Team

Staff

Richard, Patients Lead

Richard joined the AVM Survivors community of Ben’s Friends following his diagnosis in 2016. He immediately resolved to “give back” to the organization and spent the winter of 2016/17 getting more poorly while he waited for an operation but read many, many posts on the forum and tried to help others at least as much as he was being helped. Not surprisingly, Richard was invited to join the moderator team in early 2017! Richard has been an active participant in several forums and always gives much of himself in the drive to support others. In August 2022, Richard’s empathetic approach with patients led the leadership team to invite him to join the team as our Patient Experience Officer and be the person on the exec whose first focus is our patients. Richard is otherwise retired, with a wife and son, and lives in the UK.

Sharon, Community Moderator

Sharon is a dedicated patient support moderator at Ben’s Friends for over a decade. Diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis shortly after the birth of her second child, Sharon’s symptoms began subtly in college with recurring overuse injuries. Her health challenges trace back further to her childhood experiences of Raynaud’s in New York winters. Sharon found a supportive community at “Living With Psoriatic Arthritis” and soon took on the role of moderator. Married since 2000 and mother to two young adults, she balances her commitment to family with her passions for gardening and fostering cats. Sharon also brings her expertise as a certified teacher to tutoring in science and math, alongside managing a pet-sitting service. Sharon’s life reflects her resilience and dedication to helping others.

Merl, Community Moderator

Merl joined Ben’s Friends in 2014, bringing a wealth of experience from his previous roles in community services. He managed a youth accommodation facility before teaching people with disabilities, skills he now applies as a vital part of our Moderator Support Team. In 1996, Merl was diagnosed with a low-grade astrocytoma, necessitating several neurosurgeries that resulted in a mild brain injury. Despite these challenges, he remains an active and dedicated team member. Living in Australia, Merl enjoys a fulfilling family life; he has been happily married for 20 years and delights in being a stepfather and grandfather to two grandchildren.

Rose, Operations Manager

Rose joined Ben’s Friends in 2009 to set up communities and manage site contents. As the communities grew, she was entrusted with the more challenging role of Operations Manager–leading a team of apps developers, researchers, writers, multimedia and graphics consultants located in various countries.

Mark Wilson, Operations

Mark joined Ben’s Friends in 2012 as a patient member. In 2014, he became a moderator in the PSC community as he battled this serious rare disease with the desire to help others going through this same condition. After a successful liver transplant in 2015, he continues as a moderator. In 2019, Mark started becoming involved in the operations of Ben’s Friends in managing all the email and group email addresses. In 2023, he became more involved in moderator support as well as other aspects of the operations. For the last 39 years, Mark has served as purchasing officer and in IT support for a Bible College where he resides in North Carolina.

Executive Director

Tom James Lambdin

Tom James, after a wide and varied career connected to research, medicine and business, looks after the technical and business side of Ben’s Friends. With his background in many aspects of medicine, and his long list of friends and contacts, he is also the Ben’s Friends medical fact checker.  Tom, a rare disease patient himself, lives in the western USA and if he ever had any spare time, he’d be fly fishing.

Ben Munoz, President & Co-Founder

Ben Munoz is a resilient entrepreneur, angel investor, and dedicated patient advocate. Ben created our first patient community, AVMSurvivors.org, while recovering from an AVM-related stroke. Teaming up with his friend, Scott Orn, they expanded their vision, establishing Ben’s Friends — an online network of patient communities for those with rare diseases. Since 2007, Ben’s Friends has grown impressively, now helping over 100,000 patients each month. Beyond healthcare, Ben ventured into e-commerce, founding Nadine West, a women’s personal styling service that reshaped e-commerce by offering individually curated, affordable outfits monthly. With a unique blend of medical education, an MBA from Kellogg, and software development skills, Ben channels innovation and philanthropy, making a profound impact in healthcare and e-commerce ventures.

Cindy Payne, Board Member

Cindy Payne is a seasoned professional with an impressive track record, having served as the Director of Sales and Administration at Concept Frames, a division of AADG, for over 31 years. In addition to her extensive career in manufacturing, Cindy has actively contributed to various boards in both the private and public sectors, showcasing her commitment to the growth and development of her field. Beyond work, Cindy’s a culinary enthusiast, an avid book lover who prefers the tactile joy of page-turning, and enjoys quality time with her wife and pups. Her wanderlust takes her on exciting journeys, adding vibrant experiences to her well-rounded life.

Tiffany Scaparotti, Board Member

Tiffany Scaparotti, currently the Assistant Dean of Development at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, boasts over 15 years of diverse professional experience. Her impressive career features leadership roles at renowned institutions like the Cleveland Clinic, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and Atlanta Habitat for Humanity. Proficient in fundraising and development, she has dedicated her career to advancing healthcare and education through strategic philanthropy. For over five years, she has been a pivotal figure at Northwestern University, contributing significantly to the future of medical education and research through her expertise and dedication.

