Our wonderful facilitators come to us from recommendations by program participants, our staff, and our friends. We spend time getting to know each of our facilitators before we invite them to teach or lead activities here.
Stress Reduction (Yoga, Meditation, Movement)
Kiersten Gallagher, RYT 200, Certified Herbalist, has studied yoga for over 25 years. Over the last decade, Kiersten has developed yoga programs and has provided a place for healing in the cancer community, in underprivileged neighborhoods, for special needs children, for teens and adults with drug addiction and for those struggling with body image. Kiersten invites you on a journey of healing to help guide you to a place where yoga will make a real difference in your life. Kiersten’s goal for you is that you feel better mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually when you leave class.
Alaina Sadick Goss, RYT-500, draws inspiration from more than a decade of study and practice with gifted teachers from around the world. She has completed hundreds of hours of training in various styles of yoga and its therapeutic applications with a particular focus on healing in the face of cancer. Her gentle, approachable style includes mindful asana, meditation, and pranayama with an emphasis on natural flow and integration. In addition to her weekly public and private classes in DC, she has taught abroad though Anahata International, an organization committed to bringing yoga and other wellness services to communities affected by conflict around the world. With dedication and an open heart, she is honored to share the transformative power of yoga with those affected by cancer and stress at Smith Center.
Kelly King, Founder and Artistic Director of Contradiction Dance, creates dances for theatre, film, stage, and street. Playing in several artistic sandboxes at once, while teasing the line between art and entertainment, Kelly brings a collage of interests to each endeavor. Kelly serves the creative community as an educator, choreographer, consultant, advocate, and audience member.
Beth Lawrence, RYT 500, discovered yoga in early 2002 as a mother of six-month-old twins. She was looking to get back into shape after their birth. In yoga, she found far more than she anticipated – an age old practice designed to help people relieve both mental and physical stress. After a few years of regular practice, she knew she wanted to share her positive experiences with others. She has been leading yoga classes in the DC area since 2007 after completing her 200 hour yoga teacher training at Nth Degree Yoga with Martha Rosen. In 2011, she went back to earn her RYT 500. Her personal practice is inspired by Integral Yoga and Sivananda Yoga, both of which incorporate body and mind into the practice.
Carol Regan discovered the Feldenkrais Method over seven years ago after trying a number of different movement classes yet finding herself going back into her old patterns that caused chronic aches and pains. The work has been life-changing both physically and emotionally; she began a four-year training program in 2012, and is now a certified teacher of the Method. Her volunteer work has been focused on healing and she brings her own experiences and commitment to restorative practice to her classes
Cooking and Nutrition
Cathryn Gunnerson Pethick, AYS, teaches yoga and Ayurveda in the Washington, DC metro area, and is a long-time professional chef. She is an Ayurveda Yoga Specialist through the Himalayan Institute, teaching the self-care basics of the traditional Indian science of Ayurveda and Ayurvedic cooking to groups and private clients. Since 1997, she has taught both traditional and gentle hatha yoga classes for adults and children, therapeutic classes for seniors and special-needs students, and restorative yoga. It is her deepest desire to offer tools that bring balance and well-being into the lives of those she touches.
Laura Pole, RN, MSN, Chef, has served as Smith Center’s head chef and integrative oncology nurse consultant since 1997. She is an Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist and Cancer Guide with 25 years experience in caring for people with serious illnesses. She is also a Certified Health-Supportive Chef, professional musician and Nia body-mind fitness instructor. Her popular cooking class series, Eating for a Lifetime: Cooking for People with Cancer, introduces participants to the Eight Principles of Food Selection, along with truly tasty and healthy recipes. Laura is the founder of “Eating for a Lifetime,” a consulting business dedicated to teaching individuals and professionals about health supportive eating and food preparation. In addition to Laura’s work with nourishment, she is the co-coordinator of Smith Center’s Patient Navigation Training in Integrative Cancer Care. Laura also serves as coordinator of the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv.
Erika Cleveland is an artist, writer, and healer trained as an art therapist at NYU. After working clinically for many years with children and adults in settings such as the International Center for the Disabled in NYC and Boston Children’s Hospital, she studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Her current focus is on the ways in which changes – big and small, cataclysmic and celebratory – force us to grow and reinvent ourselves. In addition to offering healing doll workshops, she makes commissioned healing dolls. She is an Associate artist at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA, where she makes and shows her dolls. She can also be found in her new studio at the Jackson Art Center in Georgetown, DC. When not at the Torpedo Factory, Erika can be found working in her tiny DC home studio.
