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Adoption Nutrition

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SPOON Foundation – Staff

SPOON Foundation – Executive Board Members

SPOON Foundation – Medical Advisory Board Members


Emily Brod, MBA

Director of Finance & Operations

Emily has dedicated her career to helping organizations and programs run effectively and successfully. Over the last 14 years, Emily has worked with mission-driven organizations, large and small, local and international, and at different points in their lifecycle. As a result, she understands how a powerful mission, like SPOON’s, coupled with smart business practices can effectively produce change. Before coming to SPOON, she was the Assistant Director of the Creative Advocacy Network, an organization that successfully created a sustainable public fund for the arts and arts education in Portland. Prior to that she directed Yale University’s Program on Social Enterprise, administered a major redevelopment of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, and was the Exhibitions Manager of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Emily received her MBA with a focus in finance and non-profit management from the Yale School of Management and her BA in Arts & Ideas in the Humanities from the University of Michigan, Residential College. She lives in Portland with her husband and two young children.

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Monica Czapla, MPH

Director of Programs & Partnerships

Monica is a public health specialist with extensive international humanitarian experience. She has most recently worked in Southern Africa with an inter-governmental organization designing and implementing programs focused on improving access to health and public health services amongst vulnerable and underserved populations. Monica has a MPH from Tulane University specializing in International Health and Development, as well as a background in microbiology. Through her international work, she developed a passion for improving access to quality and appropriate health and nutrition services particularly for marginalized children who are often overlooked.

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Julian Davies, MD

Medical Advisory Board Member

Julian is the co-director of the Center for Adoption Medicine at the University of Washington. He is also the editor of www.adoptmed.org, an online resource for medical and developmental issues in adoption. His interest in adoption comes from his years clowning, teaching children's theater, and leading summer camps with groups of Moscow orphans. In his clinical practice, he has an interest in integrative and nutritional approaches to neuro-developmental issues.

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Jeff Erlich, MA

Executive Board Member

Jeff Erlich is a consultant specializing in the nonprofit sector in Central Asia. In addition to working with SPOON, he is currently involved in projects to increase access to justice for vulnerable people and to help corporations improve their social investments. He is the past president of the Eurasia Foundation of Central Asia. An adoptee himself, he has been a leading proponent of the deinstitutionalization of orphans in Kazakhstan. Jeff first came to Central Asia in 1998 as a Peace Corps volunteer, and has worked in all five former Soviet Central Asian republics. He lives with his wife Halida and two sons Joseph and William in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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Philip A. Fisher, PhD

Medical Advisory Board Member

Dr. Fisher is a Professor of Psychology and Research Scientist at the Prevention Science Institute at the University of Oregon. He is Science Director for the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs and a Senior Fellow at the Center on the Developing Child, both based at Harvard University. He is also a Senior Research Scientist at the Oregon Social Learning Center. Dr. Fisher’s work on disadvantaged and maltreated children includes (a) studies to understand the effects of early stress on the developing brain; (b) the development of two-generation prevention and treatment programs to improve high-risk children’s (and their caregiver’s) well-being and brain functioning; and (c) advocacy for science-based policy and practice to improve early learning and healthy development in high-risk children. His work has been funded by a number of institutes of the National Institutes of Health. He serves on a number of national advisory groups related to prevention science and community based research. His intervention programs are being implemented at sites throughout the United States and Europe. He is the recipient of the 2012 Society for Prevention Research Translational Science Award.

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Michael Georgieff, MD

Medical Advisory Board Member

Michael is a Professor of Pediatrics and Child Development at the University of Minnesota where he is Head of the Section of Neonatology in the Department of Pediatrics, and Director of the Center on Neurobehavioral Development. He is a renowned expert on early nutrition and the brain having served on the Committee on Nutrition and the Breastfeeding Work Group for the American Academy of Pediatrics and on the Nutrition Study Section for the National Institutes of Health. He is a member of the American Pediatric Society and the Pediatric Academic Societies. He has written over 120 articles and book chapters on nutrition and brain development in the newborn and early childhood period, and is a contributing author to AAP's Handbook on Nutrition. His research focuses on fetal/newborn nutrition, specifically the effect of iron nutrition on brain development and neurocognitive function. He lectures nationally and internationally on nutrition and the developing brain.

