Our people

The Jonas Philanthropies Board and Staff connect some of the country’s most prominent advocates for healthcare investment with leaders, innovators and experts from the worlds of business, philanthropy and education. Together, they are turning their passion for improving healthcare into tangible results where it matters most.

Our staff

Wanda Montalvo, PhD, RN Executive Director

Wanda Montalvo, PhD, RN is Executive Director of Jonas Nursing and Veterans Healthcare at Columbia University.  She is a recognized national executive nurse leader in addressing health disparities in primary care by specifically working with federally qualified health centers, professional trade associations, public health and federal agencies.  In 1999, she served as Northeast Cluster Director for HRSA’s National Health Disparities Collaboration (HDC) where she worked with >200 federally qualified health centers from Maine to West Virginia and Puerto Rico to improve the care of patients living with chronic conditions.  In 2007, she served as Chief Program Officer at Community Health Center Association of New York State and later joined NYSHealth Foundation as Clinical Director for the NYS Diabetes Campaign. Her collaborative work to address health disparities in asthma was recognized in 1997 with a C. Everett Koop Surgeon General National Health Award and childhood obesity in 2008 with a U.S. Surgeon General Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future Champion Award.    In 2015, Dr. Montalvo was the Associate Director at the Weitzman Institute, located in Connecticut, to help promote innovation in primary care through research and quality improvement.

In 2004, she was selected as a Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow, a transformative professional experience that emphasized the importance of leadership in nursing and lifelong learning.  In 2011, the IOM Future of Nursing Report influenced her decision to pursue a doctoral education.  In 2012, she began her PhD studies at Columbia University School of Nursing and was selected as a Jonas Nurse Leader Scholar.  Dr. Montalvo graduated in 2015 with a research focus on leadership, organizational politics and mentoring in nursing.  In 2013, her Jonas Leadership Project on how to develop transformational nurse leaders led her to host a meeting in New York City where she collaborated with several nursing organizations.  The mentoring of emerging nurse leaders was selected as a key strategy and an online pledge resulted in 177 leaders pledging to identify and mentor an emerging nurse in leadership and health policy.  In 2018, Dr. Montalvo was selected as a Fellow of the prestigious New York Academy of Medicine, where a diverse set of fellows across disciplines work on critical healthcare issues, she will be joining the Nursing Section.

Over the years, Dr. Montalvo has served on several federal advisory committees for the CDC, NIH and HRSA. She currently serves on the Alex & Rita Hillman Foundation Innovations In Care advisory committee.  Prior advisory committee service includes Northwest Health Foundation Partners in Nursing and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Future Nurse Scholars Initiative.

Dr. Montalvo is a frequent speaker and has several peer reviewed publications.  She believes nurses should leverage the use of social media to engage with and advocate for healthcare policy.   One of her favorite quotes is by Anita Roddick “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.”

Althea Hicks, MPH Grants and Programs Manager

Althea Hicks serves as the Grants and Programs Manager for Jonas Nursing and Veterans Healthcare at Columbia University. Throughout her career, she has managed grants from various private and government organizations. She has also worked with several community based organizations to obtain funding for their programs. As a result, she is familiar with the entire realm of grants management including identifying funding opportunities, applying for and maintaining the grant, providing deliverables, and completing the closeout process.

Althea has supported a plethora of medical researchers at prestigious medical institutions by assisting them in understanding and following through the grant application process. In addition, she has worked with National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service for several years providing cancer information to patients, health professionals and the general public, which provided the opportunity for her to participate as an author on publications discussing the communication of behavioral health messages.  She also served on a Quality Improvement Committee for a local Home Health Care agency.  These opportunities have reinforced her understanding of the importance of patient care.

Althea holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Health Education from Temple University and a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the City University of New York- Hunter College. She is also working to complete her Doctorate Degree in Education from St. John’s University.


Mary Fiore Development and Partnerships Manager

Mary Fiore joined the Jonas Nursing and Veterans Healthcare program (JNVH) of Jonas Philanthropies in the fall of 2018 as the Development and Partnerships Manager. Mary is responsible for raising funds for this signature program, focusing on scholarship support for nursing leaders, engaging Jonas Scholar  alumni, as well as developing and maintaining support from donors, partner foundations, and corporate sponsors. Mary joins JNVH after a six-year tenure at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health where she worked to create engagement programs and events for donors, prospects and alumni . Prior to joining Columbia University, she was the founder and president of Mary Fiore & Co., a firm specializing in high-level fundraising projects and engagement events.  Mary has over 25 years of development experience in the non-profit sector as a program and event specialist, and has raised tens of millions of dollars for the numerous charities at which she has worked or has been fortunate to serve as clients.   Mary has been a member of the Board of Directors for the Greater New York Chapter of the Association of Fund Raising Professionals, continues to serve on the committee to produce Fundraising Day in New York, and has chaired AFP’s National Philanthropy Day celebration. She is a founding board member of The Nyack Tower Fund, and holds a dual B.A. in History and Art History from Syracuse University and its Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

William T. Bester, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, Brigadier General (RET) Senior Advisor

Brigadier General William T. Bester serves as a Senior Adviser to Jonas Nursing and Veterans Healthcare.

