LaVarne Burton is President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Kidney Fund (AKF). She has led AKF since 2005, propelling the organization to many notable milestones to support the 37 million Americans living with kidney disease, with programs addressing early detection, disease management, financial assistance, clinical research, innovation and advocacy.
Ms. Burton previously served as Executive Secretary to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she managed policy development and regulations and was advisor to the Secretary of the federal government’s largest domestic agency. Before that, she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget Policy at HHS and as Senior Analyst to the Budget Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. She also was President of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), the national trade association representing pharmacy benefit managers.
Ms. Burton received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard University and Master of Arts from George Washington University.
Ken Sutha, MD, PhD is a board certified pediatric nephrologist at Lucile Packard Children s Hospital Stanford (LPCH) and Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, CA. He devotes his time to a combination of patient care, advocacy, and research. In addition to his clinical duties at LPCH, which has performed the largest volume of pediatric kidney transplants in the US over the past 5 years, he serves on the LPCH Ethics Committee and National Kidney Foundation Transplant Advisory Committee, as well as on the board of the American Living Organ Donor Fund. He is also co-chair of the Stanford Medicine Alliance for Disability Inclusion and Equity and volunteers as a Donate Life Ambassador for Donor Network West. Additionally, he has been recognized nationally for his advocacy as the 2019 American Kidney Fund Hero of Hope and for his research as an American Society of Nephrology Jared J. Grantham Research Scholar.
Melissia Baker is a kidney patient and a kidney education advocate. She is currently battling kidney disease while searching for a Living Kidney Donor. Melissia has been on dialysis for the last ten years but she hasn’t let her kidney disease deter her from her dreams. During her fight with kidney disease, Melissia became a foster mother and a proud adoptive mom to her precious ten year old son. Her son is what keeps Melissia motivated to stay as healthy as possible while searching for a Living Kidney Donor Hero. Melissia advocates with AKF on the importance of kidney health and kidney-related issues. Melissia believes knowledge is power and kidney patients have the right and responsibility to understand their disease in order to receive the best possible treatment. Melissa enjoys working with AKF as a Kidney Advocate because it creates meaning and purpose in her battle with kidney disease. She is proud to be part of such as awesome team!
Della Major is the Founder and CEO of LYVE, NFP (Living Your Life Victorious and Empowered) and CEO of Reclaim and LYVE, LLC. As an End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) patient since November 2010, Della is intimately aware of the challenges faced by those who live with chronic illnesses. Della is a certified Kidney Health Coach for the American Kidney Fund, a member of the Patient Advisory Council (PAC) Network 10, a Subject Matter Expert (SME) for the National Coordinating Center (NCC) Patient and Family Engagement Learning and Action Network, a member of the Medical Review Board for Network 10, and a PAC member for the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois. Della advocacy work within the Renal community has been highlighted on several national platforms including WBBM 2 news, ABC 7 news, and NKFI The Journey Podcast. Della is the author, most recently, of From Triggered to Transformed: A Journey to Self-Discovery and Purpose.
Amanda Lane is a renal dietitian, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist and Founder of Healthful Lane Nutrition LLC. While working with dialysis patients, Amanda became passionate about patients with CKD when she learned most of her dialysis patients had not met with a dietitian prior to dialysis. She serves on the Dietitian Advisory Board for the American Kidney Fund which was instrumental in the development of Kidney Kitchen Pro, a no cost resource for RDNs working with kidney disease patients. Amanda enjoys helping patients understand the complexities of diabetes and CKD by working to remove the fear and stigma of both diseases. She values the links between food, culture and health and enjoys seeing patients thrive while enjoying their preferred foods and living a healthful lifestyle.
• B.S. in Journalism from Boston University
• Master’s degree in Education from Mount Saint Mary’s University.
• Since 2005, Tamara Ruggiero has developed and led the American Kidney Fund’s marketing and communications department.
• After growing up with a father on dialysis, she is passionately dedicated to ensuring that AKF’s external communications and marketing campaigns are informed by the authentic patient voice and perspective.
Dr. Nicholas is a tenured Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in the Nephrology; General Internal Medicine; and Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Divisions. She is NIH-funded and studies diabetic kidney disease (DKD) mechanisms, novel therapies, biomarkers, and CKD disparities. She is President of Women in Nephrology, Vice Chair of the UC Council on Research Policy, Chair of the UCLA Nephrology Racial Health Equity Committee, and an NIH Study section, and serves on the ASN Health Care Justice, and Kidney Health Initiative APOL1 Steering Committees, and the AHA Council on Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease. She received the NKF Medical Advisory Board Distinguished Service and the Minority Access, Inc. National Role Model Faculty Researcher Awards. She has >120 original publications on DKD, hypertension and health disparities, and is on the editorial board for the American Journal of Nephrology and the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.
