Our Team


Melissa Kennedy
Chief Executive Officer

Upon receiving her BA in chemistry and her master’s in health administration, Melissa co-founded HealthCare Research Systems, a patient satisfaction and outcomes research company. As Executive Vice President, the company grew exponentially which culminated in the sale of the company to National Research Corporation. Melissa worked at University of Rochester Medical Center developing strategic plans to support Clinical Centers of Excellence in Cardiovascular Care and Oncology. Melissa joined the Health Improvement Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati in 2007 as Director, Operations and Programming offering strategic oversight of Collaborative programs, including the development and execution of a nationally recognized, regional health care transparency program called YourHealthMatters. She also served as Project Director for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Cincinnati Aligning Forces for Quality program. Her activities earned her Exemplary Service recognition from the Ohio Senate. Most recently, Melissa held the position of Executive Director, Women’s Services, at TriHealth. Melissa lives with her husband John and her two sons, Patrick and Will.

Samantha Brant
Family & Community Engagement Manager

Samantha BrantSamantha joined IRSF as the Family & Community Engagement Manager in 2018. Samantha graduated from Mid America Nazarene University with a degree in Human Relations and Management.

Samantha has 2 girls, Cede (pronounced like Sadie) and Macy. Macy is 8 and has Rett syndrome. Since her diagnosis, Sam has dedicated herself to raising awareness, educating the public about Rett syndrome and raising funds for research. As the Family & Community Engagement Manager, she is dedicated to helping our families every step of the journey.

Katie Busch
Government Relations Manager

Katie has spent more than 17 years as a devoted caregiver for Ellie, a young lady with Rett syndrome, that includes time as a one-on-one Paraprofessional in the school setting. Katie was introduced to IRSF (then IRSA) early in her caregiving days and quickly became a supporter and volunteer for the organization. After attending the 2012 New Orleans World Congress Conference, Katie entered the graduate program at Lindenwood University.  In 2015, Katie received her master’s degree in Non-Profit Administration.

Katie joined IRSF’s team in 2018, assisting with events and educational programming. As the Government Relations Manager, Katie now supports IRSF’s Advocacy program.

Katie is dedicated to the Rett syndrome community and looks forward to the day when a cure is found!


Sarah Clapp
Donor Database Coordinator

Sarah ClappAn Indiana native, Sarah received her B.A. in Kinesiology & Physiology with a minor in Spanish from Hanover College. She has worked with adults and children as a personal trainer and health coach for WebMD and Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. After moving to Cincinnati, Sarah worked in occupational and physical therapy at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where she was first introduced to Rett syndrome. Sarah has enjoyed using her love of technology and her love of people to help others improve their life. Sarah volunteers as a crisis counselor for the Crisis Text Hotline and is a big fan of sporting events, concerts and her dog, Scout.

Meghan Cordeiro
Marketing & Communications Director

Meghan joined IRSF in March of 2022 after a 15-year career managing marketing and communication programs across various industries. Originally from Southern California, Meghan received her bachelor’s degree from UCLA in 2007 before moving to Las Vegas to work in the private sector. While completing her MBA at UNLV in 2014, she left the corporate world for college athletics, leading the athletics marketing team that coordinated marketing, advertising, fan engagement, and in-game production for the 17 NCAA Division I sports at the university. Most recently, Meghan spent four years overseeing marketing and events regionally for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It was through this experience that she first became familiar with Rett syndrome and now looks forward to using her skills to advance awareness of the IRSF mission and its vision of a world without Rett. Meghan lives in Southern Nevada with her fiancé, William, and their dogs, Lucy & Bear.

Si Edmondson
Fundraising Event Manager

Si joined IRSF as the Fundraising Event Manager in August of 2023. She has served the nonprofit sector for more than two decades, combining her passion for event planning with her love for nonprofit work to create a dynamic blend that fuels her drive. For six years, she also ran her own event planning business, working with individuals and other nonprofit organizations to bring their dreams to life.

