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The Conference Faculty

The faculty share their knowledge and wisdom with our families

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 12, Michelle Auerbach blogs at her home base, Love, Light, and Insulin. She is passionate about dedicating her time to raising awareness for Type 1, along with other chronic illnesses. Michelle is the co-founder of Chronic Love Club, an online community whose vision is that with kindness and support for one another, we can get through anything. As a freelance writer, she has contributed to different health-related websites and publications. Michelle lives in Montreal, Quebec with her sidekick rescue cat named Big and is always excited to see her Friends for Life. You can find her on her website, www.lovelightandinsulin.ca, or on her Instagram @ehmichelle.

Ramon (Ray) Benedetto, DM, MS, LFACHE, is an organizational leadership and culture consultant and author who works with public and private sector leaders to build high-performing organizations. Ray retired from the US Air Force after a distinguished Medical Service Corps career during which he engaged in numerous transformations, including recruiting medical professionals for the All-Vol Force, restructuring of the Air Force Medical Service, and creation of TRICARE, the military’s integrated health services delivery system. He continues to work with civilian leaders to build great companies. Ray and his wife Joan have been attending FFL since 2015 after their son Jayce was diagnosed with T1.

Angelina Bernier, MD is a Pediatric Endocrinologist at the University of Florida and Fellowship Program Director. Before coming to UF, she worked at Boston University and Joslin Diabetes Center. She also served as the Medical Director of the Barton Diabetes camp. At UF Health Dr. Bernier established the Metabolic & Obesity Clinic with focus on diabetes prevention and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). She has received funding from private foundations to support clinical studies of diabetes technology, educational multimedia programs and physical fitness measures to address insulin sensitivity in prediabetes and T1D populations. Dr. Bernier is a Member of the UF Diabetes Institute.

Erin M. Callahan is the Chief Operating Officer at the Diabetes Leadership Council and Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition and shares a passion for the mission to ensure quality of and access to care, medications and devices for people living with diabetes. Bringing together policy expertise, the powerful network of diabetes advocates, and the strength of patient voices, DLC and DPAC meaningfully impact the chronic illness conversation in America in common refrain. By addressing critical issues of affordability and access to care, prevention and management of diabetes, Erin is energized by the opportunity to drive meaningful change for our community and thrilled to share another FFL experience with her dino-loving little sister.

Linda Anne DiMeglio, MD, MPH, is a Professor of Pediatrics and Chief of the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetology at Riley Hospital/Indiana University. She is Vice Chair of Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet and co-PI of the national DiabDocs physician scientist training program. Dr. DiMeglio is a clinical trialist with funding from the NIH, JDRF, and Helmsley Charitable Trust. Her team studies prevention of T1D, beta cell preservation, and ways to improve care for persons living with T1D through new medications and devices. She has been the medical director of the Indiana ADA Diabetes Camp since 1998. She also cares for children living with bone diseases. She loves to travel, cycle, and spend time with her husband and three sons.

Chelsie Fellman, MS, RD, LD, has always had a passion for people living with type 1 diabetes. She currently works at Cincinnati Children's Hospital as a diabetes educator and has had T1D herself since she was three years old. Her favorite memory growing up was going to diabetes summer camp every summer at Camp Hamwi in Ohio. She loves her patients and constantly seeks to be a positive role model for people living with T1D!

Leigh Fickling, JD, MEd, MS, serves as the Chief Operating Officer for Children with Diabetes. Leigh is responsible for the day-to-day operational leadership of the organization and for the oversight and implementation of the organization's strategic plan. Leigh's daughter, Ava, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2013 at the age of three. Leigh is a subject matter expert in the implementation of accommodations for people with diabetes in the classroom, workplace, and beyond. The Friends for Life conferences are the highlight of the year for the Fickling family and they can't imagine trying to dia-beat-this without their circle of friends.

Jess Forster, MSW, RSW, is a Registered Social Worker at Markham Stouffville Hospital Pediatric Diabetes Clinic in Markham, Ontario, Canada. Passionate about improving the lives of the children, youth and caregivers diagnosed with T1D; Jess has focused on integrating patient-reported outcome measures to improve diabetes mental health care. Acknowledging that diabetes is a team sport, Jess has used creative therapeutic CBT + DBT techniques to help families thrive with the day-to-day challenges of living with the ups and downs associated T1D. Outside of her professional endeavors, Jess finds joy in running, cycling, quality family time, and her guilty pleasure of drinking too much coffee.

