Welcome to the Editorial Team page! Occasionally you will see articles on COPD.net authored by the Editorial Team. The members of the Editorial Team are either employees of Health Union, the parent company of COPD.net, or professional medical writers who are contracted to work for Health Union. Often times we collaborate on articles for the site that may cover a broad range of topics from news articles, reports from our In America surveys, or a summary of feedback that we’ve gathered from our community members. We also will occasionally cover news-worthy items, updates on research, and other topics that are important to the COPD community.
We are very diverse in our backgrounds and expertise, so sometimes we may write as individuals or as a team. Learn more about us from our bios below!
Health Union team
Amani is Associate Director, Community Development at Health Union. She uses her personal and professional experience to connect with communities. Amani received her Master of Public Health from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017 focused on community health. With her personal experience as an unofficial advocate/liaison to her mom who had breast cancer (twice) and a husband who had thyroid cancer, she has unique insight on what it is like to be a primary caregiver. She is committed to providing support, compassion, and empowerment to those living with chronic conditions. She recognizes that learning from communities is one of the greatest teaching experiences and her passion lies with building relationships and deep connections. Amani is excited to immerse herself in an environment that truly gives communities a voice.
Melissa Arnold is a Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union, and a freelance writer living in Southern New Jersey. After graduating from college with a journalism degree, she spent several years working as a health reporter and editor for a daily newspaper. The experience gave her the unique opportunity to learn about a variety of chronic health conditions, tell patient stories, hear from physicians and share wellness tips with readers. Now, she's thrilled to support and encourage Health Union's community members in whatever life brings.
Heather received her Bachelor of Communications from Indiana University of PA where soon after graduation applied her writing skills to Philadelphia's city government where she scripted speeches and created important documentations. Professionally, Heather understands the impact of a supportive community having worked in content creation and management for a national nonprofit. Personally, she also understands the pressure and vulnerability that comes with being a caretaker, having been an official advocate for her mother, who continues to recover from a ruptured brain aneurysm. She not only has respect and compassion for those living with chronic conditions but is honored to provide these communities with a supportive environment where we can all learn and grow from one another.
Amrita is the Chief Community Officer at Health Union. Prior to joining Health Union, Amrita spent 6 years at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in numerous marketing and analytic roles in anti-infectives and oncology. Amrita recently completed a Masters in Public Health from Drexel University while working on the launch of an exciting new product. Through her career, she has accumulated extensive market research experience, which she has honed to develop a keen sense for patient needs. In addition to her MPH from Drexel University, Amrita holds an MBA from Temple University and a BS from Binghamton University in New York.
Joanna is Director of Community Development at Health Union where she utilizes her strong passion for connecting and building positive relationships. She received her Bachelor's degree in Sociology with a minor in Communications and has worked in the healthcare industry for over a decade. Now at Health Union it is her motivation to continually connect with others by finding a common ground to boost awareness in every segment for those with chronic health conditions.
Michael Boren is an Associate Director of Community Development at Health Union. He is passionate about providing a public service that helps and informs communities. He previously worked as a journalist, covering issues of social justice, crime, and policing. Michael often spoke to grieving families, earning their trust and telling the stories of loved ones they had lost. He believes, first and foremost, in listening, and providing a space for people to share their experiences.
Jill is a Cross Community Moderator for Health Union. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Psychology. She has professional experience as a Marketing Manager in the financial industry and a ParaEducator at an elementary school. She enjoys spending time with her family, exercising, going to the beach and reading. She has learned the importance of teaching, listening and helping others. Jill looks forward to helping create an online community of support and engagement.
Kimberly is a Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union. She received her Master’s degree in Special Education and has been working with children and young adults with special needs for over 11 years. She is also a patient advocate in the migraine and chronic pain communities.She has first hand experience in supporting people and empowering them to be their own advocates. She also enjoys spending time with her family, pet sitting and being an active member in her hometown’s community.She is excited for the opportunity to be a part of a safe and supportive space where people can connect with each other.
Julie is a Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union. She received her Bachelor’s degrees in both Biology and Nursing. As a Registered Nurse, Julie brings a true passion for empowering patients through advocacy and education along their healthcare journey. She is excited about the opportunity to contribute to a safe and welcoming space for patients to learn and share their experiences. In her free time, Julie enjoys spending time with her family, exploring their new hometown in NC and settling in with a good book, preferably on the beach!
Minel is a Manager of Community Development at Health Union. She recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree from Drexel University. She has gained experience working in marketing, communications, and business development across health, non-profit, and telecommunications industries. She is very excited to use her creative and analytical mindset to find new opportunities to cultivate meaningful engagement and support members.
Anthony is Associate Director of Community Development at Health Union where he uses his background in psychology and mindfulness to help create positive, meaningful relationships through online communities for people living with certain health conditions. Anthony received his Bachelor’s in Psychology with a minor in Religious Studies and has worked in healthcare for the past 6 years supporting various communities including families with children on the Autism Spectrum, people suffering from addiction, and patients with cancer.
Tahirah is an Associate Director of Community Development at Health Union. Tahirah holds a Bachelor of Science degree in public health and a Master of Public Health degree (Biostatistics and Epidemiology) from Temple University. Her professional background has been focused on improving reproductive health outcomes in adolescents/young adults through community outreach, short-term counseling, empowerment/advocacy, and program implementation. She is excited at the prospect of creating flourishing online spaces that intentionally provide support and information.
Sarah is a Manager, Community Development Sarah has a background in public relations, journalism, digital marketing, and medical conference event management, Sarah knows exactly how to create safe, supportive spaces for those living with chronic illnesses. Sarah combines her experience on the business side of marketing for the medical industry with her passion for writing to encourage members to speak freely and create meaningful connections.
Samantha Costa is Associate Director of Community Development at Health Union, where she combines her passion with experience to connect with others and make a difference. Prior to receiving her bachelor’s degree in journalism, Sam worked as a pharmacy technician for nearly a decade. She spent several years as a health-focused journalist, writing for both trade and consumer news. She also has first-hand experience as a caregiver and advocate for lung cancer. Sam most recently developed patient content for a large health system in Philadelphia.
Kelly is a Senior Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union, as well as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Support Clinician with 12 years of experience in both clinical and outpatient settings. While working as part of the clinical nutrition team she has gained extensive knowledge and experience in many aspects of Medical Nutrition Therapy including Diabetes, Kidney Disease, COPD, Heart Disease, Crohn’s Disease, Cancer and Critical Care/Nutrition Support. Kelly makes time to enjoy anything that allows her to be creative, including photography, sewing and cooking up healthy meals with her husband and their three young sons, which she writes about on her personal food blog.
Sonia Dattaray, MPH is a Senior Manager of Community Development at Health Union. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Science and Master of Public Health with a Certificate in Climate and Health. Prior to joining HU, Sonia was in the non-profit sector, where she conducted research on conservation and emerging infectious diseases and supported urban environmental education. Sonia is passionate about supporting community well-being and fostering lasting connections.
Amanda De Leo
Amanda De Leo is an Associate Director, Community Development, at Health Union. Amanda is a Philadelphia native with her Masters in Public Health and BS in Dietetics from West Chester University. Previously, Amanda has worked with a focus on health promotion and social determinants of health across a diverse network of initiatives and populations. Passionate about collaboration and authentic connections, she is excited to apply her skills and join the team!
Rachel is a Senior Manager of Community Development at Health Union. She received her Master’s Degree in Management and Leadership, with a focus on Organizational Development from East Stroudsburg University in 2018. Professionally, Rachel understands the importance of giving communities a voice, having worked in both a nationally recognized cancer research nonprofit organization and in a higher education setting for over five years. She is excited about the opportunity to develop meaningful connections with those affected by chronic conditions and be in a position that helps others connect and share experiences.
