Kristen Barnfield, Partner, Change for Balance
A writer at heart, Kristen Barnfield is an experienced strategist and communicator, with over 20 years of experience executing successful branding efforts, internal/external communications, digital and integrated marketing, corporate development, fundraising, crisis work, entertainment and influencer relations. She relishes bringing important causes to life, refining the voice, clarifying complex issues, and finding entertaining and emotional ways to reach expanded audiences and compel them to act. Prior, Barnfield was Easterseals’ Vice President of Communications where she was part of the national executive team, collaborating on its business and directly supporting senior staff and the CEO in all communications. She proudly served as the media point, guiding Easterseals rebranding, campaigns, and thought leadership efforts, while developing brand ambassadors and marketing staff nationwide. Today, she is a volunteer Board of Directors member for her local Easterseals affiliate. Barnfield started her career with a long stint at Edelman where she fell in love with Easterseals and the disability inclusion cause. Together with Judi Ketcik, the two pitched and won the new Easterseals account, essentially changing their careers and setting a path to partners.
Barnfield splits her time between Chicago, IL, with her husband Chad, and their Boston Terriers, and Southern California. She jokingly refers to herself as a wine connoisseur, runs the occasional marathon, and offers up good book ideas.
Sarah Buchanan, Senior Director, Federal Government Relations and Health Policy, National Psoriasis Foundation
Sarah Buchanan is the Senior Director of Federal Government Relations and Health Policy at the National Psoriasis Foundation. Sarah is a patient advocacy veteran with over 12 years of experience, including six years as an appropriations lobbyist.
Emily Carroll, JD, Senior Attorney, American Medical Association
As a Senior Attorney for the American Medical Association’s Advocacy Department, Emily Carroll, JD, provides legislative, regulatory and policy support to state and national medical specialty societies. Her work centers on commercial payer practices and state health insurance reform. Carroll works in collaboration with medical associations and other stakeholders across the country to help shape and inform health insurance policies in support of patients and physicians. Prior to joining the AMA, she worked as the Legislative Director at the law firm Powers, Pyles, Sutter and Verville, P.C. in Washington, DC., representing health care and disability provider organizations.
Michaeleen Crowell, Principal, S-3 Group
Michaeleen Crowell’s legal training, decades of work on Democratic political campaigns, and extensive government service in the House, Senate, and Democratic leadership in both bodies gives her a unique perspective on policymaking, communications, compromise, and strategy. She served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Bernard Sanders for five years after serving four months as his Legislative Director. Most recently, Crowell served as Senior Advisor to the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign where she was his principal advisor on all policy, political, communications, administrative, and strategic initiatives and focused on economic equality and fairness, strong safety nets, democracy preservation, solutions for global warming and renewable energy, and expanded care for Veterans. She has led the development of a full-scale media center that has set the standard for Congressional member use of social media and video to educate the American people. Under her leadership, Senator Sanders’ social media communications reach over 25 million people each week, and the large-scale, town-hall-style webcast productions of the office have reached as many as 1.7 million live viewers at one time.
Crowell served as legal counsel for a successful mayoral and congressional campaign in Georgia before returning to Washington as Legislative Director for Congresswoman Denise Majette (GA-4) for two years, and then as Legislative Director for civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) for eight years. During her time with Congressman Lewis, she worked on civil rights and voting rights legislation and on health policy with a primary focus on the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, health disparities, kidney disease, and community health centers.
Crowell is a graduate of Boston University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and received her doctorate’s degree from Boston University School of Law in 1999. She currently lives in Washington, DC, with her husband James and two children.
Gabriel Escontrías, Jr., EdD., Managing Director, Division of Diversity and Health Equity, American Psychiatric Association
Dr. Gabriel Escontrías, Jr., is the Managing Director for the Division of Diversity and Health Equity at the American Psychiatric Association. Over the span of his 20-year career, he has served in various higher education and public health professional capacities, with a commitment to increase diverse, inclusive, and equitable pipelines to postsecondary education, health care, and workforce opportunities. In his career, he has served as the Program Director for Outreach and Operations at the University of Arizona Cancer Center, where he led the development of a culturally sensitive educational community outreach program targeting Hispanics/Latinos, American Indians, African Americans, and LGBTQ+; vulnerable communities disproportionately impacted by cancer related health disparities. As an educator and proponent for student success, he is shaping future servant leaders in his role of Faculty Associate at Arizona State University Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. A champion for diversity and inclusion, Dr. Escontrías has collaborated with partners like President Barack Obama’s White House Council on Women and Girls and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. He has also served with A Stepping Stone
Foundation, the Chicano/Latino Faculty & Staff Association at ASU, and as a Citizen Member of the Phoenix Police Department Use of Force & Disciplinary Review Board. His service and work were recognized thorough the MLK Diversity Award in Education by the Tempe Human Relations Commission, as one of 40 Hispanic Leaders Under 40 in Arizona. He was also awarded the 2013 Excellence in Diversity Award from the Committee for Campus Inclusion at ASU.
