For details on the Aortic Dissection Awareness Week Events, please click Here

For information about the speakers for the Medical Information day, please click Here.         

The John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health and Genetic Aortic Association of Canada have organized a week of events for Aortic Dissection Awareness Week.  These free virtual events are open to anyone who would like to learn more about the following:

  • The ABCs of aortic dissections: causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment & medical management

  • Dealing with depression and stress after dissection in patients and family members

  • Research developments and patient advocacy initiatives

  • Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Exercise activities & other suggestions for a better quality of life

  • Information about obtaining medical insurance, disability and life insurance

  • Opportunity to connect with peers

Aortic Dissection Awareness Week Events 

Registration is required for all events except the release of the video on September 19th.  Peer Support Group Sessions and Workshop require you to sign-up for them after Registration. 


SEPTEMBER 19, 2020


No registration required.

Link will be available September 19th.

SEPTEMBER 22, 2020






Registration and sign up required

Living with Aortic Disease 

Newly diagnosed with  a Genetic Aortic Disorder – What’s Next?
(post aortic dissection/aneurysm)

Caring for the Caregiver

Dealing with Anxiety/Depression/PTSD after an aortic event


SEPTEMBER 24, 2020






Registration and sign up required

Caring for the Caregiver

Dealing with Anxiety/Depression/PTSD after an aortic event

Living with Aortic Disease

Newly diagnosed with  a Genetic Aortic Disorder – What’s Next?
(post aortic dissection/aneurysm)

SEPTEMBER 26, 2020


    Registration required

Session 1: Aortic Dissection: Causes, Prevention and Management 

11 AM – 1 PM EDT

Welcome: Amy Yasbeck

Moderators: Dianna Milewicz, M.D., Ph.D. & Maral Ouzounian, M.D., Ph.D

  • What is an aortic dissection? Presentation and symptoms Kim Eagle, MD, University of Michigan, MI

  • What causes aortic dissection? Genetic and environmental risks Dianna Milewicz, MD, PhD, UT Health McGovern Medical School, TX

  • How do we treat acute type A dissections? Maral Ouzounian MD, PhD – University of Toronto, Canada

  • How do we treat acute type B dissections? Sherene Shalhub, MD, University of Washington, WA

  • How do we treat chronic dissections? Anthony L. Estrera, MD, FACS, UT Health McGovern Medical School, TX

  • Medical management to prevent and treat aortic dissection David Liang, MD, PhD, Stanford University Medical Center, Emeritus

Panel Discussion and Q&A

Session 2: Living with an Aortic Dissection 

1:00 – 2:30 EDT


  • Depression and post-traumatic stress after dissection in patients and family members Z. Jeff Daskalakis MD PhD FRCP(C) University of California San Diego School of Medicine, CA

  • Exercise and activities after an aortic dissection Siddharth K. Prakash, MD, PhD, UT Health McGovern Medical School, TX

  • Aortic dissection risk with the COVID 19 pandemic Ismail El-Hamamsy, MD, PhD, Mount Sinai Hospital, NY

  • Research on causes and outcomes of aortic dissections Dianna Milewicz, MD, PhD, Kim Eagle, MD, Sherene Shalhub, MD

  • Patient advocacy opportunities Amy Yasbeck, Lindsey Rusche, and Carin Anderson


Panel Discussion and Q&A




The following workshops will be held from 3:00 – 3:50 PM EDT and 4:00 – 4:50 PM EDT so that participants may attend two different workshops

Registration and sign up required.


