Our Team

Elizabeth Schumacher, JD
CEO
Elizabeth Schumacher has represented health care clients for 20 years, including international, national and state medical and specialty associations, regional and national academic medical and hospital systems, health insurers, long-term care, and the pharmaceutical industry. Liz has a unique ability to authentically engage strategic stakeholders and build comprehensive alliances and audiences, which is supported by her executive experience managing legislative and public relations, legal affairs, business planning, clinical research and health policy. Prior to Affinity Strategies, Liz was Executive Director of LUGPA, a national urology subspecialty association with over 2400 members. As senior legislative attorney for the American Medical Association, Liz managed nationwide health insurance public policy development and Affordable Care Act rulemaking. While at Pfizer, Liz developed and implemented strategic stakeholder engagement on key issues, including specialty tiers, access to medications, biologics, Medicare. Liz began her career at age 26 at the University of Wisconsin, where she was responsible for the third largest academic medical research budget in the United States. Recent speaking engagements include the American Association of Medical Society Executives, University of Wisconsin Law School, Chicago-Kent Law School, Federal Executives Institute, Ellevate, American Medical Association, Coalition of State Rheumatology Organizations, URO GPO, American Society of Anesthesiologists and International Society of Musculoskeletal Imaging in Rheumatology. Liz is a third generation Badger and received her Law and Bachelors degrees at the University of Wisconsin. Liz enjoys cooking, baking, time with family and friends and walking her Olde English Bulldogge, Brit, in the woods.

Cayla Marconi
Chief of Staff, Executive Director
Cayla Marconi is Chief of Staff and Executive Director with Affinity Strategies. She joined the team in 2016. In addition to her association client work, Cayla also oversees staff training, ensuring that every new member of our team understands the fundamentals of association management and how we do it the Affinity Strategies way. Cayla's sense of humor, hard work ethic and positive attitude bring great assets to the Affinity team and its clients. Prior to joining Affinity, Cayla was an Account Manager with a global logistics firm, where she managed global shipping, logistics and business development. Cayla received her degree from Western Illinois University. In her spare time, she helps foster rescue dogs and enjoys exercise and socializing with her friends and family.
Sarah White
Controller
Sarah serves as Controller for AS. She has held a CPA certificate since 1999 and has experience in public accounting and working within both the public and private sector. In her role, Sarah works directly with clients on their financial needs, oversees all accounting functions, and supports AS operations. She is particularly proficient with budgeting and analytics, and has a strong working knowledge of QuickBooks and related tools used by many small organizations. Sarah enjoys time with her husband, children, and family, Loyola sports and cooking. Sarah received her BBA from Loyola University Chicago.
Amy Owens, A.M.
Executive Director, Association Management
Amy Owens, A.M., joined Affinity Strategies in 2018 as Executive Director. Amy has an extensive background in advocacy and association management having represented state and national medical and allied health care associations for over a decade. While at the Illinois State Medical Society, Amy served as Legislative Director for six medical specialty state associations. She also simultaneously served as Executive Director for the 300-physician member Illinois Dermatological Society as well as the 1,300-physician member Illinois Psychiatric Society working directly with the Board of Directors within both societies to advance their respective strategic goals. In 2005, Amy joined the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) as Government Relations Manager where she organized a national grassroots advocacy effort on behalf of AMTA’s more than 60,000 members for the passage and preservation of massage therapy professional licensures in all fifty states. Amy provided leadership, counsel and training on all legal, regulatory and grievance matters of importance to the association. Amy is an entrepreneur as well. In 2017 she founded Home Retreat, an artisan and Fair Trade home décor and accessory gift shop located in Geneva, Illinois. Amy received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Spanish from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. She earned her Master of Arts degree in Social Service Administration with a concentration in Health Care Policy and Administration from the School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago. Amy lives in Geneva with her husband, their two wonderful children and dog Bailey. Amy enjoys reading, volunteering and spending time with her family.
Kelly Kraines
Executive Director, Association Management and Director, Continuing Education and Design
Kelly Kraines has over twenty years experience in the medical education arena in both corporate and non-profit settings. She has worked to create live and enduring activities over a broad range of therapeutic categories and also has strong experience with CME/CE guidelines, educational tools, and instructional design. Her expertise is with live CME/CE meeting/events and enduring web-based activities that create new, interactive educational offerings that engage learners in many different ways by using adult learning principles. Currently, she is responsible for establishing Learning Management Systems, ensuring that staff members and those responsible for continuing medical education content are fully aware of and compliant with all CME/CE department policies and requirements and for ensuring adherence to all regulatory guidelines. Kelly is an active member of the continuing education community, serving as the 2015-2016 President for the Illinois Alliance for CME (IACME), was an ACEhp mentor, served on the membership taskforce for the ACEhp and volunteers as an ACCME surveyor. Kelly enjoys time with her children, including traveling around the country for her daughter's traveling league baseball. Kelly is a graduate of the University of Iowa.
Julie Newman, PTA
Executive Director, Association Management
Julie Newman serves as Executive Director for AS. In her role, she oversees our state and component PT clients in their daily administrative needs. She also helps support our PT clients with their technical reimbursement CEU Locker needs. Julie joins AS as a PT Assistant and seasoned former volunteer board member for state PT associations. Prior to joining AS, Julie served as Office Manager and Therapy Operations Director for multiple independent PT practices. Julie began her career in PT in 1992. Julie is also a Clinical Instructor for multiple PT programs, and a CAPTE On-Site Reviewer. In her free time, Julie enjoys time with her family and spending time on her boat during the warm months. Julie received her PTA from Washburn University and her BA in Human Resources Management from Friends University.
Romina Vando, MBA, JD
Executive Director, Association Management, Legal and Governance
Romina Vando joins Affinity Strategies with nearly 15 years of experience in health care, association management and law. In her role, Romina serves as Executive Director, ensuring that clients' daily needs are met, driving associations' strategy plans, and supporting general legal and governance related needs, such as bylaws, articles of incorporation, etc. Romina received her BS from Northeastern Illinois University in Biology, MBA from South University and JD from Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Romina began her career as a pharmacy technician at St. Joseph Hospital and worked for a medical subspecialty association management company for four years prior to joining AS. Romina enjoys spending time with her close family, friends and enjoying the ocean
Daniel Hawley
Director, Digital and Creative
Daniel Hawley is Director, Digital and Creative. In his role with AS, Daniel works with clients to manage their digital, creative, website and publication related needs. Daniel received his Bachelors Degree from Judson in Graphic Design. Daniel enjoys spending time with his family and girlfriend and college basketball.
Corinne Marconi
Director, Meetings
Corinne Marconi is Director of Meetings at Affinity Strategies. Corinne joins the Affinity Strategies team with extensive experience in event planning and management. Prior to joining Affinity, Corinne was a Catering and Administration Manager for Kirkland and Ellis law firm, downtown Chicago. Corinne works with clients to ensure that their events exceed their expectations, including selection of food and beverage, meeting locations, event budgeting, forecasting, sales, and on site event management. She has expertise in corporate and nonprofit events, and has worked in catering and event management since 2012. Corinne is a graduate of Western Illinois University, where she received her degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management.
Shelley Warnock
Association Manager
Shelley Warnock is an Association at Affinity Strategies. In her role, Shelley works hand in hand with clients every day to ensure that their daily needs are met. Prior to joining Affinity Strategies, Shelley held various management roles in customer service and administration. Shelley has worked in multiple industries, including banking, nonprofit administration, local government and food and beverage. Shelley holds an Associate of Applied Science Degree from Valdosta Community College in Business Administration.
Andrea Kahle
Client Coordinator
Andrea Kahle is an Client Coordinator at Affinity Strategies. Andrea works with our PT membership associations every day, ensuring that their questions are answered and daily needs are met. Andrea is also studying to receive her RN degree at night. Andrea enjoys time with her boyfriend, friends and Church activities.
Melissa Sprague
Consultant, Brand and Strategic Market Initiatives

