Meet the AAMDSIF Board of Directors | Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation (AAMDSIF) Return to top.

Meet the AAMDSIF Board of Directors

Introductory image: Sweet Older Couple Hug

The Board of Directors governs the Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation, setting the mission and strategic direction. They additionally provide oversight of the organization's finances, operations and policies. Each board member has a direct personal connection to aplastic anemia, MDS or PNH, as a patient, family member or friend. Members of the board serve without compensation.

Board Members

Debby's Photo

Chair, Board of Directors

Deborah “Debby” Ziff Cook joined the Board in November of 2011. As an aplastic anemia patient (diagnosed in 2003), Debby brings her patient experience to the Board. She also supports the Bone Marrow Failure Research Panel of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program as a member of its Programmatic Panel.  Debby received her Master’s degree in Elementary Education in 1996 after which began teaching in the District of Columbia Public Schools prior to her diagnosis and treatment. She now works as the Science & Research Project Manager at Nontoxic Certified, a nonprofit that advocates for safer ingredients in everyday products and guides companies towards safer ingredient use and ecosystem-sound products. 

Rebecca's Photo


Rebecca Doane is an attorney, business owner and mother of three from Palm Beach County, Florida.  She was an equity partner at Jones Foster for 15 years before co-founding her trusts and estates law practice, Doane & Doane, PA in 2003.  She is an AV rated attorney, Board Certified in Wills, Trusts and Estates by the Florida Bar, and is also a Certified Public Accountant.  Her professional involvements include current Chairperson and founder of the Guardianship Education Committee of the Palm Beach County Bar, member of the South Florida Tax Institute, the East Coast Estate Planning Council, and the Probate Rules Committee for the Florida Bar.  She was appointed by the Governor of Florida to serve on the Judicial Nominating Committee for the 15th Judicial Circuit, and she is the past President of the Catholic Lawyers Guild for Palm Beach County.  She is a frequent lecturer on trust estate, probate and guardianship topics at professional and civic association.

Rebecca is highly involved in the community, serving currently as Nominating Committee Chairperson on the Mounts Botanical Gardens Board of Directors; and as Treasurer of the Palm Beach Order of St. John’s Knights Hospitaler.  She is a past President of the Center for Children in Crisis; the Girl Scout Council of Southeast Florida; the Downtown Kiwanis Club; and the Friends of MacArthur Beach State Park Board of Trustees. Her civic and philanthropic awards are numerous and include the International Athena Leadership Award, the National Children’s Advocacy Award; the Florida Commission on the Status of Women Spirit of Community Award; and the Executive Women Leadership Award.

Rebecca is passionate about the mission of the Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation because her youngest son is a survivor of aplastic anemia.

Bart's Photo

Bart S. Fisher is the Founder of the Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation.  Following the death of his eight-year old son Ivan due to aplastic anemia, Bart, his wife Margaret, and other concerned parents started the Foundation in 1983.  At that time there was a need for a national organization dedicated to aplastic anemia research, patient and family outreach, and the establishment of a national bone marrow registry to match patients in need of a bone marrow transplant with potential matching donors.

In addition to serving as President of AAMDSIF, Bart has served on the Board of Directors of the National Marrow Donor Program, the Marrow Foundation, and America’s Blood Centers.  He currently serves as Chairman of the Give Life Foundation, which promotes the donation of blood, organs, and tissues.

Bart is a lawyer in Washington, D.C., and is Managing Partner of JJ&B, LLC, a boutique investment bank in Washington, D.C

James' Photo

Dr. James Gajewski earned an A.B. from Notre Dame in government and international studies and an M.D. from  Temple University. He completed residency in internal medicine University Cincinnati and fellowship in Hematology-Medical Oncology at UCLA. 

Dr. James Gajewski was involved in starting the stem cell transplant accreditation agency, FACT. He helped establish the National Cancer Center Network and served on leukemia and lymphoma care guidelines committees.  Dr. Gajewski served as BMT liaison to FDA on cellular therapy regulation.

