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


Frances Saldana


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.


Kenneth N. Kast

1st 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.


Karen Thorburn

2nd Vice President

Karen’s distinguished resume includes many contributions to Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey as an Alumni Trustee, serving as a prominent member of their Board of Trustees’ Executive Committee, as well as supporting numerous Advisory Committees.   She was the Assistant District Governor for Rotary District 5320, from the Coto de Caza, Rancho Santa Margarita Rotary club.  Currently, Karen serves as Director for the Global Benefits Group Foundation (GBG), a non-profit established to support NGO (non-governmental organization) projects and initiatives in developing countries.   Launched in 2014, the GBG Foundation Fund is a micro loan initiative established to support people without access to traditional banking and financial services.  A retired Librarian, Karen lives in Villa Park with her husband, Andrew.


Diane Ford

Board Secretary

Assistant Director, Corporate Relations, UCI Merage School

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.


Shaheen Husain

Board Member

Shaheen Husain is a corporate relations and business development executive. Her focus is corporate social responsibility and the four pillars of education, healthcare, income, and housing, the hallmarks of a functioning society.

Shaheen spent 20 years at UC Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business leading corporate outreach and engagement efforts on behalf of the school. She served as the Executive Director of corporate relations where she established long-term relationships with the business community, alumni, and foundations. She built and directed several key programs that continue to thrive. During her tenure, she led the Executive MBA Program, launched two Centers of Excellence and served as the Chief Strategy Officer for six Centers at the Merage School.  She received her BA in Psychology, with honors, from Pitzer College, Claremont, CA.


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.


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.


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.