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Patient Advisory Council

Last Updated on Tuesday, August 06, 2019

The Patient Advisory Council ("PAC") serves as an advisory resource to the Board of Directors and staff of the Preeclampsia Foundation, for the purpose of maintaining and furthering the Foundation’s position as a patient-centered, patient-driven, patient advocacy organization. The patient voice and experience are integral to the mission of the Foundation; therefore, the PAC operates to directly engage patients, the Board, and staff, in meaningful, ongoing communication, and keep the patient at the forefront of all we do.

Each member of the Patient Advisory Council is a preeclampsia survivor or a family member of a woman who suffered death or disability such that she is unable to represent herself as the result of preeclampsia.

Linda Laszewski


Lynn Laszewski was diagnosed with severe HELLP syndrome during her first pregnancy and had an emergency c-section at 37 weeks to deliver her son. Her son was in the NICU for a week because his lungs were not fully developed. Lynn was 51 years old when she had her only child using fertility treatments and hopes to use her experience to assure other "later in life" moms that they and their babies can be healthy. Lynn received a Masters Degree in Public Health from Loma Linda University and works in resource conservation and sustainability for PepsiCo. She and her family live in Oak Park, IL. She has served on the Patient Advisory Council since November 2015.


Lisa Aaron


Lisa Aaron developed severe preeclampsia in 2000 at 32 weeks, and delivered her 3-pound daughter by emergency C-section. Though she was enrolled in a graduate program in medical social work at UC Berkeley, the challenges of caring for a premature infant exacerbated a prior upper extremity disability, and Lisa was not able to finish graduate school. In addition to helping fund research for a cure for preeclampsia, Lisa is interested in supporting families who have children with developmental delays due to preeclampsia/prematurity and parents with disabilities. She also wants to ensure that women who have had preeclampsia are aware of their increased risk of heart disease and that they get the care they need. Lisa lives with her husband and daughter (now a bright, involved high-school sophomore) in Northern California, where she enjoys hiking, wildlife and cooking. She has served on the Patient Advisory Council since November 2015.

Norlisa Abrenica-Keffer


Norlisa Abrenica-Keffer is a stay-at-home mom to her three children: boy/girl twins and their younger brother. In her twin pregnancy, Norlisa developed preeclampsia twice postpartum after delivering them at 38.4 weeks. She also developed preeclampsia with her singleton at 34 weeks resulting in delivery at 36 weeks, and had preeclampsia again one week postpartum. She credits much of her pregnancy success to the knowledge and vigilance of her perinatologist and nurses, and working with them and her husband as a team. She hopes to spread knowledge, awareness, and patient advocacy. Norlisa has also served on the Perinatal Advisory Council at the University of Washington Medical Center, and with other non-profits to help patients suffering from infertility and high-risk pregnancies. In a previous life before marriage and family, Norlisa was a biochemist with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University of Delaware, working in both research and private tutoring. She lives in the Southwest with her husband, Gordon, three children, and two pugs. She has served on the Patient Advisory Council since November 2014.

Claudia Chahin


Claudia Chahin developed preeclampsia in her first pregnancy in 2009. After weeks of bed rest her son, James, was delivered at 35 weeks. In her second pregnancy in 2012, Claudia began having high blood pressure at 18 weeks and after medication and bed rest her daughter, Isabel, was delivered at 30 weeks. She continued to have high blood pressure for 8 months post partum. Claudia is thankful that she and her babies are healthy and is honored to have the opportunity to be more involved with the Preeclampsia Foundation to help bring awareness and education to other families as well as to support research of this condition. Claudia received a Juris Doctorate from The University of Texas School of Law and works as in-house counsel at a national non-profit organization that provides education, safe shelters and alternatives to incarceration for over 200,000 youth and their families annually. She lives in Austin, Texas and has served on the Patient Advisory Council since November 2014.


Alexandra De Leon


Alexandra De Leon developed HELLP syndrome in 2013 at 24 weeks of pregnancy. She began developing HELLP at a rapid pace, which required an emergency cesarean. Her beautiful baby, Gabriella, unfortunately did not make it. The Preeclampsia Foundation was a huge support for Alexandra because she was able to understand what had happened with her body and all of the signs that were missed. Today, Alexandra and her husband Joshua have two beautiful children, Josiah and Jazmin. Alexandra keeps Gabby’s memory alive by serving as the Promise Walk Chair in the Bay Area, CA. She is committed to bringing awareness to HELLP syndrome/preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. She hopes that one day all medical providers will be educated on HELLP syndrome/preeclampsia and can provide the adequate care for women, so no mother will ever experience a loss of a child. She recently joined the Patient Advisory Council in August 2018 and looks forward to what is to come.


