The National Council of Visitors
The National Council of Visitors is a group of nationally and internationally respected leaders who are enthusiastically committed to support the MIND Institute’s mission of advancing research into the causes of and treatments for neurodevelopmental disabilities, and to ensuring superior patient care to individuals diagnosed with these conditions.
The council’s goals are to:
- Promote the MIND Institute nationally and internationally
- Initiate and contribute ideas, expertise and influence
- Strengthen relationships with diverse communities served by the UC Davis MIND Institute
- Secure support for the MIND Institute by making personal commitments and identifying others who can and will make a significant philanthropic gift to the Institute.
Director, UC Davis MIND Institute
Dr. Abbeduto’s research at the UC Davis MIND Institute focuses on the development of language across the lifespan in individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. His current projects focus on the factors accounting for variation in the course of language in children, adolescents, and young adults with fragile X syndrome, autism, or Down syndrome. These projects seek to identify the behavioral, biological, and environmental influences that shape language in these conditions.
Highland Park, Illinois
Lynda Canel is a resident of Highland Park, Ill. She and her husband Scott have two children, one who has fragile X syndrome. Lynda discovered the UC Davis MIND Institute Fragile X Research and Treatment Center during her ongoing search for the most leading-edge treatments for her daughter. Lynda also served for 10 years on the board of directors of the National Fragile X Foundation with MIND Institute Medical Director Randi Hagerman, through whom she became familiar with the MIND Institute and Randi and Paul Hagerman’s fragile X investigations. Lynda is committed to her daughter’s care and has made a personal philanthropic commitment to the MIND Institute to support fragile X research.
Chrysa Demos is a resident of Sacramento, CA. Her parents, Angelo and Sofia Tsakopoulos, established the Tsakopoulos-Vismara Endowed Chair, held by the Executive Director of the MIND Institute and are one of the MIND Institute’s Founding Families. Chrysa’s personal connection to the MIND Institute stems from her deep respect and admiration for Dr. Louis Vismara. Chrysa has been a longstanding, dedicated volunteer for the MIND Institute and is committed to supporting the philanthropic efforts of the MIND Institute. Chrysa serves as President & CEO of AKT Investments, the largest land development company in northern California.
Marji first learned of the MIND Institute while serving on the former UC Davis Medical Center Leadership Council. She later brought her son, Patrick, to the MIND Institute for an assessment after he had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. During that visit, with psychologist David Hessl, the Dunns learned that Patrick had dysgraphia, a learning disability. Hessl later visited Patrick’s school to provide education about the disability with school personnel and the district’s special education teachers.
Marji said she is looking forward to getting involved on the council and hopes to focus on community outreach. “I would like to be a support to parents,” she said. “When your child has a diagnosis, it’s scary, and you think you’re alone.“
Patrick is now 28 years old and doing well, Marji added, working as a drone pilot in Sacramento.
Eric Everson is a resident of Pleasanton, California. Eric is a Partner in the company he founded, MatchPoint Solutions. He and his wife Cindy have two sons who are young adults living with autism. Eric and Cindy have been involved with the MIND Institute since our founding in 1998. They are longtime parent advocates in the autism community raising awareness and funds for research and support programs. Eric is passionate and enthusiastic about the MIND Institute.
Elk Grove, California
Linette Gill is a resident of Elk Grove, CA and is a wife, mother of three children, a realtor and special needs advocate. Linette and her husband, Ed, have a personal connection and long history with the UC Davis MIND Institute. Their two sons were diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. Her passionate support for the MIND Institute stems from her personal journey and experience of caring for her sons and others with special needs. As a teacher’s assistant, Linette worked in the Elk Grove public schools. While working with Pre-K to 6th grade students in the Resource Center for Learning Disabilities, Linette supported students with autism as well as other learning disabilities. Linette has seen first-hand the benefits of early intervention for her sons and for countless other young people. Linette also understands it takes a village to support and fill this enormous need as families are approaching the adult transition phase. She shares the mission to bring families out of isolation and into collaboration with others to implement effective solutions. Linette is committed to the philanthropic efforts needed to support the UC Davis MIND Institute.
