Meet the Team

Joe Baker

joe-baker-headshotJoe Baker has served as President of the Medicare Rights Center since June 2009. Mr. Baker is a member of The National Quality Forum’s Dual Eligible Beneficiaries Workgroup and recently completed two terms as a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Board on Health Care Services and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Advisory Panel on Outreach and Education. He is an adjunct professor at the New York University School of Law, where he taught a class on implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Previously, he was the deputy secretary for health and human services in New York State under Governor David A. Paterson, where he was instrumental in developing Medicaid reforms and a proposal to extend health coverage to younger New Yorkers. Mr. Baker served as assistant deputy secretary for health and human services under Governor Eliot Spitzer, after having directed the Health Care Bureau under Spitzer when he was attorney general of New York. Mr. Baker was executive vice president of Medicare Rights from 1994 to 2001, and prior to that was associate director of legal services for Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Mr. Baker graduated from the University of Virginia’s School of Law.

Derek Ayeh is a graduate of Columbia University with a M.S. in Bioethics and The University of Chicago with a B.A. in Religious Studies. Prior to joining the Medicare Rights Center, Derek worked as a research assistant at The University of Chicago Hospitals. His main project focused on the effect of a patient’s religious beliefs on the end-of-life care recommendations given by physicians. He has since focused his academic efforts on issues of end-of-life, palliative care, and hospice.
Emily Balkan joined the Medicare Rights Center in summer 2013 as a Client Services Associate. Today she focuses on both client work and policy, specifically for older adults and those with disabilities who have limited incomes. Emily oversees much of Medicare Rights’ low income benefit assistance work, and is involved in the Medicare Savings Coalition as well as the Coalition to Protect the Rights of New York’s Dually Eligible (CPRNYDE). Emily has extensive experience working older adults, individuals with disabilities, and individuals who are Deaf with mental illness. For several summers Emily volunteered at different week-long camps in upstate New York for individuals with developmental/physical disabilities and also inner city youth. Emily graduated from New York University with her Bachelors of Science in Social Work in 2013, and in 2015 graduated again from New York University with a Masters in Social Work.
Marcin Bednarz graduated from the College of Staten Island (CUNY) with a B.S. in Computer Science, and previously worked as an administrative assistant and a web store administrator. Mr. Bednarz was born and raised in Poland.
Deane Beebe joined the Medicare Rights Center as Vice President of Communications & Outreach in December 2015. Previously, she was the Director of Public Education & Media Relations at PHI (Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute), where she worked to improve the quality of long-term care by improving the quality of direct-care jobs, and helped wage a successful campaign to extend federal labor protections to home care workers. She was also the editor of a biweekly newsletter on the direct-care workforce.

Ms. Beebe first served as the Communications Director at the Medicare Rights Center from 1999 to 2008, when the Medicare drug benefit was being developed and implemented. She has held communications positions at several nonprofit organizations and government agencies dedicated to aging, disability, health, and/or health access issues, including the Visiting Nurse Service of New York’s Center for Home Care Policy & Research; International Longevity Center; American Federation of Aging Research; and the Massachusetts Departments of Public Health and Public Welfare.

Prior to working in communications, Ms. Beebe was a geriatric social worker in Boston, Massachusetts. She holds a master’s degree in mass communications from Emerson College and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from SUNY Buffalo.

