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Founders & Directors

Jeremy Richman, Ph.D.

Jeremy Biosketch Pics (44Gradient-sm)Dr. Jeremy Richman has extensive research experience that spans the range from neuroscience and neuropsychopharmacology, to cardiovascular biology, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, immunology and inflammation, and kidney disease.  He has worked in the drug discovery arena for over two decades and is passionate about helping people live happier and healthier lives.  His hobbies include rock climbing, mountain biking, kung fu, and teaching children how to be healthy and happy.

Dr. Richman worked as a laboratory technician for two years in the lab of Dr. Henry Yamamura, studying the pharmacology of pain modulation and molecular pathologies of Alzheimer’s disease. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis on chemistry and physics from the University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ in 1992. In 1994, Dr. Richman was accepted into the graduate program of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Arizona where he earned a Ph.D. studying adrenaline receptors in the laboratory of Dr. John Regan.

In January of 1998, Dr. Richman continued his research on the sympathetic nervous system in the laboratory of Dr. Lee Limbird at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN.  Here he focused on the role of sub-cellular receptor distribution in micro-domain and synaptic formation.  In January of 2001, Dr. Richman moved into drug discovery as a neuroscientist at Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc, San Diego, CA with the hope of identifying therapeutic mechanisms to prevent schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease.  His drug discovery interests broadened over the next decade, leading projects in atherosclerosis and thrombosis, and eventually diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.  In January of 2011, Dr. Richman took on a drug discovery leadership role at Boehringer Ingelheim in Danbury, CT exploring ways to prevent or cure a number of autoimmune and chronic diseases of the CNS, cardiovascular, and metabolic systems.

Following the murder of his daughter, Avielle, Dr. Richman and his wife, Jennifer Hensel, started the Avielle Foundation. It is his belief that through brain health research and education, we can protect our loved ones and foster happier and stronger communities.


Jennifer Hensel, M.S.

Jenn-Biosketch-Pics-27Jennifer Hensel is a multi-disciplinary scientist having worked in a number of research fields from clinical microbiology to molecular and cellular immunology and oncology.  A hobby of Mrs. Hensel’s is reading about the history and public health implications of infectious diseases such as influenza, cholera, and the plague.  Her practical experience ranges from bench scientist to regulatory medical writer.  She is driven to answer the “whys” of disease pathology and as a result has a unique understanding of microbiology, parasitology, immunology, inflammation, and oncology.

Mrs. Hensel earned her Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology and immunology from the University of Arizona.  During college she worked in a county hospital as a clinical microbiologist.  Mrs. Hensel earned a Master of Science degree in Pathobiology from the department of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Arizona, studying how opportunistic parasitic infections cause disease in immunocompromised populations.

Mrs Hensel continued her post-graduate research in the lab of Dr. Marilyn Halonen, studying respiratory immunology at the University of Arizona Medical Center.  She went on to Vanderbilt University Medical Center where she studied B lymphocyte signaling pathways with Dr. Wasif Khan and G protein-coupled receptor pharmacology with Dr. Lee Limbird.  In 2001, Mrs. Hensel moved to San Diego, CA to work in the biotech industry developing therapeutics to treat cancer, first at Idun Pharmaceuticals and then at Celgene Corporation.  Mrs. Hensel left the biotech industry in 2006 to stay at home and raise her daughter, Avielle.  Finding she missed working in the sciences she started a medical and scientific writing company, Presentus Research Communications, Inc. in Sandy Hook, CT, allowing her to work from home and to be a stay at home parent.  Following Avielle’s murder, Mrs. Hensel and her husband Dr. Jeremy Richman, started the Avielle Foundation.


Darren Bishop, CFP

IMG_0148_5x7 Darren Bishop 1Darren Bishop is a co-founder and serves on the Board of Directors for the Avielle Foundation.

Darren graduated from the University of Arizona in 1992 with majors in finance and accounting.  He has worked for Ameriprise Financial in Denver, Colorado the last 20 years (via two buyouts) as financial advisor, branch manager, and complex manager.  He is a Certified Financial Planner, Accredited Portfolio Management Advisor, Chartered Retirement Planning Councilor, and holds many licenses.

