Who We Are

Veronica Luccioni
Founder

Mrs. Veronica Luccioni grew up in California.  She earned a Double Major at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for Civil Engineering and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. She then continued to pursue a Master of Science in Geotechnical Seismic Engineering at U.C. Berkeley.  Her career in engineering spanned from being a designer for URS, a global consulting company, to being an expert witness for Exponent/Lockwood-Singh, a multi-disciplinary litigation firm.  She is married to Laurent, with whom she had her two children.  In tandem with raising her two young children, who demanded a more flexible schedule, she performed various commission works in calligraphy and photography.  This passion led to the publishing of her first book in the Family Learning Series entitled, “Photography for the Family”.

Upon her daughter struggling with anorexia nervosa (AN), Mrs. Luccioni concentrated her efforts in researching the topic and saving her daughter’s life on a day-to-day basis.  It is through this personal journey, she identified the need for a better understanding and clarity of the taboo surrounding AN. This amazing life changing experience is what compelled her to share her story to the world; thus, the inception of this non-profit organization: Elephant In The Room Foundation.

Marina Luccioni
Co-Founder

“I always saw Anorexia Nervosa (AN) as something that happened to ‘other people’. Anorexia was what happened to people who wanted to look like models, or people who had ‘messed up’ families. I didn’t see why anyone would ever want to look that skinny, so I didn’t see how I could ever become anorexic.”

Anorexia has the highest death rate for females between 15 and 24 years old, yet despite its prevalence not many people fully understand this condition.  My personal experience with AN has allowed me to see the condition from an angle that most charity workers/founders have not.

Anorexia could have ruined my life.  It was an incredible difficult and long lasting struggle that could have easily resulted in permanent physical damage or death.  Two years down the line, after months of dedicated support of family and friends, I am now healthy, unscathed, and more knowledgeable about this condition than I could ever have imagined.

In my path of recovery from AN there was no exact moment that anyone looked at me and said ‘you’re fine now.’  Realization that things were normal again came gradually. However, once it had, my intense relief was mixed with a slight frustration. I would look back at my struggle and think- what a waste of time. I felt as though I’d lost two years of my life.  In many ways I had: I hadn’t been allowed on many vacations; missed a lot of school; ignored my friends and stopped all sports (most notably swimming which I loved).  When thinking about this, I would feel a lot of regret and anger- why did it have to happen to me? I felt frustrated by the idea of having to start over at all the things I had stopped doing two years ago.

But in early 2012 I realized something which changed the way I looked at my struggles with AN. Much as I cannot pinpoint the day of my recovery, my change in  perspective doesn’t have a specific date, but it made any feelings of resentment and frustration I had seem trivial. I realized that through combating AN I had painstakingly gained valuable  experience and knowledge about the condition and also about how to help others in similar positions.  I hadn’t wasted my time, only spent it differently: trying to ‘solve’ AN.  Those two years had saved my life;  now I could put them to even better use by drawing from my experience to help others.

I don’t want the fact that I was anorexic to be something that I, or anyone else, is ashamed of. If I had a choice, I would not have chosen to suffer from the condition, but I didn’t and I want to make the most of my encounter by helping others in a way few have.  Elephant in the Room Foundation (EitRF.org) is a product of that aim.

Pamela Pierce
Trustee

Ms. Pamela Pierce grew up in Delaware but was fortunate enough to spend her summers in a small coastal village in Massachusetts.  She received BA degrees in Chemistry and Psychology from Swarthmore College as well as a BS degree in Civil Engineering and a MS degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  She worked for consulting engineering firms in Boston and New Jersey, and specialized in assessment and remediation of hazardous waste sites.  She is married to Thomas Jackivicz, with whom she has five children.  Approximately a year after the birth of her first daughter, Ms. Pierce decided to hang up her hard hat to become a full time stay-at-home mother.

As a life-long athlete, Ms. Pierce was regularly exposed to situations where young women were making unhealthy decisions regarding diet and exercise.  After witnessing close friends and family members struggle with the impact of eating disorders, Ms. Pierce is convinced that education is the key in combating decades of society’s misconception and thus her conviction in promoting the Elephant in the Room Foundation.  She sees this effort becoming increasingly personal as she helps her three daughters navigate a world where they are constantly bombarded by unrealistic images of women.

