Meet the HSG Executive Committee
Ray Dorsey, MD, MBA
Chair, HSG Executive Committee, HSG
David M. Levy Professor of Neurology, Pharmacology and Medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry
Ray is a Professor of Neurology and Director of the Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics and Center for Health and Technology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Ray is helping investigate new treatments for movement disorders and improve the way care is delivered for individuals with Parkinson disease and other neurological disorders. Using simple web-based video conferencing, he and his colleagues are seeking to provide care to anyone anywhere. As an academic neurologist, he is pleased to have devoted much of his professional activities and energies to Huntington disease and the Huntington Study Group. Since joining the HSG, he has had the opportunity to work as a site investigator, serve on the steering committee for five clinical studies and trials, and lead the recently completed phase II clinical trial of PBT2 (Reach2HD) study. He has also served on the HSG Executive Committee since 2008 and previously served as its Treasurer. Two years ago, he started HD Insights, a global research periodical produced by the Huntington Study Group, which now reaches over 1500 HD researchers and clinicians around the world. As a clinician, he has helped care for individuals with Huntington disease and with Dr. Kevin Biglan, has explored using technology to increase access to care for those affected by the disease.
Blair Leavitt, MD, CM, FRCP(C)
Co-Chair, HSG Executive Committee, HSG
Senior Scientist, Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics (CMMT)
Blair is the Co-Chair of the Huntington Study Group, a Senior Scientist at the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics, and a Professor in the Department of Medical Genetics at the University of British Columbia. Blair is a long-standing member of the HSG, the EHDN, and an established HD clinical trial investigator. As a consultant neurologist at the UBC Centre for HD in Vancouver, he has an ongoing clinical program in neurogenetics with a focus on hereditary movement disorders. As a neuroscientist and physician, his time (both clinical and basic research) is dedicated to developing new treatments for genetic brain disorders such as Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and frontotemporal dementia. Blair is currently the Director of the CMMT Transgenic Animal Facility, the Co-Director of the UBC Neurogenetics Clinic, Director of Research at the UBC Centre for Huntington’s disease and a founding Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Huntington’s Disease.
Kevin Biglan, MD, MPH
HSG Executive Committee Member
Kevin Biglan, MD, MPH, a long-time member of HSG, is a professor of Neurology and associate chair of Research in the Department of Neurology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. He also serves as Director of the National Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence and Director of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America Center of Excellence, both at the University of Rochester. In addition to his telemedicine work in clinical care for Parkinson’s and Huntington disease, Biglan’s research interests focus on identifying the clinical phenotypes in pre-manifest HD, identifying disease-modifying therapies in HD and PD and enhancing care deliver to patients with chronic neurological disorders.
HSG Executive Committee Member
Chair, The Griffin Foundation, Caregiver
Jack is the founder, president and board chair of the Naples, Florida-based Griffin Foundation. Jack provides generous support to many needed causes, including Huntington disease. Jack is a retired real estate developer and is the former Chair of the Board of Center City Public Charter Schools in Washington, DC. For eight years, Jack was the Chair of the Center City Consortium Board, which was responsible for 14 inner city parochial schools. The Griffin Foundation has provided generous financial support to Center City PCS and the Center City Consortium. Jack served on the Board of Directors of SOME (So Others Might Eat), which serves homeless and low-income individuals in DC. In 2007, Jack received the Humanitarian Award form SOME. Jack was Chair of Victory Housing Inc. for 12 years and a member of the Board of Archbishop Carroll High School. Jack is a graduate of Georgetown University. In 2012, the Griffin Foundation supported the opening of the new Huntington Disease Care, Education and Research Center at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC.
Senior Research Associate
Elise Kayson currently serves as the Head Study Coordinator for the Huntington Study Group (HSG) and is a member of the HSG Executive Committee. Her role in this position includes oversight of HSG studies and implementation of educational programs for the HSG site investigators and coordinators. The main emphasis of the HSG educational program has been on initiation and implementation of clinical trials efficiently and effectively.
