Arlene is Commonweal’s managing director and chief operating officer. She also coordinates the Cancer Help Program. Arlene came to Commonweal in 2007 with more than 10 years of non-profit experience in community organizing and arts research. Prior to her non-profit experiences, she worked in property management and with independent investment advisory firms that focused on women managing their assets.
Claire serves as chef for the Commonweal Cancer Help Program. She has been working at Commonweal since 1999, serving as chef on hundreds of retreats, catering Commonweal events, and creating food to suit the various needs of all kinds of people. At home in the kitchen, she feels so fortunate to have the bounty of California to pick from. Her kitchen smells great and usually rings with laughter.
Deborah Cohan, MD, MPH
Deborah is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and family/community medicine at UCSF and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. After a breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, and chemo, she founded the Foundation for Embodied Medicine and began offering embodied medicine workshops to young women with breast cancer at Commonweal.
Elizabeth is a certified massage therapist and has been on staff with the Cancer Help Program since 1994. She works at the Cancer Help Program retreat three times a year. Elizabeth is also a massage therapist for the Feather River Tribal Health Center and for Englund Chiropractic Center in Oroville.
Erlene Chiang, OMD
Qigong teacher and acupuncturist
Erlene has been practicing in the East Bay since 1985. She specializes in using Traditional Chinese Medicine methods to help with various types and stages of cancer. During the week of the Cancer Help Program, you will explore Wild Goose Qigong, an ancient energy practice with great health benefits. The movements are gentle and can be applied to your daily life.
Francis Weller, MFT
Francis has been working with the emotional, creative, and spiritual life of men and women for more than thirty years. He is a community builder, writer, teacher, and psychotherapist who draws from an extensive background in depth psychology, mythology, group work, and indigenous traditions. His work embodies his love of soul, the arts, ritual, and his devotion to bringing these into everyday life and sustainable community.
Hillary is a photo-based artist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work considers process, movement, and multi-sensorial ways of witnessing. She also photographs larger processes like end-of-life; these images act as imprints for accessing moments of embodiment and lived experience during a time of transition.
Janie Brown, RN, MSN, MA (Psych)
As executive director and co-founder of Callanish, Janie has worked with people who have cancer and their families for more than 30 years. She worked at the BC Cancer Agency as a clinical nurse specialist for several years and worked for more than 20 years in her oncology counseling practice.
Director of the Commonweal Retreat Center
Jenepher serves on the senior staff of the Cancer Help Program. She conducts pre- and post-program interviews with CHP participants and also teaches a session on the importance of sacred space and healing environments on our capacity for healing and recovery from illness.
Kate is director of the Healing Yoga Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting and empowering individuals in their own health, healing, and personal development through yoga, regardless of ability, background, experience, or financial means. She teaches yoga for the Cancer Help Program and previously served as CHP coordinator.
Sandtray and expressive arts facilitator
Katrina has a deep interest in the human spirit and the arts. She has worked with adults using this creative sandtray modality to explore personal growth and healing.
Ladybird Morgan RN, MSW
Ladybird Morgan, executive director of the Humane Prison Hospice Project (whose goal is to make prisoner-provided hospice services available in California’s 33 prisons), has been working in end-of-life care and on the frontlines of sexual violence as a registered nurse, clinical social worker, and educator for more than 20 years. She has worked with many organizations including The Zen Hospice Project, Hospice By The Bay, and Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières).
Maya Ravani is an experienced certified massage therapist with the Cancer Help Program. She comes with many years of practice in multiple bodywork skills and as an ayurvedic health educator.
Michael Lerner, PhD
Commonweal president and CHP Co-founder and co-leader
Michael co-founded Commonweal in 1976 and also co-founded Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, D.C., which does Commonweal’s cancer work in the nation’s capital. Michael has studied integrative approaches to healing cancer for more than 30 years. In 1994, MIT Press published his book Choices in Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer.
Natalie Compagni-Portis, PhD, MFT
Natalie has been in practice more than 25 years. She specializes in working with people who are going through cancer, chronic illness, and other life-threatening cases.
Patti is an oncology nurse, a Chinese medical practitioner, an ayurvedic practitioner, integrative nurse coach, and yoga instructor. She has dedicated her life to the pursuit of wellbeing.
Rachel Naomi Remen, MD
Rachel is the director of the Institute for the Study of Health and Illness at Commonweal and the author of Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings. She is internationally known for her work with health professionals in finding meaning in medicine. Her groundbreaking curriculum for medical students, the Healer’s Art, is now taught yearly in more than half of American medical schools and in medical schools in seven other countries.
Rebecca Katz, MS
Rebecca is a nationally recognized expert on the role of food in supporting health for the chronically ill. She founded the Healing Kitchens Institute and has been a visiting chef and nutrition educator at the Cancer Help Program for more than a decade. Rebecca is the author of the award-winning cookbook The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen.
John “Wadude” Laird, M.D.
Wadude has practiced integrative patient care in a variety of outpatient settings for forty years. As an early member of the holistic medicine movement, he noted with concern that “body-mind-spirit” medicine generally lacked deeper understanding of spiritual transformation.
Waz Thomas, MA
Co-founder and intake coordinator
Waz served as coordinator of the Cancer Help Program for 20 years and also taught yoga for the program. As intake coordinator, Waz is the first person you come into contact with as you explore the CHP, and because he is also responsible for alumni relations, he stays in contact. Waz served as general manager of Commonweal for 25 years.