Gail Goldstein Heyman is a resident of Marietta, Ga., and is the president and co-founder of the Fragile X Association of Georgia. Her longtime career as a dental hygienist inspired her passion for service and community activism. Gail serves on several local and national boards and has been recognized by many organizations for her service. She and her husband, Lyons Heyman, Jr., became involved with efforts to support fragile X research when their adult son, Scott, was diagnosed with fragile X syndrome as a young boy. Through an interesting fusion of dentistry and medical research, Gail and her family made a unique personal contribution to fragile X research by donating her son’s extracted wisdom teeth for the purpose of stem cell research for fragile X syndrome. Gail enthusiastically shares the MIND Institute’s vision to uncover the causes of, and find new and more effective treatments for, neurodevelopmental disorders such as fragile X syndrome.
Myesha Jackson is a resident of Sacramento, California and serves as a Chief Consultant for the Assembly Human Services Committee, State of California. Her passion for the MIND Institute began when she worked with the state government and State Human Services committee and noticed their mission aligned with the UC Davis MIND Institute’s mission. Myesha is devoted and committed in being a part of fulfilling the mission of the MIND Institute.
Kristen Jordan is a resident of Sacramento, CA and a lifelong Aggie. Kristen graduated from UC Davis with a degree in sociology. Her mother was also a tenured faculty member at UC Davis Law School during her early childhood. Advocating for and with people with disabilities has been an ongoing and important part of her personal and professional life. Kristen has worked as a job developer for adults with disabilities, with independent living centers in the state of California and as a special education advocate. Her connection to the MIND Institute began during her personal journey towards finding a diagnosis for her son, who was eventually diagnosed with autism at the age of 4 ½. It was through his preschool and their connection with the MIND Institute that she was able to receive the support she needed to navigate the evaluation process, receive a diagnosis and subsequently obtain an Individual Educational Plan with the educational services and supports he needed at the time. The MIND Institute has continued to be a source of support, encouragement and resources for both Kristen and her son. In order to provide other families with the opportunity to benefit from the MIND Institute as she has, Kristen is a passionate champion in support of the mission of the MIND Institute.
Bronxville, New York
Larry is a resident of Bronxville, New York. He is the founder of the New York law firm Krantz & Berman LLP, where he currently represents public and private companies in both criminal and civil matters. Prior to founding Krantz & Berman, Larry was a federal prosecutor and has over thirty years of trial and appellate litigation experience. He has been involved in numerous high profile cases and has successfully tried a wealth of criminal and civil cases in federal and state courts. Larry’s relationship with the MIND Institute and Dr. Randi Hagerman, Medical Director and Endowed Chair in Fragile X Research, developed long ago from his own personal experience with fragile X syndrome. Larry is the father of a 17 year old son who has been diagnosed with fragile X syndrome. He also has a 19 year old daughter whose life has been affected by Fragile X. For many years Larry and his family have been generous supporters of the innovative fragile X research conducted at the Institute. Larry remains committed to supporting the mission of the MIND Institute and to help move forward the discovery of new and more effective treatments for fragile X syndrome and related neurodevelopmental disorders.
John Matthias is a resident of Roseville, California and serves as Controller at Capitol Administrators. He has one son who is a young adult on the autism spectrum. John is a disability advocate and active with other local autism organizations. His background includes extensive civic leadership and volunteer roles with the California State Senate, local and regional education committees and non-profits. John is an active parent and is very dedicated to the MIND Institute to further the advancement of autism research.
Yuba City, California
Gail Montna is a resident of Yuba City, California. Gail helps manage the family’s rice farm, Montna Farms. She and her family built a close connection to the MIND Institute after her grandson, who has autism was evaluated at the MIND Institute where he also attended several behavioral classes. Gail is very impressed with the MIND Institute’s work and is appreciative for their efforts on helping her grandson and other children living with autism and other neurodevelopment disorders. The Montna family has made a personal philanthropic commitment to the MIND Institute to further the advancement of autism research.
Robyn is a resident of Chico, California. The MIND Institute has provided medical care since 2006 for our son who is now 45 years old. As a result, his and our family’s quality has been approved enormously. Staff members of the MIND Institute have participated in the Autism Symposium at CSU Chico and provide guidance to their staff involved with the Autism Clinic. These are examples of the MIND’s commitment to reach out and educate. As a resident of Chico, our community and our family are forever grateful for the caring staff of the MIND.
Manhattan Beach, California
Carolyn and Neal Robb are residents of Manhattan Beach, Calif. He is a litigator specializing in defending financial services firms, handling large and complex litigation. They have a son who has been diagnosed with fragile X syndrome and autism. Neal is a former director and two-term president of the Fragile X Association of Southern California. Neal and Carolyn are very active in charitable organizations in their community and with the Manhattan Beach School District. They are committed parents who are dedicated to the mission of the MIND Institute to find the causes of and new and more effective treatments for neurodevelopmental disorders.
