NAHAC Board of Directors

NAHAC is governed by an elected Board of Directors. Their terms of office are from March to March of each year. The Board of Directors has eight members and elects four Offices of the Association at the yearly annual meeting in March: President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer.

The current Board of Directors for 2013-2014 includes:


Elisabeth Russell – Founder & President of Patient Navigator, LLC

Elisabeth Schuler RussellElisabeth Russell is the Founder of Patient Navigator LLC, a full-service patient advocacy firm established in 2004 to help patients and families navigate illness and the U.S. healthcare system. She is a founding member, former Vice President and current President of the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants and the 2012 winner of the Ken Schueler Patient Advocacy Compass award. In 2011-12, she served as a member of the University of Wisconsin's Center for Patient Partnerships strategic planning task force.

In 2009, Elisabeth was trained as an integrative oncology "Cancer Guide" by the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C. and in 2011, upon completion of a five-day course she was certified in Mind-Body Medicine by the same organization. She has received continuing education credits for a conventional medicine course at Georgetown University. In 2007, Elisabeth was trained as a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®. She has been a hospice bereavement counselor, launched a Parent Loss Support Group in 1991 and has facilitated grief support groups over many years.

In her first career, Elisabeth worked 24 years as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State during which she earned nine prestigious Honor Awards. She holds a master's degree from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, a Bachelor's Degree from the American University in Paris, France and a French literature degree from the University of Paris, Sorbonne. She is married with two teenage children. The gift of her daughter's survival after an inoperable pediatric brainstem tumor led Elisabeth to her new calling as a patient navigator so that she can advocate, educate and solve problems for patients and families.


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

Sima Kahn PHDA 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.


Dianne Savastano - Founder & President of Healthassist

Dianne SavastanoDianne understands healthcare from both the clinical and insurance perspective. In her 30-year career in healthcare she has worked as a registered nurse providing direct patient care, as a hospital administrator, as an insurance executive, and as a business management consultant. Dianne received her Nursing degree from Rhode Island College and her MBA from Simmons College is a member of The Commonwealth Institute, The Simmons School of Management Alumnae Association, The Society of Participatory Medicine and The Essex County Estate Planning Council. She has presented at many national healthcare and women related conferences, including the MA Conference for Women, appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and the PBS Second Opinion series.


Maryellen Jachimowski - Patient Advocate Care Coordinator at Empowered Healthcare Decisions 360

Maryellen JachimowskiFor the past 30 years, Maryellen’s overarching focus in her professional work has been to establish relationships of trust with those in need of medical guidance.  Having earned her undergraduate nursing degree at Loyola University – Chicago and a Master’s degree in Adult Psychiatric Nursing at Boston University, her clinical expertise has allowed her to assume teaching and clinical specialist positions on Psychiatric Liaison teams, in nursing programs and in a hospital Staff Education Department.  She has worked in Medical Centers of Excellence in Chicago and Boston in medical and intensive care units where surpassing Standards of Care was naturally incorporated into daily nursing care.

Additional Board Members

Joanna Smith LCSW, MPH, Founder & Past President of NAHAC, CEO of Healthcare Liaison, Inc.

Joanna Smith LCSW, MPHJoanna Smith LCSW, MPH is the CEO of Healthcare Liaison, Inc. and is the founder and first president of NAHAC. She has 25 years experience in the fields of health, public health and mental health and has worked as a medical social worker and hospital discharge planner in healthcare systems throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Previous experience also includes work in home health and community-based agencies. She has a thorough knowledge of both public and private sector healthcare systems and a special interest in cross-cultural issues in healthcare. Joanna received her masters in social work from Tulane University in 1978 and her Masters in Public Health in Maternal and Child Health from the University of CA, Berkeley in 1985. She is a licensed clinical social worker in the state of California. She also holds a credential as a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. Joanna is a member of the National Association of Social Workers, the California Society for Clinical Social Work, the Society for Social Work Leaders in Healthcare, the Northern California Human Resources Association and The Hastings Center.

Michelle Gilmore, RN, MSN, NP - President & CEO of Heartwood Health

Michelle Gilmore, RN, MSN, NPA graduate of University of California San Francisco School of Nursing, for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees, Michelle has more than 30 years experience in the health care industry. She has held both clinical practice and management positions with national and international companies. Her experience in chronic illness geriatrics, health care administration, and business management led her to create Heartwood Health in 2004. Michelle has successfully built a team who is equally qualified and passionate about assisting patients and their families navigate the health care system. Her passion is to support and educate healthcare consumers about their medical options, assuring that they receive the best possible care. Michelle is a member of the American Geriatrics Society, a Board Member of the Hemophilia Council of California and a national speaker of the National Transitions of Care Coalition. She has two grown children, lives in Oakland California with her husband. Her hobbies include hiking, bicycling and teaching yoga.

