The DPC Education Center is led by a Board of Directors composed of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients. Additionally, the Center has an Advisory Council made up of renal health professionals.
Our board, staff and volunteers are truly dedicated to empowering kidney disease patients through education and bring a diverse set of skills and backgrounds that help sustain our mission.
Merida Bourjolly - President
I was born with two kidneys and had to have one kidney removed when I was three weeks old due to an infection. I lived a healthy life with my one kidney with close supervision until around 2014 when I was informed by my doctors that my remaining kidney had deteriorated, and I was going to have to begin dialysis.
During my time undergoing dialysis, I took night classes to become a Dialysis Technician so that I could become informed about dialysis, the dialysis machine and how it was saving my life. Taking this course gave me the confidence I needed in approaching my care and making the right decisions for myself. With this new knowledge, I was able to help in my care by ensuring that my nurses and technicians consistently practiced proper protocol.
I was on dialysis for two and a half years before receiving a kidney from a deceased donor.
My involvement with Dialysis Patient Citizens as a Patient Ambassador has given me the opportunity to continue learning and to use my gift of life to serve as an example and a voice within my community for dialysis patients. Until I attended DPC’s Advocacy Day, I had no direction or experience as to how to go about advocating for dialysis patients. After meeting the DPC staff, members, fellow advocates and Patient Ambassadors at Advocacy Day 2017, I became so inspired to continue advocating with a more educated purpose.
The training day taught me how laws affect those living with kidney disease, how to speak with confidence about our cause, and prepared me to address congressional members on how important it is to recognize dialysis patients and pass bills to improve their quality of care. Having the opportunity speak to other DPC Ambassadors and advocates taught me that it can be a different experience living with ESRD depending on which state you live in pertaining to your health care and insurance.
I am dedicated to continually working to improve my fellow patients’ lives by helping them to stay positive and optimistic about the changes they have to make and understand the power they have in their health care. I want to develop new ways through advocacy to educate communities on issues relating to the care of kidney failure and preventative measures to help others avoid living with ESRD. Through my experience living with kidney disease, surviving kidney failure, undergoing dialysis and now appreciating the gift of life through organ donation, I am making a difference in the lives of so many as a transplant patient.
Pius Murray - Vice President & Secretary
My name is Pius Charles Murray. Originally, I hail from Worcester, Massachusetts, but through the perturbations of life I have journeyed through Rome and Jerusalem ending up here in the Dover, NH Center for Health and Rehabilitation as a permanent resident since May 2022. In 1988, I was first diagnosed with diabetes. In April 2019, my right leg was amputated; in March 2022, my left leg was amputated necessitating my transfer to a nursing home. Along the way, I became first a librarian, then a Roman Catholic priest with the Stigmatine Fathers and Brothers (1986-2006). The Stigmatines sent me to study in Rome and Jerusalem preparing me to serve as Professor of Sacred Scripture. When I left the Stigmatines in December 2006, I worked for several Temp Agencies as a test scorer for then Measured Progress and a security guard. In July 2017, the DPC Board elected me to its membership for which I am eternally grateful. Two other clerical incardinations (in the American Catholic Church in the United States from 2015-2021 then to my current religious order, the Society of Christ the King since my vows on 26 July 2022, two days after my birthday) led me to the independent Catholic Church.
In addition to being a member of the Society of Christ the King, I was admitted to membership in the Order of Corporate Reunion (March 2021), whose mission is to foster ecumenical activity among Anglicans, Episcopalians, and Catholics. As a member of the Stigmatine Fathers and Brothers. My ministry has included serving in parishes, offering Bible study and pastoral counseling, as well as serving as a seminary professor in Sacred Scripture. I taught at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Pope St John XXIII National Seminary, and the Pontifical Institute Regina Mundi. Please also be advised that I have managed offices as a library director and a library branch manager. As Library Director of both the Greenfield MA Public Library and the West Springfield, MA Public Library, my responsibilities included successfully bringing each library up to meet Massachusetts state standards for public libraries. Annually, this involved submitting an application for certification to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. As Library Director at the Pope St John XXIII National Seminary, my responsibilities included successfully automating library services. In the Houston Public Library System, I served as a branch manager of the Jungman Neighborhood Library (2008-2012).
While residing in Somersworth, NH, I became active in local municipal government. At one I served on four municipal boards or commissions: (1) as a Commissioner and Secretary of the Somersworth Historic District Commission (2013-2021), (2) as a trustee of the Somersworth Public Library (2014-2021); (3) as a member and Secretary of the Somersworth Cultural Commission 2016-2021); and (4) as a member and Secretary of the Somersworth 125th Anniversary Commission (2018-2020). Furthermore, I served on the board of the non-profit Friends of Somersworth organization (2014-2016).
