Smith Center for Healing and the Arts relies upon the work of a network of faculty, staff, and volunteers from a wide variety of disciplines. We welcome inquiries, applications, involvement and/or support from anyone engaged or interested in this work.
Shanti Norris – Co-Founder and Executive Director/CEO
Ms. Norris serves as Executive Director of Smith Center for Healing and the Arts. She initiated the Smith Center hospital Artist-in-Residence program and Healing Arts Gallery. She runs the weeklong retreats for people with cancer, and oversees new initiatives, including the Faith-based Community Navigation project at Smith Center. Former Vice President of Kent Homeopathic Associates, she has an extensive background in complementary medicine and mind-body approaches to healing. She has taught meditation, yoga philosophy and stress reduction for over 35 years and underwent a formal ten-year mentorship with a renowned yoga master. She is a three-term member of CARRA, the patient advocacy program at the National Cancer Institute and a graduate of Project LEAD from the National Breast Cancer Coalition. She is a graduate of the Georgetown University Non-profit Leadership certificate course and the James P. Shannon Leadership Institute in Minneapolis/St Paul. She is a former board member of the Society for the Arts in Healthcare and Chaired their Annual Conference in 2004. She is a founding board member of The Art Connection in the Capital Region and a founding member of Arts in Healthcare Advocates (AHA.) She is a frequent speaker on the healing power of the arts. Her formal art training began at New York University and The Cooper Union in New York City and includes running the fine art studio of artist Peter Max. She is a member of ArtTable, the mother of three adult children, and is a painter and sculptor.
Michelle Clermont – Deputy Director
Ms. Clermont serves as the Deputy Director for Smith Center. She oversees the operations, administration, and finances of Smith Center and manages all human resources for the organization. She has worked in the integrative health and nonprofit industry for over twenty years and has broad experience in all aspects of operations including: strategic planning; team building; staff development; contract negotiations; event management; and budget development. Prior to Smith Center, she helped to integrate and manage two DC metro area healthcare clinics and also managed an international nonprofit that worked to integrate healthcare by educating healthcare providers in mind-body medicine, integrative cancer care, and nutrition. Michelle has studied dance for most of her life and has actively practiced Pilates for many years. She also has extensive experience with yogic philosophy, energy medicine, and nutrition and is passionate about creating great-tasting, healthy, allergen free, vegan foods. She and her husband, guitarist Dan Leonard, live in Northern Virginia and are in the process of adopting their first child.
Kiersten Gallagher - Cancer Support Programs Director
Kiersten serves as the Programs and Engagement Director for Smith Center. Before coming to Smith Center, she had the privilege to serve individuals and families facing cancer at Wellness House of Annapolis. As Smith Center’s Programs and Engagement Director, Kiersten aims to offer programs to reduce stress, help participants to see the world we live in from different perspectives, encourage creativity in the healing process and to educate participants about the direct connection between nutrition and health. Kiersten is a certified yoga instructor and herbalist and has been studying wellness for over three decades. She believes in a holistic approach to healing, human relationships and is grateful for each and every day. In her spare time, you may find Kiersten laughing with friends, cycling, practicing yoga and spending time with her husband Shane, son Liam, dog Hooper and the most recent additions, their three chickens.
Anthony Palliparambil, Jr. - Interim Gallery Director
Art lover, fashion enthusiast, budding health-food nut, and a DC local since birth — Anthony Palliparambil, Jr., is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park where he majored in Studio Art and minored in Art History. Post graduation, after a brief stint at Washington Project for the Arts, he joined the Smith Center family as the social media administrator for the 9/11 Arts Project. Eventually, he made his way to the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, where he's been ever since! In his spare time, Anthony enjoys painting, singing loudly in his car, watching classic movies, and flipping through a stack of fashion magazines.
Carole O'Toole - Director, Institute of Integrative Oncology Navigation
Carole developed the Patient Navigation Program for Smith Center in 2006, introducing integrative navigation to Howard University Cancer Center, and developing faith-based community navigation services for African-Americans and African immigrants that operate from four churches in underserved areas and the community at large. She has also designed a training model for integrative cancer care navigation that is offered to navigators nationwide through Smith Center. Prior to her work at Smith Center, Carole was a Patient Navigator at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, MD, and ran a private integrative cancer care navigation practice. She also has over fifteen years’ professional experience in environmental consulting.
