Sickle Cell Disease
Dr. Ogo Egbuna is a passionate physician scientist with nearly two decades of clinical, academic, and drug development experience. Originally from West Africa, he completed medical school at the University of Nigeria before emigrating to the United States, where he completed his residency in internal medicine at Mount Sinai followed by clinical fellowships in nephrology and kidney transplant medicine at the University of Rochester and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, respectively. Dr. Egbuna then completed a Masters in Clinical Investigation from the Harvard/MIT School of Health Sciences and Technology and was on faculty teaching residents, caring for patients, and conducting National Institutes of Health-funded research at the Harvard Medical School.
Throughout his early career, Dr. Egbuna received several honors and awards for his exceptional academic and clinical work and received over a dozen invitations to give oral presentations on topics ranging from kidney disease clinical research to disparities in access to kidney care and transplantations for underserved minorities. He spent ten years at Amgen as a Clinical Research Medical Director for both early and late phase clinical development programs, interacting with a wide range of medical, regulatory, and business stakeholders. During this time, he also began teaching and mentoring medical students as an assistant clinical professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Currently, Dr. Egbuna is the Vice President, Clinical Development and also the Global Clinical Development Lead for Vertex Pharmaceutical’s APOL1-mediated focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) program, which aims to develop a potentially curative treatment for the underlying cause of APOL1-mediated Kidney Disease. In addition to his role at Vertex and his professorship, Dr. Egbuna also offers pro bono advice to the leadership of KidneySolutions, a kidney disease and dialysis center in Lagos, Nigeria, on standardization and implementation of policies and clinical procedures as well as the use of modern technologies for dialysis and electronic medical records.
IMF Patient, President & CEO Yelak Biru drives the organization’s mission of improving the quality of life of myeloma patients while working toward prevention and a cure. He sees his role as a way “to pay it forward and carry the baton as far and as fast as possible so those who come after me, those who come after us, can go even further.”
Diagnosed with multiple myeloma at the young age of 25, Yelak has lived with the disease for more than two decades. His journey as a patient brought him to the IMF, first in support groups and then as a member of the organization’s Board of Directors.
With his leadership, the IMF has continued to conduct more than 50 ongoing research studies worldwide, to foster support and education for patients and caregivers, to advocate for equitable healthcare access, and to enhance alliances around the globe. His vision is “to find a cure for myeloma so no one dies from the disease by the year 2035.” Yelak’s decades-long passion for improving the lives of myeloma patients combined with his 25 years of working in Fortune 50 corporations (PepsiCo and Walmart), expertise and deep know-how of technology and HR Analytics, as well as his unique understanding of people, team building, strategy, and operations make him the perfect fit to lead the International Myeloma Foundation—the 32-year-old organization always puts patients at the center of all its endeavors.
Yelak possesses domain expertise in People Analytics and cross-functional skills in supply chain, finance, marketing, and Data Analytics and Strategy development. He has a track record of leading large, diverse, and geographically disparate teams in a global, matrixed business–IT setting; championing data-driven agile product development; and leveraging user experience design principles. He is a change agent with the ability to influence senior stakeholders, to collaborate across lines of business, and to deliver strategic initiatives.
Yelak’s extraordinary set of life experiences—as a 27-year myeloma survivor; an IMF board member; a dedicated member of the National Cancer Institute’s Myeloma Committee, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, National Cancer Research Advocate organizations; a co-author of published research; a prolific speaker on patient care and myeloma research issues; and his collaborations with both for-profit and non-profit organizations—has afforded him a deeper understanding of the challenges, disappointments, and triumphs that myeloma patients and their care team face on a day to day.
Born in Ethiopia, Yelak completed his undergraduate and master’s degrees in Computer Science from the University of North Texas. He and his wife, along with their two dachshunds, live in Los Angeles, California.
Dr Mikhael is a Professor in the Applied Cancer Research and Drug Discovery Division at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope Cancer Center. He is also the Chief Medical Officer of the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) and Director of Myeloma research at the HonorHealth Research Institute. Dr Mikhael specializes clinically in plasma cell disorders, namely multiple myeloma, amyloidosis, and Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. He is the PI of many clinical trials, primarily in relapsed multiple myeloma, and his other clinical research interests include pharmaco-economics, communication skills, and media relations.
