Weekend for Women Conference Speakers, Panelists and Contributors - Los Angeles

Weekend for Women Conference Speakers, Panelists and Contributors - Los Angeles

2014 Conference Speakers, Panelist and Contributors
DiabetesSisters is proud to collaborate with a distinguished faculty of diabetes professionals. 
Note: Faculty is subject to change based on speaker schedules and other factors that are out of DiabetesSisters' control. Please check this page frequently for updates.

Melissa Achurra

Melissa is the Director of Marketing at the Center for Hope of the Sierras. She attended the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) receiving her bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in marketing. Her experience includes implementing strategic media relations plans and promotions as well as integrated marketing communications experience implementing and executing marketing campaigns. After graduating from UNR, Melissa worked as the public relations and advertising manager for Grand Sierra Resort, where she was responsible for the hotel casino’s public relations and marketing as a liaison for local, regional and national publications. Melissa was also responsible for creating news releases, media kits, brochures and collateral for Grand Sierra Resort. Her work also included planning grand openings and special events, media trips and press conferences.

Melissa participated in many nonprofit projects with the Grand Sierra Resort, which included organizing the Over The Edge fundraising event for Special Olympics of Nevada, which raised more than $60,000. In her free time, Melissa stays involved with the community as a Culinary Arts Committee Member for the Nevada Museum of Art. Melissa is also a member of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Young Professionals Committee, which assists with various events, volunteering and recruiting Bigs and Littles. She also stays involved with the University of Nevada, Reno as a member of the Pi Beta Phi Alumni Club and UNR Alumni Club.

Erin Akers

After struggling with diabulimia off and on for six years, Erin founded the Diabulimia Helpline in 2009, a non-profit organization dedicated to support, awareness and advocacy for those struggling with diabetes and eating disorders. Erin is pursuing her Masters degree in Non-Profit Management at Seattle University. She has gained extensive knowledge about the emotional and behavioral aspects of diabetes and how they connect to food and body issues.  Erin can be found in numerous publications, such as Diabetes Forecast, Diabetes Health, and Diabetes care. She has also appeared on Huffington Post Live, NBC News, and Discovery Health Channel.  She launched the Healthcare Professionals Education series on diabulimia in January 2013 and is consulting with Duke University on a research project investigating behavioral triggers around food and insulin in type 1 diabetics.  Erin is a member of Diabetes Advocates, the American Diabetes Association Women’s Workgroup and a National Eating Disorder Association partner.

Brandy Barnes, MSW

Brandy Barnes is the Founder and CEO of DiabetesSisters, an international 501(c)3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the health and quality of life of women with diabetes; and to to advoate on their behalf.  Since founding the organizanization in 2008, Brandy has created an international network of more than 10,000 women with diabetes who provide encouragement, education, and empowerment to each other through a variety of online and in-person programs. Among her accomplishments while at the helm of DiabetesSisters are the development of the organization's signature peer support program (PODS Meetup Program) which is now available in over 40 cities throughout the US and the creation of the Weekend for Women Conference (now in its seventh year), which has served over 1,000 women with diabetes and their partners. 

Brandy holds a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has lived with diabetes for more than 24 years and has written numerous publications and articles about the social, emotional and physical impact of diabetes on women and the intrinsic value of peer support.  Her latest publication, A Woman's Guide to Diabetes: A Path to Wellness, is scheduled for release by the American Diabetes Association in late 2014. She resides in Durham, NC, with her husband, Chris and daughter, Summer.

Chris Barnes

Chris Barnes is vice president and business banker with PNC Bank and has been in banking for more than 15 years, working in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Chris is actively involved in various organizations and currently sits on the boards of Durham YMCA and Carol Woods Retirement Community.  He is also currently Chair of the Board at Chapel Hill Chamber of Commerce. Chris has been married to Brandy, the Founder and CEO of Diabetes Sisters, for 12 years.  In 2012, Chris started the Partner's Perspective Program at DiabetesSisters to provide education and support for the loved ones of women with diabetes. 