Stephen Ahern - Treasurer
My name is Steve Ahern. I was born and raised in the city of Philadelphia. For the past 36 years, I have worked as real estate salesperson in Avalon and Stone Harbor, NJ, a seasonal beach community along the southern Jersey shore. In addition, I volunteer with my local Board of Realtors. Serving a variety of responsibilities to include Director, Treasurer Director, and other positions. Prior to entering real estate, I spent time working for the federal government and the Philadelphia Savings Bank (PFSF) as a Manager of Branch Operations and a Commercial Loan Officer.
I have been a dialysis patient for over six years. Currently, I am a Status 7 transplant patient as the result of various medical issues including heart stents and two bouts with lung cancer. I am honored to be a member of this board and will bring all of my energy in efforts to make life with dialysis as fruitful and positive as possible. Kidney disease can affect anyone, and the diversity of the dialysis community reflects that fact. I believe that bringing together our different backgrounds, both professionally and personally, has the power to make positive change.
In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family and cheering on Philadelphia sports teams, especially the Philadelphia Eagles.
Hello, I am Gene Blankenship. My family and I live in a small town located in Northeastern, Oklahoma in the heart of the Cherokee Nation. My first memory of kidney disease was watching my dad as he treated at home around the age of 10 (1988). He passed when I was 12 years old from complications of kidney disease. His dad, my grandpa, also passed too soon due to complications from kidney disease. I have lost other relatives who also suffered from ESRD, and I have some who are currently on dialysis. I was diagnosed with PKD in 2003. I found out I had end stage renal failure from a routine doctor’s visit. My blood pressure was the first sign. I currently treat at a dialysis clinic on the Cherokee Nation Reservation three times per week. I am on three separate transplant lists in two separate regions of the United States. I am listed at The University of Arkansas Little Rock (WPS!!!), Integris Health System in Oklahoma City, and St. John Ascension in Tulsa, OK. Kidney disease, specifically Polycystic Kidney Disease, has been a significant passenger in my life and has caused most life decisions to be reevaluated. I want to help those who are in the kidney failure fight.
As a former State of Arkansas and State of Oklahoma Child Abuse Investigator, I quickly realized the need for representation amongst my fellow state workers. After two years with the State of Oklahoma, I transitioned to Oklahoma Public Employees Association where I could assist other state employees with a wide range of issues. My job takes me across the state of Oklahoma as the Northeastern Oklahoma Representative. Oklahoma Public Employees Association is a state employee led organization. I speak on a daily basis with both active and retired state employees about improving pay, benefits, grievance assistance, mediation, legislation, and much more. Oklahoma is home to 39 federally recognized tribes, and I am proud to be a tribal member of the Cherokee Nation.
I am thankful and fortunate to have the opportunity to serve on the Dialysis Patient Citizens Board of Directors. Advocacy is now a must in our society. Everyday Americans have limited access to legislators in D.C., which makes the mission of DPC that much more important. I cannot stress the importance of your unique story. It needs to be told. I would encourage you to become a patient Ambassador, make phone calls, write letters, and become involved in your area. It only takes one drop of water to start a ripple effect of change.
I am asked all the time about my positive attitude towards my kidney disease journey. My motivation is from my family. My four beautiful, wonderful kids Addyson (17), Dawson (16), Colton (14), and Gideon (4 going on 30). I want to see every graduation, wedding, birthday and every second in between. Therefore, my focus is my health along with improving the healthcare of others. It would be impossible for my wife to be any more supportive. Stacy is absolutely my biggest cheerleader. I could do nothing without her and my family. I am a blessed man surrounded by the best family and friends.
I was born with only one functioning kidney, due to a birth defect called Spina Bifida. I have lived through many infections, blood transfusions, and broken bones. When I was born, doctors told my parents there was no way I would live more than a day. When I made it two days, they were told that I would not live more than a week – wrong again! Then they were told that yes, I may live, but I would need to be placed in a state institution. Fortunately, my parents did not agree to this either. For many years, I was told that I would need to start dialysis. Thankfully, through careful attention from much more qualified doctors and the grace of God, I made it until I was nearly 25 years old before I had to start dialysis, almost 20 years ago. During my time on dialysis, I went back to college and earned a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Athens State University in Athens, Alabama.
I am not eligible for a kidney transplant; therefore, I am extremely interested in new technology including the possibility of an artificial wearable or implantable kidney, and stem cell research. In addition, I try to learn as much as I can not only about the dialysis process but also all modalities so that I can help educate fellow patients and ESRD staff and the community as a whole on advancement in ESRD care.
I love to travel and still do a good bit even with receiving my treatments in center. It can be done with some extra planning and flexibility. I love to travel to other clinics so that I can truly get a feel for how dialysis patients are treated in other areas of the country.
