We have a passionate team, dedicated to improving the lives of people with arthritis:
Co-Founder and Executive Director
After running a successful international public relations, advertising and marketing company for nearly 20 years, taking equity positions in tech companies during the ‘90s, and working for some of the largest international PR and marketing agencies, Louis Tharp became a social entrepreneur in 1999, co-founded and acted as the initial funder for CreakyJoints, an international service organization for people with arthritis. In 2007 CreakyJoints became part of the Global Healthy Living Foundation, which he also co-founded. GHLF focuses on health policy, advocacy, research, education and patient support issues.
In addition to his work with the foundation, he is also CEO and co-founder of TGI Healthworks, a healthcare research and marketing company.
He was previously a contract writer for The New York Times as well as other daily newspapers and automotive publications, and published his first hardcover book, The Complete Manager’s Guide to Promotional Merchandise (Dow-Jones Irwin) in 1989 – named one of the top business books of the year.
In 2005, he became the first out gay coach at the U.S. Military Academy, where he was the swim coach of the West Point Triathlon team. He published Overachiever’s Diary in 2007, a softcover book recounting the West Point tri team’s rise to national prominence. Proceeds from book sales go to the West Point triathlon team. He is also a competitive open water and pool swimmer with 13 World Masters, Gay Games and OutGames gold, silver and bronze medals.
From 2003 to 2008, he served on the board of visitors for the College of Business at Butler University, Indianapolis where he graduated with a B.S. and a B.A. in Journalism in 1972. Mr. Tharp served in the 38th Infantry Division, Headquarters, Indiana National Guard from 1972-1978. He was Chairman of the Anti-Bias Commission, Rockland County, New York, from 1994-1996; Chairman of the Board of CANDLE, a Rockland County, New York, non-profit from 1994-1997; is a former member of the board of the Victory Fund, Washington, DC, the Lambda Chi Alpha Educational Foundation, and a current member of Knights Out, U.S. Military Academy. From 2012-2018 he accepted a position in the Obama administration serving on the Army Education Advisory Committee and was recognized for his service in the
Seth Ginsberg is an international health advocate and thought leader based in New York City. Ginsberg was diagnosed in 1994 with Spondylarthritis, and in 1999, at age 18, he helped pioneer the world’s first online patient community for the millions of people worldwide suffering from arthritis, called CreakyJoints. CreakyJoints has grown into a trusted and recognized web site and patient community, delivering robust patient education, community-based and web-based support, advocacy initiatives and patient-centered research. In 2007, Ginsberg and social entrepreneur Louis Tharp co-founded the Global Healthy Living Foundation, the 501(c)(3) non-profit parent organization of CreakyJoints and other advocacy-related activities for neurological and cardiovascular conditions. CreakyJoints Australia, also lead by Ginsberg, is the first international patient community under the GHLF umbrella, and constitutes a growing and vibrant community of patients throughout Australia.
Since 2014, Ginsberg has served as a Principal Investigator of the PCORI-funded patient-powered research network ArthritisPower®. As a web and smartphone app, ArthritisPower is an innovative registry engineered for and by people with rheumatoid arthritis and related autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. Research efforts are overseen by a patient governor group as well as a distinguished research and corporate advisory board.
In 2011, Ginsberg helped create GHLF’s 50-State Network, which is an active network of more than 1,300 patient advocates, based in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Under Ginsberg’s leadership, the 50-State Network focuses on barriers to care people living with chronic illness endure by working with state governors, legislature leadership and insurance commissioners as well as Congress and health-related Congressional Committees and Caucuses, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its regulatory agency the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Ginsberg appears as a guest on local and national broadcast news programs, is a regular op-ed contributor, healthcare news, opinion and advice columnist for U.S. News & World Report, and frequent keynote speaker at professional conferences and healthcare meetings.
Seth lives in Manhattan with his wife, Cara Zelas, who is the author of the children’s book series “The Big World of Little Dude.”
Laurie Ferguson, PhD
Director, Education Development
Laurie J Ferguson PhD
Laurie J Ferguson PhD is the Director of Education Development. As a health psychologist, she offers expertise on patient- centered programming and educational needs that come with chronic health conditions. Her area of research focuses on developing resilient attitudes and behaviors, particularly in times of chronic pain and stress. Her national and international workshops focus on dealing with transitions and life challenges. She wrote a column for patients on the website CreakyJoints.com, and has appeared in numerous webcasts and podcasts. As a health and motivational speaker she addresses physicians and patient groups. She is a co- author for Overachiever’s Diary, a story of the swimming training of the West Point triathlon team. She holds an AB cum laud from Smith College, a Masters from Princeton Seminary and a Ph.d from Adelphi University. Dr. Ferguson has a private therapy practice in Tappan NY.
