About Us

Susan Farren

Founder/Executive Director

Susan Farren is the founder of First Responders Resiliency Inc. A graduate of the Stanford paramedic program, Susan has served her entire career in the industry of pre-hospital care. Serving in both the private and public sectors as a paramedic, supervisor, operations manager, peer counselor, clinical manager, EMS educator and consultant throughout the greater Bay Area.

After being diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2016, Susan had to come to grips with the physical, emotional and mental impact the career had taken on her – and the Resiliency Training Program was born.

After her treatment and recovery, Susan dove into the research and subsequent data discovered involving the mental and physical impacts the industry had taken on her. Armed with that knowledge she pulled together a team of experts from every division of the industry who are working as a team to change the lives of First Responders.

A regularly sought after inspirational speaker and the published author of The Fireman’s Wife, A Memoir. Her second book, Firestorm, A Survivor’s Story is due for release in 2019

Ron Shull

Director of Operations

Ron Shull served 31 years with the Santa Rosa Fire Dept. and retired in 2014 from his position as a fire engineer from the departments busiest station, Station 1. He served on the departments union executive board and was a pioneer of the departments wellness and fitness program. Ron was voted by his peers as firefighter of the year for 2012!

Gary McCalla

Resiliency Instructor

Gary McCalla has more than 30 years experience as a residency trained and board certified emergency medical specialist. An ER physician at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Gary is also the medical director for both REACH helicopters and AMR ambulance service in Santa Rosa, CA. With his experience in emergency medicine, as well as training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Gary is an incredible contribution to the evolution of mental well being of health care providers.

Dr. John Freedman


Dr. John Freedman is Board-certified in Anesthesiology and Internal Medicine and served on the front lines in multiple acute care settings for over 30 years. He served as Chief of Anesthesiology at Santa Rosa Kaiser-Permanente for 25 years before retiring in 2014. Over the years he learned invaluable lessons in resiliency through helping physicians, nurses, technicians – and himself – process and prevail over the sometimes daunting challenges of acute care clinical practice. He is a dedicated educator and highly experienced lecturer.

Tod Ceruti

Resiliency Instructor

A military veteran, Tod Ceruti is a certified Fire Flex, Veteran Warrior, and prison instructor who teaches a unique form of physical resilience to civilians and prisoners alike. Tod’s experience as a military vet, combined with his own incredible journey into physical wellness, is a life altering benefit to anyone who learns from him.

Cathy Wayne

Retired Captain/Field Commander

Cathy Wayne
Cathy Wayne began her career as a First Responder in 1980 as an EMT then Paramedic in Oakland, with Acme Western Ambulance. Cathy then joined the California Highway Patrol in 1984, and then spent the next 27+ years working in various assignments throughout the Bay Area. Cathy worked Road patrol, Commercial operations, K-9 Narcotics Interdiction, and Dispatch Communications, in Oakland, Vallejo, Martinez, Dublin, Sunol, and San Jose. Cathy promoted several ranks over the years and ended her successful career as a Captain/Field Commander of the San Jose Area in 2011.

Dr. Jen Riegle

Naturopathic Doctor

Dr. Jen Riegle is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor, with a degree from Bastyr University, a leading institution in natural medical care and research. She carries advanced certification and training in environmental medicine, women’s health, infertility, biofeedback, and traditional medicine practices. She combines her knowledge and skills as a diagnostician in the western and traditional medicine worlds, with a deep compassion and intuition, to provide a comprehensive treatment plan for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing for her patients. Dr. Riegle utilizes both conventional treatment methods as well as healing modalities such as herbal medicine, functional medicine, and physical medicines.

Erik Baarts

Erik Baarts served 22 years with three separate law enforcement agencies. He retired in 2019 from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. Erik has a BS degree in Criminal Justice Management, from Union Institute and University. He is also a graduate of the Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute. Erik has 20 years of instructor experience, teaching P.O.S.T. approved courses and was an adjunct instructor at Mendocino Community College. Erik has worked with many first responders with Post Traumatic Stress Injuries through volunteer work and as a member of his department’s peer support team.


Family Services

The First Responders Resiliency, Inc. Family Services component provides the families of first responders a look into the psychological, neurological, physical, emotional, and relational changes that take place in a first responder as a result of their repeated traumatic exposure and stress. Until now, there has been little to no training for the families on these issues or what they can do to work together. This program creates an environment that allows for healing, repair, growth, and happiness, not only for first responders, but for those who love and care for them.

Crystal Shull

Director of Family Services

Crystal Shull is the wife of retired firefighter/engineer, Ron Shull, Director of Operations for First Responders Resiliency, Inc. After attending a First Responders Resiliency, Inc. conference, she was compelled to get involved and now heads up the Family Services program. The mother of 3 grown sons, one of which is now a firefighter/paramedic, Crystal brings compassion, experience and information to support and educate families of first responders.

Veronica Stirnus

Coordinator of Family Services

Veronica Stirnus is a Sonoma County native who is a graduate from Sonoma State University. Her husband, Gabe, is both a captain with Sonoma Valley Fire Dept, as well as a part-time paramedic on the Sheriff’s Department helicopter. Veronica balances being a busy mom of 2 young sons, with working in the spouse and family component of First Responders Resiliency, Inc., training families and loved ones how to support themselves and their loved ones.


Board of Directors & Advisors



Professor, scientist, and program director, UCLA
Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology
University of California, Los Angeles

Gina Poe researches the role of sleep in consolidating learning and erasing extraneous information from neural networks. Her lab studies memory integration in adaptive and maladaptive sleep, including in depression and PTSD. This research is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health at the NIH.

