Dr. Maureen Aiad is an accomplished Emergency Medicine Physician at NYU Langone Long Island, dedicated to providing compassionate and expert care in critical situations. Originally from Egypt, her family settled in Buffalo, New York, which she proudly calls her hometown. Driven by a passion for healing, she underwent rigorous training at St. Barnabas in the Bronx, honing her skills to excel in the fast-paced world of emergency medicine. Maureen is a devoted mother to two young children, finding a delicate balance between the demands of her profession and the joys of family life. Her love for Buffalo extends beyond her roots, manifested in her unwavering support for the Buffalo Bills—a true fan through thick and thin. Beyond medicine, Maureen embraces life's adventures with a zeal for snowboarding and a love for travel. She thrives on exploring new places, savoring diverse cuisines, and cherishing moments with friends and family. Her life reflects a dynamic blend of professional dedication and a passion for the simple joys that make it all worthwhile.
Shellonda Anderson, a native of Brooklyn, NY, is a passionate advocate for holistic well-being and empowerment. She graduated from Harvard University, where she studied Human Evolutionary Biology and Global Health & Health Policy. Shellonda completed her 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and 310-hour Meditation Teacher Training with Three Jewels, a renowned enlightenment studio in NYC. She now serves as a guide for individuals seeking stress reduction, enhanced focus, and revitalization. Shellonda engaged in a comprehensive study of the 18 foundational Tibetan Buddhist courses offered by the Asian Classics Institute, and is currently starting a Masters program in Traditional Oriental Medicine at Emperor’s College in Los Angeles to focus on acupuncture and herbal medicine. Driven by her passion for wellness, Shellonda founded Herbs and Chill Apothecary, combining her expertise as a spiritual herbalist with her entrepreneurial spirit. As a mother herself and a trained full-spectrum doula with Ancient Song Doula, Shellonda intimately understands the importance of support and empowerment during the transformative experience before, during and after birth.
Dr. Jakub Bartnik is the Vice Chair and Medical Director of the SBH Health System/St. Barnabas Hospital Emergency Department. For over a decade, he has been dedicated to emergency medicine, serving the community of a safety net hospital in the Bronx, NY. In this role, Jakub addresses the unique healthcare needs of an underprivileged community grappling with a high prevalence of substance use and mental health disorders. Having witnessed the profound impact of social determinants of health on a daily basis, Jakub is fervently committed to the mission of providing access to equitable, quality, and compassionate care. Beyond his professional commitments, he is deeply engaged in promoting health equity and community well-being.
Salim Nazkani is an SVP, Group Director of an Investment Advisory and Wealth Management firm. He began his career in the insurance, annuity and mutual business, and later became an independent broker running his own financial planning and advisory business. Salim was born and raised in Pakistan. He has two daughters, is an avid golfer, and believes in the power of mindfulness to change people’s lives.
Brahm Pillai is the Founder and Executive Officer of Pillai Capital, bringing over 20 years of financial services and investment management experience to the firm.
Before his pivot into investment banking, Brahm was an investment management professional, serving as Managing Director at the global alternative investment firm SkyBridge Capital (2010 to 2022). He held similar investment management roles within Citigroup Alternative Investments (CAI) Hedge Fund Management Group (HFMG) from October 2005 to July 2010. Brahm graduated from NYU’s Gallatin School and earned his MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management. He was the Chairperson of Skybridge’s Young Leaders Circle Social Committee, focused on mentorship, diversity, cultural awareness, community building and charitable service. He also served as a Junior Committee Member for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.
Mark Schlesinger MD
Mark Schlesinger is the Chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at Hackensack University Medical Center.
Geri Topfer | Board Chair Emeritus
As Founder of Kula for Karma, Geri has established strategic and meaningful partnerships with hospital systems, schools, treatment centers, homeless youth and crisis centers and yoga communities. Prior to Kula, she was an advertising executive for Gruner and Jahr Printing & Publishing Co., Parent and Child Magazines, Conde Nast, and Glamour Magazine. Geri received her B.A. in Communications with a minor in Women’s Studies from Hunter College in NYC. She is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT), Life Force Yoga Practitioner (LFYP), and certified with Kundalini Research Institute (KRI).
