Community Advocates

In order to stay up to date on latest treatments, drug discovery, clinical studies and how to manage Rheumatoid Arthritis everyday brings you frequent articles, blogs, points of view and advice from leading patient advocates and professional medical experts.

Healthcare professionals

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 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.

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.

I received my BS/MS in Occupational Therapy from The Sage Colleges (New York) in 2003. I have 10 years of experience with pediatrics as well as adult rehabilitation.  My expertise in energy conservation, joint protection, environmental modifications, and adaptive equipment has been helpful as I navigate my own life with this chronic condition. Read more.

Patient advocates

Shelbie Atwater

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.

Michael Booth

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.

Ed Burgoyne

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.

Kat Elton

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

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.
The year following her MS diagnosis, Lisa lost the use of both her hands due to weakness and crippling pain which made piano performance quite impossible. At first the doctors believed that she had carpal tunnel syndrome, however the hand surgeon to whom Lisa was referred for CTS release surgery believed that more was going on. She consulted with a rheumatologist who diagnosed her with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in the spring of 2007.Read More

Tamara Haag

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 Hart

Nan is currently in her 20th year as Executive Director of three elder service programs in Vermont. She was diagnosed in 1996 with RA. She feels that as odd as it sounds, suffering with a chronic disease like RA has “gifted” her with a much deeper appreciation for EVERYTHING from nature to her family to the simplest pleasures in life. She is a firm believer in seeking out what you need to manage and live joyfully with a chronic disease like RA. 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 and started her on Trazadone. Finally, Mary Sophia was able to sleep and the symptoms improved for a while. After her husband’s suicide in 2009, pain increased and was impacting her joints. Her internist checked her RF and ANA levels, and they were all normal. The internist suggested she check back with her psychiatric nurse practitioner, because he thought it was depression! At that point, Mary Sophia insisted on a rheumatologist referral. She also left that internist. Read more.

Carla Kienast

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 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.

Andrew Lumpe

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.

Angela Lundberg

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

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.

Rob Osberg

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.

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 Rott

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.

Molly Schreiber

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.

Monica Sengupta

Monica was diagnosed with RAin 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.

Yoga instructor & personal trainer

Tadd McCullough

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.

Over the last eight years of teaching, Tadd has continued to develop a unique perspective of conscious movement and personal awareness, drawing from a diverse range of training and experiences with various yoga styles, postural alignment, breathing techniques, personal reflection and meditation, relaxation strategies, total body strength training, movement awareness practices influenced by the Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais Method, Pilates, and movement inquiries crafted from his personal teaching and learning experiences. He is currently training to become a Feldenkrais practitioner.

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