Our Team

Owner/Team President

Rolf Benirschke

Owner/Team President (Ileostomy)

Rolf Benirschke is a former NFL Man of the Year and All-Pro placekicker who played 10 seasons in the NFL for the San Diego Chargers. His career was briefly interrupted when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease that required ileostomy surgery in his third season. Remarkably, Rolf returned to play seven more years with the Chargers, becoming the first-ever professional athlete to play with an ostomy appliance. He has been an outspoken champion of the ostomy community for the past 40 years and created Embracing Ostomy Life to provide hope, education, and encouragement to ensure that no one goes through ostomy surgery alone.

MVPs

(Most Valuable Patients and Professionals)

Briasn Sisselman

(Ileostomy)

Brian Sisselman is an award-winning Director, Producer, and Cameraman with over 25 years of experience. His ostomy wisdom? “Having an ostomy never changed my lifestyle or diet, and if anything, made me a better person, understanding that life isn’t always fair.”

Colin Jarvis

(Ileostomy)

Nationally ranked middle and long-distance runner who returned to competitive running and graduated from UC Berkeley after his ostomy surgery.

Joshua Nelson

(Ileostomy)

Josh is the first documented case of continued flight status in a pressurized aircraft as a C130 Instructor Pilot with an ostomy.

Melody Cooley

WOCN (Ileostomy)

Melody Cooley is a WOCN in Texas. By combining her own personal experiences with her ostomy and her down home welcoming approach, she cares for her patients in a very empathetic and understanding manner.

Angie Gilbert

WOCN

Angie Gilbert is a WOCN in San Diego who is known for her kindness and her patience in helping new ostomates adjust to their “new normal”. Her patients are grateful for her gentle spirit and unwavering confidence in their ability to recover well.

Dr. Richard Rood

MD, FACP, FACG, AGAF, FASCE – Gastroenterologist (Ileostomy)

As a gastroenterologist WITH an ostomy, Dr. Rood understands exactly what his patients are facing because he has traveled through his own ostomy journey.

Dr. Joga Ivatury

MD, MHA, FACS, FASCRS

Dr. Joga Ivatury , MD, MHA, FACS, FASCRS, Board-certified colon and rectal surgeon at UT Health Austin who proudly says, “I love my ostomy patients.”

Heather Marra

PT, MPT, PRPC, PCES

Heather Marra, PT, MPT, PRPC, PCES, is a Pelvic Health Physical Therapist and founder of One Simple Step, LLC.

Joan Scott

(Colostomy)

As a writer and researcher, Joan was overwhelmed by how much good (and not so good) information was out there following her ostomy surgery. She was determined to create a resource and share everything she learned through her own book, The Ostomy Raft, and we count it a privilege to have her as a partner.

Jonathan Negretti

(Ileostomy)

Jonathan is an attorney and was the first ostomate to complete the World Marathon Challenge, running 7 marathons, on 7 continents, in 7 consecutive days!! (Yep, you read that right!)

Joy Hooper

RN, BSN, CWOCN

Joy Hooper RN, BSN, CWOCN is a seasoned nurse entrepreneur with 20 years of experience, who recognized a need for better patient education in ostomy surgery and developed the Anatomical Apron.

Magen Cherry

(Ileostomy and J Pouch)

Magen Cherry is a mother of two and was crowned Miss Texas in 2007. Following her ostomy surgery, she named her stoma Sebastian. Several years later she said goodbye to Sebastian when she underwent reversal surgery and received a J-Pouch.

Maggie Tretton (Baldwin)

(Ileostomy)

Maggie Tretton (Baldwin) is a nurse and the host of her YouTube Channel, “Let’s Talk IBD”. Her authenticity, honesty and humor have endeared her to nearly 200K subscribers.

Dr. Rachel Christian Gully

Ph.D., LPC, MHSP – (Ileostomy)

Dr. Rachel Christian Gully specializes understands that living with a chronic illness can completely change your world. From irritable bowel syndrome to inflammatory bowel disease and disorders of gut-brain interaction, Rachel helps her patients adapt and thrive.