Darren lives in Denver with his wife Kristi and two kids Jeremy and Miranda.  He is an avid racquetball player, loves playing cards (poker and bridge), and fly fishing. 


Ace Robinson, MPH

Ace RobinsonAce Robinson has extensive experience working to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria, and other chronic diseases on vulnerable populations domestically and worldwide. He has focused his work on public policy, evidence-based community health, and legal advocacy. He is the Director of Health Education, Prevention, and Public Policy & Advocacy at Lifelong in Seattle. In his role, he oversees legislative agendas focused on communicable diseases in addition to developing, planning, administrating, and evaluating health messaging and prevention initiatives for vulnerable populations. Previously, Ace has served as the Managing Director at Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City, Director of Health Information at Partners In Health, and the Director of the AIDS Prevention Unit at the University of California, Los Angeles and co-founded the Black Gay Men’s Leadership Council of Philadelphia.

Mr. Robinson earned his Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Duke University. And earned his Master’s degree in Public Health at the University of Cape Town in South Africa with a concentration in International Health Promotion with a focus in Infectious Disease. He brings a wealth of experience to the Avielle Foundation with a background in non-profit management, research oversight, and an insatiable drive to improve the health outcomes of all persons through measurable research and community engagement.


Urvi Sanghvi, RN

Urvi Sanghvi color

Urvi was raised in Southern California and has lived in Denver, Colorado since 2009. She has a Bachelors of Science in Neuroscience and Physiology from the University of California, San Diego and a Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Regis University, Denver. Her training as a scientist began in drug discovery at Celgene Corporation, studying genomics and translational medicine to develop promising new therapies in hematology and oncology. Urvi left drug discovery in order to bridge the gap between bench science and bedside medicine by pursuing a career in nursing. She is currently a Registered Nurse at Children’s Hospital Colorado supporting Clinical Research in the Bone Marrow Transplant Program. In her spare time, Urvi enjoys exploring the beautiful state of Colorado with her husband and daughter, volunteering at a local Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and providing service to various community organizations. Urvi serves on the Board of Directors for the Avielle Foundation.


Linda Degutis, DrPH, MSN

Linda Degutis, DrPH, MSN Head shots for IOM and website

Linda C. Degutis, DrPH, MSN, FRSPH (hon) is a consultant specializing in policy, advocacy, and injury and violence prevention. She is currently consulting on initiatives focusing on prevention of injury, suicide prevention and intervention, and violence prevention. Previously, she served as Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At NCIPC, Dr. Degutis led initiatives in preventing violence and injuries, both domestically and internationally, focusing on interventions to address risk factors and developing closer linkages between research and practice. Prior to joining CDC, she was Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Public Health, and Associate Clinical Professor of Nursing at Yale University, and served as Research Director for Emergency Medicine and Director of the Yale Center for Public Health Preparedness. She was a 1996-97 Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow, working in Senator Paul Wellstone’s (D-MN) office. Her research has focused on injury and violence prevention, as well as substance abuse prevention and intervention. She has been actively involved in educational initiatives in injury and violence prevention and intervention, trauma system development and implementation, substance abuse prevention and intervention and public health preparedness.

Dr. Degutis is Past President of the American Public Health Association (APHA) and served as Chair of its Executive Board. She is an active member of the Injury Control and Emergency Health Services Section of APHA. She recently completed 2 terms on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellowship Advisory Board. She currently serves on the Advisory Board of DePaul University’s College of Sciences and Health, the editorial boards of Injury Prevention, Public Health, and Injury Epidemiology, and the National Advisory Committee for Public Health Systems and Services Research at the University of Kentucky, as well as the board of the Association of Yale Alumni in Public Health. She co-chairs the Advocacy and Policy Committee for the Society for the Advancement of Violence and Injury Research (SAVIR). She has been honored by the ICEHS Section of APHA through its Distinguished Career Award; the Association of Yale Alumni in Public Health through its Distinguished Alumni Award; and is an honorary fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health.

