Board of Directors
Mike Burris - President
Mike (of Colorado Springs, Colorado) received his B.A. from the University of Iowa and has an M.S. in Systems Management from the University of Southern California. Mike has more than 35 years of experience in the world of space exploration. He served as an Air Force intelligence officer from 1977-1982. After he left the Air Force, he went to work at Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) before retiring as an Assistant Vice President at the end of 2011. During his career, he worked on several space related activities such as the building of the Air Force’s Consolidated Space Operations Center, the Air Force Satellite Control Network, NASA’s X-43 hypersonic research vehicles, and the replacement for the Space Transportation System. Prior to joining the U2FP Board he served on three boards; he served 10-years as a school board member for the Lewis-Palmer School District #38 in Colorado during the 1990s, he was a member of the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) Space Transportation Committee from 2004-2011, and he is currently a member of Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) Foundation Board. In July 2009 while body surfing Mike suffered a C4 incomplete SCI that, although he is ambulatory, still impacts him today. Being on the U2FP Board provides him the opportunities to advance the goals of our community and advocate for all of us to live our best possible lives. Mike was elected to the role of Board President in the spring of 2019.
Barry (BA, LLB) is the Chief Development Officer of the Canadian Spinal Research Organization and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation; he also serves as director of the American Spinal Research Organization. In 1987, Barry sustained a spinal cord injury in a diving accident, which resulted in quadriplegia. He has sat on multiple boards advocating for people with disabilities and particularly spinal cord injury research. Barry graduated from Law School in 1994 and was called to the Bar in 1996. He practiced personal injury law for over 10 years. His legal experience combined with 30 years of practical experience living with a spinal cord injury make him a formidable advocate for the disabled community. Barry has dedicated his life to assisting people living with disabilities and improving their quality of life.
Alexander “Sasha” Rabchevsky (BS, PhD) is a tenured Professor of Physiology at the University of Kentucky, College of Medicine and is a core member of the Spinal Cord & Brain Injury Research Center. He is, himself, paralyzed from the chest down as the result of a motorcycle accident in 1985 which fractured his sixth thoracic vertebrae rendering him a complete T5 paraplegic. His research efforts have ensured continued extramural funding while gaining him international recognition as a leading expert in both mitochondrial dysfunction and autonomic pathophysiology following spinal cord injury, particularly the development of a hypertensive syndrome termed autonomic dysreflexia. It is the latter condition that he himself experiences on a regular basis, and his studies have advanced our understanding of how to monitor and treat such an insidious disorder. He has and continues to serve on various study sections, both federal and private, is associate editor and reviewer of various scientific journals, and his distinct studies have been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the International Spinal Research Trust, the Paralyzed Veterans Administration, the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and the University of Kentucky.
Christel Mitrovich is a proud San Diego native and graduate of San Diego State University where she earned her MS in Exercise Physiology. Christel is Director of Operations for Reneu Health, Inc., a Southern California team of clinical kinesiologists specializing in restorative exercise and activity-based therapies. Since beginning her career in 2002, Christel has helped to advance the field of neuro-recovery and expand the reach of post-traditional rehabilitation services through her leadership and educational development of new practitioners. Christel has worked side-by-side top researchers and practitioners in the field of SCI rehabilitation, logging several years as a Facility Director for the NeuroRecovery Network and lending her expertise to numerous research projects. Over the years, Christel has worked closely with countless patients and their families and made many friends in the SCI community. She has dedicated her career to advancing the field of neurorehabilitation, working to develop and bring new
treatment options to those fighting paralysis. Christel is honored to join the Unite 2 Fight Paralysis Board of Directors and looks forward to contributing all she can to find a cure.
Traci has owned and operated numerous organizations throughout her career and has held Executive positions at several Fortune 500 companies. Currently, Traci is a
Founder and Managing Partner at TRYAbility in Chicago. TRYAbility provides Intensive Activity Based Rehabilitation services to individuals with Paralysis. TRYability’s mission
is to help patients optimize their recovery, maintain long term health and foster a connected community. Prior to TRYAbiity, Traci was a Founder and President of 3C Compassionate Care Center. As a founder of 3C, Traci successfully opened and operated two of the largest Medical Marijuana dispensaries in Illinois. Traci also was a Founder and President of Operations at iGenMedia, an application software and development company. Before opening iGen, Traci held Technical and Executive roles at Arthur Andersen, IBM and the Tribune Company. Throughout her career, Traci has excelled at both Technical and Executive positions and was twice awarded Employee of the Year for her contributions. Traci received her bachelor’s degree in Information and Decision Sciences from the University of Illinois. In addition to working with U2PF, Traci founded the United Paralysis Organization after becoming paralyzed in 2008 from Transverse Myelitis. Since founding the charity, Traci has worked as an advocate, raising monies to find a cure for neurological conditions and promoting therapies for those with Spinal Cord Injuries.