Alissa Goodman


Alissa Goodman almost lost her life 12 days after delivering her son, Landon, due to severe eclampsia. After her blood pressure shot up to a critical state, she suffered from significant swelling in the brain and numerous seizures, putting her into a status epilepticus coma state. Her injuries included posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES), respiratory failure, pulmonary edema, severe sepsis, a heart attack, chronic migraines, occipital neuralgia, central pain syndrome, and a herniated disc in her neck. She had significant brain damage and spent the next six months in physical therapy and working to rebuild her memory, reading, and language skills. She is passionate about the need for more awareness and education about preeclampsia and hopes to help increase funding for research so that one day we can find both a cause and a cure for the disease. Alissa holds a Master in Business Administration from the University of Florida, a Juris Doctor from Fordham University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Sociology from the University of Miami. She works in New Product Development at UPS, where she serves as Chair of the Women’s Leadership Development Community Connections Committee. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and son, and has served on the Patient Advisory Council since January 2018.


Toyin Idehen


Toyin Idehen is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of United Against Poverty and Disease (UAPAD), a non-profit founded in 2010 as a result of losing one of her twin girls due to severe preeclampsia. She delivered twin girls at 28 weeks but due to the severity of her condition, her eldest twin daughter grew her wings two days after she was born. Her now healthy daughter spent three months in the NICU and during this time, Toyin’s path and future changed as she decided to turn tragedy into empowerment with the founding of her nonprofit. UAPAD was birthed with the idea of making sure her experiences, knowledge, and faith serve as a platform, voice, and promise to deliver knowledge, education, tools, and services to those in need (particularly in under-served communities in the U.S. and developing countries around the world) who lack access to basic health care, education, prenatal care, or are misinformed about issues relating to their health and lifestyles. Toyin is especially passionate about mobilizing her generation of young adults to be empowered and be the voice of many, while she focuses on building up her organization to help people around the world. She has a deep passion for humanitarian work and hopes to lend her voice and experiences to the Preeclampsia Foundation in hopes of saving babies, mothers, families, and communities one day at a time, while helping to ensure ongoing research and support for families who endure the same condition. It is Toyin’s hope to improve support for families by working with healthcare institutions and policymakers to provide more clinical, emotional, and financial support for families enduring these conditions. Toyin received a Bachelor's degree of Business Administration with emphasis on Computer Information Systems from Howard University in Washington DC, and obtained a Master's degree in Public Health with a focus on Low Income Countries from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom. Toyin lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and three children and works in the non-profit and healthcare sectors.

Jasmine Mago


Jasmine Mago struggled with infertility for years before becoming pregnant in 2010. She experienced a normal pregnancy through her first trimester and most of her second, before developing symptoms of preeclampsia around 26 weeks. As the only option for survival, Jasmine’s son was born via cesarean section weighing two pounds at 28 weeks and 2 days gestation. Today, Jasmine’s son is healthy, but the days, months, and years following his birth took a toll on Jasmine and her husband, as they dealt with the developmental delays and challenges typical of premature birth. Jasmine knows first-hand the limited awareness and understanding of preeclampsia by many pregnant women, the confusion and fear that accompany diagnosis, and the long-term impacts of the disease on women and their infants. Jasmine leverages her experience by serving as a mentor to women who have suffered from preeclampsia. She also serves as an advocate by raising awareness and education on preeclampsia by regularly participating in the Chicago Promise Walk, and has shared her experience in live interviews on 20 radio stations across the country. Today, Jasmine is a Senior Manager at a Big Four accounting firm and lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two sons. She is a new member of the Patient Advisory Council.

Lauren Pappas


Lauren Pappas was a first-time expectant mom who developed severe HELLP syndrome at almost 27 weeks pregnant in 2015. Her son Peter Joseph was born emergently at 2.1 pounds when he was only 28 weeks of age. Six days later, Peter passed away in the NICU due to an infection he acquired in the hospital. In order to memorialize her son, Lauren and her husband created the Peter Joseph Pappas Fund, a restricted fund with the primary goal of supporting research that will end pre-term deliveries due to preeclampsia and related disorders of pregnancy by 2050. Lauren received her Bachelor’s of Nursing from Georgetown University and currently practices in the Endoscopy and Post-Anesthesia Care Units in Philadelphia, PA where she resides. Although Lauren is a nurse, she felt blindsided by HELLP syndrome and the lasting effects from the disease.Lauren helps to represent patients with families who have an extensive heart health history: both her great-grandfather and grandmother died of congestive heart failure, and her father is a survivor of three open-heart surgeries. Like many other preeclampsia/HELLP survivors, Lauren has actively worked with her cardiologist to manage her health. She wants to ensure that other patients are closely monitored by their doctors and understand the signs and symptoms in order to push for care. She has served on the Patient Advisory council since November 2016.

