U.S. Pain Foundation was created by people with pain, for people with pain. All of our staff are either people with pain or caregivers of people with pain. That means we truly understand the challenges people with pain face and can better identify ways to help.
Our boards are made up of reputable members of the pain community, who we rely on for guidance and support. We thank our board members for generously giving their time, personal expertise, resources, and experience to support people with pain.
U.S. Pain Foundation Board of Directors is composed of individuals with unique skills and talents. All board members are committed to serving those with pain by addressing the challenges the community faces.
Nicole Hemmenway is a leading voice in chronic pain awareness and an advocate for patient rights. Having lived most of her life with complex regional pain syndrome, she overcame what doctors told her was a hopeless situation and became not just a survivor, but also a thriver. In her memoir No, It Is NOT In My Head: The Journey of a Chronic Pain Survivor from Wheelchair to Marathon, Nicole shares her experiences navigating through the medical system.
For many years during her pain journey, Nicole worked with the National Pain Foundation to help raise chronic pain awareness. It was during this period that she realized the power of her voice. She finally saw that her story mattered. She supports various organizations that provide hope and help to those living with pain.
In 2010, Nicole’s dream to form a patient-focused organization for those with pain came to fruition when she joined U.S. Pain Foundation. She immediately wanted to become involved in this organization that understood the challenges those with pain regularly endure while working to help those suffering find empowerment, community, hope and information. She is honored to have an active role in creating programs that are not only needed, but also beneficial, to the entire pain community.
Nicole created the now U.S. Pain-sponsored online site, Heroes of Healing, www.heroesofhealing.com, where caregivers and those with pain can share personal stories of struggle and triumph. She is proud to serve as Vice President of U.S. Pain Foundation as well as Director of the INvisible Project.
In September 2015, Nicole was featured within the centerfold of USA Today for MediaplanetUSA’s “Chronic Pain” campaign. The campaign shed light on new innovations in treatment, readily available therapies and resources in an effort to bring awareness and help people to live fulfilling lives while battling chronic pain.
Nicole lives in the Bay Area with her husband, two sons and three lively animals. After fighting so hard to find treatments that fit her lifestyle and body, every day is a gift. She enjoys being active, eating clean and embracing the little moments in life. It is her continued mission to inspire other pain warriors, while advocating for their rights to proper care.
Wendy Foster has found a way to turn her pain into something positive. As a leading advocate in the pain community, she focuses her efforts on changing legislation that enable patients’ appropriate access to medication.
For over two decades, Wendy has been living with an unidentified condition. Using the vague classification of progressive neuromuscular disorder, her condition increasingly weakens the muscles closest to her torso, including her diaphragm. Additionally, Wendy has had widespread chronic pain in most of the musculature of her limbs as well as in her lower back. She suffers from asthma, constant headaches, and severe migraines.
Despite having to take an early retirement after twenty-six years teaching preschool at the local YMCA, Wendy is not letting pain dictate her life. She has found a new passion educating others about the struggles those with pain and chronic medical conditions endure. She testifies throughout the country on important health issues, using her voice to make a difference in the legislative process. She also supports NEADS, Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans. As a board member and Director of State Advocacy for U.S. Pain Foundation, Wendy plays an instrumental role in showing others living with pain that it is never too late to share your story for the better good.
Ellen Lenox Smith
Ellen Lenox Smith has emerged as a leading voice for patients living with pain in Rhode Island. Featured in local and national press accounts, Ellen brings a reasoned and compassionate perspective to the need for safe patient access to medicine.
Ellen suffers from two rare conditions. One is a degenerative collagen disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. This crippling disease allows her joints to become easily dislocated, causing vice-like pain and confining her on and off to a wheelchair. She presently has endured twenty-three surgeries and countless visits to her doctors. Her second condition is called sarcoidosis, which has allowed enlarged lymph nodes and granulomas in her lungs. Both these conditions are presently not curable.
