The Davis Phinney Foundation Ambassador Leadership Program was founded in 2015 to support local community members, change makers, and volunteers in their efforts to help people with Parkinson’s live well. Ambassadors strengthen the Parkinson’s community by building relationships, helping others navigate health resources, advocating, educating their communities, and more. Our Ambassadors directly impact individuals and families affected by Parkinson’s, and they are vital in creating healthy and inclusive communities for people living with Parkinson’s. Our new Ambassadors are energetic, thoughtful, and passionate leaders in their communities, and we’re excited to introduce them to you.
Anna Vlasova – Plattsburgh, New York
Anna is 46 and was recently diagnosed with YOPD. She is a bedside RN on a busy MedSurg hospital floor and is prepared to advocate for herself and others as she navigates Parkinson’s. Remembering that Parkinson’s is only one hat she wears in this life, she relies on her other hats to help her handle the lows and celebrate the highs. Anna describes herself as an optimist with grit and wants to help spread awareness about Parkinson’s while living a meaningful life.
Carol Boase – Dayton, Ohio
Carol is looking forward to sharing with the Parkinson’s community. She was diagnosed in 2018 and, since then, has been working to manage her symptoms. She is retired and married with two sons and two grandchildren. Carol is building her Parkinson’s toolbox and is managing nicely so far! She is looking forward to sharing her experiences and helping others manage their diagnosis.
Charlotte Juarez -Manassas, Virginia
Charlotte was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s and wants to make a difference in the lives of others affected by it. She is passionate about being a resource for others looking for information about Parkinson’s, treatment options, medications, and more. Charlotte is also excited to learn from others to better understand how each person is impacted by Parkinson’s. With that knowledge, she hopes to empower others to live well with Parkinson’s rather than suffer through it.
Doug Reid – Lafayette, Colorado
Doug received his YOPD diagnosis in 2010 when he was 36, which completely upset his world. He struggled with his diagnosis for several years and let depression and apathy take over his life. In 2019, Doug watched a webinar from the Foundation that led him to get Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) to start improving his symptoms. When the pandemic hit, the isolation of quarantine set him back a bit, but once restrictions started lifting, he decided it was time to clean up his life. Having turned around his perspective and how he managed his diagnosis, Doug is living well with Parkinson’s today and has valuable information to share regarding the lessons he’s learned.
Drew Burke – Griffin, Georgia
Drew, 53, is a semi-retired sales rep for the bicycling industry and was diagnosed with YOPD in October 2018. Drew spends his days riding his bike 25 miles or rowing a 5K. He also focuses on taking care of his two teenage daughters and making his wife of 20 years laugh at the jokes he makes about himself. One of his buddies has Parkinson’s, and for Halloween, they wore salt and pepper t-shirts and went as salt and pepper shakers. Drew started his own cycling club called “Got Dopamine” to bring awareness of and raise money for Parkinson’s.
Dr. Gregg Busch – Tucumcari, New Mexico
Gregg was diagnosed with YOPD after living with symptoms for about 15 years. He is currently 57 years old, and in 2018 his Parkinson’s took a quick and severe turn, worsening rapidly. At the time, Gregg was living in Tucson, Arizona, with some of the finest Parkinson’s care and treatment that helped him become more functional with his Parkinson’s. Gregg is President of Mesalands College and has seen great strides in educating people about Parkinson’s. While his disease progresses, Gregg tries not to let it define him. He has been a Parkinson’s advocate and speaker for several years and is deeply honored to serve as an Ambassador.
Greg Ritscher – Panama City Beach, Florida
Greg was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2011 and has made his life goal “to make Parkinson’s wish it had never met me!” Greg moved to Florida in March of 2021 and is looking forward to building more support for the folks of his community. According to Greg, it’s important to remember that receiving a Parkinson’s diagnosis doesn’t mean you can’t live a vibrant life and learn to thrive.
Jack Waller – Halifax, Nova Scotia
Jack is a care partner to his husband Ken who has been living with Parkinson’s for 12 years. Together they founded Parkinson’s Society Nova Scotia four years ago. They aim to build support in their area for others with Parkinson’s. Jack is looking forward to increasing access to resources and offering more ongoing support for his community.
