FACES 2022 Speakers + Innovation Judges
Pranav Bajaj just graduated from Northwestern University and will be pursuing an M.D. at the Feinberg School of Medicine next year. Pranav’s hometown is Racine, Wisconsin. He personally has multiple significant food allergies, so he is very passionate and invested in allergy-related research. He started working with CFAAR about two years ago, and most of his work has focused on food allergy awareness, accommodation, and management on college campuses. He would now like to study the prevalence and causes of allergic reactions in college dining halls—specifically, he hopes to reach out to colleges nationwide, collect reaction data, and then create interventions to limit allergic reactions on campuses. In his free time, he enjoys playing tennis and basketball.
Speaker & Innovation Judge
Emily is the Founder and CEO of Free From Market, Founder and former CEO of Food Equality Initiative (FEI), and a national patient advocate. An active board and council member, Emily serves on several hospitals committees and food policy coalitions. A member of the KU School of Medicine’s Admission Committee, Emily works to advance health equity in all pursuits. Research interests include food systems, health disparities, and patient-centered approaches to care. Emily is a published co-author of several peer-reviewed articles. Emily believes in the power of patients and data to achieve greater health outcomes.
Denise Bunning, MSed
Denise A. Bunning is an educator, support group leader and advocate who works to improve the lives of children with food allergies. Denise earned a BA in Early Childhood/Special Education from Boston College, an MSED in Special Education from Northern Illinois University, and a CAS in School Administration from National Louis University. Denise co-founded MOCHA (Mothers of Children Having Allergies) – a support group for food-allergic families. In 2010, she served on a committee organized by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health to author Guidelines for Managing Life-Threatening Food Allergies in Illinois Schools, which served as the basis for school board policies state-wide. Denise co-authored The Food Allergy Experience with Dr. Ruchi Gupta. She serves on the Board of Governors for Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), the Founders’ Board of Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, and the Women’s Board of Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital. Denise and her husband of 30 years, Dave, have two sons with life-threatening food allergies and related issues. They are both adults and thriving.
Jonathan Carroll, MA
Representative Jonathan Carroll (D) – 57th District is a certified Special Education Teacher and Special Needs Advocate helping individuals with ADHD, executive functioning issues and learning challenges improve personal, professional, and educational performance. He has a M.A. in Learning Disabilities/Behavioral Disorders from Northeastern Illinois University and a B.A. in Communication from DePaul University. Jonathan is on the Portes Foundation Board of Directors providing grants for medical and life-sciences research. He belongs to Temple Beth El in Northbrook where he resides with his wife Katrina and two children.
Christina Ciaccio, MD, MSc
Dr. Christina E. Ciaccio MD MSc is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine is the Chief of Allergy/Immunology and Pediatric Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine. She was raised in rural Kankakee county which sparked her research interest in understanding how nutrition (prebiotics) and microbial exposures (probiotics) affect IgE sensitization. She currently directs the Food Allergy Program at the University of Chicago and runs a clinical translational research program in food allergy and IgE sensitization. Dr. Ciaccio is the Secretary of the Food Allergy and Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disease Interest Section of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology and a member of the Editorial Board of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
Paul Detjen, MD
Paul Detjen MD is a Board Certified Allergist/Immunologist in private practice in Kenilworth, IL. He earned his MD from Washington University School of Medicine and completed his residency and fellowship at Northwestern University. Dr. Detjen is a fellow of AAAAI and ACAAI. He was awarded the FAAN/FARE Mariel Furlong Award in 2000 and the AAAAI Teaching Allergist of the Year in 2007. Dr. Detjen is the Co-Founder and BOD of Mobile CARE Chicago, a Chicago school based mobile healthcare delivery model for Comprehensive Asthma Care. Dr. Detjen offers private practice OIT food allergy treatment for motivated families and patients. He is married with 5 kids.
Kyle Dine, MMIE
Kyle Dine is a trusted food allergy educator who has performed allergy education assemblies in 900 schools across North America. Kyle was recently awarded the Michelle Harkness Mentorship Award for his work with Food Allergy Canada mentoring children living with food allergies. He is an avid traveler and the Founder of Equal Eats; a company that provides food allergy translation cards in 50 foreign languages.
