RSN is Pleased to Present Hope Week's Esteemed Panel of Speakers

Hope Week emcee Lori Hartwell has made a difference in the lives of people with chronic kidney disease. Having lived with the disease since age two, she survived 40-plus surgeries, 13 years of dialysis, and four kidney transplants. Lori founded the patient-led Renal Support Network in 1993 to instill “health, happiness, and hope” into the lives of fellow patients. She is author of “Chronically Happy – Joyful Living in Spite of Chronic Illness,” an inspirational guidebook for handling lifestyle and other non-medical issues that come up in the course of chronic disease. She also hosts the KidneyTalk Podcast. Learn more about Lori Hartwell

Chad Allen is a multidisciplinary artist and writer who happens to be blind. He is the creator of the Audio Comic UNSEEN which premiered at the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco as a part the exhibit on identity Self, Made. Chad is also a magician and has appeared on Penn & Teller: Fool Us and America’s Got Talent. He is a speaker and presenter appearing at nationally acclaimed organizations such as: The National Federation of the Blind, The Adventurer’s Club, the Exploratorium Museum, the American Council of the Blind, and more!  His goal is to give audiences an opportunity to reframe their perceptions of blind people and vision. “You don’t see art with your eyes. You see with your brain, and that’s what I’m trying to teach people more than anything.”

Crystal Grate, RN, CNN

Crystal Grate, RN, CNN is the Director of Infection Prevention for Fresenius Kidney Care. Over the past 17 years, Crystal has had many roles within Fresenius Kidney Care; RN/Team Leader, Clinical Educator, Regional Education Manager, Group Director of Education, Sr. Manager of Education, and Sr. Manager of Infection Prevention. Crystal’s interest in dialysis began prior to beginning nursing school as she had several family members who were on hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Throughout her career, Crystal is most proud of her work educating and developing staff through her roles in Education and in supporting the clinical teams with any infection control and prevention needs.

Debbie is a pharmacist with post-graduate training in dialysis and clinical pharmacy work with a non-profit dialysis provider. She transitioned to Amgen in 2010 in a medical support role and has supported the nephrology community in clinical, research, and educational initiatives since. Debbie’s work currently focuses on bone health and osteoporosis within the post-menopausal population and has a special interest in bone health in chronic kidney disease.

Kristin Brunstein is a CKD warrior. She is currently an Associate Veterinarian at a private practice near St. Louis, MO. Her day is always exciting as she sees cats, dogs, and exotic pets. When she is not busy caring for her patients, she can be found loving on her own zoo of animals, cooking something delicious, or spending time with her favorite humans. Kristin’s kidney disease journey started in 2019, she went in for something unrelated and my kidney disease was found by her amazing primary care physician. She has FSGS and is currently at Stage 3B. Thankfully, kidney disease has not stopped her from doing what she loves: saving animals.

Madeleine Pahl, MD, FASN, is a Nephrology Specialist at the University of California, Irvine, in Orange, CA. She is the principal investigator at UC Irvine in the NIDDK-funded, national study, ”The Family Investigation of Nephropathy and Diabetes,” a multicenter study designed to identify genetic determinants of diabetic nephropathy in different ethnic groups using a variety of strategies to localize susceptibility genes.

Listen to Dr. Pahl’s KidneyTalk Podcast: Having a Baby on Dialysis

Dawn Edwards

Dawn Edwards is a 31-year kidney survivor who has served the community by being a mentor and educating her peers for over 25 years. Dawn is the CEO of the Advocacy and Education Organization, the New York State CKD Champions. She works with many organizations and serves on many kidney disease related boards. Dawn has authored articles her goal is to educate, encourage and empower her peers.

Lyndsay Crowson, MSN, RN, CNN

Lyndsay Crowson, MSN, RN, CNN is the Senior Clinical Services Initiatives Manager –Home Therapy Quality. She began with Fresenius in 2006 as a Patient Care Technician and five years later graduated nursing school.  Lyndsay’s passion is Home Therapies.  She enjoys talking with patients and families about their experiences and journeys on dialysis.  It is important to her to help patients incorporate their home dialysis routine into their lifestyle, and not the other way around. Taking the holistic approach to supporting home dialysis patients not only supports excellence in quality of care but also improves patient’s success at home.

Lubna Akbany, RD, CSR is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Certified Specialist in Renal Nutrition with over 20 years of experience. She specializes in Chronic Kidney Disease Management, and diabetes focused on CKD nutrition. A mom, a kidney transplant recipient, and an effective nutrition communicator who loves eating, and cooking delicious food with friends and family while balancing that with good health.

