Life Perspectives’ and the Institute of Reproductive Care's Healthcare Task Force is establishing and effecting the widespread adoption of a reproductive grief standard of care by providing strategic advice, research guidance, and key introductions within the healthcare community.
Shandeigh “Nikki” Berry, PhD, RN, CNOR
Dr. Shandeigh “Nikki” Berry is an honored graduate from Washington State University and the first in the College of Nursing to receive the prestigious Karan P. DePauw Leadership Award. An Assistant Professor in the College of Arts & Sciences at Saint Martin’s University, Dr. Berry teaches undergraduate courses in nursing theory and philosophy, palliative and end-of-life care across the lifespan, and management of chronic conditions.
Dr. Berry’s research in perinatal loss, grief, and bereavement focuses on decreasing the emotional trauma parents experience in the wake of a life-limiting fetal diagnosis. She has been published in multiple refereed journals, including Journal of Neonatal Nursing, Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecological Nursing, Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing, and Death Studies. Her research has been presented nationally and incorporated into international perinatal palliative care educational curricula. She collaborates with Thai researchers at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand researching holistic palliative care practices. Other research specialties include high-stakes communication, perinatal palliative care, translational research, interpretive phenomenology, and mixed-methods studies. Nikki is the founder of the Project Poppyseed Foundation, which offers online perinatal loss, grief, and bereavement resources for families and health care professionals.
Maria Brann, PhD, MPH
Dr. Maria Brann (PhD, University of Kentucky; MPH, West Virginia University) is a professor in the Department of Communication Studies at IUPUI. Dr. Brann explores the integration of health, interpersonal, and gender communication. Her translational focus and mixed methods approach are woven throughout her health vulnerabilities research, which advocates for more effective communication to improve people’s health. Her primary research interests focus on the study of women’s issues in health communication contexts and promotion of healthy lifestyle behaviors to improve personal and public health and safety.
Most notably, she seeks to understand the individual and societal communicative negotiations of birth and pregnancy loss, promotion of more empathic provider communication during bad news delivery, and persuasive public health messaging. Her work has been published in numerous refereed journals including
Health Communication, Patient Education and Counseling, Journal of Social and Personal
Relationships, and Qualitative Health Research and several scholarly books including
Pregnancy Loss: A Narrative Collection, Gender in Applied Communication Contexts, and
Casing the Family: Theoretical and Applied Approaches to Understanding Family Communication. Her teaching includes graduate and undergraduate communication courses in health, family and interpersonal relationships, nonverbal, and gender as well as the senior capstone and graduate orientation courses.
Matthew Breuninger, M.A., Psy.D.
Dr. Matthew Breuninger is an associate professor of psychology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He earned his doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Baylor University. Dr. Breuninger is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of Ohio. His clinical interests include anxiety, depression, trauma, and substance abuse.
His research interests broadly comprise psychology of religion, with a focus on virtue formation and God attachment. When not teaching Dr. Breuninger can be found spending time hiking with his family or fishing in the local lakes.
Clayton A. Brigance, Ed.S., LPC
Clayton Brigance is a PhD candidate in counseling at the University of Missouri-St.
Louis where he was awarded the 2022 PhD Student of the Year and focuses on therapeutic approaches with couples who are experiencing infertility. Clayton is a graduate of Murray State University where he studied psychology, and is also licensed professional counselor.
Clayton’s personal experiences have led him to focus his studies and research on infertility. He is the lead researcher of a study on emotion-focused therapy for couples experiencing infertility that is published in the research journal The Family Journal. He is in the process of submitting a new groundbreaking study co-authored with his wife, the first ever duoethnography of a couple who has experienced infertility. Clayton is also a noted speaker and will present infertility research at the 2022 American Psychological Association (APA) conference.
Jennifer J. Bute, Ph.D.
Dr. Jennifer J. Bute is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at IUPUI and a former Senior Editor for the journal Health Communication. Dr. Bute’s research centers on communication about health in interpersonal relationships. Most of her work has explored issues of reproductive health, such as how people manage private information about topics like infertility and miscarriage.
Her research also examines public discourses about reproductive and sexual health and patient-provider communication about pregnancy loss. She has served on the advisory committee for the Personalized Medicine Coalition, where she offered expertise in health communication to develop a patient-centered research agenda. Her research has appeared in numerous edited books and journals, including Communication Monographs, Health Communication, Journal of Applied Communication Research, Patient Education and Counseling, Qualitative Health Research, and Social Science and Medicine. Her work has been funded by the National Communication Association, the Indiana State Department of Health, the Central States Communication Association, the IUPUI School of Liberal Arts, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at IUPUI. Dr. Bute teaches courses at the undergraduate and graduate level on topics including health communication, interpersonal communication, gender and communication, and qualitative research methods.
