Amy Marsala aka “O’Roadie” is a California girl recently transplanted to Colorado. O’Roadie is a BMT Nurse Practitioner by training, but currently works with malignant hematology clinical trials in the pharmaceutical industry.
Her first foray with FD began in 2019 as a medical volunteer for a climbing trip. She instantly fell in love with the mission of FD, as it blends her most favorite things, patient quality of life and getting outside livin’ it. O’Roadie is super excited to be working with the medical reviewer team and staying connected to FD. She’s really enjoying the Colorado outdoors and can’t wait to keep exploring the mountains.
Allison “Bones” Baus is a clinical nurse educator who specializes in oncology, specifically focusing on blood & marrow transplant and cellular therapies. In her free time, she enjoys running, biking, and hiking in the beautiful Wisconsin outdoors. She has been involved with First Descents as a medical volunteer since 2016 and has loved every minute of it!
Kristin McMaster (aka “Tortuga”) joins FD from California as our Mental Health Reviewer and Resource Specialist. Kristin volunteered for FD back in 2011 while working as a Young Adult Oncology Social Worker and it was an experience that left a permanent mark on her heart. She has an unwavering belief in the strength of the wilderness to heal and help empower people facing challenges like a cancer diagnosis. Kristin received her Masters of Social Work from the University of Southern California with a concentration in Health and following the completion of her MSW program, she was recruited to build an AYAO psychosocial support program at UC Irvine’s Cancer Center. Along with supporting FD, Kristin helps to run surf camps for kids who have a family member with cancer and loves nothing more than to share the joy of being out on the water. When she is not wearing her counselor’s hat you can find Kristin out in the ocean on her surfboard, riding her mountain bike or roaming the beautiful trails of California!
Megan Weigel, DNP, is a nurse practitioner specializing in neurological care in Jacksonville Beach, FL, where she brings a unique integrative medicine and holistic nursing perspective to her practice, First Coast Integrative Medicine. She has been a Multiple Sclerosis certified nurse since 2005, and an NP for over 20 years. She is also a board-certified Advanced Practice Holistic Nurse. She earned her doctorate of nursing practice degree from the University of Florida, where her research emphasis was on preventive healthcare. She was recognized as one of Jacksonville Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” and as an Outstanding Young Alumnus of the University of Florida in 2010, and as one of the “Great 100 Nurses of Northeast Florida” in 2015. She completed a fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in the Fall of 2018 which complements her practice focus on wellness and holistic care. She is the past-president of the International Organization of MS Nurses, serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of MS Care, and enjoyed years of service on the Healthcare Advisory Committee for her local National MS Society chapter. She is the co-founder of oMS Yoga, a non-profit organization that brings free yoga classes to people living with MS along the east coast. She is a yogi, surfer, runner, avid reader, writer, and enjoys her work in the MS field immensely, especially educating people living with neurological issues and peers about the importance of wellness as an integral part of treatment.
Christina Harlow, AKA “Lumps”, became a First Descents lifer in 2016 as a participant on a climbing trip and was soon back as a medical volunteer. She works as a nurse practitioner in a rural Vermont Emergency Department to pay the bills and maintain skills but her true love is playing in the woods on a bike, skis, or any other method that gets her there. She dreams of big rocks, cold water, and bonfires. She happily spends most days playing in the dirt, caring for her several animals on her mini-farm, and making a lot of homemade stuff with her two daughters and rockin’ husband.
Jessica Towns grew up climbing, kayaking, snowboarding, mountain biking, and hiking in Duluth, Minnesota. While working in molecular and cytogenetics in oncology at Mayo Clinic and Emory University, she started volunteering in pediatric oncology. She then went to PA school specifically to work in oncology and joined the Mayo Clinic Lymphoma group in 2011, where she recognized the unique concerns of young adults and started a Survivorship Program to help. In 2012, one of her patients returned from a life-changing FD trip and she made Shaman promise to volunteer with FD and to help other patients find FD. Jessica continues to work in oncology as needed in California and owns a medical practice in Florida. She is passionate about the healing power of nature, enjoys cooking plant-based meals, everything outdoors, photography, traveling, making people feel good about themselves, and spending time with her family.
