Meet Our Board
Chairperson of the National Scientific Advisory Board
Betty Diamond, M.D. - Dr. Diamond, Chair of AARDA’s National Scientific Advisory Board, is Head of the Autoimmune Disease Center at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, in Manhasset, New York, and professor of medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York. She has dedicated her professional career to patients with lupus.
Prior to accepting her current position, Dr. Diamond served on the faculty of Columbia University and was Chief of Rheumatology at Albert Einstein where she aggressively developed clinical care programs for the economically disadvantaged. At Einstein, she headed the M.D./Ph.D. program funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
As a researcher, Dr. Diamond’s studies in the areas of lupus in women, the role of autoantibodies in lupus, and the cognitive effects of lupus have helped define how researchers and physicians understand the disease.
In 2006, Dr. Diamond was elected to the Institute of Medicine. She also serves on the Scientific Council of the NIH National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) and on the Board of Directors of the American College of Rheumatology.
Dr. Diamond is a graduate of Radcliffe College and Harvard Medical School, both in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her postgraduate training included serving as Resident in Medicine at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, New York, and a Postdoctoral Fellow in Immunology, Department of Cell Biology, at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Dr. Diamond has had a long and varied career as physician, researcher, and educator. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Distinguished Investigator Award from the American College of Rheumatology, the Honorary Alumna Award from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and the 2008 Evelyn V. Hess Research Award granted by the Lupus Foundation of America, Inc. (LFA), recognizing a lifetime of achievement in lupus research. Dr. Diamond’s work has been published in more than 100 peer-reviewed journals, articles, and books.
Noel R. Rose, M.D., Ph.D. – Dr. Rose is Chairman Emeritus of the Scientific Advisory Board of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) on which he has served since 1992, first as a member and then as Chair.
An immunologist, pathologist, and molecular microbiologist, Dr. Rose long has been associated with Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland, where he has served as professor and Chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. Today he is professor of pathology and of molecular microbiology and immunology and Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Autoimmune Disease Research.
Dr. Rose’s pioneering research some 50 years ago at Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, was instrumental in establishing the concept of autoimmune disease and helped immunologists understand, for the first time, that the immune system was capable of directing a response to healthy tissues and organs of the body, not just to invading foreign viruses and bacteria. He is co-editor of the classic textbook The Autoimmune Diseases, now in its 5th edition. Dr. Rose has published more than 760 articles in peer-reviewed journals, has edited or co-edited some 22 books, and has served as an editorial board member of more than 27 journals.
Dr. Rose has served as an autoimmunity expert for the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He is a member of the Wayne State University Academy of Scholars. He also served as Chair of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Autoimmune Diseases Coordinating Committee.
Dr. Rose is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the College of American Pathologists, the American Academy of Microbiology, and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, and is an Honorary Member of the American Society for Microbiology.
Dr. Rose holds degrees from Yale University (B.S.), University of Pennsylvania (A.M. and Ph.D.), and State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo (M.D.), where he was chosen as the Distinguished Medical Alumnus in 1994. He also holds two honorary doctorates: Doctor “Honoris Causa” in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Calgari, Italy; and Doctor “Honoris Causa” in Biological Science from the University of Sassari, Italy.
Officers of the Board
The Rev. Herbert G. Ford, D. Min. – Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Dr. Ford has been an active member of the Board since April 1999 and has served on several ad hoc committees. He was elected Chairperson in September 2013. Dr. Ford, president of the NECABA Management Group, Detroit, Michigan, which has provided administrative management to Michigan firms since 1990, is a former bank vice president. He brings to the Board a firm understanding of finance, banking, and economics.
The Rev. Dr. Ford, who serves as pastor of the Good Shepherd Missionary Baptist Church, in Southfield, Michigan, is well respected in the Detroit area for his commitment of service to the community as a whole and to individuals. One of his immediate goals is to increase the level of participation with volunteerism and fundraising among minority organizations.
Dr. Ford intends to continue to utilize his resources to raise funds and awareness for those struggling with autoimmune disease. He and his wife have a personal interest in autoimmune diseases since their daughter has multiple sclerosis.
