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Johannah Ruddy, M.Ed. | Chief Operating Officer & Executive Director

Johannah Ruddy, M. Ed. Executive Director

Johannah Ruddy is a GI patient advocate, educator, and national expert, researcher and writer on teaching communications skills to patients and providers. She currently serves as the COO and Executive Director of the Rome Foundation.

Ms. Ruddy has 23 years of executive leadership experience working with a variety of nonprofit organizations nationwide and a strong background in writing for patients as well as a speaker at GI practices, medical centers and conferences in the area of provider communication and patient advocacy.

Ms. Ruddy has authored and co-authored a dozen articles on IBS, navigating the health care system and the role of gender bias in health care published in Gastroenterology, Lancet Gastroenterology, Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology and the Journal of Crohns & Colitis. She has co-authored two books with Dr. Drossman: Gut Feelings- Disorders of Gut-Brain Interactions, A Guide for Patients and Doctors  and Gut Feelings: The Patient’s Story. Both are now available on Amazon. https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4989-6066

In addition, Ms. Ruddy co-founded the #TuesdayNightIBS community on Twitter, offering a place for both clinicians and patients to meet and discuss cases, symptoms and treatments for IBS in a safe and encouraging space. Finally, Ms. Ruddy hosts the podcast for Tuesday Night IBS and the Gut Feelings: with Dr. D and GI Jo podcast. Both are available on Apple, Amazon and Spotify.

Ms. Ruddy holds a BS degree from the University of New Mexico, a Master’s degree from New Mexico Highlands University and is a doctoral student in the School of Pharmacy and Health Science at Campbell University in North Carolina. Ms. Ruddy lives in Wake Forest, North Carolina with her husband of 22 years and their two grown sons.

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Mauricio Rojas, MD MPH | Senior Medical Program Administrator

Dr. Rojas joined the Rome Foundation in 2022 and currently serves as the Senior Medical Program Administrator, overseeing projects and initiatives for the Foundation. He works directly with the CEO and COO and brings a unique perspective to our programming as a physician and former administrator. His expertise in working with physicians in Latin America helps the Foundation to expand our interests and programs in these countries.

Dr. Rojas received his M.D. degree at the Juan N Corpas School of Medicine in Bogota, Colombia ,where he also served as instructor of Anatomy and Physiology. He completed his residency in General and Vascular surgery at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio De Janeiro (PUC), Brazil and later, non-invasive vascular training at the University of Washington in Seattle. After working for several years as an attending vascular surgeon and head of the vascular diagnostics services at the Palermo Clinic and the Bogota Vascular Clinic (co-founder), his interest in research led him to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he served as Director of the Experimental Micro-Surgical Models Core and Assistant Research Professor for the Department of Medicine.

During his time at UNC, he obtained his Master’s degree in public health leadership at the UNC School of Public Health. Most recently, he worked in the medical device sector as Director of Medical Affairs for a CRO in Durham, NC.

Dr Rojas currently lives in Chapel Hill, NC with his wife, where he enjoys his passion for reading, music, and enjoying time with family and friends.

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Mark Schmitter | Director of Marketing, Copyright & Licensing

Mark SchmitterMr. Schmitter joined the Rome Foundation in 2015 and manages all of Rome Foundations marketing campaigns as well as Rome Foundation’s Licensing and Copyright work. Mr. Schmitter was previously in account management and served as a consultant to several high profile marketing agencies. His expertise has been in the strategic development, creation and implementation of marketing campaigns for various pharmaceutical products including those in gastroenterology, oncology, and other areas. Additionally, Mr. Schmitter serves as contact person for academicians and industry sponsors with regard to international translations, licensing and bulk order sales. Mr. Schmitter lives in NJ with his family.

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Debra E. Wideman | Director of Finance

Ms. Wideman joined the Rome Foundation in 2018 as the Finance Director and is critical in all aspects of finance for the organization, overseeing AP, AR and financial compliance. Ms. Wideman is a native of Huntington, New York and has over 23 years of experience in finance, having worked for Citibank (Citigroup) in NY, MD, and DC in the financial sector of the Bankcard Division. Ms. Wideman moved to the Charlotte area in 2005 and has a long history of community service and work in the nonprofit arena providing financial and administrative support. Ms. Wideman spends her free time volunteering with local charities, church organizations and enjoys spending time with family and friends.

