2019 PAR Solutions Conference | MINDFULNESS 
October 21 & 22 & 23

Monday Keynote - Brian Wagner

Brian is the founder and CEO of "A Radical Vision." His mission is to help people embrace their own personal blindness to achieve a greater vision for their lives. The process takes people from a point of blindness, into sight, and toward a greater vision.

Brian was born and raised in Northwest Ohio as the son of a tomato farmer and the youngest of 10 kids. In 1977, at the age of 10, he was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a brain malformation. Over the course of the next 33 years he experienced several instances of medical issues resulting from this diagnosis. On March 4 of 2011 he woke up on the couch and wasn't able to see. For the next six months, he was blind. Only brain surgery and multiple eye surgeries have allowed a portion of his vision to return.

Since then, Brian has become an author of the semi-autobiography book "Sometimes It DOES Take a Brain Surgeon". He uses his experiences to help his audience to improve their lives by teaching them how to see what they are missing as a result of their own blindness.

Monday Keynote - Michael Gamel-McCormick

Michael Gamel-McCormick is the Disability Policy Director for Senator Casey of Pennsylvania. He held a similar position in the office of Senator Tom Harkin, as well as being Senator Harkin's senior education staffer. He began his career as an early childhood education teacher, teaching in inclusive settings. He also was a special education technical assistance provider for over 40 counties and cities in Virginia. For 15 years, he was a professor and dean at the University of Delaware as well as the director of the University's Center for Disabilities Studies. Just prior to joining Senator Bob Casey's staff, he was the Associate Executive Director for Research and Policy at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities.


Tuesday Keynote - ODP Deputy Secretary Kristin Ahrens

Kristin Ahrens

PAR looks forward to welcoming Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) Deputy Secretary Kristin Ahrens as a Keynote Speaker on Tuesday, October 22.

Kristin Ahrens is the Deputy Secretary for the Office of Developmental Programs. Previously Kristin served as the Director of the Bureau of Policy and Quality Management in Pennsylvania's Office of Developmental Programs. Before joining the Office of Developmental Programs, she served as the Policy Director for the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University. Ms. Ahrens' 25 years of experience working with people with disabilities spans from advocacy and community education to providing supported living, family support and self-directed services and includes development and management of several self-directed models. Prior to moving to Pennsylvania, Ms. Ahrens was the Director of Self-Determination Resources, Inc. (SDRI), a regional brokerage serving adults with I/DD, in Oregon. Ms. Ahrens has a Masters in Education and Disability Studies Certificate from Temple University.

Tuesday Keynote - Serena Lowe

Serena is a Senior Policy Advisor with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Administration on Community Living. In this capacity, Serena serves on the Department’s HCBS implementation team, which is responsible for supporting states in the successful implementation of the federal 2014 regulations on Medicaid Home & Community Based Services. Serena has spent the past twenty years serving in a variety of leadership roles focused on furthering policies and systems-change efforts that promote the socioeconomic empowerment of low-income working families, individuals with disabilities, aging Americans and other at-risk populations. Prior to joining ACL, Serena served as a Senior Policy Adviser at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), where she was responsible for implementing ODEP’s successful Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (EFSLMP). Before entering public service within the federal executive branch, Serena was the Founder of AnereS Strategies LLC, a government relations consulting enterprise focused on developing innovative public policy strategies aimed at promoting the socioeconomic empowerment of low-income working families, citizens with disabilities, older Americans, and other at-risk populations. During this time, Serena also served as the Executive Director of the Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination (CPSD). Earlier in her career, Serena worked as a senior advisor to two members of the U.S. Congress, a top 20 national lobbying firm, a Fortune 100 global biopharmaceutical company, and internationally for two foreign governments. Serena holds a B.A. in International & Public Affairs from Westminster College; an M.P.H. in International Health Policy and M.A. in International Development Policy from George Washington University; and a PhD in Public Administration from American University.  

Tuesday Keynote - The Honorable Bryan Cutler

Serving his seventh term in Pennsylvania General Assembly, Bryan Cutler represents the 100th Legislative District in Lancaster County. In November 2018, Cutler was elected by his colleagues to serve as Majority Leader for the 2019-20 Legislative Session, a position he assumed on Dec. 1, 2018.

Bryan’s emergence as one of Pennsylvania’s key leaders reflects his approach to life: Give back to the community that helped you. A lifelong resident of the Peach Bottom area, Bryan faced adversity as a high school student when both his parents were diagnosed with ALS (which eventually took both their lives) and he took on the responsibility of caring for them and his younger sister. The community helped out and embraced Bryan and his family, helping  meet their every need. 

At a time when most young adults headed off to college, Bryan worked and put himself through a trade school to become an X-ray technologist. Soon after, he married his high school sweetheart, Jennifer, and graduated summa cum laude from Lebanon Valley College with a health care management degree. Following several years of working at the local hospital overseeing the budgets and daily operations of several sections in the radiology department, he pursued a law degree, focused on health care law, from Widener Law School and become a member of the Lancaster Bar Association and began practicing law with the firm  of Nikolaus & Hohenadel. The desire to give back to the community - which did so much for him and his family - drove Bryan to run for public office. He was elected in 2006. 

With his extensive background in health care and the industries that deliver these vital services, Bryan has been a constant advocate for policies to make the state’s health care system more accessible and affordable. He is an outspoken champion for ALS awareness and research, especially its impact on veterans. He also serves as a legislative appointee to the Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation. He was a champion and co-sponsor for the Employment First legislation that passed in 2018 to help individuals with intellectual disability or autism (ID/A) gain competitive, integrated employment and is a supporter of Intellectual Disability/ Autism services as a member of the ID/A Caucus. 

Bryan and his wife, Jennifer, have three children, Cheyanne, Caleb and Drew. The family lives on an 11-acre hobby farm in the same log cabin home where Bryan grew up. The Cutlers are active members of the Wrightsdale Baptist Church.