Staff Members

Rick Doblin, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director

Rick Doblin, Ph.D., is the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). He received his doctorate in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where he wrote his dissertation on the regulation of the medical uses of psychedelics and marijuana and his Master's thesis on a survey of oncologists about smoked marijuana vs. the oral THC pill in nausea control for cancer patients. His undergraduate thesis at New College of Florida was a 25-year follow-up to the classic Good Friday Experiment, which evaluated the potential of psychedelic drugs to catalyze religious experiences. He also conducted a thirty-four year follow-up study to Timothy Leary’s Concord Prison Experiment. Rick studied with Dr. Stanislav Grof and was among the first to be certified as a Holotropic Breathwork practitioner. His professional goal is to help develop legal contexts for the beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana, primarily as prescription medicines but also for personal growth for otherwise healthy people, and eventually to become a legally licensed psychedelic therapist. He founded MAPS in 1986, and currently resides in Boston with his wife and three children.

 

Michael Mithoefer, M.D., Clinical Investigator for MDMA/PTSD Studies

Michael Mithoefer, M.D., is a psychiatrist practicing in Charleston, SC, where he divides his time between clinical research and outpatient clinical practice specializing in treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with an emphasis on experiential methods of psychotherapy. He is a Grof-certified Holotropic Breathwork Facilitator and is trained in EMDR and Internal Family Systems Therapy. He and his wife, Annie Mithoefer, recently completed a MAPS-sponsored Phase II clinical trial testing MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. A paper about their study was published in July 2010 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. They are currently conducting a second trial with veterans who have PTSD resulting from service in the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as psychotherapy training programs for MAPS researchers. Dr. Mithoefer is the medical monitor for MAPS-sponsored clinical trials in Europe, the Middle East, Canada, and Colorado. Before going into psychiatry in 1995 he practiced emergency medicine for ten years, served as medical director of the Charleston County and Georgetown County Emergency Departments, and has held clinical faculty positions at the Medical University of South Carolina. He is currently board certified in Psychiatry, Emergency Medicine, and Internal Medicine.

 

Annie Mithoefer, B.S.N., Co-Investigator for MDMA/PTSD Studies

Annie Mithoefer, B.S.N., is a Registered Nurse living in Charleston, SC, where she divides her time between clinical research and outpatient clinical practice specializing in treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with an emphasis on experiential methods of psychotherapy. She is a Grof-certified Holotropic Breathwork Practitioner and is trained in Hakomi Therapy. Recently she and her husband, Michael Mithoefer, M.D., completed a MAPS-sponsored Phase II clinical trial testing MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD.  A paper about their study was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. They are currently conducting a second trial with veterans who have PTSD resulting from service in the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as psychotherapy training programs for MAPS researchers.

 

 

Brad Burge, Director of Communications and Marketing

Brad earned his B.A. in Communication and Psychology from Stanford University in 2005 and his M.A. in Communication from the University of California, San Diego in 2009. His graduate work focused on the political, scientific, and cultural changes required to make illicit drugs into legitimate medicines. He has also interned for the Drug Policy Alliance and has a longstanding interest in drug policy reform and activism. He began working with MAPS as an intern in 2009, joining the staff in January 2011. Brad is also a freelance consultant, writer, and editor for organizations and individuals working in psychedelic and medical marijuana research, drug policy, and psychedelic therapy. He believes in the importance of communication for sharing knowledge and building community, and is committed to helping people develop honest and responsible relationships with themselves, each other, and their pharmacological tools.

 

Amy Emerson, Director of Clinical Research

Amy earned her BS in genetics and cell biology from Washington State University. She has worked in clinical development and research for the last 15 years in the fields of immunology (Applied Immune Sciences), oncology (RPR), and most recently in vaccine development (Chiron and Novartis). Amy has worked with MAPS as a volunteer since 2003 facilitating the development of the MDMA clinical program. She is currently working as Director of Clinical Research and is involved with creating the structure needed to support the growing needs of the clinical operations group and MAPS clinical research studies.