While having a long and distinguished career, predominantly in the field of education, Ellen has devoted much of her recent time to advocacy. She is a Rhode Island ambassador for the U.S. Pain Foundation, and spent a decade working as an Arthritis Foundation ambassador. She serves on the board for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition (RIPAC), is the author of two books, and in 2006, was accepted into the Connective Tissue Research at the National Institute of Health to help search for a cure to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
Suzanne Stewart has become a leading advocate in the pain community. Since a motor vehicle accident in 2002, Suzanne has been living with systemic complex regional pain syndrome and a host of comorbidities that include Ehlers-Danlos syndrome type 4, gastroparesis, autonomic neuropathy, chiari with migraine, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. But she doesn’t let her limitations or pain get her down. Her motto: “make hope a verb and do something to stay positive.”
While Suzanne joined the U.S. Pain Foundation as an ambassador in 2015, advocating was not a new role for her. She first became involved writing letters to cancer patients undergoing treatment through Chemo Angel. She became a mentor to CRPS patients by founding her own online support group in collaboration with the RSDSA in 2007. In 2012, Suzanne also became a patient leader for WEGO health and was featured in the Invisible Disabilities Association campaign, “Invisible No More.” In 2017, Suzanne was the recipient of the U.S. Pain Joselynn Badman Pain Ambassador of the Year Award for her tireless efforts to improve the lives of chronic pain patients.
Prior to her pain journey, Suzanne had a career as an interpreter for the deaf at a university hospital. She also worked in school systems interpreting for, and teaching, deaf children. Suzanne has a background in journalism and continues to write as a staff columnist for National Pain Report and for her personal blog, Tears of Truth. Today, she enjoys creating American Sign Language videos, public speaking, and hosting awareness events and fundraisers. It is Suzanne’s hope to be innovative while continuing to follow her passions of raising awareness and advocating for the chronic pain community.
Created by people with pain for people with pain, our team has a personal connection to those we serve. We are invested in pain care because it directly affects our lives as well as 100 million others.
Director of INvisible Project
Nicole Hemmenway is a motivational speaker and patient advocate. Her book No, It Is NOT In My Head: The Journey of a Chronic Pain Survivor from Wheelchair to Marathon shows how to find your voice and triumph over pain. Nicole believes all patients have a powerful story to tell—she founded Heroes of Healing, and serves as Vice President of U.S. Pain Foundation. In September 2015, Nicole was featured within the centerfold of USA Today for MediaplanetUSA’s “Chronic Pain” campaign.
Executive Office Manager
Lori Monarca is the Executive Office Manager and the Assistant to the President of U.S. Pain Foundation. She efficiently handles all the office managerial tasks as well as assists with the planning of events. Her organizational skills keep the foundation running smoothly.
Prior to coming on board with U.S. Pain, Lori worked as a paraprofessional assisting children with learning disabilities and special needs in an elementary school. For seven years, she dedicated her energy to being a duty-aide. She enjoyed influencing young lives and being a part of their growth and development.
Living with migraines herself, Lori takes pride in her work with U.S. Pain. She recognizes the need for creating pain awareness while also empowering those suffering, which is why she goes above and beyond her role title. Besides her hours helping the pain community, Lori likes to spend her free time with her two wonderful daughters. She also enjoys baking, scrapbooking and attending Zumba classes.
Director of State Advocacy & Alliance Development
Starting as a volunteer for U.S. Pain in 2010 at the onset of her chronic pain, Shaina was able to find the support and validation she needed through the organization. Finding her true calling to serve the pain community, various projects and campaigns were built with Shaina’s creativity while she served as the organization’s Director of Ambassadors. As the Ambassador Program grew, so did the organization’s need to focus its energies and attention within the state advocacy arena.