When Si isn’t working, you’ll find her in her element, watching NFL games, grooving to music, or whipping up delicious creations in the kitchen (especially sweet treats!). But her heart truly belongs to spending quality time with friends and family, including her niece (17) and two nephews (15 and 10) who are more like her own children.

Tim Frank
Development Director

Tim FrankTim Frank joined IRSF in July of 2018. An Indiana native, Tim moved to Nashville and worked in the music industry for ten years producing photo shoots, album packaging, and marketing materials for platinum and gold selling artists like Amy Grant, Chris Tomlin, Newsboys and Steve Curtis Chapman. After he and his wife Amy had their two girls, Abigail and Elizabeth (Ella), they moved to Boca Raton to be closer to family in 2011. Ella was diagnosed with Rett syndrome in 2012 after noticeable regression. Before joining the IRSF team, Tim was the Marketing & Communications Director at a leading foster care agency where he led regional efforts to increase awareness and fundraising. Tim is passionate about restoring hope to Rett families while aggressively pursuing a cure for Rett syndrome.

Nupur Garg, PhD
Vice President, Research

Dr. Garg’s career has revolved around the rare disease space – managing funding programs aimed at advancing basic and translational research, and designing initiatives to foster resource sharing and scientific collaborations. She has a deep understanding of the unique challenges faced by rare diseases, and strongly believes that a comprehensive research program is vital to accelerating discovery of novel therapies.

Dr. Garg earned her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Medicine and Dentistry, and Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Her work focused on the role of the NF-kappaB family of transcription factors in B-cell lymphomas. She began her career as a Director of Research at the Jain Foundation where she managed a global research funding program on Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy 2B (LGMD2B). She has also served as the Program Director for the Lymphatic Malformation Institute (Generalized Lymphatic Anomaly, GLA and Gorham Stout-Syndrome, GSS) where she provided programmatic leadership by formulating and implementing funding policies, and launching the institute’s science program. Most recently, Dr. Garg held a position at AGC Biologics, a leading global manufacturer of biologic therapeutics, in their Business Development Operations.

Brittney Gibson
Administrative Director

Brittney joined IRSF in March of 2012 and her wide array of skills allow her to wear many hats while supporting International Rett Syndrome Foundation’s day-to-day needs. Brittney’s experience in accounts receivable, database administration make her a valuable asset to IRSF. Brittney sees her love of administration as a unique opportunity to support families impacted by Rett syndrome. Brittney has long been a volunteer at the Cincinnati Strollathon where she has gotten to know so many of the wonderful girls and boys she works to support each day. Brittney is married to her wonderful husband Deric and has two beautiful children: daughter, Ava and son, Cayden. Brittney is full of life and compassion and loves supporting the Rett syndrome community.

Joelle Handloser (Watson)
Administrative Specialist

Joelle joined IRSF in June of 2022. An Illinois native, she received her BA in Theatre: Stage Management from Baldwin Wallace University. Her education in nonprofits has given her valuable experiences in theatre and classical music in the Cleveland area prior to joining the IRSF team. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, baking, and attending jazz concerts. Joelle lives in Cincinnati with her partner, Tom, and their cat, Soup.

Carmen Luna
Clinical Network Manager

Carmen joined IRSF in 2021 to manage the newly formed Rett Syndrome Center of Excellence Network. Carmen holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Miami University and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Louisville. She has over 10 years of research project management experience and worked at the Kaiser Permanente Colorado – Institute for Health Research prior to joining IRSF. As a mother of three, including a daughter with Rett syndrome, Carmen is passionate about supporting clinics to facilitate and advance research to treat and cure Rett syndrome.