Allison Echols is a Senior Manager of Community Development at Health Union. Allison has experience working in chronic disease prevention/management and health education. She is passionate about advocating for health equity, improving health outcomes among marginalized communities, and promoting access to healthcare services.
Allyson Ellis is a Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union. She comes with a background working in libraries and serving as an ordained United Methodist minister. Following the birth of her daughter, Allyson chose to depart ministry, focus on raising her daughter and is now making a transition to work within the financial sector and here at Health Union. Her pastoral skills of empathy, listening and engaging with people from all walks of life, as well as a love of learning make moderating for Health Union a great blend of her skills and interests.
Richard is a Senior Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union, as well as an accomplished communications specialist, writer, and researcher in health, science and technology, and policy. Richard has worked on P.R. for several Health Union Web sites and national patient surveys. He has been a reporter, including front page features and covering health policy for Psychiatric News. Richard worked for years as a writer and researcher at NASA Headquarters and handled writing, research, and talent relations for a national public affairs television show. He has been referred to as a cornucopia of useless information. Richard was introduced to Health Union by his wife, Kelly Mack, who has RA and is a RheumatoidArthritis.net contributor.
Donna Flood-Amaya is a Senior Cross-Community Moderator. Prior to joining Health Union as a moderator, Donna spent more than 11 years working in social media and online communities. She most enjoys providing an empathetic ear and making a difference in someone’s day. Donna was born and raised in Philadelphia, where she studied Pre-veterinary medicine. She now lives in The Shenandoah Valley in beautiful Virginia. She returned to school to pursue programming, but advocacy for her children, aspie-SPDers, guided her to Behavioral Analysis. Donna is engaged to a retired Navy vet and enjoys, cooking, baking, knitting, crocheting, reading, and spending time with her family.
Gabby Formica is a Senior Manager of Community Development at Health Union. Gabby holds her Masters of Social Work and Masters of Public Health from Temple University. Before joining Health Union, she has spent the past several years working with individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, substance use disorder and other mental health diagnoses throughout Philadelphia. She is passionate about promoting health equity and wellness among diverse populations. She aims to use her clinical social work background to empower, validate and foster safe community spaces for folks seeking support for their complex health needs.
Lori Duffy Foster
Lori Duffy Foster is a Cross Community Moderator for Health Union. Lori is a mystery author and former newspaper journalist who has always been drawn to health-related issues. Her father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his fifties after decades of unexplained symptoms, and she has witnessed the physical, financial, psychological and sociological struggles of a close relative with psoriatic arthritis. Lori has a dual bachelor’s degree in interpersonal communications and English, and a master’s degree in English. She works and lives in the hills of Northern Pennsylvania with her husband and four kids. In her spare time, she writes crime novels, hikes and enjoys her family.
Jaclyn Gallagher is a Manager of Community Development at Health Union. She earned her B.A. in Psychology at Bloomsburg University. Jaclyn has spent her post-college years working first in the workers comp insurance field, and more recently in clinical trials. She is passionate about books and travel, and using these as tools to connect with others both locally and globally.
Bridget is Associate Director of Community Development at Health Union. She received her Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Drexel University and uses her experience in chronic disease management and smoking cessation counseling to help empower patients living with illness. Before joining Health Union, she created patient education materials that made health information accessible to patients of all literacy levels. She believes that the patient is the most important part of the healthcare team and that empowering them will undoubtedly lead to better health outcomes.
Courtney Getty is a Manager of Community Development at Health Union. She is a recent graduate of Stony Brook University where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Sciences with a concentration in Public Health. Courtney is passionate about ensuring people living with chronic health conditions have a sense of empowerment and access to the information they need while navigating the patient and caregiver experience. She is elated to work in a capacity in which she can help to highlight patients’ voices and experiences while addressing community needs by fostering engagement.
Jac Gottlob is a Senior Manager of Community Development at Health Union. Jac worked as a project manager for a Medicaid-managed health insurance company in Philadelphia. There, her work primarily focused on improving access to healthcare services and addressing social determinants of health.
Liz Green is an Associate Director of Community Development at Health Union. Liz comes to us from Wedge Medical Center in Philadelphia and uses her background as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) to create warm and friendly opportunities for connection. As a mental health therapist, she gained experience treating depression, anxiety, and PTSD. She has run many groups that use writing and performance to help people express themselves, advocate for social justice, and build community. She is passionate about mental health and the way it intersects with how we feel physically.
Chris is Director of Community Development at Health Union. During his previous career in health insurance product management, he realized his true desire was to utilize web and social media technologies to make positive impacts on people’s lives. At Health Union, Chris strives to leverage his background and experience to cultivate and engage patient communities in effective ways.
Jessica is a Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union. Originally from Ohio, Jessica earned a degree in marketing and communications. She has a background in marketing and events but has found her passion for helping others live their best life possible through diet, exercise, and positive lifestyle. Jessica has achieved additional certifications in health and nutrition and is working towards completing her yoga instructor certification. In her spare time, she loves traveling with her husband and fur baby, exploring new coffee shops and restaurants (that are dog friendly) along the way.
Reggie Hall Jr. is a Director on the Community Development team at Heath Union. Reggie has experience building and engaging communities, most recently at the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia where he managed middle market executives (annual revenue $10M - $1B) seeking to grow their businesses.
Crystal is a Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union and also a broadcast meteorologist for a local news station in Virginia. Crystal loves trying new things and is continuously working on marking items off her bucket list. Most recently she was able to cross off skydiving! In her free time, she loves being with her two dogs and cat, running, and spending time at the beach. Crystal is so excited to be part of the Health Union team and hopes to encourage others to always live life to the fullest.
Sara is Executive Director of Community Development at Health Union. Prior to joining the Health Union team, she led patient engagement and education programs at the American College of Physicians. Sara is dedicated to helping patients feel empowered and engaged as active partners in their own care. She uses her past experience as a patient counselor to better understand the individual experiences of patients and help provide a comforting environment for them to learn and share their stories. She holds a B.A. in Biology from Temple University and a Master of Public Health from the University of Pennsylvania.
Colleen Heavens is a Director of Community Development at Health Union. Prior to joing the Health Union team, she worked at Baker Tilly, in marketing as a member of the content team. She holds a master’s in communications and urban studies from Penn, and a bachelor’s in journalism and Spanish from the University of Pittsburgh. Colleen is an active volunteer for NAMI Philadelphia (National Alliance on Mental Illness), with a passion for mental health awareness. She’s equally passionate about the connection between mental and physical health, the accessibility of healthcare and its systems, and the amazing power of bonded communities.
Kayleigh is a Senior Manager of Community Development at Health Union. Kayleigh has earned two degrees in entrepreneurship and veterinary medicine and has always felt the most pride and fulfillment when she is contributing to an environment focused on healthcare. She finds immense satisfaction and honor in being able to bridge her interest in healthcare and advocacy with the ability to bring people together in a safe, informative, and supportive environment. She has seen first hand in both human and veterinary environments, what exposure to knowledge, support, and validity can do in terms of healthcare management and is thrilled to be able to contribute in every way she can to make sure that everyone in our communities has the same experience.
Christina is a professional Cross-Community Contributor as a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Senior Cross-Community Moderator at Health Union. She received her bachelor of exercise science degree from Ole Miss and her doctorate of physical therapy degree at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Her physical therapy career has allowed her to pursue her passion for helping others, and working for Health Union allows the same to be utilized. Christina loves people, being a wife and mom, her rescued greyhound, and any outdoor activity!
