GRYT Health Announces New Additions to Board of Directors and Employee Team
Digital oncology organization growth allows for new employees and promotions
Rochester, NY – August 24, 2021 – GRYT (“grit”) Health, a digital oncology company that empowers people to be in charge of their own health, announces the appointment of Sheila Thorne, president and chief executive officer, Multicultural Healthcare Marketing Group, LLC, to its Board of Directors.
"Sheila Thorne is a powerhouse in the healthcare marketing industry and a champion of patient rights and equality. On behalf of the entire GRYT Health team, I'm sharing our excitement over her addition to our Board of Directors," said Shelley Nolden, cancer survivor, co-founder, and chairwoman of GRYT Health. "We're thrilled to have Sheila join her voice with ours as we work to change healthcare and accelerate GRYT Health's commercial growth and community impact while always preserving our patient-first principles."
A native New Yorker and former senior executive in five preeminent marketing and communications companies, Sheila has spent more than two decades designing marketing, media and health education campaigns for the top 50 pharmaceutical companies across a broad range of therapeutic categories from molecule to market. A former high school teacher of foreign languages, she has worked on behalf of the healthcare industry throughout North America, Western Europe and Latin America with a focus on communities of color. She teaches and has lectured on health equity and cultural competency at Quinnipiac University School of Medicine, Rutgers, New York University and Queens College. She has given over 250 keynote presentations and workshops on cultural competency, anti-bias, and diversity. She is published in Pharmaceutical Executive, PharmaVoice, Medical, Marketing & Media and has numerous articles published in a variety of consumer health and ethnic publications. Sheila is known for her unique ability to galvanize communities of color around health and social justice issues. She has been featured in Essence Magazine, Black Enterprise, The Positive Community, Madame Noire, The Network Journal and a frequent panelist during the sessions of the Annual Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Health Institute, and the Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum. Sheila has received numerous awards for her innovative health marketing strategies to reach people of color, including PharmaVOICE Top 100 earlier this month.
"I am truly excited to join the GRYT Health Board," stated Sheila Thorne. "I look forward to working with this extraordinary group of patient advocates who use their humanity to reach all those living and surviving with a chronic or life-threatening disease, no matter what they look like, what language they speak, or where they come from."
GRYT Health is also proud to announce a significant number of employee additions and promotions.
“We are blessed to have seen tremendous business growth this year, which allowed us to significantly invest in increasing our staff, as well as employee growth opportunities, in an ongoing effort to provide direct support to patients and caregivers today, while empowering them to use their experience to improve healthcare tomorrow,” said Dave Craig, cancer survivor, co-founder, and chief executive officer. “A company started and run by cancer survivors, the patient is the center for everything we do. We bring services to others that we wish we would have had during our own diagnoses.”
Through its app and desktop platform, GRYT Health offers support services through connection and education, as well as the ability for patients, survivors and caregivers to share their experiences to help others. Currently, working in collaboration with half of the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies, GRYT Health champions patient experience research, clinical trial patient activation, and virtual patient education programs, including leading The Advocacy Exchange and The Global Virtual Cancer Conference, now in its third year.
GRYT Health is proud to announce the following employee changes:
Matt Berner has joined the team as an Umbraco front end developer. He has held similar roles for 15 years and finds joy in creating a digital product that improves people’s lives. Matt is a 2006 graduate of Muhlenberg College and currently lives in Macungie, Pa.
Dave Bjork was recently hired as vice president of empowerment. In this role, he leads the business development and project management of virtual patient education programming with our industry partners. He is a lung cancer survivor, advocate, and host of The Research Evangelist podcast, which elevates the voices of others to inform and empower. Dave earned his degree at the University of Pennsylvania and his background includes over 20 years in industry and non-profit management roles. He currently lives in Georgetown, Mass.
Christian Bullock was recently promoted to director of digital strategy. In this role, Christian oversees search engine optimization and digital advertising. Having gone through his own cancer diagnosis, Christian found GRYT Health in 2018 and joined the team in an advisory capacity. Christian prides himself on communicating with other cancer patients and survivors in an empathic and understanding way. Prior to joining GRYT Health, Christian cut his teeth in various agency management and digital media roles. He has a particular interest in astronomy and likes to read whenever he can. He graduated from Washington State University and currently resides in Battle Ground, Wash.
Rachel Byrd joined the organization in 2020 and was recently promoted to senior research coordinator. She obtained her Bachelors of Science degree in Neuroscience from Central Michigan University and her Masters of Science degree in Health Science with an emphasis in Molecular Medicine from Montana State University. Cancer has touched her life through her younger sister, who is now nearly 20 years cancer free, and through the loss of her aunt and uncle. Rachel grew up in Michigan, but currently calls Bozeman, Mont., home.
Megan-Claire Chase was recently hired as partnership director. In this role, she is working to build relationships with non-profit patient advocacy groups to engage their expertise in virtual patient education programs and amplify their resources to support the GRYT Health community. Megan-Claire is an accomplished media and marketing professional with over 15 years of experience in these industries. After being diagnosed with breast cancer (stage IIA invasive lobular) in 2015, she became heavily involved in patient advocacy and research post-treatment. She is a powerful communicator, public speaker, researcher, published writer and blogger of Life on the Cancer Train. In her spare time, she is a consumer reviewer for the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program and a contributing writer for WebMD under their breast cancer section. Megan-Claire and her work has been featured in national press including The New York Times and People Magazine, as well as through numerous patient advocacy organizations. She grew up in Macon, Ga. and received her Bachelors of Arts degree in Communication with a minor in Theatre from The College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y.