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Michelle Berry | Director of Sales, Exhibits & Education

Michelle BerryMs. Berry is the Director of Sales, Exhibits and Education for the Rome Foundation and joined the Foundation in 2018. Ms. Berry works directly with the Executive Director and supports the work of the Rome V Committees as well as the Rome Foundation Board Members. Ms. Berry manages multiple projects, exhibits, educational programs and other events, in addition to overseeing sales and responding to customer questions. Ms. Berry has a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Meredith College and previously worked as a preschool teacher throughout the Raleigh area. She is thrilled to expand on her skills in team work, planning and organization while impacting the lives of patients. Ms. Berry lives in Wake Forest with her husband and son.

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Tamieka Blair | Executive Administrator to CEO & Sales, Exhibits & Education Coordinator

Ms. Blair joined Rome in July, 2021 and works directly with the COO, CEO and the Director of Sales, Exhibits and Education to ensure that the educational programs and project metrics are achieved and that attendees and customers receive the highest level of service and care.

Ms. Blair is an experienced Sales, Marketing and Merchandising Specialist, having worked in healthcare in the field of dental and animal science. Through these experiences, Ms. Blair honed her administrative skills which ultimately led to Rome Foundation. With over 20 years of unique management training Ms. Blair has implemented her unique skill sets at various health care conventions, medical groups and retail outlets. Ms. Blair is a graduate of Long Island University in New York, currently lives in Long Island and often spends her free time reading and writing.

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Olafur Palsson, PsyD | Data Director, Rome Foundation Research Institute

Dr. Olafur Palsson

Dr. Palsson is responsible for the development, management and data analysis of RFRI projects. He is a Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a clinical psychologist and GI researcher with 25 years of experience in research on Disorders of Gut-Brain Interaction. He has expertise in the psychosocial and epidemiological aspects of DGBIs, questionnaire development for health research, hypnosis treatment for GI disorders, and Internet computer programming for large-scale electronic collection of health information. He was co-chair of the Rome IV Questionnaire Development Committee, and is the principal developer and manager of the Internet-mediated Investigator Platform (RFRI-IP) that the RFRI uses to collect data across research sites.

Jóhann Páll Hreinsson | Rome Research Institute Project Coordinator

Jóhann Páll Hreinsson

Dr Hreinsson is the Research Prroject Coordinator for the Rome Research Institute. He holds a medical degree from the National University Hospital of Iceland, graduating in 2014, In addition, he received his PhD the same year at the National University of Iceland. Dr. Hreinssin holds a Master in Applied Statistics in 2018 from the National University Hospital of Iceland. He currrently serves as a Specialist in Internal Medicine,  and is currently a post-doc and fellow in Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Iram Haq, MPH | Research Coordinator, Rome Foundation Research Institute

Iram Haq, Rome Research Institute, Research AssistantMs. Haq coordinates research projects with the RFRI and is administrator for the copyright and licensing committee of the Rome Foundation. She is passionate about improving the lives of other through the scope of research and has been involved in research her entire career across various parts of the globe, including the U.S, Pakistan, Dubai and Singapore. Most recently she worked for the Harvard Medical School Center for Global Health Delivery in Dubai where she provided support to several studies promoting global health delivery in the MENA and South Asia region. Prior to this, Ms. Haq held the position of Research Assistant at the Lab of Eric Kandel at Columbia University specializing in neuroscience and schizophrenia research. Ms. Haq holds a Master’s in Public Health from John Hopkins University, a Master’s in Neuroscience from Columbia University and a BS in Psychology from the University of Connecticut.
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Carolyn Morris, MPH | Biostatistician, Rome Foundation Research Institute

Carolyn Morris earned a BA in Biology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1990, an MPH with a focus in Epidemiology from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in 1994, and an MPH with a focus in Biostatistics from the University of North Carolina in 2001.   She has since spent 20 years involved in clinical trials in both academia at the University of North Carolina and for private industry at IQVIA.  During this time, she has participated in all facets of clinical research, including  study design, questionnaire design, helping create the statistical analysis plan, data collection, database management,  and all stages of statistical analysis using a wide range of programming skills.  She currently lives in St. Louis MO with her husband.  She enjoys running, yoga, and cooking, and would solve crossword puzzles for a living (moonlighting with number and other word puzzles) if possible.

Claudia Rojas
Latin American Coordinator

Jerry Schoendorf
Medical Illustrator

Eric Chapman
IT Director

Davis Stillson
Videographer

Davis Stillson, Videographer

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