Johnnie Edwards (BA, JD) is a native of Birmingham, Alabama who now resides in the outskirts of Birmingham, in Helena, Alabama. She is the wife and Co-Pastor at Live By Faith Christian Center along with her husband, Pastor James Edwards. They have six adult children ranging from the ages of 35-21 years old. The youngest of the six suffered a paralyzing T6-7 injury in September of 2018. Dr. Edwards attends all Physical Therapy sessions with her son and is very involved in the healing process as his caretaker. Johnnie received her Bachelors from Faulkner University in Birmingham, Alabama, and a Doctorate of Law from the Birmingham School of Law. She is a published author, has been an advocate in the past for single mothers, and is chair and founder of the organization, "To the Polls To Vote". Johnnie is very passionate about advocating for the SCI community.
Jim (of Germantown, Maryland) is the Director of the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Program at DP Clinical, Inc., a full-service Contract Research Organization (CRO) based in Rockville, MD, specializing in SCI clinical trials. Jim has over 24 years of SCI research and clinical trial experience working with biotech, pharmaceutical and medical device companies. During his career, Jim has managed numerous acute and chronic SCI clinical trials with pharmaceuticals, autologous macrophages, the first in human sub-acute stem cell trials as well as device studies. Jim has worked with numerous KOLs in the SCI field and companies on SCI clinical trials which has broadened my experience, desire and passion to seek cures for the acute and chronic SCI community. Jim understands the challenges of conducting SCI clinical trials and with his strong SCI knowledge he provides potential clients input on study design and assessments for their clinical trials. Working together to cure paralysis, Jim is hopeful that one day soon, he will witness a curative therapy approved for this debilitating injury.
Quinn Brett grew up in New Hope, Minnesota. After graduating with a degree in Psychology and Leadership from the University of Minnesota she bee-lined to Estes Park, Colorado where she had visited as a youth and found her first outdoor industry job at the YMCA of the Rockies. Athletics and movement have always been a big part of Quinn's life, from running the Twin Cities Marathon, triathlons, ultra-runs and rock climbing. In 2008, Quinn returned to school to obtain a Masters Degree in Educational Psychology as well as a social studies secondary teaching certificate. Traveling and the mountain lifestyle led her away from teaching in a classroom setting, and instead she acquired her Emergency Medicine training and Search and Rescue Training. She got hired as a climbing ranger in RMNP in the summer months, educating visitors on Public Land use and rescuing visitors with everything from twisted ankles to life-threatening injuries in precarious places. In the winter months she taught Wilderness EMT courses and traveled on various climbing expeditions. Quinn has established new routes and speed records on mountains across the globe, as well as all over the American West. In 2017, Quinn took a large climbing fall on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, sustaining a T11 ASIA A Spinal Cord Injury. Her love to move through outdoor wilderness space continues as does her passion for educating others on spinal cord injury and research.
Matthew Rodreick - Executive Director
Matthew (of Minneapolis, Minnesota) entered the SCI community after his son Gabe sustained a C5 injury while body surfing in Costa Rica. After leaving his position as Emergency Department Operations Supervisor for the Fairview Health System, he and Gabe traveled the world in search of the best therapeutic options, only to end up back in Minnesota advocating for cure research. Matthew led a coalition of Minnesota SCI community advocates and researchers to leverage the state legislature in pursuit of public funding for SCI research. In 2012 he made a short documentary film featuring then Minnesota Viking punter and Twitter celebrity Chris Kluwe, spending a day in a wheelchair. The screening of “Chris Kluwe Rolls A Mile In Someone Else’s Wheels” kicked off their 2013 legislative campaign. The bill was passed in 2015 as the MN SCI/TBI Research Grant Program, and Matthew is now working with advocates in Washington and Pennsylvania to pass similar legislation. He credits U2FP and Working 2 Walk with providing the knowledge, focus and energy to see the real possibility of an end to the debilitating effects of paralysis.
