Kristina Breen works in the global payments industry, partnering with digital and core product teams to develop global product strategy while managing key risk factors. Being part of a large global company has allowed her to engage in work promoting diversity & inclusion in the workplace, and she has previously served as a co-chair of the employee resource group focusing on advocating for the rights of employees with disabilities and their families.
As a woman in pain, Kristina has continued to explore ways of living with chronic illness, having been diagnosed with CRPS and fibromyalgia in 2006. Through her own efforts to find healing, Kristina has in turn developed her own healing skills – she holds a Bachelor of Science in Natural Health, is a trained Reiki II practitioner, as well as a Reverend with Sacred Foundations, Inc. Kristina has pursued extensive studies in women’s spirituality, and is currently working on her Masters in Theology. Kristina has also presented at local and national conferences in an effort to inspire others living with chronic illness to live a fully enriched life, producing her first short documentary in 2010, Pleasure and Pain, outlining her own personal healing journey.
Kristina is currently a Senior Director in the Products and Innovation Risk group at Visa Inc.
Henry J. Contreras is an attorney licensed by the California State Bar Association who spent his professional career in public service. Initially hired as a staff attorney for the California State Legislature, he later held a number of senior staff positions in the California State Assembly and the House of Representatives. In those capacities, he worked as the Chief of Staff for a Member of Congress and as Chief of Staff to the Assembly Majority Floor Leader.
After acquiring a chronic pain disability that forced his retirement from state service, he spent eleven years as the Public Policy Director for the nonprofit California Foundation for Independent Living. He coordinated community organization and public advocacy campaigns on behalf of federal and state legislation and budget issues.
His areas of specialization included helping to organize and promote policy and budget issues affecting Seniors and People with Disabilities at all levels of government. He also focused on issues relating to health care and health and human services and testified before legislative committees, budget committees and subcommittees in the California State Assembly and Senate.
He is a resident of the City of Sacramento.
Gary E. Erickson serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Erickson Group founded in 1988. The Erickson Group provides consulting services to the non-profit community in strategic planning, program development, board development, marketing and all aspects of fundraising.
Mr. Erickson has over 30 years experience in working with community-based non-profit organizations. From 1980 to 1984, he served as Executive Vice President for the United Way of Los Angeles where he supervised all planning, public relations and fund-raising activities for the five-region Los Angeles United Way.
The diversity and complexity of the Los Angeles area provided a unique opportunity for Mr. Erickson to develop an understanding of community needs and the success factors required to organize the creation of the California Medical Center Foundation located in downtown Los Angeles. From 1984-1988 while at California Medical Center Foundation, annual gifts increased from under $500,000 in 1984 to an average of over $4.5 million annually between 1985 and 1988.
Liz Figueroa was a California State Senator who as a Democrat represented the 10th District until she termed out in November 2006. Prior to being a Senator, Liz served two terms in the California State Assembly. She was the first Northern California Latina to be elected to the Legislature.
Senator Figueroa served on a variety of committees and was Chair of the Senate Committee on Business and Professions, the Joint Legislative Sunset Review Committee, the Senate Select Committee on International Trade Policy and State Legislation and the Senate Select Committee on Technological Crime and the Consumer. In her first year with the Assembly, Figueroa delivered nine bills to the Governor’s desk, all of which were signed into law—the highest percentage of any freshman legislator. She has been a leader in the high profile fight to reform managed care in California. Figeroa has been named Legislator of the Year by numerous organizations, including the March of Dimes, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Association of Retarded Citizens, Leadership California and the California National Organization for Women.
John Garrett serves as Director at For Grace and was instrumental in launching the organization in April 2002 along with his partner Cynthia Toussaint, who has suffered with CRPS (and over-lapping auto-immune conditions) for 41 years. Garrett has been partner and caregiver to Toussaint for 43 years. He has done extensive research about the gender disparity toward women in pain and trauma being a driver for chronic illness, compiling a comprehensive library on these and other issues.
Garrett has assisted Toussaint in all aspects of media relations and advocacy regarding CRPS awareness and the pain gender divide. His work focuses on speech presentation, grant writing, research, media outreach and the development of branding strategies. Garrett has also advised California’s Department of Managed Health Care and other state agencies regarding pain management practices in the HMO industry.
Commenting on her long-term partnership with Garrett, Toussaint said, “My story as a woman in pain is also a love story because John’s support has been total and unwavering. Without his loving presence in my life, I wouldn’t be here.”
