Communications Committee
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Co-Chair: Elizabeth "Eli" Pollard (USA)
Co-Chair: Andrea Cohen (USA)

Melissa Barry (USA)
Fulvio Capitanio (Spain)
Frank Church, PhD (USA)
Maria de Leon, MD (USA)
Marian Emr (USA)
Christiana Evers (USA)
Marina Joseph (Canada)
Brandi LaBonte (Canada)
Erika Liecht (USA)
Claudia Martinez (USA)
Amy Montemarano, JD (USA)
Deirdre O’Sullivan (New Zealand) 
Leilani Pearl (USA) 
Ezinda Franklin-Houtzager (UK)
Christiana Thurton (USA)
Cathy Whitlock (USA)
Alicia Wrobel (Canada)


Elizabeth "Eli" Pollard (USA): has been with the World Parkinson Coalition® from its inception in 2004 and helped steer the organization, alongside world renowned Parkinsonologist and WPC founder, Dr. Stanley Fahn. Together they worked to grow WPC Inc. from its sole purpose, of hosting a triennial global Congress on Parkinson's disease, to its more meaningful place in the community today, as a hub for many of the global PD organizations to connect and intersect online, on teleconferences, or in person at the Congresses. Eli is thrilled with the opportunity to meet the members of the community, to help build the WPC Legacy, and to watch as leading researchers, clinicians, people with Parkinson's and others work together to bring us closer to finding the cause(s) of Parkinson's and a cure for the disease.


Eli graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor's degree, and the School for International Training with a Master's degree in International & Intercultural Management. She spent most of her 20s living outside the US in Zimbabwe, Switzerland, and Japan with lengthy stays for research or travel in India, China, and Thailand. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and two rambunctious children who keep her on her toes when she's not knee deep in WPC work.


Andrea Cohen (USA): has more than 25 years in medical and health media and public relations, which includes experience ranging from non-profits and public companies; start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations.  Having honed marketing and public relations skills at such reputable agencies as Hill & Knowlton and Robert Marston & Associates, as well as boutique healthcare agencies, Andrea now provides clients with senior-level strategic counsel, supervision and implementation of media relations programs.


Results oriented, Andrea delivers targeted placements in national outlets for consumer, health, business and trade, as well as in local market media -- spanning coverage for breakthrough, innovative research to established treatments and products.  These results ultimately reach key audiences/stakeholders – patients, caregivers, physicians and investors/donors -- and always with an eye to maximize ROI.

At the beginning of her public relations career, Andrea was also a freelance writer having bylined health stories published in Woman’s Day, Woman’s World and Environmental Nutrition, among others.  She also earned a Master of Science degree in Nutrition Communications at Boston University and completed BioTech Primer’s BioBasics Course. 

More than anything, though, Andrea is passionate about her work -- relaying scientific, health information which ultimately empowers individuals and re-shapes lives.


Melissa Barry (USA): Director of Communications, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation



Fulvio Capitanio (Spain): Run4PD Foundation & WPC 2016 Ambassador; Fulvio is an economist and ITC manager. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2007 and retired from his job in 2009. In January of 2008, with a group of PD friends he met over the Internet, he started an online organization called "Unidos contra el Parkinson” (together against Parkinson's disease) at


In October 2009 Fulvio coordinated the group's Second International Meeting in Spain dedicated to promote the importance of complementary therapies in PD treatment.  In March 2010 Unidos contra el Parkinson edited a comic "Through the eyes of a child” to help parents to explain PD to their children, which was translated into 8 languages.

In April 2010 Fulvio started the project "Run for Parkinson’s”, a worldwide event involving more than 100 cities from 12 different countries to run and walk miles to raise awareness on PD Fulvio is now dedicated to help young onset people with PD. 


Frank Church, PhD (USA)is a Professor in the Departments of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Pharmacology, and Medicine in the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He received his BS (1975) and MS (1978) degrees from Louisiana State University; he received a PhD (1982) from North Carolina State University; and after a postdoctoral fellowship at UNC-CH, has been on the faculty at the UNC School of Medicine since 1986.  His research is centered on serine proteases and serine protease inhibitors; the pathological process he studies is venous thrombosis (blood coagulation and fibrinolysis). Separately, he is also studying Science/Medical Education focused on Active Learning strategies (using conversation, cooperation, collaboration, and collegiality) to help students successfully navigate through school. His teaching activities at the University include senior undergraduates (Biology/ Pathology 426/426H “Biology of Blood Diseases”, where he is Course Director and sole lecturer) and medical students [co-Block Director of Immunology (MTEC101.IMM) and co-Block Director of Hematology (MTEC101.HEM)]. His life with Parkinson’s is presented in the blog “Journey with Parkinson’s” (


Maria de Leon, MD (USA)Founder & CEO of defeatparkinsons organization, Parkinson's Disease Foundation PPAC member & research advocate; & Texas State Assistant Director for PAN.