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Sophie Hawkins

Administration & Outreach Coordinator

Sophie is a graduate of University of Maryland School of Communication who specializes in marketing and social media management. She recently moved to Portland, OR from Washington, DC. Before coming to work for SPOON, Sophie was a Marketing Assistant for the historic National Theatre and a Social Media Assistant for the music venue, 9:30 Club. Prior to that, she worked for the University of Maryland as a Social Media Coordinator where she marketed university events.

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Mary Hearst, PhD, MPH

Medical Advisory Board Member

Mary is an Associate Professor and Director of Public Health at St. Catherine's University and Adjunct Faculty at the University of Minnesota Division of Epidemiology. Since receiving her doctorate, Dr. Hearst has conducted obesity related research among children and families, with special emphasis on low-income, multi-ethnic families. Recently, she if focused on food access among the most vulnerable and the intersection between healthy nutrition and child development. Her background as an Occupational Therapist provides additional expertise with children with special health care needs, feeding practices and facilitating healthy child development.

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John Himes, PhD, MPH

Executive & Medical Advisory Board Member

John is Professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the School of Public Health at University of Minnesota. John serves on the Expert Panel for Nutrition for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva; on the Advisory Group on standardizing anthropometric and body composition measurements and reporting for the National Institutes of Health; and recently completed his service on the Advisory Group on the construction of growth velocity standards, Department of Nutrition and Health, WHO, Geneva. He additionally serves as a member of NIH's Kidney, Nutrition, Obesity, and Diabetes Epidemiology Study Section. He is an experienced researcher and well-published expert in the areas of physical growth and maturation of children; growth and nutrition; anthropometric assessment of nutritional status and dietary assessment.

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Brita Johnson

Senior Advisor

Brita has worked in diverse roles with more than 20 domestic and international nonprofit organizations and mission-driven start-up efforts over the last 15 years. She brings to SPOON a passion for building organizational capacity and facilitating sustainable solutions to make the world a healthier, more just and more vibrant place. Both personal and professional connections drew her to SPOON's work: a longstanding interest in nutrition, strong family connections to adoption, a firsthand experience of the impact of institutionalization on Romanian children, and an attraction to SPOON's strategic approach to an issue not addressed by any other organization. Brita enjoys gardening, cooking, hiking, biking and skiing in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband and young daughter.

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Dana E. Johnson, MD, PhD

Executive & Medical Advisory Board Member

Dr. Johnson is a Professor of Pediatrics, member of the Division of Neonatology and a faculty member in the Global Pediatrics Program at the University of Minnesota where Dr. Johnson co-founded the International Adoption Program in 1986. His research interests include the effects of early institutionalization on growth and development and the outcomes of internationally adopted children. Dr. Johnson is an invited speaker worldwide, a Senior Research Fellow in the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and has authored over 200 scholarly works. He received the Distinguished Service Award from the Joint Council for International Children’s Services, Friend of Children Award from the North American council on Adoptable Children and the Harry Holt Award from Holt International. He is a member of the Board of Directors of JCICS and Half The Sky Foundation. He is also the father of three children including an adopted son from India.

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Cindy R. Kaplan, MS

Co-founder & Executive Director; Executive Board Member

Cindy has extensive experience in qualitative and quantitative research, strategic development and marketing. She has worked in strategic planning for Leo Burnett in Chicago; co-founded and sold WellNext, a corporate wellness consulting firm where she created new metrics for assessing individual and corporate wellness; and served as the first Marketing Director for a nutrition-driven food company, Enjoy Life Natural Brands, where she helped to launch a national brand and lead a multifaceted campaign to raise awareness of food-related health conditions. Cindy and her husband Tony adopted their son Jadyn from Kazakhstan in 2006, as a malnourished infant. In 2010 they returned to Kazakhstan and adopted daughter Neve.

