has had type 1 diabetes since 30 years. In January 2014, she began using an insulin pump. Determined to give back, Sheila started volunteering at Casa de Apoio, where she helps children diagnosed with cancer and serious blood conditions. Sheila believes that the insulin pump has given her extra life, and she hopes to live another 45 years loving and supporting others.
Sheila’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Lisa Visser (USA), implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
Lisa suffered a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) at the age of 26, leading to a diagnosis of arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, a congenital heart defect. She now has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to treat future SCA episodes. Grateful for the extra life she receives, she has volunteered time helping various organizations for the homeless in Minnesota. Temple Israel's Committee to End Homelessness.
Lisa’s work contributes to SDG#1 - No Poverty
David Watkins (USA), heart valve
David Watkins was living with an undiagnosed bicuspid aortic valve. By the time he was diagnosed, he was at risk of aneurysm, and made a difficult decision to undergo surgery to replace his heart valve. After recovery, he decided to start living the legacy he wanted to leave: using the power of sports to help others live their dreams through the Ironheart Foundation.
David’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Tanya Hall (Australia), pacemaker
Tanya was born with a hole in her heart and a heart murmur. She had open heart surgery when she was nine years old. She was diagnosed with a number of heart arrhythmias, and received a pacemaker. In 2011, frustrated with the lack of cardiac patient support groups in Australia, and at a loss for how she would spend the rest of her life, Tanya founded hearts4heart to fill both voids.
Tanya’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Bhim Mahat (Nepal), heart valve
Bhim was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease and had open heart surgery to replace a damaged aortic valve in 1992. Immediately after his surgery, he became a lifetime member of the Nepal Heart Foundation and began working to help others with the same condition. Thanks to the efforts of Bhim and the Foundation, Nepal now has a dedicated heart hospital.
Bhim’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Rajnikant Reshamwala (India), coronary stents
A lifelong volunteer, Raj was actively involved in helping poor children in Mumbai when blockage in his coronary arteries made physical activity very difficult. It became hard to keep up with his community work. In January 2013, he received coronary stents to remove the blockage. He found himself reenergized and rededicated to helping Sleeping Children Around the World, an international organization that helps kids get a good night’s sleep.
Raj’s work contributes to SDG#1 -
Haruko Sato (Japan), neurostimulation for movement disorders
In 2012, Haruko-san underwent surgery to receive deep brain stimulation therapy to treat cervical dystonia, a painful condition in which the neck muscles contract involuntarily. She now works tirelessly to bring more attention to dystonia, to help others in Japan. Haruko has chosen to support Meguminosono, an orginization which provides homes, vocational support and welfare service for the elderly and people with physical, intellectual and mental disabilities.
Haruko’s work contributes to SDG#11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
Yongkuan Shen (China), deep brain stimulation (DBS)
After suffering tremors for years, Yongkuan received Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) therapy in 2014, which completely changed his life. Now, he volunteers at the Chinese Red Cross Foundation and serves as president and co-founder of Jiangsu Parkinson's Association, supporting and connecting patients to raise awareness of the disease and treatment options. Yongkuan's Bakken Invitation Award will help more people who are suffering from Parkinson’s disease to seek out effective treatment options.
Yongkuan’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Wang Xinjie (China), insulin pump
Wang Xinjie has lived with diabetes for more than 31 years. When he started using an insulin pump in 2004, he was finally able to manage his blood glucose levels. Wang volunteers at the Beijing Diabetes Prevention and Control Association, advocating for diabetes awareness and patient education in China.
Wang’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Qi Zhang (China), insulin pump
Qi was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was only seven years old. Qi started using an insulin pump in 2001. Now, Qi works as a pediatric technician and volunteers with the Beijing Diabetes Prevention and Control Association. She established the China Type 1 Diabetes Caring Foundation, a first-of-its-kind educational organization.
Qi’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Kwanele Asante (South Africa), implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
Kwanele Asante was diagnosed with breast cancer and developed chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy, which can lead to congestive heart failure. She received an ICD to help her cope with her condition. The device and her heart medications have significantly improved her quality of life. Kwanele uses her extra life to advocate for the healthcare rights of indigent Africans with cancer through her work with the African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) — a biomedical research-focused non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to cancer prevention and control in Africa. Kwanele’s Bakken Invitation Award will help train 100 African patient advocates in ‘Cancer 101, Public Health Education and Government Lobbying,’ so they can effectively lobby their nation states to make cancer an African priority.
Kwanele’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Lucilla Bossi (Italy), deep brain stimulation (DBS)
Lucilla has lived with Parkinson’s disease for nearly 30 years, struggling to learn how to move throughout daily life without attracting undue attention. Since 2001, after receiving deep brain stimulation, she has worked to improve quality of life for Parkinson’s disease patients in Italy.
Lucilla has served as the president of Parkinson Italia which spreads information about the disease, represents the people suffering from Parkinson’s and advocates on their behalf.
Lucilla’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Vincent Browne (Ireland), stents
Vincent had his first heart attack in 1989, which was treated with angioplasty and a triple bypass. Following his second heart attack, he was fitted with three coronary stents — and then three more after his third heart attack. He has volunteered for the past 18 years with Croí, the West of Ireland Cardiac Foundation, to help them raise money to bring heart disease prevention and recovery to tens of thousands of people in Ireland.