Lubna’s goal is to empower people to slow down their kidney disease with proven nutrition and supplement interventions. She quotes “ If I can give you more confidence in your diet, help you keep your kidneys, and give you more time to enjoy your life the way you want, I’ll have done my job”

Dr. Brahmbhatt is a board certified nephrologist and transplant nephrologist with over 15 years of clinical experience taking care of patients with kidney diseases. She obtained her medical degree at King’s College London in 2001, and subsequently completed her nephrology training at SUNY Stony Brook University and then spent two years in private practice. She then pursued transplant nephrology training at at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York before joining Thomas Jefferson University where she was an Assistant Professor of Nephrology for almost a decade. Here, she was the Director of Renal Quality Improvement, Director of Peritoneal Dialysis and the Director of the outpatient hemodialysis unit.  She led multiple quality improvement projects to improve healthcare delivery for patients with kidney diseases while concurrently having a busy outpatient CKD practice. She is currently the Medical Director of Practice Change at Astrazeneca where she is committed to improve healthcare delivery for patients with cardiovascular, renal and metabolic diseases.

Gail has been a nurse working with kidney patients for 36 years.  She has cared for 1000’s of adult and pediatric persons with CKD.   She has worked in hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.   She became a nurse because she wanted to teach others how to improve their health.  One of the most important things she has learned from people on dialysis is to listen to them when they have problems.  She loves teaching people but realizes that people do not absorb new information until THEY are ready to learn.  She is excited to be asked to talk with all of you today on this forum!

Sam and Lacye Trevino

Sam is a former dialysis patient of 17 years, transplant recipient, and now a patient advocate/motivational speaker. Sam used his experience to develop “Urine Inspiration”, a presentation aimed at educating everyone about living a full life in the face of medical challenges. He talks about his experience as a patient in HD, HHD, and transplant.

Lacye, has been a care partner from the age of 18. After 17 years of supporting her husband on dialysis, including in-center and home therapies, she was blessed to be able to donate a kidney to him over 9 years ago. She now serves as a patient advocate for NxStage, Medical, and as a motivational speaker for Urine Inspiration.

Rafeal Villicana, MD is the Medical Director, Transplant Nephrology at Loma Linda University Health. He is a Transplant Nephrologist who earned his medical degree from Michigan State University. He completed his internal medicine residency at Mayo Clinic Rochester. He subsequently completed Nephrology and Transplant Nephrology fellowships from UCSF. He then spent nearly a decade on staff at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.  His interests include kidney and pancreas transplantation, living kidney donation and ABO /HLA incompatible kidney transplantation. He is fluent in Spanish. He is an associate professor of Medicine at Loma Linda University.

Read an article by Dr. Villicana: Kidney Donor Options

Karol Franks

Karol Franks lives in Southern California, is married and a mother of four. She is an advocate for people with kidney disease and living donors. Her daughter, Jenna, received her second kidney transplant via a living donor voucher in 2017. Karol’s 2 sisters also received living donor kidneys in the last 3 years. Karol is an administrator for “Living Donors Online” – an online community for living organ donors, their families and for medical professionals. She serves as administrator for the “I Hate Dialysis” Facebook group, which provides support for anyone affected by kidney disease. She has written articles for KidneyTalk magazine, participated in KidneyTalk podcasts, and has volunteered for RSN’s Renal Teen Prom for many years.

Lana Kacherova, RN, BSN, MPH, CNN, CPHQ, has been working in the dialysis industry since 1993 in different capacities, taking care of people with kidney disease. She started as a dialysis technician, then became a nurse, later transitioned to clinical coordinator of a hemodialysis unit, quality improvement professional, and case manager. While working full-time, Lana attended California State University Northridge, and received a BS degree in Nursing and Master of Public Health in Health Education. She is currently working as a Senior Consultant at Kaiser Permanente of Southern California with the special focus on kidney transplant.

Stanley C. Jordan, MD is the medical director of Cedars-Sinai’s Kidney Transplant Program, director of Pediatric Nephrology and Transplant Immunology, and professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has directed research leading to major advances in diagnostic and treatment approaches in the care of patients receiving transplanted organs. He developed a process that uses intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) to reduce the risk of rejection in difficult cases in which other medications have failed. He also created a technique to detect post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD) in its earliest stages when intervention is most effective.

