Meet The Geniuses

The Head Genius

Terry Heiman-Patterson, MD

Dr. Heiman-Patterson is the Director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Disorders and a Professor in the Department of Neurology at Temple University and directs the MDA/ALS Center of Hope, including the clinical and laboratory research programs. She has dedicated her career to research in neuromuscular diseases and received more than a dozen grants to do both basic and clinical research in ALS along with other neuromuscular diseases.

RESEARCH Geniuses

Guillermo Alexander, PhD

Guillermo’s current research and studies are designed to provide insights into the mechanisms underlying exaggerated pain states. He is a professor at Drexel University College of Medicine with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering, Masters in Biomedical Engineering, and Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering. He also served four years as an officer in the air force and lead engineer of the National Parachute Test Center.

Nicole Caccavo

Nicole graduated with a BS in biology from Ursinus College where she was actively involved in developmental biology. Since graduation, she has worked as an embryologist for Crozer Keystone Health System, and as a Research Technician working with animal models for Charles River Laboratories. Nicole feels that work with the Center of Hope Research Lab is a perfect combination of her skill sets learned from previous positions – working with human and mouse genetics. With a family history of Alzheimer’s, she realizes the importance of the research going into neurodegenerative diseases and the impact the furthering of the science impacts the discovery into neuroscience cures. Nicole looks forward to increasing her skills in the area of ALS and one day being a part of the answer to the puzzle of finding a cause and cure for ALS.

Clinic Geniuses

Anahita Deboo, MD

Dr. Deboo is Co-Director of the MDA/ALS Center of Hope and an Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Temple University School of Medicine. She is also part of the EMG Laboratory at Temple Hospital. Prior to her current role she completed an internship in internal medicine and a residency in neurology, and then a fellowship in neuromuscular disease, specializing in electrodiagnostics, at the University of Pennsylvania.

Justin Kwan, MD

Dr. Justin Kwan received his medical degree at State University of New York at Buffalo. After that, he completed his residency training in Neurology and fellowship training in Neuromuscular Diseases at Baylor College of Medicine. He then became the Co-Director of the Baylor ALS Clinic where he treated many people with ALS. In 2012, he joined the faculty in the Department of Neurology at University of Maryland and was the ALS Clinic Director of the multidisciplinary ALS Clinic there. Dr. Kwan joined the team at Temple University in November 2017 and is excited to be a member of a team “that shares the same passion for caring for PALS” that he does.

Gary Romano, PhD, MD

Gary received his Ph.D. in Molecular Neurobiology from the Rockefeller University, and his M.D. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He completed his post-graduate training in neurology and neuromuscular disease at the University of Pennsylvania. He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Trinity College, Hartford and is the author of numerous refereed articles and textbook chapters. He currently holds an adjunct faculty position in the department of Neurology at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, is an industry co-leader of the European Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease research initiative, and was the industry co-chair of the Coalition Against Major Diseases from 2011-13. Gary is a Board Member of the ALS Hope Foundation and Alpine Home Care.

Mary Holt-Paolone, MSRN

Mental Health Specialist

Mary has a Bachelor of Nursing Degree from Villanova University and a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Chestnut Hill College. She is the Clinical Nurse Counselor at the Center of Hope and has been supporting patients and their families at the Center since 2005. She has dedicated most of her career to assisting people with chronic pain and chronic illness. In addition, she is involved in researching the psychological and social effects of ALS on individuals and families, which helps the medical community at large to better understand the emotional challenges of the illness and develop new approaches to care. In her words “life has been greatly enriched by her work at the Center of Hope” and considers it a blessing and an honor to help in any way she is able.

Mark Goren, MS, OTR/L, CHT

Occupational Therapist

Mark has been the senior occupational therapist with the MDA/ALS Center of Hope for over fifteen years. He works with patients to ensure they remain as independent and safe as possible while performing everyday activities. He graduated from Temple University’s School of Occupational Therapy with a Master of Science degree and did clinical fieldwork at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. His past experience includes working at Bryn Mawr Rehab and Hahnemann University Hospital. Other areas of interest include hand therapy, assistive technology and research and he has earned the specialty designation of Certified Hand Therapist.

