As the Patient Advocate credentialing / certification organization, the PAC Board has tapped many highly regarded professionals to participate with our Board since its inception in 2012.

PAC Board members come from a variety of backgrounds and have one thing in common – a passion for helping patients. It is their job to be sure that those advocates who assist patients professionally on their journey through the healthcare system bring a variety of important and proven skills to the relationship.

Each board member is committed to moving the certification process forward through integrity, transparency, grit, and determination. Through the donation of hundreds of hours of their time each year to support certification and the organization.

In addition to our hard-working Board members, see also our list of Task Force participants.

Christine North, President

(2017 – current)

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

Lee Mulert

(2018 – current)

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

Marie Connolly, Secretary

(2017 – current)

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, Treasurer

(2013 – current)

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

(2017 – current)

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 primarily focuses on understanding and aiding in difficult conversations surrounding health; included conversations on prevention and testing for sexually transmitted illness, mental health, and death and dying. I am truly honored to have the opportunity to extend my knowledge and experience to this board.


Lea Christo

(2018 – current)

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

Connie Sunderhaus

(2017 – current)

I am excited to be lending my time to this outstanding cause.I am excited and honored to participate on 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.

(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.)

Trisha Torrey

(2013-2018) Every Patient’s Advocate – 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.

Susan Frampton

(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.  

 Clinton Crews

(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.

 Maria DeGiglio

(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.  

 Io Dolka

(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.

 Beth Droppert

(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.

Vicki Breitbart

(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.

Debra O’Connell

PACB Co-Founder

(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.  

Linda Pelligra


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.

Candace Facio


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.

Steven Okey

(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.


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