Members of the Board


Natalia Isaza Brando, MD

Neonatology Attending Physician, Children's National Medical Center (CNMC)

Natalia originates from Colombia and is a mother of two. As a neonatologist in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at CNMC, Natalia works on a daily basis with families from around the world. She has conducted research on how skin-to-skin contact (i.e. “Kangaroo Care”) between mothers and their infants can reduce the mothers’ stress levels. She completed her residencies at Universidad CES in Colombia and the Albert Einstein Medical Center in the U.S., and her fellowship at CNMC in Washington, DC. Natalia is fluent in Spanish and English, and is certified with the American Board of Pediatrics.

Megan Anne Dennis

Early Childhood Development Expert; Mother of Child with Complex Medical Condition

Megan Dennis has a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Master’s Degree in Special Education. She taught elementary school to varying populations in the Washington, DC area for nine years before leaving the education field to care for her twin boys, James and Leo. Megan’s son Leo had multiple complex health needs and spent much of his short, but beautiful, life at Children’s National Medical Center. Megan is honored to work with Eliana’s Light to assist families dealing with life threatening illnesses by sharing her personal experiences and offering support.

Rhiannon Landesberg

Founder of BreathEd

Rhiannon is a child, family and adult yoga and meditation instructor with a passion for sharing the benefits of mindfulness practices with people of all ages. Rhiannon has worked as a yoga and mindfulness teacher in public, charter and private schools, implementing programs that emphasize stress reduction and well-being. She has also partnered with a number of studios and community organizations in Washington, DC to share the benefits of wellness practices. Rhiannon's life was deeply touched by Eliana's light and she is so thrilled to be a part of this initiative, which she believes will help so many children and families.

Celinha Martins

Physical Therapist and Founder of Vida Therapy

The twelfth of fourteen children from a rural community in Brazil, Celinha knows well the challenges of living and working in a new community, language, and culture. Despite the absence of electricity, telephone, or gas, her family had love. Celinha believes in the power of love, caring, and positive thinking. She put herself through physical therapy (PT) school and now runs her own PT business, often working with families through Washington, DC’s Early Intervention program. She is enthusiastic about taking a holistic and scientifically-based approach towards helping children with complex medical conditions achieve their physical goals. An important part of Celinha’s work is motivating and providing hope to both the pediatric patient and his/her caregiver(s). Celinha is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, and English.

Melissa Nussbaum

Principal, The Nussbaum Group

Melissa Nussbaum is the Principal of The Nussbaum Group. With over 15 years experience building and managing international fundraising teams, Melissa is uniquely qualified to partner with organizations and talented leaders to successfully maximize revenue and build fundraising capacity across your organization. Melissa has held senior-level roles in several organizations in the nonprofit and private sectors. Her deep level of expertise in fundraising, philanthropy, economic development, social justice, and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for development offers insights to help organizations build strategic funding plans - enabling them to achieve mission success.

Whitney Ortiz

Founder, Eliana’s Light, Mother of Child with Complex Medical Condition

Whitney Ortiz is the mother of twin daughters, Emilia and Eliana. Eliana passed away from a heart condition in March 2016. In Eliana’s loving memory, Whitney is creating Eliana’s Light in collaboration with individuals and organizations that are dedicated to helping children with complex medical conditions and their caregivers. Through a systems-based approach, Whitney hopes to help families at the hospital and at their homes in a way that is demand-driven and evidence-based. Whitney brings to Eliana’s Light twenty years of work experience in U.S. government, non-profit and business sectors, and international organizations. She has an MA in international development from The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, and is fluent in Spanish. She is currently supporting Children's National Medical Center as a Committee Member for the 2017 Race for Every Child; a Member of the Community Advisory Committee for a research-focused collaboration between the hospital and The George Washington University; and a supporter of the hospital's complementary care and Integrative Medicine initiatives. Whitney’s mission is to reduce the stress, pain, fear, anxiety, trauma and depression that many children with complex care conditions and their caregivers often experience by providing a holistic approach to improving their wellness and well-being.


Advisory Committee

Dr. Elva Anderson

PhD, Registered Art Therapist (ATR), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Certified Nutritional Consultant (CNC), Licensed Reflexologist, Licensed Aromatherapist, Certified Mindfulness Teacher, Laughter Yoga Teacher, and Level III Healing Touch Practitioner, Children's National Medical Center

Dr. Elizabeth Bettini

PhD, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist (PCNS-BC), Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse (CHPCN), PANDA Palliative Care, Children’s National Medical Center

Katie Conway

Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN), Bachelor in Science in Nursing (BSN), Registered Nurse (RN), Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN), Shift Coordinator, Heart & Kidney Unit, Children’s National Medical Center

Tjameika davenport

Mother of child with complex medical condition; Parent Navigator, Children's National Medical Center

Dr. Vicki freedenberg

PhD, Registered Nurse (RN), MSN, Electrophysiology Nurse Scientist, Conway Nursing Research Scholar, Children's National Health System; Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, The George Washington University

Ashleigh Harlow

BSN, RN, Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN), Clinical Instructor, Co-Chair of Nursing Advocacy Council, Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, Level II Healing Touch Practitioner, Children’s National Medical Center

Melissa Jones

MSN, APRN, Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Acute Care (CPNP-AC), Nurse Practitioner Team Lead for Critical Care, Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Coordinator, Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, Children’s National Medical Center

Lilly Kawar

RN, Heart and Kidney Unit, Level III Healing Touch Practitioner, Children’s National Medical Center

Marian McEvilly

RN, CPN, Certified Coding Associate (CCA), Anesthesia, Certified Healing Touch Practitioner, Certified Aromatherapist, Certified Horse Therapist, Reiki Master, Children’s National Medical Center

Candice Peggs

LCSW-C, LICSW, Licensed Therapist for Individuals, Groups, and Families; Meditation Practitioner; and Registered Yoga Teacher

Judy Ross

Child Life Specialist, Children's National Medical Center

Pleasance Silicki

Founder, Lil Omm; Yoga, Wellness, and Mindfulness Coach

Dr. David Steinhorn

Professor of Pediatrics; Medical Director, PANDA Palliative Care Program, Division of Critical Care, Children’s National Medical Center

Dr. Lillian Su

Pediatric Critical Care Intensivist, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital