Board of Directors

Tami Balavage President/Founder

PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

(239) 821-5051


When my son was diagnosed my life was changed forever. Watching my son live with this disease every second of every minute of every hour knowing that he will always be affected by this disease has opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, adult onset blindness, and lower limb amputations. Diabetes is also a significant cause of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and nerve damage. Diabetics are always at risk for these complications, which can happen early in life if their diabetes is not managed. As a mother of a child with Type 1 diabetes, my worst fear is that my son will be the victim of these complications.

Michael J Haller MD

MEDICAL DIRECTOR


Dr. Haller is the Chief of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of Florida, College of medicine. He is an active investigator in the NIH funded Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet studies as well as The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in Youth (TEDDY) study. Dr. Haller has also served as the principle investigator of “first in man” studies aimed at using autologous umbilical cord blood stem cells as potential therapy for Type 1 Diabetes. In addition, he has served as the PI of studies seeking to determine the potential of combination of FDA approved immunotherapeutics to augment the autoimmune destruction of islets in patients with recent onset Type 1 Diabetes. Dr. Haller has been awarded the Lawson Wilkins Clinical Scholar award, a JDRF innovative research grant, two NIH R21 awards, a JDRF Early Career Clinically Oriented award, and support from the Hemsley Trust to support his work in developing combination therapies for Type 1 Diabetes. In 2008, Dr.Haller, and his colleagues Dr. Desmond Schatz and Dr. Mark Atkinson received the JDRF’s highest award, the Mary Tyler Moore and S.Robert Levine Excellence in Clinical Research Award, for their team approach to developing therapies for Type 1 Diabetes.

Link: http://diabetes.ufl.edu/
Profile: diabetes.ufl.edu/research/our-team/michaelhaller/

Todd M. Brusko PhD

DIRECTOR


Dr. Brusko conducted his graduate training at the University of Florida, College of Medicine in the Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Sciences. While there he was awarded the Graduate Fellowship for Outstanding Research Award for his work in the laboratory of Dr. Mark Atkinson. Dr. Brusko went on to conduct his post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) under the mentorship of Dr. Jeffrey Bluestone. Dr. Brusko’s work at UCSF was supported by a prestigious Advanced Post-Doctoral Fellowship Award sponsored by the JDRF. This work contributed to the first clinical trial employing regulatory T cells as a potential treatment for type 1 diabetes. Dr. Brusko is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology, Immunology, and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Florida where he conducts research at the Diabetes Center of Excellence

Links: diabetes.ufl.edu
Article by Dr. Brusko: Engineering Immune Cells To Stop Autoimmune Attacks Causing T1D
Lecture by Dr. Brusko: Read Lecture
Profile: bruskolab.diabetes.ufl.edu/about-dr-brusko

Kristi Balavage MD

DIRECTOR


Dr. Balavage is a graduate of the University of Florida College of Medicine, where she also completed her undergraduate education. As a Summa Cum Laude undergraduate, she was one of 17 students selected to the combined B.S/M.D Medical Honors Program, and began medical school during her senior year of college. During her time as an undergraduate, she worked in the research laboratory of Dr. Todd Brusko at the UF Diabetes Institute. Her work in the lab resulted in a 1st place oral presentation at the 2015 Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Pediatric Medical Student Research Forum for her talk “Assessing the functional capacity of regulatory T cells derived from cryopreserved umbilical cord blood for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.” During her time in medical school, she was actively involved in the Equal Access Clinic (EAC), a network of medical student-run free clinics to provide care for the underserved population of Gainesville, as a Women’s Night Officer. In addition to local health outreach, Dr. Balavage was involved with global health outreach and participated in a week-long trip to various regions in Ecuador to provide basic health care. Dr. Balavage also has an interest in medical education, and was chosen from among her classmates to pilot a group-tutoring program in which upper-level medical students design review lectures for first year medical students. She was selected to be a medical student member of the UF College of Medicine Interview Committee, and participated in interviewing UF medical school applicants alongside the admissions committee. During her fourth year of medical school, she was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Medical Honor Society. Dr. Balavage will enter residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

UF College of Medicine
Class of 2018
[email protected]

