SAA receives no government funding and relies on the generous donations from individuals to create and maintain the programs and services aimed at improving the futures of the 2.7 million Americans affected by spondylitis.

The SAA Team

Our internal team is made up of a diverse group of professionals with a wide range of expertise in nonprofit management, fund development, program development and evaluation, financial management, technology solutions, communications strategies, and more. Together, we aim to provide responsive programs and services of the highest quality to the spondylitis community.
Want to join the team? View our career page and see if there's an opening!

Views SAA Careers


Cassie Shafer Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

Cassie is the office innovator. Since her initiation, Cassie has conceptualized a majority of the new programs and ideas that are currently being implemented, including the most important one - the office Halloween potluck.

Favorite place on Earth: Any tropical island or exotic locale
Describe SAA in one word: Supportive
Favorite thing about your job: Love working with volunteers at all levels of the association. The ability to hear the needs of our members and patients and our ability to respond quickly in most situations.
What do you do for fun: Swimming, cycling, hiking (when it’s not snake season), international travel
Something most people don't know about you: I’ve climbed Mt. Fuji twice while living in Japan in the ‘80s

Richard Howard Chief Mission Advancement Officer

Richard is the office busybody. If he's not in the office, he's probably in Vegas meeting with Imagine Dragon's lead singer Dan Reynolds or hosting a yoga class/support group meeting. As an AS patient, he is our goto for any AS-related information and correspondant for conferences.

Favorite place on Earth: Wherever my family is
Describe SAA in one word: #mySpondyCommunity
Favorite thing about your job: Conversations with people about projects that improve our world – members, researchers, clinicians, pharma, advocates, etc.
What do you do for fun: Date night with bride
Something most people don't know about you: I was a rugby player in college or that I taught aerobics in the 80s, I met and photographed Richard Simmons & Kathy Smith for AFAA

Diann Peterson Chief Philanthropy Officer

Diann is the office comedian. She’ll often have chats with coworkers that are overheard and will shut work down for a few minutes while everyone else cracks up, but pretends to be laughing at something else.

Favorite place on Earth: The next place I visit
Describe SAA in one word: Life changing. And if I had to describe myself in one word – Can’t Follow Directions.
Favorite thing about your job: We get to help make things better for some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Plus, we have TWO microwaves in the break-room!
What do you do for fun: Travel -- 30+ countries and counting. (Attention International Members – do you have a couch to spare?)
Something most people don't know about you: Wouldn't you like to know!

Elin Aslanyan Dir. of Programs/Editor in Chief

Elin is the office mom. In addition to recently adding a beautiful baby girl to her family, she also takes care of her wonderful associates in the office. She fully utilizes those motherly skills to constantly multitask her duties as Director of Programs as well as the Editor-in-Chief of our magazine, Spondylitis Plus.

Favorite place on Earth: Anywhere in nature, taking in the magic.
Describe SAA in one word: Passionate
Favorite thing about your job: The wonderful people I get to support in our community.
What do you do for fun: We have a one year old! Enough said. I love traveling though, when we can arrange to get away.
Something most people don't know about you: I’ve voluntarily jumped out of a perfectly functional plane, and lived to tell about it.

Jason Blackwell Dir. Brand Experience & Public Affairs

Jason is the office jack of all trades. He is a Marketing Strategist with a passion for digital and as one of the new kids on the block, his areas of focus are brand identity, media relations, and message amplification.

Describe SAA in one word: Supportive
Favorite thing about your job: It’s a challenge to understand the science and the intricate details of spondylitis and to tell a compelling story about it.
What do you do for fun: Writing & Travel
Something most people don't know about you: I was on the rowing team for a year during undergrad, but no one was aware that I couldn’t swim.

Sean Ewert Director of Philanthropy

Sean is the office extrovert. A day does not go by without hearing Sean's infectious laugh and lighthearted remarks resonate throughout our halls. If you have contacted our office lately, chances are he's been on the receiving end.

Favorite place on Earth: Iceland
Describe SAA in one word: Rewarding
Favorite thing about your job: I really enjoy talking with our members and learning their life story.
What do you do for fun: Hikes with my partner and my dog, travel and exploring offbeat Los Angeles culture.
Something most people don't know about you: Many people don’t relocate very often in their lives. As of today, I have moved 25 times!

Kristine Callender Programs Manager

Kristine is the office early bird. She is the newest on staff, but eager to hit the ground running. She went from being an Accountant to going back to school to get her Masters in Public Health so that she could help make a difference in people's lives by addressing, assisting and advocating for the health and well-being of individuals and communities affected in our country.

