National POLST Collaborative Leadership

Executive Director
Abby Dotson, Ph.D.

Dr. Abby Dotson is the Executive Director for the National POLST Collaborative, Director of the Oregon POLST Registry (OPR), Director of Operations for Oregon’s HERO Kids Registry and a Research Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Oregon Health and Science University. Her National POLST efforts are focused on providing best practice guidance about the POLST process, technology, and form, as well as education throughout the U.S. In her role at OPR, Abby oversees the operations and ongoing technology development of the secure, statewide digital health platform that allows healthcare professionals treating patients access to their portable medical orders. Abby recently spearheaded a program-wide rebuild of OPR’s technology and operations, resulting in Oregon’s first-ever POLST Registry healthcare provider portal and EMS mobile application allowing providers and first responders electronic access to the OPR database. As a Research Assistant Professor, Abby conducts and supports serious illness care research centered around POLST use and outcomes and is passionate about using data to drive healthcare policy and education.

National POLST Collaborative Board

The Leadership Council is similar to a board of directors and is responsible for implementing National POLST’s mission, vision and managing the organization’s strategic plan. Our goal is to have the Leadership Council include members reflective of those we serve, including but not limited to diversity in: age, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and perspectives.

Karl Steinberg, MD, CMD, HMDC, HEC-C
has been a nursing home, hospice, and home health agency medical director and chief medical officer in the San Diego area since 1995.  He received his bachelor’s in biochemistry from Harvard. studied medicine at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, then completed his family medicine residency at University of California San Diego (UCSD) in 1990.  He has board certifications in family medicine and in hospice and palliative medicine, and is certified as a nursing home and hospice medical director in addition to having a certification as a healthcare ethics consultant.  In addition to serving as president of the National POLST Collaborative, Dr. Steinberg is a past president of AMDA and CALTCM and past chair of the San Diego and California Coalitions for Compassionate Care.  He serves on the National Advisory Board for the CSU Shiley Haynes Institute for Palliative Care and is the recipient of the 2022 Doris Howell Award for Excellence in Palliative Care. 

Vice President
Susan E. Nelson MD, FACP, FAAHPM
is board certified in internal medicine, geriatrics and hospice and palliative medicine and currently serves as System Chair, Palliative Medicine and Supportive Care and Bioethics, Ochsner Health. She is also Medical Director for Palliative Care Initiatives, Ochsner Health Network. Her career has focused on patients with multiple chronic conditions and frailty regardless of their place of residence as well as improving advance care planning conversations among patients and health care professionals. She chairs the Palliative Care Advisory Board, advising the Louisiana Department of Health. Dr. Nelson chaired the workgroup which developed the LaPOST legislation and program and currently chairs the LaPOST Coalition, an initiative of the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum. She is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine as well as an advocate for senior health. Dr. Nelson is President Elect, National POLST Collaborative. She is a faculty member for Respecting Choices and completed the master’s program in Bioethics and Health Care Policy at Loyola University-Chicago.

Cindy Munn, MHA
has over 30 years of experience in healthcare leadership and operations management. As Chief Executive Officer of the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum (LHCQF), Cindy oversees the organization’s strategic direction that supports an integrated approach to transforming health care in Louisiana. LHCQF administers the State POLST program (LaPOST) and Serious Illness Coalition and is the Fiscal Sponsor for the National POLST Collaborative (NPC).
Cindy has worked with National POLST since 2017. She served as Chair-Elect of the Plenary Assembly. As a member of the NPC Transition Board, she chaired the strategic workgroup focused on designing a new organizational structure for National POLST.
Cindy serves on the national Civitas Networks for Health and POLST Collaborative Boards and previously on the Network for Regional Health Improvement Board.
Munn holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Technology from Louisiana State University and a Master of Science degree in Health Administration from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois.

Callanan received her degrees in Economics and Health Care Administration from the University of Iowa. She served in consecutively responsible positions as a hospital administrator and health care system executive in Fort Worth, TX. Returning from several years off as a community volunteer and stay-at-home mother, she worked as a health care consultant. Ultimately this consulting work brought her to her passion, improving care at the end of life for patients, their families and clinicians.
She serves as the Executive Director of Texas Talks, a 501c3 statewide organization focused on gaining adoption of POLST in Texas.  She has served on the National POLST Collaborative board since 2017. She served as acting interim Executive Director from March 2022-June 2023 until a permanent replacement was found.

Jennifer Moore Ballentine, MA, currently serves as CEO of the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California, the organization that advocated for adoption of POLST in California; created a wide coalition of association, facility, system, and provider leaders to implement the program; created and delivered education and training for providers and facilities and public outreach to encourage utilization; and continues to support compliance and quality of the POLST in the state. Jennifer is a longtime advocate of the POLST “paradigm.” In addition to her current work, she served as a representative to the Colorado Advance Directives Consortium from the Colorado Center for Hospice and Palliative Care in 2006–2008, after which she was co-chair of the CADC with Dr. David Koets, and later chair until 2017. Jennifer served on workgroups to examine and update/modernize Colorado’s other advance healthcare directives including the living will and CPR directive. From 2015 to 2017, she was Colorado’s representative to National POLST. Jennifer holds a Master’s Degree (with graduate honors) in End-of-Life Studies from Regis University, Denver, and a Professional Advancement Certificate in Gerontology from University of Colorado–Colorado Springs. She completed certification as a Respecting Choices POLST facilitator, and has served as faculty for certificate-level programs in healthcare ethics, palliative care, and advance care planning through the CSU Shiley Haynes Institute for Palliative Care.