In 2015, Shaina transitioned into her current role as Director of State Advocacy & Alliance Development. This has allowed her the opportunity to further enhance U.S. Pain’s intent to provide hope for pain patients in the area of fair access to treatment issues and basic patient rights. Shaina has been able to energize our Advocacy Warriors to take action on proposed legislation through advocacy eAlerts and the relationships she has built with like-minded coalitions and working groups across the nation.
Despite the daily obstacles as the result of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Shaina continues to evolve as a patient advocate and role model for young women interested in becoming involved with state and local issues. She notes that she constantly fine-tunes her goals to create a healthier frame of mind, body and spirit. Both she and her husband Tim have embraced a more holistic approach when it comes to overall healing and raising of their son, Landon. Shaina’s ambition to serve all types of communities has spread to the local level where she currently is serving her second term within her town as a member of the Board of Selectmen.
When she isn’t advocating for residents of her town or the pain community, Shaina champions for the fair treatment of animals and has several rescue animals. Shaina also enjoys traveling with her husband and son, singing or playing guitar with her sisters and photography.
National Director of Policy & Advocacy
Cindy Steinberg is the National Director of Policy and Advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation and Policy Council Chair for the Massachusetts Pain Initiative. Ms. Steinberg is a passionate and articulate spokesperson for the needs of those living with pain. Her dedication to pain advocacy was sparked when she sustained a severe crush injury that left her with daily back pain.
She has authored Op-Ed’s that have appeared in the Huffington Post, the Boston Sunday Globe and WBUR’s CommonHealth Blog. She has been interviewed in print and on radio, television and internet websites including NPR’s Marketplace, WCVB’s NewsCenter 5, WBZ News Radio and ABCNews.com. Ms. Steinberg was awarded the American Pain Foundation’s Presidential Medal for outstanding contributions to the field of pain management and the State Pain Initiative Champion Award from the Alliance of State Pain Initiatives for her pain policy accomplishments. Ms. Steinberg was selected as one of six leaders in the field of pain management to receive the Mayday Pain & Society Fellowship for 2013-2014.
In 2014, Ms. Steinberg was appointed to the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (IPRCC), the highest-ranking pain policy oversight committee in the United States. The IPRCC was charged by the HHS Secretary with oversight of the development of the National Pain Strategy. In 2015, she was appointed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to serve on his Opioid Working Group chaired by the Massachusetts HHS Secretary. Ms. Steinberg was subsequently appointed by Governor Baker to serve as a Commissioner on the Massachusetts Drug Formulary Commission.
Director of Learn About Your Pain
Director of Newsletter
Michaela O’Connor is a chronic pain warrior and advocate. She has bilateral Trigeminal Neuralgia, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Dysautonomia (P.O.T.S.), cervical dystonia and scoliosis. In 2013, she was chosen to be a participant in the INvisible Project. Showing a strong desire to play a large role in helping fellow chronic pain patients, she became a U.S. Pain Ambassador for the state of California. It was through this vessel that Michaela took on the distinguished role as U.S. Pain’s Director of eNewsletter.
She graduated from the University of California at Davis in 2009 with a B.S. in Political Science and a double minor in History and War and Peace Studies. She is an avid writer and plays the guitar in her free time. She is also a huge sports fan, especially of her beloved San Francisco Giants baseball team, whom she often refers to in her writing. In 2015, Michaela added Director of Learn About Your Pain to her list of work she does for the foundation. Her favorite job, however, is the role of aunt to her two nephews and four nieces, with whom she spends most of her free time. She resides in Northern California.
Ellen Lenox Smith and Stu Smith
Advocacy Directors for Medicinal Cannabis
Ellen Lenox and Stuart Smith are the Co-Directors for advocacy of medical cannabis for U.S. Pain Foundation. Ellen lives with two rare conditions: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Sarcoidosis. Stu has and continues to be Ellen’s caregiver and together, they raise awareness surrounding invisible pain and the effectiveness of medicinal marijuana for pain patients.
