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·5 min read

NEW YORK, Aug. 1, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- United Spinal Association announced today that it has appointed five new members to its Board of Directors for the new fiscal year beginning July 1st, 2022: attorney Felecia Woolens, SUNY Stony Brook professor Dr. Brooke Ellison, career disability advocate Monica Wiley, Intel designer and researcher Pete Denman, and healthcare professional Afsar Shamsi.

United Spinal Association. (PRNewsFoto/United Spinal Association)
United Spinal Association. (PRNewsFoto/United Spinal Association)

"United Spinal wholeheartedly welcomes the five new members of our Board of Directors, who embody the marriage of social change and innovation that is at the heart of all of our current efforts. People with disabilities having a voice and blazing a trail in technology, the rise of a younger generation of disability leaders, and a fresh take on advocacy are the defining characteristics of this new, diverse cohort of board members. As we seek a new strategic orientation, I could not have asked for a better group of people to join us," said Vincenzo Piscopo, United Spinal's President and CEO.

Felecia Woolens is a long-time resident of Metairie, Louisiana. She is an attorney with experience in disability rights, criminal defense, and corporate/contracts law. She attended Xavier University of Louisiana where she earned her BA in Political Science and Loyola University New Orleans College of Law where she earned her Juris Doctor. She advocates for improved access to healthcare and independent living for people with disabilities, a primary goal in her efforts to change the way Louisiana and other states structure healthcare laws.

Brooke Ellison is an Associate Professor at Stony Brook University, focusing on Applied Medical Ethics, Health Policy, and Disability, with a Master's in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and PhD from Stony Brook University in Sociology. As a result of her work, in 2011, she was granted an honorary degree from Rutgers University, and, in 2014, was chosen to be a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. In 2017, she was chosen to serve on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the New York Civil Liberties Union. In 2018, she was chosen to be a Truman National Security Project Political Partner. In 2020, she was appointed to serve as a commissioner on the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission.

Monica Wiley has over 15 years of experience as a disability adviser. She has worked on protecting and advancing the rights of people with disabilities on the federal and state level. She was the Virginia liaison on disability to the White House Disability Group under Obama, and was a Disability Advisor on Community Integration to the McAuliffe administration in Virginia. She is the co-founder of the Disability Issues Caucus Constituency Organization for the Democratic Party of Virginia, and is Vice Chair of the United Spinal Association Chapter of Washington, DC.  Ms. Wiley holds a BS, in Criminal Justice with a concentration Pre-Law and Political Science from Virginia Commonwealth University. Ms. Wiley received a 2011 Community Activism Award from Special Olympics, a Leadership and Activism Award from The National Progressive Democrats of America, the 2011 Tom Whipple Democratic Party of Virginia Service of The Year Award, and the 2012 Top 40 under 40 Successful Leaders award by Style Weekly.

Pete Denman is a UX/UI Designer and research scientist working at the Intel Corporation. At Intel's research and development lab, he has been able to work on projects ranging from entertainment to HealthCare. Currently he is working on projects that deal with disabilities, education, and healthcare. One of his most notable projects was designing the interface that Stephen Hawking used to speak and navigate in his computer. He is also a board member of the International Dyslexia Association and QUAD Inc., and a fellow at the Headstrong Nation.

Afsar Shamsi comes to the United Spinal Board of Directors from the healthcare industry. He is a Senior Manager at WellCare, having previously worked for Optum. Prior to this, he was involved in ventures in Dubai, India, Pakistan, and Turkey. He returned to the United States to seek care for his daughter who was following her diagnosis with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, who is herself a disability advocate. His daughter was the inspiration for his endeavors in the US healthcare industry. His sees work in the regulatory affairs and compliance space most rewarding way to help individuals like his daughter get a voice and help drive change from the local to the national level to better serve their healthcare needs. He has a BA from Northeastern University.

United Spinal's Board of Directors manages, supervises, and controls the business, property and affairs of the organization, except as otherwise expressly provided by law, the Articles of Incorporation of the Corporation, or bylaws.

The full list of board members and officers is available on United Spinal's website at www.unitedspinal.org.

About United Spinal Association

Formed in 1946 by paralyzed veterans, United Spinal is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Americans with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D). Membership is free and open to all individuals with SCI/D, with over 53,000 members across 50 chapters nationwide. Known for its revolutionary advocacy efforts, United Spinal played a significant role in writing the Americans with Disabilities Act, provided important contributions to the Fair Housing Amendments Act and the Air Carrier Access Act, and was instrumental in attaining sidewalk curb ramps and accessible public transportation in New York City, which created the standard accessibility model used in many United States cities.


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SOURCE United Spinal Association