Our Leadership

Board of Directors

Mary Palafox, R.N.

Chair

Orange County, CA

Mary is a registered nurse of 35 years with experience in nursing administration, supervision, and patient care coordination for inpatient and ambulatory care services. She’s known for her innovative and creative abilities in developing systems of practice that are easily managed by a wide variety of medical personnel. Her journey into the mental health system began when her son was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Since then, Mary has remained a devoted advocate on the local, state, and national levels for healthcare integration, crisis intervention, and the classification of schizophrenia as a neurological brain disorder.

Angela Babaev, D.N.P., C.N.S., M.S.N.

Vice Chair

Queens, NY

Currently serving as the Assistant Vice President for Education and Nursing Recruitment at SBH Bronx Health System, Dr. Babaev is dedicated to promoting excellence in patient care through the development of nursing staff, evidence-based nursing practices, and an environment that continually redefines quality patient care. In her 30+ years of experience, Dr. Babaev has overseen the educational, managerial, and financial operations for a nursing staff of 1,500, created an innovative nurse recruitment and retention program, led workshops locally and internationally, served as a Lecturer of Program for International Nurses, and served as an advocate and board member for NAMI-QN. Today, she serves as 2021 president-elect of the Greater New York Organization of Nurse Executives and Leaders.

Kurt A. Talbot, M.B.A.

Treasurer
Boerne, TX

Kurt is an experienced investor with deep expertise in problem-solving and investment prioritization for companies and private energy projects globally. He is the co-founder of EIG Global Energy Partners and served as the Chief Investment Officer and Chair of the Environmental Social Governance Committee. While at Goldman Sachs, he founded its oil and gas direct investment team in Houston. He has a B.S. in Petroleum Engineering from Louisiana State University and holds an M.B.A. from Texas A&M University.

Susan Sheena, B.A.

Secretary
Queens, NY

Susan is a marketer, educator, and mental health advocate. She currently serves as Vice President for MilitaryGr and remains an active member of our board after many years of service. Susan is LEAP®️ trained and has firsthand experience with serious neuropsychiatric illnesses. As a mother to someone living with schizophrenia and substance abuse disorder, Susan is passionate about advocating for her son’s continued recovery and helping others navigate the same journey. She has a unique approach that forms trust and guides families toward the right resources and support they need. Through it all, she is committed to sharing her experience, strength, and hope.

Tim Murphy, Ph.D.

Board Member
Mt. Lebanon, PA

Dr. Murphy’s professional work includes over 40 years in healthcare, government service, military, education, and media. He was the only mental health professional in the United States Senate with this unique background. Recognized as the national leader in mental health reform, his multi-year investigation into federal problems with mental health policy culminated with a comprehensive bill, Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, praised as the most substantial mental health reform in over half a century. The bill passed the House of Representatives 422-2 and was amended into the 21st Century Cures Act signed into law by President Obama in December 2016.

Robert Laitman, M.D.

Board Member
Bedford, NY

Dr. Laitman is a private practice physician in Bronx, New York. He specializes in internal medicine, nephrology, geriatrics, and the optimal management of clozapine. He loves being a physician and involves himself in the total care of his patients. When his son was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2006, Robert expanded his practice and became an expert on the treatment of psychosis and began to specialize in the optimal management of clozapine.

Sandy Dimiterchik, B.S.

Board Member
Youngsville, LA

Sandy Dimiterchik is a certified peer support specialist. She is a member of our staff, serving as the Director of Community Engagement. She has been affiliated with Schizophrenia & Psychosis Action Alliance since 2015 as a volunteer grant writer and has previously received our Volunteer of the Year Award. Sandy has a B.S. in Psychology from Louisiana State University, including the completion of an honors thesis on child development. She herself has a diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder.

Lara Gregorio, L.C.S.W.

Board Member
Pleasanton, CA

Lara has more than 20 years of leadership experience in the behavioral and tele-health industry with extensive frontline clinical experience. She is the Co-Founder & CEO of Humanest Care, a solutions-focused therapy platform. Previously, she served as the head of health systems at 7 Cups. Lara received her B.A. in Sociology/Social Psychology from Emory University and her M.A. M.S.W. from Smith College.