Elise is on faculty of the Department of Neurology and the School of Nursing at the University of Rochester. She has her Masters in Nursing from the University of Rochester School of Nursing and is a licensed Nurse Practitioner with an active collaborative practice of Huntington and Parkinson disease patients.
Elise has more than 20 years’ experience in pharmaceutical based research both commercial and academic. Prior to working at the university she was employed by Fisons Corporation. Elise is also the Director of Project Coordination for the Clinical Trials Coordination Center (CTCC) at the University of Rochester with a primary interest in clinical trial design, informed consent process and data collection tools for HD and PD studies. Elise has served as the Senior Project Manager for numerous clinical studies most notably PHAROS and PREDICT-HD the first observational studies in individuals at-risk for HD. She has also participated on the steering committees for a number of Huntington disease trials.
Elise is looking forward to working with the HSG sites to enhance their knowledge of implementation of clinical trials in HD. She notes that, “offering courses to research site personnel will provide them with the opportunity to think through processes, plan early and be able to hit the ground running when clinical trials are available for patients and families.”
Medical Director, Struthers Parkinson’s Center, Clinical Professor of Neurology, University of Minnesota
Martha is a board certified neurologist and clinical geneticist with special interest in movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease Huntington’s disease, hereditary ataxias and spastic paraplegias, and other neurogenetic disorders. She has served as the medical director of the Struthers Parkinson’s Center since 2000.
In addition to the care of patients and families with neurologic diseases, she is also involved in clinical research to develop better treatments for Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease, and interested in education for both patients and medical professionals. Martha is a Clinical Professor of Neurology at the University of Minnesota.
Her other current regional and national professional activities include serving as the Medical Advisor to the Minnesota Chapter of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (1992-), Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Spastic Paraplegia Foundation (2003-), Member of the Advisory Board for the Indiana University HD Roster (2008-), Member of the Scientific Review Committee for the Parkinson Study Group (2009-), and Chair of the NIH NINDS NST-1 Study Section (2011-2013). She serves as a manuscript reviewer for a number of scientific journals, and an ad hoc reviewer for other NIH Study Sections.
Director, Global Health Office of the President, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Mike is the Director of the Global Health Office of the President at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Mike is responsible for coordinating and evaluating new investment opportunities in R&D technologies, and oversees Global Health leadership engagements and strategic operations. Prior to joining the foundation in 2014, Mike served as vice president and Head of Neuroscience Innovative Medicines at AstraZeneca, where he managed drug discovery and development projects in collaboration with a network of academic and industry partners. Prior to joining AstraZeneca, Mike was chief medical officer for Link Medicine, and previously served as chief medical officer for Hypnion as well. He has also held a number of international leadership roles at Pfizer and Wyeth. Mike earned his medical degree at the University of California, San Diego. He trained in internal medicine at Strong Memorial Hospital, University of Rochester and in neurology at the University of Michigan Medical School.
Founder, George Huntington Institut, Head, EHDN Huntington Center, University of Munster, Germany
Ralf is the founder of the George-Huntington-Institute and chair of the Huntington Unit at the Department of Neurology, University of Muenster, Germany. Ralf established one of the largest cohorts of symptomatic and premanifest HD gene carriers globally (currently ~500 participants in the REGISTRY observational study). Within the European Huntington’s Disease Network (EHDN), he served as elected member of the Executive Committee, Chair of the “Neuroprotective Therapy Working Group”, member of the “Clinical Trials Task Force”, and as Coordinating Global Principle Investigator of randomized multicenter multinational clinical trials. Ralf also serves as Chair of the “Motor Phenotype Working Group” of EHDN and established the EHDN UHDRS-TMS (Unified Huntington’s Disease Rating Scale – Total Motor Score) online certification for improved standardization of motor ratings, which is now required for all observational and clinical trials in HD. His main line of research focuses on the development of objective and quantitative motor (“Q-Motor”) outcome measures for clinical trials. Ralf trained at the University of Muenster (Germany) and at Columbia University (New York) and studied in Muenster, Paris, London, and New York.
