Our Staff

Laurie Leonard

Executive Director

212.726.2010


Laurie Leonard, Executive Director, has an MBA with honors from the Harvard Business School and an MSW from Fordham University. Her first career was in television broadcasting, including serving for ten years as the president and general manager of an award-winning NBC-affiliated television station. She developed an interest in death and dying, which led her to doing hospice volunteer work, becoming a licensed social worker, and then working as a home care social worker for Cabrini Hospice in New York City. Laurie has served on the board of directors of many organizations, including a bank, a library, a chamber of commerce, a social services charity, a tourism bureau, and a crisis hotline. In 2001 she received a New York Volunteer Service Award from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. She recently served for four years as the board chair of Guest House, a Connecticut retreat and conference center.

David C. Leven, JD

Executive Director Emeritus and Senior Consultant

(914) 907-6156


David C. Leven, JD, Executive Director Emeritus and Senior Consultant, was the Executive Director of End of Life Choices New York from 2002 until July 1, 2016. A leading advocate for patients and an expert on advance care planning, patient rights, palliative care and end-of- life issues, David has played a key role in having legislation introduced and enacted in New York to improve pain, palliative and end-of- life care, including the Palliative Care Information Act. David lectures frequently to diverse professional groups, students and citizens and is a regular guest lecturer at College of New Rochelle School of Nursing and Fordham Graduate School of Social Service. A graduate of the University of Rochester and Syracuse University College of Law, he is the recipient of numerous awards including the Public Interest Law Award of the New York State Bar Association, Public Interest Law Committee.

Judith Schwarz, PhD

Clinical Director

(212) 252-2015


Judith Schwarz, PhD, Clinical Director, is an expert on ethical issues relating to patient self-determination and informed end of life decision-making. She has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed professional journals. Judith is a nationally recognized expert on the option of voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED) as a means for capacitated and suffering patients to control the circumstances and timing of death. She has spoken at local and state nursing conferences, and in 2014 she co-presented a workshop about VSED at the Management and Leadership Conference of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Program. She earned a PhD in nursing research from New York University, a MSN from Lehman College, and an RN from St. Luke’s School of Nursing.

Ayana Woods, MPH

Director of Outreach and Education

(914) 410-0528


Ayana Woods, MPH, Director of Outreach and Education, has an MPH in Health Behavior and Health Education from University of North Carolina and a BA in Sociology and African American studies from Princeton University. She is a public health professional with 15 years of experience in developing health education and outreach programs to promote wellness and manage chronic illness. She served as the Director of Education for the National Hemophilia Foundation and worked with the CDC as a Principal Investigator to launch the largest online resource for people with bleeding disorders. She is passionate about addressing health disparities and creating culturally appropriate interventions for underserved communities.  She has worked with a variety of  nonprofit organizations including the Guttmacher Institute, The Wallace Foundation, Arthritis Foundation, and March of Dimes.
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