Leslie Beth “LB” Herbert, PhD
LB is Senior Director of Insights at Health Union where she leverages her background in customer research, statistics, user experience design and innovation to tackle diverse projects in both research and analytics. Her 15+ years of professional experience spans the range of primary research services, such as online surveys and user-intercept surveys, interviews/focus groups, ethnography, and usability testing, along with social media monitoring and metrics. For Health Union, LB directs both qualitative and quantitative research initiatives and leverages her strengths in synthesizing all types of data to tell a “deeper patient story” and share insights with communities, project teams, and executives.
Kailah B. Holmes is a Manager of Community Development at Health Union. She holds her B.S. in Psychology from Gwynedd Mercy University and her Master of Public Administration from Villanova University. Before joining Health Union, Kailah has spent the last several years launching her career of service by working with various community organizations whose focus is on supporting, advancing and enriching consumers. Kailah is passionate about representing underserved communities and serving as an active voice for all people.
Jacqueline Howard is based in Detroit , MI. Jacqueline graduated from Liberty University with a degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science. She combines her passions for health and encouraging others — in her current role as a Health Union Moderator.
Casey Hribar is a Senior Cross-Community Moderator and a Medical Writer at Health Union. She is a medical student at the UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine. She also went to UNC for her bachelor's degree in biology and interpersonal and organizational communications with a minor in chemistry. She has worked in laboratory research and at UNC Hospitals, as well as spent time in France studying biochemistry at the University of Joseph Fourier. Casey has also given academic presentations and has several publications in peer-reviewed, scientific journals and popular consumer resources. Casey spends most of her time with her rescue pups, Eddie and Maggie.
Doreen is a Cross-Community writer and Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union. Originally from Long Island, NY, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. On top of working as a freelance writer, Doreen has spent many years in the business and non-profit worlds. Currently, her biggest passion is being a mom to her three awesome girls. She spends most of her free time being the “Team Mom” to all of her daughters’ sports teams and volunteers frequently with the local school system and arts education programs. Doreen’s absolute favorite thing to do is to spend time with family and friends.
Beth is a Cross-Community Moderator at Health Union. She earned her degree in Education and spent years working in the Early Childhood field both as a teacher and administrator before taking time off to raise her twins. Beth has a passion to support and advocate for people and their needs and enjoys watching people of all ages grow and learn. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors and soaking up every instant with her kids.
Judy Hughes graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Bioscience and later received a certificate in Medical Writing and Editing from The University of Chicago Graham School. Judy has spent more than three decades working in pharmaceutical research and manufacturing. She has a love for medicine and helping others. Her goal in medical writing is to take what is complex and make it easy for others to understand and apply to their life.
Pam Jajko is a Director of Community Development at Health Union. Pam has an entrepreneurial spirit and a strong passion for Health and Wellness which has inspired her desire to develop meaningful connections and foster positive relationships within Health Union. From her prior experience in both Hospitality Management and owning her own successful bakery, Pam brings a diverse skill set to Health Union that includes creative thinking, resourcefulness and the adaptive social skills needed to create great communities. Above all else, Pam is devoted to helping patients feel empowered to live their very best life.
Latoya Juniel is a native of Milwaukee, WI. After earning her Bachelors of Arts in Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she wanted to explore ways she could use her skills to bring people together. Latoya has a background in marketing and content moderation and loves connecting with people from all walks of life. At Health Union, Latoya is a Cross-Community Moderator and takes pride in providing the best experiences for community members and possesses a passion for impacting lives.
Marcia Kavulich is Senior Director of Community Development at Health Union. She draws on her experience in health behavior research and clinical trials to establish and grow Health Union communities. With a master’s degree in public health and previous positions where she interacted with people living with a variety of chronic health conditions, Marcia is looking forward to facilitating lively discussion and fostering deep connections between patients. In her spare time, Marcia enjoys eating her way through new cities, hosting dinner parties, and playing with four-legged friends.
Laura Kompanik is Director of Community Development at Health Union. She has more than 15 years of experience working in medical communications where she focused her strengths on cultivating meaningful, enduring relationships with patients. Laura strives to leverage her previous experience, skills and personal love for people to develop and maintain a safe and supportive environment for people whose lives are impacted by cancer and other health conditions. When not working, Laura enjoys spending time with her husband, 3 kids, 2 dogs, and 3 cats.
Aron Korashan is a Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union. A recent college grad, he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Management Information Systems, from Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. Prior to attending and graduating from Drexel, he had a successful career as an auto mechanic.
Christine is a Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union. She has a degree in Liberal Studies, which is a fancy way of saying she didn't know what she wanted to study when she went to college. With a deep pull of wanting to make a difference for other people, Christine has since discovered a few of her passions: making meaningful connections and building a positive community, both of which she gets to practice every day as a mother to three kids. Aside from spending time with her family and friends, Christine enjoys reading, writing, photography, and traveling.
Cody is a Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union. In 2018, Cody graduated from Coe College with a double major in Neuroscience and Psychology. Afterwards, he received his Master’s degree in Couple and Family Therapy from Jefferson University. As a Cross-Community Moderator, it is Cody’s mission to provide transparency and an open dialogue about his moderation and community involvement. He believes that through community engagement, we can promote the growth of our communities together. In his free time, Cody enjoy’s running, reading, going to the beach, and spending time with his family and friends.
Kim Malary is a Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with a Minor in Education. She has a background in marketing and sales and made a career change to become an Educator. She has spent the last five years while raising her family, working as a Preschool Teacher and volunteering in her community and coaching youth sports. In her free time, Kim enjoys spending time with her family especially hiking, skiing and finding new areas to travel to and explore.
John is Senior Manager of Community Development. A native of the Philadelphia area, he recently graduated from Drexel University’s School of Public Health. John taught various subjects and grade-levels in New Orleans, Costa Rica, and Denver prior to attending Drexel. He is excited to join Health Union and create engaging, patient-centered content that improves the lives of people near and far.
Jake Maxwell, MS, is Senior Manager, Community Development at Health Union where he uses his background in education, counseling, and psychology to create informative and supportive online ecosystems for Health Unions' communities. Through his former work establishing and advocating for alternative pathways and intentional support structures for a diverse range of individuals in the education system, Jake has developed an individualized, person-centered approach to his work. At Health Union, Jake strives to utilize this approach to meet each community member where they are while aiming to cultivate a safe and welcoming environment for all.
Kelly is Senior Director of Community Development at Health Union. Prior to joining Health Union, Kelly spent five years at the Pennsylvania Humanities Council. There she primarily focused on advocacy and communication efforts and the Council’s arts and culture themed television series. Most recently, she worked for the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management in its external affairs division. In 2013, Kelly completed the Philadelphia Public Relations Institute’s training program. Kelly received a B.A in Communications from Drexel University and an M.A. in Media Studies from Temple University.
Kay Mickelson is a Cross-Community Moderator at Health Union. She recently earned a BA in Studio Art and Psychology from Clark University, and is excited to be able to put that degree to use so soon after graduating. She has always been known amongst her loved ones to be quite the empath, and is excited to connect with the members of our communities.
Kelly Miller, MPH is Director of Community Development at Health Union. Kelly received her Master of Public Health degree from Boston University, with a focus on international health. She credits her time in the Peace Corps for demonstrating the impact that a community can have on individual and collective health outcomes. Prior to joining Health Union, she worked on volunteer engagement initiatives for a humanitarian nonprofit. Kelly is looking forward to drawing on her past experiences to create and foster connection and empowerment for those living with challenging health conditions.
Heather is a Medical Editor at Health Union. As someone who has strong feelings about the dictionary and has a favorite editing pen, it’s no surprise that Heather has focused her career on shaping words into engaging copy. Her personal experiences of caring for loved ones living with a variety of chronic conditions has driven Heather to craft accessible medical content that connects and empowers patients. When she’s not wielding her editor pen, Heather can be found chasing after her three active sons, reading, gardening and helping her husband renovate their historic home.
