Community Health Leaders
Last updated: August 2023
In order to stay up to date on latest treatments, drug discovery, clinical studies and how to manage Rheumatoid Arthritis everyday RheumatoidArthritis.net brings you frequent articles, blogs, points of view and advice from health leaders and professional medical experts.
Current health leaders
David was diagnosed with RA in October 2018 at the age of 21. The diagnosis was shocking and challenging, especially because the diagnosis came during the middle of his senior year, a time rife with grad school applications and upper-level course work. Read more.
Donica Liu Baker, MD, FACR
Donica Liu Baker, MD, FACR is a board-certified rheumatologist practicing the art of medicine in her beloved hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. With roots in the field of Kinesiology, she developed an early passion for helping patients improve their mobility, which evolved into an interest in arthritis and autoimmune diseases. Read more.
Hi, my name is Randi Blackmon. I am currently 23 years old and in chiropractic school. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of 16 after 6 years of searching for a correct diagnosis. I became passionate about sharing my experience with RA after I experienced my worst moments with RA while I was a senior in college. Read more
Leanne writes about parenting with chronic illness and her families adventures in homeschooling on her blog, Smiles and Sundays. She hopes that by sharing her experiences, she will help others feel less isolated and allow loved ones a greater insight to what life is like with rheumatoid arthritis. Read more.
Racquel H. Dozier
Racquel H. Dozier was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2002. At the prime of her life, Racquel and her family had relocated to a new state with a young child and were enjoying life to the fullest. As a former athlete, she knew something wasn't quite right when she started experiencing extreme pain. Read more.
Kathryn Elton, OTR
Kat Elton is an author, occupational therapist, and someone who has lived with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since age two. Her two books, A Resilient Life: Learning to thrive, not just survive with rheumatoid arthritis, and True Health, the Inside Job, pave the way for readers to move into health, regardless of their circumstances. Kat is a personal demonstration that illness and pain create a fierce desire to be healthy, and this desire can move mountains, one step at a time. Read more.
Lisa Emrich is a patient advocate who has been helping patients educate and empower themselves since 2008. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005, Lisa learned firsthand the challenges of navigating the healthcare and insurance systems as a self-employed freelance musician in Washington, DC, performing on horn and piano. She uses her experience to educate patients and encourage them to take an active role in their own health care. Read More.
Diagnosed with RA in 2000 at the age of 22 (following years of precursors, symptoms and misdiagnoses), Tamara has been balancing the demands of family, work, and school with disease management. When she can carve out the time, she enjoys reading, yoga, amateur photography and writing. Read more.
Nan is a retired Executive Director of three elder service programs in Vermont where she led the non-profit for 23 years. Read more.
Mary Sophia Hawks
Mary Sophia has been a registered nurse for 32 years in a variety of jobs. She began noticing stiffness and pain in her late 20’s. She attributed it to her rigorous profession and hours on her feet. In 2005 she began to have trouble getting out of bed. When an antidepressant didn’t help, her internist diagnosed her with fibromyalgia. Read more.
My name is Jo Johnson and I’m a Seattle girl who was lived in Boise, ID for 40 years. In May 2017, at age 57, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I had an arduous 2 year journey to my diagnosis. This journey continues as I work with my Rheumatologist to find the best treatment plan for me. Read more.
Franki, short for Francesca, was born in Los Angeles and diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of 15. She first noticed the inflammation in her elbows at volleyball practice. One doctor visit after another and she was diagnosed. Soon after, Franki had to give up volleyball and much of her life to try and get the disease under control. Read more.
Effie Koliopoulos was diagnosed with polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis in 2005 at 18 and had symptoms that started from 15 years old. After over a decade of going through what she calls, ‘the good, the bad and the ugly,’ of living with a chronic illness and disability, she felt called to share her story more publicly. Read more.
Andrew was officially diagnosed with RA in 2008 but lived with symptoms for many years prior. As a former high school science teacher and college professor, he brings scientific and analytic perspectives to dealing with the disease. His award winning blog about RA can be found here. He ejoys living in the beautiful central coast region in California. Read more.
Living most of her life in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Angela has had a variety of weird, interesting jobs. She’s been a hotel concierge (she once almost dropped a giant bag of laundry on Janet Jackson), process server (“You’ve been served!”) English teacher in France, debt collector, wedding photographer, freelance writer, substitute teacher, hospital worker, DJ, nanny, dog-sitter, and she can’t even remember what else. But what she really wants to do in life is use her passions for writing, photography, and arthritis/healthcare advocacy to somehow make a difference in people’s lives. Arthritis advocacy has been important to Angela since she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in 1997, right after graduating from high school. Read more.
