From Left to Right: Avisha Shah, Douglas Wells, Gina Galli, Francine Hogan, Mary Claire Boylan, Diana Smaglik, Patrick Quinn
Douglas Wells is the director and co-founder of CHATID, and is a current medical student at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. Douglas studied Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, with a certificate in Children's Literature. He also completed an honor's thesis looking at the perceptual and fine motor development skills of low and high risk children for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Douglas also worked with the Medical Home Project (MHP), a similar organization to CHATID, from which he got the idea to start such a group after starting medical school at Geisinger. MHP is another model community collaboration that was founded by Dr. Sweety Jain of the Lehigh Valley Health Network, and Douglas's experience with the group helped increase his awareness of the challenges individuals with disabilities face everyday. His passion for advocating for individuals with disabilities began with his father, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005. After seeing the challenges his father faced in receiving proper healthcare, he recognized an improvement could be made, and has worked relentlessly in hopes that the same barriers will not exist for those with disabilities when he begins practicing medicine.
Avisha Shah is one of the co-founders of CHATID, and is a current medical student at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. Avisha studied Health and Societies at the University of Pennsylvania, with a concentration in Health Care Markets and Finance. She is passionate about improving health care education, quality, and access for all individuals. She co-founded the Global Health Education Outreach program to help provide health education to children around the world via service trips and an extensive online video curriculum. She has also conducted various public health projects such as studying the link between disease and water supply in Atitlan, Guatemala as well as decreasing childhood obesity in Scranton, PA. Since learning about the patient population in NEPA, Avisha strongly believes that improvements can be made to health care for individuals with disabilities in the area.
Youngjin Cho, PhD is assistant professor of cell biology in the Department of Basic Sciences at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. She received her PhD in pathobiology at Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California in affiliation with Children Hospital of Los Angeles. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Children Hospital of Los Angeles, Marry Babb Randolph Cancer Center at West Virginia University, and at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. She is actively involved in education of both MD and Master of Biomedical Sciences (MBS) students. Her research focuses on understanding the signaling mechanisms in mesenchymal stem cells and osteoblasts that are important for bone formation. She is also a mother of a child with autism and believes in raising awareness toward needs of people with disabilities through education of MD and MBS students.
As a family medicine educator at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, one of my driving goals is to address health care disparities, vulnerable populations, particularly rural communities, and increase student awareness of social policies that are critical to the improving our healthcare environment. Taking a lead from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of health as part of the Declaration of Alma-Ata, I have sought to develop curriculum with an emphasis beyond medical care. WHO defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition strongly suggests that health is much broader than medicine. WHO also adds that advocacy for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable is at the heart of its mission; suggesting that all WHO member states should be working towards eliminating health disparities in their populations. Future generations of physicians will need to embrace advocacy for social justice as an essential part of their professional development if they wish to have a significant impact on the equity of health outcomes.
Patrick Quinn is the Director of Operations for The Arc of Northeastern Pennsylvania, where he has made his career for over thirty five years. Patrick started as a teenager providing direct supports for the individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities served by The Arc, and after graduating from The University of Scranton, moved into a series of progressively responsible agency positions including Supervisor, Program Specialist, Departmental Program Manager, and most recently Director of Residential and Adult Day Services. Patrick is responsible for oversight of all operations, program development and revision, quality and compliance, and individual and systems advocacy, among other duties. He is an accomplished lecturer in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities, at the local, state, and national levels. Pat is a graduate of The National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities at The University of Delaware, as well as the first cohort of the Non-Profit Leadership Program at The University of Scranton.