Garrett made numerous writing contributions, reflecting on his role as a caregiver, trauma survivor, witness and partner, in Toussaint’s memoir, Battle for Grace: A Memoir of Pain, Redemption and Impossible Love. Also, Garrett continues to make public speaking and media appearances that share the virtues and challenges of the caregiving experience.
Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, Founder – the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace began her landmark study of chimpanzees in Tanzania in June 1960, under the mentorship of anthropologist and paleontologist Dr. Louis Leakey. Her work at Gombe Stream would become the foundation of future primatological research and redefine the relationship between humans and animals.
In 1977, Goodall established the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), which continues the Gombe research and is a global leader in the effort to protect chimpanzees and their habitats. The Institute is widely recognized for establishing innovative, community-centered conservation and development programs in Africa, and the Roots & Shoots education program which has more than 8,000 groups in nearly 100 countries.
Dr. Goodall travels an average 300 days per year, speaking about the threats facing chimpanzees, other environmental crises, and her reasons for hope that humankind will solve the problems it has imposed on our planet. She continually urges her audiences to recognize their personal responsibility and ability to effect change through consumer action, lifestyle change and activism.
In April 2002, Secretary-General Kofi Annan named Dr. Goodall a United Nations “Messenger of Peace.” In 2004, in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Dr. Goodall was invested as a Dame of the British Empire, the female equivalent of knighthood.
She has been the subject of numerous television documentaries and is featured in the large-screen format film, Jane Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees (2002). In 2004 she was featured in two Discovery Channel Animal Planet specials—Jane Goodall’s Return to Gombe and Jane Goodall’s State of the Great Ape.
Heather Grace works for the Council On Aging — Southern California as Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator, managing the team that works with older adults and people with disabilities who have healthcare coverage concerns. She’s worked in the health industry and with nonprofits throughout her career. For nearly a decade, Heather worked in Continuing Medical Education (CME). She launched the first live online CME event in 1998. Some of the organizations she’s worked with include: Psychiatric Times, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation and NAMI.
Heather is a woman in pain as well. She’s had the genetic condition Ehlers Danlos Syndrome her whole life. Following a serious car accident and a work injury, she was diagnosed with CRPS & Intractable Pain in 2006. Heather strongly believes that the best way to live with chronic pain and chronic illness is to focus on wellness in every aspect of her life — a holistic/integrative approach.
Diane E. Hoffmann, J.D. M.S., is the Jacob A. France Professor of Health Law at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and Director of the law school’s Law & Health Care Program. She received her law degree from Harvard Law School and her Master’s degree from Harvard School of Public Health. She was one of the primary authors of Maryland’s Health Care Decisions Act, which establishes standards and procedures for making medical decisions for individuals at the end of life who lack decision-making capacity.
Hoffmann has served as a member of a number of ethics committees including those at the University of Maryland Medical System and the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health. From June 1994 – May 1995, Hoffmann was the Acting Staff Director of the Senate Subcommittee on Aging reporting to U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski. From 2008 – 2014 she served as a member of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics and as President of the Board in 2010 and 2011.
Hoffmann has published numerous articles on health law and policy issues in legal journals as well as scientific and medical journals including Science, JAMA, the NEJM and Annals of Internal Medicine. A significant amount of her scholarship has focused on legal obstacles to the treatment of pain. From 1997 – 2004 she was a Mayday Scholar, receiving funding from the Mayday Foundation, a Foundation devoted to alleviating the incidence, degree and consequence of chronic pain. Her early writing on the subject included pain management in the era of managed care, gender bias in the treatment of pain, and the role of state medical boards in oversight of physician prescribing of opioids. Later work includes publications on the regulation of medical marijuana and on criminal prosecution of physicians for “over prescribing” of opioids.
Susan Nyanzi, DrPH, MCHES, ACSM, FRSPH, is a public health professional with a specialty in Chronic Disease Management through integrated lifestyle counseling in nutrition, physical activity, stress and addictive behaviors for the prevention and management of chronic degenerative disorders. She presents at local and national conferences and writes on prevention and public health in local and national magazines. Dr. Nyanzi currently works at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, California.
Steven Richeimer, MD, is the Chief of the Division of Pain Medicine and the Director of the Palliative Medicine CARE Team at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.
