“Empathy and creativity is our core. We are never satisfied with the status quo. When we listen, ask questions and put ourselves in others’ shoes, we discover profoundly that their experience…is ours. Shared learning is the essence of true connection.”
Meet Your Motivators
Sarah Jones, MPA, MS Strategic Design
With more than 25 years of experience leading non-profits and healthcare programs, Sarah is our visionary leader. She’s a dyed-in-the-wool dynamo who continually seeks opportunities to impact and address unmet needs. Sarah has designed programs and led training for local, national and international audiences, including groups in Canada and Botswana.
Called upon to solve issues of efficiency and develop a culture of innovation, she has also acted as a consultant for global brands, including Campbell’s Soup. Sarah holds two master’s degrees: Master of Science in Strategic Design Management and Master in Public Administration. She has consulted with large health care systems, integrative medicine clinics teaching utilization of strategic design principles to innovate and change end-user experience. Sarah is driven to create a world that people are excited to live in.
Graduating magna cum laude from Boston University, Andrea kick-started her career in the suit and tie world of finance for JPMorgan Chase. After rising to the level of VP, she found herself still wanting something more. Andrea added non-profit consulting to her portfolio, helping causes that personally moved her. So when she met PMD Alliance, it was the perfect fusion of start-up creativity, educated professionalism, and driving mission.
Andrea was hooked. She eagerly transitioned into a full-time position with us and now serves as our Executive Vice President. Her hard-wired empathy and refined communication skills make Andrea ideally suited to developing connections, partnerships and relationships across our numerous stakeholder groups.
Chief Operating Officer
Hailing from small-town New England, Rebecca grew up appreciating the value of a tight-knit community. After graduating from Gordon College in Massachusetts, she launched her career helping a myriad of nonprofit organizations research and implement IT solutions. Never one to stagnate, Rebecca grew into numerous roles, including: Salesforce administrator, web developer, IT manager, grant writer, program facilitator, and associate director.
All this experience honed Rebecca’s ability to think at both the global and granular levels and instilled a passion for bringing the power of technology and connectivity to those isolated by health or circumstance. Her current role as Chief Operations Officer is a perfect blend of innovation, technology and program delivery, which allows PMD Alliance to grow our online community of individuals all over the world.
Anissa Mitchell, LCSW
Chief Program Officer
Maureen Simmons, MA, CFRE, Philanthropy & Development
Chief Advancement Officer
As Chief Advancement Officer, Maureen works across teams to ensure that PMD Alliance raises the necessary dollars to fund its ambitious, groundbreaking workshop programs. She oversees Philanthropy, Community Events, Special Events, Planned Giving and PMD Allies, our grassroots fundraising arm. We’re talking heavy-duty responsibilities, but she makes them seem like a breeze.
Before joining us, Maureen was Executive Director for the New Mexico Parkinson’s Coalition (NMPC), the state’s only nonprofit dedicated to persons impacted by PD. She graduated magna cum laude with a BA in English from the University of New Mexico and later received an MA in Philanthropy and Development from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. She holds the distinguished Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) credential, held by just 5,000 people internationally.
Associate Director, Community & Support Group Initiatives
From an early age, Clemie learned that education opens a whole world of opportunities and plays a major role in individual empowerment. She earned a BS in Education in her birth country of Ecuador. After moving to the US, she studied Business Management, and she is currently working on her Master’s Degree in Gerontology. Her newfound passion for fitness and movement led her to become a senior fitness specialist and, later, a health educator, where she found joy helping people from diverse backgrounds improve their quality of life.
Clemie originally joined PMD Alliance as an Ambassador after becoming a group exercise instructor and support group leader for people living with PD. In her current role, she uses her relationship-building skills to expand services to underserved populations in rural and Spanish-speaking communities because she believes everyone deserves access to quality support.
After graduating summa cum laude from Barnard College of Columbia University, Ashley began her career exploring and teaching wellbeing in body, mind, and spirit. She eventually followed her curiosity to writing books, hosting a podcast, and to the nonprofit world, where she learned about resilience and hope while working as a storyteller and community-builder alongside those with Down syndrome. Her desire to understand and create compassionate, systemic change has also led her to work with and advocate for those impacted by mass incarceration.
Ashley brings her curiosity, deep listening, and desire to connect and grow to PMD Alliance. She believes in uplifting the voices of those impacted by movement disorders—and the resources PMD Alliance offers—to create an honest space of support where we remember we are not alone.
Shannon Elliott, MA, NASM-CPT
Manager, In Sync!® Network
Earning her Master of Arts in Dance from York University, Shannon was part of the professional dance world for more than 20 years. Always up for expanding her horizons, Shannon executed a full-on career pivot at the opportune moment and applied her artistry to the field of health and wellness.