  1. Monitoring and medical/surgical treatment after Type B aortic dissection (no previous open aortic surgery)

  2. Monitoring and medical/surgical treatment after Type A aortic dissection (previous open aortic surgery)

  3. Risk for dissection for family members and genetic testing
    (US and Canadian workshops held separately)

  4. Exercise and activities after an aortic dissection 

  5. Pregnancy and aortic dissections (woman who have had peripartum dissections and women with dissections who want to get pregnant) 

  6. Depression and stress after an aortic dissection

  7. Medical insurance issues and applying for disability
    (US participants)


  8. Applying for disability and life insurance
    (Canada participants)


  9. Children and risk for aortic dissection




Amy Yasbeck


Founder, the John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health Amy Yasbeck has appeared extensively on both the big and small screens. Her feature film work includes The Mask, Robin Hood Men in Tights and Problem Child. Her television work includes numerous guest star and series work: most notably her role as Casey in NBC’s long-running hit comedy Wings. Ms. Yasbeck was married to legendary comic actor John Ritter who succumbed to a misdiagnosed acute aortic dissection in 2003. Since that time, she has devoted herself to promoting awareness of this devastating disease. In an effort to provide the medical, scientific and lay communities with an opportunity to explore their common goals she created the John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health. In 2010, Ms. Yasbeck joined with Genetic researcher Dr. Dianna M. Milewicz, M.D., Ph.D., to prevent premature deaths due to thoracic aortic disease by improving diagnosis, treatment, and public awareness. Together, they established the John Ritter Research Program in Aortic and Vascular Diseases at UTHealth in Houston.


Dianna M. Milewicz,
M.D. Ph.D.

Dianna M. Milewicz, M.D. Ph.D., is the President George H.W. Bush Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine at McGovern Medical School, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).  She completed her postgraduate training in internal medicine, cardiology and medical genetics, and forged a career in translational research studies focused on identifying genetic triggers for aortic dissection and other vascular diseases. Her research has identified a large number of genes with highly penetrant rare variants predisposing to aortic dissections, and genetic testing for these genes are widely used for clinical diagnosis. She has sought to rapidly and efficiently translate her research findings into improved clinical care and launched the international Montalcino Aortic Consortium to move to gene-based management for patients at risk for acute aortic dissections worldwide. Dr. Milewicz also directs the John Ritter Research Program, which recruits and provides genetic counseling for patients afflicted with acute aortic dissections. She has received numerous honors and awards for her research, including the Antoine Marfan Award, the Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award, the American Heart Association Merit Award, and the University of Texas Presidential Scholars Award for Excellence in Research, along with induction into honorary medical societies, ASCI and AAP. Dr. Milewicz also been committed to patient advocacy and physician scientist training. She has directed the joint Medical Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD) for UT Health and MD Anderson Cancer Center for over 15 years. She has served and chaired boards for numerous patient advocacy organizations, including the John Ritter Foundation, American Heart Association, Genetic Aortic Disease Association of Canada, and the Marfan Foundation.


Kim A. Eagle,
M.D., M.A.C.C.


Dr. Kim Eagle is the Albion Walter Hewlett Professor of Internal Medicine, Professor of Health Management and Policy University of Michigan School of Public Health and Director of the Frankel Cardiovascular Center at the University of Michigan Health System.  A graduate of Bozeman Senior High School (Bozeman, MT) he then attended Oregon State University graduating in 1976 followed by Tufts University Medical School graduating in 1979.  He completed a residency and chief residency in Internal Medicine at Yale-New Haven Hospital from 1979 to 1983 followed by research and clinical fellowships in cardiology and health services research at Harvard Medical School and The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) from 1983 through 1986.  From 1986 to 1994, Dr. Eagle served MGH where he was promoted to Associate Director of Clinical Cardiology and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard before moving to the University of Michigan.
At “U of M”, beginning in 1994, Dr. Eagle developed an outcomes research program focusing on quality, cost-effectiveness, practice guidelines, acute coronary syndromes, treatment of aortic diseases, the fight against childhood obesity (Founder - “Project Healthy Schools”), and reuse of pacemakers in third world nations (Founder – “Project My Heart Your Heart”).  His outcomes research team has led quality improvement initiatives across the state of Michigan in acute MI, heart failure, and coronary intervention.  Dr. Eagle has contributed extramural presentations to more than 115,000 learners in 33 US states and 12 countries.  He has published 724 peer-reviewed articles, 74 chapters, and edited 8 books including his latest, The Heart of a Champion, co-written with legendary Michigan football coach, Bo Schembechler.