Aaron Donnell, MD
Dr. Donnell is a native of Nashville, TN and first experienced Chicagoland when he earned his bachelor’s degree in Biology at Wheaton College. He completed medical school at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine and completed residency in Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk, VA. After serving an additional year as Pediatrics Chief Resident, he moved to Chicago for fellowship in Allergy/Immunology at Children’s Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Dr. Donnell started working in private practice in Chicago in 2005 before co-creating CFAA with Dr. Kelly Newhall in 2009. Dr. Donnell is board-certified in Pediatrics and Allergy/Immunology.
Melissa Engel, MA
Melissa Engel is a doctoral candidate in the Clinical Psychology program at Emory University. Prior to beginning graduate school at Emory, Melissa received her MA in Developmental Psychology from the University of Minnesota. Her research and clinical interests broadly focus on risk and resilience in youth with chronic medical conditions, including food allergies. Melissa is especially interested in identifying and addressing the unique psychosocial challenges faced by adolescents with food allergies. She has severe food allergies herself and serves as Lead Programming Developer of Teen Outreach for Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), through which she developed and leads the monthly Teen Talks and Child Chats programs. Melissa collaborates with the CFAAR team on several projects and is thrilled to be at FACES! Aside from food allergies, Melissa is a certified yoga instructor and is currently working on a memoir.
Shayna Fullarton is a CFAAR Board Member passionate about advocating for those with food allergies and asthma. Shayna brings her extensive background in interactive marketing to CFAAR and partners to support expanding their reach and digital presence. Both Shayna’s children, Lola (6) and Sid (9) were diagnosed as babies with life threatening food allergies and asthma. As a family they are continuously learning to navigate daily life and have become strong champions for families and children like them. Keep your eye out for an upcoming documentary by Just Like you Films, featuring Sid and Lola as they talk with Dr. Ruchi Gupta about how to advocate for their own safety.
Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH
Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, has 17 years of experience as a board-certified pediatrician and health researcher and serves as the founding director of the Center for Food Allergy & Asthma Research (CFAAR) at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. She completed her undergraduate and medical education at the University of Louisville and completed her medical residency at Children’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center, University of Washington in Seattle. She completed her pediatric health services research fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and went on to receive her Master of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Gupta is world-renowned for her groundbreaking research in food allergy and asthma epidemiology, most notably for her research on the prevalence of pediatric and adult food allergy in the United States. She has also significantly contributed to academic research in the areas of food allergy prevention, socioeconomic disparities in care, and the daily management of these conditions. To reduce the burden of these conditions and improve health equity, she and her team develop, evaluate and disseminate interventions for families and conduct work to inform local, national, and international health policy. Dr. Gupta is the author of the Food Allergy Experience and Food Without Fear, has written and co-authored over 150 peer-reviewed research manuscripts, and has had her work featured on major TV networks and in print media. She speaks to a global audience to share her research with experts and families, and as a physician, food allergy researcher, and food allergy mom, her driving passion is to improve the lives of children and their families through discovery, clinical care, outreach, and education.
Tamara Hubbard, LCPC
Tamara Hubbard is a family therapy-trained licensed clinical professional counselor. Having earned a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Adler School of Professional Psychology, she has been practicing for over 18 years. In her private practice, she provides evidence-based therapeutic guidance to help women, mothers, and those managing food allergies and allergic diseases. Primarily through mindfulness-based and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) approaches, she helps individuals, parents and families navigating life with allergic conditions find a balance between the overwhelm and quality of life by developing a workable mindset and learning strategies to support their well-being. Tamara is also the creator of the internationally-recognized Food Allergy Counselor website, which houses the Food Allergy Counselor Directory, Exploring Food Allergy Families podcast, allergy-specific therapeutic worksheets, and the Food Allergy Behavioral Health Network for therapy providers. She is a member of the Association of Contextual Behavioral Science, the American Counseling Association, and an allied health member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the latter of which she serves as a member of the Allied Health Committee. Additionally, she is a founding Community Advisory Board member for the Center for Allergy and Asthma Research, which is part of Northwestern University of Feinberg School of Medicine and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
Laurie Jones was 15 years old when she found out she was allergic to gluten after 3 years of experiencing symptoms. She attended Washington and Lee University where she majored in Computer Science with a concentration in Physics and minor in Arabic. She currently attends the University of Colorado Boulder to receive her PhD in Information Science. Laurie looks forward to sharing her experiences navigating her gluten allergy and her relationships during the FACES conference this year.
