Susan L-J Dickinson, MSGC | Chief Executive Officer
Susan Dickinson, MSGC, AFTD Chief Executive Officer (CEO), joined AFTD in February 2008. A genetic counselor, she brings more than three decades of experience facilitating communications among lay, scientific, and medical communities. Under her leadership, AFTD has expanded dramatically in scale and impact, from a $400,000 organization with a part-time staff of three to a $10 million+ organization with 30 full-time staff. During her tenure, AFTD has expanded programs to meet and advocate for the needs of FTD families, and invested in specific strategies to advance FTD research and drug development, including four multi-year, multi-million dollar research initiatives targeting FTD diagnosis and treatment. She holds an MS in genetic counseling from Arcadia University and a BA in biology and psychology from Swarthmore College.
Mitch Appleson, CPA, MBA, joined AFTD in March 2022 as Chief Operating Officer. He earned an MBA from St. Joseph’s University and a B.S. in Accounting from Yeshiva University. Mitch has more than 15 years of experience in healthcare and research administration, building teams and driving growth while serving in leadership roles at Columbia University, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania, and Drexel University. Most recently, he served as Chief Financial Officer for Alliance Cancer Specialists, a multi-site oncology practice serving patients in the Greater Philadelphia area. Mitch began his career in public accounting at Ernst & Young and has a CPA license.
Penny Dacks, Ph.D., became AFTD’s Senior Director of Scientific Initiatives in September 2020. Previously, she worked at the American Epilepsy Society, overseeing all mission-related programs in research, medical education, and clinical activities. Before that she spent five years at the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, where she led development of CognitiveVitality.org and the Aging & Alzheimer’s Prevention Program to source and evaluate potential therapies. She holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Arizona. As AFTD’s Senior Director of Scientific Initiatives, Dr. Dacks leads strategy for AFTD’s research programs and serves as President of the FTD Disorders Registry.
Sharon S. Denny, MA, Senior Director of Programs, joined AFTD in September 2008 where she directs strategic development of support, education and advocacy for people with FTD, their care partners and families, and healthcare professionals. Under her leadership, AFTD has expanded its HelpLine and built a national network of support groups facilitated by AFTD trained volunteers. She has created a national volunteer program and led an effort to include people living with FTD in fulfilling AFTD’s mission. An advocate for high-quality, responsive services, she has introduced initiatives to address the needs of families facing FTD, particularly those with young children and teens, and directed Partners in FTD Care, an FTD education initiative for healthcare professionals and families. She serves on national committees and workgroups addressing the development and delivery of dementia care and services. Ms. Denny has an MA in Clinical Psychology from West Chester University and a BA in psychology from the College of the Holy Cross.
Ben C. Freeman joined AFTD in February 2015, bringing more than ten years of experience in nonprofit development and communications, and past background in IT and technology systems. For a decade, he served as Development Director for the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, helping to scale its work to improve care for elders and people living with disabilities. Ben works with AFTD’s staff, Board, and community to raise FTD awareness and expand AFTD’s national and global visibility as the premier organization serving the needs of people and families affected by FTD.
Elizabeth joined AFTD as Executive Assistant/Event Coordinator in February 2018. She spent the last 16 years as administrative assistant at several banks, supporting the managing director and other team members in their efforts to assist bank clients at not-for-profit healthcare systems and hospitals throughout the U.S. Prior to that, she was the administrative assistant/meeting planner for a not-for-profit continuing education firm. She holds a B.S. in business management from Penn State University.
Cynthia joined AFTD in August 2021 as Director of Human Resources. She holds an M.S. in Human Resource Development from Villanova University and is certified as a Human Resources Professional (PHR). She has more than 18 years of experience in establishing and restructuring HR departments for several organizations. Cynthia’s former roles include 20 years of experience in payroll management. She assisted organizations in recognizing their human capital potential while assisting in developing strong teams to achieve strategic goals and mission objectives.
Shana joined AFTD in May 2021 as Director of Research Engagement. A licensed clinical psychologist, she holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Hawaii, an MA in Psychology from the New School, and a BA in Psychology from George Washington University. Shana has research and clinical experience in cognitive therapy and remediation, early detection of psychiatric conditions, and serious mental illness. Previously, she worked for SAIC, a contractor for the Department of Defense, supporting program evaluation and change management of more than 200 military health programs.