Dr. Richeimer received a Bachelor’s Degree with Distinction from Stanford University, then moved 40 miles north to attend the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. Since receiving his medical degree in 1982, Dr. Richeimer went on to UCLA to complete residency training in psychiatry and in anesthesiology—and became board certified in both fields. He then traveled to Boston for Pain Fellowship training at Harvard University’s Beth Israel Hospital.
In 1995, Dr. Richeimer accepted a position as the Director of Pain Medicine at the University of California, Davis. In 1998, he returned to his hometown of Los Angeles, and in 2001 was recruited to be Chief of the Division of Pain Medicine and an Associate Professor at the University of Southern California. At USC, Dr. Richeimer launched the Palliative Medicine CARE Team to help relieve the suffering of patients at the USC/Norris Cancer Center. He also started the USC Pain Fellowship Training Program.
Dr. Richeimer has co-authored three books and 37 articles, abstracts and chapters, and is webmaster of helpforpain.com. He has focused his clinical practice on cancer pain and neuropathic pain.
Jessica St. John began working in women’s health at the Los Angeles County Commission for Women in 1997 where she coordinated the first L.A. County Women’s Health Policy Summit, attended by 250 women’s health care leaders. St. John subsequently wrote a 203 page report on the Summit for the County Board of Supervisors, presenting the 101 recommendations on ways to improve women’s health in the County. In response, the Office of Women’s Health was created by the Board of Supervisors in October 1998.
St. John became OWH’s Special Projects Manager and, ultimately, Senior Policy Analyst, taking a leadership role in promoting women’s health issues and maintaining partnerships with other Public Health units, community coalitions, and state and federal health care stakeholders. In 2007, St. John was honored as Public Health’s Most Outstanding Employee.
Upon her retirement from the County in December 2013, Jessica received a scroll from the Board of Supervisors highlighting her contributions to improving low-income women’s health. A clinical hypnotherapist since 1997, St. John has a private practice in Santa Monica.
Born in Missoula, Montana, her family moved to the warmer climate of Southern California after her young mother developed crippling rheumatoid arthritis. Her mother’s struggle remains the impetus for Jessica wanting to make a difference in women’s health care and the lives of women in pain.
Cynthia Toussaint serves as Spokesperson at For Grace and has had Complex Regional Pain Syndrome for 41 years. She now has 19 overlapping conditions – and her most recent diagnosis was Triple-Negative Breast Cancer which she beat in 2020 along with an aggressive recurrence in 2022 using whole-body, integrative care.
Cynthia founded For Grace in 2002 to raise awareness about CRPS and five years later expanded the organization’s mission to include all women in pain. Before becoming ill, she was an accomplished ballerina and worked professionally as a dancer, actor and singer.
Since 1997, she has been a leading advocate for women in pain, raising awareness through local, national and worldwide media as well as public speaking. Toussaint championed and gave key testimony at two California Senate informational hearings. The first, in May 2001, was dedicated to CRPS awareness. The second took place in February 2004 and explored the chronic under treatment of and gender bias toward women in pain. Both of these efforts were the first of their kind in the nation.
In 2006, Toussaint ran for the California State Assembly to bring attention to her CRPS Education Bill that Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed after she got it to his desk in its first year. Her next bill, a seven year effort, was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2015. This Step Therapy legislation reformed an unethical prescription practice used by the health insurance industry to save money in a way that increased the suffering of California pain patients.
Toussaint was the first CRPS sufferer to be featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and on the Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio. She is a consultant for The Discovery Channel, ABC News, FOX News, the National Pain Report and PainPathways, the official magazine of the World Institute of Pain. Also, she is a guide and guest contributor for Maria Shriver’s Architects of Change website.
Her many speaking engagements include the National Institutes of Health, Capitol Hill and the World Health Organization.
Toussaint is the author of Battle for Grace: A Memoir of Pain, Redemption and Impossible Love. Also, Toussaint is experiencing her first-ever partial CRPS remission largely due to the narrative therapy of writing this book.
She continues to be a leading advocate for health care reform in California. She was instrumental in changing public opinion which sparked sweeping HMO reform legislation that was signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999. Her focus has shifted to creating a single-payer, universal health care plan in California that would provide a model for the rest of the country.
Most recently, Toussaint has come to the understanding that her many illnesses were caused by childhood trauma. As such, her work now passionately reflects the connection between trauma and chronic illness as well as recovery and Post-Traumatic Growth.