Donate Life New York State’s leadership is comprised of individuals dedicated to supporting our mission to increase organ, eye, and tissue donation in New York State through collaborative advocacy, education, promotion, and research. Our goal is to ensure a transplant for every New Yorker in need.
Aisha M. Tator
Aisha M. Tator is the Executive Director of Donate Life New York State, and is responsible for leading the organization in its mission to increase organ, eye and tissue donation throughout New York State. During her tenure beginning in 2012, the organization boasts many accomplishments. Key among them are the securing the New York State contract to develop and oversee the New York State Donate Life Registry (Registry); passage of legislation lowering the minimum age of enrollment, allowing 16 and 17-year olds to enroll in the Registry; and developing expanded statewide portals for organ and tissue registration, such as the New York Health Insurance Exchange.
Before joining Donate Life New York State, Ms. Tator was the Regional Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs for the March of Dimes where she advocated before the state and local governments to adopt public policies, programs and funding to improve the health of mothers and babies. Ms. Tator received her graduate degree from University at Albany, State University of New York. She was selected to participate in a year-long post-graduate fellowship with the New York State Senate. Following her fellowship, she continued to work in the Senate as Director of Policy and Administration.
Board of Directors
Mark J. Simon
Chief Executive Officer, ConnectLife
Mark J. Simon is the President and CEO of ConnectLife (formerly known as Unyts), Western New York’s only organ, eye, tissue and community blood center. Mr. Simon has been a part of ConnectLife since 1997 when he joined the organization as the company’s Director of Finance. Less than 2 years later he was appointed President & CEO. In his 20 years at ConnectLife Mr. Simon has been integral in providing growth opportunities for the organization which have resulted in an increase of budget from $2 million to $25 million and a staff increase from 20 to 200 employees. Mr. Simon has developed collaborative relationships with the University at Buffalo School of Medicine, Kaleida Health, ECMC, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and local funeral directors and attorneys. He has helped ConnectLife receive 10 HRSA grants totaling $5.5 million to increase organ and tissue donation awareness, and under his leadership the organization increased organ and tissue donations from 250 a year to over 1200 in 2017. Mr. Simon is also credited with establishing the ConnectLife Community Blood Service, the first community blood bank in WNY, that is now supplying over 75% of the region’s hospitals. This has resulted in a savings of over $10 million to the local healthcare community.
Prior to joining ConnectLife, Mr. Simon spent 13 years working in non-profit accounting for three local hospitals and a medical association. He currently serves as Chair of Donate Life NYS’ Board of Directors and is past chair of a number of transplant related councils and organizations.
Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Organ Recovery Systems
Matthew Copithorne is the Vice President Sales & Marketing, Americas & Pacific Rim of Organ Recovery Systems, the global market-leading provider of organ preservation products and services. Mr. Copithorne joined Organ Recovery Systems in 2006 as the company’s Field Services Manager.Mr. Copithorne leads the marketing and sales team in the Americas & Pacific Rim regions for Organ Recovery Systems’ proprietary transplant medical device technologies , LifePort Kidneys Transporter® and LifePort Liver Transporter® as well other organ preservation solutions. He is also part of an executive team assembled to provide input on the strategic direction of Organ Recovery Systems and advising the CEO on product and market needs.
Mr. Copithorne is a veteran of the medical device industry, previously working at both the New England Organ Bank and Cryolife, Inc., since 2001. He currently serves as Vice Chair of the Donate Life NYS Board of Directors.
Secretary and Treasurer
Executive Vice President of Donor Services, MTF Biologics
Martha Anderson is the Executive Vice President, Donor Services of MTF Biologics, a non-profit service organization dedicated to providing clinically sound, safe allograft tissue. Ms. Anderson manages and directs donor-related services provided to thirty-six tissue recovery programs. She also provides oversight to two MTF subsidiaries, the International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine (IIAM), which links non-transplantable organs and tissues to scientific researchers, and Statline, which provides donor-related software and other support services for OPOs, tissue banks and transplant centers. During her tenure at MTF Biologics, donated tissues from over 125,000 donors have been provided to more than 5 million recipients.
Ms. Anderson has served as Secretary and Treasurer of the Donate Life NYS Board of Directors since 2017, and Vice Chair from 2015 until 2017. Additionally, Ms. Anderson is a member of the Governing Board of the Gift of Life Donor Program and the Medical Advisory Policy Boards for LifeShare of Oklahoma and LifeSource.
Immediate Past Chair
Executive Director, Center for Donation & Transplant
Michael Thibault is the Executive Director of the Center for Donation & Transplant, a federally designated non-profit organ procurement organization serving 30 counties in eastern New York and Western Vermont. Mr. Thibault is a graduate of the University of Florida with degrees in nursing and business administration. He has worked in the field of organ procurement and transplantation since 1995 and has brought extensive experience in clinical operations, hospital services and public education relating to organ and tissue donation. He was the program manager of Heart Failure/Heart Transplant at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System in Richmond. From 2002-10, he served as the director of organ procurement for LifeQuest Organ Recovery Services, a division of Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Mr. Thibault served as Chair of Donate Life NYS’s Board of Directors from 2015 until 2019, and Secretary and Treasurer from 2013 until 2015. He also completed a term as ex-officio for the UNOS Transplant Coordinator Committee, where he served as a region representative, co-chair and chair. In 2011 he was a member of the UNOS working group focused on donor family/recipient information-sharing. He has presented at national conferences addressing issues including donation after cardiac death and principles of critical care management of the organ donor.
Executive Director, Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network
Robert Gruenenfelder is the Executive Director of Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, a not-for-profit, organ procurement organization that coordinates organ and tissue donations in New York State’s Finger Lakes, Central and Upstate regions. Mr. Gruenenfelder succeeds Rob Kochik, who retired after 13 years as the organization’s leader.