Jenna Smith, RN
HSG Executive Committee Member
Jenna Smith, RN, BSN, a long-time member of HSG, holds a bachelor of science in Nursing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She was a member of the Alabama and National Student Nurses Associations and was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. Since 2010, Smith has been the nurse coordinator for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America’s Center of Excellence at UAB and research nurse for the Division of Movement Disorders. She handles all HD-related phone calls and clinical needs and is the research coordinator for Enroll-HD, First-HD, ARC-HD, Pfizer 1021 and 1022, and SIGNAL. She’s also very active in the HD community, with support group, Team HOPE walks, and plans an annual HD education day for patients, families, and healthcare professionals.
Board Member, HSG
Joni M. Steinman brings 35 years of health care management consulting experience to advancing the goals of the HSG. As the co-founder and managing principal of AUSMS Healthcare Consultants, Ms Steinman served the U.S. health care industry, advising policy makers, administrators and practitioners on strategic, facility, organizational and business planning and development matters, including performance improvement initiatives for hospitals, surgery providers and practitioners, hospice and home care agencies, medical groups and governmental agencies, regarding the development of many facets of acute, sub-acute, ambulatory, home and long-term care. In 2012, after completing several consulting engagements in Toronto, Canada, Ms. Steinman affiliated with Strategic Interests, LLC, a Rochester, NY-based firm dedicated to guiding health care organizations nationwide to grow through improved performance and the innovative use of information technology and business intelligence.
With educational achievements in both political and medical sociology (Brandeis University, cum laude) and social work administration (San Diego State University), Ms. Steinman has devoted her career, as AUSMS’ motto indicates, to guiding clients and colleagues alike ‘From Ideas to Results’ in health care and human services.
Ms. Steinman has always given back to her communities through voluntarism and philanthropy. Examples of her commitment including serving as President of, respectively, the Health Systems Agency of San Diego and Imperial Counties, the Jewish National Fund’s San Diego Region and San Diego Women in Health Administration. Today, in addition to her new commitment to HSG, she is a member of the Rochester Women’s Giving Circle, a community of philanthropic women who combine their financial strength to support area women and girls on their journey to economic self-sufficiency.
Director of the Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at the School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University
Julie is the Director of the Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at the School of Psychology and Psychiatry at Monash University. Julie focuses on Huntington disease (HD) and on additive behavior, aiming to develop and adapt cutting edge cognitive science tools for clinical settings. Julie teaches in the clinical neuropsychology doctoral program and undergraduate psychology and behavioral neuroscience topics. Julie is trained as a clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist. She is an expert in the field of sensitive cognitive assessment in clinical populations, seeks to explain why patients present differently. Currently collaborating and leading in three international and Monash-based studies of HD, Julie and her team at the Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory seek to detect and map how gradual changes in clinical markers appear and use this information to provide recommendations on clinical trial designs. Julie’s work on HD (and also on Parkinson’s disease) has evolved into research with drug abusers, gamblers, and incarcerated offenders. The main aim of the HD work is sensitive measurement of cognition and early detection of disease signs as well as cognitive measurement for clinical trials. The main aim of the work in addiction is to understand why people make impulsive, and often very risky, decisions. Ultimately, she believes that by identifying the underlying neurological and cognitive processes, it will become possible to target treatments more squarely at the underlying causes of these behavior disorders. Julie received her Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy (both in Psychology) at Duke University.
Shari has been the Executive Director to the Huntington Study Group since 2009. She is a graduate of Brandeis University and she earned a law degree from SUNY Buffalo. Shari manages the overall operations of HSG and oversees governance, grants, contracts, and key objectives and strategies of HSG. Since joining HSG, Shari has served on HD clinical trial steering committees, HD trial project teams and has dedicated a lot of her time working with HD care and community groups.
Shari is an attorney who started her career at the US Department of Labor and the US Department of Justice in Washington, DC. She then joined Chase Manhattan’s Bank’s legal team and also spent time on the legal staff at Celltech Pharmaceuticals. Shari also had her own practice representing organizations in business matters involving regulatory compliance, contracts, and corporate policies and procedures.