Dr. Gajewski coauthored over 165 peer reviewed publications wrote 15 book chapters. Dr Gajewski has been a frequent speaker at national and international meetings in hematology and stem cell transplantation. 
For his research, teaching and health policy work in 2016, the American College of Physician recognized him to the prestigious Mastership status for lifetime achievement in internal medicine and specialty internal medicine.  In 2021 Dr. Gajewski was elected to be a Fellow in the Great Britain’s Royal College of Physicians. 

Dr. Gajewski served on the Aplastic Anemia Foundation board of directors from 1992 to 2000. In 2016 he returned to serve on the board of the AAMDSIF Foundation. 

Stephanie and Bill Hamm's adopted son, Garrett, was diagnosed with aplastic anemia in at age 16. Although his initial treatments provided him with several good years, later his condition returned. Unfortunately, complications from the half-match transplant took his life in 1997.

The experience of supporting Garrett and his young family and the lack of resources for families in rural Texas caused Stephanie, together with Board member Kevin Lyons-Tarr and the Foundation Development Director in 2009, to develop a series of patient and family walks called Hope, Steps & A Cure, now March for Marrow. The goals of these events are to raise awareness about rare bone marrow failure diseases, funds for the patient and family services provided by the Foundation, and research for treatments and ultimately cures for these diseases. March for Marrow now takes place in six different cities. She also continues to represent fundraising efforts for the Foundation as a grateful member of the Board of Directors since 2010.

Melanie's Photo

Melanie Marquez joined the Board in 2013 when the PNH Research & Support Foundation, where she served for several years, merged with AAMDSIF. As a Board member, Melanie brings a patient perspective to the Foundation offering her views on needed support and advocacy assistance. Melanie works full time as a Legal Assistant. She and her husband, Tony, of 33 years, have two adult children, Jonathan and Sophia. They live in West Chicago, Illinois with their two dogs, Duchess and Athena. 

Judith's Photo

Judith Paulette lives in Kansas City, Missouri and works full time in community development for a large suburban city.  The knowledge she brings to the board comes from lengthy experience in community building, civic and volunteer engagement and non-profit organizational management.  She finds joy in sharing adventures with her daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren as well as making music, gardening, traveling and spending time in her art studio.
Judith joined the AAMDSIF Board of Directors in January, 2013, when a strategic alliance was formed between AAMDSIF and the PNH Research and Support Foundation. Prior to that, she volunteered in support of fellow PNH patients and as an officer of the PNH Research and Support Foundation for six years, ending as that board’s President.  The strategic alliance transitioned a year later into a full merger of the two organizations.


Dr. Mary Horowitz, the 2019 recipient of the inaugural AAMDSIF Lifetime Achievement in Science Award is the Robert A. Uihlein, Jr. Chair in Hematologic Research and Professor of Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), where she is also an active blood and marrow transplant physician. Her principal national roles are as the Chief Scientific Director of the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR), the Research Director of the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, and the founding director of both the stem cell transplantation Clinical Trials Network and the Genetically Modified Cellular Therapy of Cancer registry. Until recently, she also served as division chief of hematology and medical oncology at MCW. 

Dr. Horowitz’s accomplishments in medicine are monumental.  She has co-authored more than 350 peer reviewed papers, 35 book chapters and over 10 editorials.  She has been invited to give over 50 regional lectures, over 100  national lectures and over 100 international lectures.  In the CIBMTR, and its predecessor International Bone Marrow Transplant Registry, and the Bill Young registry she leads what many consider the first and most successful clinical outcomes registries in the world. She has worked diligently to keep grant funded these vital healthcare organizations, which track outcomes for transplants for all bone marrow failure disease patients. Her work with the CTN has done the largest prospective trials for treatment of aplastic anemia with transplantation. Dr. Horowitz’s research work on so many levels has changed the practice of medicine.  
All of these achievements are in addition to her considerable local teaching duties.  Dr. Horowitz has mentored 16 scholars in residence at MCW. Her most valuable contribution however may be the teaching she gives to medical residents and students at MCW based on her own life events. She has given lectures on the struggle to balance work life and family as a physician. She lectured student on caring for cancer patients while she herself was being treated with chemotherapy for breast cancer and more recently throat cancer. She now teaches about the struggle between being the caregiver for a husband with dementia as she continues her career.