Kristin Castorino, DO

 Kristin Castorino, D.O., obtained her medical degree from Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in the California bay area after graduating with a degree in Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology at University of California Santa Cruz.  Dr. Castorino completed an internship in Family Medicine at University of Nevada Reno, followed by a residency in Internal Medicine in Santa Barbara where she met Dr. Jovanovic.

Dr. Castorino joined Sansum Diabetes Research Institute (now the William Sansum Diabetes Center) in 2009 and has been an instrumental part of many programs including the Diabetes and Pregnancy Program and the Artificial Pancreas program at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute since 2009. Dr. Castorino partners with Dr. Jovanovic in serving as the only United States investigators for JDRF’s CONCEPTt study, evaluating continuous glucose monitors in T1D women both in preparation for and during pregnancy. Dr. Castorino also serves as the attending physician at the Santa Barbara County Public Health department teaching medical residents how to care for women with diabetes and pregnancy.  One of Kristin’s special achievements is the Seeds of Change Program (Semillas de Cambio) a postpartum intervention education program designed for women and taught by Promotoras to improve the health of women in-between pregnancies.

Dr. Castorino is dedicated to improving the lives of women with diabetes, especially during the childbearing years.

Manny Hernandez

Manny Hernandez was diagnosed with diabetes in 2002. In 2007 Manny and Andreina Davila, his wife, established two online communitites for people touched by diabetes: TuDiabetes.org (in English) and EsTuDiabetes (in Spanish). A year later, they co-founded the Diabetes Hands Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that connects, empowers, and mobilizes the diabetes community. As President of the Diabetes Hands Foundation, Manny is responsible for program strategy, fundraising and partnership development.

Born in Venezuela and trained as an engineer, Manny is a nonprofit leader and social media author who passionately advocates for all people living with diabetes. He currently serves as a member of the National Advocacy Committee at ADA, and as an advisor for IDF’s Life for a Child Program and other groups. His contributions to the diabetes community have been recognized with a Community Spirit Award from the American Diabetes Association and a DSMA Salutes Award from DCAF.

Hollis Liebman

Hollis Lance Liebman is a top Los Angeles based trainer.   He has been a fitness magazine editor x 3, national bodybuilding champion, and author.   In addition to being Pre/Post Natal, kickboxing and stretch certified, Hollis' editorial background makes exercise and nutrition explanations a snap as posted in his highly popular and informative ongoing newsletter series, as well as his brand new YouTube video series.  Hollis' passion for training began early. Having a genetic predisposition to obesity, he knew if action was not taken, a life of corpulence and diabetes might be had.  In 1995, at age 19, Hollis was crowned the Teenage National Heavyweight bodybuilding champion after a mere year of competition. Hollis has a talent for making exercise something that you want to do even if it is challenging.    

Mother Love

Mother Love is a renowned television and radio talk show host, film and TV veteran and noted author committed to changing lives through healthy living. Having grown up with a love of food and an insatiable appetite, her weight shot up to 250 pounds on her 5’6” frame. With rapidly declining health, her life changed dramatically in 1990, when she was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes and had to make the difficult choices in order to live and be healthy. Faced with the reality that she may not make it to her next birthday, she lost over 100 pounds and stopped the cycle of early death in her own family, where several members met their demise far too young. She’s been on a mission ever since to inform, enlighten and empower people to make their PHD - Personal Health Decisions and to encourage a healthy lifestyle while also enjoying life. Mother Love can be haerd weekdays on the #1 Internet radio station, LATalkRadio.com from 2pm to 4pm (PST), as well as seen on her nationally syndicated talk show "Forgive or Forget" which airs on BounceTV.com. As of September 2014, Mother Love can be seen on her new show "Cooking with Love", where she serves up sound practical advice with big portions of humor on family and women's issues, healthy lifestyle changes, managing diabetes, and Cooking with Love to create nutritional, delicious and satisfying meals.