I am honored to have been elected to the DPC Education Center Board of Directors. As a patient led organization, all board members must either be dialysis patients or transplant recipients. The board takes our direction from the DPC membership. I also have the honor of serving as the patient representative at my local clinic. Being involved is the only way to see the changes we need as patients to live fulfilled lives. Together I believe we can achieve great things for the needs of ESRD patients and their families.
My name is Vanessa Evans and I have been a dialysis patient for over 24 years. My journey with kidney disease began back when I was 12 years old. I went to my doctor for a normal checkup when they noticed that my labs did not look quite right. Upon further investigation, including a kidney biopsy, I was told that one day, I would need a kidney transplant. This was the most unbelievable news to hear, as I was perfectly healthy until that point. I did not have any other underlying health conditions (not diabetic or high blood pressure) and in general felt great. In my young naïve mind, I thought OK, one day I will receive a kidney transplant and life will go on… I did not understand the health ramifications that were to be with me the rest of my life. Neither I, nor my family was educated on kidney disease, options, or even long-term effects. I wish I could back in time and educate my young self on what I have now learned.
In 1991, I was given the gift of life from my mother and best friend. It was my freshmen year of college, and I was excited to start a new journey. Admittedly, transplant was hard. There were a lot of medications, I gained weight (hard always, harder as a young freshman girl) and I did not always feel well. Still, I persevered, and graduated Deans list from UMASS, Amherst. It was then my “normal world” would change again. Unfortunately, the kidney that my mother had donated, was failing and I would need to start dialysis, something I knew nothing about.
Eight years I spent in a dialysis chair in-center. Monday, Wednesday, Friday for four hours at a time. Dialysis did not care that I was in my 20’s, it did not care that I had a job, it did not care that I was a recent college graduate with my whole life ahead of me. Dialysis controlled my schedule, my well-being, my emotions and my life. I had to quit my job, move back in with my parents and learn to live in a new reality.
Eventually, I did start to get used to this “new normal” My doctor, nurses and PCT’s became family. They attended my wedding, were at celebrations and even were at the birth of my first son. Even so, once he was born, I really wanted to find a better way to do dialysis. At this time, no one was speaking about home dialysis. My clinic did not offer it, my doctor never mentioned it, it was as if it did not exist. I remember only hearing about a home hemo machine. I was curious, and desperate to be home with my newborn son, so I went on-line and found out about home hemo dialysis.
It took me over a year to transition home. I was petrified. How would I do the needles, what if there was an emergency, where would I store all the supplies, so many questions. Slowly, I started to get over my fears. My favorite PCT started to teach me how to cannulate while I was in-center. He taught me what venous and arterial pressures were. I learned about blood flow. All these new terms that I had never known before. When I did finally transition home, it changed my life. Within the first three days I was off all my blood pressure pills. I had this new energy that I had never felt before. Not only did I go back to full-time work, I also started my own business on the side. It was a new me!
Fast forward 14 years. I am still a home dialysis patient. I live what I consider to be my “normal” life. My first born is now 15 and in high school, my younger son is 14. Our days are filled with work, school, laughter, fights, COVID and home dialysis. Neither my husband nor kids have ever seen me not be a dialysis patient. I believe I am setting a good example that you can still do it all.
I would like to share my personal experiences as an ESRD patient to help educate others on kidney disease, home dialysis options, and life as a patient. This was a road that was not shown to me until many years later. I am a passionate advocate for home dialysis, kidney education and transplant. The last 15 years of my life have been dedicated to this community. I would like to continue my mission by lending my voice, dedication and knowledge to the Dialysis Patient’s Citizens Board of Director’s.
For the last 15 years, I have been a passionate and dedicated advocate to the kidney community. I work every day with many patients and kidney advocates from all over the United States. I hear their stories and I understand their concerns. Due to this direct line to patients, I will be able to relay to the DPC team what is going on. Also, being Latin X and bilingual, I am attuned to the discrepancies in education and options for this community. My goal is to make sure that their voice is heard and represented.
I was on hemodialysis for six and a half years before I received a transplant in 2018. My desire to join the Board originated from my belief that everyone should have a voice and a chance at a better life.
I am passionate about fighting for people who are less fortunate or unable to fight in order to improve their lives. I have seen the worst and the best in patients. I have also heard stories of people struggling with their care. It’s my life’s calling to help all renal patients who are not able to help themselves. I work in Portland, Oregon at Providence St Joseph’s Hospital, fighting daily on the front lines helping as much as I possibly can.
I am very passionate about taking care complete care of myself. I train as hard as I can daily so that I am able to fight for all who need fighting for.
I was the first African American full-time Fire Chief and paramedic in Sumter County, Alabama, appointed in the year 2000. I served as a firefighter and paramedic for the City of Livingston, Alabama. I was elected Sumter County Coroner in 1999 and have been re-elected to that position since. I was also appointed Sumter County Sheriff for 21 days by the Alabama Governor, following the impeachment of the former sheriff.
