Welcome to the Editorial Team page! Occasionally you will see articles on MultipleSclerosis.net authored by the Editorial Team. The members of the Editorial Team are either employees of Health Union, the parent company of MultipleSclerosis.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 Multiple Sclerosis 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 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.
Alina is Senior Manager 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.
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.
Eileen is a Senior Cross-Site 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 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.
Alesandra “Alee” Bevilacqua is Senior Manager 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.
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 Associate 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.
Rebecca Braglio, J.D., is Senior Director 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 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.
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 a Senior Manager 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.
Shelby Comito is 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.
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-Site 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.
Allyson Ellis is a Senior Cross-Site Moderator and Medical Writer 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.
Ashley is a cross-site 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.
Richard is a Senior Cross-Site 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.
Matt Ferry is a Manager of Community Development at Health Union. Previously Matt worked at Nationalities Service Center, where he supported the executive director in agency strategic planning. Matt has worked abroad–spending a year in Jordan as a Fulbright English Teaching Fellow and most recently as an Education Team Intern with Geneva Global in Ethiopia. He is currently finishing an M.S.Ed. in International Educational Development at the University of Pennsylvania and graduate with a B.A. in History from Dickinson College. He is passionate about initiatives and programs that meet people where they are and can lead to a greater quality of life.
Christine Fitzpatrick is a Cross-Site 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.
Donna Flood-Amaya is a Senior Cross-Site 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.
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 Associate 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.
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.
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-site 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 in 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.
Crystal is a Cross-Site 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.
Christina is a professional cross-site contributor as a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Senior cross-site 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 of 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.
Casey Hribar is a Senior Cross-Site Moderator at Health Union. She recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BS in Biology, a BA in Interpersonal and Organizational Communications, and a minor in Chemistry. Casey is currently working on publishing several peer-reviewed medical articles in preparation for her pursuit of an MD degree. 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 spends most of her time with her sweet and sassy rescue pup, Eddie, and loves taking him for walks and to the dog park. She really enjoys learning about and talking with others, and is very excited to be encouraging discussion around so many important topics!
Doreen is a cross-site community writer and cross-site 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.
Dana Ingemann, MPH, CHES, is 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.
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.
Pam Kingsland is Associate 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.
Pamela Kline is 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.
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.
Christine is a cross-site 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 positive community, both of which she gets to practice every day as mother to three kids. Aside from spending time with her family and friends, Christine enjoys reading, writing, photography, and traveling.
Kate Volpicelli Leonard
Kate is 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.
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.
Valarie “Noel” Martin
Noel is a cross-site 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.
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 a M.A. in Media Studies from Temple University.
Melanie is a Senior Cross-Site 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.
Kelsey Midgett is Director of Community Development at Health Union. She graduated from Penn State University with a BS and Masters in Healthcare Administration. Kelsey brings experience from a variety of healthcare settings, where she advocated for and led change initiatives. Through her career she has gained experience in program management, data analysis, ethnographic research, and insight development. Kelsey’s previous experience and passion for patient and caregiver empowerment, drives her commitment to building supportive and engaging communities. In her spare time, Kelsey enjoys traveling, discovering new music, and spending time with her family, friends, and her two dogs.
Aleq Miller, is 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 Techology 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.
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.
Shayla Oakes is a cross-site 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.”
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 in 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.
Graceann Palmarella, MPH is Associate 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.
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.
Erin is a Senior Cross Site 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.
April Sluder, MSW, LSW is a Cross-Site Moderator 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.
Juliana Swaren, MPH, CHES® is Senior Manager 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.
Erin Tirney is a Cross-Site Moderator at Health Union. She brings with her a passion for patient care and 3 years 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 skill set relevant to her many areas of interest.
Sarah Wallin is Senior Manager 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.
Nina Winterbottom is 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.
Shayna Yeates is 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
Monica Byars is 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.
Sara Finkelstein is 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 in 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.
Ina G. Fried
Ina G. Fried 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.
Jaime Herndon is a medical writer and currently lives in NJ, where she is raising her toddler son. She is fascinated by health and medicine, and 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. She earned her MS in clinical health psychology from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, her MPH in maternal-child health from UNC-Chapel Hill, and her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia University, where she also took classes in Narrative Medicine. She is currently pursuing a graduate certificate in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.
Cara has been working in healthcare since 1996. Her background in pharmacy, master’s degree in public health and 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.
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.
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.
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.
Previous team members
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.
Jen was previously a cross-site 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 is 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 PhD 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.
Truc Diep, PhD
Truc is 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.
Martha Growdon was previously a cross-site 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 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-Site 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-Site 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.
Brooke was previously a cross-site 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.
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.
Anna Nicholson is a science writer based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. While pursuing a PhD 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 is 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.