Our Staff

Ayana Woods, MPH

Executive Director
Pronouns: she/her


Ayana Woods has a BA in Sociology and African American studies from Princeton University and a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of North Carolina. She is a public health professional with 20 years of experience in developing health education and outreach programs to promote wellness, successful management of chronic illness, and patient empowerment. 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.

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David C. Leven, JD

Executive Director Emeritus and Senior Consultant
Pronouns: he/his


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 the general public, 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
Pronouns: she/her


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.

Lillian Mehran

Director of Education and Outreach
Pronouns: she/her


Lillian Mehran has over a decade of experience in public health, including community outreach and needs assessments, program development and implementation, and ethical oversight of research studies. Her work has served diverse populations including solo seniors, LGBTQ patients, individuals with chronic health conditions, intimate partner violence survivors, and older adults in under-served communities.

She has worked with a variety of organizations including academic medical centers, colleges, community health centers, advocacy groups, research foundations, and national professional organizations (including serving as the Program Chair of the American Public Health Association Ethics Section). She has a BA in Psychology and Women’s/Gender Studies and a Master of Public Health in Community Health Education. She is also a Certified Health Education Specialist, and is a PhD candidate at the CUNY School of Public Health, focusing her dissertation on end of life healthcare experiences in diverse communities.

Constanza Prieto Figelist

Latino Outreach Coordinator
Pronouns: she/her


Constanza Prieto Figelist is a Chilean lawyer and feminist from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, who has lived studied and worked in Chile, France, and the United States. In Paris, France, she completed a master's degree in private international law and international trade at Pathéon-Assas University, focusing her thesis on Human Rights, Foreign Investment and ICSID arbitration. Subsequently, she completed an internship at the Organization of American States in Washington DC, where she became increasingly interested in issues of gender and the rights of indigenous peoples. She currently collaborates as Ocean Rights Lead in the environmental organization Earth Law Center, where she conducts legal research in international and comparative environmental law and leads a multidisciplinary and international group that seeks the recognition of the inherent rights of nature. Constanza also collaborates with other environmental, feminist and immigrant protection NGOs.

Laurie Leonard

Former Executive Director
Pronouns: she/her


Laurie Leonard, served as the Executive Director of End of Life Choices New York from 2016 to 2019. She 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. She recently served for four years as the board chair of Guest House, a Connecticut retreat and conference center.