COPD360 Community Engagement Committee

The COPD360 Community Engagement Committee (COPD360CEnCo), established September 2020, was created to provide the voice of patients and caregivers to all of the COPD Foundation’s efforts, and to support its interactions with other healthcare and advocacy organizations.

COPD360CEnCo is launching alongside the patient-centered Digital Health & Therapeutics Accelerator Network (COPD360Net), which aims to accelerate the development and implementation of novel therapies and digital health tools that treat and prevent the progression of COPD and related lung conditions (including Bronchiectasis, NTM, and A1AT Deficiency).


Patient and caregiver involvement in governance and education is the model on which the COPD Foundation was established. With that central goal, the Foundation has built trust within its membership and related stakeholder groups.

The structure for the COPD360CEnCo supports the development of COPD360Net, while enhancing the COPD Foundation’s regular practice of engaging individuals with COPD, their caregivers, and families.

COPD360CEnCo pledges to:

  • Gather input from our patient and caregiver community
  • Advise on priorities that are important to patients and their families
  • Provide input into all aspects of COPD Foundation patient engagement
  • Ensure the interests and safety of patients are always our first priority in everything we do

The diverse backgrounds of members of COPD360CEnCo ensures a wide variety of unique experiences contribute to progressing the common cause: educate, empower, and engage individuals with COPD and related lung conditions to improve quality of life of all those who are affected by the disease, encourage participation in clinical research, and promote the acceleration of development of new and more effective therapies.

COPD360 Community Engagement Committee Members:

Karen Erickson (Co-Chair, CA)plus

Karen is an impatient patient, advocate, and Learning & Development Professional. The drive to create innovative solutions for patients with rare disease is the origin of her work in the biotech industry, and of her employment and voluntary positions in rare disease advocacy.

Karen’s experience in the biotechnology arena as a performance consultant, training manager, clinical operations manager and process development professional armed her with the appropriate skill set to develop strategies for stakeholder engagement and meaningful metrics to evaluate and drive success.

First-hand experience as a patient in the AATD/rare disease and COPD arenas solidified the mindset and brought her focus to engagement methodologies to drive patient-centered research and outcomes, both in rare and common chronic disease.

Linda Walsh, BS, TTS (Co-Chair, FL)plus

Linda is a finance and business development professional with expertise in both the profit and not-for-profit sectors. With 25 years of experience, she is a hands-on leader with key strengths in strategic and financial planning, securing corporate funding and sponsorships, tactical execution and leadership of initiatives that enhance operations, customer service while optimizing profitability. Linda has a demonstrated record of developing and executing financial and operational controls that improve PNL and competitively position organizations.

Linda served as a volunteer for the COPD Foundation prior to directing the C.O.P.D. Information Line from 2011 until 2019. Under her leadership, the Information Line Associates were rigorously trained as Peer Health Coaches providing integral support for many Foundation Research initiatives. These included the CAPTURE Study, the COPD and Pneumonia (CAP) Study, the iPArTNER Study, the O2Verlap Study, the PELICAN Study, the PPRN, and the Pulmonary Education Program (PEP).

As Chief Community Engagement Officer at the COPD Foundation, Linda is focused on expanding support for all individuals affected by COPD. She currently leads the rebuilding of COPD360coach, the peer health coaching support arm of COPD360Net.

She is passionate about educating, empowering, and engaging all stakeholders of the COPD community as many of Linda’s family members are directly impacted by the disease.

Linda received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Maryland, College Park and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Lung Transplant Foundation. In addition, she is certified as a Tobacco Treatment Specialist.

Jean Rommes, BA, MS, PhD (COPD360Net Liaison & State Captain, IA)plus

Jean is currently a patient advocate and consultant. Before retiring from the position in December 2009, she was the President & CEO of Innovative Industries in Creston, IA. Innovative Industries is a non-profit organization that provides vocational and residential services and support to people with disabilities.

She has continued to be employed part-time by CARF International as a peer surveyor. CARF is an international accrediting organization recognized by Medicare and other health care systems around the world.

Jean has a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Michigan State University, an MS from Syracuse University and a BA from Michigan State.

She has been an advocate for people with COPD for over 10 years, beginning in 2007 with an article that was printed on the front page of the NY Times and an accompanying video that tells her story (available on YouTube).

Jean was a member of EFFORTS, an on-line advocacy and education listserv and website, and have served on that Board since 2008. Her affiliation with the COPD Foundation began in 2008 when she met Founder, John Walsh at a conference and has been involved ever since.

She has helped plan and organize a number of COPD conferences sponsored by the Foundation; been a State Captain and participated in legislative events like IMPACT for many years; member of the BRIDGE Project; member of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee; Co-Chair for the PPRN Board; Principal Patient Investigator for the RELIANCE study; was recently named as an Executive Committee member for COPD360Net and as Patient Liaison to this Committee.

Jean has been involved in a variety of other related activities, including serving on the Board of the American Lung Association in Iowa, and planned the Lung Force Expos for both Iowa and Nebraska. Additionally, she participated in the COPD National Action plan development and continuing education and advocacy activities.