Stephen DiDonato, PhD, LPC, NCC
Dr. Stephen DiDonato serves as a professor at Thomas Jefferson University with a deep passion and strong evidence-based clinical skills in the professional counseling, specifically in child and family traumatic stress, domain. Stephen completed his Master’s Degree in Counseling from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and his Ph.D. in International Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
He has clinical expertise working with children, families, and communities who have been exposed to potentially traumatic events. Specifically, Stephen’s clinical focus has been on enhancing the adaption to the inherently complex traumatic environments that children and families face in underserved communities. Stephen’s research agenda and scholarly work is primarily focused on how adherence to myths, implicit stereotypes, and restricted stereotypes influence how counselors and other health professionals engage with their clients. Stephen is co-developing an interprofessional education module that will be disseminated and studied in the field of community health settings, to understand the efficacy behind training professionals in interprofessional care and its necessity for positive outcomes for children, families, communities, and organizations.
DiAnn Ecret, PhD, MSN, RN, MA cert
DiAnn graduated from Our Lady of Lourdes School of Nursing in 1987, completed her BSN & MSN from Wilmington University. Completed a Master’s degree certification in theology/ethics from Villanova University, and graduated with a PhD in Health Care Ethics at Duquesne University.
As part of the PhD, program DiAnn completed a two-year ethics residency program at the Veterans Administration Maryland Healthcare System (VAMHCS), as an Integrated Ethics Team Member; she participated in ethics rounds with the University of Maryland’s Health Care system’s medical team and co-chaired/ coordinated two fiscal year preventative ethics quality improvement plans. DiAnn has 30 years of combined nursing experience in pediatric and adult critical care, nursing management and nursing education. DiAnn is full time nursing faculty member at Thomas Jefferson University/ Jefferson College of Nursing, she teaches in the undergraduate program for the accelerated BSN students, and she teaches in the graduate nursing program. DiAnn is the faculty advisor to the Sydney Kimmel Medical College’s ethics society and she continues to present ethical decision-making strategies for the new employee nurse residency program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. DiAnn is the part time nurse planner and ethicist at The National Catholic Bioethics center, and volunteers as an ethics consultant for both the National Catholic Bioethics Program and Be Not Afraid.
Michaelene Fredenburg, President & CEO, Life Perspectives
Michaelene Fredenburg is the President and CEO of Life Perspectives, the global authority on reproductive grief and loss. A recognized expert in reproductive grief care, Michaelene co-developed reproductive loss Continuing Education Curricula that is nationally accredited by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the National Association of Social Workers, and approved by the California Board of Registered Nurses (BRN) and the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT).
She is an author, speaker, guest lecturer, and has consulted on research studies published in the peer-review journals Health Communication, Frontiers in Pediatrics, and Frontiers in Psychology. Most recently, Divine Mercy University, a graduate school for counseling and psychology, invited Michaelene to be their commencement speaker and bestowed upon her an Honorary Doctorate.
Dr. Stephanie Gilbert
Dr. Stephanie Gilbert is an Associate Professor in the Shannon School of Business at Cape Breton University. She received her doctorate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Saint Mary’s University. Her research examines predictors of leadership effectiveness and emergence, including leaders’ own motivation for leadership, and examines how grieving employees experience work.
Dr. Gilbert has worked with a variety of industries including healthcare, non-profit, for-profit, and start-up businesses and she teaches in the areas of leadership and organizational behavior.
Kathryn Grauerholz, MSN, NP, ACHPN, Director of Healthcare Programs, LP
Kathryn Grauerholz is an Adult Nurse Practitioner and an Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse. She has earned her undergraduate degree in nursing from San Diego State University and a graduate degree in nursing from The University of San Diego and has over two decades of experience working with adult patients in preventive medicine, weight management, hospice, antenatal distress counseling, and reproductive loss. Kathryn serves as the Director of Healthcare Programs at Life Perspectives.
She is the principal author of the article, Fostering Vicarious Resilience in Perinatal Palliative Care Professionals, published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Pediatrics and the article, Uncovering Prolonged Grief Reactions Subsequent to a Reproductive Loss: Implications for the Primary Care Provider, for Frontiers in Health Psychology. Kathryn is passionate about evidenced based medicine and would like to broaden the science of reproductive grief care. She has presented on the topics of perinatal palliative care and reproductive grief care to healthcare professionals nationally and internationally.