Melissa Sprague joins Affinity Strategies as Consultant, Brand and Strategic Market Initiatives. Melissa is a seasoned digital marketing leader with over 20 years of experience specializing in: e-commerce, digital product management, brand strategy, insights and acquisitions. She has helped brands effectively optimize and support all customer facing communication channels. In her role, Melissa helps Affinity Strategies and its partners in developing new new business development and digital engagement strategies.Melissa is a collaborative partner who rapidly builds credible and trusted relationships across an organization and she can be counted on to deliver results. She works closely with founders, senior management, external agencies and side-by-side with clients  to establish, lead and execute brand, marketing and revenue priorities. While at Citi Melissa was recognized for effective problem solving, identifying gaps, and creating new opportunities for improved customer benefits and solutions. While at Aerosoles Melissa created strategic partnerships to cultivate win/win value propositions.

Melissa resides in Brooklyn, New York with her husband Scott. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends and travel. She received her degree from the University of Wisconsin.

Sandra Garest
Consultant, Leadership and Succession Strategy
Sandra Garest serves as Consultant, Leadership and Succession Strategy. Sandra is passionately dedicated to helping people and organizations become the-best-version-of-themselves. In her role, she works with boards and clients to provide leadership training and governance strategy. We are pleased to partner with Sandra and Floyd Consulting to help our clients meet their goals and reach their vision. Sandra and her team work with Affinity Strategies clients to make the process as fun and engaging for as many people as possible, by delivering world-class training and creating cultures that lead to thriving businesses that are profitable, scalable, and sustainable. Sandra can customize Coaching, Training and Workshops to best support your organization. Common areas of focus include: Team Building, Leadership Development, Succession Strategy, Culture, Goal Setting and Work/Life Balance. Executive Coaching focuses on what systemically drives performance, on helping you achieve measurable results and sustainable change - not only for yourself, but also for your team and entire organization. Sandra loves seeing and bringing out the best in others, empowering them to live an extraordinary life by design. Her professional background includes over 25 years of experience in the areas of training, human resources, leadership development, speaking and executive coaching in companies ranging from startups to large, global organizations, and in industries such as retail, healthcare, government, engineering, insurance and financial services. She holds a B.S. degree from Illinois State University, with a double major in human resources management and business administration. Sandra partners with leaders to articulate their vision and better engage their teams. Her goal is to build high-trust, long-lasting relationships that allow for immediate wins as well as being a trusted partner that supports greater levels of personal and professional satisfaction.
Joe Hammang
Consultant, Science Policy and Industry Relations
Joseph P. Hammang, Ph.D. is Consultant, Science Policy and Industry Relations Strategy. Joe provides strategic consulting services to AS clients, including health care professional associations, leading biopharmaceutical and medical technology firms, start-up biotechnology companies, industry trade organizations as well as non-profit foundations. In addition to working with AS, Joe is a partner with Vital Transformation, a healthcare and life sciences industry consultancy based in Washington, DC. Prior to his role with AS, Joe worked with Washington DC based government affairs firm, ML Strategies. Joe spent a decade with Pfizer Inc as Senior Director, Worldwide Science Policy. Before joining Pfizer, Joe served as Vice President for Science, Technology and Business Development at the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation and as Head of Science and Technology at the Rhode Island Economic Policy Council. In that role, he served as Governor Lincoln Almond’s Advisor for Science and Technology. Joe previously held positions at the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company where he was involved in Alzheimer's disease research and at CytoTherapeutics, Inc. in Providence, Rhode Island where he served as Director of Cell and Molecular Neuroscience and Director of the Ophthalmology Therapeutic program. Joe holds a Ph.D. in the area of Neuroscience from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is author of 65 scientific articles and invited book chapters and is inventor or co-inventor of over 35 U.S. patents. Joe and his wife, Susan, live in the District of Columbia and they have 2 adult daughters.
Ashley Nelson
Consultant, Mindfulness and Wellness Strategy