Jane Lose “Willow” is a Nurse Practitioner and Midwife, working in Community Health for about 20 years. She is a primary care provider who specializes in reproductive health, HIV, and transgender care. She started volunteering with First Descents a few years ago, and loves supporting the work of this amazing organization. She feels lucky to call Colorado home, and loves to be outdoors hiking, rafting and biking with her husband, two teenagers and dog.
Justin Granstein aka “Cascade” is a physician who specializes in neurocritical care. Originally from Boston, he is an avid skier and hiker whose love of the mountains has taken him from Alaska to the Swiss Alps. After participating in the First Descents Healthcare Heroes program in 2020, he signed up as a medical reviewer to help more people experience the restorative potential of the outdoors.
Marc Slatkoff developed his love of rivers while in medical school in the early 1970’s, first as a canoeist and then a whitewater kayaker. Over the subsequent fifty plus years kayaking and other outdoor activities have taken him to some of the most beautiful places on earth.
As an oncologist he developed an early interest in quality of life issues and participated in and helped develop support programs for patients and their loved ones, starting in the 1980’s. Upon learning about the impending launch of First Descents he attended the inaugural camp in 2001 and subsequently was asked to join the board. Serving as medical director of FD from 2001 till May of 2009 and participating in many camps, usually with his wife Carel, were joyful and meaningful experiences that he considers many of the best in life. He has long held that FD is as successful a patient support program as any he’s had the pleasure to serve. He strongly believes in the value of adventure therapy and is happy to continue to support the FD family.
Dr. Larry Smith is an emergency physician who practices in Washington state and has volunteered for First Descents since 2006. He lives with his wife in the North Cascades town of Mazama. Originally from the Midwest, they bounced around the globe with the military for a few years before finally finding a suitable place to indulge their interests in mountain sports. Dr. Smith has been serving as the Medical Director for First Descents since 2009. Email:[email protected]
DB comes from the Midwest originally – born and raised in Fort Wayne, IN. He has lived in beautiful Washington state since 1976. He has always enjoyed the outdoors. So all the outdoor adventures in Washington fit him well. Rick loves rivers and what they teach and show us. He was a sea kayaker up until he was put in a WW boat out at the ocean surf. Stopped sea kayaking and never looked back. Rick has been known to telemark ski, hike, and occasionally climb, but he particularly loves rivers. Besides the outdoors, he is probably best known for his fashionable dress and his ability to sleep in anywhere and anytime! And I hear Rick is a Story Teller. Rick also loves FD. He’s volunteered at 1-3 camps a year since 2009. He says “ The volunteers get as much out of these programs as do the campers!”
Liz Sherwood is from New Orleans but it was the family’s move to Santa Barbara, CA that put her in touch with her love of being outside whether it was hiking, swimming in the ocean, riding her bike, playing tennis, canoeing, sailing, skiing and being in the mountains as well as checking out the flora and fauna. She continues to love to explore and is currently spending a lot of her time in Mexico when not in the US.
She first volunteered with First Descents in 2012 so she could check it out before referring folks she worked with at the University of North Carolina Cancer Hospital She was really impressed! Now she helps as a medical volunteer and medical reviewer. She worked for many years at UNC as a nurse practitioner and the clinical coordinator of their survivorship program and LIVESTRONG™ Center of Excellence and now has started her own business.
Heather Carlson Justice has worked as a physician assistant in oncology since graduating from PA school and loves working with cancer patients. She worked at MD Anderson Cancer for 7 years before missing the Midwest and transitioning to the University of Michigan Cancer Center. While in Ann Arbor, she met her husband who relocated them both to East Tennessee. Heather currently works with Wellmont Health Systems and has recently taken a position as founding faculty of Milligan College’s PA school. Heather likes to keep busy and set large goals. She is a 6 time Ironman finisher with a few top 5 age group finishes. She loves to travel the world and see people take on and complete big goals.
Tim (aka Swifty) is a physician assistant at Geisinger Health System, currently working in Primary Care. In a prior life, he was a Certified Athletic Trainer in varied settings from the High School to professional baseball. His first position at Geisinger as a PA-C was in Medical Oncology. That experience is what lead him to wanting to serve the cancer community. He is a Fellow in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has greatly enjoyed being a medical reviewer and serving as medical staff at camps for First Descents
When not at work, he can be found with his son in the mountains of PA- hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, and camping. That is when he is not busy being a Swim Dad or Soccer Dad.