Carolyn Fota was a newly retired Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army, Medical Service, in October 2015 who was finally going to enjoy time with family after a simple surgical procedure at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Maryland. However, within 24 hours of the procedure, hives and then blisters broke out across her body. It was the beginning of a nightmare that no one ever expected.
By December, a small army of medical staff at Stafford Hospital, Virginia; Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, Virginia; Walter Reed National Medical Center, Maryland; and the Mayo Clinic, New York, were collaborating on Carolyn’s intense medical support.
Finally, in February 2016, she was diagnosed with bullous pemphigoid. Treatment consisted of oral and topical steroids, tetracycline, nicotinamide, probiotics, Benadryl, magic mouthwash, and vitamin D3. Topical steroids were applied to her legs and arms, which were then wrapped in sterile dressings. She underwent intensive wound care for the next six months.
Carolyn is active in the IPPF community through peer health coaching, Mid-Atlantic Support Group leadership, advocating on Capitol Hill to our nation’s leaders, and participating in various IPPF projects whenever asked. She resides in Stafford, Virginia, with her husband of over 27 years, Francis. Carolyn enjoys golf, walking, church activities, and writing.
Laurence Gallu returned to her native France after living in New York City for 30 years. She currently lives in Paris with her husband. She taught French language and literature at Smith College, NYU, and at Professional Children’s School in NYC. In Paris, she worked for the Columbia University’s Paris annex as coordinator of studies, acting as liaison between the French university system and US professors and undergrads. She retired after 12 years in 2016.
The treatment was a success, and she has been blister free ever since. Her doctor told her about the autoimmune blistering disorder (AIBD) French patient organization, the Association Pemphigus Pemphigoïde France (APPF). Benefitting from the APPF’s support and advocacy, she wanted to help provide these invaluable services to others. She began using her knowledge of English to translate documents and brochures, and was soon going to English speaking congresses, meeting with other AIBD patient organizations, and acting as a liaison with AIBD patient organizations in other countries.
Her involvement with the IPPF started when Marc Yale invited her to a conference in Lübeck, Germany, in 2017. When the IADPO-Global Skin (Rare Derm, and Global Skin Europe) and the European Reference Networks (ERNs) were created that same year, she became the APPF representative. In the ERN SKIN network, she has been the European Patient Advocacy Group (e-PAG) representative for her AIBD’s group since 2018.
Laurence has been closely linked to the IPPF especially since the last non-virtual IADPO-Global Skin conference (in Milan) where she met with Marc and patient advocates from PemFriends (UK) and the ANPPI (Italy) after discussing the creation of a consortium of AIBD organizations. When the time difference allows, she attends IPPF Patient Education Series webinars, which are always clear and informative.
Dr. Michael Rigas is the Chief Clinical Officer emeritis, co-founder, and principal in KabaFusion, an infusion therapy company started in 2010 that is dedicated to managing IVIG, and other chronic and acute therapies nationwide. Before this, in 2008 he joined Geisinger Health System as its Associate Chief Innovation Officer for Pharmaceutical Care and Chief Clinical Officer for VITALine CareSite Pharmacy Services. Over the last 20 years, Dr. Rigas has managed or overseen the care of over 15,000 patients who have received over 20,000,000 grams of IVIG.
Before moving to Geisinger, Dr. Rigas served as the Senior Vice President of Clinical Affairs at Crescent HealthCare in Anaheim, California, a large alternate site pharmacy company specializing in infusion and specialty pharmacy therapies.
Before this, Dr. Rigas was the Chief Clinical Pharmacist at three hospitals over a 10-year period. He graduated from the USC School of Pharmacy with his Pharm.D. Degree and completed his residency at UC San Francisco Hospitals and Clinics in 1982. He spent the first 10 years of his career in the hospital arena serving as the chief clinical pharmacist in three different, 200+ bed community hospitals. From 1998 to 2002, Dr. Rigas managed pharmacies and nursing operations for a nationwide infusion company with 32 pharmacies in 22 states at the vice president level.
Dr. Rigas’ areas of expertise includes antimicrobial therapy, immunoglobulin therapies, nutritional support, inotropic therapies, pain control, improving clinical and financial outcomes, and payer and contract relations. He is also active in the High-Cost Biologic/Specialty Pharmacy and infusion industries. He has worked on standardized coding for infusion billing, universal access via Patient Assistance Plans, and managing Medicare Part D issues in front of the California board of pharmacy and CMS regional managers. Dr. Rigas holds membership in the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists, the National Home Infusion Association, the American Academy of Neurology, and the Clinical Immunology Society.