Jean knew she had COPD in 1985 and was formally diagnosed in 2000 at 56. She made a huge lifestyle change in 2003 that resulted in significant weight loss and getting off O2 completely for nearly 10 years. Currently she uses O2 for most activity.

Jean has three adopted children, all girls, adopted when they were 4, 5, and 6; they’re now 45, 46 and 47; five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She enjoys reading, opera, tv, wine, visiting with friends (mostly virtual now, unfortunately), being active in her church and cooking very occasionally.

Goldia Brown, BA, MS (State Captain, GA)plus

Goldia (Gigi) is a self-employed leadership & spiritual growth consultant, and published her first book in 2019. She was most recently a Certified Speaker, Coach and Trainer in Leadership Development for The John Maxwell Team. In this position, Gigi helped people identify their passion(s) and values and aligned them with specific goals that resonated with their spirit. Prior to setting out on the entrepreneurial path, she was a manager in the litigation support field for over 20 years.

She is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society, demonstrating her goal setting and determination through returning to school at an older age. In addition, she has both fundraised for and ran a half marathon on behalf of Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, demonstrating her belief that when we give, we also win. She volunteers with the Lupus Foundation, Georgia Justice Project, her local church, and various other organizations. Becoming a Georgia State Captain for the COPD Foundation is the accomplishment that means the most to her.

Gigi remembers her mother being diagnosed with COPD around the age of 37, and made her transition from it in 1997 at the age of 53.

Gigi shares the Foundation’s passion to raise the awareness of COPD and to improve the lives of those living with COPD. She believes the work the Foundation does is vital for the education of the community and for increasing legislative education to secure funding for research and prevention of COPD.

Gigi holds a B.A. from Brenau University and a M.S. from Mercer University – both in Organizational Leadership. She is also a ministerial student studying to be a chaplain.

Valerie Chang, JD (State Captain, HI)plus

Valerie (Val) is currently the Executive Director of the Hawaii COPD Coalition, www.hawaiicopd.org, which she founded in 2007. Prior to that, she was a part-time district court judge in Hawaii.

Val has been active in the COPD community to varying degrees since her diagnosis at age 42 in 2000. She has moderate to severe emphysema from no known cause. Val is vice-chair of the US COPD Coalition and has participated in PCORI (Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute) as well as CMMRP (Congressionally Mandated Medical Research Program), representing COPD and lung conditions.

She has also been involved in the COPD Patient Powered Research Network (PPRN), as well as the Coalition for Tobacco Free Hawaii. Val has met with local and national leaders about COPD and lung health issues for many years. She has partnered with pharmaceutical companies as a patient advocate and has been active with the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and the American Association of Respiratory Care (AARC) as a patient advocate.

Her father died in 2020 at age 95, at least partially from complications of chronic bronchitis, which made the last 5 or so years of his life, in his words, “lousy.” He was also a lifelong non-smoker. Sadly in the 20 years since her diagnosis there hasn’t been as much progress in treating COPD as she had hoped.

Val has a husband and two wonderful children in their 30s. When the global health permitted, she loved traveling and dining out. Now she is re-discovering the joys of cooking, including the wonders of the Instant Pot, unglazed Clay Pot, gardening, and yes, even sewing.

Janice Cotton, BS, MA (State Captain, IL)plus

Janice (Jan) Cotton is the Illinois State Advocacy Captain for the COPD Foundation, and a governing board member for the Patient Powered Research Network (PPRN). She was an associate for the COPD Foundation’s Information Line for many years. Jan is particularly interested in providing COPD awareness in her community and has held health fairs to educate the public concerning COPD.

Prior to working for the Foundation, Jan was employed by Trans World Airlines as a customer service agent for 25 years, a human resource consultant, and a substitute teacher for several local school districts. She has a degree in Workforce Education and Development and a Masters in Human Resources.

Jan is a patient advocacy advisor at the University of Illinois Chicago, worked on several COPD Foundation projects, including the PELICAN Study and RELIANCE, and is instrumental in helping to provide the patient perspective.

Jan had the honor of speaking at The Women In Government Conference in Oklahoma City. She lobbied on Capitol Hill and met with Congressmen Bill Enyart and Senator Dick Durbin’s assistant on behalf of the COPD Foundation. Jan has spoken at several pharmaceutical conferences and was recently featured in a commercial with Sunovion and Walgreens.

Jan was diagnosed with COPD in 2000 at age 50. Upon her COPD diagnosis, she relied upon her own initiative, drive and desire to help others and jumped into the world of advocacy. Jan’s main goal is awareness, and currently serves on numerous panels and boards with both the COPD Foundation, and industry. Everything she does is designed to help the COPD patient community.

Jan is widowed and the mother of 3 adult children, the proud grandmother of 7, and great grandmother of 4. Her family is one of the major reasons for her effortless work with COPD. Her motto is “knowledge is power.” Jan loves reading, and enjoy helping others in any way she can.

One of Jan’s favorite quotes is Hilary Cooper’s, “Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

Caroline Gainer (State Captain, WV)plus

Caroline is a retired educator and a retired jewelry coordinator for a large box store, now embarking on the third career of her life. Caroline actively advocates for people with COPD and participates in research that will bring relief and someday a cure for those suffering from lung disease and injury.

