Gary L. Glasser was elected Life Raft Group’s President of the Board of Directors. He had been Secretary-Treasurer from 2015 to 2022 and has been a Board member since 2013.
Glasser currently, and since 2020, heads up the Data Science and Strategy group for Birch Hill Equity Partners, a private equity firm located in Toronto. Prior to Birch Hill, Gary had a long career in investment banking and investment management, including as Head of Research for Lucidus Capital Partners and Caxton Associates, Head of Investment Banking for Utendahl Capital Partners, Co-Head of TMT High Yield Investment Banking for JPMorgan Chase, and Head of Business Services Investment Banking for Goldman Sachs.
Gary has an MBA from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Science (Applied Mathematics) Degree from Yale University. His personal dedication to the Life Raft Group is in honor of his father, Lawrence, who passed away due to GIST in October 2011.
“We aim to assure every GIST patient is educated to:
have a qualified GIST-specialist/ oncologist
understand treatment options
effectively manage side effects
live life to the fullest and maximize quality of life.”
Steve Pontell, Vice President
Steven has served as our volunteer attorney since 2017 and has been a valuable part of the LRG family since then.
Mr. Pontell is a member of the firm of Verde, Steinberg & Pontell, LLC, established in 1986, which maintains offices in Hackensack, New Jersey and New York City. He graduated from Tufts University in 1979 and obtained his JD from George Washington University National Law Center in 1982.
Steven concentrates his practice in the field of litigation and the firm provides diverse legal services for the business community. He is certified as a civil trial attorney by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, and is board certified in civil trial law and civil practice advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy; AV Preeminent Peer Review rated by Martindale-Hubbell and was voted a Super Lawyer for the years 2005-2022. Steven is admitted to practice law in New Jersey, New York, Washington, D.C
Quote: “As a new member of the Executive Committee of the Board, I look forward to being of service to the devoted officers, staff, Board members and volunteers at LRG, who support and enrich the lives of so many every day.”
Kay Stolzer, Secretary
Kay joined the LRG Board in March 2021 and was elected to the role of Secretary/Treasurer in March 2022.
She has been a very active volunteer in our LRG community. Kay is one of the original 8 GIST Mentors, a program that has grown to 32 global mentors, and has mentored over 220 patients and caregivers, since its inception in 2019. She was the facilitator of our women’s support group, “Living Well with GIST”, which featured guest speakers on relevant issues facing women.
In Kay’s earlier life, she was an administrator for a large physicians’ group. When her children were born, she transitioned to full time homemaker, and was a very active volunteer in her community, in various roles and organizations. Kay enjoys spending time with her husband, Ira, and visiting their children and grandchildren in New Jersey and Tennessee.
“Of any organization in which I’ve participated, Life Raft Group has been the most meaningful and impactful. I’ve been privileged to work alongside the kindest, smartest and most dedicated people with the purest mission: to make GIST patients’ lives better and find a cure for this rare cancer. “
Santy DiSabatino, Treasurer
Santy DiSabatino has been very active in our LRG community as a volunteer, serving currently as the Voluntary Director of the GIST Mentor program, and as a mentor.
Santy previously worked as an educator and administrator in a Maryland school system for 36 years. He loves spending time with family in South Carolina, Northern Virginia, and Tennessee. His favorite sports teams are the New York Yankees, New York Giants, and Philadelphia Flyers.
Quote: “I hope to continue to ensure the Life Raft Group maintains its patient centric approach and help all patients in need of care physically, mentally and emotionally.”
Jerry Cudzil, Past President
Jerry Cudzil served as Board President of the Life Raft Group from 2008-2022. His leadership guided the LRG through many changes as the landscape of rare cancer advocacy has evolved, always placing the GIST community first. His extraordinary fundraising efforts have contributed to the LRG’s research, support and education efforts.
Jerry began hosting our annual Night to Fight Cancer fundraiser in 2004 after his father-in law Bill was diagnosed with GIST. Bill has since passed away, but Jerry continues to hold this annual event in loving memory of him and to help raise awareness and support others with GIST.
Mr. Cudzil is a Specialist Portfolio Manager and Head of Credit Trading for TCWs. He was previously a Portfolio Manager for Dimaio Ahmad Capital, managing the multi-strategy credit fund and aviation fund and leading the firm’s risk management team.
Jerry began his career as a Corporate Bond Trader for Prudential Securities and has also traded investment grade and high yield debt for Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs. Mr. Cudzil earned a BA in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania.
