RLMI Staff and Board Members

Ted Barnett, MD, FACLM

Founding President and Board Chair, RLMI

  • Dr. Barnett is the “High-Tech Doctor with Low-Tech Solutions”
  • BS from Yale University, MD from Tufts University
  • Board Certified in Diagnostic Imaging (1984) and Vascular and Interventional Radiology (inaugural exam 1995) and has practiced in the Rochester area since 1986.
  • Partner, Borg and Ide Imaging, Rochester, NY
  • Board Certified in Lifestyle Medicine, having passed the inaugural examination given by the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine in October 2017.
  • Teaches a 6 week plant-based nutrition course (accredited for 12 professional CME).
  • Trained CHIP facilitator
  • He, his wife and three children have thrived on an exclusively plant-based diet since 1991.

Susan Friedman, MD, MPH

Director of Clinical Studies and Vice Chair, RLMI

  • Trained at Northwestern and Johns Hopkins Universities
  • Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester
  • Board certified internist and geriatrician
  • Lead author of the White Paper on Healthy Aging published in 2018 by the American Geriatrics Society.
  • Board Certified in Lifestyle Medicine, having passed the inaugural examination given by the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine in October 2017.
  • Completed eCornell Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate at T. Collin Campbell Center for Nutritition Studies.
  • Special interest in healthy aging
  • Recipient of numerous research grants
  • Trained CHIP facilitator
  • At home, she is happy to find new plant-based recipes for her husband, and 3 growing boys.

Carol H. Barnett, PhD, JD

Board Member and Secretary/Treasurer, RLMI

  • BA from St. Bonaventure University (class Valedictorian); PhD in English Language and Literature from Yale University; Law degree (JD) from Yale Law School
  • Co-Coordinator with husband Ted D. Barnett, MD of the Rochester Area Vegan Society since 1995
  • Vegan since 1991; raised three vegan children
  • Recipe and curriculum development and food preparation for plant-based nutrition course taught by Dr. Barnett
  • Curriculum development for “A Plant-Based Diet: Experiential Lifestyle Medicine Training for Clinicians”
  • Involved in town governance and green space protection, most recently as a founding member of the Rush Recreation and Park Association

Maria Dewhirst

Administrator, RLMI

  • Maria has a BS in Human Services from SUNY Empire State College
  • Maria came to RLMI with over ten years of experience as a nonprofit administrator. Most recently, she worked as the administrator of His Branches, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Rochester, NY.
  • Several years ago, Maria became plant-based after being diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 48 and is an enthusiastic WFPB advocate.

Robert Franki

Communications Director
Jumpstart Project Manager

  • Graduated with an MA in Digital Art Systems from SUNY Buffalo
  • Bloomberg Financial Markets, Senior Manager in IT
  • Contributor and manager in IT, data base management, graphics, and A/V production
  • Implemented learning management systems (LMS) in computer security and workplace harassment prevention
  • He and his wife combined homeschooling with business by developing an early music education program.
  • Completed eCornell T. Colin Campbell Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate
  • Bob’s WFPB journey has included losing 115 lbs. over a 3-year period, and he enjoys sharing “survival tips” with anyone working to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Austin Retzlaff

Technical Communications Assistant

  • Austin graduated in 2015, with a BA in interdisciplinary multimedia design and writing (self-created major), from Hampshire College.
  • A vegan since 2017, Austin’s past clients and employers for multimedia design work include eCornell, the dining providers for University of Rochester and SUNY Geneseo, and nonprofits including 540WestMain.
  • For more information on Austin’s ongoing art, literary, and travel endeavors, please visit austinmilesretzlaff.wordpress.com or follow him on social media at instagram.com/austinmilesretzlaff. You can also see more about his professional background at linkedin.com/in/austinretzlaff.

Beth Garver

Director of Strategy and Engagement

  • Graduated with a BA in Spanish/Latin American Studies, an MS in Education and a Certificate of Advance Study (CAS) in Educational Administration.
  • Diverse background in strategic planning, global marketing, grant writing, telecom, curriculum/instructional design, education, and entrepreneurship.
  • Passionate about running, animal rights and serving the underserved and at-risk.
  • Vegetarian since 1989, Vegan since 2009.
  • After participating in a 15 Day Jumpstart in 2019, adopted a low fat whole-food plant-based lifestyle.
  • Married to a supportive husband, with a loving daughter and 3 personable cats.

Brian Bell

Director of Healthcare Alliances

  • After a long career in the electronics industry with roles spanning from engineering to global account management, Brian decided to pivot and pursue a fulfilling and impactful role at RLMI.
  • Now he focuses on forming partnerships with healthcare providers and organizations to employ Lifestyle Medicine for optimal patient health and prevent and reverse chronic diseases.  He collaborates with partners to integrate RLMI programs into their patients’ healthcare plans, with the goal to scale these programs globally to positively impact as many lives as possible.
  • Vegan since 2014 and vegetarian for many years prior to that, he is passionate about the benefits of a WFPB diet, including optimal human health, the positive environmental impact, and animal rights.
  • Cycling, running, and fitness training are an important part of his life. 
  • Married to a big-hearted wife who often brings an interesting array of foster animals into their home.

Bubbie Staron

CHIP and Jumpstart Facilitator, Cooking Instructor

  • Currently a supervisor at Monroe County Department of Human Services, on the County’s Employee Wellness Committee since it’s inception
  • Co-founder of Rochester VegFest
  • Vice President of Animal Rights Rochester
  • In August 2019, Bubbie became a Certified Food For Life instructor. Food For Life is a program from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and is recognized as an award-winning nutrition education and cooking class program that provides an innovative approach to diet-related chronic diseases.

Kim Taylor

Jumpstart Facilitator

  • Graduated with a BS in Business Management from St. John Fisher
  • AADP certified Holistic Health Practitioner
  • Certificate in Nutrition from the Vegetarian Health Institute
  • Business owner, Life Coach, spent several years as a manager/district manager for a non-profit agency
  • Kim has been plant-based for 2 years. After taking Dr. Barnett’s 6-week nutrition course and the Jumpstart program last year, she has adopted the whole-food plant-based lifestyle.