Dr. Eagle has served the American College of Cardiology on numerous committees and task forces.  He is the editor of the ACC’s website,  He served its Board of Trustees from 2001-2005.  He received ACC’s “Master” designation in 2009, and its national Distinguished Teacher Award in 2012.  In 2018, he received the 2018 Distinguished Scientist Award (Clinical Domain) from the American College of Cardiology.  He served on the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s External Advisory Committee from 2002-2006, and has been Study Chair of its Genetic Causes of Thoracic Aortic Conditions (GenTAC) since 2006.  He has served the local and national American Heart Association and he received the national AHA’s Laennec Society’s Clinician Educator Award in 2013.  He is past President of the Association of University Cardiologists and a Board Member of the World Medical Relief.  In 2014, the University of Michigan and many of Dr. Eagle’s grateful patients created the Kim A. Eagle Professorship in Cardiovascular Medicine and an endowed research fund bearing his name.


Maral Ouzounian,
M.D. Ph.D.


Dr. Ouzounian is a Cardiac and Aortic surgeon and Surgeon Scientist at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, and Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Toronto. She received her MDCM degree from the McGill University and her PhD from the University of Toronto. Following her cardiac surgery training, she completed a fellowship at the Texas Heart Institute under the mentorship of renowned aortic surgeon Dr. Joseph Coselli. Her current clinical and academic interests are in the understanding and management of aortic diseases, including heritable aortopathies and complex aneurysms and dissections.

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Sherene Shalhub,


Sherene Shalhub, MD MPH FACS is a vascular surgeon and an associate professor of Surgery in the department of Surgery, at the University of Washington, in Seattle, Washington. After receiving her medical school degree from the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida in 2003, Dr. Shalhub completing training in General Surgery in 2010 then Vascular Surgery in 2012 at the University of Washington. She then spent a year as faculty at the University of Texas in Houston, before being recruited to join the faculty at the University of Washington. She is the director of the Multidisciplinary Vascular Genetics Clinic and her clinical practice includes a special focus on treating patients with genetically triggered aortopathies and arteriopathies such as Marfan, Loeys Dietz, and Vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndromes. 
Dr. Shalhub is actively involved in research that assesses the impact of medical management and surgical procedures on patients with aortic dissections and improves the practice of surgery through education, training, and policy initiatives. Her research work is federally funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). She is the lead for the Aortic Dissection Collaborative focused on patient engagement and research prioritization for aortic dissection and is the principal investigator for the Vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome Research Collaborative, a longitudinal natural history study for vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. 
Dr. Shalhub also serves as the Vice Chair of the National Registry of Genetically Triggered Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms and Cardiovascular Conditions (GenTAC) Alliance Science working group. She is member of the Society for Vascular Surgery, the Professional advisory board for the Marfan Foundation, and the Ehlers-Danlos Society medical and scientific board.


Anthony L. Estrera,

Dr. Estrera is Ad Interim Chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery ta UT Health McGovern Medical School  and Co-Director of the Memorial Hermann Heart and Vascular Institute System service line. He has been an integral part in building the department and the cardiovascular surgical service at McGovern Medical School. His specialty is in diseases of the aorta with a focus on thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms and aortic dissection.
Dr. Estrera has co-edited one textbook on Aortic Diseases and Management and has authored or co-authored 35 book chapters and more than 250 articles in publications and peer-reviewed medical journals. His studies led to refinements in surgical techniques for the treatment of thoracic aortic aneurysms and aortic dissection. He also collaborated with UTHealth faculty to identify multiple genes associated with the etiology of thoracic aortic aneurysm and aortic dissection.
Dr. Estrera has lectured and conducted workshops worldwide and has provided critical training for current and future cardiovascular surgeons.
Dr. Estrera is a fellow of The American College of Surgeons, American Heart Association,  and a member of the American Association for Thoracic Surgeons, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, DeBakey International Surgical Society, the Cardiothoracic Surgery Network, the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association, and Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. Dr. Estrera is certified with both the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, and he serves on the editorial board for the Journal or Thoracic and Cardiovascular Journal and the Journal Aorta.


