President / Project Lead
Sharon Sims consults with The Deet Education Program for community outreach and education. Sharon also consults as the WNV Coordinator for activities such as community education, research and support for WNV patients through a private grant with Dr. Art Leis and Methodist Rehabilitation Center. She previously worked at The Mississippi State Department of Health since the West Nile virus outbreak in 2002. In response to the Mississippi outbreak, Sharon started the first West Nile virus support group in the nation in February of 2003. This group still meets in Jackson and in Hattiesburg quarterly.
Sharon has been involved in several grants between the state health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which focus on patients with West Nile virus and the lasting effects of the disease. Sharon developed the WNV Children’s campaign that has reached over 42,000 children in Mississippi. In addition, Sharon sits on the advisory committee for the American Mosquito Control Association’s “I’m One” campaign and serves on the Board of Directors for the Mississippi Mosquito and Vector Control Association. She serves as Co-Lead for an ongoing project thru PCORI which focus on patient centered outcomes for West Nile patients.
Secretary / Patient Participant
Amanda Young was born in New Orleans in 1979, and raised in Abita Springs, Louisiana. She attended the University of Southern Mississippi where she earned a Bachel of Fine Arts in Dance Education. She studied Ballet, Modern, Tap, and Jazz, and taught Modern dance as a student teacher at Petal Middle School and Hattiesburg High School. Amanda studied with Liz Lorman Dance Exchange, traveled to Paris and London to perform with American All-Star, and performed in the 1997 Super Bowl in New Orleans. She also performed at Southeastern Louisiana University as part of the Danceworks Company Concert. Along with Family Partnership Network (FPN), she taught dance to underprivileged children as a way to keep them safe and encourage greater self esteem. Through FPN, she was also involved in activities that further peaked creative interest in children and fulfilled their desire to hone their craft. Currently, Amanda teaches Pre-K back home in Abita Springs. At night she manages to follow her passion of dance as she continues to teach various dance classes for a 12th straight year. She also finds time to enjoy her hobby of photography. Most recently, however, Amanda finds herself as a West Nile Activist.
In July, 2013 I began to feel run down, lethargic, and then rapidly getting sicker and sicker each day. After two hospital stays, an urgent care visit, and three doctor visits, a diagnosis was finally given on August 13, 2013. West Nile has been the hardest fight of my life, one I wanted to give up on when I was stuck in the very middle of my illness. We all know that word “Fight.” I fought the fight, but now I suffer with the aftermath of West Nile. West Nile has changed my life from, a 34 year-old single in the prime of my social and professional life—living a “nothing can stop me” lifestyle—to where I am today. I’m 38 years-old. West Nile has put the breaks on everything that I wanted and could do. My health, my choices, my wants have all drastically changed. Now I have become an advocate for West Nile. My wish is that my experience can prompt further research by the Center for Disease Control to find a cure; persuade hospitals, doctors, and the FDA to cooperate on proper medications and practices to treat West Nile—especially in the early stages; and finally I hope that my story will encourage our community, as a whole, to treat the threat of West Nile seriously and prevent it all together.
Dr. Art Leis
Researcher / Board of Directors
A. Arturo Leis, MD is a senior scientist at the Center for Neuroscience and Neurological Recovery, Methodist Rehabilitation Center, Jackson, MS, and supplemental faculty in Neurology, Mayo Clinic, AZ. Dr. Leis has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles and chapters in medical journals, including seminal papers on West Nile virus infection and peripheral nervous system disorders. His current research involves arboviruses (West Nile and Zika viruses) and neuromuscular disorders. He has also authored two textbooks, Atlas of Electromyography, Oxford University Press, New York, © 2000, and Atlas of Nerve Conduction Studies and Electromyography, Oxford University Press, New York, © 2013. Dr. Leis received the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine (AANEM) Golseth Award and earned Fellow status from the AANEM, American Academy of Neurology (AAN), and American Clinical Neurophysiology Society (ACNS). He has served on numerous committees for AAN, AANEM and ACNS and directed or chaired multiple courses and symposia for these groups. He also serves as an executive board member for the Mosquito Illness Alliance (MIA), an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization, funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), Washington DC. MIA’s purpose is to improve the quality of life for those affected with mosquito-borne illnesses.