Mr. Gruenenfelder has been with Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network since October 2016 as its operations director, overseeing the organization’s clinical, hospital and family services divisions. He brings 25 years of professional experience in the areas of organ and tissue recovery and health care administration to his new role. He was appointed to Donate Life NYS’ Board of Directors in 2019.
Senior Partner and Deputy, FINN Partners
Michael Heinley is a Senior Partner and Deputy of FINN Partners’ New York Health Group, recently named Healthcare PR Agency of the Year. Before joining FINN, he served as Vice President, Corporate Communication, at WebMD where he oversaw external and internal communications, including thought leadership and support for the Company’s CEO and executive team. In this role, Mr. Heinley helped establish the company’s corporate communication function, and helped strengthen and protect WebMD’s reputation as the leading provider of health information services.
Mr. Heinley is a healthcare industry veteran with 25 years of experience providing public relations, media relations, employee and executive communication, and in protecting and enhancing the reputation and managing issues for some of the world’s largest and most respected healthcare brands including Johnson & Johnson and Merck. Before joining Merck, he worked in the healthcare practices of several international public relations agencies, including Hill and Knowlton. Mr. Heinley was appointed to Donate Life NYS’ Board of Directors in 2019.
Senior Counsel, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips
James Lytle is Senior Counsel in the Albany and Boston offices of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP, a national law and consulting firm. He is currently a Fellow with the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University. He helps oversee the firm’s Albany office and provides health law and governmental relations representation to a broad array of clients with interests before the New York State Legislature and the executive branch, including clients in the fields of education and cultural affairs, healthcare, human services, insurance, biomedical research, and economic development. He has been recognized by Chambers USA as a Leading Lawyer since 2011 and was included in Best Lawyers in America since 2013, where he was named Best Lawyer of the Year in Albany for Health Law in 2017 and for Government Relations Law in 2017 and 2020. He served as Assistant Counsel to Governor Mario M. Cuomo, was the founding director of the Volunteer Legal Services Project in Rochester, NY and began his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan.
Mr. Lytle graduated from Princeton University in 1974 and received his JD from Harvard Law School in 1978, where he was he Director of the Harvard Legislative Research Bureau. He is the former Chair of the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy (SCAA), former Chair of the College Council of SUNY Empire State College, and the former President of the his local school board. He was appointed to the Donate Life NYS’ Board of Directors in 2020.
Ellen D. Melchionni
President, New York Insurance Association
Ellen D. Melchionni is president of the New York Insurance Association (NYIA), a statewide trade association that has served the property and casualty insurance industry for more than 135 years. As president she is responsible for overseeing all strategic and operational functions of the association and serves as the key spokesperson for the association. She regularly speaks as a New York insurance, legislative and regulatory expert. Ms. Melchionni has served the insurance industry for more than 25 years. Prior to being named president of NYIA, she served as vice president of the association for 13 years and for three years as legislative analyst. In addition, Ms. Melchionni serves as president of the New York Insurance Scholarship Foundation, a charitable organization that supports the educational goals of students studying the business of insurance.
Ms. Melchionni graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the State University of New York at Albany and held a Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation from the American Society of Association Executives for more than two decades. She is a graduate of the Empire State Society of Association Executives’ Association Leadership Academy and was past chair of the society’s board of directors. She is also a graduate of the distinguished Albany County Chamber of Commerce Capital Leadership Program. She currently serves as a Trustee of the Fort Orange Club. She serves on the board of the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation Northeast Division and previously served as the organization’s treasurer. She is a former member of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) Advisory Council. She was appointed to the Donate Life NYS’ Board of Directors in 2020.
Naheima Sears has been guiding companies for the last 20 years as CEO and CMO in the luxury industry. Her constant state of evolution and development, both personally and professionally, has contributed to her unique storytelling abilities that have helped people and organizations seeking to change their legacies by building values rooted in conscious capitalism, compassionate leadership, and sustainability.
Leading by example and resisting marginalization, Ms. Sears has used her talents to empower others, enabling them to learn, to lean in, and to do the work that matters to them and their greater good. She lives her convictions fully and has shared her philosophy with clients and organizations as a speaker at Google, PEMCO, the United Nations, and as a lecturer at Stanford University. A strong believer in conscious conversations, she believes it is conscious engagement that really moves the needle in businesses and organizations. When not working or writing, you will find her working somewhere in the world on a philanthropic project, or healing herself and others by the waves. She was appointed to the Donate Life NYS’ Board of Directors in 2020.
Bruce W. Stroever
President/CEO, MTF Biologics (Retired)
Bruce W. Stroever has forty-seven years of product development and general management experience in the medical device and orthobiologics fields. He was most recently President/CEO of MTF Biologics and retired from that position in June of 2018. Mr. Stroever joined MTF in late 1988 as General Manager. In 1992, he was named President and then in 1996 President/CEO of the organization. Under Mr. Stroever’s leadership, MTF grew to be the largest tissue bank in the world with over 1100 employees and revenues in excess of $400 million per year. Prior to joining MTF, Mr. Stroever held several positions with Ethicon, Inc. a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary. He has served on several boards of directors and is currently a Member of the Board of Directors of Bone Biologics, Inc., a Massachusetts biotechnology firm. He is on the Board of Advisors for the Engineering School at Stevens Institute of Technology, and has served several terms as a member of the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB) Board of Governors.
Since retiring from MTF, Mr. Stroever has become more involved in local volunteer work assisting the local food bank, and, after having earned his EMT certificate, riding with the Long Valley First Aid Squad. Mr. Stroever received his B.E. in Mechanical/Chemical Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology and his M.S. in Bioengineering from Columbia University. He was appointed to the Donate Life NYS’ Board of Directors in 2020.