Eugenia (Gina) A. Galli of Luzerne-Wyoming Counties Mental Health and Developmental Services has been involved in various capacities of Administrative Programming for individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental health for over 30 years. Currently, as the Quality Assurance Manager, Ms. Galli has oversight for the counties Quality Management Plan, Incident Management, Risk Management, Independent Monitoring for Quality (IM4Q), The Health Care Quality Unit (HCQU), and the Luzerne-Wyoming Counties Training Council on Quality. She has been innovative and instrumental in leading the design of unique programs and trainings to address the Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) priorities by partnering with various entities in the community such as The Geisinger Commonwealth Medical College (GCMC), Misericordia University, Casey Dental, “Special Needs Dentistry,” The Junior Achievement (JA) Business Center, Local and National 911 Communication Centers, and local school districts. Ms. Galli has been a presenter at the Statewide Early Intervention Conference, PA Association of Public Safety Communication Organization (APCO) Conference, and the Annual Meeting of the MH/DS PAAP, County Commissioners Association of PA and the Annual Statewide PAR Conference & the 2018 Everyday Lives State Conference.
Ms. Galli has a passion for improving the overall quality of healthcare for individuals with intellectual disabilities. This is best evidenced by the partnership established with GCMC and The Advocacy Alliance Northeastern PA Health Care Quality Unit. All findings resulting from the GCMC’s Quality Improvement Projects are incorporated into the Counties Quality Management Plan and initiatives. Currently, Ms. Galli serves as a Board Member on the Speech & Language Department of Misericordia University. She has been appointed as a Clinical Instructor of Medicine used in the Department of Clinical Sciences, at GCMC. She is a member of the Peter Colasanti Planning Committee, The Luzerne-Wyoming Counties Aging/ID Planning Team & a Committee Member of the GCMC Community Health Advocacy Team for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (CHATID). Ms. Galli serves as a Community Mentor to 2nd and 3rd Year Medical Students specific to the Quality Improvement Community Collaboration Projects for the GCMC.
Emily Herman is currently a medical student at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. Before attending GCSOM, she studied chemistry and communication studies in her home town of West Chester, at West Chester University. Her interest in effective communication and health sciences sparked her interest in how physicians interact with their patients. While at West Chester University, Emily was awarded the Donna Carney service scholar for exceptional community service, including time spent at Quest Therapeutic Services, which offers pediatric therapy services to children with IDDs through horseback riding. Emily has found what she loves most by becoming part of CHATID; passion for community engagement and improving health care for populations that deserve justice.
Kate Foley is an author/illustrator with a background in Communication, Education and Theater, whose personal experience parenting a child with Autism as well as a child without has led her to create stories to help children navigate their complex emotions while teaching them to celebrate the uniqueness of themselves.
Keith Williams is the Advocacy & Outreach Coordinator at the Center for Independent Living in Scranton. His role includes advocating for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act in the public and private sectors, including the medical community. He also conducts speaking engagements and sensitivity trainings to educate the public about a variety of disability awareness issues. Keith has a lifelong physical disability and is a wheelchair user. He has a BA in Communications from King’s College and a MS in Human Resources Administration from The University of Scranton.
Francine has been heavily involved in the disability community, both professionally and personally for over 16 years. Her advocacy work began when her now 18 year old son Michael was diagnosed with Autism and Tourette Syndrome. Currently, she is a Program Specialist, Person Centered Counselor, and Certified Supports Broker at the Anthracite Region Center for Independent Living (ARCIL). She is a Pre-Employment Transition Services Trainer and an accomplished presenter on disability related topics. Francine is also a Parent Advisor with the PA Family Network where she conducts workshops to support families in planning a full and meaningful life for their loved one living with a disability. As a volunteer she is the Vice President of the Liv with Autism Foundation; Founding/Current Board Member of the Luzerne County Special Needs Coalition, and Member of the PA Family Support Network. In addition, to having served on multiple local and national disability related Boards of Directors, she is a past Executive Board member of the Autism Coalition of Luzerne County, and served 5 years as Chair to the Delaware Valley Walk Now for Autism.
