Team

Our team of senior-level professionals brings skill, experience and dedication to every program.

  • Chris Smith

    Chris has more than two decades of experience in healthcare communications, including leadership positions with global pharmaceutical, biotechnology and public relations firms. He founded SmithSolve in 2006 with the conviction that communications is an increasingly powerful business tool.

    Chris creates and leads programs spanning corporate communications, corporate branding, product and pipeline communications, investor relations, patient advocacy and employee engagement. Management teams often rely on Chris when deciding what to say and do. He’s worked in diverse therapeutic categories and across geographies representing many of the world’s leading healthcare companies, including Alexion, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Sanofi.

    “It’s a great feeling when clients see how communications can educate and motivate people to achieve a common goal of improved health. It strengthens their relationships, builds their reputation and speeds their success.”
  • Tina Okun

    Tina brings more than 20 years of experience in client relations and quality management to her role at SmithSolve. She is responsible for assembling the talent needed to exceed each client’s expectations. She helps our teams anticipate problems and solve them proactively. Prior to founding SmithSolve in 2006, Tina held various leadership positions at Honeywell International, where she earned accreditation in Six-Sigma quality management processes.

    “Our teams are passionate about serving clients and giving a voice to patients. It’s rewarding to watch people grow here. It means I’m doing my job right.”
  • Alex Van Rees

    As a former journalist, Alex brings a keen eye for news, a strong research background and top-tier writing skills to exceed client expectations. At SmithSolve, Alex provides day-to-day leadership to clients and account teams and partners with clients to define and implement strategies targeting media, investors, physicians and patients. His experience spans regulatory approvals, corporate and technology branding and advocacy relations. Alex is known for seeing the whole picture and moving projects forward with skill and efficiency. Alex graduated from James Madison University with a degree in Media Arts and Design with a concentration in journalism and a minor in Spanish.

    “SmithSolve allows me to grow, develop and hone my communications skills in the healthcare field and ultimately reach my goal of affecting and changing people’s lives.”
  • Katie Burns

    Katie brings a decade of experience in developing integrated marketing communications programs across healthcare, business-to-business, non-profit and consumer industries. She is passionate about client service and delivering results that exceed expectations. Prior to joining SmithSolve, Katie led the healthcare practice at a boutique public relations agency where she built and executed thought-leadership, disease awareness, corporate communications and media relations programs on behalf of Merck Animal Health, Nice-Pak/PDI, BioReference Laboratories and other clients. Katie graduated with a B.A. in public relations from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and completed her Master of Business Administration from Montclair State University.

     

    “It’s rewarding to be part of a team that involves and empowers stakeholders to help drive healthcare forward.”
  • Brenda Cannon

    With two decades of biopharma industry experience, Brenda knows how to design and implement effective marketing communications programs. Through her work in corporations and agencies, she has earned a reputation for partnering across organizations, functions and geographies to deliver results that exceed expectations.

    Brenda is skilled at telling brand stories designed to improve the management of serious and rare diseases including oncology, hemophilia, fibrosis, dystonia and more. At SmithSolve, she works closely with clients and teams to shape conversations that help patients understand their conditions and clinicians understand their patients.

    Through her professional experience and graduate studies in health law and policy, Brenda has gained deep expertise in health policy, access, regulatory and compliance issues. She graduated from the University of Kansas with BAs in Political Science and French Language and Literature.

    “Communication across stakeholders can help patients gain access to the innovative therapies they need. Partnering with colleagues to shape this dialogue is what gets me out of bed each morning.”
  • Cristina Minervini

    Cristina is a seasoned executive with deep experience in corporate social responsibility, business-to-business marketing, and business-to-consumer communications. At SmithSolve, she works with clients and teams to align communication programs with business strategies. Cristina applies her project management skills, high attention to detail, and strong business acumen to drive programs forward and ensure their timely and successful completion.

    Prior to joining SmithSolve, Cristina was vice president of corporate social responsibility for the global business travel unit of American Express. In this role, she defined and advanced the company’s commitment to sustainability and philanthropy. During her 14-year tenure with American Express, Cristina created innovative marketing programs to deliver value to merchants while driving card member spending and engagement.

    Cristina graduated with a BS in Marketing from Seton Hall University.

    “Effective project management requires both vision and attention to detail. It’s a challenge I enjoy each and every day.”
  • Jennifer VanHoutan

    Community Engagement Counselor

    She speaks for patients.

    Jennifer VanHoutan

    Jennifer is a focused and results-driven marketing leader. She developed expertise in both corporate and field marketing during her career with a Fortune 500 company where she managed a budget of $10M. In her role at SmithSolve, Jennifer leverages her marketing skills and hands-on patient advocacy experience to service clients. In 2009, two of Jennifer’s four children were diagnosed with CLN2 Batten disease, a terminal neurodegenerative disorder. A passionate rare disease advocate, Jennifer understands the daily needs and challenges of a rare disease patient. She co-founded “Noah’s Hope” to share her family’s story and raise critical research funds. In April 2017, the FDA approved the first Batten treatment, with support from Jennifer and her husband through the Noah’s Hope Foundation. Jennifer graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a B.S. in Psychology.

  • Peter Steinberg

    Director of Scientific Content

    He translates science with precision.

