Karen Fortuna’s interest in engaging with people with a lived experience lies in growing up with a father who had multiple sclerosis and was in a wheelchair with limited mobility, eyesight, and capacity to move his arms; he also was impacted by cognitive impairments and mental health challenges. People treated Dave like he was different just because he was in a wheelchair. He was excluded, marginalized, and experienced discrimination–but, to Karen, he was always just her father—not different—not helpless—one of the most amazing and capable people she has ever known. Despite following all treatment protocol, including diet and exercise regimens, Dave died at the age of 50. His legacy of hope, resilience, and empowerment is embedded in all of Dr. Fortuna’s research as she works to extend the lifespan of people with mental health challenges through her work in digital peer support and beyond.
Robert Walker, MS, D-COAPS
Rob Walker works to support the mental health, substance use, and disability peer workforce and older adult mental health. Rob is the proud father of 3 adult girls and a rescue beagle named Hank. As someone in his 60’s with a mental health diagnosis and Diabetes for almost 50 years, he is aware of the compounding effect of age, mental health, and physical health. When he’s not at work, Rob can be found taking care of his house and his lawn, as well as his cottage in Maine.