Ellen and Stu have been a part of U.S. Pain since its inception and both are incredible resources for those first diagnosed with a rare condition, family members and caregivers, patients or advocates who wish to learn more about the medicinal benefits of cannabis. They also speak with interested pain warriors about ways to effectively speak before lawmakers, medical students and healthcare professionals.
In addition to inspiring others through their passion, Ellen hosts an annual state pain awareness event within her state, inviting reputable guest speakers from the medical profession, as well as patients and state employees. Their daily efforts are directed at improving pain management, allowing for personal renewal and the most essential element to wellbeing, a sense of hope.
Ellen and Stu live in Rhode Island on a small, organic farm with Ellen’s service dog Maggie, an adopted rescue dog named Lily and have raised four, now adult, sons.
Director of Communications and Operations Manager
Emily Lemiska began experiencing severe chronic pain due to Klippel-Feil Syndrome, a rare, degenerative spine defect, in 2011. She first became involved with U.S. Pain as an INvisible Project participant in 2015 and officially joined the staff in early 2016. Prior to U.S. Pain, Emily worked in Public Affairs and Communications at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she focused on quality and safety, care innovation, community-based health care and health care disparities. Emily graduated from Northeastern University, where she studied English and political science. Outside of her work with U.S. Pain, Emily currently serves associate director of a small patient support organization, Klippel-Feil Syndrome Freedom, and blogs about managing her health issues under the name “Bravest Little Toaster.” She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband, Dan, and tuxedo cat.
Senior State Advocate
Wendy Foster has found a way to turn her pain into something positive. As a leading advocate in the pain community, she focuses her efforts on changing legislation that enable patients’ appropriate access to medication.
For over two decades, Wendy has been living with an unidentified condition. Using the vague classification of progressive neuromuscular disorder, her condition increasingly weakens the muscles closest to her torso, including her diaphragm. Additionally, Wendy has had widespread chronic pain in most of the musculature of her limbs as well as in her lower back. She suffers from asthma, constant headaches, and severe migraines. In 2014, she suffered a stroke that affected her speech and also received the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.
Despite having to take an early retirement after twenty-six years teaching preschool at the local YMCA, Wendy is not letting pain dictate her life. She has found a new passion educating others about the struggles those with pain and chronic medical conditions endure. She testifies throughout the country on important health issues, using her voice to make a difference in the legislative process. She also supports NEADS, Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans. As a board member and Senior State Advocate for U.S. Pain Foundation, Wendy plays an instrumental role in showing others living with pain that it is never too late to share your story for the better good.
Director of Caregivers
Stu Smith has dedicated his life to reaching out to others. After graduating from Springfield College in 1969, majoring in Sociology, he was drafted into the Army and stationed in Germany as a dental assistant. Shortly after returning to the states, he met his wife Ellen. They married and together raised four sons. His career led him to work at Lakeside Treatment Center, as a childcare worker from 1972-1974. By 1974, he was hired as a Department of Children, Youth and Families social caseworker. By 1988, he became a social caseworker supervisor, which he enjoyed doing until he retired in 2007.
Upon retirement, Stu has been able to dedicate more time to his wife as a caregiver. Along with this tireless commitment, Stu served as a Rhode Island Arthritis Ambassador for the Arthritis Foundation for nearly a decade. Honored as a platinum ambassador for, he travels yearly to Washington D.C. to advocate on their behalf. In 2009, Stu became a Rhode Island American Pain Ambassador for the American Pain Foundation. For the past four years, Stu has been instrumental in educating and supporting the Rhode Island medical marijuana program as well as helping to advocate and testify for other states’ successes. He views his role as a teacher, sharing his experiences to further pain research, create awareness and generate positive legislative changes on a state and national level.
In 2010, Stu joined U.S. Pain Foundation currently serving as the Director of Caregivers as well as Advocacy Director for Medicinal Marijuana. He is also a board member for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition (RIPAC).
Stu enjoys keeping fit and swims almost daily, loves to read history, writes consistently and frequently gets his letters to the editor published. He adores his family and is a proud grandfather of three grandsons.
