Speakers 2017

Meet our 2017  #FABlogCon SPEAKERS

Ritesh Patel Extraordinarily generous with his time, and a patient teacher, as well as an impressive resume! We are very excited to announce the return of one of our most highly praised speakers from #FABlogCon 2013-2016, Ritesh Patel! As the Global Head of Digital, Ritesh Patel brings to the table nearly 20 years of professional experience. Ritesh has provided counsel to clients well-versed in the digital arena, as well as corporate and brand teams taking their first steps into the digital world. He has developed comprehensive digital and social media guidelines for several healthcare clients, and created and implemented standards for best practices, as well as detailed initiatives using a variety of digital and social platforms. In the pharmaceutical arena, Ritesh has worked with Novartis where he developed social media efforts for cystic fibrosis (CF) patients, creating a social media ecosystem in which patients and caregivers can interact with others having similar experiences. Additionally, Ritesh led the development of an online educational portal for allergic asthma. Ritesh also created the digital strategy and tactical elements for a lung cancer clinical trial program for a top-five pharmaceutical company. The tactics included the development of a mini-site, as well as a comprehensive paid media and Twitter strategy, including creation of the Twitter page and the development of content, and finally, managing the SEO, paid search, and paid social media advertising programs. On the mobile front, Ritesh has guided the creation of a number of mobile applications, such as the Afib Educator for the AFStat disease awareness campaign for atrial fibrillation. The application offers videos and educational information for healthcare providers and patients to help explain disease symptoms and risks. He also managed the creation of the Harmony for Health website and smartphone app to help patients take charge of their diabetes. Mr. Patel is also the parent of a child with food allergies.

Erica DermerErica Dermer is founder and head celiac in charge of Celiac and the Beast. She started her website because she felt like she had a new and humorous voice to bring to the gluten-free table, and desperately needed some celiac catharsis through writing and blogging. With a background in marketing and market research and development (including the food and beverage industry), she’s always had a soft spot in her heart for packaged goods, marketing, and branding in the specialty diets industry. It also helps that she’s a self-proclaimed terrible cook, so she relies on many gluten-free products to help her get through her day without burning down the kitchen. She uses humor to get through her diagnosis and living gluten-free in a world full of wheat. As a celiac and gluten-free advocate, her aim is to educate the world about celiac disease and the importance of this wonderful “less than 20ppm” universe we live in. She has partnered with her non-celiac significant other, who not only designs gluten-free themed merchandise for Celiac and the Beast, but is a key taste-tester for the brand. Her first book, “Celiac and the Beast: A Love Story Between a Gluten-Free Girl, Her Genes, and a Broken Digestive Tract” was released in October 2013 and highlights her life with a celiac disease diagnosis and what she’s learned along the way.

Personal Branding - Business Heashots by TRUE BLUE Portrait.

Personal Branding – Business Heashots by TRUE BLUE Portrait.

Assly Sayyar has and continues to handle civil law suits from start to finish, taking potential clients through pre litigation options, litigation and/or arbitration, trial if necessary, post judgment appeal, and judgment collection. While her primary focus is that of civil litigation with an emphasis on trial work, she frequently calls upon her courtroom expertise to benefit clients with transactional needs. By knowing the pitfalls of business and real estate litigation, she can better serve the needs of her transactional clients who wish to avoid the courtroom. Her other past practice areas have included collection law, creditor and debtor bankruptcy law, receivership and special mastership, estate planning, premises liability and homeowner association law. After over 7 years of civil litigation and transactional practice in small and medium size firms in the Southern Nevada area, in May, 2012, Assly opened her own solo practice.  Assly Sayyar, Attorney at Law, Inc. is a California professional corporation providing legal services in Southern California and Southern Nevada. With offices in both locals, clients with businesses and real property in the Golden State and Silver State can utilize one law firm for all their legal needs whether in or out of the courtroom.