Dr. Escontrías earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Chicana/o Studies, a Master of Education and Doctorate in Education.
Eliot Fishman, Director, Policy and Programs, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Innovation Center
Eliot Fishman has served as the Director of Policy and Programs with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Innovation Center since February 2023. He has published extensively on health policy and health reform and has wide-ranging experience in this space, spanning federal and state government, the private sector, and nonprofit service delivery. Most recently, Fishman was the Policy Director at Families USA, a health care advocacy organization based in Washington DC. Prior to that role, he served as the Director of the State Demonstrations Group and the Children and Adults Health Programs Group at CMS; Director of the Office of Policy in the New Jersey Department of Health; Principal at Health Management Associates; and Vice President of the Metropolitan Jewish Health System, a large, nonprofit integrated delivery system in New York.
Sally George, Director, Change for Balance
Sally George brings a creative edge to brand-building, storytelling, and donor initiatives with over 20 years of experience mobilizing people and partners to take action on important causes. She joins the Change for Balance team as a communications expert and client leader in engagement initiatives. As a founding partner of Swell Marketing Group, a former cause marketing company for consumer brands and non-profits, George developed award-winning brand initiatives, leveraging corporate assets to raise funds and expand solutions for some of the world’s most pressing social issues. She has experience creating national programs for franchise-owned and affiliate organizations like Dairy Queen, Dunkin’ Brands, Yum! Brands, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Prior to Swell, she led the Taco Bell Foundation, transforming the organization into a national fundraising and grantmaking arm, engaging 300 franchise partners and over 6,000 stores to raise millions in support of at-risk teens. Her work included national partnerships, awareness campaigns and events with celebrity ambassadors, MTV and professional sports franchises such as MLB and NBA. Earlier in her career, Sally held senior roles at top PR firms in Chicago, along with the Entertainment Industry Foundation, fueling her passion for social impact initiatives.
George resides in Sacramento, CA, with her husband Patrick and three children.
Anna Hyde, Vice President of Advocacy and Access, Arthritis Foundation
Anna Hyde is the Vice President of Advocacy and Access at the Arthritis Foundation. She oversees both the federal and state legislative programs, in addition to grassroots engagement. Her focus is to raise the visibility of arthritis as a public health priority, build support for federal and state legislation that ensures access to affordable, high-quality health care, and enhance patient engagement in the policy-making process. Hyde previously served as Senior Director of Advocacy and Access, managing the federal affairs portfolio and overseeing the state advocacy team.
Prior to joining the Arthritis Foundation in 2014, Hyde worked as Senior Manager for Federal Affairs at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, where she managed a portfolio of issues including appropriations, physician workforce, and health IT. She began her health policy career as a Congressional Fellow for Energy and Commerce Committee members, where she drafted legislation and staffed Committee activities. Anna received a bachelor’s degree in history from Southern Methodist University and taught junior high and high school history before moving to Washington, DC, in 2007 to pursue a master’s degree in political science from American University.
Jelani Murrain, Director, Federal Relations, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Jelani Murrain is currently the Director of Federal Relations at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). He manages ACS CAN’s Access to Care portfolio.
Murrain has over 15 years of public sector experience in health care law and policy, including three years on Capitol Hill and 10 years at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Most recently, he served two years with the Government of the District of Columbia as an Executive, implementing access-to-care health policy. Murrain began his career as an aide to Senator John D. Rockefeller IV where he managed matters within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. He has also worked at the Health Resources and Services Administration, where the 340B Drug Pricing Program was a part of his portfolio. He continued his work with HHS at the Medicare Drug and Health Plan Contract Administration (Medicare Advantage).
Murrain has three children. He enjoys traveling, golf, and coaching youth baseball.
Anna Palmer, Founder & CEO of Punchbowl News, Former Co-Author of POLITICO Playbook
Widely respected for her unparalleled insights and analysis from the forefront of American politics, Anna Palmer is a trusted voice on the latest — and most accurate — news on congressional leadership, the lobbying industry, presidential campaigns, and the politics of governing for more than 15 years. She is the co-founder and CEO of Punchbowl News, a news community focused on power, people, and politics in Washington. Named after the Secret Service’s nickname for the Capitol, the company covers congressional leadership and the White House, and tracks the industries and companies trying to influence them.
Exclusively represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau, Palmer offers forthright, nonpartisan analysis filled with colorful anecdotes about the powers at play when it comes to politics and policy from inside the nation’s capital. Her unique insights come from close to two decades covering Congress, political campaigns, and the White House, and being a perennial presence in the Washington press corp. With her ear to the ground on what’s going on in Washington, Palmer possesses strong connections and access to the highest offices in the nation and is an expert
on the policies, players, and personalities shaping politics today.
From 2016 to 2020, Palmer worked alongside fellow Punchbowl News co-founder Jake Sherman to co-author the top-rated POLITICO Playbook franchise. Together, they chronicled President Donald Trump’s first term and his relationship with top Congressional leaders. Under their leadership, the platform more than doubled in revenue and tripled its readership. They also created a widely acclaimed daily podcast, afternoon newsletter, and event series featuring interviews with movers and shakers in business and politics from across the country about pressing issues of the day. Palmer joined POLITICO in 2011 and was the publication’s senior Washington correspondent. She also led Women Rule, POLITICO’s nation-leading platform aimed at expanding leadership opportunities for women, and hosted the critically acclaimed “Women Rule” podcast.
