Dr. Linda Rozell-Shannon and her daughter, Christine, reside in upstate New York. Linda founded VBF after her daughter was born with a hemangioma on her lower lip and she was unable to find information on treatment options. Dr. Waner surgically removed Christine’s hemangioma in 1995. Linda and Dr. Waner wrote the only book for parents on the subject of birthmarks called “Birthmarks: A Guide to Hemangiomas and Vascular Malformations.” Linda is also a chapter author in the Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America textbook on “Vascular Birthmarks of the Head and Neck” (published in 2001), which was guest edited by Dr. Marcelo Hochman. Dr. Linda completed her PhD in 2008 at Walden University. Her dissertation topic: Assessing the Impact of Hemangiomas on Maternal Stress, was written to support insurance appeals for families denied coverage.
In 1997, VBF Chair Sherry Parrish’s daughter, Paige, developed a facial hemangioma between her nostril and upper lip at five weeks of age, during a time when the internet was still in its infancy. Feverishly seeking answers, Sherry found valuable information on the VBF website and Dr. Linda soon helped to network Paige into treatment with Dr. Waner, who performed her extraction surgery at one year of age. Because of early intervention, Paige has minimal scarring on her face, and is now in college doing well. Having been helped by VBF in the past, Sherry now donates her time as Chair of the VBF Board. She is a pharmacist, but took a break from working when her children were born. Sherry’s hobbies include playing the piano and tennis. She and her husband, Martin, are now empty nesters and make their home in the Texas Hill Country.
Brian Bolinger has been a member of the Board of Directors for the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation since 2006. Brian is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Texas State Historical Association. Founded in 1897, the Texas State Historical Association is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated protecting, promoting and teaching the history of Texas. Brian’s wife, Natalie, is also a VBF board member.
Tiffany Ethington lives in Kentucky and has worked behind the scenes for years, helping with projects and supporting efforts concerning Sturge-Weber syndrome (SWS). Her son, Glen, was born with the rare disease. Tiffany, along with others affected by SWS, helped to found the Sturge-Weber Syndrome Community (SWSC). Tiffany and Glen have been advocates for SWS and vascular birthmarks, and have spearheaded fundraising campaigns and awareness projects. Tiffany also serves as the Patient Advocate and Welcome Volunteer for the SWSC.
Jody Lee and her husband, John, live with their daughter, Meghana in Lake Orion, Michigan. Meghana was born in 2015 with a port wine stain on the right side of her face. Prior to starting treatment, the Lee family connected with the VBF and received invaluable support and advice. Meghana is being treated at the University of Michigan by Dr. Jeff Orringer and has had 9 laser treatments to date. The Lee family organized the 1st Purple Polka Dot Race in August 2015, and has make it an annual event to raise awareness for vascular birthmarks and fundraise for the VBF. Jody is a physical therapist and works with people who have spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.
Corinne Barinaga has a BA in Communications and Advertising. She lives in the Seattle, Washington area with her husband and their four boys. Their son, Nicholas, had a large segmental hemangioma. Corinne’s quest to learn about her son’s condition resulted in her becoming the manager of the MSN Vascular Birthmarks Support Group. She is a staunch advocate for parents. Her mission is to educate the public and physicians about the latest information concerning the diagnosis and management of vascular birthmarks. She is available to answer your questions and direct you to the appropriate physician and family resources. Corinne generously donates her time to working with families on an individual basis to address their specific needs.
Natalie Bolinger became involved with the foundation after the Bolinger’s daughter Nicole “Coco” was born with a compound cheek hemangioma in 2003. Through the foundation, the Bolingers were networked to a physician who, through a series of six surgeries, completely removed both of Nicole’s hemangiomas. Brian and Natalie started the Angel’s Kiss Gala in 2003 to raise awareness and funds for the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation.
Glenda Ethington is cofounder of the Sturge-Weber Syndrome Community, a worldwide organization for individuals and families living with Sturge-Weber syndrome (SWS.) Her grandson, Glen, has SWS and she was inspired by his courage to form an Internet support group for SWS, which eventually led to the SWSC chapter membership into the VBF. She has a background in print journalism, and currently resides in Kentucky.
