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Staff

Headquarters: Portland, Oregon

PEG SANDEEN, PhD, MSW
Executive Director

Death with Dignity executive director Peg SandeenPeg manages the staff and supports the board of directors. She develops and implements organizational activities designed to fulfill the mission of Death with Dignity. She also provides strategic political expertise to all Death with Dignity policy-reform efforts across the country.

As the daughter of a hospice nurse, Peg developed at an early age a lifelong commitment to the idea that everyone should have a good death. Death with Dignity allows her to act on this commitment on a daily basis by working to change laws to expand options at the end of life.

Peg holds a PhD and MSW. Her scholarly and professional efforts focus on health-related ethical concerns, particularly end-of-life decision-making, and the impact of public opinion on policy reform. She is an adjunct professor at Portland State University and Columbia University School of Social Work where she leads an advanced seminar in policy practice and lectures about health policy.

Peg joined Death with Dignity in 2005.

SHAUN FAIRLEE
Outreach Coordinator

Originally from Colorado, Shaun was attracted to Portland’s unique culture after stints in many other American cities. He began working for Death with Dignity due to his strong belief in personal choice. In his spare time, Shaun paints, writes, and practices yoga.

Shaun is the organization’s longest-tenured employee, working with us since 2004.

DEVIDA JOHNSON
Operations and Fiscal Manager

DeVida ensures our organization’s policies and practices support our commitment to integrity and transparency. She is responsible for our financial records, human resources, and our compliance with state filing requirements and charity oversight organizations.

In 1996, DeVida lost her mother to lung cancer. Witnessing her mother’s struggle with such a debilitating disease spurred her support of an individual’s right to die a good and dignified death.

DeVida is an honors graduate of Wellesley College where she studied French and Economics. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, baking, birding, hiking, and spending quality time with her two- and four-legged family members.

DeVida first worked at Death with Dignity from 2008 to 2014; she rejoined our team in 2016.

PETER KORCHNAK
Advocacy Director

Death with Dignity employee Peter KorchnakPeter develops and manages our advocacy programs and initiatives and oversees organizational communications.

Hailing from Slovakia, a formerly Communist Party-run, socialist country, he learned firsthand the importance of individual/civil liberty, a lens he brings to his work at Death with Dignity.

He studied marketing and international relations in Bratislava, Budapest, and Leiden before moving to Portland, where he has worked in the nonprofit sector since 2006.

He is a nonfiction writer, exploring issues of memory and nostalgia in the former Yugoslavia, and an aspiring altered-book artist.

Peter joined Death with Dignity in 2015.

AMY LAVAN
Leadership Giving Manager

Amy works with our generous donors to raise funds for the organization and help supporters achieve their philanthropic goals.

Amy found her vocation when she discovered the deep joy in building donor relationships and helping people support the causes they care about most. She found her way to Death with Dignity because she believes everyone should have the right to a peaceful death.

An avid traveler, Amy is closing in on visiting 50 countries. When Amy isn’t hiking Oregon’s backcountry or biking its quiet valley roads, you can find her reading a good book or planning her next trip.

Amy joined Death with Dignity in 2018.

ELIA LAWATSCH
Social Worker

Elia Lawatsch

Elia offers support, resources, and referrals to those confronting illness or loss. She is the voice on the phone when people call us seeking information about how to use the law in their state.

She has spent most of her career advocating for fundamental rights for individuals belonging to vulnerable populations. She holds a Master’s in Social Work from Columbia University and is finishing her doctorate in Organizational Psychology from the University of Southern California.

Death with dignity has always been important to Elia, a native San Franciscan, who experienced the painful deaths of many folks with AIDS before the passage of California’s End of Life Option Act.

When not working, Elia likes to read, watch movies, and eat ice cream with her husband and five animals.

Elia joined Death with Dignity in 2017.

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VALERIE LOVELACE
State Leadership Incubator Manager

Val collaborates with state grassroots leaders and activists, providing mentoring and training to support their efforts for passage of a death with dignity law.

Val organized and led Maine’s grassroots success. Simply put, she believes in self-determination and understands death as a personal, individual matter.

Val has three adult children and two grandsons who have stolen her heart. She is a motorcycle enthusiast, an artist, and a Navy veteran of 20 years.

Val joined Death with Dignity in 2019.

REBECCA SCHLESSINGER
Communications Manager

Rebecca manages Death with Dignity’s website and social media channels, is the head writer for print publications, and works with patients, their loved ones, and advocates to share their stories with the public.

Witnessing a family member’s prolonged suffering and painful death from cancer inspired Rebecca to advocate for the right of all people to a peaceful and dignified death on their own terms.

A longtime journalist and storyteller, Rebecca’s first book, “Voices from Bears Ears,” is a finalist for the 2020 Oregon Book Award. She enjoys singing, hiking, cooking, and exploring the Pacific Northwest with family and friends.

Rebecca joined Death with Dignity in 2017.

On the Ground

GEOFF SUGERMAN
Campaign Strategist (National)

Geoff SugermanGeoff works to expand and protect death with dignity laws in states including Nevada, Maryland, and Oregon.

Geoff was the first person hired to work on the successful 1994 Oregon Death with Dignity campaign, serving as campaign director for that effort, then working as media director in the 1997 campaign.

He has come to believe that this issue is critical to providing more and better care for people at the end of life.

In his 30-plus years as a political/communications consultant, Geoff has worked with Oregon’s top political leaders, including Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts (speechwriter, 1991), and has worked on numerous initiative campaigns including medical marijuana (1998), minimum wage increases, and criminal justice reform.

Geoff has lived in Silverton, Oregon for the past 30 years. He enjoys tennis, golf, making cherry wine, and poker.

Geoff most recently joined Death with Dignity National Center as our National Campaign Strategist in 2016.

MARK GLAZE
Campaign Strategist (District of Columbia / New York)

mark_glazeMark is a seasoned strategist in public affairs, advocacy and politics. He manages complex national and state issue campaigns, using all the tools of modern advocacy, to improve public policy on some of the toughest issues we face, against some of the most powerful special interests.

Mark’s clients have included some of the largest nonprofits and advocacy organizations in the United States, including the Open Society Institutes, the American Federation of Teachers, the Human Rights Campaign and Amnesty International.

Prior to beginning his private consulting practice in June 2014, Mark – the son of a former licensed gun dealer and NRA member – served as executive director of Everytown for Gun Safety, the nation’s largest gun violence prevention group. According to the Wall Street Journal, after the Newtown mass shooting, Glaze became “the face of the gun control movement.”

Mark is an honors graduate of the George Washington University Law School and The Colorado College, where he was a Truman Foundation Scholar. He also served as an advisor to the Commission on Federal Election Reform led by Former President Jimmy Carter and Former Secretary of State James Baker.