Lauren is a Cross-Community Moderator at Health Union. She has bachelor’s degrees in Civil Engineering and Nursing from Drexel University. Through Lauren’s experience as an ICU nurse, she understands the value of how well developed relationships provide the foundation for a supportive environment. She is excited to use her clinical experience to support the needs of this community. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking and exercising.
Pamela Munnelly is a Senior Director of Community Development at Health Union where she draws on her background in patient engagement and relationship building to develop meaningful communities for individuals facing a cancer diagnosis. Before joining Health Union, she worked in major medical centers developing patient education initiatives for breast, ovarian, and gastrointestinal cancers. Pam’s passion for providing engaging and useful information to patients and caregivers guides her work each day. Pam received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Johns Hopkins University.
Lynne Murphy is a Cross-Community Moderator at Health Union who enjoys learning and talking about health and wellbeing. After a rewarding career in middle school education and advocacy for children with special needs, she is excited about taking on a new sphere of community and connection. She received her Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Buffalo and her Master’s degree from Stony Brook University. During her free time, she can be found with a good book or out on her paddle board.
Rackel Nderi is a Senior Manager of Community Development at Health Union, reporting to Amani Abdallah. Rackel has previous experience working as Human Resources Manager for four and half years; most recently at a non-profit in Philly and previously at Nephrology medical practice. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Health Policy and Administration from Penn State and is currently pursuing her Master of Public Health at West Chester University. Rackel is also an immigrant from Kenya and draws a lot of her passion and drive from this experience. She lives in Philadelphia with two other roommates and the sweetest dog, Frankie.
Shayla Oakes is a Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union. She formerly worked as a Pediatric Nurse and has over 14 years of healthcare experience. Recently, she decided to turn in her stethoscope and spend more time at home with her children. However, Shayla is excited to continue educating and encouraging others who suffer from various illnesses. She resides on the Gulf Coast with her husband and two children. In her free time, you will find her out on the water fishing. She calls it her, “happy place.”
Graceann Palmarella, MPH is a Director of Community Development at Health Union where she works to build strong and meaningful relationships to foster thriving communities. Before joining Health Union, Graceann worked in the academic setting in programming and communications to connect students, faculty, and community members around public health engagement. She is excited to work in a position where she can bring people together around informative and engaging content.
Torie Pappas is an Associate Director of Community Development at Health Union. Torie holds her B.A in English, and her MEd in Teaching Special Education. Before joining HU she spent six years providing educational services, within a therapeutic milieu, to students with academic, emotional and behavioral needs. With experience in meeting people where they are, and a passion for helping others, Torie is very excited to join Community Development at Health Union.
Jessica Johns Pool
Jessica is a Senior Medical Writer at Health Union. Jessica knew she’d found her best job ever when she started working for a children’s hospital on the digital marketing team. That’s when she discovered her love of writing about health topics. Fast forward to today, and she’s written about everything from cancer to HIV, depression to fetal surgery, organ transplant to heart attacks and strokes. When she’s not at her computer, Jessica walks off her wanderlust in as many countries as the budget allows, and on really good days, goes yarn bombing.
Amna Rizvi is Senior Director of Community Development at Health Union. In this role, she uses her background in health communications to understand and cater to the needs of people living with challenging health conditions. Amna has a Master’s degree in Public Health and many years of experience in the government and non-profit sector. She uses her experience and skills to build and sustain communities where patients feel empowered to advocate for themselves, get the most up-to-date information about their health conditions, and share experiences in order to improve the quality of their lives.
Misty Roussa is a Manager of Community Development at Health Union. Misty was a Community Advocate for Cystic-Fibrosis.com where she shared her life as a caregiver to her son with CF. She has been a writer for numerous online communities over the last 10 years. She is passionate about patient advocacy and helping to be a voice for those who need one.
Lauren Ruffalo is an Associate Director, Community Development at Health Union who is passionate about creating meaningful connections between those who share similar experiences. Before joining Health Union, Lauren worked as a community engagement professional for a non-profit organization where she led health education programs for adults and children with arthritis and empowered volunteers to advocate for their personal health needs. She will work to honor each individual’s journey with understanding and compassion while drawing on her relationship building skills. Lauren received a B.A in Political Science and minor in Philosophy from Rowan University.
Erin is a Senior Cross-Community Moderator at Health Union. She was born in South Dakota, raised in Pennsylvania, and has spent her adult life in the Midwest. She went to college to pursue a writing career but found her passion in helping people achieve their health goals. She worked as a Health Coach and patient liaison for seven years before taking time off to raise a family. She enjoys supporting people as they seek to make improvements in their lives or when they are facing personal health challenges. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, playing guitar and chasing after her kids.
Sidney is Manager of Community Development at Health Union. She recently graduated from Temple University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She has worked with children in psychological research where she assisted in uncovering specific risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing psychopathology. Sidney has also worked at Jefferson University Hospital in Radiology, the Emergency Department, and in the Post- Anesthesia Care Unit. While working in a hospital setting, she recruited candidates for clinical studies including congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, venous thromboembolism and clotting disorders, post-traumatic syndrome, and diabetes management. She strives to use her background in healthcare, clinical research, and mental health to encourage community engagement, and to ensure that all members living with challenging conditions feel supported.
Sam Sarube is a Senior Manager of Community Development at Health Union. Sam holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Prior to joining HU she spent several years as the Chief of Staff to a municipal-level elected official in Suffolk County, New York and worked on multiple political campaigns. As someone who contends with chronic illness, Sam immediately connected with HU’s mission and values because she understands the importance of having a community you can turn to when managing a chronic condition. She is passionate about helping others and creating spaces in which people feel supported, understood, and validated.
Abby Schmidt is a Senior Manager of Community Development. She holds her BA in Strategic Communication and has a diverse background in public relations, non-profit marketing, and most recently health and fitness programming. She is passionate about creating a welcoming space for meaningful connection and community. In her spare time, Abby enjoys teaching yoga, exploring coffee shops, attending concerts around the city, and singing with her local a cappella group.
April Slunder, MSW, LSW is a Cross-Community Moderator at Health Union. Her experience includes working in child protection as well as medical social work, and senior citizens with special needs. April is also a certified Life Coach, and her passion has always been to help others live a great life. April also enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters, reading, meditation, and watching funny movies.
Lynne is a Cross-Community Moderator at Health Union. Lynne is currently working with Veterans who have various medical conditions obtained and/or exacerbated during their time in the service. She has always had a love for the medical field and the curiosity in how our body works physically and mentally. Her goal as a community moderator with Health Union is to continue to strive for understanding in what you are going through and find ways to help you navigate through your journey.
Kaitlyn Sutton is an Associate Director of Community Development at Health Union. An Owl through and through, Kaitlyn Sutton holds her B.A. in Strategic Communication from Temple University where she also then worked in higher education prior to joining Health Union. Kaitlyn is passionate about building connection through community and has helped to create several internal and external networking groups at Temple.
Samuel Taylor is joining us as Senior Manager of Community Development at Health Union. He holds a B.A in Medical Anthropology from California State University San Marcos. Prior to joining HU he has worked as a community moderator and advocate for several HU communities. Finding passion in the value of unionization and collaborative organization, he aspires to build communities that support patients and reduce the weight they bear in contemporary healthcare systems.
Erin Tirney is a Cross-Community Moderator at Health Union. She brings with her a passion for patient care and 3 years of ICU experience with knowledge of many chronic illnesses. After taking a break to have her children, Erin is excited to be back encouraging people and lending an empathetic ear. When she’s not working, Erin enjoys spending time with her husband and two children and traveling!
Margot Tishberg, Associate Director of Community Development, is excited to combine her background in digital marketing with her passion for healthcare to build meaningful relationships and encourage community engagement in her role as Associate Director of Community Development at Health Union. She is driven by her empathy and a deep desire to connect with and learn from the people around her. Margot’s experiences promoting concerts and concert venues, tutoring college philosophy and history, and studying English Literature at Oberlin College have provided her with a diverse skillset relevant to her many areas of interest.