Kelly Mack was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age two in 1979. Since then, she’s been pretty busy. She grew up in upstate New York and now lives with her husband in Washington, DC. Kelly earned a BA in Psychology from Bryn Mawr College and an MA in Communications from Johns Hopkins University. She works full-time for a marketing communications firm. Read more.
Daniel P. Malito
Daniel P. Malito has been writing about this absurd disabled life he lives for over ten years now. It all started wen he was just nine years old with a mysterious flu-like illness that took two years to diagnose. In the end, doctors agreed to call his disease Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (now JIA), but the truth is he never fully conformed to the accepted pathology of his illness. Because of this, Daniel endured years of hardship while the medical community searched for a remedy, and when one was finally found twenty-five years later, the damage had already been done. Read more.
Amanda Osowski is a wife and mother living and working in Chicago, IL. After earning a Masters Degree in Public Health, Amanda worked in clinical trial recruitment, specializing in breaking down barriers between patients and enrollment into clinical research. Read more.
Lawrence 'rick' Philips
Lawrence has Spent over 30 years in local government and local school district administration in Indiana. He has at various times, been a Director of Finance, City Controller, Personnel Director, Development Director and all-around computer guy (that position lasted one year). He grew up and lives in central Indiana with his wife Sheryl of more than 40 years. They have two sons and three grandchildren. Rick was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1974 and RA in 2000. He was also diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis in 2105. Rick has used six biologic medications and has had several surgeries related to RA. Read more.
Leslie was diagnosed with lupus and RA in 2008, at the age of 22. She was diagnosed at the end of her first year of graduate school, but was determined to finish, and recently received a PhD in sociology. Leslie authors the blog Getting Closer To Myself and is the administrator of the patient-centered blog carnival Patients for a Moment. Read more.
Monica was diagnosed with RA in June 2011. She loves working with animals, especially small ones like dogs and cats, and dreams of going to vet school. Her other hobbies include nail art, beauty/makeup and skincare. RA is a part of her life but she constantly tries to forget about it because she doesn’t want it to control her life. Read more.
Leslie “Wren” Vandever
Wren is a professional journalist, graphic and fine artist. After serving for four years in the U.S. Air Force, she worked as a graphic artist and typesetter, and in late 1986 moved to Bremerhaven in Northern Germany, where she lived near the U.S. Army post there with her AF husband and six-year-old daughter. For the first year she was an illustrator for the post’s Recreation Dept., then became a reporter/ photographer and editor for the Public Affairs Office. Read more.
It was during the first few years of motherhood that Janeil realized her chronic pain was becoming more severe and affecting her quality of life. In the summer of 2020, she was diagnosed with RA and started managing two chronic illnesses while being a busy mother. Read more.
Lynn Marie Witt, MSOT
As with any life-changing diagnosis, there are negative physical, mental, emotional, and life ramifications that occur due to the disease process. However, I choose to focus on the disease and use my life story to help others along on their journey. Read more.
Melissa Halas-Liang - Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian
Melissa is a nationally recognized nutrition educator, Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator and wellness expert. Advocating for balanced nutrition at all ages and living a healthy lifestyle, Melissa aims to “practice what she preaches” in her everyday life. She is the founder of Super Kids Nutrition and writes nutrition, recipe, fitness and gardening blogs. Read more.
Jeanne Hecht - MBA, PMP
Jeanne Hecht is Senior Vice President and Global Head of Site and Patient Networks at Quintiles, a position she was appointed to in October 2014. In this role, Jeanne is responsible for leading, implementing, and driving a site and patient network-centric global strategy that leverages leading-edge technology. Read more.
Hospital for Special Surgery
RheumatoidArthritis.net and Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) have established a joint partnership in an effort to help increase awareness of and provide information about rheumatoid arthritis to the community. This partnership allows us to provide a platform which supports interaction between patients and healthcare providers including physicians and other medical experts. Read more.
Molly has been living with Type 1 Diabetes since June of 1989 and Rheumatoid Arthritis since January of 2012. She started writing to educate others and to share her journey with multiple autoimmune diseases. In her writing and via social media, it is important to Molly to be open and show both the positive and negative impacts of her illnesses on her day-to-day life. Read more.
