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.
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
Michael Lerner - Chair
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.
Jackie Ogg - Executive Vice 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.
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.
Jeremy Waletzky, MD is Distinguished Life Fellow, American Psychiatric Association, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, The George Washington University, Trustee, Vice-Chairman, Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, Trustee, Public Conversations Project, Member, Rockefeller Family Fund Investment Committee, and Member, Fetzer Institute Investment Committee.
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.
Brooke Seidelmann - Gallery Director
Brooke serves as the Director for The Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, coordinating exhibitions, interfacing with curators, engaging collectors, and is constantly in search of stimulating and inspirational work to share with the Smith Center community. Prior to working in the arts, Brooke served as a researcher at the University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Medicine, editing papers on acupuncture and homeopathy. Later, she received her Masters Degree in Art History and the Market at Christies’ Auction House, and has worked in galleries in New York City and Charleston, SC.
Reiko Tate - Director of Outreach and Communications
As the Smith Center's Director of Outreach and Communications, Reiko manages the Smith Center's outreach, communications and marketing efforts. Her professional background includes communications, business development and arts-based programs. As an artist, she believes in the healing and restorative powers of the arts and creative expression. In her spare time, she enjoys painting, art museums, traveling and knitting.
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.
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.
Adrienne Dern - Program Director
As an alum of a Smith Center weeklong cancer retreat and numerous other programs, Adrienne is delighted to be part of the Smith Center team, serving as Program Director. Adrienne holds a graduate certificate in gerontology and worked in the field of aging before transitioning to health care, most recently at the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. As Smith Center's Program Director, Adrienne aims to offer a wide array of programs in the areas of stress reduction, creative expression, and cooking & nutrition for those affected by cancer and the community at-large. Adrienne practices Insight/Vipassana meditation and participates in classes and retreats at the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. As a "culture vulture" and nature lover, Adrienne finds the DC area a wonderful place to live.
Alison Decker - Program Coordinator
Ali serves as the Program Coordinator 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.
Shefa 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 collects and preserves the personal memories and living legacies of every day people. In her spare time, she also enjoys fishing, road trips, and researching folklore. She is a proud mother of four and grandmother to one.
Matt Ehlenbach - Finance & Operations Coordinator
Matt joined Smith Center's operations team in 2012, after graduating from George Washington University with a degree in International Affairs and French Language and Literature. At Smith Center, Matt helps to coordinate financial and logistical operations. Before moving to Washington, D.C. for university, Matt attended an arts magnet school in Nashville, Tennessee, where he was a student of performing arts. He eventually hopes to pursue graduate education in finance and accounting. In his spare time, Matt enjoys classic literature, cycling, and traveling.
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.
Carole O'Toole - Director, Integrative 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.
Anthony Palliparambil, Jr. - Exhibitions Manager
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.
Laura Pole - Head Chef & Integrative Oncology Nurse Consultant
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.
Johanna Seltzer - Bookkeeper
Johanna Seltzer has served as Smith Center’s Bookkeeper since 2009. She began her career in nonprofit arts administration as the Managing Director of Joy of Motion Dance Center, 1995-2005, moving on to become the inaugural Project Director for Dance/MetroDC, 2005-2007. In 2007, Seltzer began to work as a consultant in finance, marketing, and technology, serving numerous organizations such as the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington, Dance/USA, CityDance Ensemble, Virginia Yoga Week, Dance Heritage Coalition, and Arlington Strategy, to name a few. In 2009, she became a Yoga instructor, currently teaching at Pure Prana Yoga Studio and Kiplinger Finance, and instructs at American University as an adjunct faculty member. Seltzer also writes quarterly articles on Yoga for Pen and Plot, an online community for writers. To learn more, please visit www.innerlightyogi.com.
Sarah Watkins - Consultant 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.