Patient Leaders Driving Change
The Patient Leadership Council helps inform the work of the Arthritis Foundation by providing input on programs and resources. Members advocate for arthritis patients by participating in media interviews, testifying before Congress, and speaking to decision-makers in business, industry and government.
Meet the Members
Karen Anderson, California
Karen is a founding member of the PLC. Karen began volunteering with the foundation after her daughter, Kristen, was diagnosed with systemic scleroderma at the age of fifteen. Since then, she has been a loyal, passionate advocate for the many people living with arthritis. As an arthritis advocate, she has served not only on the PLC, but as a Platinum Ambassador, Advisory Board Chair, and even local walk chair over the years. She lives with her husband in Santa Barbara, CA.
Phyllis Bass, Texas
Phyllis Bass began her tenure on the PLC in January 2022. She was diagnosed with JA as a young child and has experience navigating the world of public insurance, the VA system, and disability approval process. Phyllis is a passionate advocate for the Arthritis Foundation, and in addition, has served on the virtual NIH All of Us’ Patient Advisory Board, and the patient and family advisory group for Yale Community Health. Phyllis lives in Cypress, Texas, in the Houston metro area.
Sarah Cloud, Missouri
Sarah has lived with OA since the age of 19, after several injuries to her knees and hips led to her discharge from the Army. In 2019, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and EDS. Her adult son Chris lives with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, subtype of Enthesitis-related arthritis. Sarah’s husband Mike lives with ankylosing spondylitis. Every member of the Cloud family has a form of arthritis, even the dogs. These days, you will find Sarah and her family happily settled in the Ozarks, Missouri, near family. Sarah has an Associates in Business Management, Healthcare Finance, and Patient Navigation and is currently completing her bachelor’s degree while working full-time in healthcare administration.
Stacy Courtnay, Georgia
Stacy was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 25. After a long journey with the disease, she finally found her “miracle drug” and has been thriving since. Stacy is an active volunteer within the Arthritis Foundation, both on the statewide and national level. She is the current Board Chair for Georgia. She became involved with the Arthritis Foundation to support and give hope to others, to elevate the patient voice, and to help with science and research to find a cure. Stacy lives in Atlanta with her husband Taylor and their son, John.
Laura Genoves, Washington
Laura was born and raised in Honolulu, HI, but currently resides and works in beautiful Washington state. She has lived with RA since age 27 and was recently diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, Raynaud's and OA. Laura has been an active volunteer with the AF for many years in many capacities. Her motto is “you can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control what you choose to do with it.” In addition to her career as a licensed family law legal professional, you can find Laura gardening, cooking with veggies from her garden, traveling, and following her hapless Seattle Mariners. She is the mom to two amazing young adult sons and two goofy golden retriever rescue dogs.
Julianne Goodfellow, Massachusetts
Julianne is an active volunteer and has served nationally in leadership roles for both the PLC and recently completed a term on the NAC. She has personal experience with juvenile arthritis. Julianne is currently based out of Boston, MA. Professionally, Julianne is the Vice President, Government Affairs at the National Multifamily Housing Council, a commercial real estate trade association, and her work focuses on federal policy, and diversity, equity, and inclusion for the multifamily industry.
Tonya Horton, New Jersey
Dr. Tonya Horton is a career educator and currently serves as a nonprofit executive. In her personal and professional life, she is focused on ending systemic inequities. After being diagnosed with osteoarthritis in 2017 and experiencing her own medical inequities following a surgery in 2018, she began to study health disparities experienced by black women. Dr. Horton has a MPA from Rutgers University, an MEd and EdD from University of North Texas and a BA and MA from North Carolina Central University. She is a native North Carolinian who lives in Cherry Hill, NJ.
