Board of Directors

2019 Board of Directors

President – Joan Bretthauer is passionate about advocating and educating in the areas of end of life issues, hospice and private duty.  Joan  is an entrepreneur with a focus on helping family members navigate the complex world of elder and end of life care. Currently she is a hospice vigil volunteer and volunteers for the Missouri Veterans History Project.  She earned a M.S. in Corporate & Industrial Communications and a B.S. in Mass Communications from Lindenwood University. Joan has extensive leadership training with a global educational company and she won an Emmy for a documentary on “Renewing the Contemplative Dimension of Spirituality”.

Vice President – Laura Matson, MA, MEd, LCPC

Secretary – Heather Bell is a social worker with BJC Hospice and Supportive Care. She received her B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from St. Ambrose University and her M.S.W. from Washington University, specializing in health and gerontology. She is currently the President of the Social Work Leaders in Health Care of Metro St. Louis group. She regularly speaks in the community and throughout BJC HealthCare on goals of care at end of life and presents at an ongoing caregiver class.

Treasurer  – Christine Wilson, LMT, BCTMB is a medical massage therapist specializing in oncology and hospice work and is licensed in both Missouri & Illinois. She is Board Certified in Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork and is a member of the Society for Oncology Massage. Christine volunteers with Gateway to Hope who assists women in need with breast cancer. She is passionate about providing her palliative & hospice clients the benefits of complementary and alternative medicine.

Member at Large – Carrie Burggraf, MS, PA-C is a physician assistant who specializes in internal medicine and geriatrics. She is Director of Client Services for Home Care Assistance, a non-medical home care company.  She’s worked extensively with hospice care, inspired by her mother who founded the hospice in her home town in West Virginia.   As a result she notes, “I’ve known the value of hospice most of my life”.

Member at Large –  Beth Barrett, MSW, LCSW, CT is the Director of Field Education and an Assistant Clinical Professor for Saint Louis University’s School of Social Work. She specializes in end of life issues. Her clinical experience includes working with children, adolescents, and adults facing life threatening illness, and their families.  Beth has served in the following capacities: case manager for patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease); social worker and bereavement specialist for pediatric hospice and supportive care; coordinator of grief camps and retreats for children, teens, and parents who have experienced the death of a child; and bereavement clinician. Her focus on loss and grief includes not only death and dying issues, but the effects of change and loss in all aspects of the life cycle.

Member at Large – Jennifer Dunn, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C  is a Certified Oncology Social Worker at Washington University School of Medicine-Siteman Cancer Center.  She received a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Kansas and a M.S.W from Washington University in St. Louis Brown School of Social Work specializing in Mental Health.  Jennifer has experience with adult and pediatric hospice and supportive care, volunteers for bereavement camps and retreats for children and adults and works as a support group facilitator for the Cancer Support Community of Greater St. Louis.  Jennifer is a Social Work Fellow in Palliative and End of Life Care at the New York University School of Social Work and her primary interest is in Advance Care Planning for adults in active cancer treatment.

Member at Large – Kim Gladstone, RN, MA has thirty years experience in healthcare spanning several diverse roles, all of which included learning and then sharing what she learned with both providers and patients to improve healthcare in our community.  She has been a hospice volunteer since January 2010 and is currently a nurse with SSM Hospice.

 Member at Large – Kelly Karavousanos is the Director of Grief Services at Baue. She is a licensed professional counselor, funeral director & certified thanatologist. She has received multiple trainings in the area of bereavement Care from the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado. She is a member of The American Counseling Association & The Association for Death Education. Kelly has developed and facilitated grief education classes and grief support groups for over 7 years. Her professional experience includes chronic mental illness, substance abuse, aging, disability, trauma and crisis intervention.

Member at Large – Sharon Orlet, M.Div is currently a chaplain for Optum Hospice and a spiritual director.  She is a Fellow with the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, with 30 years of experience in pastoral psychotherapy. She has taught at two seminaries and is now interested in teaching church groups The Art of Being Friends with the Dying.

Member at Large Lynn Potts, MBA is Director Program Management at Intalere.  She brings her experience working with both acute and non-acute healthcare providers, and extensive knowledge of the hospice industry, to the Gateway End-of-Life Coalition. As part of her role at Intalere, a healthcare GPO, she manages their hospice and palliative care program. Lynn experienced the value of hospice services personally when her uncle, who lived thousands of miles away and had no one, needed hospice care.

Member at Large – Debbie Schuster, M.H.A, J.D., is a partner at Paule, Camazine and Blumenthal, P.C, whose practice focuses on elder, disability and special needs law and incapacity planning, including end-of-life planning. Ms. Schuster is a certified Elder and Adult Family mediator and works with individuals and families to find the best options for their complex legal and life transition issues.  She works extensively with multidisciplinary professionals to help find the best solutions for the issues facing her clients.  Ms. Schuster is passionate about incapacity and end of life planning to ensure that her clients’ wishes are honored.  She is the Vice Chair of the VNA of Greater St. Louis, a Board Member of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, St. Louis Chapter, a Vice Chair of the Missouri Bar Elder Law Committee, a member of the Missouri and National Academies of Elder Law Attorneys, the Aging Life Care Association and a frequent speaker for St. Louis ARC, the Parkinson’s Association, the Missouri Bar and many other organizations. She is the chair of an ad hoc committee that has for the past four years introduced a Designated Health Care Surrogate bill to the Missouri legislature to enable family members to collaboratively make health care decisions for a loved one who does not have Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care rather than forcing them to resort to court appointment to make such decisions. Ms. Schuster was a 2016 finalist for St. Louis Magazine’s “Excellence in the Law”. Ms. Schuster is passionate about educating the community about advance care planning and elder law to enable them to be their own best advocates.