Brown_JulieDr. Julie Brown is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine and is co-Director of research for the Division of Emergency Medicine.  She is board certified in Pediatrics and Pediatric Emergency Medicine and works in the Seattle Children’s Hospital Emergency Department.  She is Canadian but has crisscrossed the border many times over the years: she received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University, her medical degree from McGill University and her MPH from the University of Washington. She was a pediatrics resident first at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland and then at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where she also completed her pediatric emergency medicine fellowship training.  Her research interests include anaphylaxis, foreign bodies, minor procedures, emergency management of respiratory diseases, and the use of technology in medicine. When there is time after making up for her sometimes neglect of her husband and two teenage boys, she enjoys gardening, sewing costumes, genealogy, and evening walks.

Missy Berggren Headshot

Missy (Berggren) Voronyak (@missyvoronyak) is a marketing and social media professional with more than 17 years of marketing and communications experience, as well as a food allergy parent and blogger atmarketingmama.com. As a Group Director with WCG, Missy helps global brands with social media strategy and influencer engagement. She frequently hosts social media trainings for clients, bloggers, physicians, executives and more. Missy is the founder of the Minnesota Blogger Conference and the director of strategic planning for Social Media Breakfast of Minneapolis/St. Paul. You can find Missy online at marketingmama.com and across social channels as “Marketing Mama.” Twitter @missyvoronyak

headshotBrianna Hobbs has been blogging at FlippinDelicious.com since 2012. She loves creating (and sharing) gluten-free, allergy-friendly recipes for snack-worthy meals and desserts that taste just like what she had when she was a kid. You can follow her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.



Cindy HeadshotCindy Gordon is the creator of Vegetarian Mamma and is a foodie who loves to blog about gluten-free vegetarian recipes. Her family also focuses on foods that are peanut, tree nut, dairy, and gluten-free. Her family is dedicated to finding/creating recipes and products that fit their allergy needs. Cindy resides in Ohio with her husband and two boys (born in 2007 and 2010). She enjoys spending time with her family, the outdoors, gardening, wine and cooking! Cindy is the author to two cookbooks: Gluten Free Fork and The Dessert Fork both available on amazon. Cindy is a contributor to Gluten Free and More Magazine as well as a freelance writer for many food brands. Connect with her at VegetarianMamma.com or on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and Pinterest

Lets-Go-Rama-cropped-editedAngele LaFond, Chief Creator of Awesome.  Combine 1 part accountant, 1 part freelance writer & speaker, and 1 part marketer. Mix with a generous helping of awesome and add a dash of web design and development. Throw in a splash of humorist, garnish with cute flats and a sprig of ‘let’s get this done’, and enjoy. Shoeboxbegone.com




© Sandra Costello 2015

© Sandra Costello 2015

Sally Ekus joined The Lisa Ekus Group in 2009. She represents a wide range of culinary talent, from first-time cookbook authors to seasoned chefs, professional food writers to bloggers, and even a few television personalities. Sally loves being the liaison between an author and their publisher, and takes great pride in guiding authors towards their dreams of publication. She especially loves working on special diet and allergy friendly projects since Sally’s own diet is restricted from specific foods for medical reasons. From concept to contract, she has brokered more than thirty book deals with many of the top US publishers. After graduating from Ithaca College, Sally worked in the mental health field and had plans to attend grad school for sociology and counseling. An unexpected turn of events, and some great food along the way, led her to return to New England (Massachusetts) to join her mother, Lisa Ekus, in the eponymous family business. As part of the first official culinary delegation, Sally has made two trips to Vietnam where she cultivated a deep love of pho, and all [edible] things Vietnamese. Sally spends what little free time she has cooking and conceptualizing new spicy dishes and running marathons. She is a dedicated supporter of and advocate for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and especially their Team in Training program. The Lisa Ekus Group is a full-service culinary agency, the only agency of its kind to offer Public Relations, Media Training, Literary and Talent agency services, as well as Career Consulting, all within the culinary realm. The Lisa Ekus Group currently represents more than 150 authors. For more information about Sally Ekus and The Lisa Ekus Group, please visitwww.lisaekus.com.