Sam Maddox - Scientific Advisory Board Director
Sam Maddox (of Los Angeles, California) is former Knowledge Manager and spinal cord injury research writer for the Reeve Foundation. He is the author of several books related to chronic health and paralysis, including four editions of the Paralysis Resource Guide, published by the Reeve Foundation. In 1992 Maddox wrote the first comprehensive history of spinal cord injury research, The Quest for Cure: Restoring Function After Spinal Cord Injury. He wrote and published the widely acclaimed resource book Spinal Network, and is founder of New Mobility magazine. Maddox was a panel member on The Consortium for Spinal Cord Medicine, which develops and disseminates evidence-based clinical practice guidelines to professionals and consumers. He is currently writing and producing books as a resource for the newly injured: SCI: First 90 Days. He has been a reporter for many magazines, including Time, Money and People. Maddox is a graduate of the University of Colorado, where he taught in the School of Journalism.
Jake Beckstrom - Cure Advocacy Network Manager
Jake Beckstrom is from Watertown, Minnesota. At the age of 16, Jake had a diving accident in a backyard pool and sustained a C4-6 spinal cord injury. A lifelong love of hunting, fishing, and the outdoors led him to pursue a path of environmental sustainability. He received a B.S. in Environmental Science at Southwest Minnesota State University, and in 2015, he received a law degree and master's degree in Environmental Law and Policy at Vermont Law School. Jake is eager to use his experience in public policy and advocacy to work with the Cure Advocacy Network to lobby for smarter spinal cord injury research funding and find a cure for paralysis.
Jason Stoffer - Cure Advocacy Network Manager | CureCast Host
Jason Stoffer lives in the Rockies of Northwest Montana with his wife and three children. He has a B.S. degree in Natural Sciences/Biology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Jason's love of outdoor adventure led him to work and play there as a mountaineer, long distance hiker, wild-land firefighter, search and rescue technician, EMT, and Law Enforcement Officer. A single vehicle rollover on his commute to work one morning resulted in an L1 Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and paraplegia. He has now turned his energies toward SCI cure advocacy and participates as a manager for the Cure Advocacy Network as well as continuing to host the CureCast podcast with Matthew.
Lucia Webb - Operations Director
Lucia Webb (of Minneapolis, Minnesota), graduated from Carleton College in 2016 with a degree in Dance and American Studies. Since graduation, she has pursued a variety of professional and artistic endeavors. Most recently, she worked as Events Coordinator at First Universalist Church. Lucia is passionate about social justice and believes that a new, more equitable world is possible. Originally from Portland, Oregon, she loves swimming in lakes, backpacking, reading, and birdwatching. Lucia is excited to join the U2FP team, and is honored to work for such an important cause.
Ryan Romine - Content Manager
Ryan (of Minneapolis, Minnesota) has worked in managerial and administrative roles at mission driven organizations for the last 15 years. He has a strong background in communications, customer service, and project management. Impressed by U2FP’s vision to end paralysis rather than simply accommodate it, Ryan is honored to lend his efforts in the comprehensive fight for a cure.
Kathy Christopherson - Finance Manager
Kathy Christopherson (of Minneapolis, Minnesota) was born and raised in New England. She enlisted in the US Navy as a medic after high school and moved to the Minneapolis area with her husband after being discharged from the service. Kathy attended the University of Minnesota and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. She has worked in accounting management for the last 30 years - half of that time with non-profits serving disabled and refugee clients. Kathy believes that there is nothing more satisfying lending your efforts to a mission-driven organization, even in a small way. She is honored to be part of the Unite 2 Fight Paralysis family and our mission to find cures!
Kelsey Peterson (of Minneapolis, Minnesota) received her BA in dance in 2008 from the University of Montana, and has since pursued choreography, as well as teaching dance and yoga. Since her spinal cord injury in 2012, she has been pursuing other creative endeavors. After working on the board of Get Up Stand Up to Cure Paralysis out of Minneapolis, she has embarked on her film-making journey with The Cure Map (currently in post-production). Kelsey hopes that her personal reflections on what it's like to live with a SCI will help incite action, and inspire others to join the movement to finding cures more quickly.