Board of Directors

Executive Director

John Spencer

Spencer, as he is known, is a graduate of Wake Forest University, and Yale University’s Divinity School. He served 11 years at Duke University’s School of Law in Student Affairs and as Registrar, and most recently helped create a business platform for connecting people with the local foods they love. His commitment to education and helping others led him to consulting for the Autoimmune Encephalitis Alliance before becoming Executive Director. During his free time he can be found flying-fishing for 8-inch trout, or off-shore in the Atlantic Ocean fishing for bigger game. He is an avid collector of running injuries, mtn. biker, loves being with his extended family, and making “not-that-terrible” meals with his wife, Kara. Spencer loves a good joke and being a connector of people.

Will McDow, Chairman

Will McDow brings 15 years of nonprofit expertise to the founding of the Autoimmune Encephalitis Alliance. He has spent the past 10 years at Environmental Defense Fund developing policy and market solutions to solve national environmental issues. Will grew up in South Carolina, attended college in Wisconsin and now lives in Durham, NC with wife Leslie and daughter Laura Mishler. Will is an avid runner and occasional backpacker.

Leslie McDow, Secretary

Leslie McDow is currently the Associate Director of Employer Relations at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. She brings over 20 years’ experience in banking, finance, marketing and sales. She also has deep wisdom with patient advocacy as her and Will’s daughter, Florence, suffered from Autoimmune Encephalitis (AE) during a time when AE was not well researched or known. Leslie earned her BA from Davidson College and her MBA in Finance and Marketing from University of Tennessee College of Business. She lives in Durham, NC with her husband Will and daughter Laura.

Daniel Egger, Treasurer

Daniel Egger is currently Executive in Residence at Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. Daniel is an inventor, serial entrepreneur, and early-stage investor, with a primary focus over a twenty year career on Information Technology startups that use novel methods to extract value from very large data sets. Since 2009, Daniel has taught Data Mining, Financial Engineering, Information Technology Entrepreneurship, and related topics to students in Duke’s Master’s of Engineering Management program. In addition to working with Big Data, Daniel enjoys trekking in Iceland and translating ancient Egyptian poetry. Along with his family, Daniel has written extensively about his experience with his son Sasha’s autoimmune encephalitis.

Susannah Cahalan

Susannah Cahalan is an award-winning journalist and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller “Brain on Fire” about her struggle with autoimmune encephalitis in 2009. Her work has appeared in the New York Post, New York Times, Scientific American magazine, and other publications. She frequently speaks at universities and hospitals about her experience with autoimmune encephalitis. Susannah lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and dog. For more information, visit her website.

Alicia Garceau

Alicia Garceau is an Indianapolis-based journalist with more than 15 years of professional experience. She has built her career writing clear, concise and engaging copy for print, online and social media. Although her primary beat is real estate reporting, she also writes about business, political, health and lifestyle topics. She’s currently writing a long-form piece about her daughter’s battle with seronegative Autoimmune Encephalitis, which will be published in 2016. Alicia attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and holds a BS in news-editorial journalism.

Carrie Painter

Carrie is currently a Finance Director at Duke Corporate Education.  Her 20+ year career has included consulting and operations roles in the professional services & academic fields.  She brings both for-profit as well as not-for-profit experience to the AEA board.  Carrie has coordinated the Family Luncheon for families following the Florence Forth race since its inception and is passionate about the work the AEA is doing to connect families battling this disease.  Carrie earned her BS for UMass Lowell in Exercise Physiology, an MA from Framingham State College and her MBA from Duke University.  She lives in Durham, NC with her husband Rusty and her lively son Ben.