A goal of the Patient Advocate Certification Board (PACB) is to develop standards and practices that reflect the broad knowledge and insight of our diverse professional community, not just the perspective of any single individual or organization. Accordingly, PACB’s publicly released documents are the product of countless hours of volunteer work by a diverse group of board members, task force members, practitioners, educators and professionals, drawing on numerous sources as well as their own professional experiences. PACB employs a careful and deliberative process that involves research, discussion, drafting, review, editing, critique, posting for public comment, revision, clarification, final editing and posting of the final version on the PACB website.
PACB’s Ethical Standards, Competencies and Best Practices are the product of an evolutionary process that continuously builds upon the work of our predecessors. The field of patient advocacy is indebted to many individuals and organizations that built the foundations of the profession of Patient/Health Advocacy. Their insightful and pioneering work in crafting some of the initial principles and standards of patient advocacy has guided, inspired and provided a basis for PACB’s independent efforts. Special reliance has been placed upon the seminal and groundbreaking work of the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants (NAHAC), the late H. Kenneth Schueler, and the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates (APHA), to whom PACB expresses its sincere gratitude.
To advance a universally recognized certification/credential for patient/health advocates that champions patient well-being.
The Patient Advocate Certification Board works to manage and maintain a universally recognized certification for patient/health advocates; establish and maintain relevant knowledge domains, skills, ethical standards and best practices for advocates; collaborate with healthcare consumers to achieve patient and family centered care; establish professional development for certified advocates; and promote and professionalize patient advocacy.
Meet the Board
Christine North, PhD, MPH, BCPA, President
As a faculty member teaching Health Communication and focusing on social determinants of health and health equity, I have a strong interest in helping patients navigate the complexities of our health care system. I work a great deal with people from developing countries and those with limited English proficiency who often hold alternative views of health and are unfamiliar with the American health care and insurance system or are uninsured or undocumented.
Lee Mulert, MBA, MS, CSA, Vice President
As a private professional health advocate, I work directly with patients and their families dealing with human interactions. With 38 years experience in healthcare, I joined the PACBoard as a part of the effort to ensure standards and competency among those of us who do this work because I believe in the future of the professional, independent healthcare advocate. As a former officer and member of the Board of the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants (NAHAC) I was NAHAC’s representative on a PACB task force. Joining the PACBoard itself is an honor and a part of my goal towards furthering this profession’s excellence.
Marie Connolly, BCPA, Secretary
After 40 years of working as a nurse, I realized the importance of the role of independent advocacy when my husband had a massive brain hemorrhage. So I re-branded my business, Guiding Light, LLC, as a Professional Patient Advocate. It is my belief that as this profession grows the advocates who have taken the time to subscribe to the standards of care and become certified will be the marker for other professionals in the health care system. They will respect and honor that we are an integral part of our patients’ care, and will help to achieve better outcomes for our patients. I am excited to be a part of the PACB and know that my long years of experience will enhance our efforts.
Anne Llewellyn, MS, BHSA, RN-BC, CCM, CRRN, Treasurer
I am a healthcare leader with over 37 years of experience as a critical care nurse, case manager, professional patient advocate, editor in chief and most recently a patient. As an educator, I have lectured nationally and internationally on case management, patient advocacy and care coordination. I produce Nurse Advocate, a health care blog dedicated to empowering patients, their caregivers and all members of the healthcare team to create a culture of caring in our complex healthcare system.
Malynnda Johnson, PhD
Being an advocate means providing an ear to hear questions patients have, eyes to see concerns that one might not know how to express, and a voice to help all involved navigate the complex word of health. As a faculty member teaching and researching health communication my work has provided multiple opportunities to work closely with patients, medical providers, and health focused organizations. My research focuses on difficult conversations surrounding health; including prevention and testing for sexually transmitted illness, mental health, and death and dying.
Lea Christo, MSW, LICSW, BCPA
As a licensed independent clinical social worker I have long been privileged to help patients and families successfully navigate the healthcare system and provide their supportive escort along life’s difficult journeys. Now as a faculty member and director of the Health Advocacy Program at Assumption College, I am eager to advance the expanding professional field of patient advocacy through the work of the PACB. Together we must advance best practices that respond to the dynamic challenges faced by healthcare consumers, and serve our communities through health promotion.