Richard O’Hamill

(Ileostomy)

As a surfer, wakeboarder, sky diver, salsa dancer and wildly adventurous guy, Richard knew he was going to need a special belt that would allow him to do everything he loved after his ostomy surgery. It did not take him long to found Stealth Belt, to help provide patients with a better quality of life, more freedom, privacy and most of all, confidence.

Shayle Savoie

Nurse (Ileostomy)

Shayle Savoie is a nurse who suffered through a miscarriage a few days before her ostomy surgery. She bravely tells other ostomates, “You do not get to choose what defines you. No matter what your story is, you are a fighter. You are so brave for getting up each day and choosing to live your life. Never be ashamed of your scars.”

Danielle Gaffen

MS, RDN, LD

With a mom who had an ostomy and a husband with Crohn’s disease, Danielle decided to focus her nutrition practice on counseling people with inflammatory bowel disease.

Maria Alden

(Ileostomy)

Maria Alden is a retired fifth grade teacher who now pours her energy into volunteering for Crossing Paths Animal rescue, a nonprofit based in Alabama and living her best life. Maria’s only regret about having her ostomy is that she “didn’t do it sooner”, recognizing now how her ostomy has given her back her life.

Name

Role

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Justin Mirigliani

(Ileostomy)

Justin Mirigliani is a small business owner, dad, hockey player and weightlifter who founded Checkmates Charity to benefit those with autoimmune diseases. How does Justin feel about his ostomy? “This bag that I once feared as a shackle, has been the most liberating thing that has ever happened to me!”

Name

Role

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Coaching Staff

Jearlean Taylor

International fashion model (Colostomy and urostomy)

Jearlean Taylor has been a double ostomate since the age of three. She is an international fashion model who believes that all things are possible…even with an ostomy!

Dr. Sonia Ramamoorthy

MD, FACS, FASCRS – Colon and rectal surgeon

Dr. Sonia Ramamoorthy, is a colon and rectal surgeon at UC San Diego Health whose passion for each of her ostomy patients is clear in her empathetic approach to patient care.

Jaime Wheeler

MBA, CPhT

Jaime Wheeler, MBA, CPhT, is Senior VP of Clinical Affairs at Edwards Lifesciences who has been inspired by her father’s journey as an ostomate. Jaime blends professional prowess with heartfelt advocacy, making her a true champion for health and compassion.

Doug Wall

Doug Wall is the managing director for Life Ventures, based in San Diego, California.

Luis Garcia

MD, FACS, MBA, FASMBS

Luis Garcia, MD, FACS, MBA, FASMBS, is President of Sanford Health’s Clinic division. With a warm smile and a heart for healthcare, Dr. Garcia leads the charge in ensuring that every aspect of Sanford Health’s clinics run smoothly.

Name

Role

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Ground Crew

Colin Moore

(Ostomy)

Colin Moore had his ostomy surgery a couple years ago and his dad reached out to Rolf to ask if he might offer some encouragement to his son. We were thrilled when Colin offered to share his technological expertise to build Embracing Ostomy Life. We call him the guy-who-makes-things-happen around here and are grateful for all the knowledge, compassion and first-hand experience he adds to our team.

Margaret Cypher

Team HOPE manager

Margaret Cypher has experienced first-hand what life with a chronic illness is like. As the Team HOPE manager (and so much more) she is committed to helping ostomates receive the support they need to live their best lives.

Patti McCord

Patti McCord has been working with Rolf Benirschke for the past five years and experienced the joy of seeing fearful people facing ostomy surgery become strong and confident ostomates under Rolf’s care. Watching Rolf’s dream of Embracing Ostomy Life come to life has been an honor and privilege.

Kari Benirschke

Kari Benirschke is Rolf’s daughter who was born prematurely and has spent her life overcoming health challenges. She is an empathetic contributor to the development of Embracing Ostomy Life and loves seeing the impact we have on improving the lives of people who endure ostomy surgery.