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Maria Kroupina, PhD

Medical Advisory Board Member

Maria Kroupina is an assistant professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Global Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Kroupina sees internationally adopted children on an outpatient basis. Current funded research includes a study on nutritional status of recently arrived internationally adopted children, and collaborative work as a co-investigator regarding recovery from early life stress in children adopted from institutions (PI: Megan Gunnar, PhD) and neurobehavioral correlates of early deprivation (PI: Megan Gunnar, PhD)

Dr. Kroupina's master's degree in clinical psychology was awarded by Moscow State University Department of Psychology (Moscow, Russia). She earned her PhD at the University of Minnesota. She has additional professional training in family systems therapy (Moscow Center for Marriage and Family Therapy), attachment disturbances (Tulane University), and the Stanley Greenspan intensive online training course in infancy and early childhood training course titled Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based (DIR) Floortime Model. She teaches medical residents as part of the elective in adoption medicine.

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Zeina Makhoul, PhD, RD

Nutrition Scientist

Zeina is working with SPOON Foundation as a Nutrition Assessment Specialist to design and implement nutrition and feeding assessment tools in orphanages in several developing countries. Zeina is a Registered Dietitian and has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona with a focus on international nutrition. Her doctoral work included studies on iron deficiency and night blindness in Nepalese pregnant women and birth outcomes. She completed a four-year postdoctoral training at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA where she led several research studies investigating the role of nutrition in HIV-associated malignancies in Uganda. She also designed and implemented a nutritional assessment system at the pediatric oncology ward at Uganda Cancer Institute. She has years of experience teaching nutrition at the college level. Zeina’s interests include child and maternal nutrition, nutritional assessment and rehabilitation, nutrition education, and improving nutrition programs through operations and implementation research. Zeina is on staff with SPOON Foundation as Nutrition Assessment Specialist.

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Michele Meyer

Executive Board Member

Michele was appointed President of General Mills’ Small Planet Foods Division in June 2007. In this role, Michele is responsible for leading the marketing and business plans for Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, Lärabar, and Food Should Taste Good – a Natural and Organic Division focused on providing “Food that Matters” to people and the Planet. Previously, Michele served as Vice President and Marketing Director in the Big G Cereal Division, as well as having spent time as VP of Cereal Partners Worldwide Global Marketing. Over her 24 year career at General Mills, Michele has enjoyed a wide breadth of assignments and led multiple marketing and sales functions across the company, including Brands on the Go, International, and a cross functional VP assignment as Head of the Merchant’s Consortium in Sales. Her teams have received four Chairman’s Awards for outstanding performance, 3 Eagles and numerous Gimmies for outstanding performance over the years. Michele grew up in Tampa, Florida. She earned a bachelor's degree in Economics from Vanderbilt University, and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. Michele, her husband Rich, and their two children reside in Shorewood, MN.

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Brad Miller, MD

Medical Advisory Board Member

Brad is a Pediatric Endocrinologist at the University of Minnesota. His basic science research has focused on the growth hormone-insulin-like growth factor system that regulates growth in children. As a post-doctoral fellow at the Mayo Clinic, he studied the role of IGF binding proteins in fracture healing, growth and the growth response to nutritional deprivation. Since joining the faculty of the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital-Fairview, Brad has collaborated with the International Adoption Clinic in clinical study of growth recovery following early adversity related to international adoption. His growing body of research and clinical practice is focused on growth recovery and its sequelae after early adversity including nutrient deprivation, emotional deprivation and intrauterine growth retardation.