TK Sellman, RPSGT CCSH is a career journalist (Columbia Chicago, ’90). She was diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia in 2010, which inspired her to go back to school to become a sleep technologist in 2012 and a professional sleep educator in 2014. Her IH diagnosis was later abandoned when her neurologist in Seattle confirmed RRMS was to blame for her continual fatigue, as well as other symptoms of relapse (tremor, migraine, and tinnitus). Read more.
Yoga instructor & personal trainer
Tadd McCullough, a yoga and movement awareness instructor in Dallas, TX has a rich humanities background, with training in public speaking and acting, stage movement, ballet and various forms of contemporary dance. His yoga training began in 2004 with the Living Yoga Program in Austin, TX. He began teaching in his living room while completing the 200-hour certification.
Former health leaders
Shelbie was recently diagnosed with RA and is still learning about my diagnosis and what it entails. What she does know is that she refuses to let it bring me down!! Shelbie is also a recently divorced mom of two amazing little girls and they need her to be the best and healthiest she can be!! When she is not working her full-time job as a hairstylist, she can be found at the gym! Read more.
Cindy is a young adult living with RA, having been diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when she was four years old. The development of RA in her joints led to the development of other autoimmune disorders related to RA, namely uveitis/iritis, which led to glaucoma. Read more.
Michael was diagnosed with RA at the age of 33, shortly after the birth of his first son. Due to the physical difficulties, he has struggled deeply with leaving behind a life of stunts, adrenaline, and intense competition, but has found fulfillment in his love of writing and spending time with his new family. Michael received a Master of Science in Applied Psychology in 2016, and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology in 2013. He works an adjunct professor, community moderator, and as a stepfather, dad, and husband at home and spends more of his free time reading and writing. Read more.
Edward Burgoyne has been dealing with RA for the last 11 years. He grew up in Wisconsin and still lives there today with his wife of 35 years. They have 2 children, a son and a daughter, and one grandchild. Being from Wisconsin, it goes without saying that he is a Green Bay Packer fan for life! Read more.
Cheryl Crow is a rheumatoid arthritis patient, occupational therapist, advocate and general life enthusiast. She is passionate about helping people with health challenges live their lives to the fullest extent possible. She loves helping people continue to do the things they want and need to do through life hacks, workarounds, mental health coping skills and more! Read more.
Though most known for her work as a patient advocate spreading awareness of life with chronic migraine, Sarah Hackley found a home in the autoimmune community after Rheumatoid Arthritis, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), and Mixed Connective Tissue Disease left her disabled in 2019. Read more.
Carla Kienast is a free-lance consultant offering a wide range of corporate communications services and the author of the acclaimed [trashy] suspense novel, Wake up with Fleas (available at Amazon.com and through special order at Barnes and Nobel, Borders, and Outskirts Press). She is also the author of the RA-related blog, Carla’s Corner. Spending most of her childhood tramping around the southwest United States, she now lives with her husband in Dallas, Texas (no kids, no pets, just the husband). Read more.
Mariah Zebrowski Leach
Mariah is a writer and patient advocate who lives in Colorado with her husband and two young sons. Diagnosed with RA at the age of 25, she works to empower patients and raise awareness about arthritis and other chronic illnesses. After learning firsthand the challenges of facing pregnancy and motherhood with RA, Mariah has become particularly passionate about supporting women with chronic illnesses who are or want to become mothers. Read more.
Asha LeRay - Occupational Therapist
I have been living with rheumatoid arthritis for 8 years, as I was diagnosed in 2005 at the age of 25. I manage my disease with Plaquenil, low impact exercise and optimism. Read more.
A native Virginian and avid history buff, Rob Osberg is an expert in American civil rights. He first became a patient advocate and part-time caregiver when his now wife, Lisa Emrich, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005. Not long thereafter, Rob was called up for double-duty when Lisa was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Read more.
TK Sellman, RPSGT CCSH is a career journalist (Columbia Chicago, ’90). She was diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia in 2010, which inspired her to go back to school to become a sleep technologist in 2012 and a professional sleep educator in 2014. Read more.
My journey with Rheumatoid Arthritis began in my mid 30s. A few years earlier when I had returned to college to further my education I had begun to experience varying symptoms and was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism caused by Graves’ Disease and comorbid Hashimoto’s Disease. Little did I suspect this would be only the beginning of my AI troubles. Read more.
Paula Jayne White
Paula Jayne believes in the words of her idol RuPaul: "The key to navigating this life—don't take it too seriously. That's when the party begins." She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis as a teenager, when she was too young and stupid to take it too seriously, and with breast cancer (currently in remission), at 50, when she was too old and smart to let it destroy her. Read more.
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