Clasina Field, Board Member

Clasina is a retired Canadian teacher and school counselor who lives near Ottawa, ON. She puts her teaching and counseling skills to good use in managing the Member Experience side of Ben’s Friends. She guides community moderators,  deals with members who are having difficulties on the sites, and takes responsibility for the overall experience of Ben’s Friends members. Having a rare disease herself, when she’s not working on Ben’s Friends, Clasina enjoys being home, but she also loves going away and indulging in international travel. 

Matt Huray, Board Member

Matt Huray is currently serving as Chief Strategy & Corporate Development Officer at InnovAge, a company that provides comprehensive care for underserved seniors. He is a seasoned healthcare and finance executive with a track record of over two decades. In his role, he oversees strategy, mergers and acquisitions, and partnerships. Prior to InnovAge, he held senior leadership positions at Humana and worked as a Managing Director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in the Global Healthcare Investment Banking group, specializing in healthcare services.

Wendy Tomer, Board Member

Wendy was diagnosed with Eagle Syndrome in 2014. During her quest for information about ES, she discovered the Ben’s Friends Living with Eagle forum. Initially, the idea of joining a forum was intimidating to her, as she had never done so before. However, she took the plunge and has never looked back since. Wendy’s upbringing, with a father who was a doctor, nurtured her deep interest in the mechanics of the human body, an interest that the ES forum allowed her to fully explore. Her dedication and passion led to her becoming a moderator in 2017.

In addition to her work on the forum, Wendy is a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and is actively involved in women’s ministries at her church.

 

Board of Advisors

Barrett Hazeltine

Barrett Hazeltine  was Professor of Engineering at Brown University. He is now Professor Emeritus but continues to teach at Brown. In 1991-1992 he held the Robert Foster Cherry Chair for Distinguished Teaching at Baylor University. From 1972 to 1992 he was also Associate Dean of the College at Brown. His teaching and research interests are in engineering management, technology planning especially in developing countries, teaching of technology for Liberal Arts students, and digital computers.

Dr. Tomislav Mihaljevic

Dr. Tomislav Mihaljevic is  the President and CEO of Cleveland Clinic, a position he has held since January 2018. He is also a Professor of Surgery at Cleveland Clinic, specializing in cardiac surgery. Previously, he served as the CEO and Cardiac Surgeon at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi for eight years. Dr. Mihaljevic’s medical journey began in Croatia, and he furthered his education and surgical training in Switzerland and the United States. He is known for his expertise in minimally invasive cardiac surgeries, among other specialties, and has contributed to medical literature. His leadership has shaped healthcare excellence at both national and international levels.

Jim Sinclair

Jim Sinclair has a distinguished 16-year career at Goldman Sachs, specializing in healthcare investment banking. He began as a healthcare services equity research analyst and ascended through roles, now serving as Managing Director in Healthcare Investment Banking since January 2016. With expertise in healthcare finance, strategic financial advisory services, and investment analysis, his tenure showcases extensive experience. He holds a BA in Economics from Duke University (magna cum laude, 2002), a JD from Northwestern Law School, and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management (2007).

Jose Gordon

Jose Gordon currently leads Social Responsibility & Impact at Amazon Web Services (AWS), focusing on corporate social responsibility and community engagement strategies. Previously, he oversaw Planning & Operations for Global Affairs at Meta and served as Senior Director of Global Communications at eBay, where he led the eBay Foundation’s philanthropic efforts. With a background in nonprofit work and education, he founded the Golden State Warriors Community Foundation and actively mentors and advises various foundations and youth programs. A graduate of Stanford University, Jose Gordon is dedicated to promoting equity and mentorship in his professional endeavors.

Dr. Kevin Yee

In 2022, Dr. Yee assumed the role of Associate Executive Director at The Permanente Medical Group (TPMG), where he oversees Adult and Family Medicine. Prior to this, he held various leadership positions at Kaiser Permanente San Rafael Medical Center. These roles included serving as a technology lead, chief of patient education, and physician lead for new member onboarding. As the Assistant Physician-in-Chief (APIC), he managed COVID-19 operations, technology, outpatient laboratory, pharmacy operations, and more. Dr. Yee obtained his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco, and completed his internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He also brings a wealth of experience in consulting, strategic analysis, operational execution, and technology development from his previous roles.

Rob Friedman

Rob Friedman has more than 30 years career marked by expertise in marketing, loyalty, eCommerce, operations, and finance. He currently serves as Principal at RF Consulting, offering strategic guidance to businesses in various sectors. Previously, he held the position of Chief Commercial Officer at Greyhound Lines, overseeing numerous initiatives and playing a pivotal role in the company’s transition to new ownership. Rob’s extensive expertise spans marketing, loyalty, operations, finance, and customer service, making him a valuable asset in driving sales and profitability for organizations. 

