Gloria Searson, ACSW – Founder/President

Ms. Gloria Searson, ACSW is the founding Director and Executive Director of the Coalition on Positive Health Empowerment (COPE). She leads the organization’s efforts towards the eradication of viral hepatitis and empowers participants with knowledge and support. She helps people to actively participate in their health care. Her work is inspired by Gandhi’s statement, “to be the change that I wish to see in the world.” Her first-hand knowledge of living with HIV and Hep C has helped her relate to others with the same diagnoses including the fear, stigma and discrimination experienced amongst the underserved population.
Gloria is a native of Brooklyn, NY and attended SUNY Albany where she majored in political science and African American literature. She later attended SUNY Stoneybrook where she earned a master’s degree in Social Work. She has worked as a case worker, community organizer, elected community government official, Advocacy Relations Manager for a pharmaceutical company and served as the Administrative Director of North General Hospital’s HIV/AIDS Department of Special Services. This comprehensive health care facility was home to over 800 patient’s living in NYC and receiving mental health and medical care. Ms. Searson has been an HIV/AIDS treatment educator to over 15,000 individuals during her career.
Ms. Searson was published in December 2013 in the Liver International Journal and has had several abstracts presented at various international liver meetings and conferences. Her passion has led her to international speaking engagements as well as advocacy efforts including testimony before Congress and at the White House.

Board of Directors

Dr. Donald Kotler, MD  –  Medical Director

Dr. Kotler, MD is Professor of Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Chief of Gastroenterology at Jacobi Hospital Center in the Bronx, New York. Dr. Kotler received his BA from Rutgers College and his MD from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He completed specialty and sub-specialty training at the Bronx Municipal Hospital Center and at the University of Pennsylvania. A pioneer in the study of the gastrointestinal and nutritional complications of HIV infection and AIDS, Dr. Kotler has performed studies in this disease since the early 1980’s. Studies of the intestine included the initial description of the enteropathy of AIDS, direct infection of intestinal lymphoid cells by HIV, the role of the virus in promoting intestinal and systemic disease, and identification and treatment of other infectious complications. Nutritional studies have included investigations into the mechanisms by which HIV infection and disease complications promote malnutrition, treatments strategies to improve nutritional status, as well as studies in the pathogenesis and management of HIV lipodystrophy syndrome. More recently, he has been involved in studies to the management of patients with chronic Hepatitis C infections. Dr. Kotler has been Principal Investigator for numerous government and industry-sponsored studies and has worked collaboratively with investigators at the National Institute of Health, along with other national and international groups.

Marlene Taylor-Ponterotto, PA – Secretary

Marlene Taylor-Ponterotto is a primary care medical provider with over 27 years of experience working in the field of HIV and Hepatitis medicine. She is currently on the medical staff at Montefiore Center in the Bronx, NY where she was appointed in 2011, in the infectious Diseases clinic and provides primary care treatment to over 300 patients infected with HIV.
Her previous position as one of the top HIV/Hepatitis C providers in Harlem, NY was a result of over a decade of treating patients affected by this epidemic at North General Hospital in central Harlem, where she was on staff as the Special Services Clinic from the late 90’s until the hospital closed in 2010.
Her medical training began close to her home in the village of Harlem, where she graduated from Harlem Hospital’s Physician Associate program in 1981. Prior to this, she completed her undergraduate degree in Biology from Fordham University. She continued her education at Columbia University.
In addition to treating complex medical complication associated with HIV and hepatitis C, as her patients are living longer, the management of the challenging co-morbid conditions in communities of color, is seen in her patient population, such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, strokes, as well as substance abuse and STD’s.
She is passionate about the importance of education and advocacy, and has been the recipient of various awards and acclimations, The Harlem Healers Award, the 2009 Citation from the City of New York-Heritage Health-Communities of Color, The 2012 City of Mount Vernon-STEM Award, for outstanding women in science, Technology, Engineering and Math among others.

Janet Carter, LMSW – Board President

Janet Carter’s professional career in social services has been spent in a wide variety of roles including working in child welfare, youth development, chronic disease management, hospice and health education. Before relocating to the Washington, DC area to be closer to her family, she served as a Program Director for SMART, a non-profit in New York City, working with women and youth living with chronic diseases. She has previously worked with COPE as their Director of Policy. Currently, she is a Community Liaison with Right at Home and enjoys sharing her knowledge regarding living a healthy life at all stages. Originally born and raised in the metro Detroit area, Janet holds an undergraduate degree from Washington and Lee University in VA and her Master of Social Work from Columbia University.

Janet is honored to support COPE as part of their Board of Directors. In addition to her work with COPE and Right at Home, Janet is an Instructor at George Washington University School of Medicine as part of the Professional Development department and she volunteers at Metropolitan Washington Ear reading the newspaper for blind, visually impaired, and physically disabled people who cannot effectively read print.

Theresa Copeland – Board Secretary

A retired 1199 Union Legal Secretary, Theresa Copeland is now our Community Representative for COPE. Theresa, a peer educator since 2008, focuses on raising awareness of HIV and HepC treatment. Theresa understands the barriers to care faced by many patients. She seeks to help others understand the importance of self-advocating for a quality continuum of care. Theresa is a graduate of SMART University, HepC University, and holds certifications in Peer Recovery Education (PREP), Healthy Relationships, the WILLOW Program (Women Involved in Life Learning from Other Women), and the SISTA Plus Program. Theresa was an advocate for the ACRIA program, promoting HIV and HepC awareness in individuals aged 50 years and older. She was most recently a member of the Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn, and she continues to advocate for HIV and HepC awareness and healthcare empowerment in her Brooklyn community. Theresa is also very computer savvy and holds certifications in Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word.

Advisory Board

Dr. Andrew J. Muir, MD, MHS

Dr. Muir, associate professor of medicine and faculty member of the Duke Clinical Research Institute, leads the Gastroenterology and Hepatology Research group. Dr. Muir graduated from Duke University School of Medicine in 1993 and completed his training in internal medicine followed by gastroenterology at Duke. He also served as chief resident in internal medicine. After joining the faculty in 2000, Dr. Muir developed a career combining his clinical practice and clinical research. He helped develop the site-based program in clinical research for the Division of Gastroenterology with Dr, John McHutchison. Dr. Muir now leads that program. He has an impressive list of accomplishments and awards including the Golden Apple, the Eugene Stead Teaching Award, and the Joseph Greenfield Mentoring Award.’
As a faculty member at the DCRI, Dr. Muir’s main role to date has been as medical monitor for the worldwide trials in viral hepatitis. He has established an outstanding reputation in the role due to his ability to provide the clinical, logistical and regulatory support needed in a drug development program.
(Bio courtesy of Duke Clinical Research Institute website, www.dcri.org/directory/muir0002)

Staff

Kwame Thompson – Director of Operations

Yvette Robinson – Director of Care Coordination

Sandee Myles – Testing Coordinator

Janice Sweeting-Saud – Outreach Coordinator

Gail Brown- Advocacy Coordinator

Ibn Khalil Islam- Peer Outreach