Member at Large – Heather Stock is a Palliative care nurse at SSM Health St. Clare Hospital in Fenton where she also serves as the Co-Chair of the Ethics committee.  Heather received her BSN from the University of Missouri St. Louis and a BS in cell biology with a minor in Chemistry from Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California. Heather has been honored for her work in Palliative care including the “Achievement in Exceptional Innovation” from SSM Health St. Clare Hospital and was a finalist for St. Louis Magazine Excellence in Nursing Award.

Member at Large – Cara L. Wallace, PhD., LMSW is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at Saint Louis University. Her research focuses on issues related to end-of-life care within three related areas: (1) barriers to care; (2) quality of care; and (3) educating students, professionals, and the general population to face issues surrounding death, illness, loss and grief. She coordinates SLU’s Interprofessional Gerontology Certificate program and teaches Values and Ethics and direct practice courses related to end-of-life, aging and healthcare. Dr. Wallace’s research and teaching are informed by practice experience in hospice and hospital systems.

Student – Christina Sanders, MSW student is a proud member of Alpha Sigma Lambda Honor Society. Currently  she is supervising clinical and administrative affairs as a nursing home administrator intern for a 120 bed facility.  Christina promotes collaborative decision making among both staff and patients within long-term care.  She has over ten years experience in  patient care settings including private-duty, rehabilitation, mental health and hospitals. She is committed to serving the elderly population by advocating for quality care. Currently she is working towards a Masters in Social Work  (MSW) specializing in gerontology at Saint Louis University.


Gary U. Behrman PhD, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker with special training in gerontology, spirituality, and post-trauma interventions. He is an Expert Trainer for competency-based faculty education through the National Center for Gerontology in Social Work Education, and a member of the Institute for Geriatric Social Work: Boston University Training Incentive Program (TIPS). He was selected to participate in the Gerontology Summer Institute, sponsored by the National Institute of Health (NIH) at Syracuse University, NY. He has presented his research and scholarship at the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE), and the Gerontological Society of America (GSA), International Conference.

Erin Bakanas, MD  Dr. Bakanas graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in 1987. She is board certified in Internal Medicine.  Dr. Bakanas is affiliated with Saint Louis University Hospital.  She has expertise in medical ethics education and primary care provider. She takes medical interest in cancer prevention and screening, heart disease prevention, physical examinations, diabetes, coronary artery disease and more.

Brian Carpenter is a clinical psychologist and Professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at Washington University. His clinical and research interests focus on family relationships in late life, with a particular emphasis on communication among older adults, family members, and healthcare providers. Dr. Carpenter received a B.A. from Williams College and a doctorate from Case Western Reserve University. After completing a predoctoral internship at the New Orleans Veterans Affairs Medical Center, he completed postdoctoral fellowships at the Philadelphia Geriatric Center, the University of Pennsylvania, and an Interdisciplinary Fellowship in Palliative Care at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Rev. Carol McCracken Keating, M.Div is a hospice chaplain with SSM Health.   She has spent her career working in chaplaincy with older adults in some format. End of life issues are near and dear to her heart as her experience shows most of us do not plan and the end comes sooner than any of us expect.

Kavitha Lakshmanan is a graduate of Brown School of Social Work at Washington University where she focused on children and families dealing with trauma and a two-year fellowship at the Yale Child Study Center. She then completed the two-year Advanced Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Program and End of Life certification through Smith College: School for Social Work. Kavitha has taught, trained and volunteered at local hospices.  She co-led parent groups at Kids’ Clubhouse, a St. Louis non-profit serving grieving children and their families.  She works at Care and Counseling with adults and older adults providing individual psychotherapy, specializing in death, dying, and bereavement.

Virginia G. Rice‘s practice concentrates in the areas of elder law, mental health law, probate and trust administration, special needs planning, and guardianship and conservatorship matters. She served as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Missouri from 1991 to 1993, representing the Department of Mental Health. For the past 22 years, Ms. Rice has served as a court-appointed attorney for St. Louis City and St. Louis County, representing individuals in civil commitment, guardianship and conservatorship cases. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and her Juris Doctoris from St. Louis University School of Law. Ms. Rice serves on the Elder Law, Trust and Probate, and Mental and Developmental Disabilities Committees of the Missouri Bar. She was appointed Executive Liaison for the Elder Law Task Force formed by the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis and is the recipient of an Award of Merit from its Young Lawyers’ Division. Ms. Rice is one of the founding members, a past president and current member of the Missouri Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Ms. Rice is a member of the Webster Groves Shrewsbury Chamber of Commerce. She has been a member of the Alzheimer’s Association since 1996. She was the recipient of the “Woman of Worth” award from the Older Women’s League”. Ms. Rice has also received an AAA rating from Martin Dale Hubble and BBB accreditation.