Dr Mikhael has published over 150 peer-reviewed articles in these fields and lectures internationally on a regular basis. Dr Mikhael recently led the first ever ASCO Guidelines in multiple myeloma and serves on the editorial board of JCO. Dr. Mikhael is deeply committed to health disparities in myeloma and leads the diversity efforts of the IMF, namely the M-Power project in the African American community. He is also the chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council at TGen. Dr. Mikhael is heavily involved in training future researchers and mentors junior faculty worldwide. He also spends nearly 20% of his time in the third world developing collaborations in myeloma and finding ways to enhance access to novel agents.
Dr. JaBaris Swain started his career in the pharmaceutical industry in July 2020 when he joined Janssen Pharmaceuticals as a clinical lead physician in Translational and Experimental Medicine in the Cardiovascular & Metabolism Therapeutic Area. In this role, JaBaris was responsible for developing and executing the program’s early clinical development strategy and completing two First-In-Human studies. Additionally, JaBaris designed and conducted a phase 0 study to examine a novel imaging technique for the non-invasive assessment of pulmonary hemodynamics, which has the potential to provide an early signal of pharmacodynamic effects and accelerate early clinical development of new compounds in Pulmonary Hypertension. Finally, JaBaris supported clinical pharmacology studies as the Study Responsible Physician for the two major pharmacology programs.
Clinically, Dr. Swain is a finished cardiothoracic transplant surgeon-scientist and global health scholar with prior expertise in humanitarian cardiac surgery, cardiology education, and international public health. His work has focused on augmenting access to clinical education and care delivery for cardiovascular diseases within resource-limited settings such as Rwanda and Haiti. He has lived in these areas and supported several projects to strengthen healthcare infrastructures for critically vulnerable populations in resource-constrained settings. He has also provided surgery and critical care to patients in these regions.
JaBaris received his medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia (USA) and a master’s in public health with an emphasis on Clinical Effectiveness from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts (USA). He completed his clinical training in general surgery at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, followed by a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery and an advanced fellowship in cardiopulmonary transplantation & mechanical circulatory support at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA). During his clinical training, JaBaris was involved with translational research, exploring gene therapy for heart failure in a large animal model within the lab of Dr. Charles R. Bridges. In addition to this training, JaBaris is currently enrolled in the Executive MBA Program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
In his “free time,” JaBaris continues to mentor residents and fellows at the Pearlman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania as a clinical associate surgeon in the Division of Cardiovascular Surgery. He also currently volunteers as a medical director at the Dr. Ala Stanford Center for Health Equity in north Philadelphia—a grassroots health center established to reduce health disparities and improve outcomes for the most vulnerable populations of greater Philadelphia.
With 25 years of combined academic and vocational experience in ministry, psychology, and leadership, Dr. Khaalida Forbes has dedicated her entire life to the service of people. Her calling journey led her to receiving a Masters of Clinical Social Work, and a Masters of Divinity degree from Howard University, as well as a Doctorate of Ministry degree in Prophetic Preaching from United Theological Seminary. Her mantle lies in fostering deep transformation through the teaching and preaching of the word of God.
Dr. Forbes is the Founder of Khaalida Forbes Enterprises. This firm seeks to offer opportunities for transformation in the emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual aspects of people’s lives. Through the tools of therapy, empowerment sessions, leadership development, and customized consulting, the belief is that one’s emotional health can be strengthened.
She is also the Co-Founding Pastor, alongside her husband Pastor Chris Forbes, of Truth City Church in Hyattsville, MD.
Rev. Dr. John R. Faison, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Watson Grove Baptist Church (The Grove), a growing, multigenerational, multisite church with campuses in Nashville, TN and Franklin, TN. The Grove endeavors to be “A GROWING church for GROWING people whom Christ will use in GROWING His Kingdom.”
A native of Boykins, Virginia, Pastor Faison holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia, a Master of Arts in Practical Theology from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and a Doctor of Ministry from Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio.
Pastor Faison is a highly sought-after communicator of the Gospel. Young and seasoned alike have been blessed by his message of allegiance and authenticity, as well as his willingness to deal with relevant issues. Pastor Faison’s dexterity with different audiences stems from his broad spectrum of experiences. In addition to his 26 years of ministerial experience, he is also a decorated veteran, having served as an US Army officer for eight years. Pastor Faison is a recognized voice at events throughout the country, including the Hampton University Ministers Conference, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Samuel D. Proctor Conference, NAACP Leadership 500, the Word Network, and universities throughout the nation.
