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Leadership & Staff

Board of Directors

Ernest Tobias (Toby) Balivet, JD

Toby grew up primarily in Danville, Vermont. He attended Sterling School in Craftsbury (’66), Harvard College (’70) and University of Maine School of Law (’73). He clerked for the Vermont Supreme Court, and was a staff attorney for the National Center for State Courts, before establishing a private practice in Danville in 1976. He served also as Caledonia Probate Judge for 20 years (1999-2019), and continues in private practice. His outside interests include choral music, classical guitar, community and home culinary projects and local history. He has two sons, Adam, a freelance writer, and Aaron, a Chinese scholar.

George Belcher, JD

George Belcher graduated from Kansas University (’71) and Vermont Law School (’77). He was an officer in the U.S. Navy for three years. After graduating from law school he practiced general law in central Vermont until 1990 when he was elected as the Washington County Probate Judge, a position he held until retirement in 2012. He is a past president of the probate judges’ association and has been active in various committees and programs concerning end-of-life, electro-convulsive therapy, surrogate decision making, and medical-legal issues surrounding guardianships.

George lives in Montpelier with his wife, Suzanne, who is a MSW social worker with the University of Vermont training partnership.

Linda Cohen, JD, MHCDS

Linda Cohen is a regulatory healthcare attorney at Dinse working alongside healthcare organizations and providers to navigate the evolution from fee-for-service to value-based reimbursement. She works regularly with accountable care organizations and brings a deep level of understanding of the barriers faced beyond the law itself, including cultural, financial, operational, employment, privacy and technological. She works collaboratively with clients to overcome these barriers with an orientation toward solutions. She has substantial experience in reimbursement issues involving both governmental and commercial payers, as well as federal and state regulatory compliance. View Linda’s complete bio.

Shaden Eldakar-Hein, MD, MS, FACP

Shaden Eldakar-Hein is a hospitalist at the University of Vermont Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. She serves as director of clinical ethics education in the Internal Medicine residency as well as an ethicist at the medical center. She is also the Associate Program Director of the Internal Medicine Residency and chairs the residency recruitment committee and wellness committee in addition to participation on several hospital wide quality improvement committees and medical education assessment at the College.

Dr. Eldakar-Hein completed her undergraduate work in pre-medicine with psychology and neuroscience minors at Pennsylvania State University, received her MD from Temple University School of Medicine, completed her internship, residency and chief residency in internal medicine at Temple University Hospital and joined the faculty at the University of Vermont Medical Center in 2013. In addition, she has completed her Master of Science work at the Albany Medical College Bioethics Institute with a focus on ethics education.

Dr. Eldakar has won multiple education awards as a medical educator that include induction into the Gold Humanism Society, Osler Teacher of the Year and runner up for University of Vermont GME teacher of the year awarded by the residents. She was inducted into the Teaching Academy at the University of Vermont in 2015. She is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the regional chair of the hospitalist committee. Dr Eldakar has a great interest in medical education, physician and learner wellness as well as hospital medicine and ethics.

Linda A. Hurley, MS, RN

For the past 18 years, Linda has worked for Springfield Hospital in Springfield, Vermont. In May of 2000, she became the Director of Education and now has the title Director of Professional Development. She also manages the Specialty Clinic and is Director of Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. She has worn several different hats for the hospital: she served as the Corporate Compliance Officer for two years (2002-2004), managed the Child Birth Center on two different occasions, and has been the Chairman of the Ethics Committee for 18 years. Prior to this, she served on two other Medical Surgical Hospital Ethics Committees, one Psychiatric Hospital Ethics Committee, and an Academic Institution Ethics Committee.

Linda received a BS degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1983 in Hotel, Restaurant and Travel Administration. She then pursued and obtained an Associates of Science Degree in Nursing from Holyoke Community College in June of 1988. She received a Master’s of Science Degree in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing from Russell Sage College in Troy, New York in 1993. She also attended Vermont College of Norwich University from 1988-1989. She currently studies French at Express Fluency in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Alden Launer, MDiv

Alden is an ordained United Church of Christ minister who currently serves as the interfaith chaplain at Copley Hospital in Morrisville, Vermont. He has worked in health care chaplaincy at Copley since May of 2001. As a part of his responsibilities, he also extends spiritual support to hospice clients who are being cared for by the Lamoille Home Health and Hospice, and he is a member of the Ethics Committee at Copley Hospital. As a focus of his chaplaincy position, he also devotes time to the spiritual support and care of staff members at Copley Hospital.

Alden is a graduate of Drew University with a Bachelor of Arts in Religion, and in 1984 received a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.  He completed a year-long Clinical Pastoral Education residency in hospital chaplaincy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City in 1985.