Susan Barnett | Founder, Cause Communications
Susan K. Barnett is an Emmy-nominated investigative journalist, producing for the network newsmagazines, Prime Time Live, 20/20, and Dateline. After 16 years in journalism, Susan formed Cause Communications, working with nonprofits, authors, and thought leaders. She is co-producer of the podcast, The FOUR: A fearsome faith foursome talkin’ Black Life, Love, Power and Joy with four nationally known African American faith leaders. She was first-in producer of the award-winning feature-length documentary, No Place On Earth (Magnolia Pictures), about five Ukrainian Jewish families who survived in a cave for 511 days during WWII, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (2012). Susan has a strong personal commitment to global health and access to safe water and sanitation. She ran communications for Global Water 2020 and Faith in Foreign Assistance, and founded Faiths for Safe Water, the only multi-faith advocacy project focused on the single symbol shared by every world religion. Susan is a graduate of Northwestern University.
Dylan Bitensky | LIU Brooklyn
Dylan Bitensky (she/her) is a Clinical Psychology PhD student at LIU Brooklyn specializing in Neuropsychology. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Biopsychology Cognition Neuroscience at the University of Michigan and her Master’s Degree for Clinical Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. As a doctoral student, her focus is on improving early interventions for children and adolescents, specifically those with ADHD, Autism, learning disabilities, and other neurocognitive deficits, so that treatment and assessments are tailored around these individual differences. She has published research regarding the benefits of neuropsychologists being added to medical interdisciplinary teams and the long-term effects of increased mindfulness/nature exposure after attention fatigue in underserved elementary students. Her research is focused on understanding both biological and environmental factors that influence behavior, in order to strengthen the development of various cognitive abilities so that every child can reach their fullest potential. Dylan is currently an intern at Mott Hall Charter School located in the Bronx, where she is bringing Kula for Karma's mindfulness-based mental health care to middle school students. She has also worked at the Child Mind Institute, Weill Cornell Medicine, Mt. Sinai Hospital, Organizational Tutors, and Grow with Beck, a preschool prep program that focuses on developing social and cognitive skills.
Jena Girouard | Creative Director
Jena is a creative director who believes that storytelling is integral to building brands with staying power. She brings a deep understanding of this craft to inform disruptive strategies that turn customers into advocates. She has consumer advertising roots and penned copy for clients such as Harley Davidson and Hertz. Along the way she realized her calling was in healthcare marketing and the impact it has on not only informing, but inspiring human healing. She brings over 25 years experience in this sector, along with a deep belief in the transformative power of meditation and yoga, to support the important initiatives at Kula for Karma.
Gregory L. Johnson | Greg Johnson Partnerships Intl.
Greg Johnson considers his life in three acts: a healthcare professional, an international entrepreneur, and a musician. Ordained in 2002 as an interfaith minister, and a family caregiver himself, Greg served Emblem Health’s Care for the Family Caregiver Initiative for 25 years, creating, directing and scaling the program locally, nationally and internationally. Greg is a sought-after speaker, author, counselor and retreat leader on the topic of caregiving and caring for the caregivers.
In 2023, Rev. Johnson addressed the International Federation on Aging's global conference in Bangkok, Thailand with his paper on caregiving called "It Takes Us All...It Takes Our All", which is being published internationally.
Sebastian Little | Founder, SLP
Sebastian is the founder of Sebastian Little Performance where he partners with high-performing leaders and teams to optimize culture, close performance gaps, and unlock leadership potential. He has worked with clients across professional sports, non-profit, and corporate spaces. Sebastian’s coaching approach consists of a mix of ontology, positive psychology, and mental performance. Sebastian worked as a consultant at the McChrystal Group, a management consulting and leadership development firm in Washington, D.C., founded by retired 4-star general Stan McChrystal. He is a graduate of Yale University and former varsity football athlete. During his Yale tenure, he partnered with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence as both a student and an intern, creating a curriculum on emotionally intelligent leadership. He received his PCC credential through the International Coaching Federation and his ACCC professional coach certification through the Accomplishment Coaching training program.