Lydia Haam
Trustee

Ms. Lydia Haam is originally from Riverdale, New York.  She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with BA degree in Economics, then worked in financial product marketing in New York until moving to Lausanne, Switzerland, where her two children were born.  She also worked in fundraising for the Guggenheim Museum and as a Marketing Manager for Gottex Fund Management until moving to the UK.

While living in London, Ms Haam was deeply touched by the profound effects that anorexia has on bright, highly motivated girls and the repercussions on their entire network of family and friends. It is deeply regrettable that anorexics are marginalised and dismissed when they are most in need of understanding and support from those around them. The Elephant in the Room Foundation is a source of assistance and encouragement to anorexics that want to live their lives in a healthy way with the support of the family.

Gina Stewart 
Instructional Designer

Ms. Stewart grew up in New Zealand, where she earned an Honours Degree in Engineering and a Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching.  She has vast work experiences as an engineer, teacher and professional trainer in multiple countries, including the United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada.

Ms. Gina has particular interest in education and as a secondary school teacher she saw the benefit of parental support and guidance having a much larger effect in influencing the youths than anything done in the classroom.

Viviana Bagnato
Educational Art Designer

Mrs. Viviana Bagnato is Italian born and received her BA degree in Architecture from Federico II University in Naples.

She spent the last 15 years living in 5 different countries where beside her role of wife to Stefano and mother of two children, she pursued to combine her knowledge in Architecture with her passion for Art. This led to her experience as Artist Assistant for the program “Learning Through Art” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.  She then became a Teaching Artist developing programs for Public Elementary Schools.

Viviana has always thought that Art Education is essential to make connections not only with ourselves but with the world around us. In addition, working with children made her understand how empowering can be, especially for  young people,to have the chance to express themselves through art. She truly believes that engaging children in art activities can be of great help to prevent and solve problems related with Anorexia Nervosa.

Deborah Danson
Advocacy Director

Deborah Danson is a graduate student pursuing a M.A. in Public Policy and Administration at National Louis University.   Deborah has spent the past 12 years working in her community as a volunteer tutor, fundraiser, event organizer, and mentor.  She has served on several non-profit boards including her role as a board president where she oversaw an organization through rapid growth and executive transition.  In addition, Deborah has 16 years of corporate IT management experience enabling her bring data management, project management, and strategic planning skills to her future endeavors in public policy.  She holds a B.S. in Business Administration from The Ohio State University and a M.B.A in Finance from DePaul University.  Deborah lives in Evanston, Illinois with her husband and two daughters.

Deborah has been deeply impacted by the struggles endured by her friend’s daughter and their entire family as a result of anorexia.  She strongly supports continued investment in research and education on the biological and genetic factors associated with AN to not only improve treatment, but also reduce the stigma and negative attitudes directed toward AN sufferers.

Dr. Shan Guisinger is a clinician with 25 years experience treating eating disorders.  She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and completed postdoctoral work at the Yale University Eating Disorders Clinic.  In her research and practice, she seeks to understand how biological, psychological, and social factors interact to create or ameliorate emotional problems.  Dr. Guisinger has authored articles for Psychological Review and The American Psychologist on evolution of Anorexia Nervosa and interpersonal relatedness, and she is at work on a treatment manual for Anorexia Nervosa.

Dr. Guisinger has written Anorexia Nervosa: A Guide for Patients and Their Loved Ones that the Founder of EitRF.org has found to be pivotal in saving her daughter.

She offers an insight to the condition of AN which puts into perspective all evidence-based data from history, scientific studies and personal testimonies.   Here is a summary of one of her lifelong study.  Anorexia nervosa (AN) is commonly attributed to psychological conflicts, attempts to be fashionably slender, neuroendocrine dysfunction, or some combination of these factors. Considerable research reveals these theories to be incomplete. Psychological and societal factors account for the decision to diet but not for the phenomenology of the disorder; theories of biological defects fail to explain neuroendocrine findings that suggest coordinated physiological mechanisms.   AN’s distinctive symptoms of restricting food, denial of starvation, and hyperactivity are likely to be evolved adaptive mechanisms that facilitated ancestral nomadic foragers leaving depleted environments; genetically susceptible individuals who lose too much weight may trigger these archaic adaptations. This hypothesis accounts for the occurrence of AN-like syndromes in both humans and animals and is consistent with changes observed in the physiology, cognitions, and behavior of patients with AN.

(in progress)