Prior to POLITICO, Palmer covered House leadership and lobbying as a staff writer for Roll Call, and got her start in Washington journalism as a lobbying business reporter for the industry newsletter Influence. She has also worked at Legal Times, where she covered the intersection of money and politics for the legal and lobbying industry, first as a staff writer and then as an editor.
In 2019, Palmer and Sherman authored The Hill to Die On: The Battle for Congress and the future of Trump’s America, which told the inside story of Congress in the first two years of the Trump Administration and was an instant New York Times and national bestseller. Trevor Noah, the former host of The Daily Show, said the book turned “Congress into a Game of Thrones book.” In addition to being a high-profile reporter and bestselling author, Palmer has spoken and moderated conversations at the World Economic Forum, the Milken Institute Global Forum, UN General Assembly, Aspen Ideas Festival, Texas Tribune Festival, and SXSW, and is a frequent political commentator on CNN, Fox News, NBC, and MSNBC.
Nishith Pandya, Director, Federal Relations, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Nishith Pandya is Director, Federal Relations at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network focusing on FDA and tobacco isues. Prior to joining ACS CAN, Nishith spent nearly 16 years on Capitol Hill working for former Rep. Bobby L. Rush (IL-01) where he was most recently Chief of Staff. While in Rep. Rush’s office, Nishith worked on a variety of issues focusing on the Energy and Commerce Committee, including legislative and regulatory efforts to limit menthol and other flavors in tobacco products, e-cigarettes and the role of environmental pollution and tobacco use on asthma rates. Nishith also led Rep. Rush’s legislation on prostate cancer prevention and insulin affordability. Nishith is from the Chicago, Illinois area and a proud alum of the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign.
Martin G. Reiser, Principal, S-3 Group
Martin “Marty” Reiser most recently served as Policy Director for House Minority Whip Steve Scalise. He has had a long career in government focused on health care, tax, trade, pension policy, and financial services. He was the lead policy staff for the House Republican Whip operation on major legislation since 2014, including Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), Tax Cut and Jobs Act, USMCA, CARES Act and all COVID-related legislation, the American Health Care Act, Budget Reconciliation, tax extenders, multi-employer pension plan reform, 21st Century Cures, and Opioid bills. He also directs all coalition efforts for the House Republican conference, including outreach to business community, trade associations, issue advocacy groups, and state and local governments. Since May 2020, Reiser has held the positional role as chief health policy advisor for the minority on the Select Subcommittee on the Corona Virus Crisis. In that role, he worked daily with the CDC, FDA, HHS, the White House, Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and small business communities on oversight issues related to the federal government’s response to COVID.
Prior to joining the Whip office, Reiser served as professional staff for the House Ways and Means Committee Health Subcommittee (Majority) where he was
responsible for health care issues impacting private insurance, employers, taxes and the economic impact of health policy, legal issues, and Medicare Secondary payer policies. Reiser has served as a manager of government policy for Xerox Corporation, chaired the National Coalition on Benefits, and served as a Chief of Staff and associate to the Budget Committee for Rep. Dan Miller (R-FL). He has served as a staff member of the Minority leader’s task Force on Health during the legislative debate over the Health Security Act, led staff for the Medicare Communications Group during the debate over the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, and served as Vice President of Public Policy for Citizens for a Sound Economy.
Reiser began his career at the U.S. Department of Commerce. He holds a law degree from George Mason University and a master’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University. He earned a BA from Holy Cross.
Natasha Silva, Senior Director, Federal Government Relations, National Mutiple Sclerosis Society
Since 2022, Natasha Silva has served as the Senior Director of Federal Government Relations at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, leveraging her experience in federal government and a deep personal connection to the cause — her aunt’s ongoing battle with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Silva has served as a Legislative Assistant for Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (MA-8) and later as a Legislative Director for Congressman William R. Keating (MA-9). Her tenure on Capitol Hill was marked by a dedicated focus on health, defense, and transportation policy, as well as federal appropriations.
A proud native of Massachusetts, Silva is a graduate of Bridgewater State University, where she majored in political science, and holds dual master’s degrees in political science and public administration from Suffolk University.
Amanda Grimm Wiegrefe, Director, American College of Rheumatology
Amanda Grimm Wiegrefe is Director of regulatory affairs for the American College of Rheumatology. In this role, she is responsible for all activities and policies within the Executive Branch, including CMS, FDA, CDC, NIH, and the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Wiegrefe works on issues related to physician reimbursement, biosimilars, drug pricing, and other access to care policies. She has over 15 years of experience working with several specialty societies, including dermatology, psychiatry, and cardiothoracic surgery.
Wiegrefe has a Master of Science in Health Sciences in Regulatory Affairs, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a Public Policy focus from the George Washington University.