Vicki Buchda, MS, RN, NEA-BC serves as the Vice President, Care Improvement for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association.  She is responsible for contributing to the organization’s mission to advance health and healthcare in Arizona by leading collaboratives to improve patient safety, patient experience, healthcare outcomes, health equity and workforce. She is a highly skilled professional with demonstrated expertise in clinical and system leadership. Vicki is passionate about harm prevention, including harm from opioids, maternal health, advance care planning, health equity and the workforce. She is the Arizona state lead for POLST.  Vicki has served in nursing and leadership roles within health systems including Mayo Clinic, Hawaii Pacific Health and Banner Health. 

Paul Drager, JD is adjunct professor at the University of New Hampshire, College of Health & Human Services Department of Health Management & Policy. He is also Principal in his firm MedEthics Consulting located in Somersworth. Mr. Drager received a degree in Business Administration from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. He also earned his Certificate in Bioethics & the Medical Humanities from the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Columbia University and Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein School of Medicine.

Emmie Gardner, MSW, LCSW is the Utah Representative to National POLST. Emmie is a mission driven leader with a 30-year history working for Intermountain Healthcare, a non-profit healthcare system in Utah. She is responsible for creating Rainbow Kids, the Pediatric Palliative Care Program as well as leading strategic efforts at a system level to standardize palliative care throughout the Intermountain network. Emmie is a passionate advocate for quality-of-life conversations for those with life limiting conditions at any age. As the daughter of an immigrant, she is also passionate about helping immigrant and underserviced populations and helping them to find their voice. She is a clinical social worker by training who also holds a graduate certificate in mediation and conflict resolution, both from the University of Utah and she has a Palliative Care Certification from the Education Development Center, Kings College, England. She is currently the CEO for Holy Cross Ministries (HCM), a non-profit social service organization in Salt Lake City Utah that responds to the underserved community’s need for health and well-being. Emmie and her husband are proud parents of 2 amazing adult daughters who have launched and now live and work in the Pacific Northwest.

Dr. Kevin Henning is a physician with board certification in Family Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine. He has served as the Chief Medical Officer for Elara Caring since January 2023. Dr. Henning has served on the teaching faculty of a family medicine residency program and as a private practice family physician. He has spent much of his career as a national medical director for large hospice organizations as well as a medical director in post-acute and long-term care.
Dr. Henning is a certified medical director with the American Medical Directors Association and the Hospice Medical Director Certification Board. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians and American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Dr. Henning has served as Treasurer, Washington Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Society and is a past President of National POLST.
His professional interests include teaching healthcare professionals the critical skills of communication and mastering goals-of-care conversations with patients and family members. He is particularly committed to ensuring all people with serious illness receive the highest quality medical care that is consistent with their values and goals of care. He is a well-regarded teacher and has lectured at multiple U.S. and international medical meetings.
Dr. Henning lives in downtown Seattle with his wife Wendy and enjoys an urban lifestyle with weekend visits to coffee shops and restaurants. He can also be found hiking or biking in the many parks and trails of the Puget Sound region.

Matthew Kestenbaum, MD, FAAHPM is the Chief Medical Officer of Capital Caring Health and the Medical Director of the Virginia POLST Collaborative (VPC).  Dr. Kestenbaum received his medical degree from the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in 1994 and completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL in 1997.  A Hospice and Palliative Medicine Physician for the past 26 years, he has been a member of the Virginia POLST Collaborative since 2008 and has served on the Executive Committee since its inception in 2012.  He was named Associate Medical Director of the Collaborative in 2012, and then Medical Director in 2018. Dr. Kestenbaum has been an active member of National POLST for over a decade and has been one of Virginia’s representatives to National since 2016.  He served as a member of the Consultation Committee and Chair of the Mature Status Standards Revision Committee, and was elected to the Executive Committee of the National POLST Paradigm in early 2017.  Most recently, he served as Treasurer of the Transition Board.

Paula Sanders is the Executive Director at Georgia Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and POLST Collaborative

NPC State Leaders

NPC state leaders support the Board and is responsible for the programmatic elements of POLST. View list of state leaders (PDF).


We thank the following individuals for serving as advisors to National POLST, the Leadership Council, and the Plenary Assembly.
Disability Community: Marty Ford
Emergency Medicine: Arthur Derse, MD, JD
EMS: Howard Capon, MPH, NRP
Hospice: Lori Bishop, MHA, BSN, RN
Legal: Sarah Hooper, JD
Long Term Care: Cari Levy, MD, PhD, CMD
Media: Theresa Brown, PhD, BSN, RN, FAAN
Social Worker: Christine Wilkins, PhD, LCSW
Technology: Robert Cothren, PhD