Clay is a Senior Manager of Community Development at Health Union. He holds a B.A. in Public Affairs from SUNY Empire State College, an M.A. in Public Policy from Stony Brook University, and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Mass Communication from the University of Florida. Prior to joining HU, he spent several years working for a municipal-level elected official in Suffolk County, New York, a Head Start grantee, on campaigns for elective office, and on the rollout of the Affordable Care Act in the State of Connecticut. Clay felt an immediate connection with the mission and values that guide HU as someone who contends with chronic illness. He is passionate about growing inclusive communities where people feel a sense of belonging and the ability to share their thoughts and experiences without fear of judgment.
Sarah Wallin is an Associate Director of Community Development for Health Union with an academic background in Marketing and Communication Studies. She has experience managing social media for college parent & family resources, student affairs, a student newspaper, and a brand agency. Sarah is excited to use her knack for social media and attentiveness to trends for creating communities that are relatable and engaging.
Jada Walton is a Senior Manager on the Community Development team at Health Union, reporting to Amani Abdallah. She holds her B.S in Biobehavioral Health from The Pennsylvania State University. Before joining HU she spent several years working internationally as a public health communications specialist (primarily in the Pacific Islands and East Africa). She is passionate about fostering genuine community everywhere she goes and works to advocate for those not given a stage to amplify their voice. You can usually find her around the city browsing through plant shops, obsessing over a new wellness trend or at home brewing her own kombucha.
Shayna Yeates is a Senior Manager of Community Development at Health Union, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy. Her volunteer experience as an online crisis counselor reinforced her belief in the power of a supportive community and an empathic ear when confronting uncertainty. Shayna is enthusiastic to draw on her background in the social sciences to find creative ways to help build these meaningful communities where members can connect with empowering resources.
Kristine Zerkowski is Vice President, Community Development at Health Union, where she applies her medical writing and health expertise to develop Health Union’s patient communities. With her background in Kinesiology and many years of experience in medical and scientific communications, Kristine is able to connect with patients on a personal level to better understand their unique interests and needs. Her passion for health – and her infectious enthusiasm for learning – help to nurture Health Union’s growing communities.
Professional medical writers
DeLene is a medical and science writer who received a Master of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Ecology. After building her career in science writing, she grew into medical and health communications. DeLene enjoys distilling complex information into articles that empower non-experts, patients, and their caregivers with vetted information. She is excited to use her writing to support the growth of accessible online communities where patients can explore and learn. When she’s not at her keyboard, DeLene enjoys playing with her two boys, reading, and riding her road bike through the western NC mountains.
Karen Berger, PharmD, is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy. She has many years of experience as a pharmacist, working for a large chain, and currently working for an independent pharmacy in New Jersey are time, Karen enjoys spending time with her husband and three daughters.
Rosemary Black was the longtime food editor of the New York Daily News as well as a contributing editor to Parade and other magazines before becoming a health and medical writer. Her areas of interest include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and endocrine disorders, and she loves writing articles that make even complex medical conditions more digestible for consumers. The author of six cookbooks, Rosemary is a mom of seven who loves baking and entertaining.
Ashley Braun, MPH, RD is a freelance writer based in Michigan. She has years of experience working in hospitals as a clinical dietitian and has a background working in public health. When working with patients she loved breaking helping breakdown the complex medical topics with patients and educating them about nutrition’s role in health. Now as a freelance writer, she loves breaking down health topics, so they are easy to understand and available for anyone to access.
Juliette Daily is a graduate student in Rochester, NY pursuing a PhD in applied mathematics. While working on her thesis on plastic pollution in the Great Lakes, she has learned the importance of communicating scientific research to the general public, where it can often have the greatest impact. She is excited to carry this mentality over to writing for Health Union. In her free time, she loves anything outside, whether that be running, mountain biking, gardening, or skiing!
Laura Frnka-Davis, APR, is a medical writer for Health Union. Based in Houston, Texas, Laura has experience working for several major Texas Medical Center Institutions, including Texas Children’s Hospital and LifeGift. She owns her own consultancy practice where she provides communications services for a wide range of businesses and nonprofit organizations, many of them in the health care sector. Laura enjoys taking complex medical topics and presenting them in a way people can easily understand.
Rebecca Finkel is a freelance writer living in New Jersey. She has worked in healthcare communications for nearly 15 years and has written about nearly every aspect of the patient journey, from diagnosis to recovery. She recently completed a Certificate in Public Health from Drexel University and is working toward an MPH in Urban Health. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, gardening, and volunteering her copywriting skills to nonprofit organizations.
Ina G. Fried
Ina is a freelance medical and education writer now based in upstate New York, where she and her husband teach a class in Tai Chi. She is happy to combine her passion for writing with opportunities to help people understand important and complex subjects. She has many years of experience writing and leading teams in communications and public relations for university medical centers across the country, from North Carolina to Texas to California. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and an MBA from the University of Houston.
Jessica Gullett Rubino
Jessica is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. She is a published scientist with an extensive medical background. Before earning her doctorate in biochemistry, she was an Emergency Medical Technician in her hometown in rural Texas. She has also worked in hospitals and healthcare clinics, thereby expanding her knowledge of medicine. Her formal education, research experience, and life experience helped her to understand that good communication is the key to connection and informed choices. She loves breaking down complex science into digestible pieces so that science is accessible to all.
As a native Texan, she firmly believes that you can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl. She is obsessed with Tex-Mex food and puts hot sauce on almost everything.
Katharine is a freelance writer based in Chicago, IL. She graduated with a BS in Neuroscience and a minor in Chemistry from the University of Chicago, and now works as a laboratory technician. Though she loves hands-on experiments, she also has a passion for scientific communication; she has a particular love of writing and teaching, and enjoys discussing science with people of all backgrounds and perspectives. As someone who lives with an autoimmune condition herself, she aims to provide clear, concise information that is both accessible and empowering to patients. Aside from conducting experiments and writing, Katharine is an avid fan of women’s soccer and loves to bake.
Michelle Marie Hernandez is a freelance writer, speaker, and founder of Abiding Communications. She endeavors to equip, heal, and inspire people using her gift with words and wisdom from her own journey with an autoimmune condition. Michelle has nearly 20 years of professional communications experience, extensive training in ministry, and a bachelor’s degree in arts and business administration. In addition to writing for churches, hospitals, and other health-focused organizations, she writes Bible studies, books, and devotionals.
Jaime Herndon is a medical writer who is fascinated by health and medicine. Her areas of interest and expertise include oncology, maternal-child health, psycho-oncology, and behavioral medicine. She has written extensively for a variety of outlets for both professionals and consumers, and feels very strongly about helping patients to better understand their condition in order to become active partners in their healthcare.
Cara has been working in healthcare since 1996. Her background in pharmacy, master’s degree in public health and the more recent move to oncology research has given her a unique set of communication skills. Cara regularly found herself moving complex information between healthcare professionals and patients, helping patients understand the benefits and limitations of the current healthcare systems, and keeping patient-focused advocacy at the forefront of her work. In her spare time, Cara enjoys knitting, painting, cooking, spending time with her two awesome dogs, and hunting for a great bargain. She loves to travel, has been to 42 of the 50 states, and now that she has a passport she wants to see as much of the world as she can.
Tenille Lawson, PharmD, is a freelance medical writer who enjoys sharing clear content with audiences. With nearly 20 years of experience as a pharmacist, she is an expert in helping others understand medical information. She is a proud Butler University graduate where she earned her doctorate in pharmacy and maintains her board certification in pharmacotherapy. She has served as president of the Indiana chapter of the American Medical Writers Association and enjoys being a wife and mom.