Linda L. Mimms, M.A.

Board Member
San Diego, CA

For more than ten years, Linda has served as an advocate for reform in public policy, law, insurance, and treatment protocols for serious neurodevelopmental brain disorders. She began her career working for the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Senate. As the creator and manager of the Public Relations and Employee Communications Department for Quill Corporation, Linda has authored and edited multiple informational books, manuals, and articles on business productivity published nationally in newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and catalogs. She currently serves on Lawrence University’s President’s Advisory Council, and in 2020, she established the Fund for Serious Mental Illness Advocacy Internships to give students the opportunity to learn about serious brain diseases, their criminalization, and how to build solutions for better access to medical treatment. She is a member of the California Advocates for Treatment, the Hope Street Coalition, the National Shattering Silence Coalition, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She earned an M.A. in Public Policy from Duke University and a B.A. in Anthropology from Lawrence University.

Holly Krasa, M.S.

Board Member
Washington, DC

Holly is the Managing Director and Principal of Blue Persimmon Group with over 25 years of experience conducting and leading medical and health system research.  She has worked across industries leading groups responsible for disease area and product-specific evidence development to support regulatory filings, public policy, and product reimbursement. She previously served as the Head of the Health Outcomes department at Otsuka leading a team of researchers across therapeutic and product categories, including products for serious mental illness such as Abilify, Abilify Maintena, Rexulti, and Abilify MyCite.  She was a scientific advisor to multiple non-profit advocacy organizations, most recently including UsAgainstAlzheimer’s and the Healthy Brains Global Initiative. She received her B.S. in Biology from the University of Michigan and her M.S. in Neurobiology and Physiology from Northwestern University. 

CEO

Gordon Lavigne, M.Ed.

Alexandria, VA

Gordon joined Schizophrenia & Psychosis Action Alliance as CEO in November 2020. He previously served as Executive Vice President of Operations since September 2018.

 

 

Before joining the organization, Gordon held executive management positions with leading nonprofits including the Alzheimer’s Association, the ALS Association, and Autism Society of America coordinating and executing strategies to accelerate organizational growth. 

 

 

Gordon earned a B.S. in Psychology from Lewis & Clark College and a Master of Education degree from the University of Vermont.

Science Advisor

Eva Velthorst, Ph.D.

New York City, NY

As our organization’s Science Advisor, Dr. Velthorst leads efforts to accelerate our scientific agenda by managing initiatives, including our participation in the Accelerating Medicines Partnership in Schizophrenia Steering Committee. Launched by the National Institute of Health, this committee unites researchers and clinicians with leaders of industry, regulatory agencies, and government entities on topics related to biomarker testing, potential new investigational treatments, and use of innovative approaches for studying schizophrenia and psychosis.

 

Dr. Velthorst is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Training Faculty of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 2011.

 

Before receiving the NARSAD Young Investigator award, Eva completed two grants awarded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research that allowed her to examine a potential intervention for as well as determinants of social disengagement in schizophrenia. In 2019, she became an Associate Member of American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

Schizophrenics Anonymous Founder and Inaugural Board Member

Joanne Verbanic

Farmington, MI

Joanne retired from the Ford Motor Credit Union. In her own words, “I committed to devote the rest of my life to helping other people with mental illness and believe this is God’s plan for my life. I receive so much support from the members of SA and have met the most caring, compassionate people. It was my goal to make SA a national group, and I will continue the endeavor as long as I live.” Joanne fulfilled her life’s commitment until the day she died on May 7, 2015.

Medical Advisory Committee

Matcheri Keshavan, MD

Committee Chair
Boston, MA

As part of a major research initiative, Dr. Keshavan joined the faculty of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Department of Psychiatry in 2008. His work focuses on neurobiological models of Schizophrenia and on the development and implementation of early interventions with biopsychosocial treatment strategies. He also serves as the Stanley Cobb Professor of Psychiatry and Harvard Medical School’s Vice Chair of Public Psychiatry.

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