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

Kristin Rice

Kristin Rice is a life-long kidney patient who is currently on PD dialysis. She’s been an active member and volunteer with RSN since 2020,  Kristin is married with a daughter and two fur babies. She works full-time as a change manager and enjoys helping people talk through the various challenges and changes that come with managing CKD.

Arun Malhotra, MD

Dr. Arun Malhotra is a Medical Director of Chronic Kidney Disease within the US Medical Team at AstraZeneca. He has been a Clinical Nephrologist since 2001 and has extensive training and clinical experience in the fields of complex hypertension, kidney stones, CKD, and end stage renal disease. Arun is passionate about working closely with medical students, residents, and fellows as a clinical tutor.

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.

Jeffrey Silberzweig, MD

Jeffrey Silberzweig, MD is the Chief Medical Officer of The Rogosin Institute, leads the dialysis programs at New York-Presbyterian Hospital as Chair of the Dialysis Executive Council and is the medical director of the dialysis units at the Weill Cornell and Lower Manhattan Hospital Campuses.  He has been a nephrologist and leader in the community for over 25 years and has received many prestigious awards.

Debra Hain, PhD, APRN, GNP-BC

Dr. Debra Hain has been a nephrology nurse for about 30 years starting as a dialysis nurse. In 2002 she became a nurse practitioner seeing patients in dialysis centers and conducting kidney disease education classes at Cleveland Clinic Florida, Department of Nephrology. In addition, she has her PhD in nursing and is an Associate Professor at Florida Atlantic University, Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing.

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.”

Rachel Cluthe

Rachel Cluthe is a loving wife, dedicated working mom, and a determined warrior in her battle against kidney disease. Her days are a blend of nurturing her family, excelling in her career, and navigating the intricate world of home hemodialysis.

Rachel’s children and her husband, Jason are her biggest supporters and a main source of motivation, and she strives to be a source of inspiration for them every day. Balancing her responsibilities at home with a demanding job is a challenge she embraces with unwavering resilience.

Living with kidney disease has taught Rachel the importance of self-care, discipline, and the value of each precious moment. Managing home hemodialysis can be challenging, but it’s a journey she embarked on with determination and the unwavering support of her loving family.

Paul Smith

Paul Smith, RN, CNN is the Director of Home Therapy Quality at Fresenius Kidney Care. He has been in the dialysis industry for the last 42 years and is experienced in all modalities. In his current role he serves as a designated expert consultant for the clinical quality function and contributes to strategic direction to facilitate the achievement of company goals for improved patient outcomes and superior quality standards for the Gulf Group. He provides expertise, support, and guidance to assigned operations and clinical leadership teams and staff regarding the practice of the continuous Quality Assessment and Performance Improvement.  Paul lives in Louisiana and enjoys traveling and spending time with his grandchildren.

Amanda Rivenbark

Amanda Rivenbark, RN, BSN is the Director of Clinical Services Initiatives at Fresenius Kidney Care. She has been a nurse in the dialysis industry for the last 17 years and currently develops, plans, and implements care strategies to facilitate superior quality of care and improved clinical outcomes for patients on dialysis. Amanda lives in coastal North Carolina and enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

Jay Wish, MD

Jay B. Wish, MD, is Professor of Clinical Medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis and Chief Medical Officer for Outpatient Dialysis at Indiana University Health. He is past president of the National Forum of ESRD Networks and has been an advisor to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on quality improvement issues in dialysis. He served on the Board of Directors of the Renal Physicians Association and the American Association of Kidney Patients and was the recipient of the latter’s Visionary Award in 2005. Dr. Wish is on the editorial boards of the JASN and CJASN. He has had over 100 articles, reviews, and book chapters published, particularly in the areas of ESRD quality oversight/improvement, accountability, anemia management and vascular access.

Mandy Trolinger, MS, RD, PA-C, works for Rocky Mountain Kidney Care (an Altitude Kidney Health alliance) where she sees patients with chronic kidney disease and also provides medical nutrition therapy counseling. Mandy has volunteered with various organizations over the years including the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) and Renal Support Network (RSN). She has authored several articles and is a national speaker and has presented at several meetings. Her goal is to provide compassionate care while focusing on patient-empowered decision making through education and counseling.

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”.

George Franklin III went through several treatments with no success, including peritoneal dialysis at home, hemo-dialysis for 6 hours, three days a week for 3 years, and six major surgeries. In April of 1975, George had his first kidney transplant, which was unsuccessful. Another call came in November of 1975 for him to have the transplant surgery once again. By his own admission, he was reluctant to subject himself to the procedure a second time, but his surgeon was very adamant about that one being “George’s kidney.” George was given the gift of life and has been going strong since then.   George started a social club called the Quarter Century Club that celebrates organ transplant longevity.