Kristin Kan, MD, MPH, MSc
Kristin Kan, MD, MPH, MSc is a faculty researcher for the CFAAR team. She is a primary care pediatrician and health services and health policy researcher and completed pediatric residency at Seattle Children’s Hospital/University of Washington and the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Fellowship at University of Michigan. As a physician-investigator at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital/Northwestern University, she aims to inform the design of health policies and programs that optimize health care access and quality of care for children with chronic diseases, in particular asthma. Her current research has focused on the population health management of pediatric asthma by leveraging digital technology in outpatient care.
Peter Lio, MD
Peter Lio, MD is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology & Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Lio received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, completed his internship in Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, and his Dermatology training at Harvard where he served as Chief Resident in Dermatology. While at Harvard, he received formal training in acupuncture. Dr. Lio is the founding director of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Center and a founding partner of Medical Dermatology Associates of Chicago. He currently serves as a board member and scientific advisory committee member for the National Eczema Association. He is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology’s Atopic Dermatitis Expert Resource Group and a founding faculty member of the Integrative Dermatology Certificate Program. He has over 200 publications and 3 textbooks.
James Lawson was diagnosed with multiple anaphylactic food allergies as a young child including all nuts, wheat, dairy, eggs, and fin fish. Growing up, he had to be very careful navigating meals, bringing his own food to school, and attending various social/sporting events. During his sophomore year of high school, James enrolled in a phase I multi-food Xolair clinical trial at Stanford Medical Center where he focused on peanuts, cashews, wheat, dairy, and eggs. He was fortunate to have success in the trial, and has achieved maintenance level dosing for all 5 foods. Most importantly, he no longer has to worry about anaphylactic reactions. After graduating from the Latin School of Chicago, James took a gap year to further his understanding of allergies through food challenges, and focused on giving back to the food allergy community. During thai time, he worked at the University of Chicago microbiome lab to focus on the treatment of food allergy. He also worked at Lurie Children’s Hospital to help implement modern database management tools for their numerous allergy related clinical trials. After graduating Washington and Lee University in 2021, James has moved back to Chicago and current works at a software engineer at a tech consulting firm. He is excited to share his knowledge and experience with the teens attending FACES this year.
Lisa Lombard, PhD
Lisa Lombard, a licensed clinical psychologist, has been providing general psychological services and specialized mind-body treatment to children, families, and adults for over 25 years. She earned her Ph.D. in psychology/human development from the University of Chicago. In her private practice, she provides psychotherapy to children, teens, and families with a particular emphasis on anxiety, stress-mediated health concerns, and pain management. She also consults to a preschool/elementary school and supervises psychology graduate students. She is excited to integrate her expertise in pediatric psychology with her specialized training in mind-body practices as she develops interventions that support children and families coping with food allergies. As a member of CFAAR, she collaborates on manuscript writing and the development of psycho-educational materials to meet the psycho-social needs of children and families with food allergies.
Mahboobeh (Maha) Mahdavinia, MD, PhD
Dr. Mahboobeh (Maha) Mahdavinia is a physician-scientist and the chief of the Allergy and Immunology Division at Rush University Medical Center. She is a board-certified allergist/immunologist and internist with a background in immunology of allergic diseases and a PhD in molecular epidemiology. She has led the division of Allergy/Immunology in the past 3 years and also serves at several other national and institute-wise leadership roles while running a clinical/translational research team. Dr. Mahdavinia’ s research team has several national and international research collaborations including a large collaborative study in South Africa and a birth cohort in middle east to understand the pathogenesis of allergic development in early childhood. She is also the site PI for two large multi-center national cohort studies of food allergy. Her research is funded by the NIH, the Brinson Foundation, the Institute for Translational Medicine, the Medtronic Foundation and FARE. Her research theme is the interplay of microbiome and disparity in allergic diseases which have resulted in key publications in the field. She is the recipient of several awards and research grants and has mentored multiple successful trainees during her career. She has served on the editorial board of three Immunology journals and as reviewer for several major journals and grant study sections/committees. She is also an active writer and have published OpEds in periodicals such as the Chicago Tribune, the Washington post and the Sun Times.
Todd A. Mahr, MD, FAAP, FACAAI, FAAAI
Todd Mahr, MD, is director of pediatric allergy/immunology at Gundersen Health Systems in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He is also an adjunct clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. Dr. Mahr belongs to numerous allergy societies, served on the Board of Regents of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and has received their Distinguished Service Award in 2008 and Distinguished Fellow Award in 2014. He is also a Past President of the College. He is current Chair of the Partnership for a Tobacco Free Wisconsin. He is chair emeritus of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–funded Wisconsin Asthma Coalition. He is very active with the American Lung Association on a national, regional and local level. Dr. Mahr is the recipient of the ALA’s Volunteer of the Year award for the year 2000 and the 2007 Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services “Partners in Public Health” certificate of recognition. Dr. Mahr is also very engaged with the American Academy of Pediatrics and received the Jerome Glaser Distinguished Service Award in 2017.
