Melissa Y. Bell - President
Melissa Bell is a wife, mother of three children and an attorney at law with a background in finance. Melissa’s family has been profoundly impacted by Lyme Disease, including multiple impacted family members as well as their dog. In particular, one child was abruptly transformed from thriving, athletic and carefree, to suffering from excruciating pain, fatigue, and cognitive dysfunction. Melissa suddenly had a child who was too sick to attend school, play with friends or even walk many days. It was only due to the kindness of others brave enough to share their story about Lyme in Florida and a doctor who took the time to answer a desperate email sent from the children’s hospital that her child finally received an accurate diagnosis. It took nearly a year.
Melissa sees first hand the struggles that so many other Floridians face due to poor awareness in the state, faulty testing, and flawed treatment guidelines that fail to take into account the complexities of treating late stage, disseminated Lyme Disease, particularly in the presence of co-infections. Through personal experience and outreach to others, Melissa observed that patients in Florida are routinely condemned to unnecessary suffering because they are denied the opportunity for early diagnosis, along with safe efficacious treatments.
In an effort to raise awareness throughout Florida, Melissa founded Florida Lyme Disease Association (FLDA) in 2013. In 2014, FLDA merged with Northeast Florida Lyme Association, thus expanding the talent and reach of the organization. While very sympathetic to the plight that adults with Lyme face, what truly fuels her passion for advocacy are the children who silently suffer from the ravaging, debilitating symptoms of Lyme from the confines of their home, without answers or hope.
Aimee was born in Cleveland, Ohio but lived most of her childhood in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania. After high school she studied international business at the University of Colorado and the University of Bourdeaux, France. She ultimately completed her undergraduate studies at the University of North Florida. She is a financial advisor and Senior Vice President with Raymond James.
Aimee wanted to become involved with NEFLA due to her husband Dane's diagnosis and the unpredictable path their lives took as a result of his illness. "I listened to doctor's deny Dane's symptoms and discount his condition. Even with a diagnosis, the path toward recovery was filled with controversy." Like her husband, Aimee thought that once he was diagnosed treatment could begin and a recovery was soon to follow. But like the diagnosis, treatment was also controversial. Fortunately, Dane responded well to alternative methods of treatment. As a result, Aimee's involvement comes from a desire to relate with patients and their families and help them to realize
Dr. Kerry Clark - MPH, PhD
Dr. Clark was born and raised in Louisville, KY, and later attended and graduated from Western Kentucky University with a B.S. degree in public health in 1992. He obtained his master’s degree in public health epidemiology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health in 1993. His deep love of nature and interest in human health were meshed by his growing interest in human diseases whose causative agents have animal reservoirs (zoonoses). This led him to pursue doctoral studies of vector-borne diseases. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Public Health, in Environmental Health Sciences, with an emphasis on arthropod vectors and vector-borne disease ecology. His doctoral research involved an ecological study of the Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, in South Carolina, the first such investigation in that state.
After a brief stay at the University of Southern Mississippi, in 1999 he moved to his present faculty position in the Department of Public Health at the University of North Florida, where he presently directs the Master of Public Health Program, and teaches courses in epidemiology and environmental health sciences.
Dr. Clark’s research is focused on the ecology and epidemiology of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases in the southeastern U.S. He collaborated with investigators at Georgia Southern University in several studies, including those leading to the first isolations and characterizations of B. burgdorferi in South Carolina. Dr. Clark and colleagues have documented the presence of three different Lyme Borrelia species infecting small mammals, ticks, and lizards in Florida and South Carolina. He was the first to ever report finding Lyme disease spirochetes infecting wild reptiles. More recently, he has discovered evidence of a previously unrecognized species of Lyme bacteria in human patients in Florida and other states throughout the U.S.
The primary objectives of his research and service activities are the following: (1) to learn more about the ecology and epidemiology of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases affecting humans in the Southeast; (2) to improve early detection and diagnosis by developing better diagnostic tests, and by educating clinicians, public health personnel and the general public about the risks; and (3) to promote personal protective behavior for prevention of infection.
Dr. Kerry Clark Director, Master of Public Health Program
Associate Professor of Epidemiology & Environmental Health
Dr. Clark came to the University of North Florida with a Masters in Public Health Epidemiology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences from the University of South Carolina. He now directs the Master of Public Health Program at the Brooks College of Health and teaches courses in epidemiology and environmental health.
Lyme Disease Research
Dr. Clark is committed to his research of the ecology and epidemiology of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases in the southern U.S. He was the first to report finding Lyme disease spirochetes in animals and ticks in South Carolina, and in wild reptiles in South Carolina and Florida. He has documented the presence of the bacteria in wild animals, ticks, and humans in Florida. He recently discovered evidence of previously unrecognized species of Lyme group bacteria in human patients in Florida and other states.