Ryan Kaiser

Ryan Kaiser has a strong background in sales leadership, general management, and go-to-market strategy, he currently serves as the VP of Sales, North America at Rippling, streamlining HR, IT, and finance management. As the former Chief Revenue Officer at House Canary, he excelled in crafting go-to-market strategies for data-driven real estate solutions. His career spans roles at LinkedIn Learning & Lynda.com, eBay, and Monitor Deloitte, showcasing his expertise in sales and business growth across diverse industries. Ryan has his MBA from Kellogg and B.A. in economics from UC Berkeley. 

Yousuf Mazhar

Yousuf Mazhar is a highly accomplished healthcare investor with over 25 years of expertise in medtech, digital health, and AI. His extensive experience encompasses leadership and executive positions in venture capital, hands-on operational roles at startups, and a background in investment banking. As the Managing Partner and Founding Member of TEAMFund Ventures, Yousuf has structured and launched successful funds while leading investments in seven global commercial-stage companies. His diverse background positions him as a driving force in healthcare innovation, merging financial acumen with a deep understanding of emerging technologies and startups.

Board Emeritus

Scott Orn, Co-Founder

Scott Orn  is a friend and Kellogg classmate of Ben and provided support to Ben while he recovered from his AVM rupture. Inspired by Ben’s efforts to build a community for AVM patients, Scott saw the potential to help other patients coping with rare or chronic conditions by forming additional communities. Together, Scott & Ben co-founded Ben’s Friends to help patients around the world support each other. Currently, Scott is the head of Operations at Kruze Consulting, a rapidly expanding CPA firm focused on startups, serving 800+ clients. In addition to his operational role, Scott advises clients on venture capital fundraising and debt financing. He hosts Kruze Consulting’s Founders & Friends Podcast, interviewing startup CEOs, investors, and service providers. Prior to Kruze, Scott was a partner at Lighthouse Capital, where he managed high-profile deals lending to startups.  Scott holds an MBA from Kellogg and undergraduate business degrees from UC Berkeley.

Eric D. Kroll

Eric Kroll is thrilled to be part of the Ben’s Friends team helping people with rare diseases find support. He helped launch the fifth BensFriends.org community when he joined in 2009, back when Ben’s Friends had only about 1,000 members. Eric is a versatile venture catalyst known for his ability to guide businesses and individuals to reach their potential. He serves as a Venture Partner and LP at MBM Capital, specializing in providing a profitable pathway for orphaned startups. Eric’s expertise spans diverse sectors, including impact investments, software, e-commerce, and more. He’s deeply connected in industries like mission-driven impact organizations, plant-based CPG, and tech. Eric is also a sought-after speaker and mentor, known for sharing his insights with founders and investors worldwide. 

John Stamler

John is very pleased to be a member of the Ben’s Friends family, which he joined in June 2010, when Ben’s Friends had only 6,000 members. John joined as a patient member, one month after a successful open heart surgery to close an Atrial Septal Defect, a rare condition. John ran a marathon for Ben’s Friends less than six months after heart surgery, and he has raised over $20,000 by running three marathons to raise awareness and money for Ben’s Friends.  John is a versatile Financial and Strategic Advisor, currently advising Celadon Pharmaceuticals Plc and serving as an Advisor at Greentown Labs, a leading climate tech startup incubator. He is a Board Member and Mentor at Anything World, innovating voice-powered gaming. John’s expertise spans finance, climate innovation, AI and voice computing, and charitable work, making him a dynamic force in diverse sectors. 

Jeremy Block

Jeremy Block is a digital health and clinical development executive with nearly two decades of experience in clinical research. He designed nationwide studies engaging 75,000 participants through innovative, decentralized approaches. As a co-founder and CSO/CPO of a health technology company, he played a pivotal role in its acquisition. Jeremy advises investors on health tech and life sciences due diligence and serves as an adjunct professor of public and international affairs. He’s an accomplished lecturer and public policy faculty member, contributing to discussions on digital health research, ethics in research, and emergency research. His multifaceted career showcases deep expertise across healthcare, education, entrepreneurship, and public policy.

Patrick Sullivan

Patrick Sullivan serves as the Co-CEO, Co-Founder, and Chairman of the Board at 2600hz since February 2010, accumulating over 13 years of experience in the company. 2600hz specializes in large-scale cloud communication, offering the KAZOO product, a cost-effective distributed system, and aims to empower Service Providers and Resellers in various communication markets under their own brand. Patrick is also a dedicated member of the Board of Directors at Ben’s Friends since April 2015, an organization focused on creating online communities for people with rare diseases. Furthermore, he is an active member of the SF Bay Chapter of YPO since January 2018.