Stanley M. Finger, Ph.D. - Vice Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Dr. Finger was a co-founder of AARDA’s Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, and he is an active member of AARDA’s Ad Hoc Advocacy Committee. Dr. Finger, a Registered Environmental Manager and Fellow of the American Institute of Chemists, has served on the engineering faculty of Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, George Washington University, and Catholic University of America. He is listed in Who’s Who in Engineering. Dr. Finger is president of Environmental Consulting and Investigations, Inc., based in Bluffton, South Carolina.
Dr. Finger is AARDA’s representative to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Autoimmune Diseases Coordinating Committee (ADCC) and the National Coalition of Autoimmune Patient Groups (NCAPG). He is also on the National Board of Advisors of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Autoimmune Disease Research. Dr. Finger chaired one of the four Working Groups that drafted the NIH Autoimmune Diseases Research Plan.
Dr. Finger received a Distinguished Layperson Award from the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies and a Pratt Institute Alumni Achievement Award recognizing his contributions toward advancing autoimmune disease research, education, and awareness.
Virginia T. Ladd, R.T. – Virginia Ladd is the President and Executive Director of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc. (AARDA), an organization that she founded to bring a national focus to autoimmunity and increase collaboration in autoimmune research, education, awareness, and advocacy. She has been involved in the nonprofit community for over 30 years as a patient advocate and educator. Mrs. Ladd served as president and executive director of the Lupus Foundation of America.
Mrs. Ladd was instrumental in the formation of the International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations (IAPO), an alliance dedicated to advocacy for patient-centered health care, and is an immediate past member of its board of governors. She has served as a member of the board of directors for the UN NGO Health Committee and is a past member of the board of directors of the National Health Council. She is the founder and facilitator for the National Coalition of Autoimmune Patient Groups (NCAPG), an organization of 33 national autoimmune disease-specific groups.
She was the first non-researcher to be awarded the “AESKU.AWARD for Life Contribution to Autoimmunity,” which was presented to her at the 7th International Congress on Autoimmunity,” in Ljubljana, Slovenia–”recognizing Virginia’s tireless efforts to spread awareness and education for autoimmune diseases and to encourage collaboration among researchers and others in advancing the cause of autoimmune patients on both national and international levels.” She also was presented with the prestigious Heritage Award of the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association.
As a national and international speaker, she was an invited guest and speaker to the Fourth International Conference on Health Promotion, in Jakarta, Indonesia, sponsored by the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health, Republic of Indonesia. Mrs. Ladd addressed the United Nations in March 2000 at a meeting organized by AARDA along with the Global Alliance for Women’s Health (GAWH), entitled “Women and Autoimmune Diseases: Gender and Biological Perspective,” featuring internationally known researchers, as part of the UN Commission on the Status of Women 2000.
Mrs. Ladd serves on several committees of the National Institutes of Health, including the Autoimmune Diseases Coordinating Committee; the Public Interest Committee for the National Institute of Heart, Lung and Blood; the Public Interest Group for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; and the Panel of Experts for the NIH Autoimmune Diseases Research Plan. Mrs. Ladd is a member of the steering committee of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics.
She was responsible for the progress report “Environmental Triggers of Autoimmune Disease,” prepared by the Johns Hopkins Center for Autoimmune Disease Research and the PAHO/WHO collaborating Center for Autoimmune Disorders.
In honor of her many years of volunteer service, Mrs. Ladd was a 1995 Jefferson Award Honoree of the American Institute for Public Service with recognition at the national level.
Michelle Ouellet – Ms. Ouellet serves on the AARDA Board of Directors in the capacity of Secretary, a position she has held since June 2005. She has volunteered for AARDA for more than sixteen years, not only as co-founder and president of AARDA’s Mid-Atlantic Affiliate but also as an active participant in local resource development and educational events. As a member of AARDA’s Ad Hoc Advocacy Committee, Ms. Ouellet has been instrumental in gaining a voice for autoimmune disease and AARDA on Capitol Hill. She has a deep personal interest in promoting patient education and medical research supportive of the advancement of autoimmune disease treatment.
