About our organizations and Board Members
We promote preventative health care and holistic wellbeing.
Our organization aims to increase awareness of preventable diseases that impact community health. We focus on preventing these avoidable diseases through motivating the community to make healthy choices, promoting cancer screenings, and raising awareness for various health concerns.
Our Steering Committee
Dr. Aparna Mele, My Gut Instinct Founder
Aparna Mele, M.D. is a board-certified gastroenterologist with Digestive Disease Associates since 2007. She came to the field of medicine with extensive experience in international relief work overseas and is actively involved in local philanthropic work directed towards patient education and promotion of societal health. She started My Gut Instinct, her nonprofit organization, to educate the community about self-empowerment towards better health through better dietary choices, regular exercise, and preventative care. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children, doing Crossfit, playing the piano, gourmet cooking, and traveling around the world.
Haley Vogel, Board Member
Haley is a Berks County native who cares about her community’s well-being. Having been diagnosed with Crohns Disease at a young age, the My Gut Instinct cause is near and dear to her heart. She currently works full-time at Penske Truck Leasing and is an Alvernia University alumni; where she received her undergraduate degree in Business Management. She is working on earning her graduate degree in Human Resource Development from Villanova University. In her free time, Haley enjoys running, rock climbing, obstacle course racing, and yoga.
Alicia Lee, Board Member
Alicia is a Regional Media Sales Executive with Hoffmann Publishing Group and manages the media sales and account service activities for many of their regional clients through their niche market magazines. She is native to Berks County and has an active lifestyle which includes walking, dancing and yoga. She enjoys buying fresh produce at local farmers markets and juicing. Alicia is a passionate community volunteer who enjoys making new connections to partner within building the community. She has volunteered with the United Way of Berks County, Helping Harvest, West Reading Community Revitalization Foundation, Salvation Army, and Belle of the Ball to name a few. Alicia is also passionate about the environment and has implemented small changes in her lifestyle to be more eco-friendly. In her spare time Alicia enjoys traveling to eclectic shops, restaurants, community events and unique destination experiences.
Erica Wennell, Event Vendor Coordinator
Erica was born in Philadelphia, but has spent most of her life in Berks County. Since 2008 she has been working in banking and has enjoyed helping people to reach their financial goals, and is currently with Sun Federal Credit Union doing business development. In her spare time you can find her kayaking, skiing, or spending time with her dog and husband in Bern township. “Serving and volunteering has always been my passion, and I love the mission of My Gut Instinct and am very excited to meet members of the community at our events, while increasing awareness about health and wellness in Berks County”
Maria Alcoke, Web & Graphics
Maria is the founder and creative lead of the graphic and web development studio, MariaVida Creative. Maria is a wife and mom of 2 daughters. With over 15 years in the creative field in both agency and education settings, Maria now runs a thriving design business and spends her free time training in her home gym, exploring the east coast and traveling as often as she can with her family, and whipping up delicious meals in the kitchen.
Derek Rutter, Board Member
Derek is a Program Specialist – ODP with Maxim Healthcare in Sinking Spring, PA and has supported adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health diagnoses for over a decade. He enjoys being active at St. Peter’s UCC by leading as the President of Consistory. He leads an active lifestyle volunteering, sports and recreation, and visiting restaurants, shops and farmer’s markets in different cities. Derek likes to brew beer, ferment foods such as kombucha and cook new recipes for fun. He was introduced to My Gut Instinct through volunteering and immediately felt inspired by the team and connected to the mission.
Kyle Wennell, Board Member
Kyle is a Berks County native and fourth-generation owner of Berks County’s oldest family-owned bar, Jack’s Pub. He is a graduate of Wilson High School and has a degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University. Kyle is passionate about the environment, nature, learning, exercise, travel, and adventure. He is a licensed Sky Diver, a member of the Flying Dutchmen Ski Club, and a member of multiple conservation groups including The Sierra Club, The Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, and others. In his spare time, Kyle enjoys skiing, hiking, riding his motorcycle, rock climbing, kayaking, and traveling the world. He also enjoys spending time at his home on the Schuylkill River with his wife and dog.
Shannon McBride, Event Volunteer Coordinator
Shannon lives in Exeter Township, Berks County with her husband and son. She is a quintessential multitasker, working full time since Aug 2007 as a certified medical assistant at Berks Center for Digestive Health and part time since July 2000 at Giant Food Stores as a pharmacy technician. Being a Berks County native, Shannon is passionate about her community and loves to volunteer locally. She participates in the Relay for Life every year as a member of team Gastro Gurus. Working in gastroenterology, Shannon is very passionate about digestive health and has also been a loyal lead volunteer at Guts and Glory since its second year, as well as an unofficial president of our fan club, involving herself with any My Gut Instinct activity throughout the year. Her other magic talent is that she is also very compelling and has an uncanny ability to recruit a large team of multiple family members and friends to volunteer at G&G every year! In her free time Shannon enjoys playing cards and board games, mini-golfing, bowling, going to Hershey Park, taking nature walks, and just spending time with family and friends. With her masterful expertise in all things Guts and Glory, she is excited to elevate her level of participation and officially join the My Gut Instinct board!
Brett Thomas, Board Member
Brett is a native of Reading. He graduated from Exeter Township High School in 2003. Brett has gone on to work for Staples since 2005 and is currently a General Manager. Brett went through some gut issues for a span of 3 years and found My Gut Instinct by attending and participating in their annual Guts and Glory event last year. The event introduced Brett to Dr. Melee and the My Guy Instinct team. The event also helped Brett find ways to help his gut issues and now has them under control. Brett looks forward to being a part of the My Gut Instinct team and spreading awareness of colorectal cancer and gut health awareness.
Isabel is a San Francisco native who has called West Lawn home for the past 18 years with her partner and two of her four adult children. Though her career has been eclectic and varied, Isabel thrives finding ways to bring knowledge and empowerment to the community. After arriving in Berks County, Isabel worked as a program director for Centro Hispano where she became an advocate for the Latino community of Reading. Isabel discovered that she loved teaching adult students as medical instructor at Pace Institute before moving to Berks Technical Institute in 2011 where she was Program Director of the English Language Foundations program until 2019. Isabel was honored to be selected by the Complete Count Committee, as Publicity Coordinator for the Census 2020. This role brought her in direct contact with My Gut Instinct team, who are major champions of promoting the importance of every citizen having value and measure in Berks County. In April of 2022, Isabel joined US Digestive Health Research Team as a Clinical Research Coordinator and is excited to be able to unite her passions for the digestive system and community education as a My Gut Instinct board member.
You’ve seen her life-size figure running around Berks, but lately she’s been prepping for her anticipated travels around the country! Gutsy Girl has downsized to get portable-ready for traveling…quite literally. Meet Mini-Gutsy, our tabletop mini version of Gutsy Girl On The Go.
Want to get involved?
There are many ways that you can support our organization, whether it be volunteering with us at our annual event, Guts & Glory, contributing an article to our wellness blog, sending a monetary donation (every little bit helps!) or joining our committee. If you’re interested in joining our team, please email us with a resume and cover letter describing your interest in being part of our Board. We are grateful for your support!