 

 

Virginia Wright, Director of Development

Virginia joyfully brings a wealth of fundraising experience to MAPS. She has held management positions at Carmel Bach Festival, The Santa Cruz County Symphony, the Arts Council Silicon Valley, and The Global Fund for Women. Her firm Wright & Associates has provided strategic thinking, marketing, and fundraising services to arts organizations throughout the Monterey Bay and Silicon Valley regions, and she has facilitated community-based art and cultural plans for cities in Northern California and Nevada. She co-founded and directed The Soviet American Performing Arts Exchange and was active in the citizen diplomacy movement in the 1980s. She received her B.A. in International Relations from San Francisco State University, and her M.B.A. from Santa Clara University. For the first part of her life Virginia danced in Santa Cruz, New York, and Los Angeles.

 

Brian Brown, Communications and Marketing Associate

Brian Brown studied medical anthropology and visual culture at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he researched social prospects for psychedelics using a community-centered approach. Before joining MAPS, Brian worked extensively as an intellectual property consultant and event organizer. By combining his family history in psychology, his education in social investigation, and his personal love for community, people, and art, Brian’s broad range of talents are well-suited to engaging wider public interest in the work of MAPS. Brian is now developing MAPS’ membership base by assisting with education and outreach efforts.

 

 

Kynthia Brunette, Information Systems Consultant

Kynthia comes to MAPS with a B.A. in Political Science, an M.S. in Human Computer Interaction, and a lifelong interest in models of personality and development. Her interests have evolved over the years into a fascination with the design of institutions, organizations, and experiences that serve as vehicles for transpersonal growth. She became involved with MAPS in late 2009, when she interned in the office during the planning period for “Psychedelic Science in the 21st Century.” She believes that MAPS volunteers are some of the most intelligent, dedicated, and creative people that she has ever had the pleasure to meet, and she is honored to have the chance to work with MAPS to both harness their energy and energize them in turn.

 

 

Natalie Lyla Ginsberg, Research and Advocacy Coordinator

Natalie earned her Master’s in Social Work from Columbia University in 2014, and her Bachelor's in History from Yale University in 2011. At Columbia, Natalie served as a Policy Fellow at the Drug Policy Alliance, where she helped legalize medical marijuana in her home state of New York, and worked to end New York’s racist marijuana arrests. Natalie has also worked as a court-mandated therapist for individuals arrested for prostitution and drug-related offenses, and as a middle school guidance counselor at an NYC public school. Natalie’s clinical work with trauma survivors spurred her interest in psychedelic-assisted therapy, which she believes can ease a wide variety of both mental and physical ailments by addressing the root cause of individuals’ difficulties, rather than their symptoms. Through her work at MAPS, Natalie advocates for unbiased research to help undermine both the war on drugs and the current mental health paradigm.

Tess Goodwin, Development Assistant
Tess has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she focused most of her time on social psychology and newspaper production. She is a mycophile, artist, and language enthusiast.

 

 

 

 

Colin Hennigan, Clinical Data Coordinator

Colin brings a background in research design methodology and database management to MAPS. He earned his B.A. in Political Science at the University of Chicago, with an emphasis in social theory and philosophy of science, and his M.A. in Political Science at University of California, Davis, where his graduate work focused on state sovereignty and international systems theory. Prior to joining MAPS, he worked as a Research Analyst with the Genetic Disease Screening Program at the California Department of Public Health, as a freelance technical writer, and as a private mathematics instructor. He is currently working with the MAPS Clinical Team on the creation of an online clinical database and the implementation of the Therapist Adherence Program.

 

L (Ilsa) Jerome Ph.D.,  Research and Information Specialist
Ilsa earned a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Maryland. She helps MAPS and researchers design studies, gathers information on study drugs (as MDMA) through keeping abreast of the current literature and discussion with other researchers, creates and maintains documents related to some MAPS–supported studies, and helps support the MAPS psychedelic literature bibliography. She has written informational documents on psilocybin, LSD and MDMA. She is interested in using methods from behavioral science and neuroscience to learn how humans feel and think about themselves and each other.