Ashley Nelson serves as Consultant, Mindfulness and Wellness Strategy. A former senior leader at the Fossil Group, Ashley Nelson is widely recognized as a strategic thinker, team builder, compassionate and proven change management leader with over 25 years of corporate experience. In her role with AS, she works with our health care provider and corporate clients to provide mindfulness training, team building programs and organizational strategy. Her responsibilities at Fossil have included identifying strategy, new business development, country management and leading the Americas business, delivering more than $1 billion in revenues across sixteen fashion and wearable technology brands. Ashley completed teacher training in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness in the School of Medicine. Currently training at SIY Leadership Institute (launched by Google), she has also studied with some of the most widely recognized leaders in the mindfulness space and is a certified hatha yoga instructor. She serves on the board of directors for Fossil Foundation and Girls in the Game and volunteers extensively teaching mindfulness and yoga to individuals through schools, community groups, and recovery programs for incarcerated women.
Catherine Hanson
Consultant, Payment and Regulatory Policy
Ms. Hanson has over 30 years of experience providing advice and counsel to physicians, medical associations and other health care related individuals and organizations. She has handled a broad array of health care and association matters, utilizing all advocacy strategies from informal discussion, to regulation, legislation and litigation. Most recently, Ms. Hanson has focused on managed care, including the impact of ACOs, new payment models and clinical integration, HIPAA, including the Privacy, Security and Transaction Rules, and evolving physician employment arrangements. Ms. Hanson is the author of numerous publications and a sought after speaker. Ms. Hanson recently served as vice-president of the American Medical Association’s state and private sector advocacy unit from July 2007 through January 2013. Under her leadership, AMA’s private sector advocacy team developed the National Managed Care Contract and database, the only complete compilation and analysis of every managed care law and regulation in the country. Ms. Hanson also directed the creation of numerous other unique resources for physicians, including how-to manuals on new payment models, ACOs and physician integration strategies. She led the development of AMA’s National Health Insurer Report Card (NHIRC), the first objective look at the claims processing activities of the nation’s largest health insurers. Ms. Hanson’s private sector advocacy team also achieved significant, nationwide physician profiling reforms and improvements in the HIPAA transaction standards necessary to enable payer transparency and physician practice automation. Ms. Hanson’s state advocacy successes included obtaining National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) support for AMA positions related to critical state ACA implementation/health insurance market reform issues, such as medical loss ratio, rate review, health insurance exchanges, and transparency of coverage facts for consumers, successes that were subsequently reflected in the federal ACA regulations. She led a successful effort that secured National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) model bills regulating rental network PPOs and calling for transparency for out-of-network services instead of a ban on balance billing. Last but certainly not least, Ms. Hanson’s team worked with medical associations throughout the country to achieve hundreds of legislative and regulatory victories to preserve medical liability reforms, ensure health insurer transparency, improve public health and safety, enact truth-in-advertising laws and protect the patient-physician relationship. Prior to her AMA work, Ms. Hanson served as vice-president and general counsel for the California Medical Association from December 1986 through June 2007. Her many CMA accomplishments included an extremely successful advocacy campaign in the courts and before the California Attorney General that resulted in nearly 100 decisions upholding MICRA and otherwise protecting physicians from unfair professional liability exposure, protecting the physician-patient relationship, increasing access to care, reigning in managed care abuses, and ensuring fair peer review, among other issues. Ms. Hanson also led the development and publication of the 4000+ page California Physicians Legal Handbook, a comprehensive health law treatise, which she published annually with her CMA Legal Center staff from 1990-2007. Prior to starting the CMA’s in-house law department, Ms. Hanson was an attorney with the law firm of Hassard Bonnington in San Francisco. Ms. Hanson is a past president of the California Society for Health Care Attorneys, a past president of the American Society of Medical Association Counsel, a member of the American Health Lawyers Association, and the American Bar Association Health Law Section. Ms. Hanson is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. She obtained her J.D. degree from Boalt Hall School of Law at University of California, Berkeley. She is a California licensed attorney admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States District Court for the Northern and Southern Districts of California. Ms. Hanson has an AV Martindale Hubbell rating. Ms. Hanson is Of Counsel to the Firm.


 


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