Kate Morgan is a freelance writer with a degree in journalism whose work on science, health, wellness, and more has appeared in dozens of national publications. She lives in rural Pennsylvania, where she's responsible for two dogs and a cat, a handful of chickens, several hundred thousand bees, and a sizeable vegetable garden.
Katie Murphy is a freelance medical writer for Health Union. As a registered nurse, Katie has experience in both acute and chronic disease management. Before becoming a nurse, Katie was a respiratory therapist. Katie has a passion for making health topics easily understood in a non-intimidating way. She has worked in health content development and editing for years and enjoys supporting those with chronic disease. She lives in Northern California on 20 acres with her husband and three children.
Molly O’Brien is a freelance multimedia journalist originally hailing from Seattle, Washington. After graduating summa cum laude from Arizona State University, Molly traveled coast to coast working in television and media. With a degree in Broadcast Journalism, Molly has covered health, technology, environmental, crime, sports, social justice, lifestyle, transportation, and political news. Living with chronic migraine Molly, knows the importance of a supportive community. She aims to bring compassion and empathy to Health Union while providing solid, credible information and good journalism.
Sarah Dobbs O’Brien
Sarah is a medical writer with a public health background living in Chapel Hill, NC. After years of working for print publications, she is excited to be writing for an online audience. She enjoys delving into the science of human disease and treatment and producing articles that help patients manage their health conditions.
Alyson Powell Key
Alyson Powell Key is a freelance health and technology writer based in Atlanta, GA. She has more than a decade of experience writing content and leading content strategy for universities, nonprofits, and privately-owned companies. Before transitioning to her current role Alyson was a television news journalist in the Midwest and South.
Jordan Reed is a freelance health and medical writer based in Western North Carolina. With over a decade of experience creating compelling and unique content for both businesses and publications, she enjoys breaking down complex health topics so that it is more approachable and digestible for a consumer audience. Before transitioning into her freelance career, Jordan was a senior editor with NewYork-Presbyterian, New York's #1 hospital, and helped launch their award-winning content platform. A certified yoga instructor, she is passionate about providing people with the right tools to live a healthier, more balanced life.
Krista Scavone is a freelance medical writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. With over 19 years of experience writing health content for both consumers and medical professionals, Krista began her career working in pharmaceutical marketing in New York City. Longing for less snow and more sun, Krista and her family relocated to North Carolina where she continues to craft healthcare marketing and education materials that are accurate, informative, compelling, and creative.
Leah Steinberg is a medical student at the University of New England’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is passionate about patient advocacy and hopes to pursue the OB/GYN field. She is excited to be a part of the Health Union team because she believes that education leads to empowerment. In between studying and writing, you can find Leah enjoying Maine beaches or in the kitchen cooking and baking.
Karen Veazey is a freelance health writer based in Las Vegas, NV. She is passionate about helping people better understand their health by distilling complex topics into clear prose. Communication has always been her focus. Although she has been a writer for eight years, prior to her current role she worked in FM radio for 15 years.
Matt Zajac is a graduate student and freelance writer based in Chicago, IL. Matt graduated with a BS in Chemistry from The College of New Jersey, and is now pursuing his PhD in Chemical Biology from the University of Chicago. While he loves conducting experiments in the lab, Matt has also always had a passion for scientific communication, especially through teaching and writing. He hopes to use his career to combine these interests and help make complicated scientific or medical topics more approachable for the general public. In his spare time, he is an avid Yankees fan and loves to travel!
Previous team members
Alina was an Associate Director of Community Development at Health Union. She is a recent graduate from The College of New Jersey where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy with minors in Public Health and Spanish. Her experiences in reproductive health and anti-sexual violence work have tethered her to the belief that patient empowerment is the key to successful health management. She is thrilled to work in a position where she can combine her personal advocacy with her professional goals by connecting patients with an understanding of community and providing relevant, engaging content.
Sumra Alvi was previously an Associate Manager at Health Union. She graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology Informatics and Public Health, which sparked her passion for using technology to creatively solve complex problems in healthcare. She is a strong believer in creating a stigma-free space where communities can build relationships and learn more about their health conditions. In the past, Sumra has worked on advocacy projects related to women’s health and will continue to be a champion for reproductive health and wellness. She is delighted to be a part of a dynamic team that designs patient-centered technology and empowers communities with empathy.
Eileen was previously a Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union. In her past career in the service industry, Eileen excelled at anticipating customers’ needs to help people. It was volunteer work that inspired her to reinvent herself, return to college, and launch an online community that supports survivors of trauma. In that role, she came to fully understand the stigma of invisible pain and its daily impact. After spending nearly a decade as the primary caretaker for her aging parents, both with serious diagnoses, she learned kindness and laughter are as crucial to healing as preserving dignity is. Eileen can most often be found wishing it was snowing, sipping a latte, or chasing the aurora borealis with a vintage camera.
Eileen Bailey was a freelance writer and award-winning author based in Southeastern Pennsylvania. She has 25 years of experience writing health content and seven books on physical and mental health, emotional well-being, living a healthy lifestyle, and parenting. Her professional writing began when her son was diagnosed with ADHD. As she learned about the condition, she felt compelled to share what she learned with others. Eileen’s goal is to provide essential and accurate information to patients across the spectrum of health conditions to help them make informed decisions and actively participate in their healthcare.
Alesandra “Alee” Bevilacqua was an Associate Director of Community Development at Health Union, where she utilizes her diverse professional background to foster sincere relationships and develop meaningful connections. From her work in film publicity to her success in the co-working industry, Alee’s breadth of experience has shaped her unique community management style, allowing her to effectively maximize engagement within Health Union’s robust communities. Alee’s passion to empower others, coupled with a deep interest in healthcare and medicine, will drive patient communities to expand and flourish.
Rebecca Braglio, J.D., is Executive Director & Legal Counsel of Community Development at Health Union where she uses her background in psychology and law to create welcoming and supportive environments that meet member needs. In a former life, Rebecca practiced as a criminal defense attorney and specialized in mental health cases. After becoming involved in a senior pet rescue organization and volunteering for her local shelter, Rebecca shifted her focus from the law to building communities and connecting people. Her background in mental health has given her a genuine sense of understanding of the struggles others endure while recognizing the importance of a supportive and empowering community. When she isn’t building communities, she spends her free time surrounded by senior dogs and cats.
Sharon Brandwein is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, beauty, and healthcare. Her work has also appeared on USA Today, ABCNews, Parents, and Shondaland. When she’s not busy writing, you might find her somewhere curating a wardrobe for her puppy.
Queen Buyalos is a pharmacist and freelance medical writer in Virginia. Queen has a son who is a childhood cancer survivor. To encourage health and wellness, she started her blog, MommyQueendom. She enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, trying new foods, and playing her kids’ new favorite board game, “10 days in Africa.”
Monica Byars was a medical writer based in Houston, Texas. Her father was a physician and her mother is a retired physical therapist, so healthcare has been the “family business” for her entire life. She earned a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri – Columbia and has worked as a medical writer for Texas Children’s Hospital as well as for the Memorial Hermann Hospital System. She has also done freelance writing for other healthcare organizations including Kelsey-Seybold Medical Clinics and the Menninger Clinic.
Jen was previously a Cross-Community Moderator at Health Union. She was born in Vermont and moved to the Eastern Shore of Maryland where she lives with her husband, daughters and her supervisor, Jake the cat. Her career began in the accounting field but she found her passion in online communities and moderation. She thrives on the challenges new projects afford and is always looking for opportunities that will allow her to utilize her extensive skill set related to social media, online moderation and community management. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, mosaics, and cooking.