 

 

Sarah Jordan, Publications Associate
Sarah earned her B.A. in Environmental Policy and Planning with a minor in Journalism from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and studied Digital Publishing at Cabrillo College. She has a background in marketing and non-profit fundraising. Prior to joining MAPS, Sarah was Communications and Development Assistant at Firelight Foundation in Santa Cruz, CA. She is also a yoga instructor with an interest in how thoughts, habits, and emotions manifest in the physical body. She publishes the Bulletin, books, educational materials for MAPS.

 

 

 

Bryce Montgomery, Web and Multimedia Associate

Bryce studied film production at West Valley College, where he also developed an interest in marketing. Bryce joined MAPS as a Social Media Intern in the summer of 2011, bringing his background in film production and social media to public education about psychedelics. After interning at MAPS for a year, Bryce now serves as Web and Multimedia Associate, a position that combines all of his passions; ranging from using the internet to reach people worldwide to creating visually stimulating media projects.

 

 

Shannon Clare Petitt, Executive Assisant

Shannon Clare Petitt is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern and received her Master’s in Integral Counseling Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. She works with individuals and groups on addiction, trauma, and spiritual growth. As Executive Assistant at MAPS, Shannon supports founder and Executive Director Rick Doblin with scheduling, communications, speaking engagements and administrative coordination. Shannon often travels in order to network and spread the word about MAPS’ work as well as engage in Harm Reduction with the Zendo Project. She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Linnae Ponté, Director of Harm Reduction

Linnae earned her BA in Biological Psychology from New College of Florida where she defended her thesis, which investigated the impact of sleep disturbance in the pathogenesis of depression in a sample of 360 students. She has assisted data collection and analysis of various projects at University of South Florida’s Cardiovascular Psychophysiology Laboratory, MOTE Marine Mammal Aquarium Psychophysical Laboratory, East-West College of Natural Medicine, and the West Mamprusi Civic Union in Ghana, West Africa. Linnae started working in harm reduction as an undergraduate, and has since traveled internationally to coordinate and train volunteers to offer skilled and compassionate care to individuals having difficult psychedelic experiences. For Linnae, psychedelic harm reduction is an essential service for festivals, capable of transforming potentially traumatic experiences into opportunities for growth and showing that safe, expansive experiences are possible without the need for law enforcement-based policies.

 

Ben Shechet, Clinical Research Associate

Ben received his BA in Psychology from Princeton University in 2009, where his work included research on motor learning in children, investigation of ‘flow state’ phenomena, and a thesis that developed a neuroeconomic framework for understanding the phenomenon of boredom. Following his graduation, Ben spent a year as a Clinical Research Coordinator at a private clinical trials site, working primarily on studies investigating potential treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease. Working in the field of psychedelic research allows Ben to investigate the experience of consciousness from a variety of perspectives—empirical, psychological, spiritual, and phenomenological.

 

Allison Wilens, Clinical Study Assistant

Allison earned her B.S. in Biopsychology in 2014 from Tufts University. She worked in the Tufts Psychopharmacology Lab for three years, conducting data collection and analysis for several projects. Her Senior Honors Thesis focused on the role of the NMDA receptor in mediating aggressive withdrawal symptoms in alcohol-dependent, outbred, male mice. She was also co-president of the Tufts chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), where she helped to pass medical amnesty reform on campus and spread awareness of the harmful side effects of the War on Drugs. Allison is currently serving as MAPS’ Clinical Study Assistant, providing general administrative support to the clinical department. She considers working for MAPS to be a dream come true and relishes the opportunity to help deconstruct the damaging, reductionist paradigms of the contemporary mental health care system and to improve access to viable treatment options for those suffering from trauma- and anxiety-related disorders.

Berra Yazar-Klosinski, Ph.D., Clinical Research Scientist

Berra earned her Ph.D. in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2010, and utilizes her scientific training and experience in for-profit pharmaceutical research to help lead MAPS' clinical team to develop, design, and implement clinical psychedelic research in the U.S and beyond. She earned her B.S. in Biological Science from Stanford University, with an emphasis on the neurobiology of drugs. Prior to entering graduate school, Berra worked as a Research Associate with Geron Corporation screening for drugs that activate telomerase, and with Millennium Pharmaceuticals on Phase 1 clinical trials to treat Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Berra joined MAPS in order to work with an organization where profit wouldn't dictate the agenda of scientific research.