Elise Wiarda has been leading the poetry writing sessions, Speaking Our Truth, at Smith Center’s weeklong cancer retreats for many years. You could say that poetry is in her blood. She grew up in the Netherlands. Her mother, who died at the age of 101, knew more than 150 poems by heart in four languages, and read poetry to her children all the time. Elise’s daughter is a published poet and a tenured professor at Barnard. Elise has a long history in the art world, and for the past thirty years has been a mind/body therapist. She has a private practice in her home in Cabin John.
Rebecca Wilkinson, MA, ATR-BC, and Gioia Chilton, MA, ATR-BC, are co-founders of Creative Wellbeing Workshops LLC, which provides training, consultation, and clinical therapy designed to reduce stress, prevent burnout and increase life satisfaction and wellbeing. Rebecca and Gioia are both Registered and Board Certified art therapists with twenty years of experience in mental health, training and workshops. They serve as adjunct faculty at George Washington University Graduate Art Therapy Program and provide continuing education and development through the Potomac Art Therapy Association. They facilitate supportive workshops for those affected by life-threatening illnesses and the professional providers working with them.
Saaraliisa Ylitalo is a textile artist based in theVirginia suburbs of Washington DC. She studied with Walter Nottingham and taught various fiber arts before spending 25 years of travel on four continents – living, teaching and exhibiting in Costa Rica, Japan, Peru and South Africa, with stops in the United States. During her five years in Japan, she fell in love with washi paper, and apprenticed with a master papermaker in Kyoto. Paper remains her chief passion, but she combines it with many other textile techniques: knitting, crocheting, weaving, spinning, dyeing, tatting and sewing.
Joanne Assarsson has extensive experience working with individuals, families, and groups whose lives are impacted by a cancer diagnosis. She graduated with a Master’s degree from The Catholic University of America and is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker. Joanne also maintains certification as an Oncology Social Worker and is a member of the Association of Oncology Social Workers. Joanne works with people throughout the continuum of care from diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, advanced illness, and end of life care. In partnership with patients and families, her practice is focused on thoughtfully assessing and maximizing quality of life.
Jennifer Bires is a licensed clinical social worker who works with people affected by cancer. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis. Jennifer knows how distressing a cancer diagnosis can be for patients and their families. Her goal as an oncology social worker is to help patients and family members adjust to the emotional impact of a diagnosis. Jennifer specializes in working with young adults, caregivers and patients who have advanced diseases. She strives to help patients and families maintain a high quality of life in the face of their illnesses.
Cheryl Ann Hughes, LICSW, creates a safe and supportive environment from which individuals can define their goals as well as the means by which they can be achieved. Cheryl infuses her work with mindfulness-based techniques to assist her clients in recognizing their own ability to create a reality that will lead to a satisfying and fulfilling life. Cheryl received her master’s degree in social work, with an emphasis on clinical and medical social work, from Catholic University. She is employed at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, DC, where she works with cancer patients and their families as they deal with the increased stressors caused by cancer and its treatment.
Pamela Lowe, LCPC, NCC, ASC, is the founder and director of Pam Lowe Counseling Associates in Annapolis, MD, and has over fifteen years of experience providing counseling, coaching, and creative expression activities to individuals, couples and families in the areas of life transitions; chronic illness; grief and loss; trauma; anxiety and stress; depression; and spiritual distress. She has formerly served as the Director of Counseling Programs at the Wellness House of Annapolis offering supportive services to those impacted by cancer. She has also worked as a clinical supervisor at Hospice of the Chesapeake’s Life Center. She currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the Oncology Foundation of Maryland and DC. Pam employs a holistic and integrated approach to her counseling and incorporates a variety of therapeutic modalities in her work. She understands the importance of building a trusted relationship with her clients and works with each person to develop a plan to meet their wellness goals.
Jenn McRobbie is a young breast cancer survivor, life coach and author. Following her diagnosis and treatment, Jenn published her first book, Why is She Acting So Weird? A Guide to Cultivating Closeness When a Friend is in Crisis. Why is She Acting So Weird? was borne from her experiences interacting with friends after diagnosis and during treatment. Jenn believes that friends are critical to successfully navigating a crisis, so she developed the resource she wished existed for her friends when she was diagnosed. It is her treatise on empowering friends to rise and lift each other during crisis. Jenn is now settling into a new role as an advocate for breast cancer survivors, their friends, and family.
Carole O’Toole serves as Smith Center’s Director of Integrative Navigation. She designed Smith Center’s innovative model and for cancer navigation which she has shared with hundreds of healthcare professionals nationally through lectures and an annual training program. Prior to her work at Smith Center, Carole was a Patient Navigator at Suburban Hospital and ran a private integrative cancer care navigation practice. Carole has been a survivor of advanced cancer since 1994. She has written two books on integrative cancer care: Cancer Community Healing Network and Healing Outside the Margins, and continues to work with individual clients at Smith Center to guide them through their treatment and survivorship in a holistic and comprehensive way.