Connie Sunderhaus, RN-BC, CCM, Immediate Past President
I am excited to be lending my time to this outstanding cause. I am excited and honored to participate in the PACB. As a ‘long-time’ nurse and certified case manager, patient advocacy has been the heart of all endeavors. My experience includes developing tools for educating advocates, case managers and patients through activities such as the Care Coordination Summit, the Professional Patient Advocate Institute, and the Hospital Patient Advocate course. I hope to help build on the strengths and quality of Patient Advocates.
Felix Davies, PhD, BCPA
I hope to contribute to US, UK and international patient advocacy by providing an alternative perspective from another country, culture and health and social care system; to support the development of patient advocacy in the UK by promoting patient advocacy and the PACB across the UK and increasing the professionalization and governance of patient advocacy in the UK by promoting PACB values, ethical standards and competencies. And to support international patient advocacy cooperation and collaboration for the benefit of all participating countries by representing the voice of health advocates outside the USA; drawing on my experience of working internationally and cross-culturally and drawing on my working knowledge of French, German, Spanish and Japanese languages.
Tara Bailey, MPA, BCPA, CMC, CDP, CSA, RG
Since the early days of serving as a patient advocate for family, I obtained the PPAI Certificate in Professional Patient Advocacy and Hospital Patient Advocacy. When the Board-Certified Patient Advocate opportunity came about, I jumped on the chance to increase my skills and credibility by being among the first wave of students to pass and receive a certification. I am committed to serving fellow advocates, as well as caregivers who find themselves in similar situations as I was in all those years ago. By serving on the Patient Advocate Certification Board, I hope to bring years of professional and practical experiences into educational and learning opportunities for those seeking to be certified in this vital and compassionate profession.
Heidi Kummer, MD, MPH, BCPA
Since leaving clinical practice, I earned an MPH (concentration in Health Law, Bioethics and Human Rights), served as Chief Operating Officer of a start-up and, perhaps most importantly, served as an advocate for seriously ill family members and friends. I am just transitioning to working as a full-time advocate. Joining the PAC Board provides an opportunity to collaborate and learn from the as yet small, but passionate group of people from diverse backgrounds, contribute to a cause I truly believe in and as such be both a stimulating as well as a rewarding experience in which I can utilize my broad clinical background and educational experiences to benefit the organization.
Karen Carasik, Esq., J.D.
As a practicing attorney I was an Adjunct Professor of Law, supported not for profits and served on various National, Chicago and Orlando boards over the years. I hold a Florida health insurance license and was certified in Medicare. My personal experiences as caregiver and advocate for my parents required me to learn how to navigate “health care”. The complexity of navigating Patients’ Rights, Medical Records, Medicare, Hospitalization, CCRC, Hospice, SNF, Provider, Pharmacy and other issues makes PACB education and BCPA Certification a needed resource and benefit. I hope to help PACB grow the value of Patient Advocacy Certification.
Melissa Cardine, MSN, RN, BCPA
For the past four years as the owner of The Bridge RN Patient Advocates, I have provided health advocacy services for my clients and have seen how this work has profoundly benefited their lives. One of the most important aspects of this profession is maintaining high standards for patient advocates, so that patients across the country will benefit from their expertise and commitment to the professional and ethical standards developed by this Board. I hope to help PACB further develop and expand the certification process and demonstrate its value.
(Former) Steering Committee and Board Members
(With appreciation for their contributions leading to the establishment of the Patient Advocate Certification Board and the certification credential.)
Every Patient’s Advocate (2013 – 2018) Patient advocacy in its many forms is becoming a vital part of a patient’s journey through the medical care system. I recognize how important it is for patients to be able to count on standards and ethics, and as the founder and director of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates, I realize how important it is for budding advocates to have goals and standards to work toward. I’m pleased to support this credential-development effort that will help all interested parties.
(2018 – current) Having been an original member of PACB, I am excited about the opportunity to return to the organization at this moment in time. From the beginning, I have been supportive of the effort to create a set of guidelines and standards for Patient Advocates. With my background as a Social Worker in the health field and a former Director of the Health Advocacy Program at Sarah Lawrence College, I look forward to contributing to the next era of PACB’s development. My advocacy work, research, and teaching in the field of women’s health for over 30 years has been dedicated to building a just and humane society that benefits us all. I see my involvement in the PACB Board as part of this life’s work.
(2013 – 2014) I am the president of the non-profit patient advocacy organization Planetree. I have experience in developing measurement and recognition frameworks that define excellence in patient-centered care.