Raquel Masco, Texas
Raquel is the Executive Director/co-founder of SingleMoms Created4Change Advocacy & Empowerment Center, a faith-based nonprofit for single moms and married moms who parent solo. She is an activist for women’s issues and the single mother of an adult son. Raquel was diagnosed with osteoarthritis after years of pain following a car accident where she was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler. In 2017, her arthritis was diagnosed as inflammatory & autoimmune in nature.
Patricia Nealy, Georgia
Patricia is a single mom of two, originally from Providence, RI. She moved to Georgia over 25 years ago to attend Clark Atlanta University and never left. Patricia has her MSW from University of Southern California and a Masters in Conflict Resolution from Abilene Christian University. She has worked for the state of Georgia in social services for over two decades. Patricia’s son Khalil was diagnosed with Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis at the age of 5. She is an active advocate and volunteer on both the local and national level.
Shannan O’Hara-Levi, New York
Shannan was diagnosed with JIA at the age of three years old. She has battled JIA, RA, and other related chronic illnesses for her entire. Shannan has a master’s in social work and is an active and passionate volunteer for the Foundation. Shannan is also a certified yoga instructor and a graduate of the “Yoga for Arthritis” teacher training program. Shannan lives with her husband and newborn daughter in New York.
Rick Phillips, Indiana
Rick was diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes in 1974 and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in 2000. He writes extensively for several arthritis and diabetes-related publications and social media platforms. Rick has been married for over 40 years to his wife, Sheryl, and they have two sons and six grandchildren. He served in local government and school administration for over 30 years until his RA forced an early retirement. Rick has a Doctor of Education from Nova Southeastern University.
Travis Salmon, Kansas
Travis lives with his wife and two children in Shawnee, Kansas. He was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in his mid-twenties, with end-stage OA in his left ankle. Over the course of his twenty years living with OA, he has tried numerous surgeries and treatments, including an ankle fusion that has been effective. Travis is a long-time volunteer with his local market, even having been awarded the Outstanding New Volunteer award in 2005. Previously, he served on his local leadership board. He has served on the PLC since 2019. Travis is a practicing attorney and recently launched his own practice, Salmon Legal Solutions
Cristina Schaefer, Texas
Cristina has been living with rheumatoid arthritis for seventeen years. She is an active volunteer for the foundation, on both the local and national level. In addition to her work on the PLC, she serves as the National Chair for 2022’s Walk to Cure Arthritis and is the Vice Chair of her local leadership board. Cristina works full-time as a Social Media Director and as an on-camera personality for the Houston Association of Realtors. She hosts an award-winning weekly Facebook Live Show called “Member Focus Monday,” and co-hosts the HAR On The Move podcast. Cristina also teaches classes and gives keynote presentations on technology and social media marketing to REALTORS® all over the state of Texas. Cristina lives in Houston with her "rocks", her husband William, and daughter Cadence.
Suzy Szasz Palmer, Virginia
Suzy is an active and engaged volunteer with the Arthritis Foundation on both the local and national level. A retired academic librarian since 2016, Suzy serves in a variety of volunteer roles that capitalize on her strengths--like attention to detail, literature review, and more. Suzy manages life with multiple rheumatic diseases, including Lupus, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and degenerative disc disease. She joined the PLC in January 2022 but is no stranger to patient engagement, serving on several Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Health committees and on the Virginia Board of Physical Therapy. She’s also recently served as a patient reviewer for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) and for PCORI. Suzy lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband, Larry.
Anjie Vago, Pennsylvania
Anjie joined the PLC in January 2022. Anjie and her two daughters have been diagnosed with a variety of autoimmune disorders, including osteoarthritis, juvenile arthritis persistent to adulthood, fibromyalgia, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, spondylarthritis, and more. A teacher and proofreader by trade, Anjie puts her skills to use in various volunteer roles such as past work with the Parent Working Group of PR-COIN, and she is currently the family co-chair of the Patient & Family Centered Care Advisory Council at Penn State Health. She is also engaged locally, including speaking at federal committee meetings, JA conference planning, and other local AF events