Melanie Makhija, MD
Dr. Makhija finished her medical and specialty training at the University of Toronto and completed a master’s degree in epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She began her career at Lurie Children’s (formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital) in 2010. She is an attending physician in Allergy and Immunology at Lurie Children’s Hospital and an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The focus of Dr. Makhija’s clinical practice is food allergy and eosinophilic esophagitis. She is the medical director of the oral immunotherapy program, the food allergy clinical trials program and the oral food challenge unit at Lurie Children’s Hospital. She is also the clinical practice director for the division of allergy and immunology. She is the site primary investigator on 10 active clinical trials and has been a primary and co-investigator on over 30 clinical trials. She also collaborates on clinical and translational studies in food allergy, asthma, eosinophilic esophagitis and primary immunodeficiency.
Lianne Mandelbaum, MS, PT
Lianne Mandelbaum MS, PT founded nonuttraveler.com – an advocacy website for food allergic flyers. Her goal is to increase awareness of the seriousness of life-threatening food allergies with an emphasis on air travel. Lianne is a featured contributor for Huffington Post, The Mighty, KevinMD, Allergic Living, and to date, has published over 50 articles. Lianne is also a noted public speaker and frequent media source on food allergy issues. Lianne collects and shares testimonials regarding flying experiences from food allergic families on No Nut Traveler. She shares these testimonials with lawmakers, media, and food allergy advocacy groups and in doing so, hopes to influence the airlines and government to create food allergy airline policies that are fair and evenly promulgated throughout the airline industry. Lianne was part of a team that collaborated on the right to pre-board U.S. airlines as food allergy passengers under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). This effort yielded a successful Department of Transportation (DOT) ruling and importantly the recognition that food allergy is considered a disability under the ACAA. Lianne has worked with Family Promise of Essex County, an organization that houses homeless families in churches and synagogues to help train and educate volunteer coordinators and staff on how to host families who come into the network with food allergies.
Anne Moon has been managing and learning from the various challenges that come with following a strict gluten free life from the time her daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease more than twelve years ago. This experience inspired Anne to start her business, Beautifully Gluten Free. In her work with Beautifully Gluten Free, Anne provides education and support for individuals and families on their gluten free journey, while also raising awareness and serving as a fierce advocate for the celiac disease community. She is also the current Chair of the Advisory Board for Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Celiac Disease Program. Anne has helped create various educational programs for the Celiac Disease Program’s community, worked alongside fellow board members to create the program’s website, coordinated the program’s fundraising activities, and also serves as the education and awareness founding member of the program’s newly formed guild. She also works with the Gluten Intolerance Group’s Gluten Free Food Service team, helping restaurants earn and maintain the company’s Validated Gluten Free Safe Spot title. Anne has been an avid supporter and user of the NIMA Partners Gluten Detecting Sensor since it first debuted and is now NIMA Partners Sr. Director of Education. She is earning her Master of Science in Holistic Nutrition and lives in Seattle, WA with her husband and three children.
Cathryn Nagler, PhD
Dr. Nagler is an immunologist, and the Bunning Family Professor in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, the Department of Pathology, and the college at the University of Chicago. Nagler is also the co-founder and president of the startup company ClostraBio, Inc.
Kelly Newhall, MD
Dr. Kelly Newhall is an allergist-immunologist and is affiliated with Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. She received her medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Newhall completed her first two years of residency at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia and finished her Pediatrics training at the University of Chicago Children’s Hospital. She completed her fellowship in Allergy & Immunology at Children’s Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Hospital and started working in private practice in 2004. Dr. Newhall co-created CFAA with Dr. Donnell in 2009 as they shared a vision for providing quality care to families with asthma and allergic conditions. She currently lives in Lincoln Park with her Family. Dr. Newhall is board-certified in Pediatrics and Allergy/Immunology.
Sai Nimmagadda, MD
Sai Nimmagadda, MDserves as an Allergy Research Specialist on the CFAAR team. He is a board certified allergist who’s had nearly 30 years of clinical experience. For the past twenty years, Dr. Nimmagadda has been a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Medical School. He practices Allergy/Immunology with Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and serves as a member of the executive committee of the Illinois Society for Allergy, Asthma and Immunology as well as a committee member in the section on food allergy for the American Academy and American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology. During his career, Dr. Nimmagadda has seen over fifteen thousand food allergy patients and has designed and implemented several food allergy studies.