Maggie Farrell, RN, BSN, CCTC

Maggie Farrell is the Clinical Operations Manager at the Cedar-Sinai Comprehensive Transplant Center, managing the Kidney and Pancreas Programs.  She holds specialty certifications in both Transplant and Ambulatory Nursing.  With over 20 years of experience, Maggie is a experienced and passionate transplant professional who advocates for and promotes advancements within the field. 

While balancing leadership and operational responsibilities, Maggie continues to work on various efforts to improve efficiencies and establish best practices for the care and management of pre and post transplant patients.   Additionally, Maggie is dedicated to improving and increasing patient education and access to transplant through ongoing partnerships and participation, both within the organization and in the community.  

Matt Cavanaugh, NKDO President and CEO and non-directed kidney donor

Matt Cavanaugh is President and CEO of the National Kidney Donation Organization. He is a retired US Army Strategist. He is also a non-directed kidney donor. He is also a Professor of Practice with Arizona State University, a co-founder of and senior fellow with the Modern War Institute at West Point, and has twice earned the Bronze Star Medal, as well as the Combat Action Badge, for his service in Iraq. Matt donated his left kidney on September 15, 2021, to a stranger and started a donation chain. Unlike many donors who already know someone in need of a kidney, Matt simply learned how many are in need of a kidney, decided to donate, and placed a cold-call to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland to volunteer.

Rachel Meyer Strategic Policy Advisor to the Executive Vice President, ASN Alliance for Kidney Health

Rachel Meyer is Strategic Policy Advisor to the Executive Vice President at the American Society of Nephrology, focusing in particular on ASN’s transplant policy strategy across legislative and regulatory arenas. In her prior role at ASN as Senior Director of Policy and Government Affairs at ASN she oversaw the society’s federal advocacy portfolio, including Congress and federal CMS, FDA, and NIH, working to influence policies that affect kidney health, research, and innovation. She helped shape the Presidential Executive Order on Advancing American Kidney Health and more recently has focused on the HRSA Modernization Initiative. Her other roles have included serving as Deputy Chief of Staff for Project ECHO, as a researcher at the Advisory Board Company, and in the office of Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO).

Steve Weed

Stephen Weed is a 65 year old two-time kidney transplant recipient.  His second transplant occurred in July 2018 at Swedish Hospital in Seattle.  He receives care currently through UCLA’s post-transplant program. He lives in Ventura County, CA with his wife Bonnie, their sons Gabriel and Jeremy and two cats.  He prides himself in laughing often and mentoring his sons.  He also spends his time remodeling their home, reading, and advocating with RSN and One Legacy.

Saley Traore Uwalaka

Saley Traore ( Tray-oh-ray) is a 23 years Chronic Kidney Disease survivor. She was diagnosed at the age of 15 after a visit to her primary care provider for clearance to play soccer for her high school. Her journey as a CKD patient include 4 yrs of hemodialysis, 2 years of peritoneal dialysis, and 2 kidney transplants. In 2020, she started a non profit organization that focuses on improving access to dialysis and kidney care in her home country of Guinea in West Africa.
Saley is a Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist who specialises in diabetes, hypertension, and heart failure management. She is a new mom to a baby boy that she welcomed 7months ago with her husband of five years.
As both a patient and clinical pharmacist, Saley is passionate about improving access to quality and equitable healthcare, especially in the medication therapy area.

Helen Currier, MA, BSN, CENP, CNN

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.

Glenda Harbert is certified both in Nephrogy Nursing and Healthcare Quality. She is the Quality Improvement Advisor at the GW School of Nursing. She is the Executive Director of the End Stage Renal Disease Network of Texas.

Cher Thomas

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.

Anyssa Dang

Anyssa Dang is a Columbia University student from Orange County, California. While she was still in high school, after her brother was diagnosed with kidney disease, Anyssa saw that he had a hard time understanding what the doctors told him about his condition and processing his feelings about his diagnosis. So, she wrote and published a family activity book titled, Kidneys for Kids. With the creation of her book, she hopes to empower children living with kidney disease diagnoses. Apart from learning about health issues affecting children, Anyssa loves to read cheesy novels, make new friends, travel the world and spend time with her family.

Isela King

Isela King is the Administrative Coordinator at Renal Support Network. 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 received her MPH from the Keck School of Medicine and hopes to use her degree to continue to serve her peers in the kidney community.

