Many of our dedicated team and Board of Directors have been with us since the early days of Dogs4Diabetics (D4D) and have evolved with us to support the change to the National Institute of Canine Service and Training (NICST), a trailblazer in the field of medical, detection, and wellness services dogs.
Board of Directors
Mark Ruefenacht, Founder, President & Board Member
Mark is internationally recognized for training the first dog in the world to detect and alert to blood sugar changes in diabetics. He went on to pioneer medical-alert service dogs and continues to research the various ways that dogs can profoundly improve the lives of people. Mark continues to champion NICST’s high standards of quality and ethics by speaking at international conferences and helping other organizations innovate and implement service dog training. Mark has assisted service dog programs around the world, including Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, and more.
Mark’s professional background is in Forensic Metrology. He is an expert in forensic sciences and measurement science. He continues to work part time at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) by teaching, researching, and developing standards related to quality and measurements.
Jeannie Hickey, Co-founder & Board Member
Jeannie Hickey RN, CDE, BSN, is a registered nurse and retired diabetes educator with Kaiser Permanente. She is an active volunteer with NICST, assisting in evaluating client applications, managing our support groups, and performing outreach to the general public and medical community. Jeannie has worked with NICST since its initial days as a D4D research project.
Christy Gillham, Board Vice President & Executive Director
Appointed Executive Director in January 2018, Christy is bringing D4D to new levels of recognition with a strategic vision that is driving organizational growth and fostering new donor relationships. Before taking on this responsibility, Christy was our Director of Development for four years, and she was previously also the Development Manager at Oakland’s Children’s Hospital and Research Center and Assistant Director of Admissions at Argosy University. Christy has a broad range of experience in nonprofit and corporate fundraising as well as marketing and organizational management, and she is leveraging her experience to ensure that D4D has the greatest impact on the diabetic community.
Kim Denton, Board Member & Treasurer
Kim Denton who volunteers in our training room and as D4D’s Outreach Coordinator additionally assumed the responsibilities of the Director of Finance and the Board’s Treasurer in November 2019. As a client of D4D since 2014, Kim values the amazing support D4D offers its clients both through providing life-saving dogs as well as a non-judgmental environment for diabetics to gather. Troy is Kim’s adorable Golden Retriever-Guardian Angel and they have been inseparable since they were placed together in April 2018. Kim has been serving as the elected City Treasurer for the City of Albany since April 1988.
Connie McComb, Board Chair
Connie is an attorney of counsel, formerly with Morrison & Foerster and the current serving as = Board Chair. As the parent of a diabetic, she is an active advocate of diabetes-related programs and services. Connie has been involved with D4D since her daughter was matched with Colton, an amazing yellow Labrador Retriever. She also supports us by engaging her legal community to assist NICST with various pro-bono legal support services, including the development of our workplace and school accommodation training programs as well as the reviews of contracts and other business needs.
Carissa Brader, Board Member
Carissa is co-founder of the Lagunitas Brewing Company with her husband, Tony Magee. Lagunitas is the fastest growing craft brewer in the United States and recently entered into a joint partnership with Heineken to distribute their beer around the world. She and her husband were introduced to us by a former Board Member, who recognized our mutual love of dogs, people, and quality. The Lagunitas brand represents the best of its products and people, and Carissa’s participation on NICST’s Board supports our reputation for providing the best service dogs in the world.
Ralph Hendrix, Board Member
Ralph has generously volunteered with D4D since his retirement in 2006, serving in many roles for the organization. He is a member of our Board of Directors, was Vice President, and most recently Executive Director before assuming the responsibility of Director of Finance. In his career, Ralph served as a regulator and banker for the US Treasury Department and retired from the Zions Bancorporation as Senior Vice President & Chief Credit Examiner.
Richard Tong, Board Member
Richard is Executive Vice President With over 30 years of experience, Richard is well-known in the East Bay community for building strong business relationships and growing companies’ financial futures. Since 2015, Richard and his wife Jennifer have volunteered as Canine Training Partners for D4D, playing a vital role in creating our life-saving partnerships. A passionate volunteer, Richard also serves on the Board for Rebuilding Together Oakland | East Bay and the Walnut Creek Library Foundation.
Steve Wolf, MD, Board Member
Dr. Wolf is a family physician with the Sutter Medical Group of the Redwoods in Santa Rosa as well as an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the University of California San Francisco. Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 22, Dr. Wolf believes that he needs to lead by example, managing his own diabetes with the same care that he advocates for his patients. He serves on the Board of the Children’s Diabetes Foundation of the North Bay and runs their Teen Diabetic Support Group. He also supports fellow board member, Jeannie Hickey in running our support programs. He is a client of D4D and is teamed with a handsome yellow Labrador Retriever named Kermit.
Pete Zipkin, Board Member
Pete is currently the business investor and co-owner of Elegant Flooring Design Center. He has over 25 years of experience in rapid growth management for small, medium, and large-sized businesses, specializing in turnaround for Fortune 1000™ companies. Pete was introduced to D4D by a good friend and former Board Member, Jessica Chang.
Board of Advisors
Gayle Bittner, Board Advisor
Gayle is a long-time volunteer and supporter of Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) and D4D. Gayle has provided valuable support by evaluating and fostering dogs in our specialized training program. She is currently seving as an adviser to D4D’s management and Board of Directors. Gayle’s professional background was in defense litigation of workers’ compensation cases and subrogation in civil matters. As a partner with Schmit, Morris, Bittner & Schmit, she was also involved in various aspects of firm management and business development.
Kevin Fick, Board Advisor
Kevin is the Chief Executive Officer of Worldwise, Inc., a leader in eco-friendly pet products. Kevin became involved with D4D in its early days, helping to develop our logo and initial marketing information. As a parent of a Type 1 Diabetic, he is familiar with the impact of diabetes as it progresses from childhood to adulthood. Though Kevin has moved around the country for his work, he remains supportive of NICST and advises our board on business and marketing issues.
Karen Koh Thompson, MPH, DrPH, Board Advisor
Karen is Associate Director of Development for Wayfinder Family Services, formerly known as Junior Blind of America, a foundation devoted to assisting vision-impaired youth and babies. She has been involved with D4D for several years and provides counsel and assistance in development activities. She has served as co-chair and Board Member for Berkeley Youth Alternatives, and Karen has also worked with Children’s Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, Asian Pacific Pacific Psychological Services, and Asian Health Services.