Dr. Patrick Gee had been a peritoneal dialysis patient since December 2013. On April 21, 2017, Patrick received a kidney transplant at the Hume-Lee Transplant Center at the Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University. After spending 33 days in the hospital, four surgeries and a 47-day wait until his kidney began to function, Patrick is back to advocating for more comprehensive healthcare, patient engagement, community educational resources, and a better quality of life for kidney patients.
He co-founded iAdvocate, a non-profit organization that focuses on disseminating health and wellness educational resources on diabetes, obesity, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease to underserved, undervalued and disenfranchised communities. An ordained minister, Patrick’s motto is “I am a Voice for the Voiceless and the Face for the Faceless in the fight against kidney disease.”
Melanie Paris, M.A., MPH, is Senior Director of Health Initiatives and Education at the American Kidney Fund (AKF), located in Rockville, Maryland. Her focus at AKF is creating awareness of kidney disease, its common causes, and effective prevention among at-risk populations throughout the United States. She leads the creation and development of programs and resources for people living with kidney disease, caregivers and healthcare providers.
Melanie joined AKF in 2017 with several years of experience in health program implementation, evaluation and analyses with such companies such as Truven Health Analytics, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and the American Heart Association. Melanie is both professionally and personally committed to working as an agent of change to improve public health by encouraging the implementation of interventions that are innovative – yet simple, practical and culturally relevant.
Melanie holds a Bachelor’s degree in Foreign Language Education and Master’s degrees in both African Studies and Public Health, all from The Ohio State University.
Melanie is the mother of two teenagers and resides in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Dr. Kirk Campbell is a Professor of Medicine, Vice Chair for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Director of the Nephrology Fellowship Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. In addition to treating patients with kidney disease, Dr. Campbell leads an NIH-funded research program focused on podocyte cell biology, experimental glomerular disease and clinical trials in the rare kidney disease space. The work centers on advancing the understanding of the underlying mechanisms involved in glomerular disease progression while identifying potential targets for therapeutic intervention. Dr. Campbell is an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation. He is a Past-President of the New York Society of Nephrology, a member of the Board of Directors of the Nephcure Foundation, a standing member of the Pathobiology of Kidney Disease (PBKD) study section at the National Institutes of Health.
Ashté Collins, M.D., FASN is a physician in the Division of Kidney Disease & Hypertension at the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana with a B.S. in Biology and received his medical degree from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.
Dr. Collins completed his internal medicine residency at the George Washington University Medical Center. He then served as Chief Medical Resident at George Washington University, and was nominated to Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society during his tenure as Chief Medical Resident. After chief residency, Dr. Collins completed his nephrology fellowship training at the George Washington University Medical Center. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Nephrology.
Dr. Collins is the director of the outreach practice at George Washington University’s Division of Kidney Disease and Hypertension, expanding GWU’s reach beyond the university campus. He is the medical director of the Fresenius NxStage Lanham dialysis center, which is ranked #1 in the Capitol Lakes Region for quality indicators in patients using home dialysis modalities. He often receives accolades from medical students and residents alike for providing outstanding education and has mentored several medical students in the GWU School of Medicine’s Clinical Apprenticeship Program. He has been nominated to the Washingtonian’s “Top Doctor” list multiple times.
Dr. Collins’ clinical interests include chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, hypertension, kidney stones, continuous renal replacement therapies, and home hemodialysis. His research interests include cardiovascular disease in chronic kidney disease, medical education, health disparities in patients with kidney disease, and outcomes in end-stage kidney disease patients. He has partnered with the American Society of Nephrology to produce the nationwide annual nephrology workforce report and nephrology fellows’ survey.
Dr. Blake Shusterman is a Greenville, South Carolina-based nephrologist, and cooking enthusiast passionate about helping his patients enjoy healthy, kidney-friendly foods. Dr. Blake, as he is known, is also the creator of The Cooking Doc®, a popular online cooking show and educational site dedicated to helping people manage their kidney disease through delicious meals. He is the author of The Cooking Doc’s Kidney-Healthy Cooking – A Modern 10-Step Guide to Preventing and Managing Kidney Disease.
He is the past president and physician partner at a large nephrology practice in Greenville. Dr. Blake received his medical degree from Ohio State University and completed his internal medicine residency and nephrology fellowship at the University of Virginia. As a board-certified nephrologist, he also serves as medical director at multiple dialysis centers and is a clinical assistant professor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville.