Sarah Boudreau-Romano, MD
Dr. Sarah Boudreau-Romano is a board-certified attending physician at Lurie Children’s Hospital in the Division of Allergy and Immunology and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She attended medical school at Rush Medical College and completed her pediatric residency and allergy fellowship at Lurie Children’s/ Northwestern. In 2016, she started the Food Allergy Support and Education (FASE) program at Lurie Children’s. FASE is a physician-led program that provides workshops focused on supporting and educating families with food allergies. In addition to supporting families, FASE is engaged in community outreach with the goal of teaching about the seriousness of food allergy. Dr. Boudreau-Romano is also the mother of 4 children, 3 of whom have life-threatening food allergies. After her children’s diagnosis, she began a blog called The Allergist Mom, as another way to support the food allergy community.
Zachary Rubin, MD
Dr. Rubin is a Pediatric Allergist at Oak Brook Allergists, which serves the western suburbs of Chicago. He earned his Bachelor of Arts and Medical Degree from Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Rubin completed his General Pediatrics residency at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago and his Allergy/Immunology fellowship at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He has published research on oral food challenge outcomes for kids with seafood allergy. Dr. Rubin is active on social media educating the public on various health topics and has over 150,000 followers across TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube with the social media handle @rubin_allergy.
Samantha Sansweet, MPH
Samantha Sansweet, MPH is a research study coordinator at CFAAR. She has been with the team since 2021, where she started as an intern in their Summer Scholars Program. She graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a Master’s in Public Health. She is working on a multitude of projects, primarily supporting the iREACH Study, food insecurity work, and educational efforts for students. She has spent her whole life managing her own life-threatening food allergy, which is what drew her to pursue a career in public health. She is passionate about food allergy education, advocacy and research and additional public health interests involve food insecurity, mental health, children’s health, and environmental health.
Brian Schroer, MD
Dr. Schroer is a pediatric allergist/immunologist and the director of allergy and immunology at Akron Children’s Hospital. He’s been practicing since 2010. He earned his medical degree from the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa, Fla. and a bachelor’s degree from Duke University in Durham, N.C. Dr. Schroer completed his residency in internal medicine and pediatrics at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. He went on to complete a fellowship in allergy and immunology at the Cleveland Clinic. He has a special interest in food allergy, food immunotherapy, eosinophilic esophagitis, eczema, drug allergy, asthma and allergic rhinitis. Dr. Schroer is board-certified in internal medicine, pediatrics and allergy. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology and is a member of the American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. He has authored numerous articles, abstracts and book chapters, as well as contributed to research and served as an expert source in the media. Additionally, Dr. Schroer has extensive teaching experience, including serving as an associate professor of pediatrics at Northeast Ohio Medical University.
Gwen Smith is the Co-owner and Editor-Content Chief of Allergicliving.com, the most widely read consumer news website on food and environmental allergies. Allergic Living has a reputation for insightful reporting, with emphasis on: allergy news, emerging therapies, and feature writing on managing food allergies (from school to parenting and travel). Gwen is a passionate advocate for having food allergies recognized as a serious medical condition. She understands well the issues that food allergy families face, having interviewed hundreds of people in the community since 2008. She has three severe food allergies, and has experienced anaphylaxis.Prior to Allergic Living, Gwen was a senior journalist in mainstream media. She is the former deputy managing editor of Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, and also worked in public broadcasting, and a national women’s magazine. In 2017, Gwen was honored at FARE’s NYC Food Allergy Ball as one of 20 individuals making a significant contribution to 20 years of progress in the food allergy space.
Rachael Smith grew up with food allergies, and like many people her age, she’s had a harrowing experience in her early 20’s. If she can help one person avoid an unnecessary reaction then all of her advocacy and “nagging” has been worth it. Rachael has 17 years of experience behind the bar. She has worked nightclubs, five-star hotels, and dive bars, and she was named one of Chicago’s “15 Female Bartenders You Need to Know” in 2015.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, FAAP
Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson is a pediatrician, and the Chief Medical Officer at SpoonfulONE. As CMO, Dr. Swanson leads efforts to foster conversations around the importance of early and consistent inclusion of potential allergens in the diet. She is a pediatrician, author, and a prominent advocate of evidence-based medicine and prevention. She speaks internationally on prevention, digital health and health innovation. She has been a leading voice in health care, working to revolutionize health communications by using social and digital media, as well as mass media, to bridge the gap between parents and doctors. For 10 years Dr. Swanson wrote the Seattle Mama Doc blog for Seattle Children’s Hospital and founded the Digital Health department in 2013. Swanson was Chief of Digital Innovation for 6 years leading a team in innovation by testing and creating new digital tools.