Pastor Faison is blessed with influence that extends beyond the local church. He is a passionate advocate for community transformation and development, as seen in his work as an HIV/AIDS National Ambassador with the NAACP (theblackchurchandhiv.org), mentor in public school districts, and advisor to several community organizations. In denominational life, he serves as the Assistant to the Bishop of Social Action for the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. In Nashville, he serves as President of The Grove Community Development Corporation and a member of the Boards of Trustees at Belmont University and Leadership Nashville. Committed to theological formation, Pastor Faison is an adjunct professor and doctoral mentor at Payne Theological Seminary. Fraternally, he is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity (Boule). He is a Class of 2023 inductee in the 37th Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers, Sponsors and Collegium of Scholars at Morehouse College.
Pastor Faison is the proud father of three amazing children: John (Jr), Ajah, and Jaden.
Bishop Rudolph W. McKissick, Jr., is Senior Pastor of the Bethel Church, located in Jacksonville, Florida. Bethel is the oldest existing Baptist church in the state of Florida, being founded in 1838. Under Bishop McKissick’s leadership, the church has experienced exponential growth to over 10,000 active disciples. Bishop McKissick has established himself not only as a prolific proclaimer but also as an academician, teaching as an adjunct professor at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Religion at Virginia Union University. Bishop McKissick is also the author of several books as well as an accomplished musician with several national, critically acclaimed music projects.
Bishop McKissick has been afforded many national platforms for proclamation, among them being the morning preacher at the prestigious Hampton University Ministers and Musicians Conference as well as the featured conference preacher in the evening; the conference preacher at the John Malcus Ellison Convocation at Virginia Union University (Now the John Ellison/Miles Jones Convocation) and being inducted into the Morehouse School of Religion Board of Preachers.
Bishop McKissick also serves on various boards, which include being a board member of the National Action Network, founded by Rev. Al Sharpton, the Board of Trustees of Florida State College at Jacksonville and the Advisory Board to the President at Virginia Union University.
Bishop McKissick holds a bachelor’s degree from Jacksonville University with a double major in the field of music: one in Opera and the other in Sacred Church Music, with a minor in pipe organ performance. He holds the Master of Divinity Degree from The School of Theology at Virginia Union University, now the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Religion at Virginia Union University, and the Doctor of Ministry Degree from the United Theological Seminary. Bishop McKissick has been awarded the honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from both Bethune Cookman University as well as Virginia Union University. He is also a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., as well as Sigma Pi Phi Boule (pronounced BOO-LAY).
He is married to the former Kimberly Joy Nichols and they are the proud parents of three beautiful children; Jocelyn, Janai (pronounced JANAY) and Joshua.
Dr. Charles Jenkins is widely known for his innovative leadership and diverse service as an influential renaissance man. For 20 years, he served as the senior pastor of the historic Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago. Jenkins has served as a Commissioner on the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, as a member of The Board of Trustees for The City Colleges of Chicago, as an Advisory Board Member for The Illinois Attorney General’s Office, The Illinois State Treasurer’s Advisory Board, The Illinois Department of Transportation Advisory Board, and as Chairman of the Rainbow Push Coalition’s PUSH BOARD, just to name a few. He was also a pivotal leader in the passing of Chicago’s Big Box Ordinance which led to Walmart and Target Stores arriving in Chicago. He was also the conduit for Uber’s arrival in Chicago, leading to thousands of jobs and dynamic revenue for the city. Additionally, Jenkins was also instrumental in helping to restore nearly 30 million dollars to the Illinois state budget which led to the expansion of Walgreens and affordable medication for senior citizens in Illinois.
Jenkins is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has received countless awards and citations for his service including being inducted into Morehouse College’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers and Scholars. He is a recipient of BET Networks ICON Man of Change Award, Black Enterprise Magazine’s Urban Business Game Changer Award, and Illinois’ Gift of Hope Lifesaving Partner Award for leading thousands of African Americans to become organ donors, and inspiring a nationwide campaign saving countless lives. Jenkins is a film executive, and a fashion executive with an atelier in Paris, France. Jenkins is a celebrated hitmaker, label head, and music mogul with 8 BMI top songwriter awards, 17 Billboard #1 honors, 9 Stellar Awards, Grammy recognition, a Soul Train Music Award nomination, and 7 Dove Music Award nominations. Jenkins is married to Dr. Tara Rawls Jenkins and has 3 beautiful children Princess, Paris, and Charles III.
Reverend Dr. Renita J. Weems is a distinguished biblical scholar, author, academic administrator, public intellectual, and ordained elder in the African American Episcopal Church (1984). Her esteemed and insightful publications, commentaries, and articles on modern faith, race and religion, womanism and social movements, make her a widely sought-after inspirational speaker and academic lecturer. Rev. Weems was the first African American woman to give Yale University’s prestigious Beecher Lectures in 2008. She also serves as the Co-Founder and Co-Pastor of Ray of Hope in Nashville, TN, alongside her husband Reverend Martin L. Espinosa.
