NAHAC Board of Directors

NAHAC is governed by an elected Board of Directors. Their terms of office are from March to March of each year. The Board of Directors has nine voting members and two ex-officio non-voting members. It elects four Officers of the Association at the yearly annual meeting in March: President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer.

The current Board of Directors for 2017 includes:


Joanna Smith, LCSW, MPH, CHA 

Joanna Smith is the CEO of Healthcare Liaison, Inc.®, a healthcare advocacy and consulting firm based in Berkeley, California. Ms.Smith received her Master’s in Social Work from Tulane University in 1978 and her Master’s in Public Health in Maternal and Child Health from the University of California, Berkeley in 1985. She is a licensed clinical social worker in the state of California and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. Ms. Smith founded the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants in 2009 and served as its President from 2009-2012.  She organized the first Annual NAHAC conference in November 2009. Her other professional memberships include the National Association of Social Workers, the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California, and The Institute for Healthcare Improvement.  Healthcare Liaison is a certified Woman Business Enterprise (WBE).

Vice President

John Samuels - CEO and founder, Better Health Advisors

For over 20 years, John has served as a senior healthcare leader in New York City’s top hospitals including Northwell Health and Mount Sinai Beth Israel. John’s responsibilities included the operation of 15 emergency departments and a rapidly expanding network of urgent care centers. He sat at the helm of a system that touched nearly 700,000 lives per year.

John’s tenure in healthcare is marked by a ceaseless effort to improve patient care. His success is demonstrated both in internal assessments and improved patient satisfaction. Never satisfied with the status quo, John has always strived for better care for his hospitals’ patients by implementing staff training programs, managing surges to emergency rooms, reducing the time it takes to see a doctor, and many more innovations. Through his two decades of work in hospitals he has developed an enormous network of medical professionals, relationships with top doctors and facilities, and strong connections with all major New York area hospitals.

In April of 2016, John launched Better Health Advisors, a firm focused on helping people navigate the healthcare system by assisting with finding top doctors, second opinions, and Emergency Room and hospital support. He earned his Masters of Public Health from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and graduated from the Academy of Healthcare Leadership Advancement at Cornell University. He is also a licensed nursing home administrator in New York and New Jersey.


Melynda Ruckels - RN, MSN 

Melynda Ruckels RN MSN has been a nurse over 44 years. She is a Holistic nurse with a clinical background in emergency room nursing, critical care nursing in the hospital ICU/CCU, mobile ICU and Community Education for Health and Wellness. As a patient advocate her goal is educating clients to become their own advocate and assist them in navigating America’s complicated healthcare system. She has a private practice in the Sacramento, Grass Valley/Nevada City area offering Patient Advocacy, Hypnotherapy and Energy Medicine. Melynda is currently working as a consultant to a private ambulance company in Sacramento exploring different levels of Advocacy Transport for those needing an advocate and transportation.

She has been a guest speaker for the Healthcare Workforce Initiative, the Los Rios Community College Nursing Advisory Committee, the American Holistic Nurses Association Sacramento Chapter, California School Nurses Organization and a panel speaker for California State University, Sacramento Nurse Entrepreneur event. Melynda is a nursing professor and has taught at all levels of nursing education, including Associate Degree (ADN) programs, Bachelors and Masters Programs. Melynda says that “helping people to heal and to awaken to their own healing abilities is a privilege and a joy that she experiences each time she sits with a client”.  


Karen G. Jan - RN, PHN, MSN 

Karen Jan, founder of Step Ahead Senior Care, is an Aging Life Care Manager/Health Advocate providing a premier consulting service for adults and families dealing with health care needs and general issues of aging. She has more than 30 years of nursing experience since receiving her RN Diploma degree at Crouse Irving School of Nursing, BSN degree at University of Phoenix, and MNE at Walden University. Since creating Step Ahead Senior Care four years ago, Karen also founded Step Ahead Home Care in 2014. She has achieved success in both businesses which have been profitable from the beginning. Karen not only provided leadership and training to her employees in order to maximize the quality of care delivered to her clients, she successfully managed all administrative aspects of operating these companies. In 2015 Karen sold Step Ahead Home Care in order to focus on her original consulting company. She regularly collaborates with other health, legal, and financial professionals in the community and has created a “team” to help assist her clients with all aspects of their care needs.

Previously Karen worked in a variety of health care settings specifically focused in caring for the adult population. Her diverse medical career includes hands-on clinical work in acute care and home health care settings, as well as administrative work in Quality Improvement in acute care, long term care, rehabilitative settings, and for Sutter’s Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).

In addition, Karen has years of academic experience as a Nurse Educator specializing in Geriatrics and training nursing students in the classroom, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and simulation laboratories as well as preparing nursing graduates for their NCLEX examination. Karen also worked as a Clinical Educator for Ashfield Health Care providing disease management education and in-services on Alzheimer’s Disease to health care workers, families, and friends of loved ones residing in long term care facilities, assisted living facilities, and in Memory Care Units. She currently serves as an Excellence in Care Clinical Consultant for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and has done so since 2008.

Karen shares her experience and knowledge of health care, specifically, eldercare management and end of life care with her clients at Step Ahead Senior Care, with client caregivers, with other health care colleagues and companies in the greater Sacramento Area. She also provides educational in-services to various ALFs and communities centers in the region.  She meets regularly with peer groups and has recently helped form the NORCAL Patient Advocate Group with like-minded professionals to provide support, insight and assistance to help similar companies flourish. Karen has a unique and deep understanding of the complex issues of older adults and can provide solutions to effectively support and improve their lives through the final stages of their journey. 