Ben Nowell, PhD
Director, Patient-Centered Research
Ben Nowell, PhD
W. Benjamin Nowell is Director, Patient-Centered Research, at the Global Healthy Living Foundation (GHLF), CreakyJoints® and co-Principal Investigator of ArthritisPower™ Patient-Powered Research Network with Jeffrey Curtis, MD, MS, MPH (University of Alabama at Birmingham) and Seth Ginsberg.
Ben leads all research activities conducted by the organization, including facilitating studies conducted with academic and industry partners. Recent projects include rheumatoid arthritis (RA) shared decision making projects with Dr. Liana Fraenkel, MD, MPH at Yale and a survey of the family planning concerns of patients with inflammatory arthritis with Dr. Megan Clowse, MD, MPH at Duke.
Ben also leads a hip/knee joint replacement patient research engagement project called BeTTER SAID with co-PI Thomas Concannon, PhD at RAND. His research interests include examination of the factors that facilitate patient engagement as research partners, and patient-reported outcomes and shared decision making in rheumatologic conditions.
Prior to joining GHLF, Ben worked as a medical social worker and Community and Long-Term Care Coordinator for the Ottawa Regional Stroke Centre and as Research Coordinator for an evaluation of participant outcomes in Arthritis Foundation chronic disease self-management programs for arthritis.
He holds a Master’s degree in Social Welfare (MSW) from the University of California at Berkeley and a doctorate in Social Work (PhD) from Columbia University.
Director, Technology and Data Services
David Curtis is Director of Technology and Data Services is responsible for all technology needs related to patient communities, and is responsible for the organization’s technology planning and strategy, translating present and future business needs into technology requirements, and facilitates their design and implementation internally and with vendors and partners. He completed his undergraduate degree in Information Systems at Pace University, with a minor in Economics. After completing his degree, he worked in various roles within the corporate technology sector, including infrastructure and Internet technology implementation and management, software design and development, and data storage and warehousing.
Associate Director, Patient-Centered Research
Shilpa Venkatachalam, PhD
Shilpa Venkatachalam, PhD, MPH, is the Associate Director of Patient Centered Research leading the Patient Partners in Research, a group of patients with chronic and autoimmune conditions who are interested in engaging in research as more than just passive human subjects.
In addition, she manages several research projects including a collaborative research group on Autoimmune and Systemic Inflammatory Syndrome and the GHLF ArthritisPower research registry which is part of 20 Patient Powered Research Networks of the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Net. She has been a project lead on the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute Social Media and Research Toolkit engagement award which developed best practices for using social media to engage patients and other stakeholders in all phases of research, including disseminating evidence-based information.
Shilpa completed her undergraduate degree in Mumbai, before moving to the U.K. to complete a Masters in Literature at the University of Durham, and earned her PhD in Critical Theory at the University of Nottingham, U.K. She has worked as an academic in the U.K., the U.S and in the West Indies.
Following significant life events that required navigating health systems as patient and as caregiver, she earned an Advanced Master’s in Global Health from New York University, during which she also won the prestigious Paul Ambrose Scholars Program fellowship awarded by the by the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research. She was among 25 chosen by The Young Persons Chronic Disease Network in collaboration with American Cancer Society and the Harvard Global Equity Center for The Global Cancer Advocacy Training.
In addition, she has been a regular panelist for video conference presentations on Global Health Topics by the Ambassador’s Club at the United Nations as part of a UNITAIR initiative. She has international experience in healthcare, and has worked in India and in Chad in both private sectors and public sectors on chronic health disease related projects.
Joseph M. Coe, MPA
Director, Education and Digital Strategy
Joseph Coe, MPA
Joseph is our director of education and digital strategy. He oversees our digital strategy for GHLF/CreakyJoints social media channels. He developed and moderates our successful twitter discussion (#CreakyChats) which addresses pressing needs of the chronic disease community. In addition, he works closely with our advocacy team to ensure that the patient voice is heard by helping patients share their story. His passion is to ensure that important and sometimes complex information is presented in an accessible way that encourages positive action.
Prior to working at GHLF/CreakyJoints, Joseph was the court and community liaison for VCS (Volunteer Counseling Services).
He currently serves as a founding board member of the Rockland County Pride Center and sits on the executive committee of the Rockland County Democratic Committee.
He is a past board member of the Planned Parenthood Hudson Paconic Action Fund, the National Organization for Men Against Sexism and the New York State Young Democrats.
In 2011, Joseph was named one of the “40 under 40” by the Rockland County, New York Economic Development Corporation for his contributions to his local community.
In 2016, he received the Public Citizen of the Year award given by the National Organization of Social Workers- NY State Chapter- Westchester Division for his social justice activism.
