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About Us

Our Team

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Founder, Neurologist & Program Director 

Dr. Kluger is a Colorado native who completed an undergraduate degree in psychology, medical school, and neurology residency at the University of Colorado before going to the University of Florida to complete fellowships in movement disorders and behavioral neurology. He is currently an associate professor of neurology and the director of the neurology supportive and palliative care program at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. In addition to seeing patients in the supportive and palliative care clinic, he directs a very active research program working towards improving therapies for non-motor symptoms (e.g. fatigue, dementia) and improving standards of care for patients and caregivers through supportive and palliative care models.  One of Dr. Kluger’s primary beliefs is that he treats people not diseases.  He believe that everyone has unique perspectives, priorities, strengths, and weaknesses that are important to understand in working towards their health goals.  Knowing that good communication is critical to this relationship, he aims to really hear patients and to communicate his thoughts in a way that is understandable. In accordance with that approach, he is open to admitting when he does not have the answers. As the director of the neuropalliative care program it is his goal to ensure the care provided is always patient and family-centered, meaning that the patient and family directs the goals and plans of care.  In his spare time he enjoys reading, creative writing, music, lifting weights, meditation, and professional wrestling.  He volunteers his time working with the American Academy of Neurology, Davis Phinney Foundation, Parkinson's Association of the Rockies and Huntington's Disease Society, and frequently gives talks to support groups for Parkinson’s disease and other patient populations.

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Christina Vaughan joined the team in August, 2017, and is a Board certified neurologist who is trained and previously practiced in Movement Disorders. After several years in practice, her love of neurology grew but she strived to practice in a more comprehensive way. After watching close family members live with neurodegenerative disease, she understood that these conditions affect patients more than just physically, and affect the whole family. In order to enhance her skills in caring for patients and families in a more supportive way, she completed a year-long fellowship in Palliative Medicine. She was delighted to gain more in-depth experience in management of not only the physical, but also the psychological, spiritual, and social symptoms - in an effort to optimize quality of life for patients and families. She is particularly interested in self-image in the face of illness, and in getting to know patients in the context of their lives, rather than only from the perspective of their diagnoses. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to combine her passion for neurology with the palliative care approach, and grateful to be working with an outstanding team. A native of Buffalo, NY, she is no stranger to winter weather and has been enjoying exploring the beautiful outdoors of Colorado.

Physician Assistant

Julie has been working as a Physician Assistant in the fields of neurosurgery and neurology since 1997. She has gained experience in caring for brain tumors, spine disease, movement disorders, deep brain stimulation management, multiple sclerosis and neuro-behavioral disorders.  She is currently in inaugural class of Master's of Science in Palliative Medicine program at University of Colorado Graduate School. In her past, she has experienced being a caregiver in her family of origin when 3 members suffered progressive genetic neurologic disease.  She has a hard earned passion for providing excellent personalized care for patients and all of their family members who cope with neurologic disease. During free time, Julie enjoys traveling to interesting places with her husband and two children or going for hikes and walks with her Goldendoodle.

Wendy Cernik.jpg​Wendy Cernik RN, BSN Nurse

Wendy Cernik, RN, BSN is the movement disorders nurse for the Neuroloy Department at UCH. She is also the nurse for the palliative care team in the Neurology Department with past experience as a home hospice nurse/care manager. Her passion is palliative care, striving to find ways for the physical, spiritual, emotional, and home care needs of the patient and their family to be met.

Cari.jpgCari Friedman LCSW, Social Worker

For the past twenty-five years, Cari Friedman, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, has helped patients and families who have chronic neurological conditions. She has been with the University of Colorado Health's movement disorders, palliative and supportive care clinic since its inception in 2015. She is a native Coloradan who likes to go to the Colorado Rockies baseball games with her family. Cari likes to travel with her husband and son to different places and experience the different cultures. 

 RKhan.2016.JPGRyan Khan MDiv, BCC Chaplain

Ryan has been working in health care chaplaincy for more than a decade in both hospital and hospice work and has been active in ministry since 1996.  He grew up in diverse inner-city Philadelphia, moved to Denver in 2009, and considers himself easy going, down-to-earth, and practical.  Ryan is motivated to care for others, providing reflective and supportive conversation, encouragement, and comfort for those who are hurting, confused, suffering, and/or simply desire to make sense of what is happening to them.  An essential aspect of Ryan’s philosophy of spiritual care is to meet people where they are, respecting personal beliefs and values, whether spirituality, religion, and/or faith are important, somewhat important, or not at all important for you.  Ryan is married to Ishtar, a registered nurse, and they have two boys, Silas and Seth.  He enjoys hanging out with his family, spending time with their family dog Gaia (Texas heeler), and since arriving in Colorado learning to explore the great outdoors.

 Alan Hall.jpgAlan Hall, Intake & Access Coordinator
Alan Alan joined the Neurosciences team in 2013 after working many years as a sales and marketing executive in the home building industry and as a licensed Independent Real Estate Broker. In 2011 he became a care provider for a parent for the second time; first his Father, who has long since passed, and now his Mother, both from neurological disorders. It began a shift in thinking and priorities for Alan which precipitated the change of careers.  Diagnosed with a neurological disorder of his own 20 years ago, and learning of other relatives having had neurological issues, he decided he needed to know more, and do more to learn all that he could about these types of illnesses and how to better deal with the many complicated aspects that affect the family nucleus of those afflicted with these diseases. With these personal experiences he hopes to be able to bring, empathy, compassion, and a sense of caring to those families that are going through their own unique challenges in life. He enjoys traveling, making art, and spending time with his wife, son, daughter, and grandsons, especially at the cabin in the mountains!

 headshot for website.jpgCandace Ellman, MA, Administrative Assistant
Alan Candace joined the University of Colorado in April, 2016.  Prior to joining the Neurology team, she worked at the Mother's Milk Bank as a production manager and at Children's Hospital Colorado as a Project Technician.  Watching her mother and grandmother experience cognitive decline from dementia has inspired her to learn more about how we can prepare for the effects these illnesses have on indiviuals and families.  Originally from Long Island, Candace has been a Denver resident since 1990.  She received her BA from Oberlin College and her MA from the University of Denver.  She plays the oboe in local community ensembles and enjoys spending time with her two children in the great outdoors.


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