Jasmine D. Gonzalvo, PharmD, CDCES, BC-ADM, FADCES, is the Chris and Theresa Dimos Director of the Center for Health Equity and Innovation and a Clinical Professor in the College of Pharmacy at Purdue University. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Public Health degree from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She provides cardiovascular risk reduction medication management services for diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and tobacco use disorders at Eskenazi Health Pecar Health Center for a largely Latino/Hispanic population in a Federally Qualified Health Center. She has served on and chaired national Boards for diabetes organizations.

George Grunberger, MD, FACP, MACE, is the chairman of Grunberger Diabetes Institute in Bloomfield Hills, MI. He is a Clinical Professor of Internal Medicine and Molecular Medicine & Genetics at Wayne State University, Professor of Internal Medicine at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine and Visiting Professor at First Faculty of Medicine at Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic). He is Past President of American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. He has published over 180 peer-reviewed manuscripts on subjects related to diabetes and its complications, molecular underpinning of insulin action and insulin resistance and clinical research studies on many aspects of diabetes and its management.

Brian Herrick joined JDRF in 2010 as a member of the New York City Chapter. In 2013, he moved to JDRF National where he currently serves as Senior Director of Marketing Strategy. His work focuses on amplifying mission progress in communications. Brian has been living with T1D since 1993. Since 2014, he has participated in several clinical trials testing Automated Insulin Delivery Systems, implantable sensors, and more.

George Huntley is a founding member of the Diabetes Leadership Council (501c3) and currently serves as CEO of both the DLC and its affiliate, the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition (501c4). He has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1983 and has three other family members also living with T1D. A passionate advocate for people with diabetes, George is a past National Chair of the Board of the American Diabetes Association and currently serves as Treasurer of Children with Diabetes. A former CPA, George spent his business career as CFO of Theoris Group, Inc., United Pentek, Inc. and MicroProse Games, Inc. In his corporate roles, he was the plan administrator of self-insured, employer-based health plans for more than 25 years. He learned firsthand the impact of chronic disease management on his company’s bottom line and the importance of strategic health plan design decisions to manage cost, reduce overall risk and improve health outcomes. George is also a highly rated and frequent speaker on the topic of health plan design and drug pricing.

Laura Jacobsen, MD, is physician scientist and pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Florida. Dr. Jacobsen's research focuses on understanding the role of the immune system in type 1 diabetes (T1D) and improving clinical care and health outcomes for people with T1D. She has an interest in mechanisms of action of immunotherapies as well as biomarkers of efficacy and identification of clinical responders. Dr. Jacobsen is proud to serve as an investigator with TrialNet, the TEDDY study, the Network for Pancreatic Organ donors with Diabetes, and the T1DX-QI Collaborative. She also serves as the associate fellowship program director for the UF pediatric endocrinology fellowship program and values the opportunity to train future generations.

Nana-Hawa Yayah Jones, MD, is an Associate Professor in the Division of Endocrinology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC). As a clinician, she focuses on the complexities of management in children with chronic diseases whose lives are impacted by social determinants of health. She specifically focuses on type 1 diabetes but also congenital hypothyroidism and other Endocrine disorders. She is a quality improvement specialist and thus leads the development of formal approaches to systematically improving health delivery to vulnerable populations.

Jeff Karitis, CFP®, CEPA®, is a Wealth Managment Advisor based in New York City, were he and his group have been providing wealth management strategies for a select group of business owners, executives and families since 1999. He holds the CFP® (CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional) and CEPA (Certified Exit Planning Advisor) designations. Jeff resides in New York's Hudson Valley with his family and retired racing greyhounds. Previously, he served as Co-President of his local JDRF Chapter and on the Executive Board of the Great NYC Chapter. His daughter was diagnosed with T1D in 2014 and their family have been attending Friends for Life Orlando since 2016. Jeff has been volunteering since 2021 as co-lead of the DoFFLs group.

Amanda Kaufman graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2020, where she founded and led her university's chapter of the Diabetes Link. During the pandemic, she obtained her M.S. in Health Care Management from Johns Hopkins and started her current position with the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition, where she works in policy advocacy for people living with diabetes. Amanda was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2011 and resides in Los Angeles.

Jan Kavookjian

Jan Kavookjian, PhD, MBA, FAPhA, FADCES, has a health psychology/behavior sciences focus in outcomes research, with 25 years of training and studying motivational interviewing (MI), an evidence-based communication skills set and approach aimed at collaborative, empowering conversations about self-management behaviors. She is faculty in an outcomes research department at Auburn University and has published her work in journals that include Pediatrics, Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, and others. Her research includes diabetes behavior change and MI training for interprofessional practitioners; recent work developed a user-friendly MI training and materials for parents of youth with T1D looking for ways to talk positively about self-management goals.