Kim was a medical writer from Seattle and draws on her training in science to dive into medical literature and clinical trials. Kim did her BS at the University of California, San Diego in Biochemistry and Cell Biology and then completed her Ph.D. at the University of Washington in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Program. After a career as a bench scientist, Kim transitioned into scientific writing and then medical writing. She is passionate about helping patients with chronic illness through the power of education.
Shelby Comito was previously an Associate Director of Community Development at Health Union and a Texas native with California roots. With a BA in Plan II and English from the University of Texas at Austin and experience developing an online retail start-up that emphasized female empowerment and yoga, Shelby is passionate about building deep and meaningful connections and creating an intimate, personal, and always delightful online experience for clients. Her goal at Health Union is to use her connection skills and writing talents to help those who are suffering with chronic health conditions discover meaningful community and lasting joy and success in their everyday lives.
Truc Diep, PhD
Truc was a medical writer based in Southern Connecticut. Her graduate studies concentrated on chemistry and biochemistry at the molecular level. Since then she has expanded to a macro-level interest in the health sciences. Her professional writing experience includes developing promotional and educational materials for healthcare professionals. She is enjoying a new area of writing, which focuses on consumers and the online community, by sharing information and bringing awareness about health-related topics that are important to patients.
Emily was previously a Senior Medical Writer at Health Union, where she combines a background in community health education and a certification as a master life coach with her passion for empowering people with health information. Her professional writing has been mostly online, writing for non-profit health organizations, the health and pharmaceutical industry, and online wellness publications and covering a variety of conditions. Emily believes health encompasses more than just the absence of disease and is curious about the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual components of well being.
Ashley was a Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union. She is originally from Connecticut and is currently completing her degree in Psychology and Child Development at the University of Maine. She loves spending time outdoors, and recently achieved a certification in outdoor leadership. In her free time, Ashley enjoys rock climbing, spending countless hours on the beach, and going on adventures with the people in her life. While working on research in social psychology and spending time being a teacher to young children, she has learned the importance of listening with an open mind and the power of a support system. She hopes to use these skills to follow the mission of Health Union and create a space where members can feel comfortable as their true selves.
Matthew Ferry was a Manager of Community Development. Matt is recently finished a graduate degree in International Educational Development at the University of Pennsylvania. Matt has served as an English teaching assistant in Amman, Jordan through the Fullbright Program and on the Education Team at Geneva Global in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Sara Finkelstein was a freelance writer and filmmaker based in Seattle. She started with a biology degree, intending to engage in laboratory research. But she found her passion for communicating scientific and medical information to the general public, instead. Over the years, she has edited scientific papers at Harvard University, produced award-winning documentaries for PBS broadcast, and written multiple websites, articles, white papers, and blog posts on topics as diverse as enacting energy-efficiency upgrades in public hospitals and watching manatees in southern Florida. Sara enjoys improvisational healthy home cooking, dance-focused group exercise, and socializing with friends. She's still working on getting enough sleep every night.
Christine Fitzpatrick is a Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union. She received a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration and a Master's degree in Education. Christine brings her passion for teaching and helping others to Health Union. Christine looks forward to helping create and foster an online community with an emphasis on increasing awareness and engagement.
Davia Gray is a freelance writer based in Seattle, WA. Davia graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a degree in English Literature. She got her start as a newspaper journalist before shifting into pharmaceutical marketing. Now she combines her two passions — writing and healthcare — in her current career as a medical writer/editor.
Brian M. Green
Brian M. Green, MS, is Executive Director of Community Development at Health Union where he brings 20 years of experience in public health, health policy, and community health programs to enhance our online patient communities. Brian has worked on HIV prevention research studies, educating communities about HIV vaccine research, overseeing quality improvement initiatives for HIV clinical care, healthcare provider training, and engaging communities. At Health Union, he is focused on ensuring our content strategy continues to expand the reach and value of our online communities.
Martha Growdon was previously a Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union. Martha was a professor of Geology in upstate New York prior to the birth of her twins and now wears several hats in addition to moderating including mom, geologist, book lady, and volunteer for her local Parents of Multiples group. She enjoys continuing to engage in learning outside of the academic realm and to support others and Health Union provides the perfect combination of the two. Martha has a B.A. in Geology from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin; an M.S. in Geology from the University of Connecticut, and a Ph.D. in Geology from Indiana University. She and her husband, who is also a geologist, look forward to teaching their twin boys about the stories rocks tell before they head to kindergarten!
Ketki Gupte, MA, was a Director of Community Development at Health Union where she employed her education in marketing, communications, and linguistics along with her experience in healthcare communication to understand and cater to patient needs. During her time analyzing doctor-patient communication, Ketki discovered the power of empathy as key to effective communication with patients and also a means to engage and empower them. At Health Union, she strives to nurture empathetic communities which will eventually help patients and caregivers take charge of the condition, improve their quality of life, and find support while doing so.
Meagan was previously a Senior Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union, as well as a Registered Nurse at Singing River Health System in Pascagoula, Mississippi. She joined the Health Union team in January 2016 as a Cross-Community Moderator. She graduated with her Bachelors of Science in Nursing in 2012 at William Carey University in Biloxi, Mississippi. Meagan spends most of her leisure time in the pool, running, or crafting while spending her quality time with her husband and their daughter.
Linda Hinkle has always preferred it when her creative work involved the healthcare industry, ever since her college internship at the U.T. Health Science Center. She has worked for two large hospitals and the College of Optometry for her alma mater, the University of Houston. A lifelong beagle fan, she lives in Florida, where she’s a freelance writer and book editor. She works when she’s not distracted with her beagle Dylan. Those large soft ears and sad faces are awfully hard to resist.
Brooke was previously a Cross-Community Moderator for Health Union. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at an acute care hospital in Providence RI where she counsels and supports clients and families in times of crisis. Previously, she has worked in other healthcare settings in the areas of research, acute mental health, and women’s health. Brooke holds her MSW in Clinical Social Work from Boston College and her BA in Public and Community Service from Providence College. She enjoys trying out new hobbies, playing music and spending time with her cat, Francisco.
Stephanie was Senior Director of Community Development at Health Union where she leverages her healthcare communications background to identify and hone enriching content that will resonate with HU’s highly engaged communities. Stephanie has an academic foundation in Sociolinguistics and Psychology which aids in her understanding of the subtle nuances within various health conditions. She spent years analyzing the communication gaps between physicians and their patients and now strives to close those gaps by developing an online haven for specified patient education, advocacy, and community. Her deep-seeded passion is reflected in the success and growth of these communities.
Dana Ingemann, MPH, CHES, was a Senior Manager of Community Development at Health Union. Dana earned her Master of Public Health degree in Community Health Education from the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. She has professional experience in a variety of industries, but health and wellness have always been her true passions. With her heart in health and her skills in technology, building a career in digital health was a natural progression. She is a highly empathetic person who strives to understand each person's individual experiences. Dana aims to create inclusivity wherever she is, so those who identify with any gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, and spiritual practice feel safe, comfortable, and equitably represented.
Virginia Jackson was a freelance medical editor and writer based in New Jersey. She spent 15 years working in medical publishing and advertising, producing work for a variety of audiences. She holds degrees in both psychology and publishing. She is thrilled to use her skills to speak directly to those with chronic conditions. She has asthma herself and while she would love to say that’s often why she’s out of breath, it may have more to do with her three small children.
Kate Volpicelli Leonard
Kate was a Director of Community Development at Health Union. She brings over a decade of experience in developing health communications materials and working to improve the health of communities globally. Before joining Health Union, Kate managed a number of innovative programs focusing on global and domestic health issues. She worked alongside community members to understand their needs and support them in solving their problems. Kate also has a Masters in Public Health from the University of Pennsylvania. She strives to use her past experience to build meaningful relationships with community members suffering from chronic health conditions.