Marian Emr (USA): is the Director of the Office of Communications and Public Liaison at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. As the NINDS' senior manager for public communications, she plans and directs the Institute's program of media relations, community relations, public education, and scientific information. Before joining the NINDS in 1990, Ms. Emr served as the Deputy Information Officer for the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health. Prior to that, she was a medical and science writer specializing in the areas of mental health and aging. Ms. Emr received her Bachelor of Arts degree summa cum laude in journalism and political science from Syracuse University. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Brain Attack Coalition, the NIH MEDLINEplus Advisory Group, the Neurology Now Editorial Advisory Board, and she is a founder of the Alzheimer's Association, a national voluntary health organization with more than 200 chapters worldwide. She was on the Steering Committee for the inaugural World Parkinson Congress in 2006 and chaired the Communications Committee for that event. She has received numerous awards for public service and is active in community affairs.



Christiana Evers (USA)VP of Communications at Parkinson’s Disease Foundation



Marina Joseph (Canada)Communications Director at Parkinson Canada



Brandi LaBonte (Canada)Communications Manager at Parkinson’s Alberta

Erika Liechti (USA): Director of Marketing for the Davis Phinney Foundation



Claudia Martinez (USA): Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center; Claudia Martinez graduated as a primary care physician in her native Colombia, where she practiced in the underserved communities.  After she moved to Arizona, she completed a graduate certificate in gerontology at Arizona State University. In 2007, with the support of an NPF grant, she started the Hispanic Outreach Program at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center.  Since then she has developed a comprehensive and culturally sensitive program for Hispanic families living with PD that is currently recognized as the largest in the country.

In the last 3 years Claudia has expanded the MAPC Hispanic Outreach overseas.  She is developing a strong international network by delivering ongoing PD specific educational webinars. The most recent webinar was done in partnership with the NPF and reached over 670 participants representing 20 different countries. In December 2015 Claudia was invited to join the World Parkinson Congress Communications Committee to represent the interests of the Spanish speaking PD community worldwide.

In addition to her work with the Hispanic community, she also coordinates the MAPC expressive art workshops for people with PD and their caregivers.  Claudia is currently launching a new awareness tool using the power of music.  A recognized artist, Claudia is passionate about combining her creative personality with her impactful works in the PD community.


Amy Montemarano, JD (USA)is a law professor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was recently diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson's disease. She is researching career and employment counseling and disability rights for people who are diagnosed with a chronic illness or serious injury. 


Deirdre O’Sullivan (New Zealand)Chief Executive at Parkinson New Zealand



Leilani Pearl (USA)Vice President, Marketing & Communications at National Parkinson Foundation. For the past seven years, Leilani Pearl has guided the communications strategy of the National Parkinson Foundation and executed marketing campaigns to increase awareness of Parkinson's disease. Ms. Pearl is passionate about global health issues and health care advocacy. Ms. Pearl began her career in non-profit healthcare communications for Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, where she partnered with local media to promote women’s health initiatives. Prior to that, she spent nearly a decade in education, teaching literature and writing at Boston College and the University of Puerto Rico. She also worked closely with high school students as an English teacher and administrator in Boston, Massachusetts.


Ms. Pearl holds an MA in English from Boston College and a BA in English from the University of Vermont. She serves as a volunteer mentor for the Women of Tomorrow Mentor & Scholarship Program, a non-profit organization in Miami that works with at-risk young women in high school.


Ezinda Franklin-Houtzager (UK): Social Media and Online Community Manager, Parkinson's UK



Christiana Thurton (USA): WPC Outreach Coordinator; Christiana started at the World Parkinson Coalition® in 2012 as an intern and had the pleasure of attending the 3rd World Parkinson Congress in Montreal in 2013. In 2014, she was hired as the Outreach Coordinator. Christiana strongly believes that bringing the entire Parkinson's community together will help expedite a cure for this devastating disease and sees the meaningful impact her work has on the community. 

Christiana holds a bachelors degree in Biology, a certificate in Psychology and is currently enrolled in graduate school to obtain her Masters in Public Health. Her prior work and volunteer experience ranges from human resources assistant at Ogilvy & Mather to a pathology internship at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. 


Cathy Whitlock (USA): Director of Online Communications National Parkinson Foundation

Cathy joined the National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) in 2010. As Director of Online Communications, she directs and executes the digital communications strategy to further the mission of the foundation and increase awareness of Parkinson’s disease. Prior to working at NPF, she worked as Senior Editor, Latin American Markets at PR Newswire Association, LLC, focusing on financial, medical and nonprofit news of the region. She also served as a design software teacher at the University of Miami Digital Media Lab. Cathy is currently working on her Master of Science in Strategic Communication from Purdue University.


Alicia Wrobel (Canada)is the Communications Manager at British Columbia Parkinson’s Association. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, Honours and brings her experience of working with over twenty non-profit associations as the lead on marketing and communications initiatives. She also has considerable experience in providing technology support to non-profits including full cycle web development and database implementation and design.


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