Board of Directors

Tami Balavage President/Founder


(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


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.


Todd M. Brusko PhD


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

Article by Dr. Brusko: Engineering Immune Cells To Stop Autoimmune Attacks Causing T1D
Lecture by Dr. Brusko: Read Lecture

Kristi Balavage

Kristi is a fourth year medical student at the University of Florida, where she also completed her undergraduate education. As an 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, Kristi was involved with global health outreach and participated in a weeklong trip to various regions in Ecuador to provide basic health care. Kristi has an interest in medical education, and was chosen from amongst her classmates to pilot a group-tutoring program in which upper-level medical students design review lectures for first year medical students. She has also been selected to be a medical student member of the UF College of Medicine Interview Committee, and will participate 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. Following her graduation in May 2018, she will complete her residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

UF College of Medicine
Class of 2018
[email protected]

Jon Piganelli PhD


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.


Michael Balavage


Michael is a student at the University of South Florida majoring in Psychology with an objective towards neuropsychology. Michael is currently participating 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


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.


David Marrero PhD


David Marrero, Ph.D., is J.O. Ritchey Endowed Professor of Medicine and Director, Diabetes Translational Research Center, at Indiana University School of Medicine. He has worked in diabetes education and research for more than 25 years and has more than 300 publications in lay and professional journals (including “Diabetes Care” and “The Diabetes Educator”).

Dr. Marrero has been an American Diabetes Association volunteer since the 1980s.
Locally, he chaired the Josiah K. Lilly Distinguished Service Award, an annual gala held in Indianapolis, and also served on the Kiss-A-Pig fundraiser.
He is currently the American Diabetes Association’s President, Health Care and Education, and a member of the American Diabetes Association’s Board of Directors.
He has served or is currently serving on the following national committees: Adult Strategies, Advocacy, Prevention, Publications Policy, Advisory Group on International Affairs, and Scientific Sessions Meeting Planning.
He was the Associate Editor for “Diabetes Care”, and is currently the Associate Editor of “Diabetes Forecast”. In 2008, he was the recipient of the American Diabetes Association Outstanding Educator in Diabetes Award and the Josiah K. Lilly Distinguished Service Award.
Dr. Marrero holds a PhD, MA and BA in Social Ecology from the University of California, Irvine. He is a member of the American Diabetes Association’s Pinnacle Society and Summit Circle.

Scott Needle, MD


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


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


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.

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