Our Team

About Our Trainers
Carolyn Merriman, Nurse practitioner
Sonya Barsness - Sonya Barsness Consulting brings gerontology to life. SBC provides consulting in gerontology, particularly related to person-centered care, long-term care, and dementia care.
Annette Clark, Family Services Director with the Alzheimer’s Association CWVA received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology/Sociology and her Masters in Science degree in Gerontology from Virginia Commonwealth University. Before joining the Alzheimer’s Association in 2004 as Family Services Director, she had 19 years of experience working with persons living with dementia and their care partners at the Adult Care Center of Roanoke Valley. She is a Certified Dementia Practitioner, Adjunct Faculty with Virginia Commonwealth University and an Instructor for the Department of Social Services.
Mary Beth Alford, MS, LNHA is currently a PACE Navigator with InnovAge PACE in Roanoke, VA. She has an undergraduate degree is Mass Communications from Virginia Commonwealth University and a masters degree in Gerontology from the Medical College of Virginia. She also holds a Nursing Home Administrator's license in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Mary Beth has worked with older adults for more than 20 years. She began her career as an activity assistant and has held roles in admissions and marketing, was an assistant administrator of a nursing home and and administrator of two assisted living communities. PACE, Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly, has been her passion and she has worked with the community-based program for more than 7 years. Mary Beth has an 8 year old son, Charlie, and they enjoy camping, hiking, music festivals and exploring nature together in the Roanoke Valley. 
Charlotte Arbogast currently serves as a Policy Analyst with the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS). Her in capacity at DARS, she coordinates the agency’s regulations, assists with tracking federal and state legislation and regulatory actions, provides staff support to the Commonwealth Council on Aging, and serves as the subject matter expert on aging policy.
In starting her career, Charlotte Arbogast graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012 with a master’s degree in gerontology and a postgraduate certificate in public management. She previously worked as a health policy analyst for the Virginia Department of Health and a long-term care policy analyst for the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services. In her time working at DARS, she has also served as the Commonwealth’s first dementia services coordinator.
In the spring semesters, she also works as an adjunct instructor with the Department of Gerontology at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Tyler Corson, PhD is a gerontologist. She earned a Master of Science in Gerontology from the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a doctorate in Health Related Sciences from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). She currently teaches in the College of Health Professions at Virginia Commonwealth University, and at Rush University in Chicago with expertise in aging issues, health care ethics, and research methodology. She has experience working with older adults both in the community and residential care settings. Dr. Corson serves on the Board of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Coastal Virginia and teaches community education classes for family members who have a loved one experiencing mental illness. Dr. Corson collaborates with the Department of Gerontology at VCU and the Virginia Department of Social Services to develop curricula and conduct professional trainings for care providers in state assisted living and adult day centers.

Tara Beatty received her Master of Science in gerontology from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Medical College of Virginia in 2000. She currently works at Covenant Woods, a continuing care retirement community in Mechanicsville, as the Life Enrichment Manager. She is a licensed Assisted Living Facility Administrator. Tara is passionate about improving the lives of individuals living with Dementia.  She is a certified Dementia Practitioner,  Certified Montessori Dementia Care Professional, and a Positive Approach to Care trainer.  She is trained by INELDA as an End of Life Doula. She enjoys training with the Gerontology Department and has assisted in the development of several of the trainings.

Nakia Speller
Toy Newcomb is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) licensed in the state of Virginia and a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP) certified by the International Association of Trauma Professionals. She holds a Graduated Certificate from Liberty University in Pastoral Counseling. She provides clinical mental health counseling integrating evidenced based clinical interventions with Biblical principles at her private practice, Renewal Christian Counseling, PLLC.

Her counseling experience includes working with individuals who have experienced a variety of reasons for seeking help to include but not limited to trauma, grief/loss, substance abuse, self-worth/self-esteem issues, stress management, relationship challenges, symptom management, spiritual conflicts, effective/assertive communication, depression and anxiety. Additionally, I have facilitated support and counseling groups for the geriatric population and their adult caregivers.
Brittany Schramm, Culturally Competent Care
Diana Bright
John T. "Jay" White is a Gerontologist with an extensive background in topics related to person-centered care, culture change and diversity throughout the long-term care continuum. Previously, Dr. White worked in the non-profit and tourism/economic development fields.

Dr. White earned his Master of Science in Gerontology and Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University where he also served as the Director of Professional and Community Development for VCU's Department of Gerontology.

