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Executive Board

These are Synova Board and Executive leaders who are dedicated to our mission to deliver exceptional experiences that are designed to engage, energize and transform neonatal and perinatal nurse leadership teams.

These individuals are committed to creating a culture where the leadership experience is rewarding and desirable for nurses globally.

Lori Gunther, MS, CPXP

CEO/Partner, Synova Associates LLC

Lori Gunther is Chief Executive Officer of Synova Associates LLC and a board member of the Patient Experience Institute. Lori became a partner at Synova in 2019, bringing 20 years of NICU and Perinatal industry experience to the company. Lori manages corporate direction and strategy at Synova, facilitating company activity in sales, marketing, event execution, and expansion. Since joining Synova, Lori has worked to share its strategy and vision with association partners, sponsors, and executive nurse leaders globally. She was previously the Senior Director of NICU Innovation at the March of Dimes where she directed their professional education portfolio, spearheaded the development of the March of Dimes Training Institute, and provided the strategic vision for the NICU Family Support program. A trained professional counselor Lori is also nationally recognized expert in the fields of patient experience, crisis intervention, PTSD, communication skills, and maternal fetal health. She is recently published in Advances in Neonatal Care on how to improve and implement parent education in NICUs.
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Melissa Gehl, MSW, CPXP

COO/Partner Synova Associates LLC

Melissa is currently the Chief Operating Officer of Synova Associates LLC and is responsible for all global operations of the company. With nearly 15 years in the field of maternal and infant health, Melissa is a strategic thinking with a clear analytical approach to problem solving. Prior to joining Synova as a partner in 2019, Melissa led the development of a nationally standardized NICU parent education curriculum at the March of Dimes, created print and digital educational materials for NICU families, developed the My NICU Baby app and trained healthcare staff across the country on family centered care and patient experience. She is a Certified Patient Experience Professional (CPXP) and has recently published her work on best practices for educating NICU families in Advances in Neonatal Care.

Jodi Coombs, MBA, BSN, RN

COO of Children’s Mercy Hospital
Synova Associates LLC Board Chair

Jodi Coombs has been a nurse for 25 years and has worked in several prestigious organizations such as Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford where she was the Director of Cardiovascular Nursing; Boston Children’s as the Director of Cardiovascular Nursing; Oregon Health and Science University as the VP of Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and Women’s Health, Tufts Medical Center as the SVP of the Floating Hospital for Children and Women’s Health and now newly appointed to the COO role at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, MO.
Jodi’s passion is around patient safety and creating highly reliable processes around daily operations which include teaching leaders about their budgets and how to bring together the clinical and financial aspects that help set leaders up for success.

Lori Armstrong, DNP, RN, NEA-BC

CEO & Chief Clinical Officer
Armstrong Reliability Group

Lori Armstrong is a transformational leader who recognizes the fast-paced and relentless change of healthcare and business. She has held multiple executive level and senior leadership roles including Chief Nurse Executive at New York Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, Stanford Healthcare/Stanford Children’s Hospital and Kaiser Permanente/Santa Clara Medical Center. Serving in these roles Lori led complex change, developed transformational teams, spearheaded the redesign of quality/safety improvement systems and co-led the efforts of the patient and family advisory councils. Lori is skilled at building transformational teams and leading the achieving organizational outcomes in affordability, patient and family safety and support, and reducing hospital acquired harm.
Lori led the nearly 10,000 volunteers of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses by serving at Board Director, President Elect and President. She also seamlessly worked with prestigious and well-established associations including the March of Dimes and the American Academy of Pediatrics in the development of multiple position statements on patient care and family advocacy.
Lori earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing degree at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She earned her Master’s at Queens University in Charlotte, NC and her Doctorate in Executive Leadership at Drexel University, PA. Lori is also a graduate of Harvard University’s Executive Leadership Program.
Lori is a national and international speaker and a recognized expert on the topics of healthcare leadership, strategy, change management, patient safety, organizational outcomes, workforce optimization, patient progression, and patient and family advocacy.
Lori’s passion is reflective of the numerous awards and recognitions including Silicon Valley Woman of Distinction, Houston top 10 Nurse Leaders, and the March of Dimes NICU Nurse Leadership Award. She is the author and co-author of multiple publications on change leadership, advancing care and improving organizational outcomes.