    Peter Steinberg

    For more than 20 years, Peter has provided specialized editorial services and strategic counsel to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, medical device manufacturers, managed care organizations and professional societies. As part of the SmithSolve team since 2010, Peter researches and produces medical content for news releases, websites, corporate messages, slide presentations, review articles, newsletters, patient materials and more. Peter takes difficult scientific concepts and makes them easier to understand for a variety of audiences. He works with speed, accuracy and integrity, and has earned the respect of investigators, thought leaders, medical affairs colleagues and management teams.

    "SmithSolve represents clients with compelling research and breakthrough innovation. It’s a privilege to explain what this science means for physicians, patients and society."
  • Lani Lipkind

    Lani is a seasoned communications professional with more than a decade of healthcare experience. Her passion lies in communicating complex medical information to consumers and professionals with clarity and impact. Lani enjoys collaborating with clients, teams, physicians and advocates to ensure campaigns inform and inspire action. During her career, Lani has designed and implemented public education programs for major pharmaceutical brands such as Advil, Claritin and Ambien, among others. Lani earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Pennsylvania.

    “I start each project by asking what matters most to our audience. If we meet their needs, we’ll show our value and make a real difference.”
  • Sara Casagrand

    Sara balances creative, intuitive thinking with organized, goal-driven actions to produce results. She graduated from Villanova University with a bachelor’s degree in communication and a specialization in public relations. With communications, marketing and content creation experience, she brings a business background and writing expertise to SmithSolve’s clients.

    “SmithSolve’s close-knit team creates an environment conducive to dynamic growth for both its clients and its employees.”
  • Julia Viola

    With a background in marketing, content creation and graphic design, Julia understands that communication can be a powerful tool for helping people. She is determined to deliver messages with clarity and impact, and she brings the creativity and skill needed to accomplish the task. Julia is a recent graduate of Ithaca College, with a Bachelor of Science in integrated marketing communications and secondary disciplines in economics and Italian language.

    “I’m proud to be part of a team that strengthens the connection between our clients and the patient communities they serve.”
  • Jean Campbell

    Jean is a nationally recognized advocate for patients with rare diseases. She served the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) for nearly two decades, generating an impressive record of success in membership development, fundraising and corporate relations. As part of her consulting practice, Jean provides the SmithSolve team with valuable perspective and hands-on support. She applies her deep knowledge of non-profit governance to facilitate productive relationships between patient organizations and industry. Her counsel has helped SmithSolve introduce highly effective patient advocacy programs and tools.

    "Sometimes industry engages advocates for the sake of a concept or project. SmithSolve connects with the patient community first and foremost as people, with the goal of understanding and helping. It’s a huge difference that builds trust. We laugh a lot, too. That’s important."
  • Lisa Calabrese

    Lisa is responsible for daily operations at SmithSolve, including information technology, accounting and financial reporting. She wears many administrative hats, allowing our teams to focus their time and energy on clients. Lisa recently planned and managed our relocation to Morristown, NJ. Prior to joining SmithSolve, Lisa worked for diverse businesses in client service and operations.

    "As SmithSolve grows, it remains a very grounded organization. We’re a dedicated, passionate and caring group of professionals."
  • Susan Smirnoff

    Susan’s career in healthcare communications spans three decades and more than a dozen drug launches which directly changed the course of disease treatment. Through her work in oncology, in particular, Susan has shaped the practice of both public relations and patient advocacy, most recently on behalf of Novartis Oncology, Sanofi, Genentech and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She has a proven ability to unite researchers, physicians, patients, advocates, policy makers and industry in a common goal.

    In her role as senior strategist at SmithSolve, Susan provides strategic and creative planning and handles sensitive communication for biotech and pharmaceutical clients. Her passion and commitment to people dealing with a diagnosis of cancer extends to her support for CancerCare Inc., where she has worked as a communications volunteer, fundraiser, and just completed a four-year term as president of the CancerCare national board of trustees.

    “Today more than ever, communicating about cancer requires empathy, intelligence, and a keen understanding of the economics of innovation.”
  • Susan Santomassimo

    Susan is a seasoned public relations strategist with nearly 20 years of experience in healthcare and consumer marketing. She develops and implements communications programs in all phases of a product’s lifecycle while successfully managing the challenges and issues that can impact corporate reputation. Susan’s leadership in some of the biggest agencies in New York as well as in-house assignments at pharmaceutical companies has strengthened her experience in disease areas including rheumatoid arthritis, neurology, oncology, pain, respiratory and women’s health.

    "We’re not afraid to ask tough questions and uncover the information needed to develop strategic programs that truly connect with our client's target audiences."
  • Miriam Mason

    Senior Advisor, Corporate Reputation Specialist

    She knows what it takes.

    Miriam Mason

    Miriam has more than 15 years of experience in developing and delivering strategic communications programs that build, maintain and protect corporate reputation and brand integrity for leading global healthcare organizations. As a Senior Advisor for SmithSolve, she provides senior-level planning and support when projects call for issues management or proactive brand initiatives. Miriam has put her talents to work for Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Gilead Sciences, Elekta, Cochlear Implants, Stanford University Medical Center and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Her career began as a journalist and editor for the Financial Times, where she authored two books comparing healthcare systems in Europe to the U.S.

    "SmithSolve's 360 approach to healthcare communications, which looks at every potential opportunity and/or threat, allows us to understand the true drivers for success to leverage for our clients."

“What sets SmithSolve apart is the level of strategic thinking …”

Paul G. Chaney
President and CEO
PanOptica, Inc