In addition to her navigation work at Smith Center, Carole also staffs the weeklong retreats, coaches individuals on integrative cancer care decision-making and complementary resources, and leads Smith Center's “Living Well With Cancer” one-day workshops. Carole frequently represents Smith Center at national and local conferences and other public forums. She is the author of two books on integrative cancer care: “Cancer Community Healing Network”, and “Healing Outside the Margins”, and holds a Masters degree in Medical Anthropology and Health Policy. Carole has been a survivor of advanced cancer since 1994, enjoys biking and rowing on the Potomac with a survivor crew team, and is a wife and mother.
Michelle Chatman - Patient Provider Education Project Director
Michelle is Project Director of the Patient Provider Education Project, a Smith Center health initiative funded by the Susan G. Komen Foundation. For a number of years, she has worked as a faculty member for Smith Center’s Institute of Integrative Oncology Navigation. Michelle also works as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of the District of Columbia.
Laura Pole - Director of Nourishment Programs
Laura has served as Smith Center’s health supportive chef and nurse consultant since 1997. She is an Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist and Cancer Guide with 25 years experience in caring for people with serious illness. She is also a Certified Health Supportive Chef, professional musician and Nia body-mind fitness instructor. Her popular cooking class, Eating for a Lifetime: Cooking for People with Cancer, introduces participants to the Eight Principles of Food Selection, along with truly tasty and healthy recipes. Laura is the founder of “Eating for a Lifetime,” a consulting business dedicated to teaching individuals and professionals about health supportive eating and food preparation. In addition to Laura's work with nourishment, she is the co-coordinator of Smith Center's Patient Navigation Training in Integrative Cancer Care. Laura also serves as coordinator of the "Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use" listserv.
Tanya Batalska - Finance Director
Tanya Batalska has experience in Non-Profit Finance and Operations Management and Hospitality Management. After moving to the Washington, DC area and before joining our team she worked for Women’s Campaign Fund and She Should Run. Her experience spans multiple non-profit organizational structures, like 501(c)3 (foundation), 501(c)4 (membership), and PAC (political action committee). She believes in the importance of the work non-profit organizations do in our world and she dreams of a world and government where non-profits will no longer be needed. She believes in the importance of coexistence and balance, and enjoys greatly the programs offered at Smith Center and learning more about integrative wellness.
Shefa Nola Benoit - Operations Manager
Shefa Nola Benoit serves as Operations Manager for Smith Center for Healing and the Arts. Formerly the Chief Executive Officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maryland, she is a mission-driven servant leader with a background in fundraising, nonprofit operations and program management. Trained in Oral History at the University of Mississippi, Shefa enjoys producing storytelling projects that documents "the now" and has prepared a number of videos for Smith Center. In her spare time, she also enjoys fishing, road trips, and researching folklore. She is a proud mother of four and grandmother to one.
Erin Price-Schabert - Development Manager
Erin serves as Smith Center's Development Manager and has a solid background in Direct Marketing fundraising for nonprofit organizations. During her years as a fundraising consultant she did work for a variety of causes from women’s organizations and animal welfare groups, to health and environmental nonprofits. Receiving numerous awards for her work over the years, she was most recently honored as the 2011 Rising Star by the Direct Marketing Association of Washington. After Erin’s diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer in 2011, she decided to devote her time toward cancer support organizations and found her place at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts. She graduated from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA, and holds a B.S. in business administration. Outside of work, Erin continues to enjoy creative outlets: dance, cooking, painting and pottery. She can also be found volunteering for various breast cancer organizations in the Washington, DC area.
Alison Decker - Program Manager
Ali serves as the Program Manager for Smith Center, working with each of our departments to manage logistics and communications for classes, workshops, trainings, and retreats. She approaches her work at Smith Center with degrees in Music/Anthropology and Ethnomusicology and experience working at performing arts non-profits. Before she relocated to DC, Ali enjoyed performing in a Sundanese Gamelan, teaching world music, and researching the sounds of kundalini yoga. She fully believes in the deep healing power that is inherent in music and art-making.
