Provider Outreach Chair, Professional Advisory Board
Susan Swedo, MD Provider Outreach Chair, Professional Advisory Board
Susan Swedo, MD, is ASPIRE’s Provider Outreach chair, ex-officio Board Member. She is the Chief Science Officer for PANDAS Physicians Network. Dr. Swedo recently retired as the Chief of the Section on Behavioral Pediatrics at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). She remains designated as a Scientist Emeritus at the National Institute of Health. Dr. Swedo is a board-certified pediatrician; she received her M.D. from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and completed her pediatrics residency at Northwestern University’s Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Swedo began her career as a hospital-based pediatrician in Evanston, IL and was later named Chief of Adolescent Medicine at the McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University. In 1986, she joined the staff of the Child Psychiatry Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Swedo and her NIMH team were the first to describe a post-infectious etiology for OCD and define criteria identifying the PANDAS subgroup. In 2002, Dr. Swedo moved to the extramural side of NIMH to serve as Associate Director for Pediatric Research and Director of the Division of Pediatric Translational Research. She returned to the Pediatrics & Developmental Neuroscience Branch in May 2006 to establish a multi-disciplinary, clinical research team focused on the diagnosis and treatment of childhood neuropsychiatric conditions, including Sydenham’s chorea, Tourette Syndrome, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Swedo has authored/co-authored over 100 research publications.
Dritan Agalliu, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Neurology and Pathology and Cell Biology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Dr. Agalliu is a neuroscientist with 22 years of research experience in developmental, cellular and molecular neuroscience and specializing in the interaction of brain and blood vessels in the healthy and diseased Central Nervous System (CNS). The lab is investigating the mechanisms of immune cells entry into the CNS in a novel animal model for post-infectious autoimmune encephalitis caused by multiple Streptococcus pyogenes infections, to understand how immune cells induce neurovascular, synaptic and behavioral deficits in the brain. His laboratory focuses on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate formation of the blood-brain barrier in the CNS and the mechanisms of barrier breakdown in a variety of CNS diseases such as stroke and autoimmune diseases (like Multiple Sclerosis or Autoimmune Encephalitis) having symptoms that include blood-brain barrier failure, using a variety of genetic, molecular, cellular and imaging approaches. They developed novel mouse strains that allow them to visualize changes in structural components of the blood-brain barrier, namely tight junctions, and caveolae, in living animals for several CNS diseases (e.g., stroke and multiple sclerosis) to understand the cellular mechanisms underlying barrier impairment in these neurological disorders.
Nancy H. O’Hara, MD, MPH, FAAP Professional Advisory Board
Dr. Nancy O’Hara, MD, MPH, FAAP is a board certified Pediatrician. Prior to her medical career, Dr. O’Hara taught children with autism. She graduated with highest honors from Bryn Mawr College and as a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. She earned a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Pittsburgh. After residency, chief residency and general pediatric fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. O’ Hara entered general private practice in 1993, and in 1998 began her consultative, integrative practice solely for children with special needs. Since 1999 she has dedicated her functional medicine practice to the integrative and holistic care of children with chronic illness and neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, PANDAS/PANS, OCD, Lyme and ASD. She is also a leader in the training of clinicians, both in the United States and abroad.
Margo Thienemann, MD is the Co-Director and Director of Psychiatric Services at for the Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) Clinic at Stanford Children’s Health and a Clinical Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the Stanford School of Medicine. Dr. Thienemann co-developed the first PANS clinic in the country. Dr. Thienemann is an author and contributor of many PANS publications including the PANS Consensus Treatment Guidelines and PANS, Clinical Management of Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome: Part I-Psychiatric and Behavioral Interventions. She has also written: Seeing Your First Child with PANDAS/PANS along with The PANDAS Physicians Network Diagnostics and Therapeutics Committee and with Stanford Continuing Medical Education, a free online CME activity: Presentation and Early Management of PANS.
Shannon L. Delaney, MD Professional Advisory Board
Shannon L. Delaney, MD, Director, Child and Adolescent Evaluation, Lyme & Tick-borne Research Center is a neuropsychiatrist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center who is co-investigator with Brian Fallon, MD on studies of adults and children with Lyme disease. Her clinical research has focused on immune and infectious contributions to psychiatric disease, especially psychosis in children and young adults. She completed her NIH-sponsored research fellowship at Columbia University in 2017. Her clinical research has focused on immune and infectious contributions to psychiatric disease, especially psychosis in children and young adults. She specializes in seeing children and adults with complex neuropsychiatric presentations, especially those with suspected Lyme disease or other tick-borne illnesses, as well as those with Pediatric Acute onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS). She has recently joined an initiative to establish a PANDAS/PANS clinical assessment, treatment, and research center with experts from the Columbia Departments of Neurology, Pathology, and Psychiatry.
