High Alert Institute

Meet Your Institute Leaders



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Our leadership team includes not only current and former Federal Medical Officers but the FDNY EMS Medical Director during 9/11, the CDMS (Canada) head of Disaster Behavioral Health, and committee members of Florida’s Regional Disaster Behavioral Health Team. Our Chairperson is the Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in Disaster Medicine and was the Founding Chairperson for the American Board of Disaster Medicine. Recognized for her work in hurricane response, our Executive Director was recognized as a Distinguished Member of the Year by the National Disaster Medical System (HHS/DHS/ASPR) in 2005 and also is a therapy animal trainer/handler. The High Alert Institute now brings these decades of experience to our partnerships for animal welfare.


Allison A. Sakara, RN, MSN, NP, PHRN

Founder & Executive Director

Executive Director since 2011
NDMS Response Distinguished Member of the Year Award

Allison is a nurse practitioner with 30+ years of experience in the fields of pediatrics, hematology/ oncology, and disaster response. Recognized for her work in hurricane response, she was recognized as a Distinguished Member of the Year by the National Disaster Medical System (HHS/DHS/ASPR) in 2005. Allison has shared her expertise in Disaster and Pandemic preparedness with hospital committees, disaster responders, educational organizations, businesses, and as a Technical Advisor for Spike TV/Paramount Television. She also has worked as a clinical and regulatory consultant for nearly 30 years, serving clients primarily in the neurosurgery and endovascular surgery medical device industry. As co-founder and Executive Director, Allison is enthusiastic about bringing her decades of experience and advocacy for pet therapy, animal rescue, and green energy initiatives to the Institute.

Veronica Pardini, DVM, CertAqVet

Consulting Aquatic Veterinarian

Consulting Veterinarian since 2022
Featured Veterinarian on NatGeo Wild TV

Veronica Pardini, DVM, CertAqVet has over 10 years of experience in the field of exotic animal veterinary medicine. Born and raised in Brazil, she moved to Florida in 2016. Dr. Pardini loves all animals, but she has a soft spot for aquatic species. One of only three doctors in Florida with the Aquatic Veterinarian Certification from the World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association (WAVMA), Veronica has dedicated her professional energies to becoming an expert in aquatic animal healthcare. In addition to her work as the Institute’s consulting aquatic veterinarian, Dr. Pardini serves as the veterinary healthcare representative to the Space Healthcare Policy Working Group where she assists in the development of animal healthcare and animal welfare principles and standards for future space habitats. Veronica was also a featured doctor on the NatGeo Wild show “Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER” for 5 seasons.

Maurice A. Ramirez, D.O., Ph.D.

Founder & Chairperson of the Board

Board Member since 2011
Lifetime Achievement Award in Disaster Medicine

Dr. Ramirez is a former Senior Physician/Federal Medical Officer, Emergency Room Doctor, Disaster Medicine Specialist and Bioterrorism/Hazmat expert. He is the recipient of the American Association of Physician Specialists Lifetime Achievement Award in Disaster Medicine and also served as the Founding Chairperson of the American Board of Disaster Medicine. For more than three decades, Dr. Ramirez has brought vast clinical, field response, and professional speaking experience to the disaster response community. He has published numerous articles in professional and scientific journals and has been cited in over 24 textbooks. In addition, Dr. Ramirez authored The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Disaster Preparedness (Alpha Books, 2009) and Making Sense of Disaster Medicine (Oxford Univ. Press, 2010). He was the Technical Advisor for Spike TV’s: Surviving Disaster and 1000 Ways to Die. Dr. Ramirez currently serves as the Chairperson for the Institute, contributing his knowledge, experience and insight to the advancement of disaster healthcare science, research, policies and procedures, as well as novel technologies. And his dedication to green energy solutions and enthusiasm for raising koi are perfectly suited to the Institute's newest endeavors.

Heidi Cordi, M.D., M.P.H., M.S.

Vice-Chairperson of the Board

Board Member since 2011
EMS Physician Excellence Award

Dr. Cordi is an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Albany Medical Center in the Capital Region of New York. During the attack on 9/11, she was the FDNY EMS Medical Director and still serves as the medical director for various EMS Agencies in the New York State Capital District. Dr. Cordi is one of the proud founding members of the American Board of Disaster Medicine. She has served as President of the American Academy of Disaster Medicine, and other positions for both the Board and Academy. In addition to her medical degree, Dr. Cordi has an M.S. in Biology Research and an M.P.H. in Healthcare Policy and Emergency Medical Services. She has remained on the frontlines of emergency healthcare throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and recently was awarded the EMS Physician of Excellence (2020). Prior to the pandemic, Dr. Cordi traveled for international medical mission and disaster response work - the Peruvian Andes, Nigeria, Malawi, Haiti, China – and she was a professor of emergency medicine and critical care at the Third People’s Hospital of Chengdu, China. She has also lectured not only in the United States but also Germany, India, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, and Italy. Dr. Cordi is a founding Board member of the Institute who continues to contribute her extensive medical knowledge and experience, as well as globally-minded stewardship, to the Institute’s mission and goals.