He has served as the minister at two local churches within the Vermont Conference of the United Church of Christ (the West Newbury Congregational Church and the United Church of Underhill) and from 1993-1998 was the chaplain at Porter Hospital in Middlebury, Vermont. While at Porter, Alden became a Board Certified Chaplain of the Association of Professional Chaplains, and has maintained that certification.

Alden’s wife Patricia is a registered nurse focusing on quality improvement at Bi State Primary Care. They have two children, a daughter Ainsley who is a nurse at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital in St. Johnsbury, and a son, Nathaniel, who is a student at the University of Vermont Rubenstein School of Natural Sciences.

Peg Maffitt

Peg joins the VEN Board as a community member with a long time passion and interest in end-of-life care issues. She brings leadership experience in numerous non-profit organizations dealing with hospice and palliative care. At present, she is a key member and point-person for the Madison-Deane Initiative, the educational arm of the VNA’s End-of-Life Care Services for Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties. Prior to joining the VEN Board, Peg had chaired the MDI for seven years, was a long time hospice volunteer and a founding board member of The Vermont Respite House. She was the moving force behind raising the funds to acquire and house the first ambulance in Shelburne, VT. In her professional life, she was the Capital Campaign and Development Director of the King Street Center in Burlington for over twelve years. She currently resides in Burlington with her husband, Tom.

Prema Menon, MD, PhD

Prema Menon is a Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine physician at the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC). She recently obtained her PhD in Clinical and Translational Science. In addition to her clinical work in the adult Medical Intensive Care Unit and outpatient Pulmonary Ambulatory Care Clinic at UVMMC, she is also an Assistant Professor of Medicine at UVM Medical School. Her primary area of interest is difficult conversations in the ICU. She is involved in research in end-of-life communication with family members of critically ill patients and patient- and family-centered communication in the ICU setting. She is currently conducting two clinical trials at UVMMC surrounding these two topics.

Madeleine Mongan, Esq

Madeleine Mongan was Counsel and Deputy Executive Vice President for the Vermont Medical Society, representing Vermont physicians from 1996 to the summer of 2016. She worked with the Vermont legislature, state agencies, academic institutions, non-profits, and insurers on health care policy and related issues and provided education and technical assistance to Vermont physicians on legal issues. Her practice addressed a range of health law issues including confidentiality, medical records, licensing, managed care, scope of practice, liability reform, public health, contracting, administrative simplification, and fraud and abuse.

In Vermont, she served on the Medicaid Exchange Advisory Board, the Area Health Education Centers Advisory Board, the Academic Detailing Advisory Board, and the Governor’s Workforce Workgroup and the Vermont Family Network board. She is a member of the Vermont Bar Association (VBA), past chair of the Vermont Bar Association Health Law Committee, and a recipient of the VBA community service award. Nationally, she has been a member of the American Health Lawyers Association, the American Society of Medical Association Counsel, and served on the AMA Advocacy Resource Center Advisory Board.

From 1985 to 1995, she worked for the Disability Law Project of Vermont Legal Aid, Inc. and the Vermont Coalition of Disability Rights. Before attending law school, she taught English and social studies in New York and overseas. She received her B.A. from the University of Delaware in 1972, M.A. from Stanford University in 1973, and J.D. from the University of California at Davis in 1983.

She lives in East Montpelier with her husband, Kirby Scarborough, volunteers with English language learners for Central Vermont Adult Basic Education, and serves on the East Montpelier Trails, Inc. board.

Kier Olsen DeVries, MA

Inspired by a family dilemma over how to handle the care of her dying grandmother, Kier Olsen DeVries self-designed an interdisciplinary major in Ethics at Smith College and then studied Bioethics in the PhD program in Philosophy at Georgetown University. During that time, she was a member of the board at a Maryland hospice and co-wrote her first published article, on the SUPPORT intervention. In 1999, still engaged in her dissertation (on end-of-life decision-making through a feminist lens), she moved to Vermont.

Editing and research assistant work at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics throughout graduate school led to a position at the Ethics Institute at Dartmouth, where she worked for 10 years. For several of those years, she served on the ethics advisory board of a Boston company doing stem cell research. In 2002, she began writing and editing for an online international network focused on communication for social change, where she is Senior Editor and Editor of their flagship e-magazine. She occasionally freelances for professors whose work she edited in the past, with Religion and the Newborn (forthcoming, Oxford University Press) being a recent example.

Kier is deeply involved in the community of Windsor. In 2010, a local minister nominated her to serve on the Mt. Ascutney Windsor Regional Ethics Committee as a representative of the Ministerium, a position she still holds. In 2014, Kier took part in a lay chaplaincy training program at the hospital, and, since then, she has loyally visited with elderly residents each Sunday at Historic Homes of Runnamede (HHR). She also serves as a member of the HHR board.