Listen to a KidneyTalk podcast featuring Stanley C. Jordan, MD: Breakthroughs in Antibody Desensitization Therapy

Glenda Roberts, Kidney Disease Survivor and Director of External Relations & Patient Engagement University of Washington (UW) Kidney Research Institute (KRI)

A passionate activist for kidney research and people living with kidney disease, Glenda V. Roberts is involved in myriad national and international, transformative research and health care initiatives focused on improving patient outcomes.

Diagnosed with kidney disease when she was just out of college, Glenda has first-hand knowledge of the challenges faced by people and families affected by kidney diseases. For four decades she slowed the progression of her kidney disease through diet and exercise.

Joe Sinacore is the Vice President of Network Development, responsible for new center acquisition, center development, training, and education at National Kidney Registry (NKR), the world’s most successful paired kidney exchange program. To date his work at the NKR has helped facilitate Living Donor transplants for over 6000 patients. He’s been involved with NKR since its conception in late 2007, and had previously worked with NKR’s founder & CEO, Garet Hil, since 1993. Joe speaks frequently at many public events and medical conferences around the country, regarding the vital work of the NKR.

Sara Douglas, MSN, RN, OCN

Oncology, transplant, research, and patient advocacy and engagement have been an important part of Sara’s life and career. After she graduated with her bachelor’s in nursing in 2012, she started working for The University of Kansas Health System as a Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) RN. In May 2018, she graduated with a master’s in nursing administration. During the 10 years she worked for KU she also served as a nurse coordinator for the early phase cancer clinical trials and as the Primary Care & Community Research Network Manager where she managed a few important community outreach and engagement initiatives. During this time, she combined her passions for patient care, advocacy, and research as she engaged, partnered, and trained patient research advocates and researchers. Ms. Douglas now serves as the Manager of Patient Advocacy and Engagement at Talaris Therapeutics. In this position, Sara works alongside many important kidney disease advocacy groups and patients to help bring awareness around research in the living donor kidney transplant space.

Vernon Silva, LCSW

Vernon Silva, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker based out of Bishop, California who has served the kidney community for 22 years, and is the brother of a kidney patient who is now his guardian angel.

Vernon has held a national certification in Nephrology Social Work, conducts professional trainings and conference presentations, and performs volunteer work for kidney organizations.

He has authored pieces for the Renal Support Network’s newsletter “Kidney Talk”, the National Kidney Foundation’s newsletter “Renal Link”, and the kidney-care industry magazine “Nephrology News & Issues”.

Helen Currier, RN

Helen Currier has over four decades of renal healthcare experience at a quaternary care pediatric and women’s healthcare system. As a leader supporting professional collaborations, she has advanced renal research on national and local levels. Her publications include a book, chapters, and articles in peer-reviewed journals. Currier is a pre-eminent nursing figure in national professional groups and is one of the past presidents of the Renal Healthcare Association. Helen’s varied nursing experiences have brought her to the realization that the arts in health are an important supplement to drug or technology-based treatment. She also believes in the benefits of exercise and has led transplant recipient participation in Transplant Games domestically and abroad since 2011. Helen has a long history of professional volunteerism with a goal of applying lessons learned, from evidence-based practice outcomes, to mold international standards and guidelines.

Beth Witten

Beth Witten has been a nephrology social worker for over 40 years. She has worked for, and volunteered with NF and served as national chair of the Council of Nephrology Social Workers. Beth wrote the NKF CKD guideline on functioning and well-being. Beth coordinated Missouri Kidney Program’s Patient Education Program classes and trained ESRD surveyors for CMS. Beth consults with the nonprofit Medical Education Institute where she is a writer, researcher, and outreach expert. Beth speaks and writes on treatment options, paying for treatment, finding and keeping a job, and living your best life with kidney disease.

Cher Thomas, RDH, is a registered dental hygienist and a renal transplant recipient. After her kidneys failed due to ANCA positive vasculitis, in 1999 her brother became her kidney donor. Cher utilizes her experience with peritoneal dialysis and organ transplantation to explore the relationship between oral and renal health. She lives in Galveston, Texas.

Aaron Battle

Aaron Lee Battle is currently a Wellness Ambassador for the Rogosin Institute in New York City.  In 2008, Aaron received a kidney transplant. He was the Patient Services Director for IPRO ESRD Network of New York. And has worked with several different renal organizations including the Renal Support Network (RSN) as a speaker and educator, National Kidney Foundation NYC and others to educate and support patients living with kidney disease. Aaron is also an actor and singer.