In fall of 1981 I enrolled at University West Alabama and studied Elementary Education. I joined the Livingston Fire Department in 1987 as a volunteer firefighter.
I am married to Shirley Daniels Peeler. We have been married for 28 years and have two daughters and two grandchildren.
Due to being a diabetic and having hypertension, in October of 2016, end stage kidney disease forced me to start dialysis and retire from my career as a firefighter paramedic. This disease runs in my family, with my brother and mother also suffering.
I am honored to have been elected to the DPC Board of Directors. I have been a public servant all my career and being elected to this board allows me to continue to serve the public.
I am an ESRD patient living in Baltimore, Maryland. My kidney disease started when I was 12 years old, when doctors diagnosed me with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and hypertension. I have survived open-heart surgery and a left leg amputation, never letting either stop me or slow me down.
At the age of 33, I started in-center hemodialysis, which changed my life—not in a bad way, but in a good way. I learned that life does not end with dialysis, and I worked as a set-up technician for three years. The position gave me the opportunity to learn and understand the process from both sides, making me the bridge between patients and staff.
I was introduced to DPC to through my facility administrator, who hired me, and I became a Patient Ambassador. I have rallied on Capitol Hill, had lobby days in my center with visits from Members of Congress, and held healthcare booths at local churches and town events.
I love pre-education and teaching, as I worked in the school system as a computer paraprofessional. I have been to college and technical school, involved with ESRD NCC Network 5 as a PAC (Patient Advisory Committee), a subject-matter expert with an interest in emergency preparedness and a certified peer supporter.
DPC has now welcomed me as a board member. I hope with years of in-center hemodialysis I can bring some experience and expertise to this position and take some information back to patients by reassuring them that we are here working for them for better care and assistance from our policy makers. I want our policy makers to hear us and to know we are all just trying to live as normal lives as we can in a healthy and safe environment.
As a board member I will bring fairness and respect to this title. My advocacy skills will be at their best. Never will I speak low, but my voice will echo so that it can be heard all over the world for what I stand for as an ESRD Patient.
Raymond Scott is Co-Founder of 1in9 Charities, Inc. and a kidney disease warrior and advocate. Raymond was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. As a young adult, he served in the U.S. Army, which eventually brought Raymond to Arizona where he met and married his wife, Analyn. They reside in the Phoenix area with their two children, and in March 2019 they published a compilation book titled 1in9 Tribe – Kidney Disease Warriors Beating the Drum of Hope and Change.
“Founders” is more than just a title for the Scott’s, it’s intertwined into their destiny. Having defied the odds over the past 22 years since Raymond’s kidneys failed at the age of 29, the Scott’s have taken all they’ve learned through their own journey to shine a bright light on kidney disease and help others.
For the past 8 years Raymond has thrived on Home Hemodialysis and shares the benefits with other dialysis patients. In 2016, Raymond was a Celebrity Star Dancer with the National Kidney Foundation of AZ’s Dancing With The Stars – 18 years to the exact day that his kidneys failed. However, his true passion centers around bringing awareness to kidney disease, and championing for prevention and regenerative medicine.
From “crashing” into dialysis, through the domino effect that followed, to becoming an advocate for change, Raymond says he would go through it all over again if it was his purpose to be a catalyst for change and to save lives.
My name is Natalie Zuniga, and I am a Stage 4 kidney disease patient living in San Antonio, Texas. My journey with kidney disease began five years ago, when I felt I could not breathe and was rushed to the hospital. I was diagnosed a Myocardial Infarction and Stage 4 kidney disease, which required hemodialysis three times a week for at least four hours a session.
Prior to the diagnosis, I was a corporate travel agent for over 30 years. I loved my job because I got to travel and meet new people. When I got the diagnosis, I thought my life was over. I thought this would never happen to me. But with the support of my husband of 35 years, Eddie who was also diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney disease three years prior, my Social Worker daughter, Desirae and my son-in-law, Eric, I gained hope. With my husband we have adopted a healthier lifestyle involving changing our diet, being compliant with our treatment, and supporting others in our community.
I started volunteering at a local food pantry, and I was excited that I was able to make a difference in my community. But I wanted to take it a step further. In 2019 I had the opportunity to attend the Dialysis Patient Citizens (DPC) conference in Washington, DC. I was able to meet with legislators and their staff to advocate for dialysis patients like myself and my husband. I met some amazing DPC Board Members and fellow dialysis patients that have encouraged me to use my voice for the benefit of others. This experience gave me the ability to become the “go to person” when researching grants and spreading important policy information to fellow dialysis patients in my community.
I am thankful to DPC for giving me the opportunity of being a Board Member. Through hard work, awareness, resourcefulness, and innovation I will endeavor to make positive changes for my fellow dialysis patients.