Jemetra Collins, is Director of Professional Education at the American Kidney Fund (AKF). Jemetra joined AKF in 2016, with more than 10 years of combined experience in healthcare administration at local and state government, private and non-profit organizations.
In her role at AKF, she supervises the development, operations, and external relations of AKF’s professional education programs, resources, and activities.
Jemetra holds a Bachelor of Science degree in healthcare administration from Langston University.
Dr. Gutierrez is currently a Professor of Medicine, Marie S. Ingalls Endowed Chair in Nephrology Leadership and Director of the Division of Nephrology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Using both epidemiologic and patient-oriented clinical research approaches, the primary focus of Dr. GutiÈrrez s group has been elucidating the mechanisms by which disorders of bone and mineral metabolism and nutrition impact outcomes in individuals with chronic kidney disease. His group has also focused on how environmental and genetic factors impact disparities in cardiovascular and kidney disease. Dr. GutiÈrrez has a track record of publications, including feeding studies using physiological end-points, and other high-impact studies that have highlighted the associations of nutrition, obesity, metabolic disease, and environmental factors with outcomes in the general population and in individuals with chronic kidney disease.
Holly Bode is the Vice President of Government Affairs at the American Kidney Fund where she leads federal and state advocacy and public policy efforts. Before coming to AKF, she worked at the Alliance of Community Health Plans where she directed their federal lobbying and communications work for nearly five years, with a focus on Medicare Advantage and other health plan issues. She also worked at Washington Council Ernst & Young and at UnitedHealth Group where she coordinated the federal affairs strategy for United’s Medicare and Medicaid products. Holly also worked for on Capitol Hill for over nine years for various members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives as well as five years at the Department of Health and Human Services under Secretary Donna Shalala.
Kevin began volunteering for Alport Syndrome Foundation (ASF) in 2012 at age 26 after experiencing unexpected renal failure due to Alport syndrome. He was previously misdiagnosed with benign familial hematuria. After two years on dialysis, he received a living donor transplant from a close friend in May 2014. Kevin s desire to help others in the rare disease community led to his position as ASF Social Media Specialist in 2014, part-time Patient Outreach Coordinator in 2016, and full-time Director of Communications & Patient Engagement in 2019. Kevin has served as ASF s Associate Director since January 2022. He has facilitated the teen program at ASF Alport Connect Meetings, represented ASF at various patient advocacy events and conferences, and co-moderates the ASF Facebook Support Group Page.
AKF works on behalf of the 37 million Americans living with and at risk for kidney disease. From prevention to life after a transplant, AKF supports people wherever they are in their fight against kidney disease.
Contact us at [email protected] if you have questions or need help registering.
These live interactive workshops will bring together chefs and dietitians to prepare a renal-friendly dinner. The pairs will give step-by-step instructions on how to make the dish while answering questions from participants. (This session requires separate registration.)
Seared salmon with strawberry salsa, arugula salad, and vegetable turmeric rice recipe
Moderator: Kellsey Reed, RDN, LDN, CKD Nutrition LLC
Speaker: Alana E Hunnicutt, Klean Plate Catering LLC
Sweet and sour chicken with vegetable stir fry recipe
Moderator: Carolyn Feibig, MS, RD, LD, CCTD, Thoracic Transplant and Advanced Heart Failure Dietitian at INOVA Fairfax Hospital
Speaker: Jennifer Krasilovsky, RD, Community Dietician, Food and Friends
Plantain tofu cups recipe
Moderator: Janelle E. Gonyea, RDN, LD, FNKF, Clinical Dietician
Speaker: Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, MS, RDN, CDCES, LDN, CPT, 360Girls&Women®LLC
Have you ever wanted to publicly share your journey with kidney disease, but were unsure of the next steps? Get your pen and paper ready and sign up in advance for this live workshop! You will have the opportunity to join one of three Zoom breakout rooms: sharing your story to find a living kidney donor, sharing your story for policy makers, and sharing your story to promote kidney disease awareness. In each breakout room, you will hear from seasoned instructors and learn about different methods for sharing your story and how to tailor it for different audiences. You will also be able to practice drafting your story, receive feedback from your instructor, as well as a helpful tip sheet for sharing your story. (This session requires separate registration.)
How to Share Your Story to Find a Living Donor
Speaker: Leigh Ann Saylor, Founder and Executive Director, Mulligans Living Kidney Donors
How to Share Your Story for Policy Makers
Speaker: Ben Shlesinger, Associate Director of Government Relations, American Kidney Fund
How to Share Your Story to Promote Kidney Disease Awareness
Speaker: Tamara Walker, American Kidney Fund Ambassador and Kidney Health Coach