Rachel Bennett joined the Medicare Rights Center in 2003. She previously worked at the Youth Service Opportunities Project in New York City and as a consultant with the Blacksmith Institute, the National Physicians Alliance, the New York City Taxi Workers Alliance, and others. With 15 years’ experience in the nonprofit sector, Ms. Bennett is passionate about program development, project management, staff cultivation, partnership-building, transparency, and strategic planning. She studied at Trinity College Dublin through the University of Iowa and earned a B.A. in English and election to Phi Beta Kappa at Grinnell College. She writes and publishes poetry, her most recent chapbook available through dancing girl press.
Delores Bowman works on appeals cases involving health service denials, and also counsels professionals who have Medicare questions. Ms. Bowman retired from Chase Bank in 1999 after 30 years of service as a Certified Billing and Coding Specialist. She joined the Medicare Rights Center as a volunteer in September 1999.
Julie Carter joined the Medicare Rights Center in 2016 as a Federal Policy Associate in the Washington DC office. She had just completed a year as a Health and Aging Policy Fellow with a placement at the Administration for Community Living where she was able to explore the use of data in policymaking. She has also been a fellow with Justice in Aging, focusing on person-centered planning and Medicaid Long-Term Services and Supports, and was vice-president of a manufacturing firm in Appalachian Ohio. She has a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame in English and History, and a J.D. from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. She is a passionate fan of baseball, reading, data, poetry, and good Mexican food, which is nearly impossible to find in DC.
Mitchell Clark is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a B.A. in Political Science and a Minor in Philosophy. Mr. Clark is a former volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club of America in Athens, GA, and is passionate about public service.
Michael Conte graduated from Pace University in 2015 with a B.S. in Computer Science. He previously interned at the Medicare Rights Center in 2013 as an IT Associate. Much of his work includes development and maintenance of various Medicare Rights web pages as well as the development of specialized web tools.
Jonathan Dugal graduated from Hamilton College with a B.A in Public Policy and a concentration in Ethics and Economics. He is a current member of the Avodah Service program, which is a year-long service program that specializes in teaching members about social and economic justice. Prior to starting at MRC, Jon worked in Urban Development leading programs in the New York Metro Area as well as in Costa Rica. In his off time, he enjoys exploring the various foods and flavors of NYC.
Giovanni Florez has dedicated his academic and professional careers towards public service. He has a B.A from Montclair State University and an M.P.A from John Jay College. While he was a graduate student he worked in the office of the New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. Following the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, Giovanni joined FEMA in 2012 and worked to ensure that hundreds of Sandy victims received financial assistance so that they could rebuild their homes. Giovanni is eager to utilize his public service experience in order to help older adults navigate the complex Medicare system and also hopes to gain extensive knowledge about health care policy.
Larry Friedman has over four years of experience in the development and administrative side of the nonprofit sector and is committed to public service. Prior to joining the Medicare Rights Center, he worked at the New York Legal Assistance Group and Re:Gender. He has a B.A. in Political Science from Vassar College and an M.A. in Politics from New York University.
Denise Grant was formerly the Administrative Assistant/Educational Coordinator in the Department of Geriatrics and Adult Development at Mount Sinai Medical Center, where she organized and coordinated the fourth-year medical student program.
Alison has over three years of experience serving diverse communities through her work in the nonprofit sector. Previously, Alison worked in the development departments of the Jewish Museum and the Women’s Refugee Commission. At the Medicare Rights Center, Alison works in development and outreach, and is passionate about helping older adults and people with disabilities access affordable healthcare. She holds a BA in Dramatic Studies from Purchase College and an MA in Museum Studies from New York University.
Originally from Rockville, Maryland, Emma is a recent graduate of McDaniel College where she majored in social work and minored in sociology. She is thrilled to join the Medicare Rights Center through AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. Emma previously worked in the care coordination office at an integrated medical home with patients in need of insurance. She is excited to work with older adults in this new setting and is excited to gain experience working with people with disabilities. Emma is committed to providing affordable health care to those in need, and she is eager to combine her interests in working with older adults and health care here at the Medicare Rights Center.
Before Medicare Rights, Jay was a licensed School Director for two adult distance learning schools—the New York Institute of Photography and the New York Institute of Art and Design—and he’s held senior management positions with a variety of technology and publishing companies. He received his Masters of Arts in English Education from the University of Iowa, and his leisure-time passions include home renovation and blogging.
Jake is dedicated to creating social change through advocacy on behalf of those in need. Most recently, he served as the Carr Center Fellow at A Better Balance. His introduction to health coverage issues came while an intern at ABC for Health, located in his native state of Wisconsin. Jake graduated from Notre Dame with a B.A. and NYU with a J.D. Previously, he taught high school in New Orleans.
Before joining Medicare Rights, Ms. McElroy was the Office Manager of John Bauers Music Productions. She worked in the Dublin and London branch offices of USIT, an Irish Student Travel organization., before moving from her native Ireland to become Manager of their New York Office, where she administered a cultural work-exchange program for Irish students traveling to the U.S. She served for several years as a Volunteer Coordinator at the Elysian Charter School of Hoboken. She is a graduate of University College Dublin with a B.A. in Psychology and Politics.
Prior to joining the Medicare Rights Center, Ellen Minton was an Account Executive at Alcatel-Lucent, where she was responsible for the marketing and sales of telecommunications equipment. She joined Medicare Rights as a volunteer in March 2011. She has a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. from New York University.
Samantha Morales graduated from the New School University for Social Research with a master’s in Political Science. She is fluent in both Spanish and English, and has extensive field experience working with vulnerable communities in projects that focus on education and health care issues. Having spent two semesters abroad in Salamanca, Spain and Santiago, Chile, Ms. Morales has traveled extensively throughout Latin America and Europe. She comes to the Medicare Rights Center with a commitment to assist members of the Medicare-eligible community to obtain affordable, quality health care.
Prior to joining the Medicare Rights Center, Sarah Murdoch worked in Chicago coordinating community based services to older adults which included assistance with benefits, long-term care counseling, and non-medical homecare. There she also supervised a team of Senior Medicare Patrol volunteers in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. Ms. Murdoch has extensive experience working with older adults including work with an Area Agency on Aging, in Alzheimer’s and dementia care, and over five years of volunteer work in low-income senior housing on Chicago’s north side. Ms. Murdoch earned her M.S.W. from Washington University in St. Louis, with a focus on gerontology and policy, and earned a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Chicago.
Frederic Riccardi is the Director of Client Services at the Medicare Rights Center. He has helped Medicare beneficiaries and trained professionals in the health care and human services field on Medicare related topics for over a decade. His consumer advocacy and counseling work was featured in “Doggedly Persistent: Helping the Elderly Untie Medicare Knots” in The New York Times in 2007. Fred obtained a master’s degree in Social Work from the Hunter College School of Work and bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University at the State University of New York.
Sailendra Nath Sarker has been an Administrative Assistant at the Medicare Rights Center since December 1997. Prior to this position he worked for Asiatic American Technologies for one year as an Administrative Assistant and worked as a designer and news composer for a newspaper for three years. He graduated from Monroe College with a B.B.A. in Computer Information Systems.
Casey joined the Medicare Rights Center in 2011 as Client Services Counsel. Today, she focuses on education and federal policy, helping deliver accessible and accurate education materials to Medicare beneficiaries and the professionals who serve them. Casey regularly gives presentations on current developments in Medicare. She also advances the policy goals of the Medicare Rights Center through the administrative rule-making process and supports Medicare Rights’ close working relationship with legislators and their staff.