David Liang,
M.D. Ph.D.


David H. Liang, M.D., Ph.D. leads the Clinic for Marfan Syndrome and Related Conditions in the Elaine & Robert Matranga Aortic Center at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach California. He obtained his medical degree from Stanford University School of Medicine, as well as completed an Internal Medicine residency and a Cardiovascular Medicine fellowship at Stanford. Dr. Liang also obtained his Ph.D. in electrical engineering while attending Stanford.

Dr. Liang is a nationally recognized specialist in the field of Marfan syndrome and related connective tissue conditions. He splits his time between Hoag and Stanford University Medical Center caring for this community. He is a member of the Professional Advisory Board of the Marfan Foundation.


Jeff Daskalakis,
M.D. Ph.D. FRCP(C)

Jeff Daskalakis is the newly appointed Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at UCSD. He was formerly the Temerty Chair in Therapeutic Brain Intervention and Chief of the General Adult Psychiatry and Health Systems Division at CAMH/University of Toronto. His research focusses on neurophysiological studies in schizophrenia, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder and also conducts treatment studies using repetitive transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (rTMS) and magnetic seizure therapy (MST) for refractory symptoms in these disorders. He holds or has held NARSAD, CIHR, Brain Canada and NIMH operating awards and grants. He has also been awarded the Samarthji Lal Award in Mental Health Research from the Graham Boeckh Foundation. He is also a member of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (formerly NARSAD) Scientific Council. Finally, he has over 400 peer-reviewed publications and is an editorial board member for Biological Psychiatry and an Associate Editor for Clinical Neurophysiology.


Siddharth K. Prakash,
M.D. Ph.D.

Siddharth Prakash earned a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University. He completed his M.D.-Ph.D. training with Dr. Huda Zoghbi in the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics and a fellowship in Cardiovascular Disease at Baylor College of Medicine with board certifications in Adult Echocardiography and Adult Congenital Heart Disease. Since 2011, Dr. Prakash has worked in the John Ritter Research Program in Aortic and Vascular Diseases at McGovern Medical School, a part of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), where he specializes in medical therapy, imaging and surveillance of patients with heritable aortic and vascular diseases. He is Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and is co-director of the Turner Syndrome Adult Comprehensive Care Center. Dr. Prakash’s translational research laboratory focuses on the contribution of rare genomic copy number variants (CNVs) to bicuspid aortic valve (BAV), the most common adult congenital heart defect. Dr. Prakash uses an innovative strategy to identify new candidate genes for BAV, based in part on the hypothesis that reduced dosage of genes on the X chromosome is responsible for the increased prevalence of BAV in males and in women with Turner syndrome. He identified recurrent CNVs in diverse clinical cohorts with BAV and demonstrated that specific rare CNVs are an important contributing cause of thoracic aortic aneurysms. Dr. Prakash was granted funding from the American Heart Association and National Institutes of Health follow up on these observations in patients with early complications of bicuspid aortic valve disease.


Ismail El-Hamamsy,
M.D. Ph.D.


Ismail El-Hamamsy, MD, PhD, FRCSC, is System Director of Aortic Surgery at the Mount Sinai Health System and will serve as the inaugural Randall B. Griepp Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery. His principal surgical focus is aortic root reconstructive surgery in young adults, including patients with heritable and connective tissue disorders.

Before joining Mount Sinai, Dr. El-Hamamsy directed the Montreal Heart Institute’s aortic surgery program, one of the busiest complex aortic surgery programs in North America and was Associate Professor at the University of Montreal. He founded the Montreal Heart Institute’s Aortic and Connective Tissue Clinics