Marlena Connor resides in Northern New Jersey and has spent her professional life working in marketing and advertising. She currently serves as Executive Vice President of Media at Evoke Group, a leading healthcare-focused agency. She was initially diagnosed with aplastic anemia and then PNH in 2005, and quickly immersed herself in the PNH community. Marlena served as President of the PNH Research & Support Foundation for three years where she led fundraising and advocacy efforts to dramatically expand research and service. She founded the PNH patient support group on Facebook, which has grown to become a critical resource for PNH patients and families globally. Marlena also organized the first Walk for PNH in New York City. The March for Marrow/Walk for PNH NYC celebrated its 16th anniversary last year and Marlena still organizes the annual event.  When she’s not working or organizing something, Marlena enjoys spending time with her two kids, husband and rescue dog.

Hetal Soni is an Associate Director at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products, leading a team supporting packaging or Skin Health Products for North America.  She is accountable for all new development of packaging for the Neutrogena, Aveeno, Clean & Clear and Lubriderm brands.

In her 20+ years at Johnson & Johnson she had demonstrated her strong leadership in helping to build a technically sound and incredibly inclusive culture.  Hetal has led the creation of many teams when needed to support the ever-changing Consumer business.  
Never one to shy away from learning and taking on new opportunities, Hetal has taken on several business and personal social initiatives which benefit her peers and her community.   She joined the Board of Directors of a local all women led organization called Montgomery Charity Foundation (MCF) in 2020.  MCF raises funds to support the community through an annual Kidsgiving event.  This group has raised over $40M in 2 years.

At Johnson & Johnson Hetal leads the Rutgers University pillar for the WiSTEM2D (Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing and Design) which supports students with career workshops, mentoring and networking connections with professional women.   She also co-leads the Mentoring and Advancement group within WLI (Women’s Leadership and Inclusion).

Hetal Soni is a mother of 2 children, Nina, 14 yrs. old and Aiden, 8 years old.   She is married to her husband of 18 years, Amit Soni.   Amit was diagnosed with PNH in the summer of 2015.  Hetal has since become the primary caregiver who is intimately involved in finding the best care for her husband.   She sought out expert advice from Dr. Araten at NYU who initially prescribed Soliris treatment and later changed to Ultomiris.  Amit has tremendously benefited from these treatments and has a much-improved quality of life.
Since her husband’s diagnosis, Hetal has organized support from family and friends for the annual PNH Walk. “Amit’s Crew” always surpasses its fundraising goals but more importantly brings awareness for the PNH disorder.  Hetal’s goals for the future include recruiting individuals to join the Bone Marrow Registry.   

Peter Miller

Peter Miller, CMA, CSCA, has served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Binswanger ( since 2011, and has been a member of the Executive Management Committee since 2017. As head of the finance and accounting departments, Mr. Miller leads the financial activities of Binswanger with a focus on managing risk and monitoring cash flow. He is responsible for the company’s financial functions, including accounting, audit, treasury, financial reporting and planning, forecasting, and taxation. Mr. Miller also oversees all information technology activities.

From 2005 to 2011, Mr. Miller was the Chief Financial Officer of Nexus Technologies Group. Mr. Miller completed the sale of Nexus to Homeland Security Capital Corporation concurrently with a reverse merger into a publicly traded shell. After the sale, Mr. Miller assisted in the acquisition and integration of multiple operating entities and served as Chief Financial Officer of five (5) of Homeland’s operating companies. Mr. Miller’s financial reporting responsibilities included the preparation of quarterly financial statements for 10-Q filings and the annual audits of all the operating companies under the oversight of the P.C.A.O.B. He subsequently facilitated the divestiture of these operating entities to strategic buyers.

Prior to joining Nexus, Mr. Miller spent 15 years in various financial leadership roles within several privately held businesses across a multitude of industries. He began his career as a proprietary trader of derivative security products. Mr. Miller was a Registered Option Trader and Specialist on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange and an NASD over-the-counter Market Maker.