Dr. Erica Kreller, MD
Erica Kreller, MD is an OB/GYN in private practice in Gilbert, Arizona. She received her medical degree from the University of Southern California, and completed OB/GYN residency at the Naval Medical Center, San Diego.
Following residency, she practiced for three years in Yokosuka Japan serving sailors and their families. She completed her service in the Navy and then moved to Omaha Nebraska, where she completed a year-long fellowship in Medical and Surgical Natural Procreative Technology (NaProTechnology). She then joined Morning Star OB/GYN where she serves patients from all over Arizona and the surrounding states. She is married, and has 5 living children who keep life interesting!
Joyce Merrigan, DNP, CPLC, CBC, CBCC, C-EFM, TIP, RNC-OB
Dr. Joyce Merrigan is a passionate educator and advocate for reproductive grief care. She has been a labor and delivery nurse and perinatal bereavement coordinator providing bereavement care to women and their families in New Jersey since 2002. Her many hospital positions include labor and delivery nurse, Perinatal Bereavement Coordinator and Patient Care Coordinator.
She is a member of the Central NJ Family Health Consortia and Central New Jersey’s Perinatal Bereavement and Fetal Infant Mortality Review Committees. Joyce has advocated on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC for respectful disposition and is a published author, national and international speaker advocating for bereavement education for nursing staff providing care to women experiencing pregnancy loss. Dr. Merrigan collaborated with the National Perinatal Association for the Practice Statement on Perinatal Bereavement Care for Miscarriage in the Emergency Department and is a member of AWHONN; ANA; NJSNA; HPNA; NPA; INA; PLIDA, and NAPW. She maintains a certification in Obstetrics, Perinatal Loss Care, and is a trauma-informed provider. She is in private practice providing council to families who have experienced traumatic birth, early pregnancy loss and perinatal loss. She earned her DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) from Capella University and her published manuscript focused on perinatal bereavement education of nurses with particular application to miscarriage in the emergency department.
Angelica Quezada, LCSW 98888
Director of Mental Health Programs
Dr. Lauren Rubal, MD, FACOG
Lauren Rubal, MD is a Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility physician with a concierge boutique practice in Orange County, CA. She is also a Fellow in Integrative Medicine at the Andrew Weil Center at the University of Arizona, a FEMM-aligned Reproductive Health Research Institute Fellow, and serves as Associate Clinical Faculty at UC Irvine. Dr. Rubal's goal is to radically reimagine the field by focusing on whole body methods to identify the root cause and heal reproductive issues, like fertility, miscarriage, and abnormal cycles.
This is done through lifestyle optimization, tailored nutraceuticals, bioidentical hormone support, and judicious fertility medication use, all while avoiding aggressive procedures. Dr. Rubal is grateful to have been selected for multiple years running as a Southern California Super Doctor and Rising Star, Orange County Physician of Excellence, and Top Doc in Pasadena. She is part of Life Perspectives' Healthcare Task Force, a leader in education, research, expertise and support after reproductive loss; serves on the Advisory Board for Pre-Health Shadowing, a non-profit that makes discovery of different medical specialties accessible to students; and has been an invited guest at multiple conferences and podcasts. Dr. Rubal is excited to use an integrative medicine lens to educate about women's issues.
Melinda Ruiz, MSN, RN, CNS
Melinda Ruiz graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University for both her Bachelors of Nursing and Masters of Nursing Education with a focus on the family for the Clinical Nurse Specialist role. She has been a nurse for 20 years with an emphasis on high risk pregnancies and babies antepartum, intrapartum and postpartum.
Melinda is also a certified instructor for the Institute of Reproductive Grief Care.
Melissa Ryan, RN, BSN, PHN, RNC-OB, LE (CA)
She has over 20 years of leadership and expertise in high-risk obstetrics, behavioral health, infertility, and end of life care. Notably, Melissa served as Director for the State of California MCAH division, overseeing both Regional Perinatal Programs of California and the California Diabetes and Pregnancy Program. She is also an active member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and nurse practice group. Melissa is passionate about health equity and spreading best practices to improve patient care outcomes.
Dr. Mayra Thompson, MD, OB/GYN
Dr. Mayra Thompson is an Obstetrics & Gynecology Specialist in Dallas, TX and has over 42 years of experience in the medical field.
Dr. Thompson has extensive experience in gynecologic conditions and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area including UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano. She graduated from University of Illinois College of Medicine.