Sharon Potter, M. Ed, has experience and expertise in three specific areas;Sexuality and relationships and people who have intellectual/developmental disabilities and autism.Assisting families, agencies and individuals regarding Problematic and sexual offending behaviors. Supporting LBGT individuals, with or without disabilities. As Early Intervention project coordinator, she worked with families, agencies, state offices and legislators to create a mandate for infants and children with disabilities. As Deputy Director of Pennsylvania Protection and Advocacy, she began an effort to address the lack of resources for people who have ID/DD and problematic sexual behaviors. She organized and oversaw Safer Options, a yearlong training Institute resulting in approximately 75 individuals who assist families and agencies across the state. A manual, Best Practices for Supporting People who have Intellectual Disabilities as well as problematic Sexual Behaviors was produced and continues to be a resource in PA. In 1993, she founded BIGLYAH (Bi, Gay, Youth Association of Harrisburg), a weekly support group for teens and young adults. She served as Sexuality Consultant to PA’s Office of Development Programs and worked across systems with the Office of Mental Health, DOC, Probation and Parole, C & Y and Bureau of Autism. Currently, she is an independent Consultant and provides classes for adults who have ID/DD on Sex and Relationships.
Diana Morris Smaglik is the Marketing Director/Special Projects Supervisor for the Anthracite Region Center for Independent Living (ARCIL). As the mother/step mother of 6 young men – three of whom happen to live with disabilities – she has been an active advocate for over 25 years. She holds certifications in Person Centered Counseling, Supports Brokerage (ODP), and is an experienced presenter/creator of Pre-Employment Transition Skills programs that help educate young adults with disabilities about independent living, self-advocacy and work skills. She has also developed highly acclaimed programs and presented on topics such as Emergency Preparedness for individuals with disabilities and Disability Awareness. Diana sits on numerous committees in Northeast PA, and is a former Planning and Advisory Committee member for ODP.
Additionally, Diana is a Parent Advisor with the PA Family Network – assisting families in planning for a meaningful, Everyday Life for their loved one. She also works closely with several young adult empowerment organizations including ARCIL’s LIFE group – which is a PYLN (Pa Youth Leadership Network) affiliate. A true believer in Person Centered, Independent Living philosophies she is frequently called upon to work with families, self-advocates and systems representatives to promote choice and respect.
Dr. Sharon Falzone, PhD, is currently the Director of Northeastern PA Health Care Quality Unit for the Advocacy Alliance.
George C. Brown, MS, is the President of the South Wilkes-Barre Residents’ Association. The South Wilkes-Barre Residents’ Association was formed in 2015 by George in an effort to promote the safety, cleanliness and community improvements within South Wilkes-Barre. George retired after a successful career in the corporate world that spanned over 38 years. George was employed by several large international companies including RCA, General Electric, Thomson Multimedia, First Quality Nonwovens and First Quality Enterprises.
George earned a Bachler of Science degree in Human Resource Management from Kings College and a Master of Science Degree in Organizational Management from Misericordia University. George currently sits on several boards including: Trustee, Luzerne County Community College, Member of the Foundation Board, Luzerne County Community College, Vice President, Wyoming Valley Veterans Parade Board of Directors, Board member-Wyoming Valley Art League, Guest Reader, Real Men Read-United Way of Wyoming Valley , Former member Wilkes-Barre City Council.
Sean McHale is the Vice President/Chief Operating Officer of the Advocacy Alliance. He is a human services professional with 30 years of experience. He joined the Advocacy Alliance in 2016. He previously worked at Friendship House from 1993 to 2008 in the positions of Director of Residential Services and later the Director of Human Resources. He worked as the Human Resources Administrator and the Director of Facilities at Keystone Community Resources from 2008 to 2016. At Keystone Community Resources he was responsible for the oversight of the personnel and facilities management, fleet and transportation management, insurance administration, workers compensation, employee relations, staff development, and served as chair of the Central Safety Committee. He has been a certified instructor for Safe Crisis Management since 1993. Upon joining the Alliance, he served as the Director of Special Initiatives where he restructured, from technology, human resources, policies and procedures, and compliance perspectives, several of the existing programs. He also developed new programs from the ground up and from the perspectives previously listed. In his current role, he also is the Managing Director of the Deutsch Institute and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Diversity Education Consortium, both nonprofit corporations. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Criminal Justice from Bloomsburg University and a Master’s Degree in Human Resources Administration from the University of Scranton.
Mary Claire is currently a social work coordinator for the Lackawanna Branch of Pennsylvania Association for the Blind.