Charlene Lafontant

Charlene Lafontant was born with one non-functioning kidney which was removed when she was a year old, and thankfully her other kidney has risen to the challenge for more than 50 years.  When Charlene’s daughter Gemma was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease at age 12 it was a confusing and scary time for the entire family and they were happy to have found RSN as a supportive resource.  Gemma received a transplant from a family member at age 14 and is doing well.  Navigating through medical complications of a child can be challenging and enlightening, and Charlene hopes to help other families through her work with RSN.

Edina Tanacs

Edina Tanacs has a degree in Psychology  and has been teaching fitness for 15 years, and teaching Pilates for 13 years.  She managed a large staff of group fitness instructors, personal trainers and pilates instructors for most of her career, but after her last child she has spent more time working independently with individuals, focusing on back disorders/injuries, functional training and nutritional guidance. Edina believes exercise with modification and in moderation is a fabulous way to combat daily stressors, is a great way to stay in shape or get in shape, and the best RX for longevity. She makes exercise pleasant and challenging enough to keep you coming back for more and more.

Blandina “Dina” Peterson

Blandina “Dina” Peterson, retired from the U.S. Army, is a disabled Veteran who wants to give back to her community by sharing the benefits of yoga with others. She teaches classes in Chair Yoga, Chair Yoga Dance, Gentle Yoga, and Aqua Yoga mainly to seniors 55+, Veterans, and individuals with limited mobility. Dina is a Registered Yoga Teacher, a certified Warrior at Ease Yoga teacher, and a graduate of Yoga Vista Academy Chair & Senior Yoga, Chair Yoga Dance, Gentle Yoga, and Wheelchair Yoga. Previously teaching yoga from approximately 2000-2005, she missed sharing the joy of it with others. In 2020, during a time when the world needed it the most, she decided to attend yoga teacher training again to do so. Just as she did in the military, Dina continues to make a difference ~ honored and grateful for the opportunity to share this practice with others.

Patient Panelist

Wilson Du

Wilson Du, aka the Renal Warrior, is a Dialysis Patient and athlete. To be listed for a kidney transplant, he had to lose a significant amount of weight. He reached his goal, and is now listed, and is in search of a living kidney donor. In 2018, he traveled from San Francisco to San Diego to raise awareness for kidney disease and living donation.

Jennifer Vasilakos

Jennifer Vasilakos recently reached the seven-year mark of her kidney transplant.  An avid hiker, she enjoys trails in remote wild places and photographing them and their inhabitants to convey their beauty and the experience of the wilderness.  She’s helped restore native habitat on San Nicholas Island and participated in historical preservation on Santa Cruz Island.  Jennifer advocates for organ, eye, and tissue donation by volunteering for public outreach events and direct interaction with medical personnel.  She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in business administration while working full time as a corporate accountant.  Jennifer’s zeal for life, travel, and adventure impact how she lives as a transplant recipient.  While others might think a transplant always means slowing down, Jennifer asks, “Why?”.

Julie Glennon

Julie Glennon lives in South Florida with her husband and cockapoo. She received her second transplant in August of this year. She has spent over 25 years volunteering, advocating, and writing for kidney organizations.

Marjorie MacDicken

Marjorie MacDicken was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease stage 3b in 2020. Her love of crafting started in Iowa. She saw her mother making clothing for the family and attempting to teach her to sew. Public school offered painting, drawing and other artistic media in addition to knitting classes. Throughout her adult years, her crafts have been worked around family and career. Creativity is relaxing and helps her cope with a chronic illness.

After retiring two years ago, Marjorie started participating with service groups sewing and knitting to help others. She loves making a variety of simple projects using yarn, beads, and fabric that are given to her or recycled from something else.

Marjorie lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and son and daughter living in the area.

Julie Pencak

Julie Pencak was born in Utah with her family moving to Ohio when she was fourteen. She continues to call Ohio home.  She studied Fashion Merchandising, hoping one day to own a children’s store.

Through the years Julie has experienced a range of professional opportunities, including retail management, casualty claim litigation and medical research.  In 2009 she received the opportunity to work in research as a transplant navigator which opened the door to work on various research studies involving CKD and organ donation.

Julie’s family has been impacted by polycystic kidney disease; two of her three children were also diagnosed with PKD.  Julie was on hemodialysis before receiving a kidney transplant in December of 1999.  Her son Jason, an artist was on home hemodialysis, he passed away in December of 2010.  She boxed up his art supplies but couldn’t part with them. That box eventually led to her art journey.

Riya Khan

Riya Khan was born in Bangladesh. In 1997, at the age of 9, her kidneys failed. By the end of August that same year, she was doing peritoneal dialysis. She received a kidney transplant in 2001. By age 15, Riya was cooking complete meals for her family. It was fun for her to see people enjoying what she created, and it made her happy.  