Favorite place on Earth: At a lake side cabin away from the city
Describe SAA in one word: Compassionate
Favorite thing about your job: Having the opportunity and means to help others, through innovative and creative programs. Looking forward to being a part of the Spondylitis Community.
What do you do for fun: On my free time I enjoy spending time with my 7 year old son. He is the love of my life and nothing makes me happier than seeing him smile.
Something most people don't know about you: I was Brittney Spears’ assistant for two weeks and got to live with her.

Ryan Miyamoto Web Developer & Content Manager

Ryan is the office nerd. If you've ever had a technical error with our website, chances are he's the one responsible for causing it...and fixing it. Don't be too hard on him though - he's only 23.

Favorite place on Earth: Sitting in fresh pow in Mammoth
Describe SAA in one word: Determined
Favorite thing about your job: Being able to utilize technology to raise awareness, educate people and potentially change lives for the better.
What do you do for fun: mountain bike, dirtbike, ski/snowboard, golf, modify cars, drink tequila
Something most people don't know about you: I was the #2 ranked player on a 3x City Championship winning golf team and represented Los Angeles in the CIF State Playoffs four years in a row.

Manny Caro Dev. & Annual Giving Manager

Manny is the office jock. In addition to lifting extremely heavy weights, he is a former aerospace professional and ever since he found his passion for helping others, he haven’t worked a day since. Since then, he has been very fortunate to have been able to help the lives of children, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, the developmentally challenged, and now, families and individuals affected by A.S.

Favorite place on Earth: The open road.
Describe SAA in one word: Relentless
Favorite thing about your job: The daily interactions with people from every walk of life.
What do you do for fun: I lift heavy things, punch people in the boxing ring, volunteer with animals, play my guitar, work on cars and motorcycles, go on off-road adventures, homebrew my own beer, shoot some pool, and purposely get lost on my motorcycle.
Something most people don't know about you: When I was a kid, John Elway refused to autograph a football for me. I tossed my ball at him and I told him “Troy Aikman is a better quarterback than you anyways.” Go Cowboys!

John Highberger Operations Manager/Exec. Assistant

John is the office smileaholic. Rumor has it, in the entire time he has been at SAA, no one has ever seen him frown. Despite the enormous workloads he has been given since his inception, he can still be seen smiling away in his office as he pumps out project after project.

Favorite place on Earth: Iceland
Describe SAA in one word: Encouraging
Favorite thing about your job: Feeling that I am part of a greater good.
What do you do for fun: Travel around the world as much as possible, as well as exploring my new town (as of June, 2017) of Los Angeles
Something most people don't know about you: I have been an actor for almost 30 years (that part people do know), and was humbled and honored to be part of a Chicago produced feature film that had 3 showings at the 2014 Chicago International Film Festival (it was a bit nerve-wracking seeing myself on the big screen, but eventually I got used to it and would love to see it happen more often!). I also have 2 tattoos.

Helene Hart Membership Associate

Helene is the office memory book. Out of the thousands of donating members that visit our site, she knows each one's name and ID number by heart as well as their favorite food and the car they drive. She also does a great job ordering food for us.

Favorite place on Earth: Wherever my family is
Describe SAA in one word: Supportive or Life-Changing
Favorite thing about your job: Interacting with our members and trying to make things better for them
What do you do for fun: Walking the malls, swimming, and spending time with my family
Something most people don't know about you: I used to be a pretty good bowler

Cynthia Rodriguez, MPAPrograms Coordinator

Cynthia is the office creative mind. She has a passion for helping others and making a difference in her community. Cynthia keeps up with social media, organizing the support group meeting calendar, and attends medical conferences on behalf of SAA. If you’d like to get involved, she’d love to hear from you!

Favorite place on Earth: Paris
Describe SAA in one word: Dedicated
Favorite thing about your job: Working closely with our support group leaders throughout the United States. Also, having the opportunity to connect leaders with others living with spondylitis in their community that could use that support.
What do you do for fun: I love to travel and explore big cities, go out dancing with friends, and redecorate my house every chance I get.
Something most people don't know about you: I’m a fur mom to a Yorkie & two cats, foster mom to two toddlers, and soon to be twin mom this summer!



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Careers

Visit our careers page for available positions

Contact Us

Spondylitis Association of America

16360 Roscoe Blvd.  Ste. 100
Van Nuys, CA 91406

Email

info@spondylitis.org

Information Requests

(800) 777-8189 U.S. only
or (818) 892-1616
*Please note: This is not a Crisis Hotline. If you are in a life-threatening crisis, please dial 911 for immediate help in the US. Please follow this link for crisis intervention resources.

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