Christina Hift, MD, FAAP Professional Advisory Board
Christina Hift, MD, FAAP is board certified in pediatrics and has completed fellowships in infectious diseases and pediatric rheumatology at the Einstein College of Medicine Yeshiva University and The Hospital for Special Surgery. She is in private practice in New York City and is affiliated with Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital. She also practices in Greenwich, Connecticut. Dr. Hift graduated from Einstein in 1978 and has been in practice for over 40 years. She completed a residency at Einstein and Duke Medical Center. She uses a biomedical, diagnostic, and therapeutic approach based on her intensive subspecialty training with an individualized treatment plan for each patient. She was one of the first physicians to see autism as a neuro-inflammatory disorder with systemic and gastrointestinal symptoms and has been treating patients on the autism spectrum for 25 years. She has a strong interest in infectious and autoimmune diseases. For this reason, she has established a large PANS practice.
Fern Aaron Zagor, LCSW, ACSW has a distinguished career of more than four decades serving in senior management capacities in behavioral health and human services. In January 2005, she was named Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Staten Island Mental Health Society. In August of 2012 she became its President/CEO and on January 1, 2019, under her leadership, SIMHS merged into Richmond University Medical Center where Ms. Zagor became the Executive Director of SIMHS, now a division of the hospital. She has since left the hospital to start her own consulting firm, Fern Zagor Consulting LLC.
Ms. Zagor is well-known on the lecture circuit, where she is an acknowledged expert on services for children and families and has addressed the numerous challenges of integrating behavioral health in a primary care setting, as well as building community partnerships. Ms. Zagor was an Adjunct Professor at the Adelphi University School of Social Work, where she taught for 25 years.
Ms. Zagor has been honored numerous times including as the first recipient of the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation Executive Woman of the Year. She was also honored as an “Outstanding Woman of Queens” and received the Rosemary Gunning Award for her service to the borough as the co-chair of the Queens Borough President’s Task Force against Sexual and Domestic Violence.
Anu French, MD, FAAP, ABoIM Professional Advisory Board
Dr. Anu French’s, MD, FAAP, ABoIM, journey to wellness over the last 24 years as a holistic pediatrician and the last 16 years as a mother has been focused on building resilience of mind body and spirit for herself, her patients and her family. As she has learned more about toxic stress, inflammation and chronic disease, she has made reversing the effects of these a priority through her health care equity advocacy and her research supporting neuroplasticity and intergenerational resilience.
Dr. French is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a Member of the AAP’s Pediatric Integrative Medicine Leadership Initiative. She is double board-certified in Pediatrics and Integrative Medicine and has completed a Fellowship in Integrative Medicine through Dr Andrew Weil’s Center for Integrative Medicine. She serves on the IM4US (Integrative Medicine for the Underserved) Policy committee and is currently completing a fellowship in Integrative Psychiatry. A yoga student for 20 years, she coauthored and published a review on Yoga in Children included in the AAP’s recent Clinical Policy Statement on the use of Mind-Body Therapies in Children and Youth, and completed Kids Yoga Teacher Training.
Dr French practices whole child Integrative Pediatrics at her office at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Pediatrics in St Louis MO and teaches community electives in Integrative Pediatrics and Nutrition. She offers community workshops on Mantra sound healing, and mindful art. Her offerings of her healing acrylic art The I Am series, her meditative music CD ‘Wake Up My Divinity’ and her children’s book ‘I Am You, You Are Me’ are available on Pandora, iTunes, Amazon and on her website. Her I Am Vida’ line of accessories support Literacy for Life global advocacy programs.
Dr. French is passionate about creating resources that will reveal a more colorful, joyful, united, healthy world. She is committed to partnering with the families and children she is fortunate enough to meet, to empower them to begin journeys towards individual communal and global wholeness and wellness through her public Facebook page. She is grateful for these healing partnerships that nourish her own mind body spirit balance. Her choice of meditation is walking her backyard labyrinth and trying to be a mindful partner to her beloved and a mindful parent to her two precious daughters and her two wayward dogs.
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