Jon Piganelli PhD

DIRECTOR


Dr Piganelli is Associate Professor of Surgery, Immunology and Pathology Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh at UPMC and has been involved in studying immunology and autoimmunity in Type 1 Diabetes. His work primarily focuses on the role of oxidative stress and free radical generation and how it leads to secondary inflammation since the majority pathological conditions have an inflammatory component. Also these redox reactions are critical for synergizing the innate and adaptive immune response, and exploitation of these reactions can modulate immune function. Dr. Piganelli has studied these interaction in both human islets isolated from cadaveric donors as well as in animal models of T1D like the NOD mouse. His work has demonstrated that modulation of redox dependent signaling can have positive effects on controlling aberrant immune responses as well as the protection and preservation of organs and tissue for transplantation.

Profile: www.immunology.pitt.edu/person/jon-d-piganelli-phd

Michael Balavage

DIRECTOR


Michael is a graduate of the University of South Florida with a degree in Psychology. While at USF Michael participated in a research program with Michael Schoenberg, PhD. Dr. Schoenberg is Chief, Neuropsychology Division, Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences and Clinical Director, Memory Disorders Clinic, at the University of South Florida. Michael is part of a team from the University of South Florida whose research was selected for presentation at the 44th annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society, Boston, MA. (Sever, R.W., Rum, R., Tabak, A., Nelson, R., Balavage, M., Osborn, K. E., Benbadis, S. R., Vale, F. L., Waseem, H., & Schoenberg, M. R. (2016, February). Seizure remission status following surgery for localization-related epilepsy associated with differences in postoperative WAIS-IV performance) Michael has been managing Type 1 Diabetes since December of 2010.

David Wagner PhD

DIRECTOR


Dr. Wagner received his BS in Chemistry/Biology in 1984 from King College in Tennessee. He received his MS and PhD in Biomedical Sciences from East Tennessee State University in 1987 and 1994 respectively. Dr. Wagner then completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Immunology followed by a second Postdoctoral Fellowship at University of Colorado Denver and the Barbara Davis Childhood DiabetesCenter in Diabetes/Immunology. He was appointed Instructor, Assistant Professor, and Associate Professor at the University of Colorado in 2000, 2002, and 2008 respectively. Dr. Wagner is presently an Investigator at the Webb-Waring Institute for Cancer, Aging, and Antioxidant Research. In addition, he is Associate Professor, Division of Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care, Department of Medicine and Head, Section of Immunology at the Webb-Waring Center within the University of Colorado Department of Medicine. Dr. Wagner’s dedication to finding a cure for Type 1 Diabetes brings hope to all who are dealing with this lifelong disease.

Profile: www.ucdenver.edu

David Marrero PhD

DIRECTOR


David G. Marrero, PhD, is the director of the UA Center for Border Health at the University of Arizona Health Sciences. The Center for Border Health works to develop programs and strategies to improve health and wellbeing along the U.S.-Mexico border and across the greater Southwest.

Dr. Marrero, whose research has focused on medication adherence, community health programs, early diabetes intervention and translational medicine, also is professor of public health at the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, Department of Health Promotion Sciences, and professor in the UA College of Medicine Tucson, Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology.

The Center will focus on building extensive collaborative efforts to affect treatment of type 2 diabetes in border populations. Working with the Arizona Area Health Education Centers (AzAHEC) and other UAHS centers, the Center for Border Health is establishing Regional Arizona Centers of Excellence in Clinical Research (or RACER sites) in Yuma and Nogales to provide mental health services for individuals with diabetes and to develop culturally appropriate and relevant training programs.

Dr. Marrero joins the UA Health Sciences after 20 years at Indiana University, where he served as director of its Diabetes Translational Research Center and the J.O. Ritchey Professor of Medicine. He was instrumental in the development of a Diabetes Prevention Program and the TRIAD study, which evaluated strategies to improve diabetes care delivery in managed-care settings, among many other achievements.

Twice awarded the Allene Von Son Award for Diabetes Patient Education Tools by the American Association of Diabetes Educators, Dr. Marrero has been nominated to Who’s Who in Medicine and Health Care in 2000, served as associate editor for Diabetes Care (1997-2002) and is the associate editor for Diabetes Forecast. He was selected for an Alumni of the Year award from the University of California, Irvine in 2006 and Outstanding Educator in Diabetes in 2008 by the American Diabetes Association. In 2016, he served as the president for health care and education of the American Diabetes Association. His research interests also include strategies for promoting diabetes prevention, improving diabetes care practices used by primary care providers and the use of technology to facilitate care and education. His clinical interests include diabetes, obesity and coping.