(2013 – 2015) I am an assistant professor at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, VA. I have experience in developing national training conferences for patient advocates, creating health coalitions to address the needs of the underserved, and serving on a national certification board overseeing the accreditation standards for medical training programs.
(2013 – 2015) As President and Principal of the Maria DeGiglio Consulting Group, I am an experienced health advocate and published author. I have particular expertise in designing health advocacy certificate programs, health care/medical education, project management, and industry analysis.
(2013 – 2015) I am the former Executive Director of the Washington State Health Advocates Association (WASHAA), a non-profit organization based in Seattle, WA, with the mission to promote health advocacy, empower patients and improve healthcare outcomes. Representing the voice of professionals across a vast array of advocacy services from bedside, legal and older adult to medical billing and insurance, I bring a neutral, overarching angle to the pool of skills and competencies represented in the group along with considerable experience in managing startup projects and multinational/cross-functional teams towards successful growth.
(2013 – 2015) As the CEO of Allied Health Advocates, a patient advocacy business in Seattle serving Washington State, I am very interested in forwarding the credentialing process for patient advocacy and have many years of nursing/management/team building skills to assist with the process.
R. Ruth Linden
(2014 – 2015) Healthcare justice is my passion. My perspective as a medical sociologist, health policy analyst, and bioethicist grounds my understanding of how health systems function and why they break down. A health advocate for more than 30 years, I am the founder and president of San Francisco-based Tree of Life Health Advocacy. I am eager to contribute to the professionalization of our emerging field through the credentialing process. I have taught medical students, collaborated on medical school curricular reform at Stanford, UCSF, and UC Berkeley; conducted research in gerontology and diversity in health professions education; and written numerous books and articles.
Sharon Marsh Roberts
(2015) My work as a CPA / tax professional is to support persons and organizations in their interactions with the financial and medical systems that surround them, including families and individuals who require guidance in balancing the financial and medical constraints on their lives. I am eager to support this organization in its mission of developing a national credential for patient advocates.
(2013 – 2015) As Director of the Health Advocacy Program at Sarah Lawrence College I bring a background of research, curriculum development, collaboration, strategic planning and advocacy to this process. I welcome the opportunity to be part of this challenging and crucial effort.
(2013 – 2015) I am the director of the Patient Advocacy Program at The University of Toledo. My hope is to contribute a voice for those patients that are in need of our services and keeping in mind that safety and quality of life is first and foremost.
Kent De Spain
(2014 – 2016)
As Chair of the Healthcare Advocacy/Patient Navigation certificate program at Antioch University Midwest, I have a particular interest in integrative patient navigation and in the importance of empowering and assisting clients to speak out about how healthcare feels from the patient’s perspective. I am honored to be a part of this crucial process.
With 33 years in the healthcare arena, I am thrilled to be a part of PACB. From my days in various positions in the pharmaceutical industry to serving as the Development Director and Executive Director of national non-profit organizations, my focus has always been on the patient. Through my current firm, Pillar Patient Advocates, I look forward to being a part of this critical juncture for the patient advocacy community.
In having 25 years in the medical field, 7 years as a nurse’s aide and 18 as a registered nurse, patient advocacy is an important role. Currently working, educating and advocating for members and their families of a self – funded program, it is important that they have someone on their side assisting and navigating them through the difficulties of the healthcare field. Being a part of the board is an exciting adventure to assist in the certification process.
(2015 – 2017 and Past President of the PACB)
After 25 years of experience as an attorney and advocate, the challenge of caring for my own aging parents inspired me to found Ohio Patient Advocates, one of the first patient advocate firms in Ohio. As the profession of patient advocacy grows, we must strive to empower advocates with the skills and qualifications that patients need and deserve. I am honored and excited to be part of this worthy project to establish a national set of credentials for our profession.
Jari Holland Buck
PACB Co-Founder and Past President
(2013 – 2018)
As a patient advocate who learned at the bedside during my husband’s 9-month hospitalization, I learned the hard way what you need to know to be effective. I am committed to ensuring that patients of the future are represented by those who have demonstrated their competence and ability to do so. I am honored to to continue the work I began with Debra O’Connell when we launched this initiative in 2012.
L. Bradley Schwartz
(2017 – 2018)
I’m a practicing attorney with more than 25 years experience representing patients and families. I began a formal advocacy practice in 2012 and I have served as a board member of NAHAC and I am a founder of Greater Chicago Advocates. The PAC board represents an opportunity for us to set meaningful standards so that the industry can move forward.