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Kate Nelson Ward, MPH, CHES

Instructional Designer

Kate is a certified health education specialist with a wide range of experiences in international health and chronic disease management. She has a strong background in curriculum development and qualitative research. Kate spent several years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, managing an international diabetes self-management program and collaborating on several multi-disciplinary research projects with the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health. While living in Kazakhstan from 2005-2006, Kate grew passionate about orphan welfare and ultimately became involved with SPOON in 2010 as a volunteer. Kate is an avid SCUBA diver, exercise enthusiast, and self-proclaimed foodie. She lives in Georgia with her husband and two dogs.

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John Ordway, JD

Executive Board Member

John is a retired U.S. Ambassador who spent 33 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, and who served as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia and Kazakhstan. His other Foreign Service assignments include eight years in Moscow, as well as Director of African Affairs at the National Security Council. Since retiring, he has had several short-term assignments temporarily heading U.S. Embassies in Europe and Asia. He is also the head of the U.S. delegation to the New START Treaty’s Bilateral Consultative Commission that meets periodically with the Russian Federation. He and his wife, Maryjo, now live in Sacramento, California.

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Paula Rabaey, MS, OTR/L

Medical Advisory Board Member

Paula is an Assistant Professor in the Dept of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN. She is currently working on her PhD in occupational therapy focusing on best practice in feeding and eating issues with young children and their families. Her clinical background includes 15 years of experience working with children with special needs primarily in early intervention. She has specialized in feeding and eating difficulties in children with a variety of diagnoses and worked with families to create a positive mealtime environment. She has participated in international service learning trips to Quito, Ecuador with OT students working with local foundations and children with special needs who have feeding difficulties. Her background as a pediatric occupational therapist includes additional expertise in the areas of seating and positioning, sensory processing, and the importance of attachment and bonding to growth and nutrition.

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Katja Rowell, MD

Medical Advisory Board Member

Katja is a graduate of the University of Michigan medical school and served as a family physician in urban, rural, and university student health settings. During her time in practice, she was struck by the prevalence of disordered eating and feeding, and related health problems. Rowell believes establishing a healthy feeding relationship– in essence– HOW children are fed is the missing piece in addressing disordered eating, weight dysregulation and damaging dieting behaviors. Dr. Rowell works with parents to provide personalized solutions and support for feeding and weight concerns, from selective eating to food preoccupation. She has a special interest in supporting adoptive and fostering families. Her book, Love Me, Feed Me: The Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Ending the Worry About Weight, Picky Eating, Power Struggles and More is available on Amazon.com. Dr. Rowell teaches the importance of a healthy feeding relationship to health care providers, family therapists and childcare staff, and consults with corporate clients, nutrition education and public health projects.

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Mishelle Rudzinski, MA, CCC-SLP

Co-Founder & Director of Feeding and Disability Programming

Mishelle is a pediatric speech-language pathologist specializing in the communication and feeding of children with severe disabilities. She is currently the CEO of SwitchClimber.com, an educational company that operates an interactive website for children who cannot access typical computers. From 1999-2009, she worked at Emanuel Children's Hospital in Portland where she developed and ran an augmentative communication clinic serving nonverbal children from throughout the Northwest. Mishelle adopted her daughter Bakha at age five from Kazakhstan. She became passionate about the need for improved orphan nutrition after witnessing Bakha's dramatic recovery from debilitating rickets within weeks of receiving vitamin supplements.

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Judith Shank, MD

Executive Board Member

Judy is a retired dermatologist who has been a volunteer for numerous health care related organizations. She is a past President of the Minnesota Medical Association, Past Chairman of the Minnesota Medical Foundation, Founding Chairman of the Hennepin Health Foundation and a board member of both The Hennepin and Allina Health Systems. She was an adjunct Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota. Both of her grandchildren were adopted from China. She and her husband Steve currently live in Sarasota, Florida.

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Almaz Sharman, MD, PhD

Executive Board Member

Bio pending

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