MEET THE TEAM
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
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.
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
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.
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 Leadership from Cornell in 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.
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 joined Mayanza in 2021. He is originally from the Canton Tzanchaj in Santiago Atitlan. His mother tongue is Tzutujil and he also speaks Spanish. He was educated as an teacher specializing in early childhood education and works in our 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.
Lucia Pablo Gonzales
Healthy Mothers Program Educator
When asked to give her background, Lucia says, " I am a simple and straightforward woman created by God, wife and mother of a family, I really like working in the art of hand and sewing machine embroidery. Thanks to the Mayanza that has given me the opportunity to work with them teaching health classes with a group of beautiful women who are the mothers of the children of the Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Cantón Panul. I am very happy working with Mayanza.."
"My greatest desire is to be a good person, to have the opportunity to continue studying, and teaching my health classes to the best of my ability every week, so that the group of women learn to lead a healthy family to set a great example for the entire community."
Victoria Hernandez Perez
Physical Education Trainer
Victoria was a student in our inaugural Healthy Mothers class in 2019. She was a star student and overtime began to incorporate healthy habits and exercise into her daily life. She joined the team in 2021 as a physical education trainer. As the mother of 5 sons and a daughter, she understands the importance of creating a healthy home environment.
In addition, to working with two Healthy Mothers groups in Tzanchaj and Panul, Victoria is the president of the women's group of the human rights organization of San Lucas Tolimán. In 2021, she obtained a diploma in socio-political training at the Rafael Landívar University. She is the president of the relief society at the departmental level helping pregnant and lactating women to reduce malnutrition,. She is very happy for the opportunity to work with Mayanza.
Reina Marcelina Pablo
Physical Education Trainer
Reina was a student in our inaugural Healthy Mothers class in 2019 in Tzanchaj. As a pregnant mother in our program, she eagerly learned about how to improve the health of her family. She joined the team in 2021 as a physical education trainer and works with women in the community of Tzanchaj.
She likes this work because it helps to improve the health of the community and helps us to prevent some diseases such as diabetes. She feel very happy for the opportunity to work with the Mayanza organization.
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 Healthy Mothers Program and continues to educate our physical education trainers . 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.