LOS ANGELES, Jan. 23, 2022 — The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, welcomes Perika Sampson, Yuri Sudhakar and Elsa Valay-Paz to its Los Angeles Board of Directors.
Sampson, global head of inclusion and diversity at Gilead Services, leads a team of subject matter experts who provide advice, counsel and leadership on inclusion and diversity strategies and partners with colleagues on matters related to health equity, community engagement and talent acquisition. Sampson is committed to serving the community in which she lives and works and is eager to bring her expertise to support the Association’s goal of improving health equity in Los Angeles.
“I am pleased to join the board of the American Heart Association Los Angeles,” said Sampson. “The AHA’s pledge to advance cardiovascular health for all, including identifying and removing barriers to health care access and quality, aligns with both my personal and professional commitments.”
Sudhakar is the founder and CEO of Nudj Health, a lifestyle medicine company that provides evidence-based behavioral health and lifestyle interventions for patients with chronic disease and co-morbid mental health issues in collaboration with primary and specialty providers nationwide. As part of a new collaboration, Nudj is supporting the American Heart Association’s efforts to reduce high blood pressure as a health disparity in LA’s under-resourced communities.
“It’s a privilege to join the board of the American Heart Association Los Angeles,” said Sudhakar. “I’m looking forward to working together to decrease hypertension’s impact among Angelenos, especially those in underserved communities, by making high-quality, whole-person care more accessible. I was recently diagnosed with hypertension, and I can honestly say that it’s all about having the right tools and collaborative care team in place so that you can make better lifestyle choices and ultimately improve both your physical and mental health. Nudj is excited to collaborate with the AHA to help advance equitable health and well-being for all.”
As vice president of gas acquisition at Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), Valay-Paz is responsible for procuring natural gas for residential and small commercial customers and delivering it to the utility’s system. Her passion for the work of the American Heart Association stemmed from her father’s experience as a heart disease survivor. 
“As a family member of a heart disease survivor, I know firsthand how vital heart health is, said Elsa Valay-Paz, vice president of gas acquisition at SoCalGas.” “I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors for the American Heart Association Los Angeles, an important organization that prioritizes health equity. I look forward to connecting with our communities to bring further awareness to the importance of heart health.”
Sampson, Sudhakar and Valay-Paz will serve a two-year term and join Board President Richard J. Shemin, MD, Board Chair Paul Watkins, Leadership Development Chair Kathryn Shirley and other members in advancing the American Heart Association’s community impact, fundraising and investment priorities in Los Angeles.
“We believe every person deserves the opportunity to live a full and healthy life,” said Shemin. “I look forward to working with our incoming board members as we continue the work of identifying and addressing health barriers and advancing cardiovascular health and well-being for all Angelenos.”
The American Heart Association in Los Angeles is currently focused on:
  • Improving nutrition security. Los Angeles County is home to the largest number of food-insecure people in the country, affecting 1 in 5 individuals. Food and nutrition insecurity is linked to chronic disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. The Association is advocating for policies that increases access to healthy food and water, collaborating with clinics and community organizations to establish nutrition security screening and referrals for high need individuals, and providing nutrition education to prevent cardiovascular disease and promote health.
  • Reducing uncontrolled high blood pressure. Out of the 2 million people with uncontrolled high blood pressure in LA County, more than two-thirds are impacted by structural inequities that limit their access to health care. The American Heart Association is working with health clinics in under-resourced communities to increase access to care and improve hypertension control by training staff, assisting with the adoption of system changes, and engaging patients in blood pressure self-monitoring. The Association has also established community-based blood pressure screenings and clinical care referrals for at-risk individuals.
  • Ending tobacco use and nicotine addiction. Big Tobacco has a long history of targeting youth and Black neighborhoods with minty menthol and candy flavored products. As a result, 80% of youth who have ever used any tobacco product started with flavors and 85% of Black smokers use menthols. The American Heart Association is committed to protecting youth and communities of color from a lifetime of nicotine addiction by advocating for policies restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products in all Los Angeles cities and jurisdictions, as well as ensuring strong enforcement of tobacco retail laws.
To learn more about the American Heart Association and get involved, visit heart.org/SouthernCA or call 213-291-7000.
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us in Los Angeles on heart.org/losangeles, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or call (213) 291-7000.
For media inquiries, contact:
Kristine Kelly, kristine.kelly@heart.org