Meet Our Staff
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 CoordinatorKenton 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.
Rachel Enslin, LICSW, Primary TherapistRachel Enslin is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of Alabama. She graduated from the University of Houston with a Masters in Social Work, and from the University of Utah with a Bachelors of Music with an emphasis in Harp Performance. Rachel is trained and certified in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) as well as Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), and also has specialized training in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Family Systems Therapy. Before landing at Castlewood, Rachel worked in both residential and intensive outpatient treatment facilities treating a variety of clients. Rachel has worked with people struggling with eating disorders, trauma, suicidality, substance abuse, family conflict, depression, anxiety, and emotion disregulation. Rachel also has extensive experience working with adolescents with mental health and behavioral disorders. She has spent a lot time treating the affects of shame and guilt on adolescent and adult women, and helping clients build resilience to social, cultural, and internal expectations and pressure. Rachel is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah and loves spending time outdoors hiking with her dog, water skiing, and snow skiing.
Amy Claire Grisham, MS, RDN, LDN, DietitianAmy Claire received a Master of Science degree in Nutrition Science from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she also completed her dietetic internship. During her graduate studies, Amy Claire was a selected nutrition trainee for UAB’s Department of Pediatrics Leadership Education and Adolescent (L.E.A.H) and Nutrition grants, where she worked as dietitian within an interdisciplinary team in outpatient adolescent eating disorder and nutrition clinics. She also graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition Dietetics from Auburn University. As a registered and licensed dietitian (RDN, LDN), she is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Birmingham District Dietetic Association, and Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) groups. Amy Claire seeks to empower clients to make a full and lasting recovery through an inclusive, holistic approach to food, health, and wellness.
Katherine Jordan, MS, RDN, LDN, DietitianKatherine graduated summa cum laude from the University of Alabama with a Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science in Food and Nutrition. She finished the Coordinated Program of Dietetics, which includes more than 1,000 hours of nutrition experience in the areas of clinical nutrition, food service management, and community nutrition. Katherine completed her internship at Castlewood at The Highlands. As a registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist, she is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and Birmingham District Dietetic Association. Katherine’s desire is to support clients as they gain a healthy relationship with food; this includes experiencing the enjoyment and nourishment of food in harmony -- creating an environment for individuals to trust their bodies as well as the food they use to fuel it. When not working, you will find Katherine traveling or enjoying anything that involves being outdoors.
Lauren Davis, MS, RDN, LDN, DietitianLauren is a registered and licensed dietitian and medical nutrition therapist specializing in eating disorders. With a decade of experience in nutrition and dietetics, Lauren has an extensive background working with critically ill patients as well as food service management. Prior to joining the team at The Highlands, Lauren has served as a dietitian at multiple eating disorder treatment centers around the nation; she has worked with clients in a residential setting as well as partial hospitalization, partial day treatment, intensive outpatient, and outpatient in her own private practice. Lauren emphasizes a mind-body connection with eating and works to help clients rewrite their relationship with food and exercise. She has also made television appearances promoting eating disorder treatment and awareness. Lauren holds a Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Alabama and graduated magna cum laude from Samford University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She completed a comprehensive dietetic internship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Lauren is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Alabama Dietetic Association. She lives in the Birmingham area with her husband and two children.
Lynn Eastman, BSN, RN, Nurse
Lynn received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from University of South Alabama in 1987 and has practiced as a registered nurse for over 25 years. Most recently, Lynn served as a staff nurse and nurse manager for a national residential and partial hospitalization program for eating disorders. Her past nursing experience has been in the hospital setting while working with the Department of Cardiology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center from 1987-2000. During that time she was the Cardiac Transplant Nurse Coordinator for the University of Mississippi. Lynn attends to the medical needs of our clients by providing medical and medication monitoring with compassion and gentleness.
Tate Roberts, BSN, RN, Nurse
Tate received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Troy University in 1988. She has experience in the hospital setting as well as public health. Her past nursing experience has been in mental health, oncology, cardiology, and school nursing. Most recently, Tate served as a staff nurse and nurse manager for a national residential and PHP coordinator for a partial hospitalization program for eating disorders. Tate assists in assessing and attending to the medical needs of the clients.
Mary Roberts, LMSW, Intake, Admission, and Research CoordinatorMary is a Licensed Master Social Worker and a member of the National Association of Social Workers. She received her Bachelor of Science in Social Work from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she received the Outstanding Student in Social Work Award in 2011. Mary obtained her Master of Social Work at Azusa Pacific University in the Los Angeles area, where her capstone project, "Empowering Gatekeepers: Youth Suicide Prevention Training for Residential Staff," was given the Outstanding Capstone Leadership Project Award in 2017. Mary has a background in serving clients with severe mental illness, substance abuse, and trauma histories. She is passionate about suicide prevention and helping individuals improve their mental health. In her spare time, Mary enjoys reading, listening to music, and spending time with her husband and dogs.
Sarah Heath, MFA, Art InstructorSarah Heath received her BFA in sculpture from the University of Kansas and her MFA from the University of Georgia Lamar Dodd School of Art, where she graduated with distinction. While in Georgia Sarah was the gallery coordinator for the Georgia Sculptors Society, an instructor in sculpture and 3D design at UGA and an active member of the Lamar Dodd School of Art Student Advisory Board. In the past 7 years Sarah has shown in 32 art exhibitions in 8 states across the US. In 2009 she won a “Gold Metal in Fine Arts” Award from Creative Quarterly magazine and was listed in their “New Talent Gallery.” In 2010 she won the Athens Classic Center purchase award from the Juried Athens Sculpture Festival. Sarah has given artist lectures at Utah State University, Salem Art Works, Piedmont College, Lamar Dodd School of Art and the Athens Institute for Contemporary Art. She has been an artist in residence at Sloss Metal Arts in Birmingham Al, and Salem Art Works in Salem NY. Currently Sarah lives in Birmingham Alabama where she is runs Elder St. Studio and is a teaching artist for the Alys Stevens Center’s art outreach and education program, ArtPlay. You can view works by Sarah at www.sarahheath.carbonmade.com.
Kristi Sibert, MA, RD, LD, CEDRD, Adjunct DietitianKristi graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics from Harding University, and completed her dietetics internship and Master’s degree in Health Education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has experience in clinical nutrition, weight management, and teaching adjunct courses at a local university. She has participated in public speaking engagements related to nutrition, eating disorders, and a healthy lifestyle. As a certified eating disorder registered dietitian, Kristi has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders and helping clients to learn to live and eat diet free. Before beginning her private practice, Kristi served as the program nutritionist for an eating disorder treatment program in Birmingham, AL for eight years. It was there that Kristi developed her passion to help those struggling with disordered eating to find a healthful balance related to food, fitness, and their lifestyle. From meal planning, to grocery shopping, to restaurant dining, Kristi believes in the “hands on” approach with her clients to enable them to enjoy food again (or for the first time) and to live life diet free!
Allison Burnett, LICSW, Director of Outreach, South
Allison is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and a member of the National Association of Social Workers. She is currently serving as the Director of Regional Outreach, South. Prior to transitioning to this role, Allison was a primary therapist, and has treated eating disorders in various settings, including residential, PHP, and IOP. Allison graduated summa cum laude with her Masters in Social Work from the University of Alabama. She is a Certified LGBT Affirmative Psychotherapy Provider, and volunteers at a local non-profit LGBTQ agency. Allison is a national presenter in the field of eating disorders and LGBTQ issues. She is currently serving as Chair of Social Media for the Alabama Chapter of International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals.