“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.”
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 Masters degrees: Masters of Science in Strategic Design Management and a Masters 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.
VP, Community Engagement
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 Vice President of Community Engagement. Her hard-wired empathy and refined communication skills make Andrea ideally suited to developing connections, partnerships and relationships across our numerous stakeholder groups.
Anissa Mitchell, LCSW
Maureen Simmons, MA, Philanthropy & Development
As Vice President of Philanthropy, 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 a 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.
Director, Annual Giving
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.
Judy Talley, MA, Gerontology
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.
Director, Digital Design
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 Director, Digital Programs 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.
Robin Myers, MAc, LAc, Dipl Ac (NCCAOM)
Director, Business & Operations
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 is passionate about 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 under served and seriously underestimated.
Alissa Taylor, MSW
Manager, Family & Companion Network
Alissa holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Central Florida and is currently working to obtain her licensure. She began working with the Parkinson’s community in Central Florida in 2017 where she helped create and facilitate multiple support groups, exercise and wellness programs, educational programs, offered short term counseling and provided resources and referrals. In 2020, Alissa transformed the entire outreach program to a fully virtual mode to allow full access to not just her local community but many others who found themselves isolated during the pandemic and needed a place to go.
As PMD Alliance’s Manager of Family & Companion Network, she believes that it does not matter how Parkinson’s has impacted a person, whether diagnosed, spouse, a care partner, family member or friend, it is just a part of a story but not the whole definition. She encourages others not let Parkinson’s disease consume their whole life but instead empowers others to manage their Parkinson’s so that one can live their best life possible and on their terms.
Amanda Faught Nelson
Manager, Public Relations
As Public Relations Manager, Amanda truly loves connecting with and helping people. Before she came to PMD Alliance, she connected with people through story-telling in the sports entertainment industries on behalf of incredible companies like ESPN and The NFL Network. It felt like she was living the dream! Several assignments made a lasting impression on her, including a visit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and working at the 2015 Special Olympics. Suddenly, she felt a new calling.
Her desire to not just tell stories but also help others through communicating opened what she calls an “inner door,” and she stepped through it. Amanda transferred her skill set towards fundraising and donor relations. Today, with more than a decade of experience, Amanda helps PMD Alliance impact lives through the relationships we build and sustain with donors.
Manager, Brand Marketing
Amy is our marketing visionary. She pilots the universe of word and image. She’s also a graphic design gunslinger whose messaging and taglines could give Don Draper a run for his money. Her degree from San Francisco State University with a B.S. in Business Administration, Marketing set her on a trajectory to transform perceptions of organizations based on how people think, feel and react.
Amy has worked for more than fifteen years in Marketing and Communications—spurring change for namesake brands in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Her fierce passion for living and laughing and connecting in the moment contributes to her commitment to ensure that PMD Alliance is the leading voice for personal connection in the Parkinson and movement disorder community.
Manager, In-Person Programs
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.
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!
Shannon Elliott, MA, NASM-CPT
Manager, In Sync!® Network
Earning her Master’s 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 PD® classes for seniors and those living with Parkinson 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.
Kelly Merkel, MA
Coordinator, 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’s in education 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 wholistic 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.
Jason Rivera, MPH
Jason Rivera has a Masters of Public Health from the University of Arizona with 15 years of experience in managing major projects, building collaborations, and creating professional development and capacity building training. Jason served as the Associate Director of Prevention Services at the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation for 5 years before joining the PMD Alliance team. While new to the field of Parkinson and other movement disorders, Jason is enthusiastic to apply his experience to a new area of public health.
In this position Jason supports Sarah and the executive team in developing strategic initiatives, monitoring and reporting on grants and contracts, maintaining strong relationships with key funders and stakeholders, ensuring timely communication with the PMD Alliance Board of Directors.
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 Programs Liaison, 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.
Renew! Retreat® Facilitator
With over 25 years of experience in the fields of Health Education and Gerontology, Abbie has gained invaluable insights working closely with individuals and family members in retirement and adult housing communities.
As an educator she maintains a strong commitment to providing tools and resources that offer an increased awareness and knowledge in the day to day challenges we face living and staying engaged. She contributes heartfelt dedication, compassion and enthusiasm to enhance the well being of care partners and families living with Movement Disorders. Most recently, she was able to respond to residents of the Tucson area who are living with Movement Disorders and started a support group. Through her work with the support group, she was able to connect with PMD Alliance and wanted to join the heartfelt work they were doing.
David Thalenberg is our current Paul D. Coverdell fellow and is pursuing graduate degrees in Latin American Studies and Public Administration at the University of Arizona. Like PMD Alliance, David is all about learning. Originally from Flagstaff, Arizona, David holds a B.A in International Affairs from Northern Arizona University. An avid culture and travel enthusiast, David’s previous professional experience includes working as a university recruiter in China, a Study Abroad advisor for the University of California, and serving as Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Paraguay.
He genuinely infuses dopamine in his everyday activities! Since returning to Arizona in 2018, he has focused on working with local government agencies and non-profit organizations to support underserved communities in the Tucson area.