The primary objectives of Dr. Clark’s research are:
1. To determine the actual frequency of Lyme disease in humans, the prevalence of infection in ticks, and the true tick vector species of Lyme disease to humans in the southern U.S.
2. To develop better diagnostic tests (molecular) for identifying the causative agent of Lyme disease to improve sensitivity and specificity of detection, and
3. To improve awareness and early recognition of the disease through dissemination of the research findings and community education efforts. Funding Needs Dr. Clark is in need of funding to continue his groundbreaking research. He uses primarily molecular (DNA-based) testing methods to identify tick-borne disease agents in humans, ticks, and other sources because these methods are extremely sensitive and specific. This testing requires large amounts of expendable supplies and DNA sequencing services. Funding will primarily be used to purchase lab supplies necessary to test humans, ticks, and other samples for the causative agents of different tick-borne diseases.
To make a gift to UNF:
Dr. Clark and the Brooks College of Health would be extremely grateful for your support of this research. If you are interested in making a gift, please make checks payable to the Brooks College of Health and specify that the gift is for Dr. Clark’s research. For more information or to make a credit card gift, please contact Tom Erdal, Assistant Director of Development, at 904.620.1207. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Read Dr. Clark's Newsletter: Lyme Disease in Florida: What You Need to Know
Mary Jaycox is a native of Toronto, Canada where she earned a BA at Ryerson University in Radio and Television Arts. Mary moved to Florida in 1987 to join her future husband and was soon thereafter busy raising three children. She has been active in regional real estate development since 1988.
Infected with Lyme and co-infections while visiting Africa in 1999, Mary learned about the abundance of disinformation and medical complexities of this disease through her personal journey. Mary has dedicated herself to sharing her understanding of the information she has collected with others who are suffering from Lyme in the hope that her experience will help others avoid the struggles and challenges she encountered.
Andrea King is Senior Vice President of Treasury & Administration at the PGA TOUR in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. She grew up in Gainesville, Florida, receiving her B.S. degree in Finance from the University of Florida and later completing a B.B.A. in Accounting at the University of North Florida. Andrea is passionate about education and healthcare. At the PGA TOUR, she oversees health and retirement plans for the players and employees. She was Treasurer of the Ponte Vedra Public Education Foundation for ten years. Her experience with lyme and related infections began when she became extremely ill several years ago. The challenges of being diagnosed and treated have led her to become a founding member of the NEFLA Board, determined that better information be made available to healthcare professionals and the public about lyme and related infections.
Joe Crozier is the President and CEO of Community Health Charities of Florida. Joe grew up traveling the world as a military brat before landing at the University of Tennessee. At UT, Joe earned his BS in Education and MS in Physiology. His current position brings him in contact with a variety of organizations addressing chronic and life threatening illnesses. As a 501c-3 organization, Community Health Charities Mission is to unite caring donors in the workplace with our nations most trusted health charities.
Joe has always had a passion for health and education. His introduction to Lyme Disease came through various friends, who contracted the disease. Upon hearing their stories of misdiagnosis, mistreatment, and denied access to treatment, he felt compelled to get involved. “The controversy and politics surrounding this disease are both astounding and disheartening. It amazes me how politics and money can interfere with proper diagnosis and treatment of a disease that is approaching epidemic proportions.” As a member of the NEFLA Board, Joe hopes to use his contacts in the health profession community to bring a higher level of awareness to this terrible disease.
Shirley Hartman, M.D.
Shirley Hartman, M.D. grew up on a farm in northeast Iowa. She graduated with a B.S. in biochemistry and a minor in nutrition from Iowa State University in 1977, received her medical degree from the University of Iowa in 1982, and in 1985 completed her family practice residency in Des Moines, Iowa. At that point, winter was the driving factor in moving her south to Jacksonville. Shortly after moving here and working in family practice, she began training in acupuncture. In 1987, she established her own practice utilizing nutritional therapy, acupuncture, and holistic medicine. Over the years, she developed experience treating people with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and chronic pain. When a founding board member made her aware of Dr. Clark's research, she began sending him samples from her patients to test. An amazing percentage of people with several symptoms within the spectra of pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and neurologic disorders (multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease, manic-depressive, schizophrenia, Parkinson's, etc.) showed evidence of tic-borne illnesses. Dr. Hartman became involved with the Northeast Florida Lyme Association and was invited to join the board. She is very happy to have additional support available to make people more aware that the problems they are suffering from might be caused by Lyme disease and that multiple treatment options are in existence.