United Spinal Association’s Leaders are dedicated to advancing the organization’s principles and goals and to achieving the highest level of service to the spinal cord injury community.
Chairman of the Board
United Spinal Association
Lex Frieden is one of America’s pre-eminent disability activists and leaders of the independent living movement. He is Professor of Health Informatics and of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. He is also Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine.
From 2002 to 2006, he served as Chairman of the National Council on Disability (NCD), a presidentially appointed body. He was the 1998 winner of the prestigious Henry B. Betts Award for outstanding achievement in disability rights. In 1983, he was recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans.
As Senior Vice President of TIRR|MemorialHermann Hospital (formerly Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research) in Houston, Frieden directs the Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) program at TIRR.
Frieden was one of the major figures behind the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. In his capacity of Executive Director of NCD in the mid-1980s, reporting to presidentially appointed Council members notably including Vice Chairman Justin Dart, Frieden oversaw the work of Robert Burgdorf in writing the first drafts of what was to become the ADA. The Council issued a major report, Toward Independence, to further the effort along. The ADA became law on July 26, 1990.
Frieden’s service in the 1970s included membership on a task force empaneled by Olin E. (“Tiger”) Teague (1910-1981), U.S. Congressman from Texas, to study what was and was not being done in disability-related research across the entire swath of the U.S. Government. That panel’s work led, in 1978, to creation of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), a unit of the US Department of Education.
Lex Frieden was born in Alva, Oklahoma, a town in northwestern Oklahoma. In 1967, he began studying elecrical engineering at Oklahoma State University. It was as a freshman that he sustained a spinal cord injury in an automobile accident. As part of his rehabilitation from that injury, he went to TIRR in Houston, where he met Dr. William A. Spencer, the great rehabilitation medicine visionary. Dr. Spencer became Lex’s mentor. Among many other things, Spencer brought Lex onto the Teague-appointed research panel that Spencer chaired.
Frieden is a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Tulsa and also a graduate of the University of Houston. In 2004, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in law (LL.D.) by the National University of Ireland.
President and Chief Executive Officer
United Spinal Association
Paul J. Tobin was unanimously appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of United Spinal Association in June 2006. He served as Deputy Executive Director from July 2003 and was a member of the Board of Directors from 1995 to 1996.
Tobin, a United States Navy veteran, oversees all strategic operations of the organization and ensures the execution of United Spinal’s mission and vision. In addition to his tour as Deputy Executive Director, Tobin has held a variety of managerial positions, including Hospital Services Officer, Director of Special Projects, and Group Director of Benefit Services. He was promoted to Associate Executive Director of Benefit Services in 1998.
A Long Island native, Tobin graduated from Manhattan College with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering in 1991. Upon graduation, Tobin attended the United States Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, from which he was commissioned an ensign in November, 1991 and joined the Civil Engineering Corps. With the CEC, Tobin was stationed at Naval Air Warfare Center in Lakehurst, New Jersey.
After sustaining a spinal cord injury in August of 1993, Tobin underwent rehabilitation at the Castle Point (NY) Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Tobin has also pursued a Masters degree in Public Health Administration at Columbia University and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Social Work at Fordham University.
Tobin stresses the tradition of service that is the legacy of United Spinal Association and, as president and CEO, urges our membership and individuals with disabilities everywhere to continually challenge the limitations imposed by attitudes, medical technology, society, and government.
Lex Frieden – Chairman of the Board
Denise A. Mc Quade – Vice Chairman of the Board
Michael B. Kinne – Secretary
Janeen Earwood – Treasurer
Paul J. Tobin – President and Chief Executive Officer
Board of Directors
Marty has been involved in improving the lives of wheelchair users since the early days of Angelo Nicosia, about 50 years! Marty has worked in the mobility business for over 30 years and is currently vice president of sales for TiLite, manufacturer of ULTRA-light-weight, titanium and aluminum wheelchairs.
Marty has encouraged and inspired numerous newly injured individuals in his long business career devoted to making sure that people with disabilities are as independent as possible.
Marty’s work has required extensive national and international travel and interaction with big and small businesses, as well as individuals within the disability community.
Marty has been an active wheelchair athlete most of his life and believes in the importance of being as active as you can be. “It keeps a person young,” says Marty.
Early in his fascination with sports, Marty found that with a few “tweaks” to a wheelchair, the daily model chairs could perform much better in a not so accessible world. So he helped make these sports advantages begin to appear in chairs that would be used by the non-athlete user. This was the beginning of the “ultralight” wheelchair.
As technologies continue to improve, so do the chairs of today. “If I can show someone who uses a wheelchair how to perfect skills in that chair, a whole new world opens up to them.” This is what drives Marty today in the wheelchair manufacturing business.