Photo of Mary C. Vargas Mary Vargas is a partner with Stein & Vargas, LLP, a civil rights law firm committed to the principle that all people have full and equal access to all parts of American society.  Vargas advocates for individuals who have been discriminated against on the basis of disability through high stakes federal court litigation and is committed to ensuring full and equal access for all individuals.  She has litigated cases pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act throughout the United States achieving important victories that have advanced the rights of individuals with disabilities.  Vargas is a 1998 Skadden Fellow and a 1994 Truman Scholar.  She is the recipient of the Advocacy for Persons with Pain Award from the American Academy of Pain Management.  Vargas co-founded the Allergy Law Project and has a special interest in the rights of individuals and families impacted by food allergy.


Mandelbaum-44150-A-073 Lianne Mandelbaum M.S. P.T. Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons is a prolific food allergy writer. She is a featured contributor for Huffington Post and to date, has published 26 articles.  Her tips for flying with a food allergy were featured in a piece for the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research at Stanford. Her blog “Behind Every Handicap Sticker is a Story” was featured on Kevin Pho MD and she is a contributing writer for Allergic Living Magazine.  Her advocacy has been featured in the The New York Times, Forbes, Condé Nast Traveler, Allergic Living, Yahoo!, Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research at Stanford University and on Fox News, ABC News and CBS News. She was the recipient of the FARE 2013 Leadership Award and 2017 FARE Vision AwardLianne Mandelbaum is personally committed to raising awareness amongst airlines as well as consumers to mitigate the risks of flying with a food allergy.  She and her son have testified in front of the NJ Senate Transportation Committee.  In October of 2014, she presented at the Universal Access in Airports conference sponsored by Open Doors and was able to educate those airlines, FAA, DOT and FAA and many individual airline members in attendance to the dangers of flying with a life-threatening food allergy.  She designed a training module that Open Doors now uses in all its CRO (complaint resolution officers) classes specific to the food allergic passenger. Lianne collects and shares testimonials regarding flying experiences from food allergic families on No Nut Traveler. She shares these testimonials with lawmakers, media, and food allergy advocacy groups and in doing so, hopes to influence the airlines and government to create food allergy airline policies that are fair and evenly promulgated throughout the airline industry.   Most recently, her testimonials were the basis of a New York Times piece regarding traveling with a food allergy.  There are also links on her site to easily connect people to the DOT (Department of Transportation) and their respective legislators. Lianne is a member of a FARE led airline coalition formed to present a unified voice regarding the steps that the airline industry can implement to better accommodate passengers with food allergies.  She has been a panelist for IFAAM (International Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Alliance) for the past two years, presenting on the challenges of flying with food allergy.  Most recently, Lianne has worked with Interfaith Hospitality Network of Essex County, an organization that houses homeless families in churches and synagogues to help train and educate volunteer coordinators and staff on how to host families who come into the network with food allergies.

profphotoLaurel Francoeur graduated from M.I.T. with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science with a minor in Philosophy. She is a graduate of Suffolk Law School and has been a practicing lawyer since 1996. She is owner of the Francoeur Law Office in Woburn, Massachusetts. She is a support group leader for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and served on their board of directors. She was also on the steering committee for the Food Allergy Initiative. She drafted legislation in Massachusetts to allow easy access for epinephrine in classrooms, and has testified at the state and federal level about food allergy issues. Laurel is the author of the books “How To Advocate for Your Food Allergic Child” and “Flying with Food Allergies: What You Need to Know.” She is also co-author of the “Preschool Food Allergy Handbook.” She has presented webinars for Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), the Kids With Food Allergies Foundation, and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. She has spoken at various venues, including the Nationwide Children’s 6th Annual Pediatric Asthma Conference, the Food Allergy Bloggers’ Conference and the Rhode Island Bar Association. She has given expert testimony for the National Institutes of Health Food Allergy Project. She has appeared on NPR, Fox News and ABC News as well as in the Boston Globe, Allergic Living Magazine, and Boston Parents Paper. She is the proud creator of the blog “Allergy Law Project.”

