Our Team

Sandra Boek Werness, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Sandra Boek Werness

Executive Director

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, chronic fatigue, and many other symptoms, until doctors diagnosed her with thyroid disease and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, an autoimmune condition of the circulatory system. The challenges Sandy faced with her daughter’s illness serve as a driver for her actions, to help ensure that no more families must 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 to 2013 she served as Vice President of Northern Virginia Pathology, in charge of financial and legal matters. In 2013 she accepted her current position with the Global Autoimmune Institute.

Sandy lives in Great Falls, Virginia with her husband, Dr. Bruce Werness, and two of their three children. Sandy has been involved in many attorney and other community organizations including those devoted to science and health over the years. She enjoys nature, her book clubs, reading about science and health, traveling and hiking, and spending time with family and friends.

Alfreda Jones, M.D., OBGYN, TREASURER, BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Alfreda Jones, M.D., OBGYN

Treasurer, Board of Directors

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.

Dorothy Weinstein

Member, Board of Directors

Dorothy has a long tenure working in health policy in Washington, D.C. She has been employed at Georgetown University: Institute of Health Policy Analysis, Association of American Medical Colleges, American Diabetes Association, The Endocrine Society, American College of Cardiology, and The National Health Council. Her expertise includes conducting large-scale research initiatives, developing advocacy programs, crafting legislation, lobbying on the local, state, and national levels, and directing government relations departments at leading nonprofit health organizations.

Dorothy has a B.A. degree magna cum laude from the honors program in philosophy at the University of Maryland and a M.A. from Duke University from the Sanford School of Public Policy. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a published author including in health care delivery, biomedical research, technology, innovation, and environment.

Dorothy currently teaches health policy and writing in the health sciences at George Washington University School of Medicine and writing at Montgomery College. She is also involved in volunteer and philanthropic work in the Washington, D.C. area including Children’s National Health System and the Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington.   She lives in Bethesda, Maryland with her husband and has two children:   Kara 25 and Mark 21.

Young woman in red shirt smiling

Jessica Lamb

Director of Digital Media

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.

Photo of young female

Lukshmi Solos

Program Development Strategist

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.

Carolyn Serraino

Director of Research

While earning both her B.S. in Psychology and M.S. in Neuroscience, Carolyn worked in the Sheriff’s Office’s Background Investigations Unit. 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 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 the biggest enigma out there – what is going on in our own bodies. Her inquisitive nature and a strong drive to always learn more and find ways to better others’ lives make her a great fit for the work being done at GAI.

Global Autoimmune Institute Mini Logo

Join Our Community!Stay Informed. Stay Hopeful.

Sign up for periodic emails with resources, insights, and updates on autoimmune disease and living with chronic illness.

By adding your phone number, you agree to receive text message updates. Msg & data rates may apply.