Ms. Ouellet, a retired senior federal government director, is currently with CACI International, in Arlington, Virginia. Through her various positions over the years, she has gained federal government budget and funding experience and brings strong management and leadership skills and experience to AARDA.
Ms. Ouellet has a BA with special honors in social research from The George Washington University, Washington DC, and is an inactive member of the Federal Bar.
John Kaiser, CPA – A resident of Chicago, Illinois, Mr. Kaiser currently serves AARDA as Treasurer. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with a BS in accountancy, he is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Illinois CPA Society. He has more than ten years of experience in providing auditing, accounting, and consulting services to privately held companies.
Mr. Kaiser is Director of Assurance Services with the Great Lakes practice of McGladrey & Pullen’s , LLP, in Chicago, Illinois. He has worked with a diverse middle market clientele, including manufacturers, distributors, food processors, service companies, not-for-profit agencies, and real estate companies.
As someone personally impacted by an autoimmune disease, he joined AARDA as a Board member with the goals of increasing public awareness, raising funds, and further educating himself.
Mr. Kaiser has a strong background in volunteer involvement with a number of organizations, including The Myositis Association, Heart of Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization (Peoria, Illinois), and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago Leadership Board.
Members of the Board of Directors
Nona Bear – Ms. Bear is a nationally known advocate of health care reform and champion of seniors’ issues. Originally an academic who has served on the faculties of several Washington area universities, including American, Howard, and George Mason, her interest in aging began when she was hired to establish a continuing education program at the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home, a facility serving thousands of military retirees.
Seeking effective ways to communicate with and motivate older learners led her to form a research and consulting partnership with public relations expert Lee M. Cassidy. Together they authored Introduction to Marketing to Mature Consumers and established The Mature Market Institute, an organization dedicated to teaching corporate America how to communicate effectively with older Americans. Their corporate clients included Fortune 500 companies and major trade associations.
In the 1980s, Ms. Bear edited three of the most influential publications in the field of aging: Aging Network News, Mature Market Report, and Journal of the Mature Market Institute. She published scores of articles and reports on seniors as consumers and was recognized as an expert in the development of “senior clubs” and other value-added programs targeting niche markets.
Ms. Bear also began to assist nonprofit organizations and industries with educational outreach on a variety of public policy issues primarily focused upon health care. During the early 1990s, her work on Medicare reform brought her to The Seniors Coalition where she served as a spokesperson and advocate, eventually becoming Senior Vice President of the organization. Her work there earned her the Champion of Medicare Award.
In 1998, she was named President and CEO of the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, and she led that organization’s efforts to pass meaningful healthcare reform for Americans of all ages. She also became the national spokesperson for Citizens for Better Medicare and, in 2000, was chosen as its Executive Director. In that position, she traveled throughout the United States speaking to the media, seniors’ groups, and civic organizations about the need for Medicare prescription drug coverage.
Ms. Bear currently is in private practice as a consultant to publications, industry and nonprofits on matters of health care and outreach to specialized audiences. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Tulane University and earned a master’s degree from American University.
Althea Cices – A Registered Dietitian for more than 30 years, Ms. Cices has worked in hospitals and in private practice. She has both the scientific background and skills that are helpful in analyzing many of the issues that confront Board members. Ms. Cices has first-hand knowledge of the daily challenges facing persons with autoimmune diseases through experiencing them in her own life over the past five years. Even before joining AARDA’s Board of Directors, Ms. Cices has served as New York/New Jersey Local Contact, established a New York theatre-ticket AARDA fund raiser, helped launch the first Autoimmune Walk in the NYC tri-state area, and advocated on behalf of autoimmune disease patients by lobbying legislators in Washington DC and Albany NY to increase funding for scientific research. She has a master’s degree of science.
Ms. Cices says, “AARDA has given me hope in coping with my illness, and now I welcome the opportunity to serve on the Board and help AARDA in its mission to increase public awareness of autoimmune diseases through education and research.”
Howard E. Hagon – Mr. Hagon, a longtime supporter and advisor of AARDA, is the founder and President (retired) of the medical supply firm Contour Medical, of Michigan and Florida. With his broad understanding of business practices, including marketing, and with a strong personal interest in autoimmune diseases, Mr. Hagon is a valued advisor in his Board position and in his participation on various AARDA committees. He currently divides his time between Florida and Michigan.
