Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Board Chair

Gillian Lichota was born in Canada, and resides in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. By professional training, she is a marine biologist, specializing in Arctic sciences, who has spent two decades advancing scientific understanding of ocean and coastal science, climate and global change, and improving society's ability to plan and respond. When not being an advocate for the environment or exploring the ocean, Gillian dedicates her life to her beautiful children, Laykelyn and Kailen, and loving husband Boe.


Gillian was diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer in 2017. Since then she has also committed herself to challenging old paradigms and changing perceptions of what it means to have breast cancer. Gillian does not believe that breast cancer defines a woman. She dedicates her daily life to healthy living, and believes that wellness and illness can coexist. Gillian founded the iRise Above Foundation to help other young women feel inspired, empowered, and supported to heal and live well after breast cancer. Gillian strives to improve the quality of life for these women through a goal-oriented, mind-body-spirit approach to health and wellness, that circles each woman, and provides the resources, tools, and strategies for sustainable healthy living - ultimately improving quality of life and long-term survivorship.



Board Director, Co-chair

Jessica Pender completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph. She continued her studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto and became a secondary school teacher in 2000.  In 2004 she completed her guidance specialist and is currently the guidance counsellor at St. Joseph’s High School in Renfrew, Ontario where she resides with her husband and two children. Her interests in the iRise Above Foundation are varied: there are social reasons, philanthropic reasons, and educational reasons. However, to put it simply, her involvement stems from her desire to make a difference; to help a friend make her vision a reality.  In turn, it is her hope that this vision will help many others set and achieve personal goals, aid in their physical, psychological and spiritual well being, and further breast cancer research.



Board Director, Executive Secretary

Kristi Mangan is an Assistant Professor English at Northern Virginia Community College where she teaches college composition. Kristi holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a Master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, as well as a Master’s degree in English with a concentration in the teaching of writing and literature from George Mason University. Before becoming a teacher, Kristi worked as a print journalist for several newspapers and publications.

In 2012, at 37, Kristi was diagnosed with HER 2+ breast cancer and successfully underwent chemotherapy, radiation, and multiple surgeries. During treatment, Kristi cultivated a holistic approach to her health that incorporates physical, spiritual, and mental well-being. She is eager to share the inspiring stories of young women with breast cancer and the ways in which they thrive in the face of that life-altering diagnosis.



Board Director, Treasurer

Dagan LaCorte is Managing Member of L&L Partners Wealth Management, LLC. He also runs a family office that owns and develops commercial real estate. From 2009 – 2013 Dagan served as Mayor of Suffern, New York. Dagan is Treasurer of the Friends of JCC Krakow an organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness in support of the Jewish Community Centre in Krakow Poland. Dagan also serves as the Treasurer of the GhostBear Foundation. The GhostBear foundation was founded by NHL Defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere and supports and encourages organizations motivating young athletes as well as helping ill and disabled children and at risk or endangered animals. Dagan is a graduate of Union College in Schenectady New York and New York University School of Law.

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Board Director

Dr. Vered Stearns is a Board Certified Medical Oncologist in Baltimore, Maryland and serves as Co-Director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Centers Breast Cancer Program.  Dr. Stearns received her M.D., from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (1992) and went on to complete residency in Internal Medicine (1995) and a fellowship in Medical Oncology (1997) at MedStar Georgetown University Medical Centre. It was during her fellowship at Georgetown University where she first began focusing on breast cancer. 


In addition to being an extraordinary clinician, Dr. Stearns co-leads the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Program at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, is the associate director for oncology for the Johns Hopkins Clinical Research Network, and associate medical director for Johns Hopkins Singapore. As a translational scientist, Dr. Stearns aims to further an individualized approach to the prevention, treatment and care for people with or at risk of breast cancer. Currently, she focuses on the utilization of biomarkers to predict response to standard regimens used to treat and prevent breast cancer and to introduce new approaches. 



Board Director

Dr. Cole is a board-certified internal medicine physician with more than 15 years of medical, educational, and leadership experience.  His greatest passion is guiding patients achieve their best possible health, with emphasis on the interplay between preventative medicine, nutrition management, and the optimization of mental and physical fitness.  He has extensive experience as a primary care physician in clinical and academic medicine and has earned numerous teaching awards.  Dr. Cole is also an assistant professor of medicine at Frank H. Netter School of Medicine - Quinnipiac University.


Dr. Cole received his medical degree from University of Illinois College of Medicine. He completed his post graduate training at Yale-New Haven Hospital and additionally holds a Masters in Health Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.  As a visionary, creative thinker, and entrepreneur in the field, he is an experienced leader in virtual healthcare who strives to expand patient access while ensuring the highest quality, evidence-based healthcare delivery models.


Outside of his professional roles, Dr. Cole plays ice hockey, is a life-long martial artist, enjoys travel and nature, plays guitar, and reveres spending time laughing with his family and friends.


Board Director

Dyane O’Leary is a lawyer and an Associate Professor of Legal Writing at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, MA, where she also co-directs the law school’s Innovation & Technology concentration.  Prior to joining academia, Dyane practiced law in the complex commercial and intellectual property litigation groups at WilmerHale, LLP in Boston.  She holds a BA from Villanova University, where she was an Academic All-American soccer player, and a JD from Suffolk University Law School.  From coaching youth soccer to representing clients in domestic violence cases to assisting women with immigration concerns to mentoring law students with disabilities, Dyane has been a supporter of causes centered around helping young girls and women overcome challenges.  She believes in helping women find the “grit” to turn challenge into opportunity, and hesitation into celebration.  Her personal interest in iRise stems in part from the recent loss of both of her husband’s parents to cancer, and from watching their personal struggles not to let “cancer patient” become a defining label.  Dyane resides outside of Boston with her husband and three young children, and hopes to instill in each of them a determination to indeed rise above the obstacles life brings.