board of directors

Passion & Advocacy

Coming from unique and various backgrounds, the board members strive to advance the core mission of the foundation.

jon laplante, Md

Founder / Board President

Jon is a recently retired radiologist with Radiological Physician Associates (RPA). He joined the group in 1994. Jon was born and raised in Morgantown, WV, attending high school at Saint Francis. He attended West Virginia University from 1981-1985, enrolling and graduating in Mechanical Engineering. Jon worked briefly at Exxon USA as a Project Engineer in the Texas refinery before entering medical school. Upon completion, he trained at Allegheny General Hospital in Diagnostic Radiology before joining RPA, at which he served on the Executive Board from 2001-2018.

Garrett HOge

Board Vice President

After graduating from West Liberty University, Garrett Hoge entered the financial services industry with high expectations and a sense of calling to a profession devoted to helping people succeed financially. For Garrett, building relationships based on trust and leading H Financial Management for over 30 years was only natural since his family’s values in Southwestern Pennsylvania run deep. John and William Hoge founded and laid out the plans for Washington, PA in 1781 and later generously donated the property where the Washington County Courthouse now stands, and the Immaculate Conception Church and John F. Kennedy Catholic School building is located (the Hoge Memorial is located on Walnut Street in Washington, PA just behind the John F. Kennedy School building). Continuing the family tradition, Garrett Hoge emphasizes traditional values in his business, and in his everyday life, through diligent work ethics and maintaining a fiduciary standard.
Garrett is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) and a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®). In addition, he has a Masters Degree in Financial Services (MS) focused on Estate Tax Planning. He is a Life and Qualifying Member of the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT*) the Premier Association of Financial Professionals® and the prestigious Top of the Table (TOT). These qualifications rank him among the top financial services professionals in the country.

Garrett and his wife Anita have been married for over 40 years and have 3 children (Garrett II, Jessica, and Allison) and 4 grandchildren (Westin, Cora, Mae, and Sasha). In his spare time, Garrett enjoys playing with the grandkids, skiing, golfing, cycling, weightlifting, and swimming. He is a PSIA-certified ski instructor, a member of Southpointe Golf Club, and a Member/Elder at the Westminster Presbyterian Church.

sam Merandi

Board Secretary / Treasurer

Sam was born and raised in Clarksburg, West Virginia. He graduated from West Virginia University, College of Business and Economics, with a degree in Accounting. Following graduation, he worked in pub-lic accounting with Toothman, Rice & Company. He then began his migration toward healthcare and was employed as the Chief Financial Officer and MIS Director of Summit Center, a regional community mental health center for nine years. He then spent five years, employed by University Health Associates, as the Department Administrator for West Virginia University, School of Medicine, Departments of Neuro-surgery and Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry. Sam joined Radiological Physician Associates in November 1994 and continues to serve as Administrative Vice President where Sam and Jon LaPlante have worked together and have formed a friendship based on trust and caring.

Ashish Kumar, md

Board Member

Ashish has  always been fascinated by nature and science. Diseases of the blood and immune system have been called “experiments of nature,” which have led to a better understanding of natural biology itself. As a pediatric hematologist/oncologist, I specialize in histiocyte disorders, primary immune deficiency diseases and bone marrow transplantation. Working with children who have these disorders has provided me val-uable lessons about life and medicine. In my practice, I try to individualize my delivery of information and care to each patient and their family, while maintaining a high quality of care and treatment.

Based on research and experience, we have completely changed our approach to treatment for diseases like Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH), where we don’t use chemotherapy at all. Instead, novel oral in-hibitors have revolutionized the outcomes for patients with this condition. We also have a different way of diagnosing patients with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), which has resulted in improved outcomes. In my research, my colleagues and I are looking at two childhood diseases: LCH and infant leukemia. With newer therapies, we have improved outcomes of patients with LCH. However, we still don’t have a cure, which would relieve patients of the need to take medications. Infant leukemia remains a largely incurable disease. We are studying the biology of LCH and infant leukemia in the laboratory to develop novel therapies.

One of my most significant honors was participating in the 700 Miles to Hope bike ride, where I rode my bicycle 700 miles over seven days with families of patients affected by HLH. The goal was to raise awareness and funds for HLH research and care, but it ended up doing much more. I learned and discov-ered so much about people and myself and made many long-lasting friendships.