Richard M. Hodge – Mr. Hodge comes to AARDA with 30 years’ experience in government and industry as a healthcare administrator, health policy analyst, consultant, and government affairs director. The past years have involved work in healthcare policy, government relations, and advocacy. He currently serves as Senior Director for Congressional Affairs for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).
Mr. Hodge began his career 22 years ago in the U.S. Army as a healthcare administrator, where his assignments included Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs in the Pentagon, and other locations across the U.S. and overseas. One of his positions after he had retired from the Army was Director of Federal Government Affairs and Public Policy for a pharmaceutical company. This involved advocating for a wide variety of healthcare issues with Congress, the federal departments and agencies, and within the healthcare industry, including national healthcare reform efforts.
Mr. Hodge earned a master’s degree in public policy and administration from Webster University, in St. Louis, Missouri, and a master’s degree in business from Trinity University, in San Antonio, Texas. His personal interests include active involvement in veterans’ issues, the Children’s Charities Foundation of Washington, and the annual BB&T Childen’s Charities Basketball Classic.
Mr. Hodge says, “I hope to be able to bring my experience, knowledge, and skill set to AARDA to advance the cause of autoimmune diseases as a member of the Board in whatever capacity I may be helpful.”
Julia Pandl – Ms. Pandl, a resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has spent most of her professional life in the restaurant business, working in the family restaurant/catering business and, finally, on the manufacturing side. An author and a humorist, she has left the restaurant business to pursue a dream of writing. She has begun that phase of her career with the publication of her first book, Memoir of the Sunday Brunch, her personal account of growing up in a large family with a restaurant tradition.
Ms. Pandl’s experience in the restaurant and catering business has provided her with a lifetime of education in fund raising, and she is an active community volunteer. She and a committee composed of many family members and friends (some of whom have firsthand experience with autoimmune diseases) have, over the past years, organized an annual fund raiser that benefits AARDA. She states, “This experience has shown me that no matter our race, gender or economic status, we are not alone in our struggles.”
Ms. Pandl has a spirit of openness and honesty, a willingness to lead, a commitment to fund raising, a sense of humor, and the appreciation of a generous heart.
Linda Pesonen – Ms. Pesonen is a former Marketing Director with General Motors Company in Global Digital Advertising, in Detroit. She now serves as a Market Consultant and heads her own firm, Linda Pesonen Consulting, Inc. She has over 25 years experience in the automotive industry across manufacturing, sales, marketing, and financial services.
Ms. Pesonen, who is passionate about supporting patient education and awareness of autoimmune diseases, has contributed in-kind marketing services to AARDA by writing an aarda.org marketing/communications plan Q1 2010 with emphasis on eMarketing tools to promote awareness and advocacy. She has a strong interest in digital and emerging media channels which offer the autoimmune community a place to come together, a means to engage with one another, and an opportunity to enrich each others’ lives. A personal blogger, Linda is committed to sharing her own experience with Graves’ disease.
Ms. Pesonen holds a bachelor of science degree in industrial administration from Kettering University, Flint, Michigan, and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan.
Robert H. Phillips, Ph.D. – Dr. Phillips, a licensed psychologist who has been in private practice since 1975, is founder and director of the Center for Coping, in Hicksville (Long Island), New York. This unique organization specializes in working with individuals and families who are looking to improve their ability to cope with medical illnesses, stress, family concerns, and other life problems. A prolific writer, having authored more than 30 books and many articles on coping with physical ailments and other psychological topics, Dr. Phillips is also a popular speaker on the subject. He gives generously of his time to AARDA events, and he is a longtime AARDA Scientific Advisory Board member.
In addition to his volunteer work with AARDA, Dr. Phillips has served on the Board of Directors of the national Lupus Foundation of America and the Nassau Chapter of the American Heart Association. He serves on medical advisory boards of, and is the psychologist for, a number of major local and national organizations.