Jessica Kichler, CDCES, PhD, CPsych, is a Clinical and Health Psychologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Windsor. She specializes in clinical intervention research related to psychosocial adjustment and coping with type 1 diabetes in youth and families. She previously worked as a diabetes psychologist and certified diabetes care and education specialist at two academic medical centers (Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center) in the United States for almost 15 years before moving to Windsor, Ontario. Currently, she is also interested in how to support college-aged students with type 1 diabetes most effectively transition into young adulthood.

Maria Kim, MS, RD, LD, is a Registered Dietitian supporting teens and adults with diabetes and eating disorders or disordered eating with Lauren Newman Nutrition Therapy, a virtual private practice across various states. She is passionate about offering nutrition support and diabetes care through a non-diet and size inclusive lens as she believes that everyone deserves informed, shame-free, collaborative and individualized eating care within the complex frameworks of their evolving needs. She received her bachelor's degree in Nutritional Science at Cornell University, master's degree in Clinical Nutrition at New York Institute of Tech, and dietetic internship with Sodexo Dietetic Internships with a focus on pediatrics.

Lauren Lanning

Lauren Lanning is the very proud mom of Monica, dx 8/96, a recent PA graduate, and Sarah, an engineer. Lauren became involved with CWD shortly after Monica was diagnosed in 1996. She has been involved in the conferences since the very first gathering in Orlando in 2000, where she volunteered to make name badges. Since then, Lauren has run Registration and then the Elementary program. This year, Lauren is excited to continue as leader of the MOFFLs and First Timers. She lives in Colorado and loves traveling, riding her bicycle and volunteering as a JDRF Ride coach.

Shauna Markes-Wilson, BSPharm, PharmD, AAHIVP, CSP, began her Walgreens career as a staff pharmacist in 2000. In 2009, she was promoted to the role of registered store manager, specialty operations (RMGO) at the Piedmont Atlanta Specialty site. In 2018, she was promoted to healthcare supervisor, then healthcare specialty supervisor in 2021 and she moved into her most recent role of director of pharmacy and retail operations for Georgia East in 2022. Shauna has been very active in the community, leading COVID-19 vaccination efforts and embracing health equity. Shauna earned a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy from St. John University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Florida.

Pantea Minnock, BS, RN, MSN, CPNP, is a nurse practitioner in the Diabetes Center for Children at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Bio-Behavioral Health and Psychology from Pennsylvania State University. She then received a Bachelor and Masters of Science Degree in Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. She has been working with children and teenagers with diabetes since 2001. Her areas of interest and expertise include clinical research, diabetes technology and new therapeutics, and reducing disparities in patient access and clinical outcomes. She is also passionate about been learning mindfulness and teaching wellness tools to patients, families, and care providers.

Heather became a diabetes mom in 2007, when her son Campbell was diagnosed at the age of 9. They were in Australia at the time, so she is bilingual in diabetes terminology. Moving back to the U.S. in 2009, Heather found CWD online and convinced her family to attend their first FFL conference. She used the Disney World location as an incentive to get them to go to Florida in July. They have been coming ever since, including quite a few of the regional conferences as well. Heather has been active with the MOFFL's, while her husband Scott participates with the Dads, and Campbell has been one of the group leaders with the young adults. Her younger son Thomas has also participated in TrialNet and other diabetes related studies.

Matthew Point, MS, is CWD's Director of Advancement and Programs. In this role, he manages corporate sponsorships, fundraising efforts, and the coordination of CWD's events, such as our renowned Friends for Life conferences. Matt's journey with CWD began in 2013 when he attended his first event, Friends for Life Orlando.

Ileana Rivera, RPh, MBA, has over 31 years of dedicated service at Walgreens and is the Healthcare Specialty Supervisor in the Florida North Region. She is known for championing the patient experience and building strong relationships with her team members. Ileana's ability to explain the "Why" behind decisions and her dedication to driving accountability have made her an invaluable asset to her patients and Walgreens. Her commitment to patient care, leadership, and fostering positive working relationships make her a highly respected and sought-after professional in her field. Ileana earned her bachelor's degree in pharmacy at the University of Puerto Rico School of Pharmacy.

JoAnne Robb, LMFT, has both personal and professional experience with type 1 diabetes. In addition to being a psychotherapist who focuses on T1D in her practice in Oakland, CA, she has three kids, two of whom live with diabetes. To help support other parents with T1D kids, she started Sweet Talk (www.diabetessweettalk.com), an online platform which includes a podcast to answer parent questions about challenges they face. JoAnne has spoken in many different settings about parenting T1D kids. She’s excited to be joining Friends for Life as faculty.