​Dr. White serves on the Board of Directors of the Virginia Culture Change Coalition and the Senior Center of Greater Richmond. In 2016, Dr. White was appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe to the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority. He has authored and co-authored textbook chapters, articles and presented widely on topics including: Connectivity and Aging, Organizational Diversity, LGBT and Aging, Aging in Place, Nutritional Needs of Older Adults, Evaluating Depression and Dementia and Person-Centered Care and Culture Change.
 Ellen Phipps, CTRS, MSG, Gerontologist, is the Executive Director of Aging Together; connecting older adults to resources to improve quality of life as we age; and, Author of Connections: Engagement in Life for Persons with Dementia, A Complete Activities Guide. Before joining Aging Together, Ellen spent 18 years at the Alzheimer’s Association, Central & Western Virginia Chapter where she served as Vice President of Programs & Services and, Interim Executive Director. Ellen holds a Masters of Gerontology Degree from Virginia Commonwealth University where she also has served as adjunct faculty.  She has experience in managing Adult Day Intergenerational centers both in the US and England.  
Lori Hasty
Kathy Dial has spent her entire career in social work. She has over 25 years of social work experience in direct practice, group work, grant writing, teaching, advocacy, program and policy development, and program evaluation in both child welfare and geriatric settings. Her expertise lies in the areas of gerontology, kinship care (grandparents raising grandchildren and relative caregivers), and child welfare services. Dr. Dial graduated from Idaho State University with a BS Degree in Social Work. She received her Masters in Social Work with an emphasis in Aging and Administration/Community Organization from San Diego State University, and her PhD in Social Work from Norfolk State University. In addition she has completed graduate hours in Community Health Education and a Faculty Development Certificate in Geriatrics from the Virginia Center of Geriatrics at VCU.
Gigi Amateau’s career spans thirty years in Richmond’s health and human services sector. She recently received a PhD in health-related sciences, also at VCU, where her research interests include social connectedness, trauma and resilience across the lifespan, and the health and well-being of the direct care workforce. Gigi recently filled several roles in the long-term care sector including as a personal care aide and narrative group facilitator with Family Lifeline, trauma-informed research coordinator and adjunct faculty with VCU Gerontology, and the No Wrong Door Virginia project manager with the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. She is also a certified yoga instructor and an award-winning author of 7 books for children and teens.
Regina Foster, MS, PA-C, LALFA, CDP, CADDCT has practiced as a Physician Assistant since completing the program at Eastern Virginia Medical School in 2003. Becoming a healthcare provider has allowed her to work with all populations, however seniors have always held a special place in her heart. She went back to school to gain more knowledge about the aging process and completed a second Master’s of Gerontology at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2018. As a student she completed the required AIT hours and upon completion of that program she became a Licensed Assisted Living Administrator and Certified Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care Trainer. After that she enrolled in VCU’s Ph.D. Program in Health Related Sciences where her research interest is ageism in the health and beauty industry. Regina has spent time shadowing the world renowned Teepa Snow, to learn all about Teepa’s model of Positive Approach to Care and also became a Certified PAC Consultant making it her personal goal to educate caregivers and the community on Person Centered Care.
Allison Watkins has always had a passion for supporting older adults and people with disabilities to ensure they live a life filled with the quality that they deserve. Allison has over 16 years of health care experience. She obtained her CNA License in 2006 from J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, followed by her Med Tech License in 2012, and her associate degree in Business Administration in 2016. As a CNA, she has worked in multiple settings including group homes, nursing homes, assisted living, skilled home care, hospice, and personal care. These experiences have helped her to grow into a well-rounded caregiver with the skills and confidence to support older adults and people with disabilities with a wide range of preferences and needs. Allison currently works as the Home Care Supervisor at Family Lifeline, a non-profit organization in Richmond, Virginia. She continues her CNA practice with Legacy Hospice. Nine years in the home care field have ignited Allison’s commitment to eliminating social isolation and loneliness among her clients and in supporting care providers through trauma-informed approaches. In 2019-2020, Allison partnered with artists Gigi Amateau and Penelope Carrington and 8 care providers to raise community awareness about professional care providers through The Hearts of Gold Collective. To learn more about The Hearts of Gold Collective, please visit www.stretchingmyhandsout.com.
A lifelong Petersburg resident, Katina Williams’ community roots grow deep and
wide. After graduating from Bowie State University with a bachelor’s in psychology and
a master’s in counseling psychology, Katina returned to central Virginia to begin a
career in service and care. In 2003, Katina took a job as a counselor in St. Joseph’s
Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services, unaware that she would spend the next
decade growing with the organization and earning a spot on Style Weekly’s “Top 40
Under 40.” After 13 accomplished years at the Villa, Katina left her role as Director of
Program Operations to become Director of Community Impact at United Way,
managing grantees and bolstering organizations throughout Greater Richmond. In
2019, Katina joined the Family Lifeline team as Vice President of Long-Term Support
Services, though her time in this role would be brief. Within two years, Katina was
named president and CEO of Family Lifeline. Katina aims to build an organization that
is dynamic and diverse and hopes to foster a culture of continuous learning and
education, both within the office and out in the community. For Katina, it’s the people at
Family Lifeline that make the job worthwhile; she is constantly inspired by her staff and
their passion for the work that they do. In her free time, Katina enjoys photography,
reading, and hiking Virginia’s beautiful state parks.