Bridget joined AFTD in October 2015 as the Grassroots Events Coordinator, became Special Events Manager in January 2019, and assumed her current position in July 2022. She holds a B.S. in Speech Communication from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. During her time as Grassroots Events Coordinator and Special Events Manager, Bridget expanded and refined AFTD’s national network of Grassroots (Food for Thought, With Love, AFTD-Team Race Season, and Independent Events) and Special Events (Hope Rising and Driving Hope). In her current role, Bridget is the lead for AFTD's Events Department and will continue to manage the Grassroots and Special Events programs, while also supporting other non-fundraising related events such as AFTD’s educational conferences and scientific meetings.
Esther joined AFTD as its Director of Support & Education in November 2020. Previously, Esther served as Director of Wellness at CareOne Management, a company that provides elder-care services throughout the Northeast United States. She brings clinical, educational, managerial, and marketing skills along with a passion for quality care for those who are living with neurological conditions. Her work reflects a strong commitment to the importance of education and training throughout the spectrum of diagnosis and delivery of quality care. In her role, Esther will ensure that AFTD’s support services and educational programs advance early diagnosis and improve access to quality care and effective support, as well as ensure that clinical information provided to healthcare professionals is current and accurate.
Amanda joined AFTD in November 2018 as Development Manager and assumed her current position in July 2022. She has more than ten years of progressive nonprofit development and fundraising experience, including four years with the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the ALS Association. As a member of AFTD’s Advancement team and lead for our Development department, Amanda oversees all aspects of our individual giving programs and corporate and foundation fundraising, which generate vital funds to support AFTD’s mission, as well as the organization’s donor databases and metrics, donation processing and acknowledgement, and the ongoing expansion of our digital fundraising strategies
PJ joined AFTD in October 2021 as Director of Marketing & Communications. She is a mission-driven communications professional with both PR agency and nonprofit experience in developing media outreach, content development, cause-marketing, social media management, and advocacy engagement. In her current role, PJ is responsible for the development and implementation of AFTD’s marketing, communications, and public relations strategies.
Debra joined the AFTD staff in October 2015. She oversees AFTD’s research portfolio, including grant programs supported in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation and Target ALS. In addition, she coordinates networking, training, and mentorship opportunities that support the FTD research community. Dr. Niehoff holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins University and has experience in behavioral neuroscience, particularly the neurochemical and neuroanatomical basis of fear, aggression, and violence. Prior to joining AFTD, she developed and served as the coordinator for one of the first two-year neuroscience programs in the U.S. She is the author of The Biology of Violence: How Understanding the Brain, Behavior, and Environment Can Break the Vicious Circle of Aggression and The Language of Life: How Cells Communicate in Health and Disease, serves on the editorial board of the journal Violence and Gender, and has conducted workshops on the neurobiology of violence for the FBI Critical Incident Response Group as well as law enforcement and educational professionals.
Christine Stevens, MBA | Director of Finance
Christine joined AFTD in July 2017. Christine spent the early portion of her career working for entrepreneurial startups, building teams and systems to enable growth at fast-paced companies. In 2003, she left the for-profit world to begin her own small business in Wayne, PA. In 2008 she joined the nonprofit world as Director of Finance for Women Against Abuse. In recognition of her work there she was named the 2013 Philadelphia Business Journal Non-Profit CFO of the year. She holds an M.B.A. from Northeastern University, and a B.A. in Economics from St. Lawrence University. She earned her CPA license working for PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Peter joined AFTD in August 2022 as the Director of Information Technology. He has supported and led healthcare IT for over 25 years, with much of his time in leading academic medical centers such as the University of Rochester Medical Center, Penn Medicine, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. More recently, Peter was the Vice President of IT for both the vascular services and cardiovascular business units of Fresenius Medical Care, which operates over 100 ambulatory surgical centers and office based labs in over 26 states. He holds a MBA in Information Systems, E-Commerce, and Competitive Strategy from the University of Rochester Simon School of Business, as well as a BA in Psychology from the University of Rochester.
Jackie joined AFTD in August 2022 as Development Operations Manager. She holds an MS in Arts Administration from Drexel University and a BA in Theatre (Acting) with a Minor in Business from Temple University. Previously, Jackie served as the Manager of Individual Giving at Bristol Riverside Theatre. As the Development Operations Manager, she oversees all aspects of AFTD’s development and fundraising operations, including individual-targeted fundraising communications, appeals, AFTD’s annual report, and donations through AFTD’s online giving platforms.