Pattie Bondurant, DNP, RN

Chief Transformation & Quality Officer
Transform Healthcare Consulting LLC

Pattie Bondurant has over 25 years of clinical and healthcare experience. Dr. Bondurant is trusted by her colleagues for her unrivaled expertise in healthcare management, neonatal and pediatric nursing, and quality improvement. Her work regionally and nationally has resulted in improved care and outcomes for neonates, children and adults. After earning her BSN in Nursing from Skidmore College, Dr. Bondurant went on to receive her MN as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Pediatrics from the University of Washington School of Nursing, and ultimately her Doctorate in Nursing Practice in Nurse Executive and Systems Leadership from the Waynesburg University School of Nursing. Pattie spent several years in nurse leadership roles at top tier pediatric hospitals. Currently, Pattie is the co-founder and Chief Transformation and Quality Officer of TransForm Healthcare Consulting, LLC. The company’s focus is on working with hospitals and health systems to develop quality strategies and architect the successful implementation of Quality & Safety programs. Pattie remains clinically active as a consultant to NICUs around the country. Through her leadership, she has been a key stakeholder and nursing lead in the development and implementation of the American Academy of Pediatrics NICU Levels of Care Verification Program. Additionally, Dr. Bondurant has published numerous articles on nursing leadership and quality improvement, has won numerous awards for her work and is a sought-after speaker on quality improvement and leadership in healthcare. She resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she enjoys skiing, sailing, biking, and is an avid reader in her spare time.
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Cathy Bush, MEd, BA

Chief Customer Officer at DandleLION medical &
Emerging Leader Program Manager of
Synova Associates LLC

Cathy is the Chief Customer Officer at Dandle·LION Medical, a company that provides innovative products that focuses on supporting infant neurodevelopment. Working in the healthcare field for over 25 years and starting her career at Children’s Medical Ventures, Cathy has held a variety of roles in the medical device industry.
Cathy was a founding partner of Synova Associates in 2008 and has been an integral part of the leadership forums since their inception. She currently serves on the Synova Executive Leadership Board providing strategic vision for the growth of the Synova brand. As part of the expanded portfolio of Synova’s educational opportunities she spearheaded the development of the Emerging Leader Fellowship program. Her passion and creativity for advancing nurse leadership has made a clear impact to all those who have worked with her.

Jennifer Deeney, PgD, MSc, BsC, RN

Head of Neonatal Nursing and Operations
Liverpool Women’s Hospital NHS

Jennifer’s career began in the early 90’s in London and where she was one of the first groups of nurses to enter the new academic path for nursing. She then attended the Royal Free NHS Trust to complete Neonatal specialist nurse training and completed specialist transport training.
Jennifer then joined the team at Bart’s Health NHS Trust and became a founding member of the London Neonatal Transport Service (NTS). She went from being a member of the team to Matron of the team, becoming more involved in the strategic leadership and development off the team. After 2 years, the opportunity came up to be matron of the tertiary neonatal service at Bart’s Health where she spent 5 years. During that time Jennifer trained with HM Health and Safety Executive as trainee health and Safety Inspector.
It was time to move again and this time I moved to the South coast, as I wanted to experience what it was like to work outside a huge city. This gain helped me learn and develop my management and leadership skills. However, after 2 years and a baby, I decided to work for myself in my other passion which is Health and Safety and how behavior can influence safety in the work place, this passion was born out of personal experience. This has allowed me access to so many industries and has helped influence the way I work, lead and think.
In 2016, Jennifer was appointed to her current role where she is strategically and operationally responsible for the care of neonates within the Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust. More recently she have been appointed to the Head of Nursing role for the Liverpool Neonatal Partnership, overseeing two trusts, Liverpool women’s NHS Foundation Trust and Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and will direct the work across geographical and organizational boundaries to ensure that all the neonates within the city of Liverpool receive the standard of care they deserve.
Throughout her career it has always been a passion that not only should the care of the babies be our priority by also the care of the family and her passion on improving the health and safety in the workplace are threaded through all aspects of her work.
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Dr. David M. Haggard II, DNP, APRN, NNP-BC, NEA-BC, C-NPT

NNP Team Lead
Children’s Medical Center/ Clements
University Hospital

Dr. David M. Haggard II, DNP, APRN, NNP-BC, NEA-BC, C-NPT has been involved in the care of critically ill infants in the NICU for over 15 years. Dr. Haggard completed his undergraduate work at Lexington Community College in Lexington, Kentucky. He then attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee to obtain his master’s degree, with a focus in the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner track. After working as an Advanced Practice Nurse, Dr. Haggard made the decision to obtain his Doctorate of Nursing Practice from the University of Missouri Kansas City in 2009. Dr. Haggard’s inspiration comes from a desire to have a greater impact on patient outcomes and the nursing profession. Dr. Haggard is committed to educating and empowering the next generation of nurses and has a special interest in delivering ongoing education for nurses of all levels. Dr. Haggard currently serves as a co-leader of an Advanced Practice Nursing group with additional duties including; oversight of the Fetal Program, Human Milk Lab and Lactation Consultants at a Magnet designated facility in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Emily Hirsch, MSN, MHA, RNC-NIC