Prior to his current position, Gen. Bester served as the Vice President for External Affairs at the Uniformed Services University (USU) of the Health Sciences. Before that, he served as USU’s Acting President, and had a short assignment as the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. Gen. Bester also served as the Vice President for Distributed Learning and as the Acting Vice President for External Affairs at USU, and served as the University’s Acting Dean of the Graduate School of Nursing from July 2006 to December 2007.

Gen. Bester’s distinguished career in the US Army culminated in his selection as the 21st Chief of the Army Nurse Corps. While serving the Army as its Nursing Service Chief, Gen. Bester was also assigned as the Assistant Surgeon General for Force Projection and Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Health Policy and Services (2000-2002) and as Commander of the Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (2002-2004).

Earlier assignments include sole anesthesia provider for the Cuban Refugee Operation at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas (1980); Chief Nurse of the 67th Combat Support Hospital during its deployment (1995) to Taszar, Hungary in support of Operation Joint Endeavor, later serving as Medical Task Force Commander with responsibility for all medical assets in Hungary and Croatia; and Commander, Moncrief Army Community Hospital, Ft. Jackson, South Carolina (1998-2000).

Following his retirement from active duty, Gen. Bester served as Professor of Clinical Nursing at the University of Texas in Austin and was also the Director of Nursing Practice with the Seton Family of Hospitals in Austin, Texas. Gen. Bester was asked in 2005 to be Director of Nursing for a health care team, organized by Project Hope, to assist the victims of the tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. He joined the Editorial Advisory Board of the journal “Men in Nursing” in 2006. 

Gen. Bester holds a BSN degree from the College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, Minnesota and an MSN from the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Nurse Anesthesia Program at Madigan Army Medical Center. Gen. Bester is the recipient of the Luther Christman Award (2005) and honorary doctorates from the College of St. Scholastica (2001) and Seton Hall University (2003). His military awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, three Legion of Merits and four Meritorious Service Medals. He is a member of the California Nurses Association, the American Nurses Association, the Military Officers Association of America, Sigma Theta Tau International and the Association of the United States Army.

A sought after lecturer on topics of nursing and health care leadership and disaster relief, Brigadier General William T. Bester has been invited as a guest speaker to over 25 conferences, workshops, and meetings during the last five years.

Darlene J. Curley, MS, RN, FAAN CEO Jonas Philanthropies and Senior Fellow, Jonas Nursing and Veterans Healthcare

Darlene J. Curley, MS, RN, FAAN is CEO of Jonas Philanthropies and a Senior Fellow at Jonas Nursing & Veterans Healthcare at Columbia University.

From 2009 to 2018, Curley was Executive Director of Jonas Nursing and Veterans Healthcare, developing and leading, the First and only, Doctoral Nursing Leadership & Scholarship program supporting 1,250 Scholars in all 50 States.  She forged partnerships with 25 supporting funders, and more than 150 leading academic organizations to address the nation’s critical shortage of nursing faculty and primary care leaders.

In 2002, she was elected to the Maine State Legislature. The Governor appointed her to both the Health and Human Services and Appropriations Committees, responsible for negotiation and oversight of an $8 billion state budget and developing the State Health Plan. As a member of the National Conference of State Legislatures Health Committee,  Curley worked with State legislative leaders from across the country to develop bipartisan health policies to improve healthcare access, quality and affordability.  In 2006, she was a Congressional candidate in Maine’s 1st district.

Previously, Curley was the Founder and CEO of a Medicare certified home health and medical staffing agency serving five rural counties in western and northern Maine, creating over 100 health care jobs.  As National Director of Strategic Planning for HealthSouth she was responsible for health system mergers and acquisitions in all 50 states.

In 2013, she received the Second Century Award for Excellence in Healthcare from Columbia University, and in 2015 was named a Visionary Pioneer at the University of Maryland. She is a member of the Global Forum for Innovation in Health Professional Education at the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and New York Academy of Medicine. She is a frequent speaker and author on topics of healthcare philanthropy, healthy policy & finance, and workforce development including op-eds in Politico and the L.A. Times. She is a graduate of the University of Maine and holds a M.S. from the University of Maryland.

Maggie Gelwix Executive Assistant

Maggie Gelwix serves as the Executive Assistant for Jonas Nursing and Veterans Healthcare. She is responsible for overseeing, coordinating, planning and organizing the day-to-day support operations for the grantmaking, financial and communication functions, and managing relationships with consultants and outside vendors. Ms. Gelwix has several years of experience serving in various managerial and administrative roles.

 Ms. Gelwix received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Telecommunications and Film from the University of Alabama.