NAHAC Board of Directors

NAHAC is governed by an elected Board of Directors. Its terms of office is from April 1st to March 31st of each year. The Board of Directors has five voting members and one ex-officio non-voting member. It elects three Officers of the Association at the yearly annual meeting in March: President, Secretary, and Treasurer.

The current Board of Directors for 2018 includes:


Joanna Smith, LCSW, MPH, CHA 

Joanna Smith is the CEO of Healthcare Liaison, Inc.®, a healthcare advocacy and consulting firm based in Berkeley, California. Ms.Smith received her Master’s in Social Work from Tulane University in 1978 and her Master’s in Public Health in Maternal and Child Health from the University of California, Berkeley in 1985. She is a licensed clinical social worker in the state of California and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. Ms. Smith founded the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants in 2009 and served as its President from 2009-2012.  She organized the first Annual NAHAC conference in November 2009. Her other professional memberships include the National Association of Social Workers, the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California, and The Institute for Healthcare Improvement.  Healthcare Liaison is a certified Woman Business Enterprise (WBE).


Melynda Ruckels - RN, MSN 

Melynda Ruckels RN MSN has been a nurse over 44 years. She is a Holistic nurse with a clinical background in emergency room nursing, critical care nursing in the hospital ICU/CCU, mobile ICU and Community Education for Health and Wellness. As a patient advocate her goal is educating clients to become their own advocate and assist them in navigating America’s complicated healthcare system. She has a private practice in the Sacramento, Grass Valley/Nevada City area offering Patient Advocacy, Hypnotherapy and Energy Medicine. Melynda is currently working as a consultant to a private ambulance company in Sacramento exploring different levels of Advocacy Transport for those needing an advocate and transportation.

She has been a guest speaker for the Healthcare Workforce Initiative, the Los Rios Community College Nursing Advisory Committee, the American Holistic Nurses Association Sacramento Chapter, California School Nurses Organization and a panel speaker for California State University, Sacramento Nurse Entrepreneur event. Melynda is a nursing professor and has taught at all levels of nursing education, including Associate Degree (ADN) programs, Bachelors and Masters Programs. Melynda says that “helping people to heal and to awaken to their own healing abilities is a privilege and a joy that she experiences each time she sits with a client.”  


Karen G. Jan - RN, PHN, MSN 

Karen Jan, founder of Step Ahead Senior Care, is an Aging Life Care Manager/Health Advocate providing a premier consulting service for adults and families dealing with health care needs and general issues of aging. She has more than 30 years of nursing experience since receiving her RN Diploma degree at Crouse Irving School of Nursing, BSN degree at University of Phoenix, and MNE at Walden University. Since creating Step Ahead Senior Care four years ago, Karen also founded Step Ahead Home Care in 2014. She has achieved success in both businesses which have been profitable from the beginning. Karen not only provided leadership and training to her employees in order to maximize the quality of care delivered to her clients, she successfully managed all administrative aspects of operating these companies. In 2015 Karen sold Step Ahead Home Care in order to focus on her original consulting company. She regularly collaborates with other health, legal, and financial professionals in the community and has created a “team” to help assist her clients with all aspects of their care needs.

Previously Karen worked in a variety of health care settings specifically focused in caring for the adult population. Her diverse medical career includes hands-on clinical work in acute care and home health care settings, as well as administrative work in Quality Improvement in acute care, long term care, rehabilitative settings, and for Sutter’s Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).

In addition, Karen has years of academic experience as a Nurse Educator specializing in Geriatrics and training nursing students in the classroom, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and simulation laboratories as well as preparing nursing graduates for their NCLEX examination. Karen also worked as a Clinical Educator for Ashfield Health Care providing disease management education and in-services on Alzheimer’s Disease to health care workers, families, and friends of loved ones residing in long term care facilities, assisted living facilities, and in Memory Care Units. She currently serves as an Excellence in Care Clinical Consultant for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and has done so since 2008.

Karen shares her experience and knowledge of health care, specifically, eldercare management and end of life care with her clients at Step Ahead Senior Care, with client caregivers, with other health care colleagues and companies in the greater Sacramento Area. She also provides educational in-services to various ALFs and communities centers in the region.  She meets regularly with peer groups and has recently helped form the NORCAL Patient Advocate Group with like-minded professionals to provide support, insight and assistance to help similar companies flourish. Karen has a unique and deep understanding of the complex issues of older adults and can provide solutions to effectively support and improve their lives through the final stages of their journey. 

Past President

Sima Kahn, M.D. - Owner of Healthcare Advocacy Partners

A board certified physician, Sima Kahn has always been a passionate advocate for her patients and founded Healthcare Advocacy Partners in 2009 to fill a critical gap in the healthcare system. After almost 25 years of Obstetrics and Gynecology practice, Sima’s breadth of clinical experience has given her a deep understanding of the complexities of the medical system and the overwhelming confusion patients often feel when faced with significant health situations. Her strong abilities to help patients navigate these situations and to help them develop personalized treatment plans are some of the many reasons Sima consistently received high patient-satisfaction ratings while in clinical practice.

Robert J. Rogers, MD, FACP, SFHM 

Dr. Rogers is in private practice in Los Angeles, California, he is board certified in both Internal Medicine and Anesthesiology. He is a clinical professor, a member of the American Medical Association, California Medical Association, and Los Angeles County Medical Association, American College of Physicians, and the Society of Hospital Medicine.

Anne Llewellyn - RN-BC, MS, BHSA, CCM, CRRN 

Anne Llewellyn is a registered nurse with forty years of experience in critical care, risk management, case management,          patient advocacy, digital journalist, educator and brain cancer survivor. Anne has lectured nationally and internationally                    on the topics of case management, care coordination, transitions of care and patient advocacy.

As a leader in the practice of Case Management, Anne has served on the Local, State and National Boards of the
Case Management Society of America. Anne served as President of the National organization in 2003-2004. To recognize her work, Anne was awarded the Case Management Society of America Life Time Achievement Award in 2015. Anne is a member of the Patient Advocate Certification Board and was among the national leaders who worked to develop and launch the National Patient Advocate Certification in January 2018.

To share her experience as a patient and to education patient’s, their care givers and all members of the healthcare team on the importance of engaging the patient in their care decisions, Anne writes a Blog titled Nurse Advocate

Today, Anne is involved with projects that bring her purpose through educating and empower people in order to improve the healthcare delivery systems. Anne also mentors those who are looking to advance their careers in the area of patient advocacy, case management and care coordination.

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