Wendy Rodgers M.ED., MPH is the Director of the Care and Support Services of the Lupus Foundation where she develops support services; organizes educational events; and connects the local community with the Foundation’s efforts to improve the quality of life for those impacted by lupus.

In early 2000, Wendy experienced acute changes in her health that led her to the diagnosis of systemic lupus, kidney failure, and ultimately a life-threatening battle with a myriad of complications. After enduring nine years on dialysis, Wendy was fortunate to receive a kidney transplant. Her acute blend of health conditions motivated her to serve as an advocate and educator through several health organizations including the Lupus Foundation of America.

Over the years, Wendy has reached out to encourage patients and families; model hope to others who live with the daily health challenges; and advocate for better health policy and medical treatment.

Kristen Rice

Kristin Rice is a full-time organizational change manager for a global staffing firm. Away from the office she’s married and mom to a teenage daughter and two dogs. She’s a life-long kidney patient who has been listed for transplant for 2 years. Having a positive body image is important to her overall kidney health. Maintaining her physical health gives her the strength to manage her work, family and her chronic kidney disease while she waits for a transplant, while keeping up appearances affects how others perceive her at work.

Jeffrey Reises

Jeffrey Reises is 67 years old and has been happily married for 32 years.  He served in the US Air Force during the Vietnam War. Jeffrey enjoyed many years of good health until he was told that he had kidney cancer in 2001. His right kidney was removed without a biopsy and the tumor turned out to be malignant. He was very lucky that the tumor never escaped the kidney. Over the next several years his left kidney worked properly, until he started hemodialysis for the next 4 ½ years. During that time, he applied and got approved to get on the transplant list.  Even though it was one of the hardest periods of time he ever went through, he kept the faith and tried to live as normal of a life as possible. Finally, on July 10th, 2022, he got the call! It was his turn. There is still a lot of work to be done but Jeffrey can see the light at the end of the tunnel! If you listen to your medical professionals, there is hope!  It’s tough but keep the faith!

David Trujillo has been battling kidney disease since he was a child. He is now doing well with his 4th kidney transplant. Despite this adversity he has gone on to have a career in construction and is a sought after tattoo artist. He is married and has a daughter. David’s passion and knowledge of living well with kidney disease is invaluable to RSN.

Allison Dankner, M.Ed., PSY.B.S. is a mental health coach specializing in working with youth and parents to help navigate life’s challenges. Her singular focus is on helping people feel better about themselves, and, as a result experience life with greater ease and enjoyment.

Isela King

Isela is an MPH candidate at the Keck School of Medicine. She was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy in 2015 when she was a sophomore in High School. This is the same year that she began volunteering at RSN’s Renal Teen Prom! She hopes to use her MPH degree to continue to serve the kidney community.

Sarissa Velarde

Sarissa Velarde is a 26-year-old university student with End Stage Renal Disease. She undergoes hemodialysis treatment 3 times per week while attending school online. She was diagnosed with Kidney Disease, Stage 2 at age 11 then at age 21 she was officially diagnosed with End Stage Renal Disease and began the process of starting dialysis treatments. She has been doing dialysis since 2019. 

Today she has begun the process of transferring to Alaska to attend University of Alaska Fairbanks full time and runs a blog called “My Renal Lives” where she discusses her experience as a dialysis patient.

Elizabeth Boggs

Elizabeth Boggs is 25 years old and goes by her nickname Ellie. She grew up involved in theater dance and choir and went to school for acting at the New York Academy. In her free time, she loves painting, listening to music, and hanging out with her friends and grandma. She was diagnosed with medullary cyst kidney disease in 2003 and was first on hemodialysis and then peritoneal dialysis. Six months later she got the call that there was a deceased kidney that was a 5 out of 6 match and this November 17th she will have had this transplant for 17 years going strong!

Jorge Caraveo

Jorge has been living with kidney disease since age 3, he has been on both PD and hemo dialysis, and is coming up on his 5th year with kidney number 4. Jorge is currently working toward my bachelors in nutrition and dietetics. He stays physically active by walking, running, calisthenics.

Abigail Christine Teasdale

Abigail was born in Bakersfield, California on February 21, 1996, and was diagnosed with multicystic kidney dysplasia at birth. She was immediately put on dialysis, and took her first breath without a ventilator in April of that year. She received her first transplant at just twenty months old. Throughout her childhood, she thrived with her illness, and got a second transplant on February 17, 2007; a few days short of her eleventh birthday. She is currently an Inside Sales Apprentice at Bitwise Industries in Bakersfield, and just recently got hired as an Event Staff with the Bakersfield Condors.

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