HealTorture draws experts from across the country and around the world to speak and write on topics in the field of torture rehabilitation. Click on an expert's name to learn more about them and check out their presentations and/or articles.

Annie Sovcik

Annie Sovcik is the Director of the Washington Office of the Center for Victims of Torture.

Ms. Sovcik has spent almost ten years working on refugee, asylum and immigration policies. Prior to joining CVT, Ms. Sovcik was the Advocacy Counsel for the Refugee Protection Program at Human Rights First where she focused on laws and policies impacting refugees seeking asylum in the United States. Ms. Sovcik was also a Staff Attorney with the Access to Justice and Children’s Services units at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

Ed Stellon, MA, MS, CADC

Ed has worked within the substance use and mental health treatment systems for more than twenty years, providing direct service as well as overseeing outreach, Assertive Community Treatment, and supportive housing programs.  Ed volunteers at Heartland's Marjorie Kovler Center where he provides counseling to survivors or torture.  He is committed to innovative service models that promote human rights and is a founding member of the Midwest Harm Reduction Institute. 

Valery is a board certified, registered art therapist and licensed clinical professional counselor.

C. C. Strom

C.C. Strom is the communications manager for the Center for Victims of Torture. C.C. is responsible for the marketing communications of CVT, including the website, email marketing, social media and newsletter. She serves as an internal communications consultant for the organization for videography, publications, presentations and photography. C.C.’s work often overlaps with development staff in supporting online fundraising campaigns and promoting events.

Prior to joining CVT in 2005, C.C. worked in small business development as a program manager.

Kate Sugarman, MD

Kate Sugarman, MD

Dr. Kate Sugarman is a family practice physician working in Washington, D.C.  Dr. Sugarman received a B.A. cum laude in general studies from Harvard College and earned an M.D. from Jefferson Medical College.  She has a Diplomate from the National Board of Medical Examiners and from the American Board of Family Practice.  In the past, Dr. Sugarman served as a family doctor at the Lighthouse AIDS Clinic in Rehovot, Israel, where a majority of the patients were from Africa.  Most recently, she worked at the Community of Hope clinic in Washington, D.C.

Liz Sweet

Liz Sweet is the Director for Access to Justice at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS).   LIRS’ Access to Justice program supports a network of partners across the United States to respond to migrants impacted by detention by offering legal services, visitation and community based services for individuals released from detention.

Laura Takacs

Laura Takacs, MSW, MPH, received her MSW and MPH from University of Washington in 2004. For the past 10 years, she has worked both in the United States and abroad with populations who have experienced trauma related to war, displacement, poverty and torture.  For 5 years she worked with combat veterans with the Veterans Administration.  She has also worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Syria as a mental health consultant and with UNHCR in Kenya as the Senior Regional Staff Welfare Officer.  Ms.

Bernadette Talia

Bernadette Talia, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and co-founder of the Chaldean Middle Eastern Social Services in El Cajon, CA. She has been a consultant and a provider of cultural competency trainings regarding Iraqi issues and recent Iraqi refugees in San Diego, CA for more than eleven years. She has been a trauma specialist since 1999, and has faciliated dialectical-behavioral skills training groups, anger management groups, and education and support groups for Middle Eastern women and men.

Captain John J. Tuskan, Jr.

Captain John Tuskan, a U.S. Public Health Service Officer, is assigned to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS). Under a SAMHSA intra-agency agreement with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), he serves as Senior Public Health Advisor and Director of the Refugee Mental Health Program, which provides technical assistance, consultation and training on the mental health, welfare and social integration of refugees, torture survivors and other vulnerable populations.

He has concurrently served as SAMHSA’s Faith-Based

Leslie E. Velez

Leslie E. Vélez is the Senior Protection Officer at the UNHCR Regional Office in Washington, where she leads the U.S. Protection Unit. 

Prior to joining UNHCR in May 2012, she was the director of Access to Justice at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS).  There Leslie oversaw LIRS’ legal and social service programs which provide services to refugees, asylum-seekers, torture survivors, and other immigrants in, and released from, detention.

Amy-Jo C. Versolato

Amy-Jo C. Versolato, Institutional Relations Officer, The Center for Victims of Torture

Amy-Jo Versolato has been working in international nonprofits for more than 12 years, focusing on U.S. government and intergovernmental (United Nations, European Commission) contract writing and management. She holds a bachelor's degree in international relations and French from the University of Minnesota and a J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School.