Vicki Breitbart, EdD, LCSW - Director of the Health Advocacy Program of Sarah Lawrence College

Vicki Breitbart, EdD, LCSWAn accomplished public-health leader, she has dedicated her career, spanning 40 years, to improving health services for underserved New Yorkers. As a researcher and program manager, she has led efforts to assure that reproductive health services and practices are solidly evidenced-based and to demonstrate an understanding of the need for collaboration between disciplines and sectors. Many of the programs, partnerships, and policies she helped initiate serve as models for other urban centers across the country. She recently served as Vice President of the Department of Planning, Research, and Evaluation that she created at Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC) and served as Senior Vice President and Director of the Clinician Training Initiative at PPNYC, as well. She has held positions as Project Director at the Columbia School of Public Health for a national study funded by the Ford Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to review and formulate policies regarding infant mortality, HIV prevention, and substance use among pregnant women. She also served as Deputy Director of the Office of Women’s Health at the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation, where she monitored all the city hospital programs for substance-using women and pregnant adolescents. Prior to that, she developed the Women’s Healthline, a public information system for the New York City Department of Health and then served as Program Management Officer at the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health at the New York City Department of Health, where she managed the 300-staff initiative to reduce infant mortality in the city. Working with community and government partners, her accomplishments include founding the first Bereavement Program in New York City for families experiencing perinatal loss, establishing the Brooklyn Perinatal Network, and developing the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Healthy Teen Initiative. In recognition of her work and leadership abilities, she was elected president of the Public Health Association of New York City in 2010 and has served as chair of the board of the National Abortion Federation. Breitbart has taught at CUNY School of Public Health, Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, and New York University. Her publications include books on education and articles on reproductive health and intimate partner violence for peer-reviewed journals.

Kris Zeile, MA - Executive Director of My Medical Advocate Inc.

Kris Zeile, MAKris, a former Fortune 50 healthcare executive parlays her experience in the private sector to bring information, strategy and solutions to individuals and families navigating the healthcare system who need information, education or support related to critical illness, a medical crisis, elder care, or disability.

Kris sees the need for advocacy; access to a trusted resource and advisor involving medical, legal, financial, care management, logistics and communication to navigate an increasingly complex system and set of challenges few individuals and families are prepared to face.

Kris has worked across multiple healthcare venues in hospitals, managed care, healthcare products and prescription drug management for over 20 years.

Kris holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Community Health/Health Science and Physiology, and has participated in intensive training in coaching and mediation. Kris is a board member for The National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants.

Beth Droppert, RN, BSN - CEO of Allied Health Advocates LLC

Beth Droppert, RN, BSNBeth founded Allied Health Advocates after a 35-year career in nursing, which began at the University of Pennsylvania hospital in direct patient care. Beth specialized in Intensive Care Nursing, working in management at the University of Washington Hospital. She co-founded a clinical research site management company, called Pacific Coast Clinical Coordinators Inc., which helped companies manage clinical trials. For the past 18 years she has been working with Biopharmaceutical companies to provide training, help them set up and manage clinical trials. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from University of Washington and became a registered nurse in 1971. She was a founding member of the Women’s Bioethics Project and is a past board member of the Northwest Children’s Fund. She is a founding member and board member of the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants (NAHAC); is currently serving on the board of the Providence Hospice Foundation and is involved in the Puget Sound Health Alliance Consumer Engagement Committee.

Marsha Hyslop R.N, CSA, MBA - President of Liaisons for Healthcare

Marsha Hyslop R.N, CSA, MBAMarsha has over 30 years experience in the healthcare industry.Marsha's expertise includes a strong clinical and business background. After completing her undergraduate degree in nursing at The University of Texas she functioned as Head Nurse of Neurosurgery at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital. Upon completion of the Neuro Nurse Specialist program at The Methodist Hospital, she worked as a clinical nurse specialist for a group of neurosurgeons in the Houston Medical Center.In 1985, Marsha founded a durable medical equipment business with the goal of aligning herself with clinical professionals to ultimately expand into the rehabilitation field. After undergoing two back operations as a young woman, her personal and professional mission was to provide a patient centered, outcome focused, multidisciplinary center to help patients with chronic pain. Marsha founded the third CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilitates) accredited pain program in the city of Houston and eventually expanded to include six CARF accredited pain management and return to work programs as well as outpatient physical therapy, psychological, social and vocational services. She also obtained a CORF (Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Facility) license through Medicare to continue the business expansion into outpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation. Marsha completed her MBA at Le Tourneau University in Houston while continuing to grow her businesses. After selling her businesses she has spent the last several years consulting in the healthcare and business industries.Marsha is continuing her mission to help patients achieve outcome focused treatment through her role in Liaisons for Healthcare LLC. Through her years of experience, compassion and commitment to excellence she is successfully bridging the gap between the patient and the healthcare team.

Lea Ann Biafora, MS, RN, OCN, CCM - President & Founder of Beacon Oncology Nurse Advocates

Lea Ann Biafora, MS, RN, OCNLea Ann has over two decades of experience in the healthcare industry.   With a unique combination of experience as a certified oncology nurse and as an accomplished leader within the health care business sector, Lea Ann has devoted her career to assist cancer patients, within acute care settings, academic medical centers and community settings. She understands the growing complexities and interconnectedness associated with cancer care thanks to her experience in oncology nursing, hospital administration and insurance administration.

Lea Ann understands the importance of patient advocacy and she recognizes the widened systemic gaps in cancer care.  After years of witnessing her family, friends, and patients struggle through the frustrating inadequacies within the healthcare system, Lea Ann founded Beacon Oncology Nurse Advocates and dedicated her life and work as an independent health advocate specializing in working with cancer patients and their caregivers.

She has created a new vision, a feet-on-the-ground patient-focused-consulting “concierge” model that helps cancer patients and their caregivers navigate the broad spectrum of cancer care services (i.e., understanding the latest diagnostic and treatment advancements, evidenced-based treatment options, questions to address and ask, billing/insurance issues) within the healthcare maze. Each engagement is tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual and services can be as little or much as desired. This model encourages each client/patient to be matched with their own oncology nurse to yield improved cancer care outcomes as well as higher satisfaction among the patient and their team of medical providers.


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