John Abrams has been involved with the Life Raft Group for five years and is the state leader for Colorado. He additionally serves as a GIST mentor. He practiced dentistry for 35 years with an area of expertise in adult restorative dentistry highlighting esthetic restorations. He was honored by his peers as a Colorado 5280 Top Dentist. John retired from dentistry due to the side effects of Gleevec. In his “retirement” he is an equity partner in real estate investment and serves as a consultant for dental offices focusing on management and clinical skills.
John grew up in St. Louis and has lived in Colorado since 1975. He graduated from Miami University (Oxford Ohio) and the University of Missouri School of Dentistry.
He has always loved sports and teaching. As such, he coached youth soccer for 20 years on both the recreational and competitive levels and was on the board of directors for the largest soccer club in Colorado for 5 years. He also coached basketball for 10 years. When he was actively practicing dentistry, he was a consultant for the Department of Regulatory Agencies as it related to dentistry in Colorado.
As a long time GISTer and survivor of two other primary cancers, John hopes his story can be at least some inspiration to others on their own journey.
To quote John, “I also hope my insights into these battles allow me to contribute in a meaningful way to the board. Although I have always had exceptional support from family, friends and my medical community in Colorado (and elsewhere), my life has been enhanced by meeting and becoming involved with the Life Raft Group. The leaders and fellow GISTers I have become close with are just one more positive in my life. The mission and accomplishments of the LRG in advocating for people with this rare disease is overwhelming. I am very proud to become a board member. I only hope I can contribute in a meaningful way.”
Dr. Monica Anderson
Dr. Monica Anderson, or Dr. mOe, as she is known to her fans, is an inspirational leader who resides in Texas. Dr. mOe has spoken at Life Fest 2016, served as a spokesperson for our holiday campaign, and was the emcee at the 2020 Women in Sarcoma Gala which honored women who have made an extraordinary impact on the lives of sarcoma patients.
Dr. mOe is a dentist, author, speaker, and podcaster. She has served as a board member and volunteer to several nonprofit organizations and has a wealth of knowledge as a business owner and executive of a publishing company.
Since being diagnosed with GIST in 2012, she has actively worked to raise awareness about GIST. “I am honored to join the board as a GISTer who has directly benefitted from the work of the Life Raft Group for over a decade. I have been in healthcare for three-plus decades also. Each board member brings a unique, diverse perspective to the group. I hope my voice will add value to our mission and outcomes.”
Eric joined the Board in 2019. He brings his passion for supporting GIST patients and for finding a cure to his role as LRG Board member. Coupled with his extensive management consulting expertise and his direct experience as a GIST patient for the past fourteen years, he is an asset to our dedicated team. The unique parameters of his GIST case (SDH-B deficient GIST) reinforces the value of staying connected to the top specialists across this space.
Eric and his family, wife Jill, son Ryan and daughter Emma, reside in the Chicago area. He has dealt with multiple surgeries and has moved through several treatment lines. Fortunately, he has been treated by one of the country’s top GIST specialists. Eric has been on Stivarga for the past nine years, and he feels blessed and grateful to have been 14 years into his GIST journey. While the reality is that recent potential growth may require new systemic treatment, in addition to currently going through invasive liver interventional procedures, his affiliation with the LRG has been critical to have key contacts and GIST specialists.
Eric shared that he has been questioning, “What is the point of all this? What can I do to contribute, even if it is in a small way? Should I share my own experience? How can I have an impact?”
One of the impactful ways Eric has contributed to GIST research has been the donation of his tissue to Dr. Joshua Schiffman’s research project at Huntsman Cancer Institute. In fact, Dr. Schiffman presented Eric with an award when they met at ASCO back in June. Eric intends to spread the message to others about the importance of patients donating tissue as a small step that can lead to a cure by advancing research efforts. He was inspired by the work of our Pediatric & SDH-Deficient GIST Consortium, which made him more passionate about giving back.
Eric recognizes that there are many ways that he can be of help to other GIST patients: Participating on GIST Chat, becoming a GIST Mentor, sharing his experience and raising awareness and funds for research. His experience in his own journey dealing with drugs and their side effects could prove valuable to other patients navigating their own path.
Patricia Bonda-Swenson has been involved as an active member of Life Raft Group since her diagnosis with GIST in 2007. She has served as the NY State patient representative since 2008 and continues to serve as a GIST Mentor.
Pat has volunteered for many years for the LRG while still working full time in her 40-year plus career in the Trade Show and Architectural Interior industry.
