2017 Speakers


We are thrilled to welcome experts in health advocacy and social media to this year's event, and are especially excited to be featuring many of our Patient Advisory Panelists and experienced advocates during the weekend's sessions and panel discussions.

About Our Session Leaders

Rhonda Waters

Rhonda Waters

Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute

As a Performance Coach, Rhonda's expertise is in the area of adult learning, development and performance, both at the individual and organizational levels. Through teaching, training and coaching, Rhonda has worked with numerous organizations and senior leaders, from Fortune 500 companies to community groups, to help them identify their mission and goals, initiate and sustain personal and organizational change and focus their energy and talents. Rhonda is a member of The Human Performance Institute within Johnson & Johnson, pioneers in delivering a science-based energy management training solution to achieve sustained high performance based on more than 30 years of proprietary research.

Dr. Tiffany Taft

Dr. Tiffany Taft

PsyD, Clinical Psychologist, Director of Adult Behavioral Medicine at Oak Park Behavioral Medicine LLC

Dr. Taft (@OPBMed) is a licensed clinical psychologist, Director of Adult Behavioral Medicine at Oak Park Behavioral Medicine LLC and a Clinical Research Associate at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She has specialty training in health psychology and cognitive-behavioral therapy. She is a leading expert on the psychological and social aspects of chronic illnesses. Dr. Taft has published many articles and book chapters, and is a frequent speaker at patient education and advocacy conferences across the U.S. Her approach is to teach clients to be their own therapists and learn skills that will last a lifetime so they can better self-manage issues that come with having a chronic illness.

Luke Escombe

Luke Escombe

Award-winning Singer-songwriter, Comedian and IBD Advocate

An award-winning singer/songwriter, guitarist, comedian and health advocate, Luke (@MrEscombe) uses his gift of humor and music to talk about health issues in a unique and refreshing way. He is the creator of "Chronic", a musical comedy about living with Crohn's disease, and "The Vegetable Plot", a kid's show about healthy eating. As an ambassador for Crohn's and Colitis Australia, Luke is passionate about facilitating honest and open conversations about the ups and downs of living with a chronic illness that can often be difficult to discuss.

George Alafoginis

George Alafoginis

Global Marketing Solutions Partner, Facebook

George Alafoginis is a Client Partner for Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook, where he focuses on serving the healthcare community. Prior to his role on the Healthcare team, George worked as a public affairs and communication strategist for Meredith Xcelerated Marketing and as a Policy Advisor at the Department of Energy. George holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Dickinson College.

Amy O'Connor

Amy O'Connor

Editorial Director, Everyday Health

Before joining Everyday Health, Amy served as Editor in Chief of Health.com where she earned multiple awards for editorial excellence, including a National Magazine Award nomination for Personal Service on the Web. She has held top editorial positions at many national consumer publications, including Glamour, Prevention, Self, Mirabella and Vegetarian Times, and has contributed to Elle, Salon, The New York Observer, Men's Journal, and Conde Nast Traveler. Amy has a Master's Degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and attended the University of California at Berkeley and The University of Chicago.

Debbe McCall

Debbe McCall

BS, MBA, HealtheHeartAlliance (Cardiovascular Disease Advocate)

Debbe (@DebbeMcCall) spent three decades in a variety of healthcare settings, and most of her life decisively working to avoid the genetics and cardiac history of her family. Despite multiple lifestyle changes, she was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AFib). Today, she is an active leader in the heart disease community, long-time volunteer for StopAFib and admin of the Atrial Fibrillation Support Forum on Facebook. She has spoken about the patient experience to patients, clinicians and researchers, in addition to being interviewed for patient and clinical publications. Debbe continues to be a Patient Representative (SGE) to the FDA's Cardiovascular Drug and Device Advisory Committee and has served on over 16 Advisory Committees. She has been a member of the Health eHeart Alliance since its inception and their first Chair and Co-PI. She is also a co-author of a white paper published in The Clinical Trials Journal. She is the patient lead or Co-PI for eight funded research grants, on a DSMB and peer reviewer for manuscripts.

Robbins

Josh Robbins

HIV Advocate (imstilljosh)

Josh (@imstilljosh) is one of the coolest HIV-positive bloggers in the history of the world. He utilizes the power of humor and encouragement through video and emerging media to make others living with the virus cool too - and even offers love to allies. His blog, imstilljosh.com, smells of rich mahogany and he owns a niche brand management firm. P.S. His mom's blog, mslisasays.com, rocks too!

Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy

Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy

MD, MPH, Medical Editor, WebMD

Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy (@ArefaMD) is a board-certified internal medicine doctor and medical editor at WebMD, as well as a member of the Advisory Board of Medscape Internal Medicine. At WebMD, Dr. Cassoobhoy helps ensure that all WebMD health information is correct and current – both overseeing the national network of doctors that reviews content across the site and working with the editorial teams that create it. Her scope includes health news, special reports, WebMD Magazine, videos, mobile applications, tools and health reference material. She represents WebMD as a subject matter expert through media, blogs and WebMD Magazine. At Medscape, she is the host of Arefa MD's Morning Report, a weekly video release featuring key medical news impacting primary care doctors. Arefa received her B.S. in medical anthropology and joint MD/MPH degree from Emory. In her current medical practice, she sees patients at the Women's Wellness Clinic at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Heather Gabel

Heather Gabel

Diabetes Advocate (thechronicscholar.com)

Heather Gabel (@HeatherGabel) is a diabetes advocate and blogger at TheChronicScholar.com. As she works toward her Ph.D. in disability studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Heather studies peer support in the context of diabetes. She uses a participatory action research framework combined with digital technology methods to study online health communities and the thought leaders within them. Heather values disability as a valid and respected form of human variation and seeks to spread this sentiment to other patient advocates. Outside of academia, Heather enjoys spending time with her pug, Lancet, and fiancé, Jesse. Her hobbies include brewing kombucha, candle-making (and buying), reading and writing, performing and writing slam poetry and trying various kinds of mac 'n' cheese.

Ann Nguyen Daniela Cruz

Ann Nguyen & Daniela Cruz

YouTube

Ann and Daniela are Partner Managers on the YouTube Partnerships team. They work closely with YouTube creators and are experts in YouTube strategy day in and day out. Their mission is to inspire, connect and grow YouTube creators.

About Our Moderators and Panelists

Several of our 2017 Advisory Panelists are also participating in panel discussions at this year's conference. You can check them out here!

Chrisa Hickey

Chrisa Hickey

Mental Health Advocate (The Mindstorm)

As the mother of a child with schizoaffective disorder, Chrisa (@Chrisa_Hickey) catalogs the day-to-day triumphs and tribulations of raising her son, reaching nearly 1,600 readers a week through her blog. Through her advocacy and writing, she hopes to help other parents of kids with mental illness find support, hope and information that helps them through their journey. In addition to writing her blog, Chrisa also works with and has written for the Balanced Mind Foundation, BringChange2Mind, HealthyPlace.com and The Coffee Klatch.

Todd Bello

Todd Bello

Psoriasis Advocate (Overcoming Psoriasis)

Todd (@TVSoccerDad) is an avid volunteer and mentor for the National Psoriasis Foundation, who has lived with psoriasis for more than 20 years. Bello launched his Facebook page in 2012 as a way to provide information and raise awareness for psoriatic disease. He strives to end the common misconception that psoriasis is contagious and/or just a skin condition. Through his advocacy, he hopes to help find a cure for psoriasis by funding scientific research to make better treatments available to all those who struggle and live with this disease.

Kirsten Schultz

Kirsten Schultz

Rheumatoid Arthritis Advocate

Kirsten (@Kirstie_Schultz) is a genderqueer writer and sexuality educator in Wisconsin. Through her work as a chronic illness and disability activist, she has a reputation for tearing down barriers while mindfully causing constructive trouble. Her blog, Not Standing Still's Disease, provides advice on how to navigate the world of illness. Recently, Kirsten founded Chronic Sex, which openly discusses how illness and disability affect our relationships with ourselves and others including - you guessed it - sex! You can learn more about Kirsten and Chronic Sex at chronicsex.org.

Aaron Laxton

Aaron Laxton

HIV Advocate

Diagnosed with HIV on June 6, 2011, Aaron (@aaronlaxton) quickly made the decision that he was going to let his voice be heard so others would know that that they are not alone. His YouTube channel, "My HIV Journey", has been viewed in over 182 countries by nearly a million viewers. His articles and writings have been featured around the world and he regularly writes about HIV Criminalization, Risk-Reduction and all things related to HIV/AIDS. Aaron brings a unique view as a 30-something gay male who is a recovering crystal meth addict. Additionally, he is an alumni of the Missouri foster-care system from which he aged out after 15 years in care. Each Sunday, he can be heard on POZIAM radio alongside Robert Breining, providing a weekly dose of hope to those living with HIV. His articles and blogs have been featured in many international publications which tackle a wide array of social justice issues. He is currently finishing his Master of Social Work program at Saint Louis University, School of Social Work.

Christy Stone

Christy Stone

IBD Advocate (Crohnie Bologna)

Christy (@CrohnieBologna) is a wife and mother whose goal is to advocate, inspire and dispel the myths surrounding IBD, Crohn's disease and Ostomy life. She has Crohn's disease and has a permanent Ostomy. She blogs about Ostomy pride at www.crohniebolognaibd.com and encourages others to be open about their health and future surgeries, if it means saving their lives.

Sue Rericha

Sue Rericha

Diabetes Advocate (Diabetes Ramblings)

Sue Rericha (@RfamsRamblings) was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in March 2008 after having gestational diabetes five times (1993-2004). She is married to her high school sweetheart and is the proud mother of five children. She currently teaches first grade in a small rural school district. Education and empowerment are very important to Sue professionally and personally. Through sharing real life struggles of balancing life while dealing with a chronic illness, Sue hopes to empower others helping them realize they are not alone. Sue is involved in online advocacy through Facebook, Twitter and her blog, Diabetes Ramblings, while also contributing to blogs at The Type 2 Experience and Diabetes Sisters.