Zachary Walters, M.Eng.

Secretary/Treasurer & Board Member

Board Member since 2022

Zach is a mechanical engineer with a passion for renewable energy solutions and environmental activism. He owns his own construction company, specializing in solar and outdoor pond installations, and shares his skills as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. Renovating vintage homes hold a special attraction for Zach and he currently is restoring a farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania, where he and his wife reside. Zach has been an outdoors enthusiast and environmental activist since childhood. He has worked as a ski instructor and first aid responder in northern California and is an experienced backpacker. Along with his wife, Zach is active in Rails to Trails projects and husky dog rescue groups.

Jeanne LeBlanc, Ph.D.

Board Member

Board Member since 2011
APA Presidential Citation Recipient

Born and raised in Florida, Dr. LeBlanc grew up in a disaster response family. She now resides in Vancouver, remaining active with many US-based and Canada-based organizations in disaster behavioral health and medically-focused international relief. As a member of Canada’s CMAT Disaster Behavioral Health Leadership, her work with the CMAT’s member wellness program plays an integral part in providing team support before, during, and after deployment. Dr. LeBlanc has served on numerous American Psychological Association committees, received a Presidential Citation from the APA in 2014, and was the first non-physician member to become a member of the American Academy of Disaster Medicine. As a clinical psychologist, her private practice focuses on the assessment and rehabilitation of issues related to brain injury. Dr. LeBlanc is an experienced sailboat captain and, with her husband, has sailed the Pacific Coast from San Diego to Vancouver in a single voyage.

Monique Tapie

Board Member

Board Member since 2022
Stevie Award for Best Multicultural Communications Campaign

For more than 20 years, Monique has been creating award-winning communications strategies for leading organizations and she is the co-founder of Shadwell GP. Her body of work has required a range of approaches - from advocacy to litigation and crisis communications, to multicultural grassroots strategies and media relations. Monique has paired her creative, impactful approach with vital influencer communications in some of the most challenging industries. Extensive experience working in both the United States and Europe has led her to develop deep insights , garnering her numerous awards, including a Stevie Award for Best Multicultural Communications Campaign. Monique’s views have appeared in Advertising Age, Brandweek, Inc. Magazine, L’Express of France, and The Washington Post. Fluent in French, she speaks frequently at conferences around the world. And Monique attributes being raised in an international household as the source of her passion for and deep understanding of cultures and human behavior. New to the Board, she looks forward to assisting the Institute with clear messaging and advocacy for our mission and our programs.

Amy Lynn Walters, B.A.

Board Member

Board Member since 2022
Aphasia Advocate & Ambassador

Amy started working for the medical device industry shortly after graduating from Harvard University in 1991, rising to the level of Vice President for Global Clinical Research. Her efforts in regulatory affairs, clinical research, and quality affairs for multiple companies earned her international recognition and respect. She also was the architect of clinical trials that led to the first-ever FDA PMA approval of an implanted device to treat cerebral aneurysms from within the aneurysm itself. While attending the Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery (SNIS) conference in 2017, Amy suffered a major stroke due to the sudden occlusion of her left internal carotid artery. With the support of her family, she has dedicated countless hours to physical and speech therapy sessions and now lives independently with her husband. Amy is an advocate for stroke and aphasia survivors, presenting regularly at meetings for healthcare providers, survivors, and caregivers. In 2019, the SNIS community established The Amy Walters Patient Lecture in her honor and she triumphantly took to the international stage as the inaugural lecturer. Amy volunteers as VP for National Aphasia Synergy, a charity founded and led by persons with aphasia to support the aphasia community. She lives their message of optimism and empowerment every day as a hiker, skier, and supporter of natural habitat protection.

Sadie Cook Walters, R.N.

Board Member

Board Member since 2022

Sadie is a cardiovascular intensive care nurse who also has worked as a disaster response. During the pandemic, she ran the vaccination clinics in Mono County, California and in 2017 she was part of the medical response in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Sadie worked for the forestry service prior to becoming a nurse, where she first became involved in trail building and environmental activism. Her love of hiking and botany continue to this day. Sadie also is an advocate for social justice, sustainability, animal welfare organizations, including the Hollywood Huskies national rescue organization.

David Billingsley, B.S.

Board Member

Board Member since 2022

Starting with a degree in Geography and Earth Science, Dave has spent nearly three decades bringing a globally and ecologically responsible approach to everything in life. He has worked as a boat captain, commercial fisherman, and an addictions counselor. As a lifelong conservation activist, Dave also has brought his environmental stewardship to a variety of property development and management projects with the incorporation of green energy and renewable technologies. He retired in 2017 to support the recovery needs of his wife, Amy Walters, and is very active in advocacy for stroke survivors and persons with aphasia. Dave enjoys hiking, skiing, traveling with his family, and supporting organizations which protect native ecosystems.
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High Alert Institute

4800 Ben Hill Trail
Lake Wales, FL 33898
Office: 863.696.8090
FAX: 407.434.0804


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