Our Team

Ms. Gloria Searson, ACSW
Founding Director and Executive Director

Favorite Quote:

“Let’s move forward.”

My mother, Dorothy

Gloria Searson has over 25 years of professional experience working in the field of HIV and hepatitis C. She was employed by a leading organization in treatment education, NATAP for 10 years. Gloria went on to work with all types of populations including women, men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender persons, and seniors. Throughout her career, she worked as a treatment educator and director of treatment education, as an advocacy relations manager, supervised an HIV clinic serving over 800 patients, and as director of community health.

Gloria Searson formed COPE, the Coalition on Positive Health Empowerment, in 2010 after working as a supervisor at North General Hospital. Gloria is considered an expert in the field and has experience in public health, for-profit business, and nonprofit organizations giving her multiple perspectives in the field of HIV and HCV.

Affiliations and Acknowledgements:

  • Appointed to CDC/HRSA Advisory Committee on HIV, Viral Hepatitis and STD Prevention and Treatment in 2020
  • Appointed to the New York State Hepatitis C Task Force in 2018
  • Appointed by the Governor to the New York State AIDS Advisory Council in 2017
  • Keynote speaker at the World AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa in 2016
  • Keynote Speaker at the USCA in 2015
  • Named one of the Top Ten HCV Advocates of 2014 by HEP Magazine
  • Keynote Speaker at NMAC in 2014
  • Panelist at the 2014 International Conference on Viral Hepatitis
  • Published in Liver International in 2014 ‘Treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus infection in the United States: Some remaining obstacles’
  • Representative to the White House Viral Hepatitis Summit
Kwamè Thompson, MPH
Director of Program Operations

Favorite Quote:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”-

Marianne Williamson

Kwamè is the Director of Programs and Operations for COPE. Kwamè works to ensure COPE can meet clients in need of services in a neighborhood setting, and still achieve their health goals, without having to work in the confines of the medical-industrial complex. He enjoys data collection and logistical planning to help COPE efficiently offer services without wasted time and services. He has authored multiple papers on testing and treating patients throughout NYC. He believes in equitable health services for everyone absent of their personal beliefs or how the present.

Gail Brown
Director of Advocacy

Favorite Quote:

“Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” –

Emma Lazarus

Gail directs COPE’s advocacy efforts. She is passionate about supporting community health and wellness. She sits on health advocacy committees, coalitions, and boards throughout the NY metropolitan area in partnership with other community advocates.

Gail’s experience before joining COPE woke her calling of advocacy for others. She taught special education in NYC public schools in the South Bronx for 26 years advocating for the students for better conditions and outcomes. She also volunteered on the School Leadership Team and as Coordinator of Project Arts and the Attendance Committee. Gail was elected UFT Delegate and in Teachers Unite and United Playaz. Additionally, she was an adjunct professor at Long Island University and has worked as a provider of early intervention for autistic children. Her passion for social justice and equity led her to her anti-gentrification work helping to start the Bronx is Not For Sale organizing tenants to fight for fair housing.

Gail Brown graduated from Pratt Institute with an MFA and from City College with an MS.

Janice Sweeting
Outreach Coordinator

Favorite Quote:

“I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.”-

Maya Angelou

Janice is a dedicated and committed advocate and one of COPE’s core team members since the organization’s founding – stepping up where ever she is needed. She has been a program educator, support group facilitator, public policy advocate, outreach specialist, substance abuse counselor, and workshop facilitator.

Janice has worked as an HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C advocate and provider for over 25 years. With resilience, patience, wisdom, and love, she is steadfast and tireless in her efforts to address the disparities in health and health care she witnesses daily in her community.

Janice is also a member of the Cornell Clinical Trial Advisory Board, the New York HIV Planning Council Consumer Board, and assists her Imam as a representative to the African American Muslim Commission on HIV/AIDS.

She is a long-term survivor, having lived with HIV for over 30 years, and has also survived the tragedy of outliving her youngest son.

Escott Solomon
Testing Coordinator

Favorite Quote

“You ultimately judge the civility of a society not by how it treats the rich, the powerful, the protected and the highly esteemed, but by how it treats the poor, the disfavored, and the disadvantaged.” ~

Bryan Stevenson

Briana Cordero
Care Coordinator

Favorite Quote:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Jate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sandee Myles
Client Coordinator

Favorite Quote:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Jate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Divine Prince Allah
Peer Advocate

Favorite Quote

“You ultimately judge the civility of a society not by how it treats the rich, the powerful, the protected and the highly esteemed, but by how it treats the poor, the disfavored, and the disadvantaged.” ~

Bryan Stevenson

Pauline Edwards
Peer Advocate

Favorite Quote

“You ultimately judge the civility of a society not by how it treats the rich, the powerful, the protected and the highly esteemed, but by how it treats the poor, the disfavored, and the disadvantaged.” ~

Bryan Stevenson

Carlos Rosario
Wellness Warrior Coach

Favorite Quote

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

~ Gandhi

Carlos, born in Puerto Rico and raised in the Bronx, is a Multidimensional healer, also known as The Green Light Warrior. As a practitioner of healing arts, Carlos is a spiritual coach that focuses on a multidimensional approach to healing and wellness. A long-time LGBTQ activist, and creator of Atabexmen, a healing circle for men against patriarchy. One of his major goals is to empower marginalized communities of color and support individual transformation. He is a health justice advocate and organizer. His advocacy centers those who have experienced violence and raising resilience awareness around domestic violence. Carlos has mobilized more than 50 Bronx-based and statewide community organizations on LGBT, HIV/AIDS and health disparity issues. Dedicated to building people power Carlos has organized critical advocacy events at the local, state and federal level. His work focuses on direct wellness to support advocates and community wellness; with creative self-care programming and community forums. Carlos practices yoga, breathwork and sound healing. In his free time he enjoys reading and adding new practices to his spiritual toolkit. One book he recommends is ‘The Four Agreements’ by Miguel Ruiz. He is a vegan and often explores New York City vegan cuisine. His favorite quote is be the change you want to see in the world”

Letter from Gloria Searson, Founding and Executive Director of the Coalition on Positive Health Empowerment (COPE)

Dear Friends

I assume you have found your way to COPE because you, like me, understand and reject the idea that race, ethnicity, sex, sexual identity, age, disability, socioeconomic status, and geographic location often make it difficult for some of us to achieve good health. This seed of understanding is what inspired me to found COPE.

At COPE, we believe that everyone, regardless of life circumstances, should have the opportunity to be an agent of their own health and access to health care. We believe quality health care is a human right. This is the foundation of our mission and vision.

Day to day, our leadership, staff, board, and volunteers work to help individuals and communities living with chronic healthcare conditions address their unmet health management needs.

Our trans-disciplinary approach integrates community outreach, healthcare access, health literacy, and engagement services, as well as social and healthcare provider capacity building and health policy advocacy. We work across sectors and stakeholder groups to foster an environment of care that reduces health disparities and achieves optimal health outcomes. Our patient education and navigation models strive to make access to health care seamless. Our client-centered approach supports and develops patient self-agency to keep clients engaged in care until they achieve their treatment and care goals.

The work is not easy, but always rewarding. I hope that you will take this journey with us.

Warmly,

Gloria

Our Board of Directors

Donald Kotler, MD

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 on this disease since the early 1980s. 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 on 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-Ponterott, PA

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 as 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 ’90s 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 complications 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.

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.