Our Directors

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RACHAEL TOTZ

"Incurable” was a word I never wanted to hear. I was only 14 when a doctor labeled my depleting health "Crohn’s Disease." I was told that my life would have to change. I was presented with a narrow path to recovery. Every treatment that silenced symptoms of Crohn’s Disease amplified a new malady. The treatments were just as damaging as the disease.

My mom and I spent countless hours on the Internet, reading journals and personal accounts, searching for success stories. Our research pointed us to a dietician, Ali Miller. Armed with probiotics, supplements and an anti-inflammatory food regimen, she promised the inconceivable: unmedicated remission. Under Ali's guidance, I deviated from the path of traditional treatment, pursuing the alternative path in hopes of a life without medicine.

Despite being a patient initially diagnosed with a moderate-to-severe case, I was soon off-medication and in remission. Over the years I became fascinated with the events that had unraveled before me: the biology behind the origin of my sickness and the reason why different foods had become my plague and others my panacea.

They may be unicellular and microscopic, but bacteria rule the world. The summer before my senior year in high school at the Awty International School in Houston,Texas I witnessed the tyrannical reign of pathogenic bacteria over the gut. Conducting original research about the proliferation and death of gut bacteria, I discovered that we can feed and starve sources of disease in our bodies by managing what we eat. Contrary to popular belief, we are not what we eat, but food is medicine.

I chose this research to show that my success with alternative medicine and Crohn’s Disease was not a medical anomaly; others may attain similar outcomes. My research amplified my interest in this field. By immersing myself into the roots of my disease, I felt more control of health than ever.

I chose to form this nonprofit, Food As Medicine Awareness, to raise awareness of the potential for dietary choices to regenerate our health. This non-profit, while founded on the basis of my success with alternative medicine, is about more than the glorification or advertisement of any single treatment.  This foundation is about the circuit of information that is available to patients, one that I found to be disconnected. Food As Medicine Awareness was created with the goal of spreading information, raising awareness all of the treatments available for this disease in order to promote patient self-advocacy and allow patients to pick the best treatment possible. I aspire to make a difference by taking my personal experience public, giving people the tools and courage to uproot their disease.

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ALBERTA TOTZ

Healthy eating has always been a integral part of my life long before eating "raw, organic and unprocessed " was a trend. However, when my oldest daughter was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, at the age of 14, it did not occur to me, nor was I aware, that we could treat her with a food-as-medicine protocol.

Although we sought out and met with the most experienced and knowledgeable doctors both in Houston and New York City, the only options presented to us were the use of drugs with terrible side effects, such as various forms of cancer and immune suppression. These medicines did not treat the root cause of Crohn's. Luckily, Monica Pope, friend, and a local Houston chef, who brought the farm-to table concept to the South, told me about Ali Miller who has a functional integrative medicine private practice.

With Ali Miller's interventions, I eventually took my daughter off of her medications and treated her with a very individualized food-as-medicine plan. At the age of 18, she is in remission, and has gained a wealth of knowledge about her body and how to take care of it!  My whole family has now altered how we eat and take care of ourselves.

I am not advocating against traditional medicine! I am promoting the education and opportunity to use food-as-medicine when appropriate. I hope to help others by raising money for education of these options, to further research in this area and to aid those who can't afford to pursue this approach since at this time food-as-medicine is not covered by insurance.

I was born and raised in Houston. I am a first generation American. I have an undergraduate degree in Finance, a law degree, and a Masters in Clinical Psychology. I practiced corporate law, negotiated engineering contacts, and later combined my law and psychology in the area of jury selection. I recently completed a four-year didactic in psychoanalysis. However, I have devoted the last 18 years to mainly motherhood along with serving my community in many capacities including serving on education committees, young leadership committees, fundraising for various organizations and serving on the Board of Trustees of Holocaust Museum Houston ("HMH"). I have started a high school program through HMH called Engines of Change with the mission of educating 9th to 12th grade students on how to be part of effective and positive change in their communities.

Knowledge is power and gives us the ability to make informed decisions regarding ourselves and for the benefit of our children! I hope you will join me and my co-directors in the pursuit of this knowledge and these choices!

SHERRI GORME ATLAS

Sherri is a personal chef and breast cancer survivor. And victor.

She always ate and lived healthily, but started looking at food in a whole new way, after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. With help from her nutritionist, Ali Miller, Sherri was able to maximize cancer treatments, minimize side effects, and promote healing with extraordinary mental and physical vitality. Clean whole food was a key part of the process and continues to play a significant role in her everyday life.

These days, Sherri spends time testing, creating and cooking simple, sustainable and seasonal meals for personal clients, some of whom have chronic conditions.  In between cooking and teaching cooking classes -- which focus on how to prepare tasty, yet healthy meals -- Sherri loves to entertain for her friends and family.  She expresses her caring and love for people through the healthy, yet still-delicious food she prepares.

Sherri graduated with a BBA in accounting from the University of Texas at Austin and later earned a Culinary degree from Houston Community College.  Sherri has been a dancer since her early childhood, and continues today, for both exercise and fun. She also loves hiking, meditating, music and art.
 

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MELISSA HALOW

Melissa's experience with food as medicine has been less due to medical urgency and more due to developmental and functional concerns.  Her son was thought, at age three, to be fully autistic.  After reading books about gluten and casein proteins “fogging” the brains of autistic children, Melissa and her husband decided (while living in a foreign country in 2004!) to try a gluten- and casein-free diet for him to see what might happen.  Within weeks, family, teachers, and friends noticed a dramatic change.  They believe that the combination of food as medicine (and some food as “poison”) and thorough, thoughtful behavioral therapies got their son back on track to his amazing, completely normal self.  As a former D1 track athlete and the mother of a competitive soccer player, Melissa believes firmly in the role of food as medicine and food as fuel.

Melissa is a stay-at-home mom, she volunteers in multiple capacities for her three kids’ schools and activities, and she tries to keep a healthy dose of exercise in the schedule.  Melissa grew up in Madison, NJ, and she has an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, an MA in sociology from the University of Chicago, and an MSc from University of London Royal Holloway in applied social psychology.