Chrystal Carver Profile PicChrystal Carver is the creative mind behind www.glutenfreepalate.com, a website that shares recipes and resources for gluten-free eaters and travelers. Chrystal believes that baking gluten free should not require extravagant ingredients or complicated steps. She shows readers how to convert everyday gluten-containing classics to easy gluten-free recipes without sacrificing flavor or texture.



Dr. Dave Stukus profile pic.David Stukus, MD, is board certified in Allergy/Immunology and is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. His clinical and research interests focus on asthma and food allergies, especially improving education and adherence for patients and families. As part of his research, Dr. Stukus has created novel technology and educational tools using mobile health apps to improve the care of patients, for which he was recognized with the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Department of Pediatrics Junior Faculty Award in November 2013. Dr. Stukus has been an active member of the medical advisory team for Kids with Food Allergies since 2009 and was elected to the Board of Directors for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America in 2014. Lastly, Dr. Stukus actively engages with food allergy support groups and participates in social media on twitter through @AllergyKidsDoc.

Katie SchwalbKatie Schwalb is a partner with the Boulder, Colorado law firm Roenbaugh Schwalb LLC. Katie advises start-ups, established businesses, farms, artists, writers, photographers, and bloggers on copyright, trademark, advertising, contract, and general business issues. Katie is the chair of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Copyright Society of the USA. She is an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado School of Law, where she has taught copyright law and legal writing.  Katie is also a writer and a food allergy parent.    Webpage: www.roenbaughschwalb.com Twitter: @KatieRSchwalb



IMG_8224Dr. Carina Venter is currently an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Section of Allergy and Immunology at the Children’s Hospital Colorado and University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, where she is conducting research and working with children and adults with a range of food allergies. Previously, she was appointed as an Assistant Professor/Dietitian at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. She is currently the chair of the International Network of Dietitians and Nutritionists in Allergy, and member of the American Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (AAAAI), American College of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (ACAAI), European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) and the British Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI). She is a registered dietician in the United Kingdom, United States and South Africa.  She has had numerous publications in international journals, and has authored book chapters and edited a book on Food Hypersensitivity.  She moved from the UK in 2015 where she had been performing research into food allergies and allergy prevention as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth and at the David Hide Centre on the Isle of Wight.  She was a member of the EAACI food allergy guidelines on Allergy Prevention, as well as Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy.  She was also a member of the NICE (UK) food allergy guidelines. Since her arrival in the US, she was appointed to the expert panel of the National Institutes for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Peanut Allergy Prevention GuidelinesIn her free time, she loves to blog on https://carinaventeronline.wordpress.comand she is a top twitter allergy activist at most international allergy meetings (@VenterCarina).

Liu,Edwin (060) 2017Dr. Edwin Liu Dr. Liu’s special area of interest is in celiac disease, particularly as it is associated with associated autoimmune conditions. As director of the Colorado Center for Celiac Disease, he works to evaluate and treat individuals with celiac disease and gluten-related disorders. One area of expertise in this field is in the pediatric screening and diagnosis of celiac disease in groups considered to be at risk. Collaborators in the Center include The Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes and also the Sie Center for Down Syndrome. We are involved in the DAISY (Diabetes Autoimmunity Study of the Young) and the TEDDY (The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young) studies, which are long-term prospective birth cohorts being followed for the development of type 1 diabetes and celiac disease due to a genetic risk identified at birth. One major goal of the Colorado Center for Celiac Disease is to provide children and families diagnosed with celiac disease the tools to transition to a gluten-free lifestyle as seamlessly as possible, and to maintain optimal health long-term. The other major goal is to understand the significance of celiac disease autoimmunity and celiac disease particularly as it applies to those who are screening-identified.