Jonathon McClellan | Award-Winning Author
Jonathon McClellan is an award-winning bestselling author from Wichita, Kansas who now lives in Dallas, Texas. He experienced poverty and homelessness from an early age and realized that emotional poverty is perhaps the most crippling. He started writing devotionals for his local church at Cathedral of Hope as a way to work through his own early traumas from a difficult childhood. Since 2010, Jonathon has worked for various charities such as Save The Children, Children’s International, the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign and many more. Now, Jonathon works on feeding the soul as well as the body as a motivational speaker with powerful messages inspired by his battles with schizophrenia, depression, and discrimination. As time passed, Jonathon began questioning his own assumptions about who God loves and came to the conclusion that a God of love would not exclude anyone at the table for being different. Today, he shares a message that God is radically inclusive. When Jonathon is not writing, he likes to spend his time singing, dancing, and being an activist.
Gavin Nazkani| Musician + Producer
Gavin Nazkani is a 19 year old trans girl from Nyack, New York. She produces music and plays bass in the local band, Tollelbow. In her free time she enjoys yoga, hiking, listening to music and going to shows.
Katie Stoeckeler | Peace in Piermont
Raised in Ellenville, Katie moved to Piermont, NY in 2012 and opened Peace in Piermont (PiP) in 2019. At PiP, Katie teaches children, adults, and families ways of de-stressing and living in the present moment. After noticing the impact of her teachings and feeling inspired to share them with a broader audience, Katie began creating a book series. The Give Your Brain A Bath book series aims to teach readers both the importance of practicing self-care and various methods of doing so to increase self-awareness and one’s ability to self-regulate. So far, she’s published three books: Let’s Sit Down and Meditate, How Yoga Saved Christmas, and Let’s Have an Attitude of Gratitude. Katie is actively working to make self-care more accessible by expanding her books into a television series and by developing an elementary-based curriculum. In April 2022, Katie launched a nonprofit, Peace in Ellenville (PiE), to spread mindful practices to her hometown! Katie is an experienced registered yoga teacher: E-RYT® 200, RYT 500, YACEP®, an E-RCYT® 95-hour Children's Yoga + Mindfulness Teacher, a Level 1 Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Teacher, and a 200-hour Holistic Health Coach. She holds a Master of Education in Special Education + Literacy (1-6), and a B.S. Childhood Education (1-6).
Tinó Zoccoli-Mayers | Dancer + Teacher
First trained in 2012 to teach aerobic, “flowing” Vinyasa yoga with the NYC-based Yoga to the People at their San Francisco and Berkeley, California studio locations, Tinó (they/ them; s/he) finds a symbiotic relationship between dance, yoga, Butoh movement and meditation. Tinó danced professionally in our capital's Washington Ballet Studio Company, 2004-5. As an honors student at Stanford University, CA, they were blessed to meet environmental, community dance pioneer, Anna Halprin; they danced later at her famed “Mountain Home Studio”. Currently, Tinó transitions in modern and postmodern dancing, with writing, film, ecofeminism, transfeminism, BIPOC-intersectionality, para-modernism and New Genre studies to heal from chronic illness with art/ yoga therapies. They debuted their human-rights-awareness, Japanese movement theater solo, “S/he, or S/hekinah” with Vangeline’s All-Women company at Queer Butoh 18 on the Lower East Side, NYC. Post-pandemic, gratefully, s/he resumed teaching yoga at Integrity House-Newark and helped develop inclusive, children's yoga at the Youth Consultation Service Holley Center residence in Hackensack. Further, Tinó now participates pro bono in university-led research work on Nutritional Psychiatry in the hope of soon responding cinematically to the I Am Maris documentary's individualized yoga therapy by: mirroring healing, pluralizing Yoga-dance-movement forms, and transmitting "other" bodies' gay, feminist and transgender echoes. Tinó feels truly blessed to study deeply, share and heal together here with the simple "seeds" of Yoga and Eastern mindfulness traditions: ahimsa-- Nonviolence; satya--truth; and metta-- compassion.
MEDICAL ADVISORY BOARD
Larry Rosen, MD, Founder of the Whole Child Center
Jennifer Graf, LCSW, Chair, Center for Integrative Medicine Advisory Council, Englewood Hospital Medical Center
R. Josefina Miranda, Pediatrician, Children of Joy Pediatric