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Empowering Patients & Families

Photography by

Sharon Stevenson, DVM, PhD

Note from Sharon

“A major encounter with the healthcare system is difficult for everyone; no matter how well-educated or competent they may be in other areas of life. The language is mystifying, the choices often confusing, and ‘who are all these people and what does each of them do??’. Not to mention trying to navigate all that while dealing with the stress and emotions that accompany a serious diagnosis. This is where and how I can make a real difference. As you will see from the text below I have had a diverse career to date—ranging from healthcare to business to finance. More or less organically I learned a lot of medicine and how the healthcare system works, as well as developing communication and interpersonal skills that allow me to be really effective. At this point in my life I want to share what I have learned with others. Let me help you navigate through the experience so that you will have more time and energy to be present and engaged, whether as a patient, caregiver, or family member."

Over the last few years Sharon has become more and more interested in serious illness and end of life issues, particularly the challenges that patients and families face when making complex decisions and interacting with the healthcare system. She enrolled in UCLA Extension and received the Certificate in Patient Advocacy in 2016. She then founded Bellwether Care, Inc. whose mission is to empower patients and families during the course of a serious illness and the ensuing encounters with the healthcare system. She passed the exam to become a Board Certified Patient Advocate in March, 2018. Sharon is a Managing Director of Okapi Venture Capital, which she co-founded in 2005 and is responsible for the firm’s life sciences investments. She led Okapi’s investments in Helixis (acq: ILMN 2010), Obalon Therapeutics, Orthalign, Wisercare, BioTrace Medical, Focal Therapeutics and WellTok. She will continue to be actively manage the Okapi Funds she participates in and to support the portfolio companies in her roles as Director, Observer, and/or investor.

Prior to founding Okapi, Sharon was Senior Vice President of Technology and Planning for SkinMedica, an early stage pharma company acquired by Allergan. Earlier, she was a Principal with Domain Associates, serving at the same time as President and CFO of Volcano Therapeutics, a company whose growth she led from product design through clinical trials. Prior to Domain Associates, she was Executive Director of the Advanced Tissue Sciences/ Smith+Nephew NeoCyte joint venture, during which time she lead a multidisciplinary team.

Prior to moving to the private sector, Sharon was a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Orthopedics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She is the author of more than 130 publications. Her clinical training was in veterinary surgery and she is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS). She has served on the governing boards of the ACVS and the Orthopedic Research Society and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Pardee RAND Graduate School of Public Policy. Sharon received an MBA from the UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management, a PhD in Comparative Pathology from UC Davis, and a Master of Science in Veterinary Pathology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from The Ohio State University.