Ushma Patel


Ushma Patel developed severe preeclampsia and partial HELLP syndrome in January 2014 at 36 weeks pregnant. She delivered her daughter soon thereafter, but suffered neurological complications from the high blood pressure. Ushma spent 8 days in the hospital and several weeks on medication to manage her blood pressue. In addition, her daughter was found to have a congenital heart defect at 2 months and underwent open heart surgery at 7 months. Both Ushma and her daughter are now healthy and excited to be back to a "normal" routine. Ushma is a health services researcher with experience in qualitative research, and training in cognitive interviewing and conducting focus groups. She has contributed to survey development, program implementation and evaluation, engaging consumers in safety and quality, and explaining evidence-based medicine to consumers and clinicians. She received a Masters of Science in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Health Policy and Management. Given her career and experience, she developed a strong interest in representing the patient voice and raising awareness for preeclampsia. She lives right outside of Raleigh, NC with her daughter, son, and husband. Ushma has served on the Patient Advisory Council since November 2014.

Read Ushma's Story.


Christina Simmons


Christina Simmons developed severe HELLP Syndrome and preeclampsia during her first pregnancy in 2011, which required the immediate and premature delivery of her daughter.  Christina is grateful for The Preeclampsia Foundation's education and resources that supported her throughout her pregnancy, early delivery and the aftermath.  Today, Christina and her daughter are both healthy and thriving.  Based on these experiences, Christina is a strong advocate for raising awareness and education about hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.  Her wish is for every impacted family to have same high level of support and exceptional care that she and her daughter received from skilled and knowledgeable healthcare providers.  Christina is a healthcare attorney and lives in Atlanta with her husband and daughter. She has served on the Patient Advisory Council since November 2015.


Kristian Poitier


Kristian experienced mild preeclampsia in her first pregnancy in 2004 and developed severe preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) with her second pregnancy in 2010 at around 23 weeksgestation. Kristian’s inpatient hospital course spanned 30 days including several days in the ICU, multiple plasmapheresis treatments, countless medications and physical therapy. The most lasting memory of her hospital experience was the unfortunate loss of baby Jacob. Kristian and her husband, Baron, subsequently had two successful pregnancies. The family keeps Jacob’s memory alive by participating in community grief support initiatives and sharing their faith walk. Kristian holds a Bachelor in Nursing Science, a Master in Business Administration and a Master in Health Systems Management. She works in the field of Quality, Patient Safety and Risk Management and leads the Women’s Ministry at her church The Chosen Vessel in Fort Worth, TX. Kristian and her husband have three beautiful children, Jasmin, Isabela and Samuel. Kristian is excited about the opportunity to become directly involved with the Preeclampsia Foundation and support the efforts to help bring awareness and education to women and their families.

Kim Smith

Board of Directors Liaison

Kim began supporting the mission of the Preeclampsia Foundation in 2012 after the tragic loss of her daughter Lauren Kelly, due to HELLP syndrome. As a HELLP syndrome survivor, she has devoted the past several years in bringing awareness to pregnancy related illnesses like preeclampsia to patients and clinicians. She is passionate about reducing maternal and infant mortality and an advocate for healthy moms and babies. Kim and her husband, Terrell, launched the first Promise Walk for Preeclampsia in South Carolina in 2013. Additionally, she has served on the Internal Infant Death Review (IIDR) Committee to improve the health outcomes of moms and babies that participated in the Palmetto Healthy Start Program. Kim also leads the Expecting Miracles Ministry at her church, Right Direction Church International. Through this group, she facilitates support for families who have faced disappointment (including child loss) during the child bearing process. With all that Kim does, she is most proud of her role as a wife to Terrell and mom to Tyson and Cameron. Kim most recently began her service on the Board of Directors as the Patient Advisory Council's liaison for the Preeclampsia Foundation in 2018.


Rebecca Britt

Staff Liaison

Rebecca Britt, Director of Education & Engagement, serves as the Patient Advisory Council's Staff Liaison. Rebecca is passionate about reducing isolation for preeclampsia patients and survivors by building community connections and raising awareness. She is a visionary and global thinker. Upholding the Preeclampsia Foundation's mission, Rebecca aims to provide the education and tools necessary to empower patients to advocate for systemic change to save lives.


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