Jeff Savage is a resident of Sacramento, California where he serves as the President for the Sacramento River Cats. Jeff became involved with the MIND Institute after his son was diagnosed with autism. Jeff understands the value of the MIND Institute's dedication to families and has an interest in sharing information about the MIND Institute in the community and bringing more awareness to autism.
Lynbrook, New York
Shari Silver is a resident of Lynbrook, New York. When her son Justin was diagnosed in 2006 with fragile X syndrome, the one piece of advice she and her husband Brian heard consistently was “Get to the MIND Institute to see Dr. Randi Hagerman”. One year after receiving that diagnosis, we were able to bring Justin to the Fragile X clinic for a full evaluation with Dr. Hagerman and obtain a better understanding of how to help him. During that visit, we were so overwhelmed by the dedication and work being done in the area of Fragile X.
Since our initial visit, our family has established our own non-profit, Fly With Me Fund, so that families are able to travel to Fragile X clinics like the MIND, and we’ve been very involved with the National Fragile X Foundation.
The MIND is truly what keeps me hopeful for Justin’s future and for the greater Fragile X community. With initiatives leading to the development of effective treatments like Telehealth through the Big Idea Program and Dr. David Hessl’s iBehavior App, I, with my husband, proudly maintain a commitment to support the MIND Institute.
Granite Bay, California
Derek Smead is a resident of Granite Bay, California. He and his wife Kelly have two children, one of whom was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) at an early age. In searching for the best comprehensive care, Derek was advised by many to visit the NF/Ras Pathway clinic at the MIND Institute, which is managed by Dr. Katherine Rauen. Impressed by the approach and immense team the MIND incorporates into all its clinical care, Derek and his family shortly thereafter moved to the area and are now grateful their son is a patient of Dr. Rauen and the team of doctors within UC Davis Health. Derek is pleased to support and advocate for the MIND Institute and all the wonderful impacts it has on our community.
Michelle Montna Vogt is a resident of Davis, CA. She and her sister Nicole help manage their family’s rice farm, Montna Farms, located in Yuba City, Calif. The farm sits on land that has been in Michelle’s family since the 1800s. Michelle and her husband Casey have four children. At age 3, their son was diagnosed with autism and was evaluated at the MIND Institute. Today her son is an active teenager, who has participated in the MIND Institute social skills program, and is making great progress. Michelle and her family are committed to finding the best treatments and therapies for individuals with autism. To help support the advancement of autism research, the Montna family has made a personal philanthropic commitment to the MIND Institute.
El Macero, California
Lynn Volkerts is a resident of El Macero, California. Lynn’s passion for the MIND Institute stems from her two granddaughters who were diagnosed with autism and began beneficial treatments at the MIND Institute. Lynn is a retired cosmetologist and now serves as the president of her family’s foundation, the George and Lena Valente Foundation, which was created by her parents. Through Lynn and the foundation’s generosity, the MIND Institute has been able to expand autism research and their assistance to families in need of services. Lynn is actively invested in a goal to improve the lives of families dealing with neurodevelopmental disorders.
Albert Wang, M.D. is a resident of Fremont, California where he is an Internal Medicine doctor as well as the Chair of the Board of Directors at Palo Alto Medical Foundation. He is the Founder and Vice Chair of Friends of Children with Special Needs in Fremont, a school for children with special needs. Albert and his wife, Anna, are very engaged in the disability community and have been longtime advocates. Albert has three children --2 daughters and a son, who is on the autism spectrum. Through his experience as a parent, physician, nonprofit business leader and volunteer, Albert brings an insightful perspective to the Council.
Helen Zaccari lived in San Diego until 2007 when she was recruited to UC Davis as the Associate University Librarian for Administrative Services. Helen and her husband Frank are residents of Sacramento, CA. Her advocacy and passion for helping families affected by neurodevelopmental disorders grew out of her experiences with her son, Sean, who was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade. Helen quickly learned that not all schools and personnel are equipped to provide the support that students like Sean need to develop optimally. So, Helen took on a one-woman crusade to work with Sean’s schools to improve their understanding and skill in providing services to children with ADHD. She also has seen the benefits for students and families when school personal are compassionate and well versed in working with individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. Her experiences have solidified Helen’s commitment and passion for supporting the development of effective treatments, programs, and services for individuals with ADHD and their families.
MIND Emeritus Members
Viva Ettin, M.D., J.D.
Lou Vismara, M.D.