Mr. Miller holds a Bachelor of Science B.S. in Economics with a concentration in Finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), certified in Strategy and Competitive Analysis (CSCA), and a member of the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).

Mr. Miller’s oldest child, Samantha, was diagnosed with Severe Apalstic Anemia at the age of 15. Samantha underwent multiple immunosuppressive treatment protocols at the National Institutes of Health culminating in a Haplo Cord Blood Stem Cell Transplant where Mr. Miller served as the Haplo donor. Drawing on her extensive experience with health care providers, Samantha is now a Surgical Physician Assistant practicing in New Mexico.


Dr. Abraham Kader received his MD degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and trained in neurosurgery at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical in New York City.  Following his residency, he served in the faculty staff at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NY, specializing in cerebrovascular surgery. Starting in 2002, he practiced in Arlington, VA until he retired in 2021. During his time in Virginia, he was business manager and president of his neurosurgical practice group and served on several hospital committees. 

Dr. Kader has been a yearly supporter of the AAMDS foundation since his one year old son Michael was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia 30 years ago. After many difficult months of hospitalizations and treatments, Michael made a full recovery, and today is a physician himself. The personal experience of navigating his son’s illness reinforced the importance of foundations such as AAMDS which fund medical research, support groups, and provide information for those dealing with a life threatening illness. 

Chris Mills

Christopher Mills is an attorney with Freddie Mac, focusing on transactional, intellectual property and privacy matters.   Prior to this position, he was in private practice for twenty years with a large, Washington D.C. based law firm, as a partner focusing on transactional matters, intellectual property, government contracts and dispute resolution.  He started his career with the Treasury Department in project management and strategic planning. 
Chris holds undergraduate degrees in civil engineering and architecture from The Catholic University of America, a Masters in Civil Engineering from The Johns Hopkins University, and a J.D. from The George Washington University Law School.   
Chris has provided pro bono legal services throughout his legal career in association with many organizations, including the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program, Legal Services of Northern Virginia, and AA&MDS.  In addition to other matters, he has represented individuals with blood cancers and chronic diseases seeking social security benefits, assisted with private disability insurance disputes and provided general counseling to individuals with medical impairments.  He has also provided many presentations and lectures on the social security disability process and employment related matters affecting individuals with blood related cancers.  Chris has provided pro bono legal advice to AA&MDS for many years and was a Leadership in Service awardee in 2021.   
Chris’ wife (Toni) was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia and PNH in 2006, and then MDS in 2017.  Toni is a survivor of all three diseases and a bone marrow transplant in 2017, performed at Johns Hopkins.  Chris and Toni, their daughter (Grace), along with the family dog (Lorenzo), live in North Bethesda, Maryland.  

Travis Georgieff

Travis Georgieff joined the AAMDSIF Board in 2023.  He resides in Maryland with his wife and two daughters.   Travis is driven by a genuine passion for supporting patients, families, and caregivers of bone marrow failure disorders and helping them know that they are not alone.  His family’s journey began when his oldest daughter was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia in 2021.  She had a successful Upfront Unrelated Stem Cell Transplant and is now a happy and healthy pre-teen.
Professionally, Travis has nearly twenty years of Accounting and Finance experience within the Financial Services industry.  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and a Masters of Business Administration degree, both from the University of Maryland, Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Erie Sampson joined the Board in 2023. She is a seasoned chief legal officer and senior executive, who possesses expertise in transactional law, strategic decision-making, governance, and legal compliance from leadership positions in the public sector (District Government) and private industry (major telecom companies and law firm). Erie recently retired from government service and also volunteers for various causes in her community.
Erie earned an undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri (Economics and Spanish) and a Juris Doctorate from the George Washington University National Law Center in Washington, DC.  She is a long-standing member of the District of Columbia Bar.
Erie resides in the District of Columbia, along with her husband and adult son. She loves going for long walks with her German Shepherd, Luna, reading books, and listening to music. 
Through lived experience, she is keenly aware of the challenges faced by aplastic anemia patients from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds who need bone marrow transplants. She advocates for the donation of cord blood units into public cord blood banks to help address this need.