Kenny Rodenheiser, BSN, RN, CDCES, was diagnosed in April 2003 and has been part of the CWD family since 2004. He currently serves as a member of CWD's Board of Directors and leads TeamCWD. After many years of volunteering with various diabetes organizations, he realized his passion was to educate, motivate, and advocate for all people with diabetes. He earned his Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Ramapo College of New Jersey and shortly after earned his credentials as a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist.

Henry Rodriguez, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist who has focused on the prevention and management of type 1 diabetes (T1D), has been a FFL faculty member for 10-years. He has been a lead investigator in national and international T1D studies including the NIH-funded DPT-1, TrialNet, EDIC, and the Helmsley Trust-funded T1D Exchange, and studies on beta-cell preservation in type 1 diabetes and expanding the number of FDA-approved medications for children with T1D and T2D. He serves on the ADA Scientific Oversight, National Advocacy. and Legal Advocacy Committees, the Safe at School, and Membership Advisory Working Groups, and he is President of the local ADA Community Leadership Board. He is also a long-standing supporter on diabetes camps.

Janet Rodriguez, RN, CDCES, CRA, a longstanding FFL faculty member, is an experienced nurse, educator, and research coordinator with nearly one decade of expertise in diabetes technologies. Janet became a registered nurse in 1986. Initially concentrating in pediatric critical care, she migrated to nursing quality assurance, prior to dedicating herself to diabetes. Her passion is empowering people of all ages living with diabetes. She specializes in diabetes technologies and leads the Diabetes Technology Clinical and Clinical Research Programs at the University of South Florida Diabetes and Endocrinology Center in Tampa. She is a proud member of the ADA’s Safe at School Working Group and long-time diabetes camp nurse.

Lauren Salko lives in Park City, Utah with her fellow green band fiancé Jeremy Meredith and is graduate of Saint Anselm College. Lauren is a former professional skier who competed around the world in SkiCross. In her free time, Lauren loves skiing, mountain biking, and doing triathlons. As a person with diabetes, Lauren is very passionate about working with Children with Diabetes and could not be more excited for this summer!

Viral Shah, MD, is a Professor of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology & Metabolism and Director of Diabetes Clinical Research at the IU Center for Diabetes and Metabolic diseases at Indiana University. His research is focused on improving glycemic control and reducing complications in people with type 1 diabetes. Dr. Shah has been the PI for many clinical trials of diabetes technologies and therapeutics. He has been a part of many landmark research projects in type 1 diabetes. He has received several recognitions such as the AACE 2021 Rising Star in Endocrinology, Diabetes Technology Society Leadership Award in 2023 and Mary Tyler Moore and S. Robert Levine, MD award for clinical research in type 1 diabetes from JDRF in 2024.

Andrew Stone only knows life with T1D, having been diagnosed at 20 months old. Growing up in central California, his family was involved in the diabetes community and attended their first FFL conference in 2004. Andrew went on to graduate from Auburn University, spent three summers guiding canoe trips in Minnesota, and now lives in the Orlando area working as an Operations Supervisor for an airline at MCO. He loves traveling to visit friends and family and going to NASCAR races and other sporting events. Andrew started attending CWD events more frequently and made his CWD friends during and after college, so he is excited to share and grow the community of Young Adults at FFL.

Joshua Vieth, PhD, is director of research at JDRF, responsible for Disease-Modifying Therapies. With recognized expertise in immunology, organizational development, and scientific communication, he received his BS in biology from Baldwin Wallace University and a PhD in infection, immunity, and transplant science at the University of Toledo College of Medicine. He completed his postdoctoral fellowship at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Child Health Institute at Rutgers University. Prior to joining JDRF, he was managing director of the immune monitoring, flow cytometry, and advanced genomics groups at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

Jamie R. Wood, MD, is a Professor of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She is the Medical Director of the Diabetes Program and the Mary Blossom Lee Chair in Pediatric Diabetes at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. She is a pediatric endocrinologist who specializes in the clinical care of youth with type 1 diabetes. Dr. Wood is involved in many clinical research projects that focus on clinical outcomes, emerging diabetes technology and therapeutics. She is the Medical Director of Camp Ho Mita Koda, a camp for youth with diabetes. She loves to help youth, young adults and families thrive with type 1 diabetes.

Sarah Wood

Sarah Wood is a Policy Associate for the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition and Babbage Cofounder. Sarah's focus primarily lies on state-level policy initiatives through the DPAC-led Patient Pocket Protector Coalition, where she advocates for legislation that ensures accessible and affordable medication for people living with diabetes and other chronic conditions. Working with the diabetes community and coming to understand the desperate need for reform in the prescription drug pricing system has deepened her personal dedication to advocating for patient-centered policy. Sarah holds an MA in International Relations and a BA in Russian from the University of Kentucky.

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Indicates faculty member with diabetes

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