Past President

Sima Kahn, M.D. - Owner of Healthcare Advocacy Partners

A board certified physician, Sima Kahn has always been a passionate advocate for her patients and founded Healthcare Advocacy Partners in 2009 to fill a critical gap in the healthcare system. After almost 25 years of Obstetrics and Gynecology practice, Sima’s breadth of clinical experience has given her a deep understanding of the complexities of the medical system and the overwhelming confusion patients often feel when faced with significant health situations. Her strong abilities to help patients navigate these situations and to help them develop personalized treatment plans are some of the many reasons Sima consistently received high patient-satisfaction ratings while in clinical practice.

L. Bradley Schwartz – Attorney | Advocate

L. Bradley SchwartzFor more than 20 years, L. Bradley Schwartz represented insurance companies. As a courtroom litigator he defended hundreds of lawsuits in jury trials across northern Illinois, His years of experience as an insurance defense attorney exposed Mr. Schwartz to many aspects our healthcare system, including unfortunate instances of medical malpractice. He has deposed thousands of healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses and hospital staff on issues ranging from personal injury recovery, insurance coverage, malpractice and medical-error prevention. His knowledge-base includes a comprehensive understanding of many types of insurance policies and he has the litigation credentials to ensure compliance.

In 2004 Mr. Schwartz presented to the local emergency room with a worsening headache. Over the course of many hours, he gradually became septic and comatose. He was hospitalized for 6 months and lost his limbs due to medical negligence. He currently uses prosthetic legs and arms. In 2012 Mr. Schwartz left his law firm and started a solo practice. He began volunteering his services to the Chicago Legal Clinic, a non-profit legal services clinic serving the indigent and in 2014 he was honored with the James D. Jacobson Award for his “outstanding efforts in making the legal system accessible to those in need.“ Brad is a member of NAHAC (National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants) and various health and insurance law committees. He is a member of the ACA (Amputee Coalition of America) and) and he maintains professional relationships with many doctors, attorneys, nurses, therapists, advocates and counselors.

Today, L. Bradley Schwartz represent clients in medical malpractice, personal Injury and insurance litigation; In addition, he utilizes his legal skills and his insurance experience to advocate for proper medical care and coordination of care in complex medical cases. Mr. Schwartz provides peer support for amputees and assists individuals with disabilities overcome barriers to access, including ADA violations.

Nuran Saydam - Executive Vice President, PinnacleCare, Private Health Advisor

As Executive Vice President of PinnacleCare Member Services, Nuran oversees the service team of professional health advisors to ensure service excellence to clients.

Previous to joining PinnacleCare, a global health advisory company, Nuran was a Senior Patient Coordinator at Johns Hopkins Hospital’s International Service, assisting patients from other countries to access care. Her attention to detail and desire to help those in need helped to create a comfortable and trusting environment for patients coming to Johns Hopkins.  Nuran's passion continues to center on helping people identify and access the best healthcare, while building strong relationships. In her current role, Nuran is a mentor for others, sharing the knowledge she's gained while advocating for patients and navigating the often confusing healthcare maze.

Nuran's satisfaction derives from successfully assisting others to resolve their health issues and achieve positive outcomes.  When not helping patients, she enjoys continued education in courses related to health care, as well as spending time with her large family.

Christine Wells, MD - Owner, Sound Patient Advocates

Christine Wells is a board certified neurologist who has been in the medical field for over 40 years. She has provided general neurology care in Olympia, Washington, and general medical care for children and adolescents in Houston, Texas.  One of her favorite parts of taking care of those with neurological disease was providing information in understandable language to her patients and their families, and reviewing treatment options so that each patient could make the best choice for his or her unique situation. For the last several years, she has acted as a research subject advocate during the review of countless medical research studies for a local institutional review board (IRB). Ensuring that research subjects have adequate information to make an informed decision about whether to participate in research has been one of her primary passions. In addition, she has acted as guardian for a developmentally disabled sibling for many years. In 2015, she acted as a patient advocate for her critically ill parent over a three month period.  The gratification that came from advocating for her parent led, in part, to the founding of her business in 2015, Sound Patient Advocates.

Christine earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Health Care Sciences in the Physician Assistant program at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in 1975.  She obtained a medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in 1986, followed by an Internal Medicine internship and Neurology residency at The New York Hospital between 1986 and 1990.  In 2016, she completed a 40 hour professional mediation training course with the Dispute Resolution Center of Thurston County, and is continuing her training in order to become a certified mediator.

Robert J. Rogers, MD, FACP, SFHM 

Dr. Rogers is in private practice in Los Angeles, California, he is board certified in both Internal Medicine and Anesthesiology. He is a clinical professor, a member of the American Medical Association, California Medical Association, and Los Angeles County Medical Association, American College of Physicians, and the Society of Hospital Medicine.

Anne Llewellyn - RN-BC, MS, BHSA, CCM, CRRN 

Anne Llewellyn is a registered nurse with forty years of experience in critical care, risk management, case management, patient advocacy, digital journalist, educator and brain cancer survivor. Anne has lectured nationally and internationally on the topics of case management, care coordination, transitions of care and patient advocacy.

As a leader in the practice of Case Management, Anne has served on the Local, State and National Boards of the Case Management Society of America. Anne served as President of the National organization in 2003-2004. To recognize her work, Anne was awarded the Case Management Society of America Life Time Achievement Award in 2015.

Anne is a member of the Patient Advocate Certification Board and was among the national leaders who worked to develop and launch the National Patient Advocate Certification in January 2018.

To share her experience as a patient and to education patient’s, their care givers and all members of the healthcare team on the importance of engaging the patient in their care decisions, Anne writes a Blog titled Nurse Advocate

Today, Anne is involved with projects that bring her purpose through educating and empower people in order to improve the healthcare delivery systems. Anne also mentors those who are looking to advance their careers in the area of patient advocacy, case management and care coordination.

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