Sarah Valaika, MS
Sarah Valaika, MS is an Early Childhood Educator who joined the CFAAR Team in 2018. She currently serves as the Program Coordinator of early childhood food allergy education initiatives (videos, tip sheets, online training) and is passionate about developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood. She has over 25 years of experience working with young children, their families, and providers in early childhood programing as well as teaching in higher education and professional development settings. Sarah earned a MS in Child Development from the Erikson Institute in Chicago and has over 15 years of daily experience preventing and managing life threatening food allergies for one of her four children.
Carina Venter, PhD, RD
Dr. Venter is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Section of Allergy/Immunology at the Children’s Hospital Colorado and University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, where she is conducting research in allergy prevention and working with children with food allergies. She is the past chair of the International Network of Dietitians and Nutritionists in Allergy, and a member of the American Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (AAAAI), American College of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (ACAAI), European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) and the British Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI). Dr. Venter is a senior advisor to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). She is a registered dietitian in the United Kingdom and United States. She has had publications in international journals, book chapters and edited a book on Food Hypersensitivity. She moved from the UK in 2015 where she had been performing research into allergy prevention and prevention. Dr. Venter works closely with Dr. Gupta and her team on the on the Start Eating Early Diet (SEED) study. She was a member of the EAACI and AAAAI food allergy guidelines on Allergy Prevention and the EAACI guidelines on the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy guidelines., the NICE (UK) food allergy guidelines and the National Institutes for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Peanut Allergy Prevention Guidelines. Dr. Venter is currently the chair of the EAACI work group on Immunomodulation and nutrition.
Joshua B. Wechsler, MD, MSCI
Joshua B. Wechsler, MD, MSCI,is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Allergy and Immunology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL. Dr. Wechsler earned his MD degree from Rush University in Chicago. He completed a residency in pediatrics at the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, IN, and a clinical fellowship in pediatric gastroenterology at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, affiliated with Northwestern University. He completed a Master’s of Science in Clinical Investigation at Northwestern’s Graduate School. As a physician-scientist, Dr. Wechsler has devoted his career to understanding the pathogenesis of eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders (EGIDs), notably eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) and Eosinophilic Gastritis (EoG). He seeks to improve outcomes for patients with these conditions, and his publications have contributed to further defining EoE natural history, treatment outcomes, clinical phenotypes, and metrics. The primary focus of his current research is on mechanisms of mast cell activation that contribute to mucosal barrier disruption in EoE, treatment outcomes and co-morbidities such as hypermobility and dysautonomia. He is also interested in the role of mast cell activation in Long COVID. In 2020, Dr. Wechsler’s laboratory made a seminal finding that patients with low eosinophils continue to have elevated mast cell density, particularly in association with mucosal barrier disruption, supporting the need to target mast cells in addition to eosinophils.
Justin was born just north of Chicago and lives in New York City. He has had food allergies since childhood, specifically to tree nuts, sesame, and chickpeas (and has grown out of other allergies). He attended Tufts University where he studied Community Health and Philosophy. Justin has conducted food allergy research for over six years on prevention, policy, quality of life, management, and health disparities. Justin’s work has been published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, and the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology. Justin is also a guest contributor to Allergic Living Magazine. Justin started working in the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research in 2016. Justin participated in the New York City Urban Fellows Program where he refined an interest in and expertise around health policy. After the Fellowship, Justin was hired by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) to serve as the Chief of Staff to Dr. Ruchi Gupta, FARE’s Chief Medical Officer for Public Health. Justin supports CFAAR’s many FARE partnerships and advocacy efforts. Justin will be starting medical school this fall.
