Lupus LA Welcomes New Leadership to the Board of Directors

August 7, 2023


➡️ Maurissa Tancharoen Whedon, Stacey Uberstine, Debbi Cowan and Lauren Shuler Donner to Take on New Roles

➡️ Adam Selkowitz Transitions to Founding Chair After 20+ Years as Chairman of the Board

Los Angeles, CA (August 7, 2023) – Lupus LA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding the causes of and cure for lupus, is pleased to announce the appointment of writer and producer Maurissa Tancharoen Whedon and businesswoman and lupus advocate Stacey Uberstine as the new Co-Chairs of its Board of Directors. They will succeed Adam Selkowitz, who co-founded Lupus LA and has been instrumental in leading the organization for over 20 years. Real estate entrepreneur Debbi Cowan will serve as Lupus LA’s Treasurer and X-Men and Deadpool producer Lauren Shuler Donner will serve as Secretary.

After over 20 dedicated years as Chairman of the Board, Adam will move to a new position as Founding Chairman and remain an active member of the Board. He co-founded Lupus LA in 2000, with renowned rheumatologist Daniel J. Wallace, MD, and a dedicated group of patients and parents. Under his visionary leadership and unwavering commitment to the lupus community, the non-profit has grown to become one of the nation’s top lupus organizations. Adam’s legacy includes raising millions of dollars for lupus research, initiating the now comprehensive patient service programs Lupus LA provides to patients around the world, and creating the Lupus LA Ambassador Program, which harnesses the power of Hollywood to increase awareness of the autoimmune disease. Adam will continue his role as the host of Lupus LA’s Your Story, Our Fight podcast.

“It is with great pride and excitement that I am able to turn the Board leadership of Lupus LA over to two incredibly qualified and passionate women,” says Adam.  “Maurissa and Stacey have the vision and dedication to continue the success of Lupus LA and to break new ground with a fresh perspective. My 20 years with the organization have given me the opportunity to work with and serve a community that I am in awe of and for that, I will always be grateful.”

Susan Bazarsky has served as Lupus LA’s Executive Director since 2018 and will continue Lupus LA’s mission to provide support, services, and hope to all who suffer from the autoimmune disease. Lupus LA fights to shift each lupus patient’s narrative from pain to promise by providing services and programs, supporting medical research, and fueling national advocacy. 

“Today marks a truly empowering and transformative moment for Lupus LA as we unveil our updated Board of Directors,” says Susan Bazarsky, Executive Director of Lupus LA. “Each member of this remarkable board embodies the strength and resilience that defines lupus warriors. Not only are Maurissa, Stacey, Debbie, and Lauren powerful and accomplished women in their respective fields, but they are also dedicated to this organization and the lupus community. Together, we are united in our commitment to advancing lupus research, empowering those affected by this condition, and shaping a brighter future for all lupus patients.”

Lupus LA is proud to unveil their current Board of Directors: 

  • Maurissa Tancharoen Whedon – Co-Chairperson
  • Stacey Uberstine – Co-Chairperson 
  • Debbi Cowan – Treasurer 
  • Lauren Shuler Donner – Secretary 
  • Adam Selkowitz – Founding Chair 
  • Toni Braxton
  • Roger Cowan
  • Sheba Family Zaman
  • Natalie Hariri 
  • Amanda Palley 
  • Lindsay Sustarsic Cafritz 
  • Nancy Utley Jacobs 
  • Daniel J. Wallace, MD – Lupus LA Co-Founder 
  • Janice Wallace 

Maurissa Tancharoen Whedon, an LA native, found her way to television through music, dance and theater. With her husband and writing partner, Jed Whedon, she created and appeared in the Emmy-award winning musical Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. She also co-created and served as showrunner and Executive Producer of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which ran for seven seasons on ABC. Her advocacy for diversity and her passion for stories that center and celebrate women are reflected in her work. Living with lupus since her teens, she actively raises awareness and funds for the cause. Maurissa enjoys hip-hop classes and making music with Jed, while cherishing time with their daughter, Benny Sue.

Stacey Uberstine is a dedicated mother and businesswoman. Her career highlights include helping to establish the Industrial Care Center at San Pedro Hospital and running her own successful State Farm agency for over a decade. In 1994, Stacey was diagnosed with lupus, driving her support for Lupus LA and dedication to patient advocacy. Stacey and her family are also avid sports fans. Her husband is a prominent sports attorney, repping some of the most iconic figures in professional sports. Her twin sons have a passion for sports as well – Grant was an avid athlete in high school, and Tyler played baseball at Northwestern University and was later drafted by the Boston Red Sox. 

Debbi Cowan, a native Angeleno, graduated from Stanford University and joined her family’s garment center business. Alongside her husband Roger, she founded Rockdyne Enterprises, owning and managing multiple LA westside apartments, and is the General Manager of another apartment portfolio for Silton Group, LLC. Devoted to Lupus LA since daughter Amanda’s 2006 diagnosis, Debbi actively contributes to the organization’s board and events. Beyond work, she enjoys travel with Roger, staying fit, golf with friends, and cultural events. Family time with daughter Amanda, fur baby Ketzi, son Jeff, and granddaughters, Clover Belle and Clementine Rue, is her cherished joy.

Lauren Shuler Donner is a renowned and prolific film, TV, and theater producer, boasting an impressive array of credits, including the X-Men and Deadpool franchises, Pretty in Pink, Free Willy, and You’ve Got Mail. She is currently developing several Broadway musicals based on her and her husband’s films. Lauren is a lupus patient and her dedication to the cause shines through her involvement with Lupus LA. Other influential roles include serving as Vice President for the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and serving on the Board of The Motion Picture and TV Fund

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation and damage to various parts of the body, including the skin, joints, kidneys, and heart. Approximately 1.5 million Americans and at least 5 million people worldwide are living with lupus, which disproportionately affects women, particularly women of color.

For more information, please visit LupusLA.org. 

About Lupus LA

Lupus LA, a global non-profit health organization located in Los Angeles, was founded in 2000 by a concerned group of lupus families spearheaded by world renowned rheumatologist Daniel J. Wallace, MD. Lupus LA raises funds in three core areas: patient services and support, medical research, and fellowships, and promoting lupus awareness and advocacy. Lupus LA has raised over $13,000,000 for the cause to date and, as of March 2020, has reached nearly 4 million patients and their caregivers globally.

About Lupus

While lupus is widespread, awareness and accurate knowledge about it are lacking. Research shows that although 1.5 million people in the United States have lupus, nearly two-thirds of the public knows little or nothing about the disease. In fact, more Americans have lupus than AIDS, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, sickle-cell anemia, and cystic fibrosis, making it one of this country’s most prevalent medical problems. In Los Angeles County alone, there are over 60,000 people suffering from lupus.

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