Skip Navigation [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Patient & Family Advisory Committee Profiles

Tim Cusatis


My name is Tim Cusatis.  I am a 55 year old heart transplant recipient (June 2006). I have been married for 20 years to my wife, Holly, and have a step daughter and son in law who reside in Colorado.
In 2008 and 2009 I was invited to the University of Michigan Nursing Remodel Conference. This conference really piqued my interest in helping change the way health care is provided. In 2010 and 2011 I attended the PFCC Conference at the University of Michigan and in 2012 I attended the International PFCC Conference in Ypsilanti, MI.These experiences have given me the guidance to help create a positive and safer experience for patients and their families.


Bonnie Davis

My name is Bonnie Davis and I am a mother of three daughters, grandmother to five and wife to my husband of 45 years, Ralph who is a heart transplant recipient.

In addition to raising a family, I spent 23 years as a pilot and flight instructor, and am now retired. Previously I was an instructor at Oakland Community College and pilot at Pontiac Airport. I flew small and midsize business aircraft as well as automotive cargo in a DC-4 cargo plane. I am also a longstanding member of the 99s, an international group of women pilots who promote aviation safety and education.

My husband, Ralph, traveled extensively in his job with automotive supplier, Federal Mogul Corp. During those years he was an avid jogger and later on began swimming competitively with Michigan Masters. Ralph’s story of rapidly fading from an athlete to total heart failure within a few short months, is both long and detailed. It includes a week spent on ECMO prior to a biVAD implant, continued multiple organ failure, months living in intensive care, extensive rehabilitation and a subsequent heart transplant on February 11, 2006.

Because of the many services received at University Hospital, the people we met and the length of time spent there, I feel uniquely qualified to act as a PFCC Advisor and feel compelled to contribute in making UMHS the very best hospital.

Ralph and I were asked to participate in the Michigan Difference commercials in 2007 and his picture still hangs proudly on the second floor hall between the Taubman Center and University Hospital. Today he swims again competitively and I am happy to be his wife.

Michele Derheim, M.S.N., R.N.

patient image
My name is Michele Derheim, and I am the Director of Clinical Operations for the Cardiac Procedures Unit. In addition, I am the mother of three boys and wife to husband, Alan.

My desire to become a nurse began when I was 15 as I cared for my mother who was diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, she survived only 7 months post her initial diagnosis. In my 20 years of nursing experience, I have had the opportunity to work in both neonatal/pediatric intensive care units (ICU/CCU) and Post Open Heart Recovery. Having worked in both the adult care and pediatric care world and been a family caregiver, I have a passion for Patient and family Centered Care and strive to share that passion with staff.


Jonathan Eliason, M.D.

patient image

My name is Jonathan Eliason, and I am one of the vascular surgery faculty here at the University of Michigan. I came here in 2007, after finishing an active duty tour with the United States Air Force. Since I started practicing vascular surgery, my interests have primarily revolved around the diagnosis and treatment of aortic disease, in both adults and children. However, my interest in medicine and its roots developed when I was much younger.

As a high school sophomore, I traveled with my family to Cameroon, Africa, at a time in which my parents were teaching at a missionary conference. During my free time, I had the opportunity to follow a medical missionary. That experience set me on a track towards patient care. While trailing along behind this physician, I encountered a patient who had been treated with ritualistic burning to purge evils spirits from her abdomen, but the diagnosis was acute appendicitis. I watched this doctor treat her with such compassion, and great tenderness, after her significant ordeal.  Not only was she recovering from a recent appendectomy that he had performed, but she also had to heal many of the burn wounds that were still evident across her abdomen from her attempted prior healing.

Fast forward to my training in general surgery, and vascular surgery.  Without meaning to, one can become callous and forget that  patients are people, and that the medical problems they are experiencing are quite simply some of the most important events in their lives.  Instead, I began to think of patients as a disease complex or clinical problem that needs to be solved. Patient and family centered care programs has helped me remember my roots and why I went into medicine.  I am proud to be a member of this program.