Dr. Marrero received a bachelor’s degree (1974), master’s degree (1978) and doctorate (1982) in social ecology from the University of California, Irvine.

Scott Needle, MD

DIRECTOR


Dr. Needle is the Chief Medical Officer at the Healthcare Network in Naples, Florida. He practices pediatrics at Children’s Care North office on Creekside Parkway in North Naples. Dr. Needle is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD and completed his internship and residency at the New England Medical Center/Floating Hospital for Children, TuftsUniversity in Boston, MA. He is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics since 1999. Welcome Dr. Needle. It is our distinct pleasure to list you among our distinguished board members.

Henry Rodriguez, MD

DIRECTOR


Henry Rodriguez, MD is Professor of Pediatrics at the University of South Florida College of Medicine, Clinical Director of the USF Diabetes Center, and Principal Investigator of the USF TrialNet Clinical Center. His career has focused on collaborative clinical research, clinical care, and education in type 1 diabetes. Dr. Rodriguez served as Principal Investigator and Clinical Center Director for the Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet Indiana University Clinical Center beginning at TrialNet’s inception in 2001 until his departure in 2010. He was recently awarded funding as PI and Director of the USF TrialNet Clinical Center. He has been an active member of the TrialNet in multiple capacities including Chair of the TrialNet Natural History Protocol Committee since 2010. He is also the PI for numerous diabetes clinical studies including the T1D Exchange USF Center and 9 industry sponsored trials investigating therapies in children and young adults with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Dr Rodriguez also cares for children at the Morisani Center located on the campus of the University of South Florida.

Pat Read Botthof

DIRECTOR


Pat Read Botthof holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and a Master’s degree in hospital and health administration from the University of Iowa. Pat has had a successful career in hospital administration for over 40 years. For 23 years she worked within the NCH Healthcare System and for the last ten years she focused on women’s and children’s services. Pat has had a real and genuine passion for improving children’s services throughout her career.
It is interesting to note that her late father was a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Iowa where he authored the Constant Carbohydrate Diet which was one of the initial diets for people with diabetes. Because of her Dad’s life work and her inherited passion for helping children, pat has a warm spot in her heart for helping those dealing with diabetes.

Dr. Noreen Thomas


Dr. Noreen Thomas serves as a faculty member at National American University teaching leadership and research to higher education doctoral students. In addition, she works with nonprofit organizations in southwest Florida, a genuine passion for Noreen. Her work is designed to maximize the capacity of local charitable agencies so that they can better achieve their missions.

A lifelong educator, Thomas is the former executive vice president of Edison State College in Ft. Myers, Florida. With more than 40 years of experience in higher education, she retired from Edison in 2010. Thomas has a doctorate degree from The University of Texas at Austin and has been a full-time resident in Bonita Springs, Florida for over ten years.

Ashby Walker, PhD


Dr. Walker received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Emory University in 2007 and currently serves as the Director for Health Equity Initiatives at the University of Florida Diabetes Institute. Dr. Walker is a member of the North Florida American Diabetes Association Board, as well as an elected member of the American Diabetes Association National Health Disparities Committee and the Type 1 Exchange National Racial Disparities Working Group. Dr. Walker’s research as a medical sociologist focuses on pediatric type 1 diabetes and the role that social capital plays in determining health outcomes. She is the PI of several funded studies which aim to promote health equity for vulnerable populations with Type 1 Diabetes, including the All for ONE! program – a novel service-learning intervention using college students with Type 1 Diabetes as mentors for publicly insured teens with Type 1 Diabetes. Her most recently awarded grant, ECHO T1D, is a 1.6 million dollar collaborative initiative with Stanford University aimed at improving access to care for underserved T1D populations in the states of Florida and California. Her publications as lead author have appeared in the International Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology, Clinical Diabetes, and the Journal of Infant, Child, and Adolescent Nutrition. Dr. Walker is the recipient of five teaching, mentoring, and curriculum development awards and previously served as the Chair of Social Sciences at Mars Hill University in North Carolina.

Want to join our team?