Innovation Judges and Keynote Panel Speakers
Javier, a patient entrepreneur who personally suffers from multiple food allergies, is the Founderand CEO of Alerje, a MedTech & Digital Health startup. He’s also a founding team member ofMedTech Color, an organization aimed to advance the representation of persons of color in themedical device industry. He was most recently appointed to the Investment Advisory Board ofthe Accelerate Blue Fund which is an early stage venture fund that exclusively invests inUniversity of Michigan licensed startups, the board of AdvaMed Accel which is a group ofindustry leaders collectively working to improve the ecosystem for medical device developmentand innovation, as well as serving on the advisory board of one of the fastest growing foodallergy advocacy organizations in the country, FAACT. In 2020 Javier & Alerje were named asan awardee of the inaugural Black Founders Fund by Google for Startups. He previously madethe 2019 Crain’s Detroit Business 40 Under 40 list, served as the 2017 Google x CODE2040Detroit EIR, and served as a Millennial Advisory Board Member at First Independence Bank.Prior to these endeavors, Javier led in the development of mobile app projects for a multi-billiondollar health insurance company and pharmacy benefit manager. Before working in the techindustry, he was a founding team member of an independent insurance agency where he led insales and management. Originally from Broadview (Chicago), IL, he received his Bachelor’sdegree from Illinois State University.
Josh Honaker, MD, MBA, FAAP
Innovation Keynote Panel Moderator
Joshua T. Honaker MD, MBA, FAAP is a Board Certified Pediatrician and serial entrepreneur. He has a unique portfolio of experiences in private practice, academics, and corporate health care. After completing his Bachelors degree in Biology and Chemistry at Western Kentucky University in 1994, he went to the University of Louisville School of Medicine prior to completing his pediatric residency training at Kosair Children’s Hospital. He then went into private practice at Oldham County Pediatrics which he co-founded in 2001. During the rapid growth of the practice he also served as the part-time Chief Medical Officer for Baptist Health LaGrange (2007-09), President of the Ky Chapter of the AAP, and Assistant Residency Program Director at the U of L Department of Pediatrics. In 2009 he was invited to serve as the Chief of General Pediatrics at the U of L Department of Pediatrics in a division with 50 Pediatricians. In conjunction with this role he also served as the Co-Chief of Clinical Operations Officer of the Department of Pediatrics with 200 providers. During his role as President of the Medical staff in 2011 at the Children’s Hospital he was then invited to serve as the VP Medical Director of the Norton Physician Services with 400 providers which later became the Norton Medical Group. From 2013- 2018 he also served as the VP of Operations for Pediatrics, Adult Primary Care, ICCs, and Women’s in conjunction with his Medical Director role. From 2018–2021 he served as the Chief Medical Administrative Officer of the Norton Medical Group, with oversight of 1700 providers, until his departure in May of 2021 to pursue an entrepreneurial pathway. It was at this junction in his career he started Honaker Health, LLC and ParentMD, LLC. He is married to Michelle and they have 2 grown sons, Jordan and Tyler. He resides in Louisville KY. In his free time he enjoys the outdoors and spending time with family and friends.
Mark Jacobson, MD
Dr. Jacobson is considered a thought leader in the specialty of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. He has been recognized by both Chicago Magazine and Castle Connolly as a Regional Top Doctor since 2016. Dr. Jacobson is a Past President of the Illinois Society of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ISAAI.org). He has also served on its Continuing Education Committee and Executive Board. Dr. Jacobson is Board Certified in both Pediatric and Adult Allegy & Immunology by the American Board of Allergy & Immunology. Dr. Jacobson has been in private practice since 1995 after completing his Fellowship in Adult and Pediatric Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center. Prior to that he completed his residency at Northwestern University/Evanston hospital. Dr. Jacobson currently teaches family practice residents from Hinsdale Hospital, La Grange Memorial Hospital, and MacNeal Hospital. In addition, he is a fellow and a spokesperson for both the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
Falguni Lakhani Adams
Innovation Keynote Panel Speaker
Falguni Lakhani Adams is an Emmy Award-winning producer, writer and Executive Producer with ViceTV, living in Venice, California. Born in Bombay, India and proudly representing Jackson Heights, Queens, Falguni has a law degree from St. John’s University and more than 20 years’ experience producing creative nonfiction stories for broadcast TV, digital media and long-form audio documentaries. A recent Environmental Media Association winner for ViceTV’s series “Unknown Amazon with Pedro Andrade” she has a knack for taking unassuming shows and making them hits. Other recent projects include, “The Search for Q”, “Too Soon: Comedy after 9/11” and “Black Market with Michael K Williams.” Prior to ViceTV she worked on shows such as “United Shades of America” with W. Kamau Bell, the NatGeo series “Valley of the Boom,” and a limited series for Amazon Studios about the DC sniper shootings. She also has a long list of credits for NBC News and MSNBC, including 10 years at Dateline NBC. Along with her penchant for writing and directing, Falguni recently co-founded Getting Hotter, a community-based enterprise within the wellness space to create a safe space for women, with a focus on South Asian women, navigate all phases of menopause, and women’s health from a girlfriend’s perspective. Her focus on production and community has earned her a space in Veronica Beard’s Make it Happen campaign which highlights women who are movers and shakers in work and life. Falguni is an active member with Chief, a membership network focused on connecting and supporting women executive leaders. In her spare time Falguni is a board member with the Boys and Girls Club of Venice and a mentor in the Hollywood Radio & Television Society mentorship program as well as mentoring with Democroshe. Falguni has two musically-inclined children that conspire against her in Mandarin, which she does not speak. To help herself and her kids stay sane, she frequently teaches mindfulness and meditation to students at her children’s school. And challenges anyone to scrabble game.