Clinical Interests: Childhood cancer and blood disorders; immune deficiency
Research Interests: Leukemia biology; cancer biology
Academic Affiliation Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics
Divisions: Cancer and Blood Diseases, Immune Deficiencies and Histiocytosis, Bone Marrow Transplantation BMT, Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, Rasopathy, Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis HLH, Ex-perimental Hematology and Cancer Biology, Bone Marrow Transplantation, Cancer and Blood Diseases

ryan Wakim, md

Board Member

Ryan  is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Comprehensive Care Advisors, LLC, branded as Transformations; a national management service organization that specializes in the implementation and operations of a life-changing behavioral healthcare across the country. He is the Founder, President, and CEO of GR&W Inc, overseeing psychiatric private practices across Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Not only does he actively educate and treat within his offices, he is also the Chief Medical Officer of Telepsychiatry for iSelectMD and the Co-Founder and a managing partner and medical advisor for OneSleepAnswer (OSA) a dental-medical billing company that specializes in OSA medical billings and collections for dentists. He is passionate about helping others reach their ideal potential through ethical and innovative approaches to the business of medicine. He has a focus on state-of-the-art, restorative care and actively works to bridge the gaps in healthcare needed to achieve the desired outcomes. He has presented these economically viable and pioneering methods of care to medical providers, government officials, criminal justice programs, health insurance companies, and community members locally and nationally. Dr. Wakim is an advisor to the West Virginia Medical Board, health insurance companies, local hospitals, colleges, and many other treatment centers.

As a native West Virginian, Dr. Wakim is a lifelong Mountaineer, having completed medical school and residency at West Virginia University serving as the Chief Resident of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry. In addition to his medical work, he advises healthcare practices as a managing partner of Fortune Management West Virginia and Columbus. He is grateful every day for his family, friends, health, and when he finds the time, a peaceful round of golf.

frederick j Gabriele, MD

Board Member

Frederick  is a long time resident of Morgantown, West Virginia. He graduated Morgantown High School 1981, ac-quired a BA in Chemistry at WVU and continued in the WVU School of Medicine. Four years of diag-nostic radiology residency at WVU was completed in 1993 followed by a Neuroradiology fellowship at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Fred joined Radiological Physician Associates, Inc. in 1994, a radiology private practice serving several hospitals in north central West Virginia.

Fred has been active in the community serving on the Mon Health Foundation Board since 2011, previ-ous Board of Directors member of the Audia Caring Heritage Association and past presidents for both the West Virginia State Radiological Society and WVU School of Medicine Alumni Association. Fred resides in Morgantown with his wife Mary and three children.

Willie Tillery

Board Member

Willie Tillery co-founded Accelarad in 1999 while earning his Masters of Science in electrical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. At the time, he recognized an opportunity for cloud technology in radiology. Due to his vision and leadership, today Accelarad is the nation’s largest medical image sharing solution covering more than 1,700 facilities and hosting the exchange of over 400 million medical images annually.

Michelle Toman

Board Member

A nationally certified trainer and facilitator, Michelle has delivered more than a 1,000 suicide prevention trainings and presentations in her journey as a multiple suicide loss survivor. A passionate and tireless advocate for change across her state and nation, she has proposed and successfully passed much needed legislation pertaining to mandatory suicide prevention education in schools (Jamie’s Law), as well as diligently used her voice at the national level for the 988 Suicide Prevention LifeLine Improvement Act in its earliest days and while advocating for Mental Health Parity. Michelle serves her state and beyond pertaining to suicide prevention, intervention and postvention support. Additionally, she has spent decades facilitating multiple bereavement support groups for survivors of suicide loss and grief in general as she was the sole survivor of her family after losing both of her parents in separate accidents as a child. Her deep level of understanding and first-hand experiences regarding childhood grief, trauma, social emotional learning and post traumatic growth, provides a voice for those who can’t find theirs (yet), as well as for those who no longer have one. She serves on multiple national and state coalitions and foundations and has been a leader in the fight against suicide since losing her younger brother in 1994. She describes realizing suicide is generally preventable as devastating as losing her brother, but in a different way; she made it her mission to learn about how to prevent this tragic loss of life and for nearly 3 decades she has done exactly that in communities across America.

Named National Advocate of the Year and one of West Virginia’s Wonder Women, Michelle is a beacon of hope for countless individuals and families. She is the founder of Brother Up and co-founder of You Matter I Matter in her efforts to make communities stronger and safer, while educating individuals about mental health overall, but specifically about prevention and intervening with suicide. She has served as a motivational speaker for more than half of her life speaking about the difficult experience’s life can sometimes bring to us as individuals and how we can work to heal from those, or at least carry them better. A ChangeMaker, true helper and most compassionate human being, Michelle volunteers with children’s bereavement camps around the nation and lives in southern West Virginia with her family while serving every community that calls on her as if it’s in her backyard. She considers it ‘an honor and privilege to do this work’ and lives by the belief, “Though we are each incredibly strong on our own, we are truly stronger together when it comes to helping people navigate the walk of life and whatever hard stuff it brings.”

Michelle is a consultant with The Next Step, operates her own small business, and has 2 (unruly) Old English Sheepdogs which are currently in training to be emotional support/ therapy canines for others. She provides a wide variety of trainings and educational opportunities and makes it her mission to live each day with intention and real purpose, while ending each day completely exhausted.

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