David is publisher of Venture and Gear Solutions Magazines, Gear Solutions China, and Vision, a publication for the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Ophthalmology.
David has published many successful titles in his own right, including: Industrial Machinery Digest, Metalworking Equipment News, Fabricating Equipment News and F&M Magazine.
Janeen has been involved in the disability community and has served on NSCIA/United Spinal board for 20 years. She is the Director of Rehabilitation Services for American Senior Communities, headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Prior to this position, she was a rehabilitation hospital administrator and a physician practice administrator. Janeen is a physical therapist, and her area of clinical specialty is spinal cord injury rehabilitation.
Janeen is also active in the disability community in Indianapolis, and serves on the Board of the Rehabilitation Hospital Sports Program. This program provides sports and recreation opportunities to people with disabilities through a wide variety of sports clinics and sponsorship of three sports teams who compete regionally and nationally.
With 25 years of experience in health care, she is committed to mentoring health professionals in becoming involved in the disability community, to foster a greater understanding between health professionals and people with disabilities.
Janeen also serves on the Board of Directors of the Indiana Neurotrauma Research Trust Fund, which utilizes state designated funds to support research related to neurotrauma performed in the State of Indiana.
David has been involved in the disability community for 15 years.
“I was introduced to National Spinal Cord Injury Association while in the hospital in 1995 and members from the Greater Boston Chapter helped me find wheelchair accessible housing,” David says.
With this help David was able to go back to school, finish his undergraduate degree, return to work and get his life back on track.
David was also introduced to a peer mentor who showed him that he could still do whatever he wanted to do in life.
Through his mentorship, David went on to accomplish more things than he ever would as an individual without a disability. “I was trained as a peer mentor in 1997 and enjoy working with newly injured patients, showing them what my peer mentor showed me,” he adds.
Gretchen has been involved in the disability community for the past 5 years.
Lex Frieden, Professor of Biomedical Informatics – Professor of Rehabilitation, University of Texas, Health Science Center at Houston; Director, ILRU at TIRR|MHHS; Professor of Rehabilitation; Baylor College of Medicine
Lex has been involved in the disability community for 45 years.
He is one of America’s pre-eminent disability activists and leaders of the independent living movement. He is Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Rehabilitation at the University of Texas at Houston, and is past Chairman of the National Council on Disability (NCD), a presidentially-appointed body. He was the 1998 winner of the Henry B. Betts Award for outstanding achievement in disability rights. He is also director of the independent living research utilization program (ILRU) at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas. Mr. Frieden states, “Like many people, I became interested in matters pertaining to spinal cord injury when my neck was broken. I was a freshman in college at Oklahoma State University. I could not return to my school because it was not accessible, and they did not have provisions for attendant care. Life got really interesting after my application to another university was rejected because I had a disability.”
Joseph Gaskins is an experienced business professional who has worked in the wireless and software industries. Joe served a 2-year stint on the inaugural Disability Advisory Committee for the FCC, and has several years of lobbying experience on Capitol Hill. An avid traveler and athlete, Joe looks forward to contributing his high energy, no barriers out-look to executing on the mission of United Spinal Association.
Andy has been involved in the disability community since 2009.
As regional sales manager and education coordinator, responsible for the Eastern USA, training and supervising 20 salespeople, as well as presenting accredited educational programs to health care professionals throughout the country.
Publications: “Taking a Stand on the Importance of Standing” (2008); “The ‘Other’ Benefits of Proper Positioning: Why achieving functional posture can impact a client’s entire life” – Mobility Management – Seating & Positioning Handbook (March 2010); “Compliance Case Study: seeing the situation through others’ eyes” (Mobility Management – May 2008)
Carmen has been involved in the disability community for 6 years.
Until December 2011, Michele worked as Certified Work Incentive Coordinator at AHEDD. In 2004, Michele became Ms. Wheelchair PA and advocated across the Commonwealth on behalf of people with disabilities. Her slogan “Say Yes To Access” led her to speak on the PA Senate Floor.
Pat is a 30-year business development professional with a strong background in disability advocacy and working with clients to explore Disability as a Strategic Factor in the Labor Force. He is also a facilitator in Diversity & Inclusion principles broadly, with an emphasis in Disability and Chronic Health Issues. Pat has a degree in Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Pat states: “Having served on many boards, committees and task forces supporting the complete integration of people with disabilities into society – both from a disability rights and value to society perspective – I believe that I possess, and express, a balanced and thoughtful perspective in my facilitation approach.”
Denise states: “I was asked to be one of the first women to join United Spinal Association. I wanted to again be involved in a national disability rights organization and I was encouraged to run for the board of United Spinal.”