Dwight Lang


My name is Dwight Lang.  On the evening of May 17th, 2010 (at age 59) I had an unexpected heart attack. The next morning a triple by-pass surgery was performed in the University of Michigan’s Cardiovascular Center (CVC).  Doctors and nurses saved my life over an intense eighteen hour period.
I recovered at home that summer and participated in CVC’s excellent cardiac rehabilitation program.  I learned about my heart disease during those weeks of returning to my jogging ways and strolls across the University of Michigan campus. During the fall I found fresh appreciation in bright, crisp afternoons around the Diag.
My involvement in Patient and Family Centered Care (PFCC) is motivated by a desire for greater awareness of physical, psychological, social and dietary adjustments experienced by patients and their families.  These concerns begin before surgery and extend beyond cardiac rehab.  I am honored to be part of CVC’s efforts to make PFCC a vital part of how doctors, nurses and other hospital staff interact with patients and their families during critically important times. 
My wife (Sylvia) and I were married on September 11, 1971.  After finishing our graduate studies our son (Charles) was born in Eugene, Oregon the day after Thanksgiving (1984). The aroma of roasting turkey still evokes vivid labor memories. Our daughter (Vanessa) was born in Berkeley, California (Valentine’s Day – 1989) and as a preschooler took pleasure in knowing that everyone celebrated her heart-filled birthday. The four of us moved to Ann Arbor in July of 1989.  After retiring from the University of Michigan Sylvia now works at Arbor Research Collaborative for Health and I continue teaching in the sociology department here at the University of Michigan.    

Linda Larin, M.B.A.

patient image

My name is Linda Larin and I currently serve as the Chief Administrative Officer of the UM-CVC.  My passion for Patient and Family Centered Care was sparked initially as I have learned more about what patient and family centered care is and how it can make a difference for those we care for and the improvement of healthcare overall.  While we are known for our outstanding outcomes and compassionate care, I also know that as a health system, we can always improve.  I believe that the ideal patient care experience will come about and be designed through a deeper relationship and dialogue with our patients and families; by truly listening to what we do well and most importantly, how we can improve.  Patient and family centered care is not a time-limited project, but a journey to transform the way care is delivered. I am thrilled to be a part of this journey.


Erika Laszlo

patient image

My name is Erika Laszlo and I am 42 years old.  I have been married for 13 years to my wonderful husband Bryan and we have two great kids.  My son Ethan is 12 and my daughter Sophie is 8. 

I was born with Tetralogy of Fallot. I had bypass surgery when I was 2 years old and a complete repair when I was 5 years old. At the age of 20 I was diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia and an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) was implanted. The device has saved my life 10 times over the last 23 years. Since then I have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, atrial tachycardia, congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension. About 12 years ago I had a prosthetic pulmonary valve implanted and a few years later was diagnosed with endocarditis, which is an infection within the prosthetic valve.  This may sound like a lot but I don’t let it slow me down.  I am very busy taking care of my family and I also work full-time.   As a family we love to go camping and my favorite pastime is photography.

I am a member of the PFCC committee because I want to encourage patients to be their own advocate. Don’t be afraid to ask the question and don’t be afraid to challenge your physician. When it’s time to make an important decision about your health, make sure you are fully informed and make sure the choice that you and your family decide on is a choice you can live with.


Carole McGillen, R.N.

Mcgillen Family
My name is Carole McGillen and I am the administrative manager for the CVC Outpatient Clinic. I am married to Tim and have 3 very energetic, fun boys!

My career began at U of M in 1985 as an exercise physiologist. A few years later, I was managing the cardiac rehabilitation and preventive cardiology clinics. During this time, I recognized my passion to provide ‘more’ for the patients. I returned to college and received my bachelors in nursing, while also staffing for a limited time on 7C. Prior to my current position in the CVC clinic, I also served as a nurse manager covering several of our outpatient nursing programs.

My personal experience with my son’s chronic medical condition (and my involvement in Mott PFCC as a parent advisor), combined with my passion to serve, stimulated my strong interest in PFCC. It is an honor to be chosen to serve on the PFAC and I am dedicated to making every visit the best patient and family experience!

Joan McNeice, R.N.

patient image
My name is Joan McNeice and I am the clinical nurse manager of CVC5 - a 24 bed moderate care, cardiovascular unit. I'm a nurse that has a bachelor’s degree in human resources and a master’s degree in health administration. I'm married, going on 23 years, to my childhood sweetheart, Ron. My dog Lilly and my nieces and nephews are a very important part of my life.

My mom always told me that I was going to take care of people because I grew up taking care of others. I found myself as the advocate for most of my family members during their course of disease and hospital stays. I'm extremely supportive of PFCC concepts used in adult care because our loved ones need advocates during the most vulnerable times of their lives, at any age. My mom had breast cancer for two years and then died of a metastasis to the brain. Hospice taught our family a lot about dignity and respect for our loved ones wishes, while supporting us through the grieving process. Then I cared for my father with cardiac disease and a broken heart (from the passing of my mother). I had the opportunity of experiencing the University's approach to PFCC first hand when my parents and husband used the facility for medical and surgical care. I'm an honored member of the CVC Patient and Family Advisory Council, supporting our advances in PFCC.

