HEAL Community Partner Committee

The HEAL Community Partner Committee (HCPC) consists of members who have experience with pain conditions and/or opioid use disorder (OUD) – including patients, advocates, patient liaisons, and/or family members of someone with these conditions. The committee will provide input on key issues faced by individuals affected by pain conditions or OUD to ensure the relevance and practicality of HEAL-supported research. HCPC input will be used to help the NIH HEAL Initiative identify, refine, and prioritize patient and community engagement activities and scientific research activities and protocols.

The HCPC was established as a subcommittee of the Multi-Disciplinary Working Group (MDWG), which comprises members of NIH-chartered advisory councils and other ad hoc experts in pain and addiction research, including leaders in the private sector and academic research community. The MDWG provides a transparent venue for stakeholders and members of the public to discuss the NIH HEAL Initiative and facilitates the exchange of scientific information about NIH HEAL Initiative programs.


Kevin Charles is a certified Peer Specialist and Recovery Coach with  Family and Medical Counseling, Inc., a nonprofit community-based human service and health care center in Washington, D.C. He also is a member of the Howard University Community Advisory Board. He enjoys advocating for the population that he serves.

Dawn P. Edwards has experienced firsthand every renal replacement modality, including a kidney transplant and rejection. She is dedicated to improving the quality of life of people with kidney disease, and educates people about the relationship between hypertension, diabetes, and kidney disease, especially among underserved communities.

Jessica Hulsey Nickel is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Addiction Policy Forum, a national nonprofit organization that helps patients, families, and communities affected by substance use disorders. She has worked in the field of addiction, from community-based prevention to treatment to the policy arena, for 25 years.

Bianca Prieto works for the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, a statewide organization that conducts advocacy, training, and education, and provides peer recovery support services, as part of the recovery community organization development team. She helps with the expansion of services to Hispanic, immigrant, and refugee populations around the state of Georgia.

Philip Rutherford is the Chief Operating Officer at Faces & Voices of Recovery, a national recovery-focused advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. He is a recovery coach and a passionate member of the recovery community. Mr. Rutherford is experienced in substance use disorders, recovery, reentry, and cultural competency.

Stephanie G. Smith is an individual living with chronic pain due to osteoarthritis and is committed to sharing her personal journey with pain management with other individuals with lived experience. She holds a B.S. degree in psychology from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and has worked for nationwide sales organizations. She participated in a HEAL-funded research study testing non-surgical methods for reducing knee pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis.

Christin Veasley is the Co-Founder and Director of the Chronic Pain Research Alliance (CPRA), a research-focused advocacy initiative for individuals living with chronic overlapping pain conditions. CPRA is an initiative of the TMJ Association, a nonprofit patient advocacy organization based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has lived with chronic pain since surviving a near-fatal accident in her teens, which led her to pursue a science degree and to enter the pain research advocacy community. Her life’s work has focused on advancing rigorous pain research and expediting the translation of scientific discoveries into meaningful clinical change for those living with chronic pain.