CECC Board of Directors CECCadmin
BRUCE BLEHART, JDPRESIDENT AND SECRETARY
Bruce graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1974, Phi Beta Kappa, with degrees in history and speech/communications. He received his JD from DePaul University in 1977. For 21 years, Bruce worked for the American Medical Association (AMA) in positions relating to legislation and health policy. In this time, he was directly involved in the legislation and regulations that established the Medicare hospice benefit. He also had a key role in developing the AMA’s policy on improving care for patients at the end of life.
In 2000, Bruce co-founded LAWprn, LLC, an Internet-enabled source of focused, concise, and actionable news and information designed to help health care professionals understand and avoid legal and regulatory problems. He has managed the public affairs activities for the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He also is involved with North American Natural Burial, an organization dedicated to the premise that natural burial offers an end-of-life choice that brings funeral acts together with nature by advancing the conservation legacy of preserving the land.
RONETTE MCCARTHY, JDVICE PRESIDENT
Ronette leverages her years of experience as an Illinois licensed attorney to counsel families on a variety of end-of-life issues ranging from selecting the right care for someone approaching death to such practical matters as making sure the individual’s estate plans are in proper order. Before joining her husband and brother-in-law in a full-service cremation company, Elements, the Cremation Company, she practiced law as a member of a firm and as in-house counsel for an organization that assisted families through end-of-life experiences. Prior to earning her law degree, Ronette earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Illinois and spent her early career as an elementary school teacher.
Through Elements, she offers families expert legal counsel to help them make fully informed decisions about a variety of issues including: managing physical assets, and advising families and individuals on how to create a comprehensive end-of-life plan. She is a frequent lecturer on various end-of-life and advance care planning topics, including: opening up the conversation; what is needed, necessary and often overlooked when planning for the end; digital death; who should an individual include in end-of-life discussions; and what are POAs, Advance Directives, and Physician’s Orders.
RAY AIKENS, MBATREASURER
Ray Aikens comes to the CECC with a strong business background and a passion for community education and advocacy concerning end-of-life care issues. He is an Adjunct Professor at Malcolm X College, where he teaches accounting, sociology, psychology and restorative anatomy. Ray is a licensed funeral director for A. A. Rayner & Sons and a community vitality analyst. He hosts an internet radio channel featuring top industry analysts and experts in the field of deathcare and associated endeavors.
Working in the funeral industry and with faith communities, Ray offers a wide variety of workshops and seminars geared toward psychological and emotional well-being and spiritual development, as well as workshops on anger management. Ray has an MBA from Indiana University, Bloomington and a BSE from Northern Illinois University. He is certified as a hospice volunteer and as a funeral celebrant. He has published numerous articles in leading industry publications, lectured, and delivered before professional bodies in both the US and South Africa. Ray was proud to become the first ambassador to the United States on behalf of the South African Funeral Practitioners Association (SAFPA).
RANDI BELISOMO, MA
Randi Belisomo is an accomplished multimedia journalist, currently serving as a general assignment reporter at WGN-TV in Chicago and as a contributor to Chicago Public Radio, WBEZ 91.5 FM. She holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Notre Dame. She is a recent Emmy Nominee and a 2012 Lisagor Award winner for best in-depth series. Randi currently serves on the boards of the Chicago Headline Club, the Association of Women Journalists-Chicago, the Phi Beta Kappa Association of the Chicago Area, and the Chicago Op-ed Project. She is chair of the Carlos Hernandez Award in Meritorious Journalism at DePaul University and a member of the Board of Advisors to the Columbia College School of Journalism. Randi is the co-founder of Life Matters Media. Life Matters Media provides a platform for the sharing of information, resources, communication and experiences of those living their final days, and seeks to foster a greater understanding of the capacity that end-of-life decisions have to nurture the human spirit.
KATHRYN (KAT) A. COOK-BIEKMAN, MSW, MPH, MDiv
Kathryn A. Cook-Biekman, known to many as “Kat” or “Minister Kat,” is a proficient and passionate social worker/counselor/health educator/minister with experience providing crisis intervention, counseling services and pastoral care in consultation with individuals, families and groups in clinical and community settings. Kat currently serves as a chaplain and social worker with Comfort Hospice and Palliative Care where she provides practical, emotional, and spiritual support to patients, their families and caregivers who face acute or long-term circumstances involving life-limiting illness, dying, death, grief and bereavement.
She is the cofounder and current Project Director of the Clergy End-of-Life Education Resource (CLEER) Project; a strategic partnership between the United Methodist Church, Advocate Christ Medical Center and the Chicago End-Of-Life Care Coalition aimed at meeting the education needs of clergy and faith community leadership and equipping them to effectively provide pastoral care during times of death and dying. She has presented her paper, “When Care Conflicts with Faith: End-of-Life Decisions and Care Among African Americans,” at the University of Chicago’s Second Annual Conference on Medicine and Religion and at the Annual Interdisciplinary Conference on Health, Religion and Spirituality at Indiana State University.
The hallmarks of Minister Kat’s ministry include creativity, caring and compassion as she serves to facilitate healing for people during times of crisis and life transitions.
MUNA ENSHIWAT-SALMAN, MD
Muna Enshiwat-Salman works at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora. In addition to her medical duties she serves as the Committee Chair for Patient Safety. She was the Medical Director for Optum Palliative Care and Hospice until July of 2014. Dr. Salman was Board Certified in Internal Medicine in 1999 and became certified in Hospice and Palliative care in 2012. Her internship and residency were at the University of Illinois Chicago/Christ Medical Center, after which she completed a year-long fellowship in Clinical Leadership at the University of California in San Francisco. Initially, she practiced in Chicago in an outpatient clinic until 2003 and after that became a Hospitalist working for IPC the Hospitalist Company from 2003 till now, ultimately in the position of Regional Medical Director and Practice Group Leader. During her tenure at IPC, Dr. Salman served as the Vice Chair, and currently is the Chair of the Chicago Leadership Council. She is now pursuing an MBA at Benedictine University in Illinois.