She is the author of several acclaimed books, among these, Just A Sister Away, I Asked for Intimacy, Showing Mary: How Women Can Share Prayers, Wisdom, and the Blessings of God, and What Matters Most: Ten Passionate Lessons from the Song of Solomon. Listening for God: A Minister’s Journey Through Silence and Doubt (Simon & Schuster) won the Religious Communicators’ Council’s prestigious 1999 Wilbur Award for “excellence in communicating spiritual values to the secular media”. Her beautifully crafted and compelling words invite and strengthen audiences to explore their hopes and fears, call upon women to support and empower one another, and show them pathways to do so.
Born in Atlanta, Ga and ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. Renita received her Ph.D. from Princeton Seminary in 1989 and was the first African American woman to earn a doctorate in Old Testament Studies. Dr. Weems has taught at Vanderbilt Divinity School, Spelman College, and has served as Academic Dean at American Baptist College in Nashville, TN. She received her M.Div. From Princeton Seminary and her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College.
Finally, check out the book Black Stars: African American Leaders, a collection of bibliographies of some of the most important Black Religious Leaders over the last 200 years, and you will see Rev. Renita featured along with such impressive figures as Adam Clayton Powell, Elijah Muhammad, Sojourner Truth, Howard Thurman, and Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.
The incomparable Crystal Aikin is a world-renowned Gospel singer-songwriter from Tacoma, Washington, and the winner of the first season of BET’s Sunday Best.
Crystal’s musical journey began way before Sunday Best with her participating early in the choirs and singing groups at her local church. Eventually she found herself taking on more and more lead singing and directing duties. She credits her musical influence to gospel artists like Yolanda Adams, Lisa Paige-Brooks, The Clark Sisters, The Winans family.
Her energy and charismatic presence wows audiences worldwide. Crystal travels extensively leading worship and sharing her ministry. Additionally to her musical journey, she is still a Registered Nurse.
You can stream Crystal Aikin’s new single “He Can Handle It” on all digital media platforms.
Bishop Brian D. Moore is a native of Mt. Vernon, New York. In September 1989, Bishop Moore relocated to Charleston, South Carolina, where he founded the first-ever African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in that city. The church, Abundant Life Tabernacle A. M. E. Zion Church, is located in historic downtown Charleston.
Since 2000, Bishop Moore has served as the Senior Pastor of the Life Center Churches in Charleston, SC and Charlotte, NC. He is also the presiding prelate of The Life Center Fellowship of Interdependent Churches and Ministries, Inc., a fellowship of interdependent churches and ministries in the southeastern United States.
Bishop Moore also serves as the Executive Vice Chairman of the Gospel Music Workshop of America Inc.
Bishop Moore is married to Jametta Chandler Moore, and they have two children, Chandler David and Chayla Danielle.
Dr. Pernessa C. Seele, is a phenomenal trailblazer with a 35-year record of work that has strengthened the capacity of faith institutions in the United States and Africa to promote health education and services that eradicate health disparities among the people of the African Diaspora.
Time Magazine 100 named Dr.Seele One of the Most Influential Persons in the World in 2006; Essence Magazine, in its 35th Anniversary issue, named Dr. P one of the 35 Most Beautiful and Remarkable Women In The World. Clark Atlanta University honored Dr. Seele with the 2008 Pathway of Excellence Award, citing her as one of its most outstanding graduates In 2017, His Eminence, Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, honored Dr. Seele with the Pierre Toussaint Medallion.
Dr. Seele received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from Clark Atlanta University in 1976 and 1979, respectively. She later received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the College of New Rochelle, NY, in 2007.
Born in Lincolnville, SC, Dr. Seele created The African American Church Community Garden and Food Security Food Project in her hometown.
Dr. Seele published her first book, Stand Up to Stigma! How to Reject Fear & Shame, in 2017. She is an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Pamela D. Price currently serves as the Deputy Director for The Balm In Gilead managing the various health initiatives of the organization. Under her leadership, the organization provides support to faith institutions in areas of program design, implementation and evaluation, which strengthen their capacity to deliver programs and services that contribute to the elimination of health disparities.
In addition to her role as Deputy Director, she also serves as the Director for The National Brain Health Center for African-Americans.
As the Center’s director, she co-developed a six-part educational curriculum for nurses and allied healthcare professionals aimed at addressing knowledge gaps related to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias affecting African Americans. She also co-authored and facilitates an accredited training for healthcare providers and clinicians; aimed at increasing cultural competencies related to the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of dementia in African Americans among providers.