Paige Nues
Family Empowerment Director

Paige leads initiatives focused on building bridges between patient families, clinicians, scientists and industry to stimulate participation and engagement in research activities, Centers of Excellence, and foster patient-centered research development and design. She also provides a safety net of accurate information through education programs designed to empower families, caregivers, and support teams at all ages and stages, including organ donation for Rett research. Paige served on the Board of Directors as a volunteer Regional Representative and is parent founder of Katie’s Clinic for Rett and Related Disorders at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals. She enjoyed a successful career in sales, marketing, and business development with Fortune 100 companies prior to her daughter Katie’s diagnosis of Rett syndrome in 2003, when she turned her full energy and passion to solving the mysteries of Rett syndrome. She gratefully accomplishes this life work with the full support of her husband and 3 beautiful daughters.

Brad Thacker
Administrative Specialist

Brad Thacker joined IRSF in June 2024. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Brad has spent 15 years in the entertainment industry with a focus on events for non-profit organizations and charitable causes. He enjoys spending time with his wife Brittany and their two rescue dogs Sugar, a 15-year-old chihuahua, and Steve Sanders, a 6-year-old poodle. When he is not spending time with his wife, he is attending concerts and pro-wrestling events with his friends. Brad has a passion for helping others and excited to bring his experience to IRSF.


Scientific Advisory Board

Qiang Chang, PhD
Professor of Medical Genetics and Neurology, Director of Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison

James Ellis, PhD
Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, The University of Toronto; Senior Scientist, Developmental and Stem Cell Biology, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Toronto

Kyle Fink, PhD
Assistant Professor, Neurology and Regenerative Cures, University of California, Davis

Rocco Gogliotti, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Neuroscience, Loyola University Chicago

Wendy Gold, PhD
Director of Academic Career Development (SoMS), The University of Sydney, School of Medical Sciences; Head, Molecular Neurobiology Research Group, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network; Adjunct Research Scientist, The Children’s Medical Research Institute

Lucas Pozzo-Miller, PhD
Professor, Department of Neurobiology, The University of Alabama at Birmingham

Steve Moss, PhD
Professor of Neuroscience and Director of the Astrazeneca-Tufts Laboratory of Basic and Translational Neuroscience, Tufts University

Sharad Verma, PhD
Special Assistant in the Developmental Therapeutics Program at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (Dr. Verma is serving in his personal capacity.)

Zhaolan (Joe) Zhou, PhD
Professor, Department of Genetics and Neuroscience, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Medical Advisory Board

Chair: Elizabeth Berry-Kravis, MD, PhD, Child Neurologist and the Co-Director of the Molecular Diagnostics Section of the Genetic Laboratory at Rush University

Dallas Armstrong, MD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Neurology at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Medical Director of the Rett Syndrome and Related Disorders clinic

Tim Benke, MD, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics, Neurology, Pharmacology and Otolaryngology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Ponzio Family Chair in Pediatric Neurology Research and Director of Research at the Neuroscience Institute at Children’s Hospital Colorado

Sasha Djukic, MD, PhD, Professor of Neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Director of the Center for Rett Syndrome in the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore

Tim Feyma, MD, is a Child Neurologist and the Associate Medical Director of the Rett Syndrome and Movement Disorder Clinic at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare

David Lieberman, MD, PhD, Child Neurologist and Clinical Director at the Comprehensive Rett Syndrome Program at Boston Children’s Hospital

Eric Marsh, MD, PhD, Child Neurologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the Clinical Director of the Orphan Disease Center at the University of Pennsylvania

Jeffrey Neul, MD, PhD, Child Neurologist and the Annette Schaffer Eskind Chair and Director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development at Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Alan Percy, MD, Child Neurologist at the University of Alabama and the Director of the Rett Syndrome Clinic, and Primary Investigator for the Rett and Rett-related disorder Natural History Study

Robin Ryther, MD, PhD, Child Neurologist and Pediatric Epileptologist at Washington University in St. Louis, MO

Steven A. Skinner, MD, Director of the Greenwood Genetic Center

Bernhard Suter, MD, Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine and Co-Director of the Blue Bird Rett Center

join our team

IRSF is a virtual organization based in Cincinnati, Ohio, with employees across the United States. While there are no openings right now, we are always on the lookout for great talent who share in our passion and mission.

Whistleblower Policy