Christel Aprigliano

Christel Aprigliano

Diabetes Advocate, (ThePerfectD)

Christel (@ThePerfectDBlog) has been living with Type 1 diabetes for more than 30 years. She is CEO of The Diabetes Collective, Inc., a non-profit created to support and inspire the diabetes community, and founder of The Diabetes UnConference. Active in advocacy, she is VP of the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition, a member of the Diabetes Advisory Council for Florida and Steering Committee member of the Diabetes Advocates. Christel has shared how her perceptions of diabetes impact the world around her and offered insight on how to survive and celebrate who and what she is via her personal blog, and as the Been There, Done That columnist on dlife.com.

Nick DeSarno

Nick DeSarno

Manager, Digital and Communications Practice, Public Affairs Council

Nick (@ndesarno) is the manager of the digital and communications practice for the Public Affairs Council. In this capacity, he is the Council's lead expert on digital communications and its intersection with advocacy. Nick advises members and convenes the industry's leading executive education programs on effective social media and digital advocacy communications strategies.

Ingrid Eberly

Ingrid Eberly

Vice President of Brand Marketing, Healthline Media

Ingrid is the Vice President of Brand Marketing at Healthline Media. She works with Healthline's innovative teams and external influencers to create content that connects with Healthline's audience. Ingrid has worked with some great people and done some pretty cool work while holding positions at major publishers like Hearst, Meredith and CondeNast. She loves to snowboard and surf, but has a hard time finding the time – instead she fills her craving for adventure by biking to work in NYC.

Brandon Staglin

Brandon Staglin

Mental Health Advocate (One Mind Institute)

Brandon Staglin (@1MindInstitute) is director of marketing and communications for the One Mind Institute, and serves on the Board of Directors of One Mind Institute. In addition to being a webcast producer, blogger and public speaker, he also serves on advisory councils for Stanford University's Prodrome and Early Psychosis Program Network, the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America and Partners for StrongMinds, and is a Stability Leader in The Stability Network. He is the recipient of the SAMHSA Lifetime Achievement VOICE Award, the Clifford W. Beers Centennial Service Award and the SARDAA Shattering Stigma–Realizing Recovery Award for his brain health advocacy.

Sarah Snow

Sarah Snow

Director of Audience Development, Wisdo

As the Director of Audience Development at Wisdo.com, a crowdsourcing platform helping people take on life's greatest challenges, Sarah (@iamsarahsnow) has traveled across the U.S. and unlocked the power of video storytelling which gained Wisdo over 50 million organic views on social media. In 2016, Sarah was named one of the "100 Most Creative People in Business" by FastCompany.

Lea Ann Leming

Lea Ann Leming

Vice President, Audience Development and Engagement, WebMD

Lea Ann Leming (@laleming) is Vice President of Audience Development at WebMD. In her role, she oversees traffic growth, diversification and audience engagement for the #1 digital health brand. Areas of oversight include content programming, social, search, newsletters and digital marketing. Prior to joining WebMD in June 2016, Leming served as chief content officer for SheKnows Media, where she oversaw editorial and video across multiple brands and helped steer the successful integration of two acquisitions: BlogHer and StyleCaster. Previously, Leming was Executive Producer of ABC News Digital, overseeing all editorial, and she founded and led digital for CNN sister network, HLN.

Benjamin Di'Costa

Benjamin Di'Costa

HIV Advocate

Ben (@BenjaminDiCosta) is a 26 year-old internationally recognized leader based in Chicago, IL. He has been working in the field of Sexual Health for the past 7 years and travels around the globe speaking at conferences and colleges on topics about Social Justice, HIV, and Adoption. Since the start of his advocacy Benjamin has been awarded the 2016 30 Under 30 LGBT Leaders of Chicago, Pedro Zamora Scholarship Recipient, Honor41 Latinx Leader Awardee. Benjamin was also listed as one of the top 15 HIV Advocates to Watch in 2015, and awarded top HIV social media influencer of 2016 by Healthline.

Rachel Star

Rachel Star

Schizophrenia Advocate

Rachel (@rachelstarlive) has been making videos on her YouTube page, www.youtube.com/rachelstarlive, for over 10 years. She started by making crazy self-filmed stunt videos, including: Bikini Paintball, Fire Nunchucks, Alligator Wrestling, and Nailbed. As her schizophrenia became worse she also began documenting her struggles with schizophrenia, depression, and going through electro convulsive therapy. She has branched into making various mental health videos about coping and to help people know they are not alone.

Laurel Netolicky

Laurel Netolicky

Director of Business Development, WEGO Health

Laurel (@laurelneto) has been in the digital and social media space for over 15 years, and she specializes in forming sincere and productive relationships. Every day at WEGO Health, she works to create collaborative connections between patient community leaders and healthcare businesses while continuing WEGO Health's growth as a caring and informative company. Laurel spends her free time as an avid runner, boater, cook and mom to her twins.

The preceding links are included for biographical purposes only. Any opinions included therein are the speakers' own, and are not reflective of those held by Janssen.