Welcome to the Editorial Team page! Occasionally you will see articles on InflammatoryBowelDisease.net authored by the Editorial Team. The members of the Editorial Team are either employees of Health Union, the parent company of InflammatoryBowelDisease.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 IBD 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
Alina Ahsan is 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 community and providing relevant, engaging content.
Eileen is a 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 Bhowmick, MPH, MBA is Chief Community Officer at Health Union, where she combines business acumen and public health expertise to create and cultivate Health Union’s content-rich patient communities.
With her degree in public health and many years in healthcare marketing and analytics, Amrita accumulated extensive health care industry experience which she has honed to develop a keen sense for patient needs. Amrita’s knowledge and intuition of the patient journey help translate Health Union’s large-scale patient dialogue into the real insights that make these communities successful.
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 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.
Jen Catlin is 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.
Anthony is an 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.
Kelly is a 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.
Emily is 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.
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.
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.
Brian M. Green
Brian M. Green, MS, is Senior 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 to improve their access to sexual and reproductive healthcare.
Martha Growdon is 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 is Director of Community Development at Health Union where she employs 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.
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.
Sara is 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.
Dr. Christina Hegarty, PT, DPT
Christina is a professional cross-site contributor as a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a 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 Executive Director, 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.
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. In her spare time, she reads too many books and drinks too much coffee.
Casey Hribar is a 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 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 daughter’s 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.
Marcia Kavulich is 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, reading a variety of literature with her bookclub, 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, 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.
Laura Kompanik is Director of Community Development at Health Union. She has more than 15 years of experiences 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 chronic health conditions. When not working, Laura enjoys spending time with her family and cat “Gnocchi”.
Kate Volpicelli Leonard
Kate is the Director, Community Development. She brings over nine years 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. She strives to use her past experience to build meaningful relationships with community members suffering from chronic health conditions.
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.
Susan Mees is Executive Director, 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.
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.
Graceann Palmarella, MPH is Associate Director, Community Development at Health Union where she works to build strong and meaningful relationships to foster thriving communities. Graceann also volunteers as a yoga instructor, and she loves connecting with students to help them achieve what they are seeking from their practice. 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.
Amna Rizvi is the 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 Rush 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.
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 contract 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.
Margot Tishberg, Senior Manager, 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 Senior Manager 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.
Lauren Tucker is the 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.
Kate Van Horn
Katie Van Horn MSW, MPH is 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.
Sarah Wallin is a Manager of Community Development for Health Union who recently attained her Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Communication Studies. Her prior role managing her college’s Parent & Family Resources page has given her valuable experience working with educators, students and their families while understanding how to meet their needs. Sarah is excited to use her knack for social media and attentiveness to trends for creating communities that are relatable and engaging.
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 the Executive Director of Community Development for Health Union, LLC, and has several years of experience working as a medical writer for multiple medical communications companies. She has a strong background in writing medical publications, including manuscripts, and poster presentations for various congresses. She currently resides in Clinton, Connecticut.
Professional Medical Writers
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.
Sarah Dobbs O’Brien, MPH, RD
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 Johns Pool
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.
Cathy Leamy, MS, is a medical writer based in Boston. Through her previous work as an electronic medical record programmer, she was immersed in primary care medicine and developed a passion for patient-centered engagement and empowerment. She studied health communication at Tufts University and loves finding innovative ways for people with chronic conditions to share their lives and experiences with others.
Otessa Middleton Miles
If you’ve subscribed to the business standard, Dow Jones Newswires or read The Wall Street Journal’s prescription drug coverage, you’ve seen Otesa Middleton Miles’ byline.
For more than eight years, she made complex health and medical information clear and relevant to scores of readers, including those of Smart Money magazine.
Otesa also conducted several one-day seminars for Food and Drug Administration officials on working with the media, gave a seminar to a health public relations firm on targeting the medical media, served as a guest journalism lecturer at Howard University and at the University of Maryland, coached other writers at the National Association of Science Writers annual meeting and reported live on influenza vaccination on MSNBC and on an over-the-counter drug application on NPR.
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.
Linda Saxl Minton
Linda Minton is a healthcare consultant and medical writer based in New York City. She received a Masters in Public Health from Yale University. She develops medical communications for patients and caregivers that translate complex information into understandable, actionable materials. Linda has recently authored patient guides focusing on the intersection of mental health and the disease process.
Anna Nicholson 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. She enjoys science writing because it provides a unique opportunity to explore the intersection of human health, therapeutic innovation, and patient advocacy coupled with the responsibility to accurately convey complex information in an effective and accessible way.
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.
Previous Team Members
Brooke Huminski is a Moderator for Health Union, as well as 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 leveraged her healthcare communications background to identify and hone enriching content that resonated 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-seated passion is reflected in the success and growth of these communities.
Jenn is 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.