Quote: “My hope, having just recently joined the Board of Directors, is that with my many years as the NY State patient representative and my time as a GIST mentor that I am able be bring fresh new ideas and a different perspective to the Board of Directors.”
Bill Bowegen comes to our Board after a successful career developing and managing programs and staff in the nonprofit world. He has an impressive fundraising track record of garnering over $30M in government and private foundation funds. His lobbying efforts both in Washington, DC and across the country have resulted in the passage of dozens of federal and state laws and regulations to protect healthcare and other service sector workers from on-the-job hazards.
Since his diagnosis, he has applied this same zeal combined with a strong scientific underpinning in public health to learn all he can about the latest developments in the field of GIST treatment and research, and how he can contribute to advance medical progress for both providers and patients.
Bill goes on to state: “As a new Board member, I hope to learn all I can from the the experiences of our long-standing board members and Life Raft’s incredible staff on how I can best contribute in laying a solid foundation for Life Raft’s continued success.”
Stan Bunn has been a member of the Life Raft Group Board of Directors since its infancy, being appointed the first President in 2002, and has been an integral part of creating the organization’s infrastructure.His passion for advocacy is in memory of his late wife, Ana-Maria Baldor Bunn, one of the first members of The Life Raft Group, who tragically lost her life at age 30.
Stan is the Director of Global Client Management and BST Data Sales for BST Global and is a member of the BST Global Executive Management team. Stan oversees a team of people worldwide, responsible for global sales, ensuring client satisfaction and helping client partners cultivate strong product adoption.
His 25+ years of technology experience spans multiple enterprise resource-planning applications and numerous customer relationship management solutions. Stan holds an International Business degree from Eckerd College and is a member of the Strategic Account Management Association (SAMA) and Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS).
Quote: “The LRG mission is vital to helping provide a support system to connect patients and caregivers with the latest science regarding GIST treatment and management.”
Thomas J. “Jim” Hughes attended Kenyon College, Ohio and Loyola University, Chicago where he earned a BA in Philosophy. Between schools Jim served as an officer in the United States Army in the US and Vietnam. Jim retired from the telecommunications industry after a 35-year career including positions in engineering, long-range planning, and marketing.
Jim and Margi are the parents of two children, Nancy and Jamie. Nancy Hughes Welsh (1967-2005) was an early member of The Life Raft Group (2002). Nancy was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma in 1991 at age 23. After ten years of surgery and chemotherapy Nancy was re-diagnosed with GIST in 2001. Nancy participated in the Phase Three imatinib trial in 2001 and the Phase Two sunitinib trial in 2003. Nancy’s GIST was eventually diagnosed as SDH epimutant.
Jim and Margi have continued to help facilitate the LRG Chicago chapter meetings since 2003. Jim serves as the Life Raft Group Clinical Trials Database Coordinator and is a founding member of the LRG Science Team.
What I hope to achieve by being on our board:
“From joining the board in 2005 I have sought the creation of a durable and lasting infrastructure that would support patients throughout their journey, and represent the patient’s viewpoint at all points in the translational process from research to development of a cure for GIST. I believe that infrastructure can support multiple GIST types as well as other rare cancers. At the heart of our infrastructure building process is the gathering and sharing of individual histories and information about our disease and care. Using our collective experiences, we will help each other and partner with providers, researchers, industry, legislators and regulators to help patients survive, thrive and see a cure for their disease.”
As an LRG member, Teena has been an advocate for GIST patients since joining the LRG in 2011, promoting GIST awareness locally, and participating in OVAC’s (One Voice Against Cancer) lobby day. She joined the Board in 2016.
As a GIST Patient, she is passionate about raising awareness about this rare disease, and about assuring that there is funding for continued research effort. “In the future, I look forward to interacting more with not only the board members, but also with the staff. They have done such a wonderful job of making sure we all continue as best we can. I am very proud to be a part of this group.”
Rodrigo Salas is one of the pioneers who helped established The Life Raft Group and to extend its international presence. Joining the Board in 2002, his guidance has led to the establishment of global cancer organizations such as Fundacion GIST Mexico.
His passion for patient advocacy comes from the tragic loss of his beloved wife, Cordelia, who lost her battle to GIST. The tenacity and determination that Rodrigo showed in seeking treatment for her has extended over the past twenty years to the entire global community.
Quote:” I would like to share my experiences working in Latin America with pharma and also advocating with health authorities to contribute to our goal of getting earlier diagnosis as well as access to better treatments for all our patients…. all in a more sustainable way. “