Prior to working in marketing/public relations, Sumaira worked as an actress/model in Bangladesh & India starring in numerous music videos, a documentary, and was the lead actress in an English-language independent film. She is also a classically-trained Kathak dancer and has performed at Madison Square Garden, Kodak Theatre, and the Rudolf Steiner Theatre. In 2010, Sumaira earned her bachelor’s degree in public relations from Boston University’s College of Communication. In the same year, she launched her lifestyle blog – Flower: The Converted Bostonian – essays covering topics ranging from relationships to restaurant reviews to relapses in her health.
In the summer of 2014, Sumaira was diagnosed with sero-negative neuromyelitis optica/CRION. Shortly after, she founded The Sumaira Foundation for NMO geared towards generating global awareness and finding a cure for neuromyelitis optica. In 2015, Sumaira became the 1st Miss Bangladesh-USA advocating for equal opportunity education for the children of Bangladesh in efforts to increase tolerance and strengthen the country’s international presence, economy, and infrastructure.
Brian Quinn, Chief Development Officer
Melissa Herman, Chief Communications Officer
Melissa lives in New York City and spent six years in the disruptive FinTech industry before joining NationSwell, a social impact media company. She has always been passionate about bringing together like-minded people in innovative ways. During her previous role at LinkedIn, Melissa was inspired by the company’s vision to provide economic opportunity to every professional in the global workforce and was accepted as a Founding Member of Escape the City NYC; Escape is a global movement focused on connectivity and the creation of meaningful 21st century careers. Melissa focuses on the Foundation’s content strategy and helped coordinate events like Light[Up] at Linked[In] hosted at the iconic Empire State Building. She earned her BA in Public Relations and Communications from the University of Rhode Island.
Gabriela Romanow, Chief Community Relations Officer
Gabriela first became invested in neuromyelitis optica when her son was diagnosed with the disease in 2014. Since then, she has volunteered her time and efforts towards raising significant funds for NMO research and development. Gabriela’s philanthropy is not just limited to NMO. She’s also served as a director of the Lenny Zakim Fund for the past 15 years, spearheaded a campaign to renovate Brookline Public Library (MA) raising over $4.5 million, led development and communications at ACCION International for a dozen years, and organized “Dining for NMO” alongside MasterChef Season 3 winner, Christine Ha. Gabriela, Parent Advocate of The Sumaira Foundation for NMO, serves as our Community Outreach Manager & Liaison to NMO organizations worldwide.
Dean Cestari, MD
Stephan Kadauke, MD, PhD
Marcelo Matiello, MD
Samir Melki, MD, PhD
Dr. Melki is an ophthalmologist specializing in cornea & refractive surgery. He completed a fellowship in Cornea and Refractive Surgery at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) in 2000. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the American University of Beirut, an MD PhD from Vanderbilt University, and completed his Ophthalmology residency at Georgetown University. In 2000, he founded his academically-oriented multi-specialty practice – Boston Eye Group / Boston Laser. He has performed more than 11,000 refractive procedures since 1998. He’s also been on faculty at MEEI’s Cornea service. Dr. Melki has published three textbooks, designed several surgical instruments, was the first surgeon to implant a phakic IOL in Boston, and was the fIrst person to implant a device during cataract surgery to wirelessly measure intraocular pressure in a patient with glaucoma. Dr. Melki developed the “Potential acuity pinhole”: a simple method to measure potential visual acuity in patients with cataracts. Another area of research is a novel crosslinking method using Rose Bengal Dye instead of Riboflavin to induce corneal collagen crosslinking. This may allow a safer and shorter procedure time in treating patients with corneal ectactic disorders. More recently, he developed and validated a surgical checklist to minimize human errors during laser vision correction.
Sabrina Ahmed, Creative
Sabrina earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and religion from Rutgers University. She currently works in ecommerce operations as the Creative Producer at BulbHead.com in New Jersey. In addition to working in supply chain, Sabrina is the proud owner and lead art instructor of Morristown’s premiere “paint & sip” studio, Sabrina’s Art Studio. In 2014, Sabrina launched her brand, “Icons Boutique” through which she designs jewelry and ready-to-wear apparel while financially supporting orphanages in developing countries. Sabrina acts as the foundation’s New Jersey representative and Creative Advisor.
Cynthia Cicchese, Events
Cynthia is partner and manager of ABEO Med Spa located in the Hingham Shipyard. Cynthia has committed her life to health & wellness. In her spare time, she immerses herself in nutrition, yoga, and barre. She has played a crucial role in the development of The Sumaira Foundation for NMO and acts as an advisor in event planning.
Christopher Lee, Accounting
Christopher is a licensed CPA living and working in Boston. In 2011, he graduated from Bryant University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Since then, he has worked for prestigious firms including BDO. Chris is one of the founding members of The Sumaira Foundation for NMO and is responsible for managing the organization’s accounting and finances.
Mary McAlary, Health & Wellness
Mary is a certified holistic health coach, founder of New Day One Life Nutrition, a healer, a mother, and a grandmother. Mary is in better shape today than she was 11 years ago when she was diagnosed with MS – and everyone who has ever met her wants to know how. She is author of Go Green for Wellness, a user-friendly handbook of healthy life essentials with delicious and simple recipes for smoothies, juices, and dishes for every day – because “good food is the most potent prescription for optimal health” – and coauthor with George Foreman III, of the motivational book The Fighting Spirit: The Art of Winning Your Fight. Mary recently joined the advisory board and will be acting as a Nutrition & Wellness Advisor.
Lauren Paige Michaels, Public Relations
Lauren Michaels is a Senior Account Executive at a leading, full integrated PR agency in Boston. Lauren has worked in strategic communications, public relations, and reputation management since graduating Boston University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in communications. She advises the foundation’s staff to secure exposure for Neuromyelitis Optica through strategic media and social placements. Lauren is well-known for connecting people and is a vital asset as The Sumaira Foundation for NMO builds its partnerships. In her spare time, she enjoys exercising, reading the news, and spending time with family and friends.
Greg Santos, Legal
Greg’s practice involves corporate transactions for companies ranging from high-growth startups to investment vehicles to real estate trusts. Greg’s years of startup experience as co-founder of a high-tech jury consulting company and as co-founder of a music intelligence application (SteroPill, acquired 2013) inform his practice and his role as a business partner. A graduate of Boston University School of Law, Greg regularly deals with a variety of corporate matters including venture capital investments, software licensing agreements, and protection of intellectual property. In his spare time, Greg sits on the Board of Directors of The Sumaira Foundation for NMO, volunteers with Community Rowing’s Adaptive Rowing program, and grills a mean steak.