Riya went on to attended college to earn a degree in psychology. She continued her education by studying law in Tampa, Florida, preparing meals when she had the time. Cooking became a good coping mechanism for her, as it helped ward off the depression that dealing with an illness can cause. She cooks not only to sustain her health, but also to create visually pleasing dishes that stimulate the taste buds.  

Abigail Clary

Abigail Clary is a Northern California resident who was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease secondary to an acute kidney injury caused by Coarctation of the Aorta and premature birth. She received her BA in Liberal Studies and teaching credential from Sonoma State University and now works as a special education teacher. In moments of free time, she enjoys reading, baking, and spending time with her twin sister.

David Trujillo

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.

Taylor Scofield

Taylor Scofield was diagnosed with kidney disease in utero and went on dialysis at birth in 2001. He received his first transplant in 2001, kidney was from mom which lasted until 2014 and was on peritoneal dialysis for 2 years. In 2016 received second transplant, kidney was from dad and is still going strong today.

John Benjimin Barrios

John is 21 years old and has had Nephrotic syndrome since he was 6 years old. Although John is able to be stable for longer periods of time thanks to medications, he relapses almost every other year, and sometimes has to get hospitalized for a few days to make his kidneys work again. John is very optimistic about his illness and had to learned to live with it and enjoys life to its fullest.

Natalie Nava

Natalie Nava‘s kidney journey started at the young age of 14 when during a routine sports physical it was discovered that “something was off” on her kidney function panel. Further testing would later reveal a diagnosis of Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis aka FSGS, a rare type of kidney disease that causes scarring in the filters of the kidneys. She was on peritoneal dialysis for 2 years before she received a kidney transplant. Today, 11 years later after an unfortunate rejection post-covid infection, she finds herself on hemodialysis and waiting for a second kidney transplant. Natalie is an ultrasound technician living in in southern California. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, thrifting, reading and writing, and crafting.

Saley Traore-Uwalaka

Saley Traore ( Tray-oh-ray) is a 23 years Chronic Kidney Disease survivor. She was diagnosed at the age of 15 after a visit to her primary care provider for clearance to play soccer for her high school. Her journey as a CKD patient include 4 yrs of hemodialysis, 2 years of peritoneal dialysis, and 2 kidney transplants. In 2020, she started a non profit organization that focuses on improving access to dialysis and kidney care in her home country of Guinea in West Africa.
Saley is a Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist who specialises in diabetes, hypertension, and heart failure management. She is a new mom to a baby boy that she welcomed 7months ago with her husband of five years.
As both a patient and clinical pharmacist, Saley is passionate about improving access to quality and equitable healthcare, especially in the medication therapy area.

Michelle Kim

Michelle Kim, Esq. is the Executive Director of the Hemophilia Foundation of Southern California (2015-2022) where she launched over 10 new programs and resources including teaching and promoting leadership and independence skills to youth. The primary driver behind her relentless health care advocacy has been her 20 years of providing for her daughter who is diagnosed with five rare diseases including immune deficiency treated with weekly IG infusions, ITP and platelet dysfunction, end stage renal disease, liver disease with refractory ascites and portal and pulmonary hypertension.

Jenelle Kent

Janelle Kent is 66 and was diagnosed with kidney disease at age 11. She started hemodialysis at age 23. Her mother donated her first kidney transplant a year later and it was successful for three and a half years. She then went on peritoneal dialysis until 1990 and had a second,  but unsuccessful transplant. Jenelle stayed on peritoneal until August 1993 and had a successful transplant for 22 years until 2015 when she made the decision with her nephrologist Dr Steinberg to be proactive and go back on peritoneal dialysis. Jenelle is on hemodialysis again. Things are going well and she feel’s good. Jenelle loves to get out in nature, gardening, hiking, reading and painting as well as spending time with friends.

Mary Dodd

Mary Dodd’s son Vinnie was born prematurely with fetal posterior urethral valves (PUV). He had no kidney function at all. Vinnie began peritoneal dialysis and then almost 2 years later, he received a kidney transplant. Mary was tested and was his match, however a younger match was found to be a better option. 15 years later, Vinnie, who also is on the spectrum is strong and healthy. While there are a world of ups and downs, with a great team of Doctors and support of friends, the Dodd family gets through it all.

Mary makes tote bags for the kids and parents in the hospital. She tries to pass out 40-50 bags every few months. She remembers being a hospital mom and living out of a clear bag and just thought maybe her giving back will in some way put a smile on a kids/parents face while in the hospital.

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