Chris Chamars was recently hired as a programs and partnership specialist. Chris has extensive experience in the healthcare and community relations industries, including time as an EMT, teaching health education and doing community outreach with the Peace Corps in Moldova, and at The Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. He holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt. and a dual Masters of Science degree and MBA in Global Healthcare Management from The Heller School at Brandeis University in Mass. Chris currently lives in Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Leah Hennessey was recently hired as marketing manager. Leah is a designer and leukemia survivor with a passion for storytelling and making positive impacts on the lives of patients and survivors. After her diagnosis, she started a fundraising campaign called The Positive Project, for Roswell Park Cancer Center, where she received her treatment, including a bone marrow transplant, by selling handmade illustrative cards with uplifting messages inspired by fellow patient’s stories. Leah has been working with startups since 2015 and loves high-growth, high-energy environments. In her spare time, Leah enjoys running, biking, drawing, reading, and playing with her dogs. Leah grew up in Chatham, N.Y., received a Bachelors of Arts degree from the University at Buffalo and currently lives in Baldwinsville, N.Y.
Liz Hiles was recently hired as an engagement specialist. Diagnosed with Stage III-B, non-metastatic bladder cancer with a T4 tumor in August 2016, she had her bladder removed with a stoma/urostomy placed, followed by chemotherapy. Liz has worked with several non-profit organizations as well in the education field. After healing from her experience with cancer, she transitioned to writing and advocacy work full-time. She is passionate about advocating for young adults in the cancer, bladder cancer and ostomy communities, serving as a community manager and contributing writer for select groups. Liz hails from Cincinnati and received her Bachelors of Arts degree in Sociology from Ohio University in Athens, as well as certifications in Women’s Studies and Cross-Cultural Competencies.
Dr. Daniel Platt joined GRYT Health in 2020 as vice president of research and patient engagement and was recently promoted to chief medical officer. He has spent the majority of his life engaged in making the healthcare system more responsive to the needs of patients. Dan holds a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree with distinction in research from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. He recently moved back to Rochester after having spent the last 10 years in Boston as a resident in neurology and consultant to biotech, pharma, and industry. Dan has extensive experience in the immuno-oncology space, having also served as the executive director, medical strategy and development, for Advaxis Immunotherapies. He is passionate about improving the prevention and treatment of cancer, educating and advocating for patients, and reshaping healthcare to be effective, efficient, and equitable.
Uma Rana recently joined the organization as senior vice president of empowerment. Uma was the lead project manager for Bristol Myers Squibb Patient Advocacy and has led many key strategic initiatives across the organization. Her extensive experience in program/project management, strategy, operations, resource planning, financial, procurement, and relationship management will enhance GRYT Health’s core capabilities and help drive project success. Uma holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Pre-Med/Biology with Honors from Rider University and a MBA from New York Institute of Technology. She currently lives in East Windsor, N.J.
Eileen Shannon was recently hired as vice president of client relations. In this role, she works closely with GRYT Health champions within client organizations to learn what makes them most proud of their work, and to help align resources to deliver those results. Eileen brings over 14 years of experience in non-profit fundraising and alumni relations. As a supporter of both family and friends who have experienced cancer, Eileen finds profound personal meaning in GRYT Health’s mission. Eileen holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Professional & Technical Communication and a Masters of Science degree in Communication & Media Technologies, both from Rochester Institute of Technology. She resides in Rochester, N.Y.
Sam Schneider was recently hired as a senior research coordinator. Sam joins GRYT Health from Seattle Children's Hospital and Research Institute where he spent three years as a research scientist in CAR T-cell (cancer) research, drug development, and clinical trials. He earned his Bachelors of Science degree in Chemistry from Western Washington University. Sam grew up in Bainbridge Island, Wash. and now lives in Hilo, HI.
Benjamin Valence joined the organization in 2019 as a front-end developer and was recently promoted to the role of manager of front-end development. In this role, he oversees a team of professionals to develop, build and host virtual patient education offerings for GRYT Health’s industry and advocacy clients. Ben has an eye for detail, and deeply cares about providing an exceptional user experience. He understands the emotions and need for information that go along with cancer, having been a caregiver for his sister during her treatment for colon cancer. Skilled at working with his hands, Ben has enjoyed experiences as a craftsman and barber. He has also served as a youth pastor for local churches in Rochester, N.Y. Ben grew up in and currently lives in Henrietta, N.Y.
Jessica Valence was recently promoted to the role of vice president, education and empowerment. In this role, she helps to create virtual spaces for patient-focused companies to connect with their audiences in a new and authentic way. Jessica has been with GRYT Health since 2017 and has held a number of roles in assisting the company to evolve, including positions in Marketing and Operations. As a colon cancer survivor, Jessica holds a unique passion for helping to elevate the patient's voice and providing organizations a better understanding of the needs within their own communities. Prior to GRYT Health, she worked with a number of Rochester-based start-ups to amplify awareness and increase efficiencies. Growing up in Rochester, N.Y., Jessica attended Monroe Community College and earned her Bachelors of Arts degree in Art Education from Roberts Wesleyan College. She currently lives in Rochester, N.Y.
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About GRYT Health
GRYT Health is a digital oncology company that empowers people to be in charge of their own health through education, engagement and support. We offer a community free from judgment that focuses on humanity and the value each person brings.
Our mission is to improve quality of life and increase survival for people facing cancer through the relentless focus on patient experience. We put patients first and work with healthcare organizations that do the same. We use the patient voice to enhance drug development and access; and together, we are helping to move healthcare forward. To learn more, visit www.grythealth.com.
Nichole W. Owens
Chief Marketing Officer
Breast Cancer Survivor