Vincent’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Igor Chamilla (Slovakia), pacemaker
After Igor Chamilla’s cardiac arrest, bypass surgery, and pacemaker implant, he decided to learn everything he could about his disease and how to live a full life with it. But that wasn’t enough for him. He now offers educational courses for approximately 2,000 cardiac patients a year in Slovakia through his foundation, KardioKlub SK.
Igor’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Lucia Deganutti (Italy), therapy for bladder control
Lucia, 52, has interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS) — a rare disease that affects muscles and nerves in the bladder and other pelvic organs, causing pain and urinary frequency and urgency. After suffering for 10 years, Lucia finally received help in 2006, when a doctor with the Italian Association for Interstitial Cystitis (AICI) recommended the adequate therapy after which her symptoms improved dramatically. Today, Lucia serves on the AICI directory board.
Lucia’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Victoria Buiza Fernandez (Spain), bariatric surgery
Obesity severely impacted the quality of Victoria's life for years, until one day she decided to make a change and sought help. In 2006, she gained access to medical technology and received bariatric surgery. Now, Victoria is the president and co-founder of Asociación Bariátrica Hispalis, collaborating with health professionals in the fight against obesity.
Victoria’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Juan Carlos Hernandez (Spain), radiofrequency ablation
After being diagnosed with high-grade dysplasia in Barrett’s esophagus, Juan received treatment that changed his life forever. He was treated with RFA, an endoscopic technique that cured the disease and enabled him to live a normal, healthy life. Because few people in Spain know about Barrett’s esophagus, which is a serious complication of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Juan founded Asenbar, with the goal of providing support and treatment options to every patient who needs it.
Juan’s work contributes to SDG#3 - Good Health and Well Being
Elisabetta Iannelli (Italy), multiple therapies
In 1993, Elisabetta was a vibrant 24-year-old law student and bride-to-be when she was diagnosed with ductal invasive metastatic breast cancer. She underwent a partial mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She donates her personal and professional experience to cancer charities. Since 2000, she has served as vice president of the Italian Association of Cancer Patients (AIMaC) — a nonprofit that provides information and psychological support to cancer patients, their families, and friends.
Elisabetta’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Jean-Paul Iyamuremy (Rwanda), heart valve
Slowly dying from rheumatic heart disease, Jean-Paul says he was blessed to receive the first heart valve replacement in Rwanda. Immediately following recovery, he began helping others get the care they need by organizing and managing the Rwanda Patient Care Network through Team Heart.
Jean-Paul’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Kerry Kalweit (South Africa), insulin pump
Kerry was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2004 and uses an insulin pump to manage her blood glucose levels. The pump helps her manage her disease, as well as an unpredictable daily schedule. This flexibility has allowed her to pursue her dreams. She first became involved with Youth With Diabetes as a camper and is now the general manager. She helps fundraise for all activities, serve as the organization’s official spokesperson, coordinates diabetes camps, and generates diabetes educational material.
Kerry’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Cajsa Lindberg (Sweden), insulin pump
Cajsa Lindberg was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2002 and has used an insulin pump since 2006 and a continuous glucose monitor since 2012. She believes these have given her extra life, which she uses to represent people who live with diabetes and give back to a community that supported her when she needed it the most. That community is the Swedish Diabetes Association and Ung Diabetes, an organization supporting young people with the disease.
Cajsa’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Thomas Okello (Uganda), heart valve
At just 16 years old, Thomas received a double valve replacement as a result of severe rheumatic heart disease (RHD). Many of his fellow Ugandans with RHD, however, do not receive this lifesaving treatment. Thomas began working with the Uganda Rheumatic Heart Disease Registry to raise awareness about RHD and inspire others to take care of their hearts. With the patient support branch of the organization, Thomas encourages people with RHD to visit their physicians regularly and take the medicine they need to live a healthy life.
Thomas’ work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Jan Talkowsky (Israel), pacemaker
Joan Talkowsky received a pacemaker in 2008 after being diagnosed with heart block. She volunteers by offering her translating services to Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, an organization that assists in providing medical care for underserved and unserved populations in Israel. Joan has seen the effect of small acts of love on people we might not otherwise meet in our daily lives.
Joan’s work contributes to SDG#10 - Reduced Inequalities
Claudia Tecglen (Spain), neurostimulation for movement disorder
Diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was two, Claudia considers herself lucky for the opportunities she received growing up, and for the pump that gives her more independence from her body's limitations. She created Convives con Espasticidad to connect and support other young people with spasticity.
Claudia’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Natalia Titova (Ukraine), neurostimulation for movement disorder
Natalia was diagnosed at age 19 with torsion dystonia, a neurological movement disorder. After undergoing deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery, Natalia can now walk and help her mother around the house. She also advocates for people with torsion dystonia. Natalia's Bakken Invitation Award will support a range of rehabilitation programs for patients after they undergo DBS surgery.
Natalia’s work contributes to SDG#3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Andrea Volfova (Czech Republic), pacemaker
Much of Andrea’s early life was limited by cardiovascular disease. In 1988, everything changed for Andrea when a young doctor examined her and recommended a pacemaker. Today, Andrea channels her energy and optimism into helping others live their lives to their full potential. She helps students in East Africa obtain an education through the Kenya Education Fund.
Andrea’s work contributes to SDG#4 - Quality Education