“The Avielle Foundation is unique in its approach to working to address violence. Addressing the underpinnings of violent behavior through a focus on brain health, and moving communities from research to action to improve and support brain health, the Foundation is changing the dialogue around violence.”


Woodie Kessel, MD, MPH

Woddie KesselDr. Woodie Kessel has been a community pediatrician for nearly four decades working to advance child and family health. He has had a broad range of both influence and experience that has given him a unique perspective and has led to a very distinguished career. Dr. Kessel’s experience spans health policy, public health awareness and education, and establishing community-based programs.  He has served as served as Senior Director of applied research, community-based programs, and professional education.  He was a senior advisor on public health, health policy, and child and family health matters to the White House, Cabinet Secretaries, Surgeon Generals, and Health and Human Services officials spanning eight administrations. Dr. Kessel developed and led initiatives focused on reducing infant mortality, expanding health insurance for children, improving environmental health, preventing childhood obesity, reaching and engaging youth through innovative health education and communication, and breaking the cycle of violence and trauma among children witnessing domestic violence and terrorism.  He has partnered with numerous organizations including Sesame Workshop, the National Sleep Foundation, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Kessel served as the deputy Surgeon General under Dr. Koop. He is also a critical member of the American Public Health Association’s Maternal and Child Health section.

Dr. Kessel is currently the C Everett Koop Senior Child Health Scholar in Residence, Koop Institute at Dartmouth; Chairman of the Healthy Children, Healthy Futures Board of Directors; Co-Chair of the APHA MCH Section Gun Violence Prevention Committee; Co-Principle Investigator, Baltimore GrandFamily Initiative, UMD; Director, Leadership Matters Campaign; Elected member of the APHA governing council; Elected Member of the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation Board of Directors; Founder and President, e-maginative health systems solutions; and Health Advisor, Sesame Workshop.

Dr. Kessel was awarded the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Excellence in Public Service Award, the US Public Health Service Distinguished Service Medal, and the US Surgeon General’s Medallion in recognition of  his multiple contributions to improve the health and well-being of America’s children and families. Dr. Kessel was a RWJ Clinical Scholar, Ambulatory Pediatrics Fellow at the Children’s Hospital National Medical Center, and pediatric resident and primary care fellow in the Department of Pediatrics at Boston City Hospital.


Dione Sordi

DioneDione serves as the Foundation’s Treasurer and helps to guide and organize most of our operations. She is a former paralegal that has spent the last twelve years focusing on raising her two sons, ages 14 and 10.  She has served on the Hawley PTA Executive Board for four years as well as the board for Trinity Day School, both located in Newtown, CT. Dione enjoys volunteering at school events, teaching after school activities and helping her son’s baseball team.  She is an advocate for creating positive life experiences for children in school, as well as through their extra-curricular activities.  She believes that one of the greatest tools we can teach our children is how to understand and master their emotions and knowing their self-worth and unique skill sets.


Nick Hoffman

Nick comes to The Avielle Foundation with 15 years’ experience in the nonprofit sector as former Development Director with Family and Children’s Aid in Danbury, CT and Executive Director of the Newtown Youth Academy, in Newtown CT. His knowledge of capacity building and organizational leadership will help The Avielle Foundation expand the impact of our mission. Nick has done extensive work throughout his career with the Life Is Good Kids Foundation through their Playmaker programming and  is a certified Playmaker and optimism expert. Additionally, he is certified in Youth Brain Health first aid and he is a passionate and active advocate for brain health. Nick’s commitment to improving the lives of children battling the trauma caused by abuse and adversity is highlighted by the programs he has developed and the volunteers he has engaged.  Two specific projects Nick has lead are Bob’s Camp, a week-long overnight summer camp for foster children and children in state care, and the GE/Family and Children’s Aid Week of Caring, utilizing hundreds of GE volunteers for a week-long project at the Danbury, CT campus of Family and Children’s Aid.

Nick shares his life with his wife Robyn and their two young daughters in Bethel, CT. They enjoy playing, traveling and learning together especially on the water. Nick also serves as an elected member of the Bethel Board of Education.