As staff and then executive director of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, Denise had worked with on the passage of human rights legislation, NYC accessible building code, access to mass transit in New York City and then our country, with passage of the ADA. Denise worked for implementation of an accessible bus and subway system and the creation of a paratransit service in New York City, as Governor’s appointees to the NYC Transportation Disabled Committee from 1984 until 1992, when she resigned from the TDC to work in the ADA Compliance Office of MTA New York City transit. In this capacity, Denise continued to work with United Spinal and the disabled community on ADA implementation through joint educational efforts such as bringing buses to schools or other locations where people with disabilities could try boarding a bus. She also worked on Bus Operator Awards ceremonies that recognized operators who members of the disabled community nominated for their commitment to delivering accessible bus service.“
McQuade adds: “Being a member of United Spinal’s board affords me the opportunity to be involved in expanding its core services to an ever widening base of consumers with disabilities while keeping our commitment to veterans with disabilities.”
Terry has been involved in the disability community for 43 years. He worked for United Spinal Association and formerly for EPVA for a total of 36 years. Prior to joining the staff, he served as President of EPVA. Terry is a disability rights leader and was an advocate for accessible transportation beginning in the 1970’s. He continues to work on organizing the disability community to gain access to all forms of transportation, and he served as chair of New York City Taxis For All Campaign and of Taxis For All-North America. Terry is a founder and current president/COO of the nonprofit Association of Travel Instruction, which provides continuing education opportunities for travel trainers. He also currently serves on the American Public Transportation Association’s Accessibility Consensus Standards Policy & Planning Committee.
During the 1990s, Ronnie was involved in a case against a New York City Cooperative where she lived that revolved around creating a wheelchair accessible entrance. At that time, United Spinal offered to represent her legally.
In 1999, she had a hearing at the New York City Human Rights Commission and prevailed. The Co-Op was instructed to build a ramp at the main entrance.
Later, Ronnie became involved in United Spinal’s Women without Limits program that dealt with issues facing women with disabilities.
“I am now very happy to be a member of the Board,” says Ronnie.
Edmund has been involved in the community for 54 years. Prior to his retirement, Edmund ran Wheelchair Medic, a program of United Spinal Association. Mr. Rowan was also adaptive sports coach for over 20 years and traveled extensively with his teams nationally and internationally. As a natural athlete and sports enthusiast, Mr. Rowan had the opportunity to encourage and be a shining example for countless newly injured individuals whose involvement in wheelchair sports helped them reintegrate back into their home communities.
Prior to her retirement, Laura ran United Spinal’s Philadelphia office for many years and helped her fellow veterans with their claims before the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Laura is a Paralympic wheelchair athlete and member of the US Adaptive National Rowing Team. She represented the United States at the Paralympics in Beijing, China.
Laura has a Master’s degree in counseling psychology, which serves her well in another of her passions: assisting fellow veterans, women and children with disabilities.
Paul has been involved in the disability community for 16 years. Paul was unanimously appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of United Spinal Association in June 2006. He served as Deputy Executive Director from July 2003 and was a member of the Board of Directors from 1995 to 1996. Paul stresses the tradition of service that is the legacy of United Spinal Association and, as president and CEO, urges our membership and individuals with disabilities everywhere to continually challenge the limitations imposed by attitudes, medical technology, society, and government.
Martin has been involved with the disability community for 33 years. Martin has a strong background in physics and mathematics and had a long career with IBM prior to his retirement. He has a keen interest in sports and has coached members in table tennis. Another of his passions is investment and financing.
Leonard has been involved with the disability community for 16 years. Leonard was the General Counsel of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NSCIA) from 1995 until its merger with United Spinal Association in 2011. He is a member of the NSCIA’s Greater Boston Chapter. In 2001, he received the James E. Smittkamp award for outstanding service to NSCIA.
Leonard has been an attorney in civil litigation since graduating from Boston College Law School in 1981. Previously, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Journalism from Northwestern University.
Before beginning private practice, Leonard was the Chief Law Clerk to the Justices of the Massachusetts Superior Court. He is one of the founding partners of Brister & Zandrow, LLP, a personal injury law firm with offices in Boston and Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Leonard has been involved in over 40 reported decisions in the Massachusetts and Federal courts including the United States Supreme Court, where he represented the NSCIA twice as an amicus curiae. He has held a variety of volunteer positions in bar associations and civic, service and religious organizations, and he has been recognized in the International Who’s Who of Professionals, Marquis Who’s Who in American Law, Who’s Who of Emerging Leaders in America, and Strathmore’s Who’s Who.