Meet the Team
PHILIP KAO, CO-FOUNDER
Philip leads our projects and organization. After studying engineering at UCLA and working as a tech consultant at Accenture, Philip quit to volunteer for a year on clean water projects in rural Ecuador and China. He painfully discovered that giving people a solution doesn't mean they'll take it. While seeking to fill that gap, he found his calling in the field of social marketing. With environmental firm, S. Groner Associates (SGA), Philip led teams to run campaigns for cities, counties, and agencies in California, including the US Environmental Protection Agency. His work has kept thousands of anglers from eating contaminated fish, stopped youth from littering, and reduced lawn overwatering during California's worst drought ever. His engineer’s mind approaches behavior change in a systematic way, and his ability to communicate and build strong relationships has been key to success in his projects. Philip started Appleseed to bring what he’s learned back to where he thinks it's most needed: the development sector.
RUTH CHIANG KAO, MD FAAP, CO-FOUNDER
Director of Internal Development, Field Pediatrician
Ruth just loves kids. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in Psychobiology, she completed her medical training at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and the UCI-CHOC Pediatric Residency Program. She is a pediatrician who most recently worked for The Children’s Clinic, a nonprofit clinic for low-income families in Long Beach, California. She loves to work with diverse populations, and has worked in clinics in Mexico, Taiwan, Malawi, and Guatemala. She helped start Appleseed in order to make broader impact, improving the health of children around the world in a way that uses both her psychology background and her medical knowledge. When not making home health visits or working in local clinics, she's probably goofing off with some kids or losing herself in a good book.
Alex Pirvulescu, social marketing fellow
Alex is a emergency room and international health Registered Nurse with experience providing care in diverse settings around the globe. She’s worked everywhere from a mobile van supplying injection drug users with clean injection materials to remote communities in Northern Canada and Latin America. After meeting Philip and Ruth in Guatemala and learning about Appleseed’s social marketing approach, Alex began to look at health from a broader perspective beyond the bedside care she was accustomed to providing. Now, Alex has joined the Appleseed team to transform this new perspective into action, merging her medical expertise with her passion for impact and helping people shape healthier lives.
Kelsi Schecter Vahid, social marketing Volunteer
Kelsi is a health-nerd and musician. After receiving her Bachelors in Public Health, she was searching for a way to use her love for the arts to fuel healthy behavior change. That’s when she found social marketing, leading her to earn her Master's in Public Health from the George Washington University, specializing in social marketing and health communications. Her love of travel and volunteering have taken her to Central and South America. Now Kelsi is back in Southern California and volunteering with Appleseed, using her knack for research and creativity to create campaigns to motivate people and drive positive behavior change. When she's not doing that, she's probably playing pick up soccer or spending the day at the beach.
ERICA MAHGEREFTEH, BOARD MEMBER
In July 2015, Erica joined Appleseed's Board of Directors. Her passion for making a difference and her strategic mind has been vital in shaping our organization and our campaigns. Erica was Philip's principal collaborator at S. Groner Associates (SGA), where she was the Strategic Director of the firm. After successfully running and guiding countless community-based social marketing campaigns to protect the environment, she left SGA to direct her efforts towards improving health. To this end, she joined Health Services Advisory Group to improve Medicare services as a Communications Manager and has recently completed her Masters of Public Health at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health. Somewhere amidst all this change, she had two beautiful little girls. So as Erica works, from various angles, to improve the lives of young children, she'll be doing it at home as well!
LILY YUAN, BOARD MEMBER
In November 2016, Lily joined Appleseed as a Founding Board Member, advising on overall organizational growth while supporting brand management and volunteer coordination efforts. Lily's involvement with Appleseed began as a Founding Sponsor and she also provided guidance during Appleseed’s early stages of development. She brings over nine years of advertising and marketing experience with Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency and Google’s ZOO creative marketing team. To date, she has worked with over 75 brands across diverse categories on digital marketing and content creation. While Lily loves tackling marketing challenges, she is also passionate about youth mentorship. She recently left the corporate advertising world to manage The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Students of the Year program, where she mentors high school students across Los Angeles and helps them develop personal fundraising strategies, strengthen leadership skills, and ultimately raise money to fund blood cancer research and treatments.
aDAM qUINN, JD/MBA, cO-FOUNDER
Adam assists with legal and financial aspects of Appleseed and helps guide organizational strategy. After graduating law school and getting his MBA from the University of Minnesota, Adam became the Director of Business Development for S. Groner Associates (SGA), the environmental marketing firm where he and Philip first met. The duo bonded over their passion for community and environmental impact. Adam loves kids and is a passionate environmentalist (who maintains a 100-lb vermiculture worm farm in his home). He constantly pushes Appleseed to think creatively about our processes to make sure we're making the greatest impact possible. In co-founding Appleseed, Adam aims to build a strong, nimble, and effective organization that always delivers and exceeds the expectations of our supporters.
LAUREN O'MARA, CO-FOUNDER
Lauren brings a unique blend of public and private sector experience to the team. She began her career writing, producing, and editing international documentaries, marketing, and e-learning content for clients worldwide including The Coca-Cola Company and the US Centers for Disease Control. With a desire to give back to the community, she left the corporate world to join Teach For America. In the classroom, Lauren saw firsthand the effects of poverty and malnutrition and became passionate about helping children discover their potential. Eventually, Lauren transitioned from the classroom to the district office of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth largest school district in the nation. She served as Executive Director of Human Capital Management working to ensure access to high quality teachers through various strategic initiatives. Lauren joined Appleseed to work with a founding team committed to helping children on a global scale, contributing her educational experience to do it. Lauren holds undergraduate degrees in Broadcast News and French as well as graduate degrees in Education and Social Change and Educational Leadership.
Adam dreier, marketer
Adam loves learning. He was an aerospace engineer for nearly a decade, after studying Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics at SMU. Having made contributions and inventions in the aerospace field, his thirst for knowledge and desire to give back led him into entrepreneurship. He launched one business before deciding to shift his focus to the aspect of entrepreneurship that appeals to him most—marketing. Bringing a strong scientific background, Adam now works and plays at the intersection of marketing and science, with a focus on direct response marketing. He helps Appleseed because he believes that marketing can and should be used for higher purposes in the world, like improving people's lives. In addition to volunteering for Appleseed, he also consults for Patient Pipeline, a digital marketing agency for medical practices.
lEDVI j. bEDZA, FIELD marketer
Ledvi is a cultural strategist who develops research and marketing strategies to engage specialized audiences. With 12 years of experience in research and communication, Ledvi challenges clients to reach their audiences by first developing a thorough understanding of the decision making process and then finding ways to overcome barriers by appealing to the relevant behavioral determinants. Ledvi also specializes in language cultural adaptation, translating messages while preserving their original cultural context to truly resonate with diverse populations. She's helped clients adapt marketing messages in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Mandarin and Haitian Creole. Ledvi serves Appleseed projects by conducting social marketing research on the ground, having recently completed a 3-month stint in Guatemala.
Interested in joining our team?