Joseph holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration and a BA in English and Women’s Studies.
Director, Policy and General Counsel
Steven Newmark, JD, MPA
Steven Newmark, JD, MPA, Is Director of Policy and General Counsel. Steven leads global advocacy and policy initiatives. He was most recently Special Counsel to the President of NYC Health + Hospitals in New York City. Before that he served as the Senior Health Policy Adviser to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. He also served as General Counsel in Mayor de Blasio’s Public Advocate office, and as a Health Sciences Litigation Associate at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP in New York City where he was part of the team that successfully defended the Vaccine Act before the Supreme Court in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth.
Additionally, he has taught Public Policy at Columbia University and is an Adjunct Professor in U.S. Health Policy at the City University of New York, Baruch College. He received his Juris Doctor from Fordham University School of Law and his Master of Public Policy and Administration, Advanced Policy and Management from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He received his Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy, Politics and Law from the State University of New York at Binghamton.
Kelly Gavigan, MPH
Manager, Research and Data Science
Kelly Gavigan, MPH
Kelly Gavigan, MPH, Manager, Research and Data Science is responsible for collecting and analyzing patient-reported data to better inform scientific and clinical research on arthritis and arthritis-related conditions. Kelly has coauthored numerous published abstracts and soon-to-be published manuscripts on ArthritisPower research. ArthritisPower is GHLF’s patient-reported outcomes registry. She also analyzes data collected through GHLF’s CreakyJoints and the 50-State Network communities, which help to inform policy. Kelly graduated from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in 2016 with a Master of Public Health in Sociomedical Sciences and Global Health. During her graduate program, she worked at an advocacy nonprofit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she published work on topics including HIV treatment and prevention literacy. Kelly graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Boston College, where she also minored in Faith, Peace and Justice.
Daniel Hernandez, MD
Director of Medical Affairs and Hispanic Outreach
Daniel Hernandez, MD
Daniel Hernandez, MD, is the Medical Advocacy Liaison, and leads our medical team of consulting physicians as well as Hispanic outreach across all disease states and countries. He co-founded and is the current advisor to the chair of the International Medical Graduate section which is part of the National Hispanic Medical Association. Daniel was born in El Paso, Texas. He graduated with a Biology degree from University of Texas at San Antonio and later graduated medical school from the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara and recently completed his medical rotations in Houston.
Lauren Gelman, MS
Director, Editorial Services
Lauren Gelman, MS
Lauren Gelman, MS, is Director, Editorial Services. She was previously Editor-in-Chief at HeathiNation, Executive Digital Director at Reader’s Digest, Executive Editor at Everyday Health and Senior Health Editor at Prevention Magazine. She has extensive experience in print, digital, and video health care journalism as well as a recognized expertise in audience development, content strategy, search engine optimization, and digital analytics. She graduated summa cum laude from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, where she also received her Master’s degree in journalism. Lauren is responsible for editorial strategic direction and quality control, including the development and management of print, digital, and video products.
Jim Bumgardner, MFA
Director, Arts Outreach
Jim Bumgardner, MFA
Jim Bumgardner, MFA, is Director, Arts Outreach. He leads patient art outreach for all GHLF digital communities, including producing and directing the CreakyJoints Radio Theater, overseeing patient painting, sculpture, writing, singing and other art forms. Jim previously taught at Seton Hall University, Thomas Aquinas College, and Hofstra University, and is the producer for Bergenstages, the performing arts program at Bergen Community College, Paramus, NJ, as well as a professor of theatre there. Prior and during his tenure at Bergen Community College, he directed plays and musicals at the Cortland Repertory Theatre in Cortland, NY. Jim has worked as an actor in New York City at the Lamb’s Theatre, Soho Playhouse, Ubu Rep., Judith Anderson Theatre, Playwright’s Horizons, Actor’s Advent and the Actor’s Playhouse. Regionally, he has worked as an actor all along the East Coast, as far south as Boca Raton, FL and as far north as Whitefield, NH. In the mid-1990’s, Jim had a recurring role on CBS’s “Another World” as Dr. Reed. His film credits include “The Fisher King,” “Regarding Henry” and “Soap Dish.” He is a member of A.E.A, SAG and AFTRA. Some of his directing credits include “Into the Woods,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Making God Laugh,” “The 1940’s Radio Hour”, “The Heiress”, “The Hollow,” “A Murder Is Announced,” “Cabaret,” “Brigadoon,” “Kiss Me, Kate,” “Damn, Yankees!,” “Godspell,” “The Mousetrap,” “A Funny Thing…Forum,” “Moonlight and Magnolias,” and “Kindertranspsort”. Jim earned an MFA in directing from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY and a BA in Theatre and Romance Languages from St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, NC.
