Sandy personally experienced a common story of autoimmune disease misdiagnosis – where patients are shamed, their symptoms are dismissed, and their problems are written off as psychological. It took over seven years for her daughter to be diagnosed with celiac disease, followed by eleven years of excruciating pain and chronic fatigue until doctors diagnosed her with thyroid disease and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, an autoimmune condition of the circulatory system. The challenges she faced with her daughter’s illness serve as a driver for her actions, to help ensure that no more families have to endure such an improper and emotionally taxing autoimmune misdiagnosis.
Sandy is a 1977 graduate of Duke University, with a B.A. in Political Science. She earned a J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary in 1981. She served as the Assistant Minority Counsel of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Narcotics 1982-83, following which she maintained a private law practice until 1995, primarily in Old Town, Alexandria. From 2003 -2013 she served as Vice President of Northern Virginia Pathology, in charge of billing, financial, and legal matters. In 2013 she accepted her current position with the Global Autoimmune Institute.
She currently lives in Great Falls, Virginia with her husband, Dr. Bruce Werness, and two of their three children. Sandy has been involved in many attorney, school-related, and community organizations over the years. She enjoys nature, her book clubs, reading about science and health, traveling and hiking, and spending time with extended family and friends.
Freda is a double graduate of the University of North Carolina, earning her Bachelor of Science in Biology and Chemistry, followed by her degree in medicine from the University of North Carolina Medical School, which she received in 1987 along with completing extensive coursework towards a Masters in Public Health. She completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at George Washington University in 1991.
Freda is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and has practiced Obstetrics and Gynecology in Northern Virginia for 28 years. She has held Associate Clinical Professorships at George Washington University and the Medical College of Virginia. She is an attending physician at INOVA Fairfax Hospital and HCA Reston Hospital. Freda is a member of the American Medical Society and the Northern Virginia Medical Society. She has a passionate interest in obstetrics and gynecology, partnering with her patients to ensure that they are well-educated in all aspects of their healthcare. She is devoted to furthering the progressive evolution of the practice of medicine.
Freda and her husband Bill Garcia (also an Obstetrician and Gynecologist) have four young adult children and live in McLean, Virginia. She enjoys reading, gardening, yoga, skiing, boating, and spending time with her friends and family. She looks forward to a time when she can take up additional graduate studies.
Susan has worked for many years as a health care advocate for two family members afflicted with autoimmune diseases.
Susan is a 1985 graduate of Boston University, with a B.A. in International Relations. In 1995 she earned an M.P.H from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. She worked as a health policy researcher and project manager with a number of health care non-profits. In 2010 she began working on a special real estate project for a Washington DC based real estate company, as well as secured her real estate license. She has been very involved in her community. She was the Committee Chair of her sons’ local Boy Scout Troop, and Secretary and Board member of her sons’ high school rowing club.
She currently lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two college-aged children. She enjoys yoga, hiking, skiing, listening to CSPAN and all things policy, learning about nature, science, and health topics, as well as sharing wellness “lessons” learned with everyone she meets.
Margaux has been investigating the relationship between diet and disease since 2013, when a minor infection triggered a cascade of chronic GI and inflammatory issues. A challenging few years knee-deep in medical tests, pharmaceuticals, and confused physicians led her to self-educate and explore the power of food as medicine.
The combination of living with a largely invisible illness and working with the Global Autoimmune Institute has inspired Margaux to create a movement of empowerment.
Through her many roles at GAI – website administrator, content writer, community outreach coordinator – she’s focused on encouraging fellow chronic illness warriors to advocate for themselves, educating the public about disease prevention, and illuminating the connection between our environment, our food system, and our health.
One day, she hopes to see a synergistic relationship between mainstream and holistic medicine, so that every single person receives preventive, personalized, and compassionate care.
Margaux is a freelance health content marketer and writer with a B.A. from Ursinus College. She has an array of academic, professional, and volunteer experience in sustainable food systems, creative writing, website management, meditation, palliative care, teaching, and intercultural communication. She currently lives in San Diego, California.
Jessie is a roaming content writer and digital media specialist. She is the creative force behind GAI’s social media pages and various other projects.
After completing a B.A. in Applied Anthropology at the University of South Florida, Jessie became a disaster case manager with Americorps. This experience nourished her passion for community care and allowed her to explore the ways that creativity can become a tool for advocacy. Her writing has been featured in a variety of places, including the Women’s Museum of California.
Jessie’s collaboration with GAI is inspired by a shared vision of building a vibrant community, promoting education, raising awareness, and addressing the social conditions that shape the experiences of folks with chronic illnesses and disabilities.
Before joining the GAI team, Lukshmi worked on a newly initiated program at St. Joseph’s/Candler hospitals to provide palliative care resources for patients living with certain progressive illnesses.
Lukshmi is passionate about clinical and public health ethics, and earned her M.A. in Bioethics from King’s College London. She completed her undergraduate studies at Georgetown University. For her senior thesis, she studied the connection between advances in agricultural biotechnology and the increased prevalence of chronic illness and cancer on a global level.
Lukshmi is an experienced patient advocate and is excited to use her background and skill-set to help develop initiatives that drive the mission of the Global Autoimmune Institute forward.
While earning both her B.S. in Psychology and M.S. in Neuroscience, Carolyn worked in the Background Investigations Unit of the Sheriff’s Office. Though seemingly unrelated to her degree, her experience ultimately inspired her thesis project which studied the assessment of deception utilizing pupillometry.
Her subsequent work experience, which included peer reviewing research articles for an academic journal, reminded Carolyn of her passion for the field of research. It sparked her desire to continue trying to find answers for biggest enigma out there – what is going on in our own bodies. Her inquisitive nature and strong drive to always learn more and find ways to better the lives of others makes her a great fit for the work being done at GAI.
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