Lauri Firstenberg is a producer and curator based in Los Angeles. She runs the gallery there-there in Hollywood. Lauri has worked with nonprofits and foundations for 25 years, presently working on AG ARTIST GUILD for art and advocacy. She is a parent of Edie Yvonne, who was born with KTS. Lauri returned to the VBF Board in 2017.
Dr. Maria Gnarra is an Adjunct Associate Research Scientist at Columbia University in New York and Senior Dermatology Advisory Consultant at BioChemics Inc., a biotech company based in Boston that specializes in new drug delivery platforms. Dr. Gnarra joined VBF as a member of the Board in 2017, and now leads the VBF Research effort.
Jeff Bergen is a former Navy Corpsman who completed 8 years of active service and was honorably discharged. After the Navy, he went to nursing school and later went on to attain a Master’s Degree in Nursing. As a Registered Nurse, he has worked in infectious disease and oncology nursing, and was a hospital epidemiology nurse. He is certified in infection control and health care quality, and is currently the manager of the Office of Licensure, Accreditation & Regulation at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA. He is also pursuing his PhD in Nursing through The Catholic University of America. Jeff is an established patient at the Beckman Laser Institute where receives treatment for his port wine stain.
Dr. Dinah Gonzalez is a board certified ObGyn physician. Dinah is also certified in Integrative Medicine. She has combined these disciplines and has a private practice. Dinah lives and works in Pennsylvania with her husband and fellow Board member Dr. Marvin Kalafer.
Andria Gottasbend became involved with VBF as a parent representative after her daughter Olivia was born in 2008 with a facial Port Wine Stain and glaucoma. Olivia has undergone two surgeries to the left eye and has completed approximately 30 laser treatments with Dr. Bernstein at the Laser Skin & Surgery Center of New York. Andria started Olivia’s Walk for Birthmarks in 2012, and just recently hosted her first Bingo for Birthmarks event. Andria lives with her family in the Philadelphia area.
Sharon Israel has a BS in human development from Cornell University, an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University, and over 20 years of work experience in education. Her daughter’s Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome went misdiagnosed until age 4, when her dermatologist referred her to Dr. Rosen who was able to get Olivia on the right path for treatment and pain relief. VBF is thankful for Sharon’s help and support of other parents and families as they navigate the medical, insurance, social and educational world of vascular birthmarks.
Dr. Marvin Kalafer is a board certified ObGyn physician. Marvin has devoted his career to performing clinical trials in women’s health, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, hypertension, and sexual dysfunction. Marvin resides in Pennsylvania with his wife and fellow Board member Dr. Dinah Gonzalez.
Carla Mannix serves as the Insurance Specialist for the VBF network and supports the VBF International Day of Awareness campaign. She advises families on strategies for winning appeals for insurance coverage and prior authorization. Carla has shared her varied experiences as a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, ESL educator, non-profit affiliate developer, and surgical coordinator with VBF since 2014. Her passions are serving the needy and volunteering with social justice and peace groups. She lives in Reading, PA with her husband and three children. Her daughter bravely manages multiple venous malformations in her legs.
Sarah Kenis was born with a complex lymphatic and vascular malformation on her right axillary. She has undergone numerous operations and procedures to manage my malformation. She attended Lewis University on an athletic scholarship for swimming, and graduated with her BSN in 2014, and accomplished All-American status in her swimming career. She has been a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse since graduating, and has worked at Children’s National Medical Center, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, and as a travel RN in South Florida. She is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Program at Rush University, with a specialty in Pediatric Primary Care. Her goal for the DNP program and her work with VBF, is to help establish a set of guidelines for infantile lymphatic and vascular anomalies in order to provide early and accurate treatment.
Dr. Martin Mihm has more than 50 years of experience specializing in dermatopathology. He is founder of the Vascular Anomalies Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, and director of the Mihm Cutaneous Pathology Consultative Service through the esteemed Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Known for his knowledge concerning problematic pigmented lesions, lymphoma and dermatological inflammatory diseases, he is an integral figure for the medical centers continued success. In addition to his work in this position, Dr. Mihm shares his expertise with students as a professor of dermatopathology and dermatology at the Harvard University School of Medicine. Dr. Mihm received an AB from Duquesne University in 1955. He continued at the University of Pittsburgh to earn an MD in 1961. In 1990, he was honored with an MA from Harvard University.
