Our Team

GFT Secretary and Treasurer
Esther Giller
Esther is founder and President of Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute, a national nonprofit organization that provides education, publications, and research about trauma and related mental health issues. Sidran helped develop and publish Survivor Moms’ Companion. Esther currently serves on the Board on Growing Forward Together as Secretary/Treasurer. Her education focused on American and Women’s Studies, with degrees from Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently looking forward to retiring from Sidran in 2021, and spending quality time with her children and grandchildren. Given that she’s busy grand-parenting, she’s not sharing her email broadly, but you can make contact with Esther via the Sidran website.

GFT Vice President/Director of Programs
Mickey Sperlich
Mickey is the co-creator of the Survivor Moms’ Companion and one of GFT’s founders. Mickey is on faculty at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work (State University of New York). She studies the effects of trauma and mental health challenges on women’s childbearing, postpartum experiences and early parenting outcomes, and has been a part of several trauma-focused perinatal studies, and other studies looking at trauma more broadly. Mickey also was a teacher in her first career, in special education. When Mickey is not working on academic pursuits you will find her either with one of her beloved grandchildren or out kayaking in her happy place: the Huron river! To reach her, please email mickey.sperlich@survivormoms.org or msperlic@buffalo.edu. Here is her faculty home page.

GFT President and CEO
Julia Seng

Julia is the co-creator of the Survivor Moms’ Companion and one of GFT’s founders. Julia is a nurse-midwife and professor at the University of Michigan. She was a high school French teacher in her first career, which is where she got her love of helping people learn. Her expertise as a researcher is on how posttraumatic stress affects childbearing. Her activism is working with others to find ways to improve the well-being of moms with PTSD when they are pregnant, during birth, and in the early years of parenting. When she’s not working, she enjoys cooking with friends and family, knitting, and planning her next long-distance walking trip. You can reach her at jseng@umich.edu or julia.seng@survivormoms.org. Here is her faculty home page.

GFT Board Member
Lisa Kane Low

Lisa is a nurse-midwife and professor at the University of Michigan where she also serves as the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies. She focuses on interdisciplinary research to promote evidence based care that promotes optimal health outcomes during childbirth. Specific projects have included safely reducing cesarean birth rates in healthy people, second stage labor care to reduce pelvic floor trauma and social and emotional support throughout the childbearing year. Lisa is a strong advocate to assuring families have access to the resources they desire, specifically including the midwifery model of care to the maternity care experiences they desire. Outside of her professional roles and responsibilities she enjoys live music, particularly jam bands and blue grass, watching soccer and is entering into the new role of being a grandparent. You can reach her at kanelow@umich.edu, or her faculty home page.

GFT Board Member
Pamela Riggs-Maturo

Pam is a nurse-midwife, farmer, and activist. She has retired from clinical practice with human females, but she loves attending the births of lambs on her farm. Her activism focuses on environmental, food system, and anti-racism projects. Her farm does not leave much time for leisure, but she enjoys movies, cleaning duck week out of the pond, talking to her 3 dogs: Abby, Coco, and Scochi and spending time with her adult children when they return to the nest.

Staff Biographies

Licensing Director
Debra Lefever-Rhizal

Deb is a nurse-midwife at the University of Michigan. She became a midwife after 15 years of supporting families through childbirth and early parenting as a doula and an educator. She has a strong interest in the healthcare provider's role in empowerment. She has four amazing girls she loves to spend time with, and also enjoys collecting wild edibles, time by the lake or on the river, hiking (sometimes with her dog, Chester) and gardening. Deb can be contacted at debra.lefever-rhizal@survivormoms.org.

GFT Staff and Grad Student
Grace Nadler

Grace supports the Board, runs our weekly meetings, keeps our systems running, remembers everything that Julia and Mickey seem to forget, and stays in touch with other folks who do work for Growing Forward Together. Grace received her Bachelors in Social Work from the University of Kentucky, and is in the University of Michigan’s Masters in Social Work program. Grace plans to pursue a career in Global Social Work with a focus on children and families. Some of her grad school work with us involves learning cross-sector regulatory affairs and non-profit communications practices.Time not spent working with GFT or preparing for graduate school, is spent outside taking her dog Koda on long walks. To reach her, please email info@growingforwardtogether.org or grace.nadler@survivormoms.org.