Jim Allen – Augusta, Georgia
Jim is 64 and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s last August. He is an attorney who has practiced in the Seattle area, Atlanta, and Augusta. Jim is married with four children who are grown and out of the house. Living well with Parkinson’s means maintaining normalcy as much as possible through exercise, diet, medication, and personal decisions. It means positively dealing with Parkinson’s rather than giving in to bitterness and anger.
Julie Sharber – Evergreen, Colorado
For as long as Julie can remember, her career, relationships, her service projects have centered around helping others. It is central to who she is. Now, she wants to be that person who supports and encourages someone who gets this life-changing Parkinson’s diagnosis and helps them see that they are not alone. She wants to direct them to the resources that will help them on their journey. Julie was diagnosed in 2020 and finds that living well means believing that her life is far from over – her focus on her passions has intensified, and her intentionality has increased.
Kris Meldrum – Des Moines, Iowa
Kris is a Parkinson’s Wellness coach in Iowa and is looking forward to participating in this extraordinary group. She has been working with people with Parkinson’s for a decade and has found that they are an integral part of her life. Kris has seen firsthand how vital exercise is for people living with Parkinson’s and how dramatically it can improve symptoms. Kris is excited to bring the Foundation’s information to the Midwest, an area of the country that has a relatively higher rate of Parkinson’s.
Rick Buck – Zanesville, Ohio
Rick was diagnosed four years ago with Parkinson’s at 54 years old. He is very involved in his community and even started a 501(c)3 a couple of years ago that hosts a yearly festival aimed at teaching the history of Zanesville. In addition, Rick started another non-profit called Parkinson’s Unlimited to expand awareness and resources to his and surrounding communities in Ohio. The goals Rick has for this group align perfectly with the Ambassador program, and he can’t wait to get things rolling.
Sherry Vigliotti – Long Island, New York
Sherry works on Long Island in a subacute rehab facility where she runs a Parkinson’s Program. She enjoys running support groups, Rocksteady boxing classes, and a fall-prevention program. She’s excited to collaborate with her fellow Ambassadors and grow. Living well for Sherry means empowering people to live the best quality of life they can live with Parkinson’s.
Stephanie Soto – Saratoga Springs, New York
Stephanie is a physical therapist in upstate NY and treats people with Parkinson’s, other neurological conditions, and various orthopedic conditions. She is passionate about working with individuals with Parkinson’s and wants to uplift her community. To Stephanie, living well with Parkinson’s means there is no limit. She believes individuals with neurological conditions deserve to live an independent lifestyle filled with whatever hobbies or tasks bring them joy.
Suzi Wizowaty – Shelburne, Vermont
Suzi’s spouse, Joan, was officially diagnosed with Parkinson’s four years ago at age 67. They feel fortunate, however, because they have access to all kinds of opportunities in their area. This past week, the Mark Morris Dance Group came to their local performing arts venue, where Joan used to work as an education director, and invited the local Dance for PD® group to open the evening with a brief performance. Suzi finds that living well with Parkinson’s means appreciating where we are in the moment. It means doing what we can to stay healthy, strong, and involved in our communities. Day by day and moment by moment, we can continue to contribute and take pleasure and satisfaction, even joy, from what we can do.
Teri Lamers – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Teri was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 43. She and her husband just celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary. They have three girls in the fourth, seventh, and ninth grades. Teri has been given a unique perspective into the world of Parkinson’s and other neurological/chronic degenerative health conditions, and from the moment she was diagnosed, she’s felt called to help. She’s hopeful that sharing her story might help others along their journey!
Terry Reed – Morrison, Colorado
Terry is a full-time resident of Colorado, switching between the foothills in the winter and the mountains in the summer. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s at 60, he has been living with Parkinson’s for the past seven years. He is a big believer in staving off the symptoms of Parkinson’s with exercise, although this has become more difficult with his current knee replacement. Terry looks forward to exchanging stories about life in the trenches and wants to use his Ambassadorship to spread the idea that one can prevail against Parkinson’s and any other issues that come their way.
Interested in Becoming an Ambassador?
Many of our Ambassadors have told us that this role saved their life. That’s because learning about Parkinson’s, getting involved in your community, and helping others are life-saving behaviors that are rarely talked about. Yet, they are often the difference between suffering with Parkinson’s and living well and thriving with it. Click here to learn more about our Ambassador Leadership Program and get involved.