Our Mission Statement

UCI HD-CARE is a University of California Irvine support group with one primary goal:  To advance Huntington's Disease research and clinical care at UC Irvine

Our Vision Statement

"Researching today, for an HD free tomorrow."

Board of Directors


Kenneth N. Kast

Vice President

Over his 37 year career, Ken has held progressively more responsible management positions in the aerospace industry, most recently with Northrup Grumman.  His business acumen spans several areas, including System and Software Engineering, Program Management, Business Development and Line and General Management.  Ken holds a Ph.D in Mathematics from the University of Southern California, as well as a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Notre Dame.  Ken has been a determined Huntington’s Disease advocate for many years.  Now retired, Ken resides in Huntington Beach with his wife, Debbie.


Frances Saldana

President Emeritus

Frances became an advocate for Huntington’s Disease (HD) in 1994. All three of her children inherited HD from their late father.  Frances implemented the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA) Affiliate in Orange County and advocated successfully for the HD Clinic at UCI.  She co-founded HD-CARE in 2012.  She currently serves on the UCI Human Stem Cell Oversight Committee.  She is an Ambassador for Americans for Cures, who authored Proposition 7.  Proposition 71 was passed became known as The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). She has been recognized by the Genetic Policy Institute at The World Stem Cell Summit, the UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman with a  Living Our Values award, Volvo Corporation at the Volvo for Life Hometown Heroes awards, and other organizations for her unwavering commitment to promote excellence in care for the HD community. Frances lost her daughter, Marie, to HD in 2009 and her second daughter, Margie in 2014.  Her only remaining child, Michael, is fully symptomatic and her two grandchildren are “at risk.”  Her mission in life has become to educate the public about HD, support HD research, advocate for the HD community, and to see Huntington’s Disease eradicated in her lifetime.


Charissa Brown

Board Member

Charissa Brown is a Regional Manager with COPE Health Scholars Programs. COPE is a health management and strategy consultancy. Ms. Brown’s role includes leading multiple workforce development contracts with hospitals in Southern California and Seattle, WA.

Prior to joining COPE, Ms. Brown was a Program Director for the nation’s largest organization serving long-term care for individuals with Huntington’s disease at ArchCare, in New York. At ArchCare Ms. Brown was instrumental in the development of The Center for Neurodegenerative Care, a multimillion dollar program specializing in long-term care services for rare Neurodegenerative Diseases, including Huntington’s disease. She also volunteered at the Albany Medical Center Movement Disorder Clinic, a designated HDSA Center of Excellence, where she facilitated social services for patients and caregivers.

Ms. Brown holds a Masters of Social Work from the University at Albany, School of Social Welfare.


Diane Ford

Board Secretary

Diane Ford is Assistant Director, Corporate Relations, where she oversees corporate giving. She has been working at the Paul Merage School of Business for the past 5 years and is a key liaison between UC Irvine and community leaders where she facilitates relationships between the school, faculty, staff, and students. She manages the Distinguished Speaker Series and ensures relations with Fortune 500 companies.

Diane’s early career began at ICN Pharmaceuticals in multiple departments such as Customer Service, Marketing, Employee and Public Relations. She hosted dignitaries from visiting countries at the corporate office and coordinated events, as well as the 5-year planning meetings, and shareholder meetings.

Diane has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Southern California and is lifetime member of Delta Gamma Fraternity. She has been married for 22 years to Marcel Ford and resides in Newport Beach.


Sarah Hernandez PhD

Board Member

When Sarah was 12, she learned that her grandmother died from Huntington’s disease. And while her mother didn’t inherit the gene, two of her uncles did. Sarah’s older uncle, John, passed away at the age of 49 on July 2009, leaving his 3 daughters at risk. Sarah’s younger uncle, Dara, passed away at the age of 48 on November 2011, never having children of his own knowing the devastation Huntington’s causes. Then on May 11th, 2016 one of Sarah’s first cousins tested positive for HD, with her own young daughter now at risk. Since Sarah learned of the implications that Huntington’s has on her family, she became determined to participate in finding a cure. In 2015 she received her Ph.D. in Biology and Biotechnology from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, MA. And in 2016 Sarah joined the lab of Dr. Leslie Thompson for her postdoc at University of California, Irvine where she researches epigenetics of Huntington’s disease using patient-derived cells.


Daniel Andre Ignacio

Board Member

Daniel Andre Ignacio graduated from Cal State Fullerton in 2015 with a master’s of science degree in clinical psychology and now teaches in CSUF’s Psychology Department. In addition to his work at St. Jude’s Brain Injury Network, he also works for YMCA’s New Horizons socialization program and for Clear Motivation’s vocational rehabilitation program assisting adults with developmental disabilities to gain access to the same opportunities enjoyed by others. Daniel provides therapy to the community as an associate MFT at OMID Institute. He is also a second-year doctoral student in clinical psychology at Fielding Graduate University.

Brian Neman Picture

Brian Neman

Board Member

Brian Neman is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Sanguine BioSciences Inc. Mr. Neman is also an Adjunct Faculty at USC Sol Price School of Policy where he instructs graduate students in the concepts of Digital Health. Prior to founding Sanguine, Mr. Neman held roles at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, the American Cancer Society, and Oramed Pharmaceuticals.

At Oramed, he managed investor relations and led the strategic initiative to develop brand equity for the emerging organization. His work on Pharmaceutical Decision Analysis was published in the inaugural edition of USC’s Policy, Planning, and Development Review. Mr. Neman holds a Bachelor's degree in Biological Sciences and a Master's degree in Healthcare Administration, both from the University of Southern California.


Lester Savit

Board Member

Lester is a lawyer specializing in inventions and patents, and is a professional arbitrator and mediator.  He has a degree in Chemistry from the University of Chicago, studied genetic engineering at the University of California, Irvine, teaches Law & Biotechnology at Pepperdine School of Law as an adjunct law professor, and lectured at UCI's Stem Cell Research Center.   Lester learned about the efforts to understand, treat and cure Huntington's Disease from Frances Saldana, who he met while serving as Chair of the Corporate Partners Group at UCI's Paul Merage School of Business.  He lives in Laguna Beach with his wife Lori and dog Gabby, who walks with Lester on the beach every morning.


Karen Thorburn

Patient Advocate


Tammy Schuff

Board Member

Tammy has been with Donahue Schriber Realty Group, a private REIT company, for 13 years as an Assistant Property Manager for retail shopping centers.  Donahue Schriber and its employees have been a major supporter of Huntington's Disease (HD) research for many years. Tammy became involved with HD in 1997 when she met Frances Saldana, and since that time, she has been an avid fundraiser and participates in “Walk for the Cure” events each year.   Tammy paid weekly visits to Frances’ daughter, Marie, until Marie succumbed to HD.  She witnessed first-hand the devastation caused by the disease and is proud to be part of finding the cure.