When she was diagnosed in 2013, she began to research what the disease entailed and what treatments were available, which she found woefully lacking. This drove her to become a member of the COPD Foundation and a State Captain from West Virginia. In this role, Caroline hopes to help elevate the care for COPD patients in her community and create public awareness of the disease. It is her hope to get elected officials to take actions that will promote the well-being of local COPD patients.

As a COPD advocate, she has met, called, sent letters, and emailed her elected officials. Additionally, she has participated in COPD research opportunities such as the COPD PPRN, signed up for COPD360Social, and has spoken to her family and friends about COPD.

As a State Captain, Caroline’s interests include participating and promoting research opportunities to help find a cure, and connecting others in the COPD community to the resources available so they can live healthier and fuller lives. She is also interested in working with state, local, and national officials to improve COPD Policy.

Ana Maria Garcia, BS, MBA (FL)plus

Ana Maria (Annie) is a charismatic leader who at every opportunity attempts to add value and enhance the lives of others. She is an experienced senior executive with notable positions in both the U.S. and Europe with industry leaders including AT&T, Bank of America, Verizon, American Express, VISA International, and Johnson & Johnson.

One of her most treasured legacies is having built an award-winning Call Center for Customers with Disabilities, with both 911 service for the North Eastern United States, as well as a Relay Call Service (711) for New England. Relay is administered by the FCC for individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Deaf/Blind, or Speech Disabled.

Annie has been a valuable and successful corporate Union Contract Negotiator with the Unions of CWA & IBEW, negotiating for thousands of Representatives. Upon her retirement from the corporate world due to Alpha1 Antitrypsin Deficiency and COPD diagnoses in 2002, she experimented with proprietorship of a nationally well-known franchise, Edible Arrangements.

Annie holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Florida International University and an MBA from Nova Southeastern University. She is fluent in English, Spanish, and French.

Louise Hobden (State Captain, NH)plus

Louise retired as a legal secretary in 2009. She was awarded Outstanding Young Woman of America as well as volunteer of the year for Breathe New Hampshire in 2018 and elected to their Board of Directors in 2020. Louise also volunteers on the editing committee for the Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP).

As a State Captain in New Hampshire for the COPD Foundation, and as someone passionate about patient self-advocacy through education, Louise uses this platform to educate herself so that she may help educate others.

Louise was diagnosed at the age of 55; however the full impact of her COPD began at age 61. While the last ten years have been very challenging, she is so proud of her family; her husband is a wonderful caregiver and has been her rock, and all four of her children are involved in their communities as volunteers. She has nine grandchildren ranging in age from 2 to 24 years, describing them as each a joy in his or her own way. Louise and her husband love to travel when they can, and love to play competitive trivia, which she says is very fun especially when you win!

Scott Hobden, BA, CCM (NH)plus

Scott is the Clubhouse Manager at the Nashua Country Club, a position he has held for the past seven years. His adult resume has five jobs listed, and three of them are at Nashua Country Club, and he has been a private club manager for over 40 years. Prior to this, he was employed as a manager at Manchester Country Club in Bedford, New Hampshire. For many years, Scott has been actively involved in the affairs of the New England Club Management Association (NECMA).

In 2011 Scott’s wife almost died due to her COPD, but since that time she has turned her struggles into a positive as she attempts to live each day to the best of her ability. She is the leader of her rehab group, often solicited for her opinion and advice by her peers and many within the greater COPD community. Over the past nine years, she has improved and come to be in a better place. In 2019, Scott accompanied his wife to Washington DC to support and assist her with her advocacy on Capitol Hill for the COPD Foundation.

He enjoys traveling (hopefully will be able to do it again), playing Trivia, and spending time with his family. It’s also not a secret that he’s a big Boston sports fan.

Scott received his B.A. from Colby College and started post graduate work towards an M.E. at Ohio University.

John Torrence (NV)plus

John has been self-employed in the construction, computer and textile industries for the last forty years. Until the pandemic, he had been running "A Stitch Above", a small embroidery shop that specialized in making custom display tablecloths and banners for colleges, government and military customers. Now it looks like retirement is his best option ahead!

John’s greatest accomplishment in life is that he helped to develop and implement a truly effective poverty relief program in Mexico that is still active today, and can be found here: www.corazon.org.

John started coughing in 2009 and was first diagnosed with NTM and Bronchiectasis in 2012. His mom had both of these conditions a few years before he did, and sister and various cousins on his mom's side of the family have lung issues as well. He has had several infection and treatment cycles over the last nine years, including fifteen antibiotics and lung surgery.

John has written articles for the COPD Foundation about his personal journey with lung disease, and has worked with both National Jewish Health and Insmed providing the patient perspective.

When his lungs are healthy, John’s favorite activity is scuba diving. Other than that, he likes to build, diagnose, and fix anything from cabinets, appliances, cars, computers to toys. Along the way, John has left a trail of deconstructed items, but each time he gains a better idea of how to fix something in the future.