Dr. J. Stuart Nelson is Medical Director of the Beckman Laser Institute and Medical Clinic, and Professor of Surgery and Biomedical Engineering at the University of California Irvine Medical Center. He is also the Director of the Vascular Birthmarks and Malformations Diagnostic and Treatment Center. Dr. Nelson’s university-based clinical practice and research combines his expertise in engineering, optics, medicine, and surgery. He has published more than 340 scientific articles and 15 book chapters
Milton Waner, MD, BCh, FCS(SA), is a pediatric facial plastic surgeon and is a director of the Vascular Birthmark Institute at the Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. Dr. Waner earned his M.D., B.Ch. degree at the University of Witwatersrand Medical School in Johannesburg, South Africa. After graduating, he completed his internship and general surgical training at the University of the Witwatersrand affiliated hospitals and his residency was conducted in the Division of Otolaryngology/Department of Surgery at the University of Witwatersrand. He also completed a research fellowship in head and neck cancer at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center .He then took up a faculty position in the Department of Surgery at the University of Sydney in Australia. In 1988, he left Australia to take up a faculty position in the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. In 2001, he was promoted to the rank of Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science in Little Rock. He also held the Benjamin and Milton Waner Endowed Chair in Pediatric Facial Plastic Surgery at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Roy G. Geronemus, M.D., is the Director of the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York. He is a Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the New York University Medical Center where he has founded its laser program and served nine years as its Chief of Dermatologic and Laser Surgery. He is also the Director of the Skin/Laser Division in the Department of Plastic Surgery at the New York Eye & Ear Infirmary. He has been involved with the development of several new laser systems and therapeutic techniques, which are now commonly used throughout the world. He has been listed in New York Magazine’s Best Doctors in New York 12 times, three times in Woodward and White’s Best Doctors in America and in Town & Country’s Best Cosmetic Surgeons. Dr. Geronemus is also the Chairman of the Board of the New York Stem Cell Foundation.
Kristin Herrick joined VBF as an Executive Assistant to the President / Founder in 2017. Kristin holds a Bachelor’s of English from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and a Juris Doctor from the William S. Richardson School of Law. Kristin’s previous legal and board experience, as well as her interest in VBF’s non-profit mission make her a great addition to the VBF team. Her son, Kai, was born with an angel kiss between his eyes, making her work with VBF even more meaningful. She resides with her husband, three kids and four cats in the upstate New York countryside.
Lauren Palmateer has been with VBF since the very beginning, joining as Office Manager in 2000. She received a Master’s degrees in Archaeology and Education from the University at Albany and Union College respectively, and has many years of experience working in the education field. Since joining VBF, she has been inspired by those affected by vascular birthmarks and is committed to VBF’s dedication to those affected by vascular birthmarks and their families. Lauren lives in the Albany area with her family and 30 parrots.
1st Sergeant Scott L. Cupples of the United States Air Force first contacted Dr. Linda Rozell-Shannon and the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation (VBF) to attend their annual conference being held in New York City on October 8, 2016. Scott has an “aging” Port Wine Stain which means it was beginning to thicken, change texture, and develop nodules. Scott, who also works in corporate finance, joined the VBF team in early 2017 and is now leading the Global Ambassador program. He serves as a positive role model and spokesperson for individuals living with a vascular birthmark.
Missy Scott joined the VBF team in 1999. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Business Management. She taught herself programming languages long before any institution offered those studies and soon began teaching small business owners to make technology work for them. Now specializing in the nonprofit sector, Missy helps small organizations manage their technology needs while they grow into large ones.
Casey Charles is a student at Carson Newman University in Tennessee, and the 2017 recipient of the Dr. Martin C. Mihm Health Career Scholarship that is awarded by VBF each year to students living with a vascular birthmark who choose to pursue a course of study or work in areas of health and related fields. Casey is now a signed college athlete, despite being told that a venous malformation resting on a muscle in his leg would seriously hinder his capability to succeed in any athletic field. VBF was so impressed by Casey’s story that we hired him as assistant to our website administrator.