Lauren joined AFTD in August 2017. Lauren’s career spans 21 years, mostly spent in the nonprofit sector, where her primary focus has been on communications, marketing, and social media management. In her previous roles she developed social media strategy, created and implemented innovative and successful marketing campaigns, and grew the digital audience, influence, reach, and impact of multiple organizations. As Social Media Manager, Lauren works to deepen AFTD’s engagement with its community through social media campaigns, e-newsletters, and other forms of digital communications.
Tom joined AFTD in August 2022. He has over a decade of marketing experience specializing in the digital field. Holding a BFA in Digital Multimedia, Tom has overseen marketing initiatives ranging from local organizations to multinational corporations spanning various industries. At AFTD, he manages the marketing efforts across website optimization, advertising, and cloud marketing strategy and development. Through these efforts Tom hopes to further spread AFTD’s message across the web, uniting those affected by promoting our mission.
Elizabeth joined AFTD in January 2020. Elizabeth has an M.A. in history from American Military University and a B.S. in biological science from Virginia Tech, where she also worked in a lab researching traumatic brain injury. Her previous experience includes working for cultural and medical history non-profits in education, development, and communications. As Corporate and Foundation Relations Manager, Elizabeth manages corporate and foundation funding and relationships, helping to strengthen existing partnerships while building new connections, to grow philanthropic support for AFTD's mission.
Bridget joined AFTD as its first Support Services Manager in May 2015. She holds an MPH from Drexel University. In a career spanning more than 15 years, Bridget has worked to develop new programs and research projects serving vulnerable populations, such as those with terminal illnesses, people experiencing homelessness, children that have experienced trauma, and individuals contemplating suicide. She now works to develop and sustain AFTD’s network of support: providing leadership and training to our wonderful volunteers who allow groups to come together to share their stories, learn ways to advocate, and gain much needed coping skills and strategies. She also works collaboratively with staff and volunteers to provide new avenues for support and resources, and believes until there is a cure for FTD, bearing witness and creating a space for those affected to tell their story is the most important support we can offer FTD families. She is honored to work with all who are sharing their time and talents to do so.
Michael joined AFTD in August 2022 as Volunteer Services Manager. Holding an M.A. degree in philosophy, he has worked in non-profit volunteer management for over 20 years with international experience in Italy, Spain, Germany, Ireland and, most recently, in the greater Philadelphia area. He has worked at all levels of volunteer engagement from international oversight to local and national start-ups born of volunteer initiatives. Knowing that the volunteer spirit is at the very heart of AFTD, he looks forward to collaborating with all stakeholders to continue to facilitate and grow a robust and energetic volunteer base for the organization at all levels.
Matthew joined AFTD in October 2016. He brings more than a decade of experience writing for diverse audiences, including seven years of experience in nonprofit communications as the staff writer/editor for the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute. In collaboration with AFTD’s development and communications team, Matthew works in varied contexts to support AFTD’s sustainability and public presence. He holds a Bachelor’s in journalism from New York University.
Stephanie joined AFTD in March 2022 as HelpLine Manager. Stephanie earned her M.A. in Social Work with a Mental Health and Clinical Concentration from Temple University and a B.S. in Social Work from Saint Francis University of Pennsylvania. She has more than 15 years of experience in social work as a director in skilled nursing facilities and personal care/memory care facilities. As a Licensed Social Worker and a Certified Dementia Practitioner, Stephanie has made a personal commitment to help with the education and assistance of families, in addition to advocating for older adults and caregivers in various healthcare settings. She has experience working in nonprofits with hospice and an ALS foundation.
William joined AFTD in May 2021 as Education Program Manager. He has worked in the dementia field for more than 30 years. In a variety of local and regional settings, he has provided direct support and education to those living with dementia, care partners, and healthcare providers. William previously worked at the Family Caregiver Alliance in San Francisco as well as the Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association where he coordinated and presented education programs. Most recently, he served as the Health Systems Director for the Alzheimer’s Association, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania region, initiating and strengthening relationships with clinicians and regional health systems.