Caitlin Morneau - Operations Coordinator
Caitlin Morneau serves as Operations Coordinator for Smith Center. In college, she studied vocal performance and spent two summers conducting ethnographic research on music in the lives of Appalachian residents. After graduation, Caitlin spent a year with AmeriCorps serving homeless families and then worked to support young people dedicating their lives to volunteerism. She is thrilled to bring her non-profit experience to Smith Center, where her inner-artist is embraced and empowered. Some of Caitlin’s favorite pastimes include traveling, hiking and gathering around the table with family and friends.
Kendra Tappin - Assistant Director, Patient Provider Education Project
Kendra is Assistant Director of the Patient Provider Education Project, a Smith Center health initiative funded by the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Kendra brings a wealth of research experience to the position. She has served as a lead researcher for the No-Fear Coalition, a non-profit providing quantitative and qualitative data on the health effects of vanadium mining in rural South Africa, and she has held research positions at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University; the Harry Van Arsdale Center for Labor Studies at Empire State College; the Institute for Research and African American Studies at Columbia University; and, the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. Kendra currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and is completing graduate work at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. She is the delighted mother of identical twin pre-school girls.
Meredith Anderson - Program Consultant
Meredith Anderson joined Smith Center in 2008 as Outreach Director and later became Program Director, helping to launch and run programs in the beautiful downstairs program space. Prior to that, she worked at the American Society of Clinical Oncology, a global association focused on cutting-edge cancer research and practice. Her early career experience was in television marketing at Discovery Communications. Meredith's animating questions about the human condition and the art of living, how we heal and how we grow, led her to Smith Center. In her time there, she learned at every step and ultimately, perhaps, got more than she gave in the process. Meredith lives with her family in Arlington, VA and enjoys reading, paper arts, and poetry.
Handirubvi Indigo Wakatama- Gallery Assistant & Special Events
Zimbabwean-born artist, Indigo serves as our Saturday Gallery Assistant for the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery. She is currently in the process of completing a Masters in Arts and Teaching from the Corcoran College of Art, where she also received her undergraduate degree in Fine Art. During her experience at the Corcoran, Indigo managed to embrace a myriad of opportunities such as studying for a semester in London at Chelsea College of Art, working with artist El Anatsui through the African Art Museum, and exhibiting in galleries along with alternatives spaces in Washington D.C, Maryland, New York as well as London.
Sarah Watkins - Grant Proposal Writer
Sarah joined Smith Center as a consultant grant proposal writer in March 2012. She assists the development staff in writing and preparing proposal submissions across all program areas. Sarah has worked as a professional fundraiser for 14 years at nonprofit organizations including American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, United Negro College Fund, and Refugees International where she is currently employed. Sarah earned a Master of Education degree from the University of San Diego and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Rochester. In addition to her development work, Sarah owns a clothing boutique across the street from Smith Center that regularly hosts fundraisers for local nonprofits and art exhibits featuring local artists.
Michael Hawkins, MD
Michael Hawkins, MD, a medical oncologist, is Medical Director of Smith Center and conducts clinical research in Oncology at Gilead Sciences in Foster City, CA. Formally, Dr. Hawkins was the Chief Medical Officer at Abraxis BioScience and was instrumental in obtaining FDA approval of Abraxane for women with metastatic breast cancer (2002-2007); an Associate Director of the Washington Cancer Institute at the Washington Hospital Center (1999-2002); the Director of the Clinical Research and Developmental Therapeutics Program at the Lombardi Cancer Center (1992-1999); and the Chief of the Investigational Drug Branch while at the National Cancer Institute (1984-1992). He was the chairman of the Cancer Advisory Panel to the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine from 2000-2002. In his oncology practice he encouraged patients to pursue inner healing while being treated for their cancer.
Board of Directors
Jackie Ogg - Chair
Jackie has an MSW and has worked for the past 30 years in the field of social services bridging direct service, philanthropy, and community engagement. She is currently with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington where she serves as Director of Outreach and Community Relations. In 2010 Jackie and her husband Clay lost their 20-year-old son, Brendan, to brain cancer. Brendan was an emerging writer and took part in a poetry workshop at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts. The work he created is included in Brendan's book of poetry, Summer Becomes Absurd, and became the inspiration for a number of community art works including Encircled, exhibited at the Joan Hisaoka Art Gallery.
