Born and raised in Detroit, Craig Erquhart Jr. (Seejai) had an affinity for sports and was a standout basketball player after a growth spurt his sophomore year of high school. At a young age he had trouble breathing, and shortness of breath nearly sidelined his athletic career. Seejai overcame these obstacles, and through discipline and dedication he proudly played Division 1 basketball for Eastern Michigan University. He continued to pursue a professional basketball career, but had to hang up his gym shoes after not being able to pass physicals with professional teams due to his health. Luckily another passion was music, and he poured his heart and soul into recording R&B. Just as Seejai’s music career was taking off, he was dealt a shock. In the summer of 2013, he was properly diagnosed with myositis, a rare heart condition that weakens the heart muscles.
On October 28, 2014 Seejai received the gift of life, a heart transplant. Thanks to his team of doctors, his wife, family and friends, he is now able to give back to those who are beginning the transplant journey, volunteering his time to mentor others and speak to community groups.
Today he celebrates every moment, knowing that he truly has something to sing about.
Dr. Cynthia S. Herrington, is associate professor of clinical cardiothoracic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine. She is surgical director of pediatric thoracic transplantation and holds the Ryan Winston Family Chair in Transplant Cardiology at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Dr. Herrington is also the surgical director of the lung transplant program at the University of Southern California. She joined the faculty in July 2008 leaving her practice at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Herrington is actively involved with cardiothoracic surgical education locally and nationally. She is the program director for the congenital cardiothoracic fellowship at CHLA. She holds positions on the executive board of the TSDA and the newly formed joint council of thoracic surgical education. Her research interests focus on outcome of thoracic transplantation and donor management.
Simon Keith holds the distinction of being the first athlete in the world to play a professional sport after undergoing a heart transplant. Keith was just 21 when, in July of 1986, he received the heart of a 17 year old boy, who ironically died while playing soccer. Keith, a world class soccer player prior to the operation, was determined to return to “his normal” and after playing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) for two seasons, Keith was drafted number 1 overall into the Major Indoor Soccer League just three years after his surgery.
Now one of the longest living organ transplant recipients in the world and most notable professional athletes of his time, Keith travels cross‐country captivating audiences with his “moments of truth” speeches and daring people to live.
In 2011, he founded The Simon Keith Foundation, an organization dedicated to increasing organ donor awareness and educating transplant recipients: The Beat Goes On. Keith uses the proceeds from his speaking engagements to provide athletic training for other transplant recipients who choose to return to an active and healthy lifestyle.
Ali Nsair, M.D., is a physician-scientist who strives to develop stem-cell based therapies to regenerate the heart following heart disease and heart attack. His research focuses on studying cardiac progenitor cells (CPCs) – stem cells that create heart cells – that are found in the human fetal heart. He hopes that a better understanding of how CPCs develop will enable him and other researchers to recreate this process to generate CPCs from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). These patient specific iPSC-derived CPCs grown in the lab could be transplanted in diseased human hearts to regenerate tissue that has been lost or damaged. Nsair aims to reduce or eliminate the need for heart transplants by developing treatments that regenerate the heart using heart cells derived from patients’ own induced pluripotent stem cells.
Nsair earned a medical degree from the University of Alberta, where he also completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in cardiovascular medicine. He subsequently completed fellowships in cardiovascular disease and stem cell biology and advanced heart failure and transplantation at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.
Tenaya Wallace began working in the field of organ donation in 2002 when she joined OneLegacy, the largest organ procurement organization in the United States. She created the OneLegacy Ambassador program, which has trained thousands of volunteers touched by donation to inspire people to Donate Life, and managed local public education initiatives. Tenaya elevated the message of organ donation in California by serving on the organizing committee of Donate Life California, which launched the state’s donor registry. Tenaya helped advance the Donate Life message nationally as a founding committee member of the Donate Life Rose Parade Float and co-creator of the float’s Rose Dedication Program. She served on the board of Donate Life America where Tenaya developed National Donate Life Blue and Green Day, now celebrated each April as part of Donate Life Month. Tenaya is the founder and current director of Donate Life Hollywood, an initiative serving as a liaison between the organ donation community and the entertainment industry with the goal of seeing more authentic and empowering stories about donation and transplantation.
Tenaya holds a Bachelors of Arts from Tulane University in New Orleans and a Masters of Public Policy from the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA. Tenaya is a native Los Angeleno and her children attended the same elementary school she did.