Director of Women’s Services
UPMC Hamot

Emily Hirsch is the Director of Women’s Services at UPMC Hamot. She has been a nurse for 45 years with over 35 years in Maternal Child Health and 18+ years as the Unit Director of the NICU. She is the director of the Women’s Recovery Center for the past year and has learned how addiction has impacted the lives of women and children. In 2014 Emily received the Academy of Neonatal Nursing award for Excellence in Neonatal Nursing Practice followed by the Pennsylvania Nightingale Award for nurse administration/nurse leadership in 2015. Lastly at the NICU Leadership Forum in 2016 she was also the recipient of the March of Dimes Excellence in Neonatal Nursing Leadership Award.

Jodi Patkin, JBA

VP of Brand and Marketing

Jodi Patkin is a sought-after change agent, dynamic and entrepreneurial thinker, recognized and respected leader and strategic communications and marketing executive.
Leading brand, communications and marketing teams at non-profit and corporate entities alike, Jodi has a track record of success creating, leading and executing innovative, integrated communications strategies and strategic partnerships that deliver lasting brand value.
Jodi has most recently served as the Vice President of Brand Strategy & Communications for March of Dimes, leading the fight for the health of all moms and babies. After spearheading a global brand refresh for the organization, Jodi has focused on building community through the power of raw and honest storytelling with #UnspokenStories, launching impactful initiatives including #BlanketChange, which helped to raise awareness and drive political action around the maternal mortality crisis and creating award-winning cause campaigns with partners such as Pampers.
Previously, Jodi was the Managing Director of Brand, Marketing & Communications for UNICEF USA where she led the Public Relations, Entertainment Marketing, Brand Communications and Creative Services teams. Jodi oversaw the integrated communications efforts for UNICEF’s advocacy, education and fundraising in the United States, in addition to the communications strategies for humanitarian issues and emergency relief, global and domestic partnerships, campaigns such as UNICEF Kid Power and Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, thought leadership, special events, celebrity and sports Ambassadors, and more.
Prior to joining the UNICEF USA, Jodi was a Founding Partner of Steel Peach Communications, a full-service public relations and communications agency which focused on both nonprofit and corporate projects. Jodi previously worked for Rubenstein Communications as a Vice President in the entertainment division where she oversaw the Tribeca Film Festival publicity team, worked with the Tribeca Film Institute, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, New Regency, Media Rights Capital’s “House of Cards,” Madame Tussauds New York and more.
Jodi holds a Journalism Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a Chicago native, but has also resided in Seattle, Pittsburgh, Madison, Wisconsin and Florence, Italy. Jodi currently lives just north of New York City with her husband, two children and dog.

Linda Talley, MS, BSN, RN, NE-BC

Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer
Children’s National Medical Center

Linda Talley is the Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC. Linda received her undergraduate nursing degree at the Medical College of Virginia School of Nursing in 1988, and in 2004 she received her graduate degree in Health Care Administration from the University of Maryland University College.  She began her nursing career at Children’s National Medical Center in 1988 as a nurse in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit. In 2007 after many years of clinical bedside nursing and nursing leadership within pediatric critical care at Children’s, Linda led Nursing in the design and implementation of new technologies related to the opening of a new patient tower.  In 2008, she was the nursing lead in the design and implementation of electronic documentation solutions for the electronic medical record at Children’s National. As Principal Investigator for an IRB approved research study, in 2009 she received external funding to examine the positive predictive value of alarm systems for critically ill children and the results of that study were published in 2011.  She has also led initiatives including the development of the Simulation Learning Center, new unit design, implementation of a day medicine and infusion services program and a healing garden for patients and families. Linda led the journey for Children’s first redesignation as a Magnet® designated hospital in September 2015. In her role as Chief Nursing Officer, she supervises the practice of pediatric nurses across the healthcare system ensuring safe quality care for patients and their families.  Through her 30 years of experience at Children’s, Linda has used her various positions as a pediatric nurse to mentor and coach nurses throughout their career, to provide resources so that the best care can be provided, to drive improvements in care and to ensure the optimal healthcare setting for patients and their families.