Raul Perdomo

patient image
My name is Raul Perdomo and I am a patient at U-M Cardiovascular Center. I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, where I lived until I was 16 years old. Upon graduating from High School, I became a Naturalized Citizen of the United States, joined the U.S. Navy and served during the Vietnam War. In 1967, upon my discharge from the service, I came to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

My Ann Arbor roots grow deep. My father, Dr. Raul H. Perdomo, finished his surgical residency at U of M in 1944, where he met my mother, a nursing student of Irish decent. The first time I was a patient at the University Hospital was in 1949, when I was five years old. In 1998, at the age of 52, I was rushed to the hospital with a dissecting Aortic Aneurysm. Lucky for me, Dr. Richard Prager became my cardiac surgeon. In 1999, Dr. Michael Deeb surgically repaired the dissection with a 14” thoracic graft. I developed congestive heart failure after the surgery, and as a result now have an ICD (Implanted Cardio-Defibrillator). In 2009, Dr. Gilbert Upchurch replaced the lower aorta and both left and right iliac arteries. As a result of my medical history, I have been a patient of “Old Main”, U of M Hospital and the new CVC.

Married to my wife since 1985, we have three children. Our two sons are in college, and our daughter is a junior in High School. Maureen is with the Department of Urology at U of M, as Annual Giving and Alumni Relations Director. Raul is studying Computer Science at Eastern Michigan University, and Edward is attending Washtenaw Community College, pursuing a career in business. Wanting to be there for my family is what has pulled me thru my medical emergencies.

I founded the former Central Café (1976-1983), owned The Beer Depot, and sold residential and commercial real estate for twenty years. Currently I work for the University of Michigan, Department of Athletics in game operations, and work part time for the Ann Arbor Public Schools, Rec and Ed Department supervising both youth and adult team sports. I’m serving my fourth three-year term as Lay Representative on the Institutional Review Board approving research protocols for the VA hospital in Ann Arbor.

I live in Chelsea, Michigan, on a ten acre farm with seven hens, four horses, three cats, two fish, and one dog. My favorite place is on my Kubota tractor cutting grass and moving things with my front loader, where my wife accuses me of running into way too many things.

Richard Prager, M.D.

patient image
Dr. Richard Prager received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and completed medical school at the State University of New York, Downstate in Brooklyn, New York in 1971. His General Surgical and Thoracic surgical training were completed at the University of Michigan in 1978.

He began his career at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee as an Assistant Professor in the Section of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery in 1978 with interests in adult cardiac, as well as general thoracic surgery. He returned to Ann Arbor in 1983 and joined the Cardiac and Thoracic Surgical Group at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. During this time, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital was selected a HCFA demonstration hospital for coronary artery bypass and Dr. Prager was the Medical Director of this national project. Over the ensuing years, he became the Associate Head of the Department of Surgery and Head of the Section of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery and the Medical Director of the Mercy Health Services Cardiovascular Network. In 1999, he moved to the University of Michigan as a Professor of Surgery and Head, Adult Cardiac Surgical Division with ongoing interests in adult cardiac surgery, health outcomes research, patient safety, organizational efficiencies, and education.

Dr. Prager leads the Michigan Society of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons Quality Collaborative Initiative and is Chair of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons National Adult Audit Task Force, Chair of the taskforce on the adult cardiac surgery database, Chair of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons Task Force on Quality Initiatives and Chair of the STS Work Force on Associate Members. He is a Director of the University of Michigan’s Cardiovascular Center and recently assumed the role of Program Director of the Thoracic Surgery residency.

Risa VanDerAue

Risa VanDerAue

My name is Risa VanDerAue.  When I was six months pregnant with my second child in November 2003, I went into acute heart failure due to an artrial myxoma, a benign heart tumor.  I was brought to the University Hospital on a Survival Flight Helicopter.  After three surgeries and almost two weeks on ECMO, I left the ICU and was placed on the heart transplant list.  I was finally discharged home on Christmas Day with an LVAD, a left ventricular assist device.  I was one of the luck ones – my heart recovered.  In February 2004, my LVAD was explanted and I did not need to have a heart transplant.

My experiences in the hospital and during my subsequent follow-up visits at the Cardiovascular Center have motivated me to help change the way healthcare is delivered by becoming a member of the Patient Family Advisory Committee.  The constant presence of my family in the hospital and once I returned home was essential to my physical and emotional recovery.  As a patient advisor, I am dedicated to enriching the lives of future patients and their families by making sure that they have the education and resources needed to achieve an optimal outcome.

I am the very proud mother of a daughter, Alli.  I work as an attorney, a commercial real estate broker and a Bar/ Bar Mitzvah tutor.  Every day, my thoughts return to the Cardiovascular Center and to everyone who made it possible for me to survive and live a healthy, full life.  I will never take for granted the opportunity the
U of M gave me to be a part of Alli’s life; each and every person who made this possible will always have a special place in my heart. 

[an error occurred while processing this directive]