Amy O’Keefe, MS
Amy O’Keefe is the Co-Director of Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Engineering Design Innovation (EDI) program, where she leads the Human-Centered Service Design Studio. Amy frequently partners with physicians and healthcare organizations to bring a human-centered approach to addressing complex medical issues. Amy has consulted on service, experience, and integrated multi-channel initiatives for Fortune 50 retail and global Am Law 100 clients. Her professional background includes more than a decade leading multi-disciplinary service, product design, and development at a Chicago-based tech startup acquired by Thomson Reuters. Amy received her MS in Product Design and Development Management from Northwestern. As an undergraduate, Amy embraced the Liberal Arts, majoring in English at Davidson College and studying Architecture in Florence, Italy.
Gayle Rigione, MBA
Gayle Rigione has a diverse professional background with expertise in strategy and business development in financial services, the digital space and the nonprofit world. She’s held senior positions at MasterCard International and Cornell. She earned her MBA from Columbia and her BA from UCLA. Inspired by a 20+ year journey as a food allergy parent, Gayle co-founded Allergy Force in 2016. The company is dedicated to making life easier and safer for people with food allergies through technology and education. Allergy Force launched an mvp version of its food allergy app in 2017. In 2021, the company relaunched its website and app with significant upgrades to better meet user needs. Gayle was deeply involved in the website redevelopment effort and the redesign of the app features, including its UI and UX design, QA testing, and implementation. Though food allergies shape our lives, they absolutely do not define us. With education and technology at our fingertips, food allergies will limit us only if we let them.
Innovation Keynote Panel Speaker
David Rose, MIT lecturer, inventor, and five-time entrepreneur, draws on culture, design, travel, and music to envision future products and businesses sparked by the next generation of technology. His last book, Enchanted Objects, is the definitive book on designing the Internet of Things. David wrote the seminal patent on photo sharing, founded an AI company focused on computer vision, and was VP of Vision Technology at Warby Parker. He is known for translating complex technologies into delightfully intuitive new products and consulting with businesses on how to thrive during digital disruption. David’s work has been featured at the New York Museum of Modern Art, covered in The New York Times, WIRED, and The Economist, and parodied on The Colbert Report. His home was featured in a New York Times video “The Internet of Things” about inventions that incorporate magic into everyday objects: a Google Earth coffee table that responds to gesture, Skype cabinetry in the living room, and a doorbell reminiscent of Mrs. Weasley’s clock that rings when a family member is on their way home. He even got John Stewart to belly laugh when he was a guest on The Daily Show!
Dareen Siri, MD, FAAAAI, FACAAI
Dareen D. Siri, MD, FAAAAI, FACAAI, serves Midwest Allergy Sinus Asthma, SC, with locations in Normal and Springfield, Illinois, as an accomplished and empathetic allergist. She’s passionate about both helping patients manage food allergies and also spreading awareness about food allergies and anaphylaxis. Dr. Siri received her medical degree from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine in La Jolla. After earning her medical degree, Dr. Siri moved to Providence, Rhode Island, to complete her internship and residency in general internal medicine at Brown University. She then moved to Florida, where she earned an advanced subspecialty fellowship in allergy-immunology from the University of South Florida in Tampa and John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. Dr. Siri boasts a number of certifications. She’s a fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), and a diplomate of both the American Board of Allergy and Immunology and the American Board of Internal Medicine. In addition, in 2012, she was profiled by the Springfield Business Journal’s “Notable 40 Under 40.” Dr. Siri was also awarded the ACAAI Clemens von Pirquet Award for her innate-immunity research.