Steven Bookoff - Treasurer
Steven Bookoff has over 30 years of financial and management experience and has been the CFO of ORGANIC INDIA since 2002. Steven also volunteers as an officer and director of the Bet Lev Foundation, a Private Foundation in the USA, and serves as a Director to Insight Intensive, a therapeutic residential program for young men. Steven had testicular cancer in 1989. He has been completely free of Cancer for over 20 years and he lives a very active, healthy, and vibrant life. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his family, swimming, practicing Yoga, running on trails, or exploring the outdoors.
Myrtis Bedolla is the founding director of Galerie Myrtis, a contemporary fine art gallery located in Baltimore, Maryland. As cultural liaison for the embassies of Ghana, Haiti, Mali, Republic of Georgia and Zimbabwe; Ms. Bedolla uses art to encourage cultural exchange and awareness. Among the highlights of her career was her research and documentation of the utilitarian and ceremonial art forms created by women of the eight ethnic groups in Niger. The objects collected were featured in the exhibition: The World of Women of Niger mounted at the National Museum of Niger in 2005. She currently serves on several boards, including the Art Advisory Board, University of Maryland University College, College Park Maryland, as well as the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, Baltimore, Maryland. Additionally, Ms. Bedolla is a contributing writer to The International Review of African American Art and Valentine Magazine; online newsletters: ARTINFO and IRAAA (International Review of African American Art). She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Maryland, University College, and received her curatorial training at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland.
Susan Braun has more than 20 years of health care and oncology experience. She currently serves as the CEO of The V Foundation. Prior to this, she was Executive Director of Commonweal, Executive Director of the ASCO Cancer Foundation and also served as President and CEO of CURE Media Group, which publishes the award-winning direct-to-patient cancer publication, CURE magazine. In addition, she served as President and CEO of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (now Komen for the Cure). Prior to joining the Komen Foundation, Ms. Braun worked in the Oncology/Immunology Division at Bristol Myers-Squibb, where she was involved in patient advocacy, strategic planning, public policy, and health care economics and finance.
Robert Hisaoka is President of RRR, LLC and is the Founder and Event Chairman of the Joan Hisaoka "Make A Difference" Gala Assisting Those Living with Cancer. Bob is an investor in Venture Philanthropy Partners, a philanthropic investment organization that helps community-based nonprofit organizations maximize their impact. Other local and national charities Bob supports include CharityWorks, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Michael Weiss Foundation, Chuck Norris's KICKSTART, KEEN, San Jose State University, Salvation Army and Greater Washington Sports Alliance.
Michael Lerner - Chair Emeritus
Michael Lerner, PhD is President-Emeritus, Senior Advisor, and co-founder of Smith Center for Healing and the Arts and of Commonweal, a health and environmental research institute in Bolinas, California. He is also co-founder of a dozen major initiatives including the Cancer Help Program, Health Care Without Harm, the Collaborative on Health and the Environment and The New School at Commonweal. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Prize Fellowship and the author of "Choices in Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Cancer Therapies." He has co-led 170 week-long Cancer Help Programs at Commonweal and Smith over the past 25 years.
Annette Polan is known internationally as a portrait artist. She has photographed and painted the official portraits of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and other leaders of industry and government. In addition to painting, Ms. Polan is Professor Emeritus at the Corcoran College of Art & Design and Principal of Insight Institute, a series of visual workshops to enhance critical thinking and creative problem solving in the medical profession through interaction with the world of art. Professor Polan has taught and lectured on her work and contemporary American portraiture in Europe, Asia, and Australia,and has had numerous solo and group exhibitions in the United States and abroad. She is a participant in the U.S. Department of State’s Art in Embassy Program. She was Chair of Faces of the Fallen, an exhibition of 1323 portraits by 230 American artists, honoring the servicemen and women who died in Afghanistan and Iraq between October 10, 2001 and November 11, 2004. In recognition of her leadership on that project, she was awarded the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Outstanding Public Service Award.