Mrs. Price holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Public Health and has more than 20 years of experience in public health, epidemiology, and healthcare. She has served as a member of the U.S. Army Nurse Corp and excelled in both government and non-governmental agencies providing leadership and guidance on program management, quality improvement, and project development. Mrs. Price has conducted hundreds of training sessions across the country with various nursing associations, healthcare organizations and conferences.
Cary L. Goodman, a native of Richmond, VA, has a sincere passion to empower faith communities to operate at their fullest capacity in areas of health promotion, advocacy programs, outreach and development. For over 16 years, he has been dedicated to establishing and expanding health programs across the United States by building the capacity to address health disparities that greatly impact congregations and the communities they serve by strategically leveraging faith-based and community partnership to impact sustainability.
Currently, Cary is a Program & Strategic Development Consultant for The Balm In Gilead, Inc. where he works diligently at the intersection of faith and public health nationally to address the burden of various diseases the impact African American communities. A highly skilled strategist and national speaker adept at leading relationship building and engagement opportunities, he has forged various faith based and public health community partnerships and coalitions. With a sincere passion to empower black men, Cary founded Black Men’s Wholeness, an initiative designed to engage black men in conversations focused on areas that reassures wholeness such as trauma, emotional and mental health, and fatherlessness.
An ordained minister, Cary deems himself a “connector” where he focuses on the significance of outreach and engagement, establishing coalitions, collaborating, and relationship building in order to increase accessibility and sustainability to strengthen congregations and communities.
Dr. Stacy Johnson is an Associate Medical Director in Clinical Development at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Boston, MA. Prior to joining Vertex, Dr. Johnson worked as an Assistant Professor in the division of nephrology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center UTHSC) in Memphis, TN. While at UTHSC, Dr. Johnson helped to train medical students, residents and nephrology fellows. She served as the medical director for the acute dialysis unit and plasmapheresis service at Regional One Hospital – Memphis’ only level 1 trauma center and main safety net hospital, catering to many uninsured patients. Dr. Johnson has over 10 years of experience practicing nephrology in diverse clinical settings.
Savannah Perry is a passionate and highly trained clinician with 12 years of experience within malignant hematology. She is an Adult Gerontology and Acute Care board-certified nurse practitioner. She received an undergraduate degree in Exercise Science from Saint Louis University and went on to complete an accelerated bachelors’ program in Nursing from Auburn University before returning to SLU for her master’s degree. After completing college, she began her malignant hematology and stem cell transplant career at University of Louisville in Kentucky. As an NP she continued to grow her career at the University of Colorado within their transplant program. In 2019 she moved to Winston-Salem, NC and started at Novant Health where she helped develop their autologous transplant program and lead the education initiative for CAR-T cell therapy.
Dr. Browne is the Senior Medical Executive, Health Systems Strategy and the Leader of the Health Equity Advisory Council for Janssen Cardiovascular and Metabolism Medical Affairs. In his role, Dr. Browne leverages his deep knowledge and expertise to lead collaborations with executive leadership at US healthcare systems in their efforts to achieve the quintuple aim (i.e. improving the quality of cardiovascular care, promoting cost effectiveness, enhancing the patient and health care provider experiences and striving to eliminate health disparities).
Dr. Browne graduated cum laude from Boston University School of Medicine. He then completed an internship and residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the major teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. He remained on staff as an attending physician at Harvard Medical School before completing his fellowship in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Virginia, where he served as chief cardiology fellow in his final year.
After finishing his fellowship in cardiology, he moved to Charlotte, North Carolina to begin his career as a clinical cardiologist at Sanger Heart and Vascular Institute and Atrium Health. During his tenure there, he served as Medical Director and was directly involved in the planning and execution of strategic plans for the cardiovascular division of the organization. He also participated in several cardiovascular clinical trials during that time. His role involved spending a significant amount of time educating and lecturing to medical residents and students on all aspects of cardiovascular medicine. Dr. Browne then became a senior cardiologist at Novant Health Heart and Vascular Institute at Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Dr. Browne previously served as the team cardiologist for the Charlotte Hornets of the National Basketball Association for several years. During that time, he worked with the National Basketball Association on the formulation of protocols to ensure the safety of their athletes.
Dr. Browne currently serves as a council member of the North Carolina Chapter of the American College of Cardiology. In this position, he is actively involved in the formulation of strategies to reduce health care disparities in cardiovascular patients.