Dr. Phillips received his Ph.D. from Fordham University. He is affiliated with several major professional organizations, including the American Psychological Association and the Society of Behavioral Medicine.
Dr. Phillips brings to the AARDA Board of Directors strengths in organizational development and enhancement as well as public awareness activities. In his expanded work with AARDA, he plans to continue his presentations at public forums and additional venues to help “deliver the message” and promote the mission of the organization. Dr. Phillips sees his role in AARDA as focusing on the liaison between the medical, research, and organizational components of AARDA’s activities and the consumer advocacy and coping needs–among others.
J. Michael Quinlan – Mr. Quinlan, a resident of McLean, Virginia, is an attorney, former public administrator, and currently a corporate executive. He is a graduate of Fairfield University, Fairfield, Connecticut; Fordham Law School, New York, New York (J.D.); and George Washington University Graduate School of Public Law, Washington, DC (LL.M).
After serving four years in the United States Air Force, Mr. Quinlan joined the U.S. Department of Justice in legal and administrative positions until becoming Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Subsequently, he has had a 17-year career with a private company, serving in various executive roles.
Mr. Quinlan is a recipient of the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award (1988), the Presidential Meritorious Rank Award (1991), the Attorney General’s Exceptional Leadership Award (1991), and the 1992 National Public Service Award presented jointly by the National Academy of Public Administration and the American Society of Public Administrators. He also received the E.R. Cass Award for correctional achievement from the American Correctional Association (ACA) in 2003, the ACA’s highest award.
Mr. Quinlan is a member of the Board of Directors for Prisoner Visitation and Support, a nonprofit agency that supports volunteers’ one-on-one visits with prisoners to help prepare them to assume a useful place in society. He is a former member of the Board of Directors of Horton Memorial Hospital, Middletown, New York, which he served as Vice Chairman of the Board for a one-year period. Mr. Quinlan also is an elected Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.
Mr. Quinlan has a personal interest in autoimmune diseases because of his own 40-year challenge in dealing with an autoimmune disorder affecting his eyes (posterior uveitis).
Lawrence Damian Tobias - Mr. Tobias has over 20 years of experience within the healthcare, marketing research, and marketing arena with a background in consumer goods and health care. He is the founder and President of PharmaNexus, Inc., a marketing research and communications consulting company focused on both the healthcare and consumer goods markets. He is a former author, interviewer, and consultant for both the International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations (IAPO) and AARDA. Mr. Tobias is the author or co-author of over one dozen peer-reviewed publications within the healthcare area, and he is the author of AARDA’s A Briefing Report on Autoimmune Diseases and AARDA: Past, Present, and Future and The 3 Second Adherence Factor.
Mr. Tobias is the founder of Alternative Dispute Resolution-now (ADR-NOW, and co-chair and workshop leader for the past five years for Qualitative Research Consultants Association, NY Metro Chapter. He also is a court-approved mediator for both civil and family mediation, and he is a co-assignee of two patents in the anti-obesity area.
Mr. Tobias is an honors graduate of the paralegal program at Fairleigh Dickinson University, in Florham/Madison NJ. His education encompasses both scientific and business disciplines with graduate level degrees in both areas (master’s degrees of science and of business administration) and adjunct professorships for both graduate and undergraduate courses.
Advisors to the Board
Edward K. Christian – A past member of the Board, Mr. Christian serves as a nonvoting advisor to the Board of Directors of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association and is a member of AARDA’s National Resource Development Committee. He is Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Saga Communications, based in Grosse Pointe Farms (Greater Detroit), Michigan, which owns radio stations in Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Missouri, and South Dakota. Mr. Christian was named a “1996 Entrepreneur of the Year” by Crain’s Detroit Business. He is a board member of the John Bayliss Scholarship Foundation.
Robert Meyer, CPA – Mr. Meyer is a charter member of AARDA’s Board of Directors, past Chairman of the Board, and immediate past AARDA Treasurer. In addition to serving as a Board advisor in financial and organizational matters, Mr. Meyer serves on AARDA’s Corporate Advisory Committee and the National Resource Development Committee. Mr. Meyer is president of Fort Wayne Insurance Services, Inc., in Fort Wayne, Indiana.