Meet Our Staff
Nicole Siegfried, Ph.D, CEDS, Clinical DirectorDr. Nicole Siegfried is a licensed clinical psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. In addition to being Castlewood at The Highlands Clinical Director, she serves as the National Director of Eating Disorder Program Development for Castlewood Treatment Centers. As such, Dr. Siegfried is committed to the Castlewood Philosophy of in-depth individualized treatment for the underlying symptoms and co-occurring disorders related to the eating disorder. Dr. Siegfried is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at University of Alabama at Birmingham and has also served as Associate Professor of Psychology at Samford University. She is an international presenter in the field of eating disorders and suicidality. She is a member of Academy of Eating Disorders and Co-Chair of the Suicide AED Special Interest Group. Recently, Dr. Siegfried founded and is the current president of the Alabama Chapter of International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals. Dr. Siegfried has more than 20 years of experience working with patients with eating disorders and helping to transform their lives.
Ioana Shirley, MD, Medical Director/PsychiatristBorn in Bucharest, Romania, Dr. Ioana Shirley received her M.D. in 1992 from Dr. Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy, where she earned the highest score on the entrance exam and graduated valedictorian of her class. She completed a residency at the University Hospital of Bucharest, an internship at New York University in general surgery, and a residency in general psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine. She also completed a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry at University of Alabama at Birmingham from 1998 to 2000. In addition to all her many accomplishments, she speaks fluent French, Romanian, and English. Dr. Shirley has treated eating disorders for several years and most recently served as the medical director of a national residential and partial hospital program for eating disorders. As The Highlands’ Medical Director and Psychiatrist, Dr. Shirley works to ensure the mental and medical well being of our clients.
Ronda Cannon, BS, Executive DirectorRonda graduated magna cum laude from Washington State University with a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Psychology. She spent several years as the Program Coordinator for Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention in the State of Washington, developing eating disorder prevention programs and creating several presentations and publications on the subject. Ronda also has a strong research and analytical background having worked as a Program Manager for the Department(s) of Medicine and Anesthesiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She formerly served as the Executive Director of a residential and partial hospitalization eating disorder treatment facility in the State of Alabama. Ronda currently oversees all day to day operations of The Highlands.
Jim Palmer, MPH, Facility Manager, and Safety OfficerJim is The Highlands’ Facility Manager and Safety Officer. Jim received a Master of Public Health in Healthcare Organization & Policy from University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1986. For 25 years he managed the Veteran Administration’s Southeastern Blind Rehabilitation Center, a 32-bed residential program providing veterans with a comprehensive training in adjustment to sight loss. In addition, during his tenure with the Veterans Administration Jim established the VA hospital’s non-profit research corporation of which he has been the Executive Director for the past 22 years. Jim previously served as the CEO of a residential treatment center for eating disorders.
Gina Palmer, MA, Compliance CoordinatorGina has been involved in compliance and quality assurance for the past 30 years. Most recently, she served as Compliance Coordinator and on the Executive Team of a residential treatment center for eating disorders in Birmingham, AL. Her duties included providing leadership and guidance and establishing policies and procedures to meet state and regulatory agency requirements. Prior to working with eating disorders, Gina’s career focused on working with visually impaired veterans. She worked for the Veteran’s Administration for 25 years overseeing daily operations and administration at the “Southeastern Blind Rehabilitation Center” (SBRC) and earning several honors and awards during her tenure. She acted as the center’s CARF/TJC Compliance Manager, maintaining policies and ensuring accreditation standards. Gina holds a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Teaching from Western Michigan University and a Bachelor’s in Special Education from Boston College.
Amber Parris, LICSW, CEDS, Primary TherapistAmber is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. She received her Master’s Degree with Honors from the University of Alabama, and is a member of the National Association of Social Workers. Amber previously worked at a residential and partial hospitalization eating disorder treatment facility in the State of Alabama. She also has training and experience in treating severe mental illness at both the inpatient and outpatient levels of care. In addition to her specialization in eating disorders, Amber has additional training in symptoms of self-harm, suicidality, trauma, and sexual addiction. She has had specialized training and experience in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Prolonged Exposure for PTSD. She is a candidate for the Certified Sex Addiction Therapist designation and has a particular interest in issues of intimacy and sexual addiction in eating disorders. She currently serves as Chair of Hospitality for the Alabama Chapter of International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals. Amber is committed to helping clients rediscover their sense of self and reconnect with their values and purpose to drive them towards recovery.
Mary Elizabeth Akinaka, LPC, NCC, Primary TherapistMary Elizabeth Goodrich received her Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is an Associate License Counselor under the supervision of Anna Stanley. Mary Elizabeth is also a National Certified Counselor. Mary Elizabeth began her journey as a therapist at The Highlands through her graduate school internship and working part time as a Direct Care Staff. Today she serves as a Primary Therapist, and Family Program Coordinator. Prior to her time at the Highlands, she worked as a special education teacher in the Birmingham area as well as the program coordinator for a children’s ministry at a local church. Mary Elizabeth believes that therapy is an art created by two people: the therapist and the client. As a therapist, her role is to come alongside her client and allow them to explore themselves in a safe and non-judgemental environment. Mary Elizabeth loves interacting with individuals from all walks of life and is a firm believer that a significant aspect of our growth as human beings is through interaction, specifically those who stories look different from our own. “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”-Carl Rogers
Alexandra Baugh, LPC, NCC, Primary Therapist, Adjunct Substance Abuse Therapist, Utilization Review SpecialistAlexandra Baugh graduated summa cum laude with a Master’s of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Auburn University. She is a National Certified Counselor and an Associate Licensed Counselor under the supervision of Anna Stanley. She is also a member of the Alabama Counseling Association. She currently serves as an adjunct therapist, alumni aftercare & discharge coordinator, and utilization review specialist. Alexandra previously worked at Aletheia House where she specialized in working with men and women with substance abuse disorders. She also has experience in working with individuals in residential and outpatient levels of care. Alexandra has a background in studio art as well as experience in Animal-Assisted Therapy. She values the importance of postmodern counseling approaches working in conjunction with evidence based methods. She believes in a holistic approach to therapy that encompasses physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of each individual.
Kenton Bartlett, ALC, Primary Therapist, Discharge Coordinator
Kenton graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a Master's degree in Mental Health Counseling. He received his Bachelor's degree doing undergraduate work in Washington, D.C. at American University. He received a double major in Business and Film, and made a feature film called Missing Pieces before turning his attention towards mental health work. He began this transition volunteering at Birmingham's Crisis Center Hotline for several years. He enjoys connecting with others around emotionally and philosophically relevant topics. Outside of working at Castlewood at The Highlands as Discharge Coordinator, he pursues writing projects, completing four screenplays and two published books, all while trying to see all the best concerts in town.