Along with being a Co-Director of COMPASS Life Sciences, Dr. Poe is a Co-Director of MARC U*STAR Maximizing Access to Research Careers /Under, and a Director of Diversity in Outreach and Education for BRI-SURE (Brain Research Institute Summer Undergraduate Research) program. Dr. Poe also directs two national programs for under-represented neuroscience graduate students and postdoctoral trainees.

The Poe Laboratory (poe-sleeplab.weebly.com) studies the unique mechanisms at work during sleep to consolidate memories and update our knowledge stores. This research applies to learning and to mental health disorders like PTSD. The Poe Lab is funded by grants from the National Institute of Health (NIH}. You can find Dr. Poe on Google Scholar and ResearchGate.

Post-anesthesia cognitive function


Dr. Susanne Montgomery


Dr. Susanne Montgomery joined Loma Linda University in 1995 and after teaching in the School of Public Health (LLU-SPH) for 16 years, joined the LLU School of Behavioral Health (LLU SBH) in 2011. She is currently the Associate Dean for Research in LLU SBH, a Professor of Social Policy and Social Research, Public Health, and Preventive Medicine. She is also the Head of the LLU SBH Division of Interdisciplinary Studies and the Director of Research of the LLU Behavioral Health Institute.

Dr. Montgomery holds a master’s degree in nutritional science and a MPH and PhD for from the University of Michigan. She identifies as a social/behavioral epidemiologist and has been committed to translational health disparities research throughout her career. She also leads the translational research team as Director of the Community Outreach and Partnership Core for the Center for Health Disparities Research and Molecular Medicine. Dr. Montgomery has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles concerning cancer prevention, teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and alcohol and tobacco use, and regularly serves as a reviewer of several national peer-review journals. After many years on several study sections of National Institutes of Health (NIH) she is now mainly serves as an invited reviewer on special NIH, CDC, and DHHS health disparities initiatives. She has consulted with the CDC, the State of California, and numerous private foundations on evaluation issues, and conducts trainings and workshops on issues of evaluation/research capacity building and diversity in the United States and abroad. She advocates for translating and applying research findings within LLUH and more broadly at the community level, and participates as a member of several area community coalitions, local, national and international planning groups, and advisory boards, using her expertise and access to research data to enhance planning processes. Dr Montgomery also conducts trainings and workshops on issues of diversity in the U.S. and abroad.

She has taught courses in evaluation research, qualitative and quantitative research methods, special topics courses on emerging health issues and lectures expensively on health dipartites both within LLUH, local universities as well as at local community events. At this point in her career Dr. Montgomery works mainly as a mentor to doctoral students and to LLU faculty across the schools to develop transdisciplinary translational research.

Dr. Tori Van Dyk


Dr. Van Dyk obtained her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She completed specialized clinical and research training in sleep and pediatric health psychology during internship and fellowship at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Loma Linda University where she provides mentorship and supervision to clinical psychology graduate students; teaching courses in health psychology; and conducts sleep research.

Dr. Van Dyk’s research is focused on modifiable health behaviors with a specific emphasis on sleep. She is interested in these behaviors as targets for health promotion and intervention and is particularly focused on the ways in which sleep impacts mood, behavior, and physical functioning. She is interested in the intersection between mental and physical health and how health behaviors and outcomes impact emotional and behavioral functioning. Dr. Van Dyk investigates these relationships using observational, longitudinal, and experimental methods.

Dr. John Freedman


Dr. John Freedman is Board-certified in Anesthesiology and Internal Medicine and served on the front lines in multiple acute care settings for over 30 years. He served as Chief of Anesthesiology at Santa Rosa Kaiser-Permanente for 25 years before retiring in 2014. Over the years he learned invaluable lessons in resiliency through helping physicians, nurses, technicians – and himself – process and prevail over the sometimes daunting challenges of acute care clinical practice. He is a dedicated educator and highly experienced lecturer.

Garry Hare, Ph.D.

Advisory Board

Garry focuses on the junction where cognitive science, information design and immersive technologies impact the visualization of complex data. He advises selected companies, foundations and public agencies on strategy and the creative use and impact of immersive media, mobile augmented reality and the disruptive impact of real time media on social problems. His current focus is on media strategy, innovation and design and the rapid prototyping of immersive solutions to complex problems. Today, this focus is aimed at both virtual health care and media designed to visualize the impact of climate change. Recently he engaged the use of immersive media in counter terrorism in collaboration with the US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with coordination by the Strategic Multi-Layer Assessment (SMA) office in the Joint Staff, assessing options in the cognitive space to disrupt and counter ISIL operational capabilities and train the Psychological Operations (PO) operators. He continues to be active in the Joint Concept for Operating in the Information Environment (JCOIE).

Donn Gaede, DrPH

Advisory Board

Donn Gaede, DrPH, while currently retired, was a professor of public health at Loma Linda University as well as a practitioner both here in the U.S. and internationally.  He worked for the last 20 plus years internationally with mission health care systems and community health.  His interest and involvement with PTSD and trauma became more focused while working in Sierra Leone and Liberia during the Ebola epidemic when he was involved with both the community members as well as the health providers as they coped with the trauma of both living through the epidemic as well as providing  professional care during the crisis.  He initiated the implementation of a very successful community resiliency program by LLU to deal with PTSD which continues to operate today.  He feels privileged to be able to continue to work to strengthen resiliency for first responders and family members through the work of First Responders Resiliency, Inc.