Laura Stradford, MPH
Laura Stradford, MPH
Laura Stradford, MPH, Project Manager is responsible for overseeing the development, advancement and coordination of research projects, including project design, budget, staffing, logistics and other supportive functions. She earned a Master of Public Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, with a focus in Epidemiology and Applied Biostatistics. She received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Saint Peter’s University. Prior to joining GHLF, Laura worked in healthcare consulting and was responsible for designing and implementing retrospective longitudinal analyses of claims data, literature reviews, and development of peer reviewed publications. She also worked as a supervisory paralegal for a major international corporation, managing a network of paralegals nationally.
Corey Greenblatt, MPH
Manager, Policy and Advocacy
Corey Greenblatt, MPH
Corey Greenblatt, MPH, is the Manager of Policy and Advocacy manages the 50-State Network and is responsible for interpreting patient needs and communicating them to federal legislative and executive branches and agencies, as well as to state and local legislatures, committees and agencies. He earned a Master of Public Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, with a focus in Healthcare Policy Analysis. He received a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Public Health from the University of Miami. Prior to joining GHLF, Corey worked with the non-profit organization American Youth Understanding Diabetes Abroad (A.Y.U.D.A.) to provide outreach and education to children diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.
Jessica Boles, MSW,LSW
Patient Advocate, Community Outreach Manager
Jessica Boles, MSW, LSW
Jessica Boles, MSW, LSW, is a Patient Advocate, Community Outreach Manager engaged in direct patient communications, supporting GHLF’s 50-State Network of advocates, patient governor and patient council boards, and patient editorial and publicity activities. In addition to patients, she is also the touch-point with many of GHLF’s partner societies and coalitions.
Jessica is a licensed social worker who brings more than 10 years’ experience in social work serving the United Way of Northern New Jersey’s Caregiver Coalitions; Bloomfield College, Bloomfield, NJ; Visiting Nurse Association of Northern New Jersey, and Covenant House, Newark, NJ, as well as East Carolina Behavioral Health and Bridges of Hope in Greenville, NC. She received her Master of Social Work from Rutgers University with a concentration in Nonprofit Management and Public Policy and an emphasis in Advocacy, Aging and Health Policy, and her BA in Psychology from East Carolina University.
Manager, Finance and Administration
Ryan Johnson, Manager, Finance and Administration is responsible for internal administration and financial processes, overseeing and implementing office, employee and accounting policies. Ryan graduated from Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY, with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
Danielle Ali is a Systems Analyst and is responsible for analyzing technology requirements and implementing best practice for system performance. Before receiving her BS in Technological System Management with a specialization in Information Systems at Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, she served as Communications Coordinator for the Dean of Students; Data Coordinator, Student Engagement & Activities; Project Coordinator, American Arbitration Association, and Vice President of Academic Affairs-Executive Council of Stony Brook’s Undergraduate Student Government.
Manager, Web Development
James Dybisz, Manager, Web Development is responsible for the creation, management, improvement, alteration, and upkeep of intellectual property hosted on GHLF’s websites. James received a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Savannah College of Art and Design, majoring in Interactive Design and Development, and won the 2nd place Entelechy Award for participation in his senior team project. Since graduating, James has worked in IT at Inc. Magazine, and as a contractor for GrubHub, and Nars Cosmetics. James has also volunteered at social and digital events, where he has hosted cooperative gatherings for people interested in interactive design and entertainment.
Patient Advocate, Community Outreach Manager
Conner Mertens is a patient advocate and community outreach manager. His direct daily contact with patients supports CreakyJoints’ mission to understand and support our community. His work supports the 50-State Network of advocates, helping people with chronic disease share their story to their family, community, elected and appointed leaders. He provides our community members with tools and training to effectively advocate for positive change.
Conner interned for the Minority House Leader at the Oregon State Legislature, worked closely with legislators in Washington State passing mental health and suicide prevention laws, and was an intern at CNN New York, working in production and research for Anderson Cooper 360.
In 2014, he was the first National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) football player to come out publicly about his sexuality. He traveled the country speaking at high schools and universities, corporations, festivals and in state legislatures on topics such as anti-bullying, suicide-prevention, mental health, activism in sports and LGBTQ issues. Some past speaking engagements include the South by Southwest film festival, Toronto Film Festival and Nike.
He has served on boards for the Trevor Project, The You Can Play Project, the Sports Equality Foundation and the New Rochelle, NY, Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Board. Currently, he holds a board position as the communications director of the Hudson Valley Stonewall Democrats.
Conner graduated from Willamette University in Oregon with a B.A. in Politics in 2017, and was featured on its website for his success in LGBT issues, politics and at GHLF.