Hilary Ryder, MD, MS, FACP, FHM

Hilary F. Ryder, MD, MS, FACP, FHM is Associate Professor of Medicine, Medical Education and The Dartmouth Institute at The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. She is Chair of the Clinical Ethics Consultation for Dartmouth-Hitchcock and the Clinical Ethics Consultation subcommittee, as well as the Associate Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residency Program, and Clerkship Director of the Internal Medicine third-year clerkship at Geisel.

Dr. Ryder completed her undergraduate work in sociology at the University of Chicago (BS, 1999). After a brief stint as a geneticist, she received her MD in 2004 from Yale University School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency in internal medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (2004-2007), and joined the Geisel School of Medicine faculty at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in 2007 as a hospitalist. She has completed bioethics training courses at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University, and Harvard University. In 2013, she earned a Masters of Science from The Dartmouth Institute with a focus on research methods.

Dr. Ryder serves as a member of the Board of Directors and Executive Board Member for the Vermont Ethics Network, a non-profit organization promoting better understanding of ethical issues and choices in health care in Vermont. She was inducted into the Academy of Master Educators at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in 2016. She is a physician member of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, and a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the Society of Hospital Medicine. She is the author of several papers focused on educating patients, providers and lay readers of scientific journals. Dr. Ryder is involved in research on medical student response to ethical dilemmas, feedback, assessment, and evaluation in medical education, as well as predicting survival after in-hospital CPR. Her current work focuses on the meaning and role of assessments in undergraduate and graduate medical education, and understanding moral distress medical students face when encountering ethical dilemmas.

John Saroyan, MD, FAAP, HMDCB

Dr. John Saroyan has dedicated his entire medical career to hospice and palliative care. He was a full-time faculty member at Columbia University for ten years, where he was Program Director for the Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship and attained the rank of Associate Clinical Professor. He is a board certified pediatrician with sub-specialty certification in Hospice and Palliative Medicine, and is a Certified™ Hospice Medical Director. In 2013, he became the Physician Medical Director for BAYADA Hospice in Vermont and New Hampshire. His expertise extends across the lifespan.

A well-published scholar with multiple peer-reviewed publications, Dr. Saroyan maintains faculty appointments in the Department of Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College and the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. He has been quoted in the The New York Times because of his widely recognized expertise in both pediatric palliative and hospice care, called an “emerging leader” by the State Initiatives in End-of-Life Care, and featured in an online interview by blogger Laurie Kienlin. In 2018, Dr. Saroyan received the prestigious Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Mid-level Physician award.

He joined the Vermont Ethics Network Board in 2017 and has been a member of the Mt Ascutney Multi-site Ethics committee since 2013, having become co-chair in 2015.


Cindy Bruzzese, MPA, MSB, Executive Director & Clinical Ethicist

Cindy is the Executive Director and Clinical Ethicist at the Vermont Ethics Network (VEN). She has been with the organization since 2008. Prior to coming to VEN, Cindy served as the program manager for the Madison-Deane Initiative, the educational arm of the VNA of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties’ end of life care services division. In addition to her role at VEN, she is the Chair of the Ethics Committee for the State of Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL), serves on the clinical consult team for the Central Vermont Medical Center Ethics Committee and Directs the Statewide Task Force on Palliative Care and Pain Management. Cindy earned her BA from Colby College in Waterville, ME, a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from the University of Vermont, and a Masters in Clinical Ethics (MSB) from Clarkson University & the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Additionally, she holds a certificate in bioethics with a specialization in health policy and law from Union Graduate College & the Icahn School of Medicine. A native Vermonter, Cindy lives in central Vermont with her husband and two children.

Kim Preavy Carrier, Office Manager/Bookkeeper

Kim has worked for VEN since May of 2012 as the Office Manager/Bookkeeper. She attended Champlain College and has over 30 years of experience in Accounting and Bookkeeping. Kim responds to inquiries from community members who need direction regarding their end-of-life planning questions and concerns. She is instrumental in the coordination of our professional conferences—which VEN hosts twice a year. When she is not working for VEN, she operates a small bookkeeping business providing services for other companies. Kim has lived in Vermont all her life and currently resides in Richmond with her husband Tim and their teenage son Cole.

Nina J. Thompson, Community Outreach Coordinator

Nina joined the VEN team in 2018 as our Advance Care Planning Community Outreach Coordinator. She founded and led the Wake Up to Dying Project from 2012 through 2017. Before joining VEN, she consulted with national and local organizations working in the burgeoning end-of-life awareness movement. Nina brings 23 years of entrepreneurial and business-consulting experience to the position. She is well skilled in community organizing, project management, event production, campaign work, and organizational development. Nina draws her passion and capacity for this work from her experience with the Wake Up to Dying project, hospice and chaplaincy volunteer work and Zen meditation practice.