Mayanza is made up of a small group of individuals dedicated to giving the people of Santiago Atitlan the resources they need—health, nutrition, education—to empower themselves and their community.

Board of Directors  |  Founders

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Jami Smith, MPA, MEd, PA-C

Founding Member, Chief Executive Officer and President

Both a dreamer and a planner, Jami was first introduced to the community of Santiago in 2013 as part of a medical team.  She has returned every year since, working with a dedicated team to provide education and supplies for improved health of the community.  She dreams of a time when everyone has access to quality health resources and plans for projects to improve the health of the community. She is grateful to be part of this team working to improve health outcomes for the community of Santiago.

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Emilee Thomas, MMS, MPH, MBA, PA-C

Founding Member, Chief Financial Officer

Emilee has always had a love for travel and public health. She is incredibly grateful to have found a way to do both through Mayanza. Emilee earned a dual master’s degree in both Medical Science and Public Health, and education continues to be a priority in many facets of her life.  She currently lives in Manhattan, where she works as a physician assistant in oncology. Participating in the work done by Mayanza and interacting with such a wonderful community in Guatemala is an opportunity that Emilee feels very lucky to be a part of.


Carla Pardee, MS, PA-C

Founding Member, Vice President

Carla currently practices as an emergency medicine physician assistant and as an Assistant Professor for Rutgers University. A die-hard Rutgers girl, she studied for seven years at Rutgers, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health and Psychology in 2008, and a Master of Science in Physician Assistant studies in 2016.


Her love for health education and promotion first began during her undergraduate years when she worked as a peer educator teaching about various public health topics. During her first medical mission to Cusco, Peru, she worked at a maternal health clinic and provided necessary care to a rural population. Carla speaks both Spanish and Portuguese, and is working on learning Tz’utujil, Santiago Atitlan’s indigenous Mayan language.

Board Members


Adrienne Benn, MS, MBA

Chief Growth Officer

Adrienne joined Mayanza in February 2019 on her first of many medical service trips. Performing the role of a dental scribe ignited a fire in her heart for global public health, and for greater health education in the Guatemalan community.  Adrienne studied Journalism at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and received an MBA and MS in Healthcare Leadersip from Cornell in Spring 2020. She currently works in patient marketing at Takeda Pharmaceuticals.


Priscilla Lam, MS, PA-C


Priscilla is thrilled to join the Mayanza team and participate in her first medical mission trip as a clinician. She graduated from Wake Forest School of Medicine with a Master of Medical Science in 2017. She currently works at NYP-Cornell as an inpatient Physician Assistant in oncology. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling, running, and baking. She is looking forward to meeting the Santiago Atitlan community and getting involved in projects to help improve healthcare in Guatemala. 

Program Managers


Dolores “Lola” Ajtujal Chiviliu

Lead Community Health Educator

Lola, a native of Santiago Atitlan, joined the Mayanza team in 2018 as our first community health educator.  Educated as a primary school teacher, Lola travels to our four partner schools each week to engage the children in interactive sessions centered around health education topics such as hygiene, nutrition, and exercise, along with tools for managing emotions.  In addition, she facilitates our "Madres sanas/Healthy Women" groups for women of the community.

Lola speaks three languages. Her mother tongue is Tz'utujil, her second language is Spanish, and her third is English. This means she is able to work with a variety of literacy and language levels—an incredible asset to the Mayanza community!

She dreams of further expanding the education sessions to the parents of the children in this community and to serve even more children.  She is thankful for the professional development opportunity to work with Mayanza and improve the health of her community.


Juan Elías Esquina Damián

Community Health Educator

Elías is our newest team member, joining Mayanza in 2021.  He is originally from the Canton Tzanchaj in Santiago Atitlan.  His mother tongue is Tzutujil and also speaks Spanish.  He was educated as an teacher specializing in early childhood education and working in four partner schools as a health educator.
Elías is very grateful for this opportunity that will help him to grow personally and professionally in developing what he loves doing the most, which is educating children for better health and quality of life.

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Elizabeth Eden, MS, PA-C

Diabetes Prevention Program Manager

Liz first visited Guatemala in the summer of 2015 and fell in love with the people and vibrant culture. She returned for her first trip with Mayanza in February 2019, which further fueled her passion for increasing healthcare access to local natives. She is thrilled to continue working with Mayanza to expand the organization's impact on the community of Santiago. She hopes to provide lasting and impactful healthcare and education to the people of Guatemala. Liz is a certified physician assistant working in urgent care in New Jersey.

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Katherine Stebbins, MMS, PA-C

Anemia Prevention Program Manager

Katie currently lives in the UK and has been working in internal medicine as a Physician Assistant since earning her Master of Science in Physician Assistant studies from Arcadia University in 2017. She has always had a passion for integrating her love of travel and global health into her practice, making her way around the world through various medical service trips. During her first trip with Mayanza in February of 2019, she quickly connected with the Santiago community and shared Mayanza's passion for improving the population's health. She is now excited and grateful to continue to expand public health education and promotion in Santiago with the Mayanza team. She also hopes to learn a little Spanish while she's at it.

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Febe Quinillo

Physical Education Educator

Febe is a preschool teacher with a passion for personal fitness and athletics from Santiago Atitlan. She has worked with Mayanza since 2019 leading the fitness portion of the Women's Diabetes Lifestyle Prevention Program.  She is excited to share her love of fitness with women and help them to form healthy habits involving exercise.


Kate Pickett, MPH, DMD

Chief Dental Officer

Kate received her Master’s in Public Health with a Global Dental emphasis while earning her Dental Medicine Degree. She is currently practicing dentistry in Manhattan in a private office. She is grateful to be part of the Mayanza team and following her passion of addressing global dental issues. When she is not doing dentistry, she is with her husband chasing her young daughters through Central Park or out exploring this beautiful world.