Valarie "Noel" Martin
Noel was a Cross-Community Moderator at Health-Union. She uses her experience as an RN to interact with and educate people who suffer from various chronic illnesses. Noel is passionate about education and looks forward to being an advocate for group members. In her free time, Noel enjoys being a mom to her 3 active kids. Her favorite thing to do is be her kids' number 1 fan at all their sporting events.
Melanie was a Senior Cross-Community Moderator at Health Union. Before joining Health Union, Melanie worked as a moderator for Yerdle for 2 years. After working in sales and marketing for 10 years, Melanie discovered community management- and found it to be a perfect fit for her love of people. Melanie holds a B.A. in Philosophy from The College of Wooster. Life for Melanie revolves around her husband, 2 small kiddos and her fat cat, Kimber. In her leisure time, she enjoys meditation, biking, and obnoxious cat puns.
While at Health Union, Susan Mees was Executive Director of Community Development at Health Union, where she combines her passion for patient communities and love of analysis to help manage and grow Health Union. She loves learning as many new things as possible and is excited about any challenge that involves building a passionate community of users who are motivated to change the world. With a background in startups, Susan is well-versed in the wearing of many hats and loves finding new and creative solutions to problems – something she hopes to bring to her work within the online community.
Aleq Miller, was a Manager of Community Development at Health Union. Aleq earned his Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. His professional background is in Information Technology where he has become a subject matter expert in Global Marketing and Data Analytics. He is eager to contribute to the fulfilling work here at Health Union to make people’s lives better through the communities we manage as a collective group.
Linda Saxl Minton
Linda Minton is a healthcare consultant and medical writer based in New York City. She received a Masters in Public Health from Yale University. She develops medical communications for patients and caregivers that translate complex information into understandable, actionable materials. Linda has recently authored patient guides focusing on the intersection of mental health and the disease process.
Anna Nicholson was a science writer based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. While pursuing a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science, she developed a keen interest in researching and writing about our understanding of human communication from a variety of perspectives including linguistics, neuroscience, social psychology, and philosophy of mind and language. Throughout her graduate studies, she also gained valuable experience by working with a medical communications agency and as a freelance science writer specializing in global health issues. She enjoys science writing because it provides a unique opportunity to explore the intersection of human health, therapeutic innovation, and patient advocacy coupled with the responsibility to accurately convey complex information in an effective and accessible way.
Lawrence Ogunkua, M.Ed., MSHI is Associate Director at Health Union where he blends his backgrounds in clinical research, human services, and public health, to help foster engagement within Health Union’s online patient communities. Lawrence has worked for several years in family-centered care as a social and behavioral science researcher with an emphasis on increasing awareness about the signs of suicide ideation/threat. With dual Master’s degrees in Health Informatics and Organizational Development, Lawrence will help community members connect and interface with new resources and perspectives that are inclusive of patient needs.
While at Health Union, Jenn was Senior Director of Community Development at Health Union. Prior to joining Health Union, Jenn spent 7 years in Higher Education leading programs for diverse communities, including student-athletes and peer tutors, at St. John’s University and Hofstra University respectively. Most recently, Jenn founded a grassroots and award-winning community organization in Long Beach, New York to address a growing opioid and mental health epidemic in her local community. Jenn holds an M.A. in English and a B.A. in English from St. John’s University in Queens, New York. Some of her great joys in life include community management, Dunkin’ decaf coffee, hip hop, and hashtagging everything.
Devin Papillion was a Copywriter at Health Union. Devin studied classical viola and creative writing at the University of North Texas. After college she dove into the world of freelance by writing for local print news publications. For the past 6 years, she’s been writing content for clients and businesses of all types.
Kristin was an Associate Director of Community Development at Health Union. Kristin received her Bachelor's degree from West Chester University in Communication Studies with a minor in Marketing. Before joining the Health Union team, she worked in direct marketing for 10 years before moving onto a higher education institution to work in development and alumni relations for the last three years. Kristin has a passion for helping and connecting others and is excited to help create and flourish online health communities.
Jonathan Simmons lives and works in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He has extensive experience writing for the health communications and pharmaceutical industries, developing educational and informational materials for both professional and consumer audiences. He particularly enjoys writing about complex topics in healthcare and exploring how modern medicine meets the challenges of developing novel and effective treatments for human illnesses.
Juliana Swaren, MPH, CHES® is an Associate Director of Community Development at Health Union. Juliana holds a Master of Public Health degree from Emory University, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Public Health and Psychology. As a former cross-community writer for Health Union, Juliana combines her passion for health communications with her understanding of behavior science, health education, and patient engagement. Working with the Community Development team, Juliana strives to find inventive and effective ways to build community, helping patients to feel better and lead healthier lives.
Pallavee Trehan was a Manager of Community Development at Health Union where she aspired to establish supportive communities at the corner of empathy and creativity. At the core of all of her passions, is connectivity. Whether it’s connecting people, ideas, moments, words, images, or visions - she believes that life is more magical when it is shared. Deeply committed to mobilizing communities, she is passionate about furthering Health Union’s mission to create an ecosystem that fosters honest interactions about health conditions between and among patients, caregivers, professionals, and providers. In her free time, she helps curate secret concerts to bring intimacy and active listening back to experiencing live music!
Lauren Tucker was previously a Director of Community Development at Health Union. Lauren’s former career as an elementary school teacher has paved her way to understand and empathize with many different people of all ages. She brings her creative eye to making real-world connections and building relationships with all those she interacts with. Lauren’s passion for helping and teaching others is infectious and helps to nurture Health Union’s online Communities.
Katie Van Horn
Katie Van Horn MSW, MPH was previously a Director of Community Development at Health Union where she utilizes her background in patient and family-centered care and patient experience to empower and engage individuals living with chronic health conditions. Before joining Health Union, Katie worked in the healthcare and nonprofit sectors as a clinical social worker and a public health program manager. Katie utilizes her past experience working alongside patients and families to create safe and vibrant communities.
Amylyn was an Associate Director of Community Development at Health Union. She will finish her Master's degree in Public Policy and Management from the University of Pittsburgh in April 2020. Amylyn brings a diverse background of experience to the HU team, having worked in the nonprofit, for-profit, and healthcare sectors. Through her work and personal experience, as a daughter of a mother living with several chronic conditions, Amylyn deeply understands the interconnectedness of health and wellbeing, access to resources and quality care, and the importance of connection. Using a holistic approach, Amylyn will work to create safe, mindful, and inclusive communities. She is thrilled to work in a role that blends her life experience and passion for advocacy and education to the digital and social healthcare space.
Cady Vishniac earned her bachelor's in creative and professional writing at the University of Massachusetts and her master's in creative writing at The Ohio State University, where she also learned Yiddish and studied Haskalah literature. She's worked in editorial for newspapers including DigBoston and Prospect News, health websites like WebMD and MedicineNet, and medical journal publisher the American Society for Clinical Investigation.
Vanessa Wamsley is a science writer based in Lincoln, Nebraska. Her writing experience includes speechwriting for the head of a research, education, and museum complex; communicating human and plant genomic research and discoveries for a nonprofit institute; travel blogging from a Pacific island; and creating marketing materials for health clinics and biotech companies. With a Master's in Science Writing degree and experience as an English teacher, Vanessa's work combines her deep knowledge of language with her eagerness to communicate complex new ideas in a way that everyone understands.
Nina Winterbottom was previously a Senior Manager of Community Development at Health Union where they delight in seeing communities thrive. Their years serving with AmeriCorps and their time with Health Union have fostered a strong belief in human resilience, radical empathy, and diverse viewpoints, as well as talents in connecting with all sorts of folks ages six to 106. Nina is excited to be on the frontier of socially supportive technology that makes a real difference in people’s lives.