Matthew joined AFTD’s staff in December 2009. Having earned his Master of Social Service degree from Bryn Mawr College’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, he made a career transition to social services from the field of natural sciences. In June 2021 Matt became AFTD Advocacy Manager, responsible for informing AFTD’s advocacy strategy and for the coordination and development of all AFTD advocacy activities.
Jeff joined AFTD in January 2018 as Office Manager. Jeff brings close to thirty years of experience in staff accounting, information technology support, and customer relationship management skills from organizations of both global and local scale. He has had experience supporting back office functions in the nonprofit world — most recently in higher education environment, where he worked closely with directors to streamline processes and implement new systems.
Abby joined AFTD in August 2022 as Development Coordinator. She holds a B.S. in Human Services from the University of Delaware, and most recently earned her MPA with a concentration in nonprofit management. Throughout her education, Abby has had experience in development and events, community outreach, and donor cultivation from various nonprofits. As Development Coordinator, she is responsible for supporting AFTD's individual giving programs including recurring donors, matching gift and workplace giving, and major donor prospects. Abby is the direct line of support for individuals and families designating tribute gifts to AFTD.
Jeni joined AFTD in October 2019. She has a strong background in Human Resources, including recruiting, onboarding, managing programs and supporting both remote and on-site employees. After earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in 2012, she spent two years volunteering with AmeriCorps, working with FEMA in communities affected by natural disasters and serving as the Volunteer Engagement VISTA at the NH Food Bank. As HR Coordinator, Jeni helps with employee recruitment and onboarding, policy development and maintenance, and other administrative and operations initiatives for all AFTD staff.
Erin joined AFTD as the Support Services Coordinator in July 2021. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution, both from Arcadia University. Erin has more than seven years of experience working for several nonprofit organizations in the Philadelphia area, building and expanding their support programs in areas including higher education, academics, mental health, and resource navigation. In her role as Support Services Coordinator, Erin will work to deepen and expand AFTD’s network of support and will work directly with support group volunteers.
Mike joined AFTD in April 2022. He holds a B.A. in political science from Lycoming College and an M.S. in nonprofit management from Northeastern University. He has worked for various nonprofits, mostly ones that support children and families, including completing two years of AmeriCorps. As Fundraising Coordinator, Mike is responsible for AFTD’s grassroots events fundraising.
Mike joined AFTD in August 2022 as its Content Writer. He holds a Master of Arts in Political Science from Villanova University. Previously, Mike worked as a freelance writer producing a variety of content on a wide range of topics, from SEO blog posts to market new products to news articles on stock market trends. As Content Writer, Mike is responsible for the development and creation of written content to be used in expanding AFTD’s impact and reach.
Ann joined AFTD in April 2018. She has over 10 years of experience helping individuals and families access resources and services in mental health and healthcare settings. A licensed social worker, Ann has worked in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities; she has also advocated for older adults and caregivers as a geriatric care manager. Ann actively works to maintain and enhance the quality of resources available for individuals seeking support through the HelpLine. She received her Master’s in Social Work from West Chester University and Bachelor’s in Social Work from Eastern University.
Josephare joined AFTD as HelpLine Advisor in January 2021. In this role, she works to maintain and enhance the quality of resources available for individuals seeking support through the AFTD HelpLine. Josephare holds an MSW from Columbia University and a B.S. in criminal justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She has previously worked to support low-income, immigrant, and unhoused communities in a variety of settings, including the nonprofit sector and in local government.
Shifur joined AFTD in October 2021 as the Development Assistant. Shifur has spent his career working in the non-profit sector. Through his various non-profit experiences, he has assisted with gift processing, customer service, event support, and volunteer efforts. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College.
Samantha joined AFTD in May 2021. She holds a B.S. in Psychology from East Stroudsburg University and has more than a decade of experience in an administrative role with a strong background in customer service, office management, and organizational support. Samantha is primarily responsible for assisting in the management of AFTD’s grant portfolio, which aims at providing opportunities that will advance innovative scientific research.
Raymond joined AFTD in May 2021. He holds a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics, which has garnered him experience in patient contact, research techniques, and the necessary educational tools needed within the healthcare community. Raymond has a background in office administration, customer relations, and telecommunications. As the Administrative Assistant for AFTD’s Programs team, he is responsible for assisting with the administrative responsibilities of the whole programs department.