Medical Advisory Board
Our Medical Advisory Board is a distinguished group of medical professionals committed to helping the pain community. These respected and knowledgeable individuals offer U.S Pain Foundation medical expertise, advice and assistance.
Peter Abaci, MD
Peter Abaci, MD, is certified in anesthesia and pain management by the American Board of Anesthesiology. He serves as the medical director of the nationally recognized Bay Area Pain and Wellness Center in Los Gatos, CA, which he cofounded with John Massey, MD. A widely respected expert on chronic pain management and a highly successful chronic pain sufferer, he is the author of Take Charge of Your Chronic Pain: The Latest Research, Cutting-Edge Tools, and Alternative Treatments for Feeling Better. Dr. Abaci serves as an expert contributor for the Chronic Pain Community on WebMD. He focuses on developing alternative solutions to treating chronic pain by drawing on neuroscience research, evidence-based medicine, ancient healing remedies, stress management techniques, nutrition principles, exercise programs, art therapy and real-life lessons.
Michele Gargan, PsyD
Dr. Michele Gargan holds a master’s degree in dance/movement therapy from Hunter College and a doctoral degree in clinical psychology from the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology. From 1978 to 1985 she worked in hospitals and mental health clinics providing direct clinical service as well as holding supervisory and directorship positions. She has specialized training in group and family therapy and has trained colleagues and supervised graduate students in these areas. Her longstanding interest in the body-mind connection prompted her degree in dance/movement therapy and has led to intensive training in hypnotherapy, biofeedback and neurofeedback, and an expansion of her practice into the realm of physical pain management. She has published articles about group dynamics and the psychological aspects of chronic pain, and she writes the Ask the Doctor column for Pain Pathways Magazine.
Prior to her clinical career, Dr. Gargan performed professionally with ballet and modern dance companies. She has continued to take several dance classes each week, and to teach, choreograph and perform with local dance companies. She has also presented workshops in movement and nonverbal communication to clinical teams, business teams, high school and college teachers, and health care professionals. She describes her work as combining the elements of scientist, practitioner, and artist.
Edward Bilsky, PhD
Dr. Edward Bilsky is the Vice President for Research and Scholarship at the University of New England. He received a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Arizona Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy in 1996. Dr. Bilsky’s laboratory conducts translational research in the areas of pain and addiction. He has received over 6 million dollars in extramural funding to his laboratory and has published over 75 peer-reviewed publications in leading journals while presenting nationally and internationally in a variety of different venues. He was awarded the 2011 AOA Research Mentor of the Year Award, is a recipient of the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience Lifetime Achievement Award and received the 2014 Patient Advocacy Award from the American Academy of Pain Medicine.
Michael Schatman, PhD
Dr. Michael Schatman is a clinical psychologist with 27 years of experience in multidisciplinary chronic pain management. The Executive Director of the Foundation for Ethics in Pain Care in Bellevue, WA, he also maintains a practice in pain psychology. Dr. Schatman has written more than 70 journal articles and book chapters on chronic pain management and lectures throughout the United States. He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Pain Research, serves on review boards of numerous publications, and is on the Board of Directors of the American Society of Pain Educators—which named him 2011 Clinical Pain Educator of the Year.
Bruce F. Singer, PsyD, was the founding Director of the Chronic Pain and Recovery Center at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, CT. Licensed in Connecticut, New York, and California, he has lectured nationally and authored numerous articles on the benefits of mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and gratefulness for people with chronic pain and addiction. He divides his time between being Chief of Psychology for Crossroads Centre, Antigua, maintaining a private practice in New Canaan, CT, and writing an upcoming book on mindfulness approaches to managing chronic pain entitled, “Find Your Black Ducks”. In addition, he has released numerous guided meditations and a new album of meditative music, “Heartful: Music for Julie”, which is available through iTunes, Amazon or at brucefsinger.bandcamp.com.