A teacher at heart, Shannon earned her personal training and group fitness certifications and began teaching Dance for Parkinson’s for seniors and those living with Parkinson’s disease. As the PMD Alliance In Sync!® Network Manager, she expertly blends elements of dance and movement with the opportunity to help support group leaders expand their roles and deepen their engagement in the movement disorder communities.
Eden Feldman, LCSW, CCM
Associate Director, Programs
After receiving her Master’s in Social Work from Florida State, Eden completed her final field placement at Shand’s Hospital in Gainesville, where she fell in love with medical social work. Since then, she spent nearly 9 years working with the USF Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center, which endeared her to the PD Community. Eden believes people with Parkinson’s embody the spirit of human triumph and she has seen the power that meaningful education and resources have in empowering people with movement disorders to live well. She has worked to bring dance and vocal classes to those living with the disease, has facilitated support groups, and gained a wealth of knowledge from experts and, firsthand, from the families she has served.
In her free time, she loves to read, bake, and spend time with her husband, two kids, and everyone’s favorite family member, their dog Jelly. She’s happiest when she has a book in one hand and a chocolate chip cookie in the other.
After graduating from the University of Central Oklahoma, Philip began his operations and communications career at the Disney Interactive Media Group. Through service in their VoluntEARS program, Philip discovered how rewarding it is to serve his community and made the conscious decision to continue his career working at non-profit organizations. Since then, Philip had the privilege of making an impact via advocacy and policy change at the National Crime Victim Law Institute and the Oregon Oral Health Coalition, and providing direct service and community education at Candlelighters For Children With Cancer and Nathan Adelson Hospice.
Philip is inspired by PMD Alliance’s mission of never having anyone walk this journey alone, and by the movement disorder community’s passion and resilience. As Communications Coordinator, Philip is tasked with operations involving the entire scope of PMD Alliance communications, including in-person and online events, news and information, philanthropy, and more.
Director, Strategic Relationships
As Director of Strategic Relationships, Margie intimately and innately understands the people, players and purposes that PMD Alliance strives to impact with every fiber of our organization. Margie spent 22 years of her career supporting private practice and corporate-owned neurosurgery clinics.
Thus, it was a natural progression when she moved into a support role for MDS neurologists confronting the day-to-day challenges of patients with a variety of movement disorders. Her deep, personal understanding of Parkinson disease and other movement disorders makes Margie a standout member of our Leadership Team.
Coordinator, Digital Media
Graduating with a communications degree from Walla Walla University in 2019, Regan has most recently honed her skills in film, television, and design as a consultant for a variety of different organizations—many of them nonprofits. She considers herself a visual translator, turning spoken ideas into clean, crisp designs, and she strives to create finished pieces that communicate ideas, teach, and inspire.
Regan immediately connected with PMD Alliance’s mission—her grandmother being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2018—and she’s excited to be part of a team that makes her look forward to going to work every morning. When she’s not designing for work, she’s designing for play; aiming to publish her first children’s book within the next three years.
After graduating Magna Cum Laude from Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles, Samantha began interning for PMD Alliance and provided valuable support for the development team. During her internship, she found a true love for philanthropy and the tight-knit community of the PMD Alliance Ecosystem. With an eye on detail and a passion for people, she is just the right mix for philanthropy. Sammy’s aunt was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy Body dementia in the last few years, so she understands, on a profound level, the impact this disease can have on the whole family system.
Manager, Digital Engagement
For over 25 years, Lianna served as her mom’s caregiver and advocate through the many stages of Parkinson’s. She founded AllAboutParkinsons.com, an online community that has connected and helped thousands of people with the disease, their families, and their caregivers.
An avid writer, Lianna is also the author of two books on Parkinson’s that share the goal of educating and helping everyday people with no specialized training, providing comprehensive information, practical tips, and guidance about dealing with the emotional toll of the disease. Driven to connect and educate those affected by PD, Lianna has spoken frequently to groups of fellow caregivers, family members, and nurse practitioners.
Originally from Guelph, Ontario, Lianna brings a Canadian flavor to PMD Alliance. She is exceptionally passionate about living life to the fullest and helping others – especially those facing health challenges – do the same.
Kelly Merkel, MA
Manager, Online Programs
Kelly has a variety of experience in business, nonprofit, and education sectors. Kelly spent a year volunteering as an AmeriCorps*NCCC member in the southeastern region tutoring elementary students, working at a homeless shelter, and rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. After earning a Master of Education degree from Middle Tennessee State University, Kelly joined a customer experience consulting agency as a program assistant.
Kelly also has experience as a volunteer coordinator, school counselor, archivist, and event coordinator. As a Pilates enthusiast, Kelly is passionate about holistic wellness and how movement disorders impact daily life. With a passion for serving others, Kelly brings her business acumen and caring nature to the programs team.
Robin Myers, MAc, LAc, Dipl Ac (NCCAOM)
Robin holds a master’s degree in Accounting, and her resume boasts a long and varied history in accounting, grant reporting and financial management within health-centered nonprofits. She is a rock star in managing the many-faceted financial and business aspects of PMD Alliance. But that’s just for starters. Robin has also earned her master’s degree from Han University as an acupuncturist and is currently pursuing her doctorate.
Robin has a deep passion for educating acupuncturists about the intricacies of movement disorders to help patients be better served by the rich reservoir of Chinese medicine. Fully aligned with PMD Alliance in the belief that “information is power,” one of her goals is to bring health and healing through integrative therapies to a population that is severely underserved and seriously underestimated.
Kelly Papesh, MSN, DNP
Associate Director of APProvider Initiatives
Kelly Papesh, MSN, DNP is a doctorally-trained and board-certified family nurse practitioner. After completing her Bachelor of Science in nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, she completed a Master of Science in nursing and a doctorate in nursing practice from Frontier Nursing University in Hyden, KY. She has extensive experience as an advanced practice provider (APP) in neurology and patient case management, with over five years of experience specializing in movement disorders. Her experience includes assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and management of patients with a variety of movement disorders including Parkinson disease, atypical parkinsonism, essential tremor, ataxia, and Huntington’s disease. She is skilled in advanced therapies including deep brain stimulation and botulinum toxin injections. She loves to provide education and teaching patients, care partners, peers and the community.
As a strong advocate for APPs, she’s eager to create opportunities for APPs to deepen their education and professional skills and to work with peers from across the country who share a vision and passion to advance the field of APPs and make a splash in the world of Parkinson disease and movement disorders.
Manager, Digital Innovation
Growing up, computers and technology were Omar’s hobbies. He eventually carried this curiosity to Washington State University, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems and was President of the Information Systems Club. Omar began his career as a Software Engineer working with cutting-edge Cloud technologies, before moving to the nonprofit sector by, at first, teaching Digital Manufacturing to the community.
Omar has a wide range of technological literacy, considering himself a jack of all trades. His mission is to produce accessible technological solutions to people of all walks of life and to use these solutions to empower and support PMD Alliance in delivering our mission. When he’s not behind a computer screen, he likes to hit the trails and capture the great outdoors on video.
Associate Director, Operations
Julie earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Management and Economics from the State University of New York Empire State College. She has been working in health-related nonprofit organizations since 2014. Like many new college graduates, Julie was not sure where she wanted to focus her career, but shortly after graduating college, Julie began her first nonprofit role. With the combination of her passion to help and care for others and the positivity, unity and care she saw within communities, Julie knew instantly she wanted nonprofit work to become her career path.
Always looking to learn, Julie has gained years of experience in finance, operations and administration, development and data systems. She has had her hands in event planning and support, data management and finance systems, to name a few. In her role as Associate Director, Operations, she utilizes this variety of experience to support PMD Alliance programs and communities. She is inspired by the strength, unity and passion of the PMD Alliance community.
Debbie has over 25 years of experience in philanthropy. Having served in a variety of leadership roles during her non-profit career, she finds working to secure funding to be one of the most rewarding aspects of the work. Building a culture of philanthropy is the foundation for sustainability. Every stakeholder is a valuable member of the Ecosystem and can make an impact through giving of their time, talent and treasures. Debbie builds relationships communicating passionately about our work and ensures that our stakeholders know that their gifts make a true and meaningful impact.
Prior to joining the PMD Alliance team, Debbie, served as CEO of Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona for 15 years, retiring in 2020. She has helped launch several non-profits including serving on the original Board of PMD Alliance when it was in its infancy.
Jason Rivera, MPH
Director, Continuing Education
With a Master of Public Health from the University of Arizona, Jason Rivera spent 15 years managing major projects, building collaborations and creating professional development and capacity building training. He served as the Associate Director of Prevention Services at the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation for 5 years before joining the PMD Alliance Team.
As PMD Alliance seeks to meet the needs of the Medical Network and other areas of the ecosystem, Jason’s extensive experience with professional development has provided the necessary expertise in directing the launch of the new continuing education program for physicians and APPs (Advanced Practice Providers), as well as guiding future development and training opportunities for the organization and other parts of the ecosystem.
Manager, Community Network
Rachel is one of PMD Alliance’s newest team members. Earning a Bachelor of Science for Hospitality Management at the University of New Hampshire, Rachel has lived in many cities and has worked at numerous hotels over the last 15 years.
When her father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, about 10 years ago, he was in great shape. Rachel lived far away from her folks and was content with life far from home. About 3 years ago, her dad’s prognosis changed into A-typical Parkinsonism with the focus on PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy) and FTD (Frontal Temporal Dementia). Living in NYC at the time, Rachel knew that it was time to move and be closer to her folks. While continuing to work in the hotels and resorts in Scottsdale, AZ, Rachel became very active in the Parkinson’s Community. She became an ambassador with our Alliance in 2018 and when we realized our need for help, we couldn’t think of anyone better than Rachel!
Judy Talley, MA, Gerontology