Traveling across the nation, Mother Love   has presented her Diabetes Awareness Bus & Truck Tour at churches, health fairs, universities and other large venues on behalf of Novo Nordisk, US and was a spokesperson for Glucerna Nutritional Products. As a long-time volunteer spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association (ADA), she is encouraging people affected by diabetes to visibly demonstrate their passion for fighting this disease. "It’s all about inspiring people to live healthier lives and make smarter choices when it comes to preventing and managing diabetes." She has written three books, "Half the Mother Twice the Love, "Forgive or Forget: Never Underestimate the Power of Forgiveness", and "Listen Up Girlfriends".

Among her many awards and recognition, Mother Love was recognized in 2013 with the DiabetesSisters' Inspiration Award.

Diana Naranjo, PhD

Diana Naranjo, PhD,  is a psychologist at the Madison Clinic for Pediatric Diabetes at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. She provides behavioral interventions for patients with type 1 diabetes to improve diabetes outcomes, reduce stress and depression and manage chronic disease from a family-centered perspective. She also runs monthly psychosocial groups for young adults with diabetes. Dr. Naranjo speaks English and Spanish and serves as a bicultural provider to Latinos. She is particularly interested in reducing health disparities and improving services for ethnic minority patients and their families.

Dr. Naranjo earned a PhD at Arizona State University with a focus in child health psychology and completed a clinical psychology internship at Boston Children's Hospital, affiliated with Harvard Medical School, followed by a fellowship at UCSF in Family and Community Medicine, as part of the Behavioral Diabetes Research Group. She is a member of the American Psychological Association, National Latino Psychological Association, American Diabetes Association and American Pediatric Association.

Anna Norton, MS

Anna Norton is the Operations Manager of DiabetesSisters. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1993, her involvement with DiabetesSisters began in 2011, serving as a committee member for the Weekend for Women Conference. In 2012, she joined DiabetesSisters as a full-time staff person, focusing on the daily functions of the organization, as well as all in-person program (PODS Meetup Program, Weekend for Women Conference Series), as well as online programming such as the monthly e-newsletter, expert articles and blogs, Social Media communications, DiabetesSisters’ Life Class Webinar Series. She also oversees the DiabetesSisters’ volunteer corps.

Fluent in English and Spanish, Anna has been featured on numerous episodes of DSMA and DSMA En Vivo, as well as EsTuDiabetes.org.  She was featured in Cheryl Alkon’s book, Balancing Pregnancy with Pre-Existing Diabetes.

Lorainne Platka-Bird, PhD, RD, Dietitian, Nutrition Therapist

 Dr.Lorraine Platka-Bird received her doctorate from Michigan State University in 1980 with a major in human nutrition and a minor in psychology. She became a registered dietitian in 1982.

As a dedicated professor in the Nutrition and Dietetics Department at the State University of New York for 19 years, Dr. Platka-Bird taught a wide variety of courses including Weight Management, Medical Nutrition Therapy, Nutritional Biochemistry, Sports Nutrition, Human Physiology, Nutrition Across the Life Span, and numerous related courses. During this period of time Dr. Platka-Bird was granted some of the most prestigious teaching awards offered in the State University system.

Dr. Platka-Bird has been counseling individuals with eating disorders for over 25 years. She takes a holistic approach to treatment, considering all aspects of physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being. In addition to helping clients develop a healthy relationship with food, Dr. Platka-Bird helps individuals minimize eating disorder thoughts and behaviors, improve self-image and self-esteem, and develop healthy coping skills and life skills to improve overall quality of life.

Carolyn Robertson, APRN, MSN, CDE

Carolyn Robertson is a Clinical Nurse Specialist (ACNS-BC) who is certified as a diabetes educator (CDE) as well as board certified in Advanced Diabetes Management (BC-ADM). Ms. Robertson has over 35 years of experience in diabetes education and intensive/flexible diabetes management. She has had an active caseload of people with diabetes for more than 30 years. Ms. Robertson received her Masters of Science degree in Nursing from Hunter College of the City University of New York

Her focus is the care and treatment of people with type 1, type 2,; and the care of the pregnant person with diabetes. She also has expertise in the management of persons with advanced kidney disease and as well as persons with both kidney and combined kidney and pancreas transplantation..