Sara Feldman, PT, DPT, ATP

Physical Therapist

Sara Feldman, PT, DPT, ATP has been the Physical Therapist at the Center since 1994. She received her Bachelors in Physical Therapy in 1987 from Temple University, her Masters in Environmental Science from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997, and her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Drexel University in 2012. Prior to coming to Temple, she was a Senior Physical Therapist on the Spinal Cord Injury team at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital and then she moved to Hahnemann Hospital to be on the acute neurotrauma and neurology teams. Sara works full time for the MDA/ALS Center of Hope and in addition to clinical care she is involved in clinical trials and the use of assistive technology. She is co-chair of the NEALS Physical Therapy Committee and served as the Clinical Evaluator representative on the NEALS Executive Committee from 2013 to 2018. In 2013 she was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations. She looks forward to the day there is a cure for ALS!

Donna Harris, MA, CCC

Speech Language Pathologist

Donna Harris, MA, CCC is a licensed and certified speech language pathologist and has been involved with the MDA/ALS Center of Hope since 2000. She works with patients to monitor speaking or swallowing difficulties and assists them with techniques to do so more safely and more effectively. She received her Masters from Temple University in 1991. Donna has worked in a variety of settings, including special needs classrooms, acute care hospitals, and rehab centers. Donna is committed to the ALS cause and loves working with each and every family.

Michelle Conlon, RD, LDN

Dietitian / Nutritionist

Michelle brings her unbridled passion for working with people diagnosed with ALS and their families in setting and achieving their nutritional goals to the Center. She graduated from Marywood University in Scranton, PA with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition/Dietetics. She started her career at Temple’s Northeastern Hospital and transitioned to Temple University Hospital in 2009. It is her goal to assist patients in preventing nutritional deficits while maintaining their quality of life.

Latoya Weaver, PSC

Patient Services Coordinator

Latoya is a Genius at advocating on the patient’s behalf in meeting their medical and insurance needs. She received a certification in medical billing and coding from CHI. Prior to joining the MDA/ALS Center of Hope, she had the experience of caring for her mother, who lived with ALS for over six years. Latoya has first-hand knowledge of the challenges that patients and families go through when dealing with ALS and is willing to work as earnestly and passionately for the people we see as she did for her own mother. She is incredibly motivated and passionate about helping others.

Kelli Smith, RN

Clinic Nurse Coordinator

Kathleen Hatala, RN, BSN

Study Coordinator

Kathleen Hatala, RN, BSN, graduated from Holy Family College in 1987, and brings her experience of working in neuro-intensive care to the team. She has been a Clinical Research Nurse at Temple University since 2001 and is passionate about ensuring the research and the people volunteering to be involved are both taken care of. Her compassion shows in all of her interactions.

FOUNDATION Geniuses

Kerrie Copelin, Director of Communications and Events

Kerrie joins the Foundation with over 15 years of non-profit experience to her credit and has experience running an ALS organization. With more than five years of experience working with ALS families and their loved ones; she developed a passion for helping individuals and their families, to continue to live with ALS and maintain their quality of life.

She moved to Pennsylvania from New Mexico in 2015, where she received both her BA and MBA degrees from the University of New Mexico.

Jamey Piggott, Director of Development and Community Outreach

Jamey became involved in ALS when helping his best friend who was diagnosed with the disease. While doing so, he saw how devastating the disease is and became passionate about helping those fighting ALS, their families and caregivers. A graduate of Eastern University, Jamey developed and managed his own entertainment agency for twenty years before dedicating his career focus to fight ALS in 2014.

His goals in this new role at the ALS Hope Foundation are to raise awareness about ALS; to raise funds for care and finding a cure; and serve as an advocate for the ALS community.

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