Fleischer,David (011) 2014Dr. David Fleischer completed his undergraduate training at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1992, medical degree training at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1997, and both Pediatric Residency and Pediatric Allergy/Immunology Fellowship training at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore in 2005Dr. Fleischer is currently the Associate Section Head of the Section of Allergy at Children’s Hospital Colorado (CHCO) and an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at CHCO and the University of Colorado Denver School of MedicineDr. Fleischer’s primary clinical interest is food allergy. His research has focused on the natural history of food allergy and novel treatments for food allergy, including oral, sublingual, and epicutaneous immunotherapies. He is the Global PI for the pivotal Phase III peanut epicutaneous immunotherapy trial that is being conducted at more than 30 sites across the world. Hhas been involved in several projects examining the primary prevention of allergy, including as a member of the 2015-16 National Institutes for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Expert Panel that updated the 2010 NIAID Food Allergy Guidelines on the topic of the Prevention of Peanut Allergy. He is Co-Director of the Food Challenge and Research Unit at CHCOand he will co-direct the new Allergy and Immunology Center at CHCO when it opens in January 2018. Dr. Fleischer has authored many original, peer-reviewed articles, review articles, and book chapters on food allergy and food allergy treatment. He is the Chair for the AAAAI Adverse Reactions to Foods Committee and a Fellow of the AAAAI and the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

IMG_0390 abbyDr. Abby Herzig is the CEO and founder of Belay, a digital healthcare company devoted to helping children and families manage life-threatening food allergies. Inspired by her son who lives with severe food allergies, Abby created Belay to help other families who are raising a food-allergic child. Her hope is that Belay will ultimately empower children everywhere, to protect themselves. After receiving her doctorate in clinical psychology, Abby devoted her professional life to working with at-risk children in settings such as psychiatric hospitals, inner-city schools, the court system, and in private practice. She has been actively involved with UNICEF, traveling with them to South East Asia, Africa, and rural parts of the Caribbean, visiting hospitals, schools and orphanages, and advising UNICEF and other NGOs on child development and proper interventions for children and families at-risk. Abby is also a member of the Innovators Program for Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. Abby now commits her time to building Belay into a globally trusted brand with a mission of changing the face of food allergies.  Belay launches this fall. Abby lives in Toronto with her husband and three children.

peachey-280Lindsey Willson is an allergy mom that is passionate about food allergy advocacy. She is a mom to 3 boys with a house full of toy garbage trucks. Her middle son, Bowan has multiple life threatening food allergies. Along the food allergy journey, Lindsey has become a recipe developer + food stylist + photographer. Lindsey’s recipes are plant-based and allergy friendly. She creates allergy friendly lunchbox ideas for kids, search the hashtag #lindseyleelunchideas Lindsey blogs about plant-based, allergy friendly recipe ideas, motherhood, life with allergies + the occasional diy project.

unnamed (9)Aleasa Word As an International Professional Life Coach and Personal Redevelopment Strategist with A.Word & Company, Mz. Word is certified in Emotional Intelligence. Her Chapter II Living™ Program includes many subscales not limited to Chapter II for Men™, Interpersonal Skill Connections for Leaders, Diversity & Inclusion, Stress/Time Management, Conflict Resolution, Self-Restoration and her outreach program From Diagnosis to Living Again™ for those affected with life threatening food allergy and anaphylaxis. She is an Editor with The Good Men Project Magazine, Leadership Team Member for the Charter for Compassion’s Compassionate Atlanta Div., a professional speaker and author of “Get Right for Love; The Muscle Guide to Relationship Readiness” on Amazon.Com .Her weekly blog “The Wordallogic” has been read by thousands worldwide and she contributes articles to many other sites as well. Aleasa also provides professional development workshops on specialized diversity concerns. The program for those affected by food allergy and anaphylaxis aims to help allergic persons and their caregivers reduce stress and create balance. Her company website is A.Word & Company and links to social media sites are noted below. Mz. Word’s community outreach work includes a role as Director of the Food Allergic & Asthmatic Multicultural Society of Diversity (FAMSOD) an all volunteer organization and the Society of Emotional Intelligence (SoEI). FAMSOD provides support to families of those with life threatening food allergies and asthma through a multicultural lens; while SoEI is an association of practitioners of and those interested in Emotional Intelligence. She is also the founder of Flowers for Anaphylaxis a condolence program for families who have lost food allergic children to anaphylaxis. Through Flowers for Anaphylaxis, In 2014, Mz. Word founded Worldwide Love Remembers Day