NANCY FLOWERS, MSW, LCSW
Nancy Flowers, a licensed clinical social worker, is the Educator and Special Projects Manager for Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care (RHPC). She received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Indiana University. Ms. Flowers has thirty-three years of clinical and management experience working with older adults in hospital, home health care, hospice, assisted living, long-term care and municipal settings. Ms. Flowers recently completed her term on the Board of Directors and Leadership Council of The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. Ms. Flowers is a board member of the Illinois Citizens for Better Care, and Three Crowns Park and City Lit Theater. Ms. Flowers is the former Chair of the Illinois Department on Aging, Long Term Care Council, and was a member of the Illinois Department of Aging, Elder Self-Neglect Steering Committee. Ms. Flowers is a Past President of the Illinois Association of Long-Term Care Ombudsmen. Ms. Flowers was named the 2004 Long Term Care Ombudsman of the Year by the Illinois Department on Aging. In 2005, Ms. Flowers served as one of the Governor’s delegates to the White House Conference on Aging. She has been a field instructor for local graduate Social Work Programs for over 30 years and co-facilitates graduate social work field placements at RHPC. Ms. Flowers has presented on aging and health care related topics at national, state and regional conferences. In addition, she provides community education to health care and social service agencies and is a frequent guest lecturer at area graduate schools of social work.
MARY MULCAHY, MD
Mary Mulcahy, MD is a practicing medical oncologist with more than ten years of experience in caring for patients and families facing terminal illness. She is a sought-after speaker providing education to medical and other health care professionals, advocacy groups and patients. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Hematology Oncology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Mary received her medical degree from the University of California, San Diego, completed her residency at Boston University and her fellowship at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She has expertise in the treatment of pancreatic, biliary, esophageal and liver cancers, and is experienced in liver directed therapy for primary and metastatic liver tumors. She is an active member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and Can’t Stomach Cancer. She is co-founder of Life Matters Media, an organization dedicated to providing resources for all involved in end-of-life decision making.
MARGARET OVERTON, MD
Dr. Margaret Overton is an anesthesiologist in Park Ridge, Illinois and is affiliated with Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. She received her medical degree from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 25 years. Dr. Overton is the author of two non-fiction books, Good in a Crisis and Hope For a Cool Pillow. She is a mother of two, and holds an MFA in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Hope For a Cool Pillow is a passionate argument for planning end-of- life care as well as an exploration of bioethics. She also serves on the national board of The Final Acts Project.
LINDA ROCKWELL, MPA
Linda has been with JourneyCare (formerly Midwest Palliative & Hospice CareCenter) for nearly 13 years. She currently serves as the organization’s We Honor Veterans program manager, overseeing services to veterans in hospice care in a 10 county area in northeastern Illinois. Her hospice “career” began with serving as a bereavement volunteer for the VNA of Springfield’s hospice program, and she later was a patient care volunteer with Rainbow Hospice. She served on Illinois’ POLST Statewide Education Task Force, and is a certified Advance Care Planning Facilitator through the Respecting Choices program. In 2014 she was honored with Midwest’s Spirit Award.
Linda’s career experiences include clinical documentation, grant-writing, professional correspondence, frequent public speaking, and interactions with service providers, consumers and vendors. She currently serves on the Lake County Honor Flight Board of Directors and is a member of the Lake County Veterans & Family Services Foundation Community Partners Network. Prior to JourneyCare, Linda worked as the Director of Women’s Services with the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago and as Special Projects Coordinator at the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She holds: a MA in Public Administration from the University of Illinois (Springfield); a Certificate in Aging from the Institute for Geriatric Social Work at Boston University; a certificate in Business Management from Bradley University (Peoria); and a BS in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati.
CLAYTON THOMASON, JD, M.Div.
The Reverend Clayton L. Thomason, JD, M.Div. is the Bishop Anderson Endowed Professor of Religion and Ethics in Medicine and Chair of the Department of Religion, Health, and Human Values at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, where he directs chaplaincy services and programs in health care ethics.
From 1998-2006, he was Assistant Professor of Spirituality and Ethics in Medicine in the College of Human Medicine of Michigan State University, jointly appointed in the Department of Family Practice and the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences, and Adjunct Professor in the MSU College of Law. He was appointed by then-Governor John Engler in 2000 to serve as the bioethicist and Chair of the Michigan Commission for End of Life Care. He served as Chair of the ethics committee of Sparrow Hospital (Lansing, Michigan); on the Human Subjects Committees (IRBs) of Michigan State University, the Michigan Department of Community Health, and the Michigan Public Health Institute; and on the board of the Medical Ethics Resource Network (MERN).
Clayton Thomason is a graduate of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, the University of Southern California Law School, the University of California at Berkeley, and Simon’s Rock College. He has been a graduate fellow in bioethics at the Kennedy Institute for Ethics at Georgetown University and the Hastings Center in New York. He currently serves on the boards of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, the Chicago End-of-Life Care Coalition, and the Illinois POLST Taskforce. In 2011 he was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Medicine of Chicago.
Linda is a Community Organizer, Activist, Writer and E-Commerce Entrepreneur with a BA in Marketing. She is one of the co-founders of the Chicago non-profit, Bold Urban Renaissance Network, helping to establish the foundation’s arts grants and community outreach programs. Her writing has been published in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Reader, New City, Chicago Magazine, as well as numerous online outlets. Linda is certified by the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA) as an End-of-Life Vigil Doula and volunteers at local nursing homes in art therapy for the elderly.