At the present time, Ms. Robertson is currently in private practice (Customized Diabetes Education) with a client base in New York, California and Arizona. She is also a diabetes consultant to industry as well as contract diabetes educator for Yavapai Native Americans at Fort Mc Dowell Reservation in Fort McDowell, Az. She remains actively involved in clinical research, consultation and mentoring. Ms. Robertson has been an active member of several diabetes volunteer organizations including Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Research International and the American Diabetes Association. Ms. Robertson lectures frequently to local, national and international audiences of health professionals, patients and the general public.

Kelly Schmidt, RD, LDN

At a young age of seven, Kelly learned the power of nutrition when diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (1991). Continuing a new found passion in making the most of her health, she earned a Bachelors of Science in Dietetics from Ohio University and then pursued a Didactic Internship at Loyola University Chicago. In juggling the daily balance of life and diabetes, she realized a grain/carbohydrate heavy diet doesn't deserve to be part of a blood sugar management recommendation. Real food should have been and should be the message for health. Through self-assessment and indulging herself in ancestral research, Kelly has modified her nutrition advice to be much more holistic. Kelly believes life is too short to not have the best quality of life every day and what we eat can make all the difference. Fueled by passion and driven by greatness, Kelly strives to change lives in her private practice, Paleo Infused Nutrition, based in Chicago, IL. Kelly's work includes working with clients one-on-one, Corporate and remote wellness programs, public speaking/events, grocery store tours and she is currently writing her first book on primal eating, due to be published in 2015. 

Cherise Shockley

 Cherise was diagnosed with LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adult) at the age of 23. When she was diagnosed, she was a newlywed and her husband was stationed in Iraq. She was alone and did not know anyone with Type 1 or LADA. She turned to the internet in search for answers and understanding but there wasn’t enough information for people that are living with LADA. A few years after her diagnoses Cherise became insulin dependent and that’s when she found TuDiabetes.org; she realized that wasn’t alone. She found her voice and the voices of others living with all types of diabetes.

She began blogging about diabetes in hopes to inspire and help people with diabetes. She started DSMA to bring the community together for a once a week chat about all things diabetes, support, awareness and education as a way to give back to the diabetes community and show how powerful peer support and social media can be for people with diabetes, their family members and other advocates.

The twitter chat grew, and the need to reach out to others grew heavy on the organization. In November 2010, DSMA Live: Continuing the Conversation was created, and recently, added DSMA en Vivo, DSMA Live: Parents Talk and DSMA: Diabetic Feed.  November 14, 2010, The Blue Fridays initiative was created to encourage people to wear blue every Friday and on World Diabetes Day to raise awareness for diabetes.  

George Simmons

George Simmons is a husband and father of two who has been living with type 1 diabetes for over 23 years. George began blogging a way to meet other people with diabetes and to share his story in hopes that it would help others to not feel alone. His personal blog called “Ninjabetic“ serves as a place for George to express his frustrations, triumphs, and failures. Besides blogging, George also co-hosts a weekly Blog Talk Radio show called DSMA Live, speaks publicly on the health benefits of Social Media, and is a songwriter/musician.

Kerri Sparling

Kerri Sparling has been living with type 1 diabetes for over 27 years, diagnosed just before she started second grade.  She believes that, “Diabetes doesn’t define me, but it helps explain me.”

Kerri is the creator and author of www.SixUntilMe.com, one of the first and most widely-read diabetes patient blogs, started in May 2005. She has contributed to many diabetes-related websites and publications, and is a passionate advocate for diabetes awareness.  Focusing on the psychosocial side of diabetes and how peer-to-peer connections can impact diabetes management, Kerri presents regularly at new media conferences.  Her first book, Balancing Diabetes: Conversations about finding happiness and living well, was released in March 2014.

Kerri and her husband, Chris, live in Rhode Island with their daughter.