Casey earned her law degree, magna cum laude, from New York University School of Law, where she was elected to Order of the Coif. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Ethics from Brown University. She is admitted to the bars of New York and Maine.

Beth Shyken is committed to helping individuals navigate government systems and programs as well as ensuring that individuals receive the rights to which they are entitled.  Ms. Shyken graduated with a J.D. from City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law, and during her Health Concentration program she worked on setting up the New York State Health Benefit Exchange. Prior to law school Beth was a teacher in Chicago. She has a B.A. from the University of Michigan and an M.Ed. from DePaul University.
Laurie Thomashow is a graduate of Columbia School of Social Work, where she received her MSW in Advanced Clinical Social Work. Prior to joining the Medicare Rights Center, Laurie interned at a mental health rehabilitation facility where she engaged directly with younger and older adults to counsel and empower them to ensure their success in accessing health, housing, and employment benefits. Laurie has a passion for working with the underserved populations both locally and nationally.
Samantha Weckesser graduated from the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University with a Master of Public Health degree and Drew University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Neuroscience. Prior to joining the Medicare Rights Center, she worked on research and policy projects relating to mental health and trauma in Pennsylvania, including an evaluation of the Mental Health First Aid program in selected Philadelphia public schools and advocacy work on behalf of new mothers living with depression. In addition to this work, Samantha has also worked on behalf of the American Public Health Association to create policy statement on the health Impacts of discrimination on transgender individuals. She has a strong passion for social justice and working with traditionally underserved populations.
Norman Weintraub is an Enrollment Specialist for both the Extra Help and Medicare Savings Programs. He is a member of ReServe, a program that connects experienced retired professionals with public service opportunities. He joined the Medicare Rights Center in December 2005 after employment with the Department for the Aging in New York City. Born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, he is a true native New Yorker.
Emily Whicheloe graduated from Vassar College with a B.A. in Anthropology and a correlate in Spanish. She previously worked as a reading specialist at a middle school in Brooklyn, and joined the Medicare Rights Center in May 2015 to pursue interests in adult education and non-profit work. As an education associate, Emily leads content creation for a national Medicare counselor training curriculum and writes a bi-weekly newsletter for consumers. She uses her social science background to understand topics from different perspectives and understand issues in multiple ways. Emily comes to the Medicare Rights Center with a passion for social justice and the belief that everyone should have access to healthcare. In her free time she enjoys taking photographs and playing the ukulele.