At Center for Hope of the Sierras, we apply a holistic approach to recovery and highly individualized treatment is the standard. We pride ourselves on our passion and commitment to the healing process of each individual, and work to emphasize the development of therapeutic relationships in a safe and comfortable environment. Each team member has been carefully selected based on their sincere compassion and respect for every individual who enters our doors. The staff is comprised of a multi- disciplinary team of experts including a psychiatrist, medical internist, registered dietitian and nutrition therapist with a PhD in nutritional biochemistry, licensed marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers, and 24-hour nursing and patient assistants. In addition, Center for Hope has a unique group of specialized contract therapists including an art therapist, equine therapists, and yoga and meditation instructors.
John Dolores, J.D., Ph.D. Executive Director
Dr. John Dolores is a clinical psychologist with an extensive background treating patients with a variety of disorders, including eating disorders. Dr. Dolores most recently was the Director of Behavioral Health at a General Medical Center in Wyoming, where he improved quality care by implementing empirically supported treatment throughout the department and created statewide programs to bring mental health care to under-served populations. His goal is to improve the quality of care and enhance the programming at Center for Hope so that the maximum amount of patients can be successfully treated with state-of-the-art care. He believes that recovery from an eating disorder requires knowledgeable, compassionate staff in a comfortable, healing environment with a person-centered, recovery-based focus.
Dr. Dolores received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Drexel University and his J.D. from Villanova University School of Law. He trained as a fellow in Health Psychology at the Medical University in South Carolina, where he specialized in medical-psychological co-morbid conditions which included treatment of eating disorders. He also practiced forensic psychology at Florida State Hospital, where he conducted competency to stand trial assessments and risk assessments. Dr. Dolores is trained in DBT, CBT, ACT, and various other psychotherapeutic techniques.
In addition to his professional life, Dr. Dolores is a devoted husband and father of four children. He enjoys spending time with his family, watching sports, and enjoying the Reno/Tahoe area.
Dwarak Vuppalapati, M.D. – Medical Director
Dr. Vuppalapati graduated from residency training in psychiatry from the University of Minnesota in 1999 and received intensive training on eating disorder treatment under Dr. Elke Ekert and Dr. Scott Crow. Dr. Vuppalapati attended Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut for his fellowship/advanced and post-doctoral training in psychosomatic medicine, addiction psychiatry and geriatric psychiatry. He later worked as a clinical instructor at Yale University teaching medical students, psychiatry residents, and physician assistants. From 2003 to 2004, Dr. Vuppalapati was the assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Yale University’s Hepatitis C Clinic.
In 2004, Dr. Vuppalapati moved to northern Nevada and started his own private practice. In addition to his role as medical director for Center for Hope, Dr. Vuppalapati is the medical director for Behavioral Health Services of Carson-Tahoe Regional Medical Center and the medical director for the Focus Geriatric Unit at West Hills Hospital. Dr. Vuppalapati also leads the New Vision Medical Stabilization for Substance Abuse at the Northern Nevada Medical Center and serves as the staff psychiatrist for Senior Bridges, Douglas County Mental Health Center, and Right of Passage.
During his spare time, Dr. Vuppalapati enjoys auto racing, golfing and traveling the world.
Lorraine Platka-Bird, Ph.D., R.D. – Dietitian, Nutrition Therapist
Dr. Lorraine Platka-Bird received her doctorate from Michigan State University in 1980 with a major in human nutrition and a minor in psychology. She became a registered dietitian in 1982.
As a dedicated professor in the Nutrition and Dietetics Department at the State University of New York for 19 years, Dr. Platka-Bird taught a wide variety of courses including Weight Management, Medical Nutrition Therapy, Nutritional Biochemistry, Sports Nutrition, Human Physiology, Nutrition Across the Life Span, and numerous related courses. During this period of time Dr. Platka-Bird was granted some of the most prestigious teaching awards offered in the State University system.
Dr. Platka-Bird has been counseling individuals with eating disorders for over 25 years. She takes a holistic approach to treatment, considering all aspects of physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being. In addition to helping clients develop a healthy relationship with food, Dr. Platka-Bird helps individuals minimize eating disorder thoughts and behaviors, improve self-image and self-esteem, and develop healthy coping skills and life skills to improve overall quality of life.
Meghan Eliopulos, B.A. – Regional Director of Admissions
Meghan’s passion for working with individuals with eating disorders at Center for Hope started when she joined the team in 2004 as a resident assistant. After briefly leaving Center for Hope to complete her undergraduate studies in Spanish/Pre?-medicine/Journalism, Meghan rejoined the team in 2009 and has worked in both marketing and admissions at the center. Prior to returning to Center for Hope, Meghan worked in marketing and public relations and has held volunteer positions with the American Red Cross, NEDA, and Moms on the Run. Meghan is passionate about mental health advocacy and treatment and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in social work.
Meghan is proud to be a part of the amazing Center for Hope team and is inspired daily by the determination of the individuals pursuing treatment as well as by the families and providers supporting them. She is dedicated to helping empower people and their support systems as they explore treatment options.
Melissa Achurra – Director of Marketing
Melissa comes to us with more than five years of experience in the marketing communications industry. Melissa, who was born and raised in Las Vegas, attended the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) receiving her bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in marketing. Her experience includes implementing strategic media relations plans and promotions as well as integrated marketing communications experience implementing and executing marketing campaigns.
After graduating from UNR, Melissa worked as the public relations and advertising manager for Grand Sierra Resort, where she was responsible for the hotel casino’s public relations and marketing as a liaison for local, regional and national publications. Melissa was also responsible for creating news releases, media kits, brochures and collateral for Grand Sierra Resort. Her work also included planning grand openings and special events, media trips and press conferences.
Melissa participated in many nonprofit projects with the Grand Sierra Resort, which included organizing the Over The Edge fundraising event for Special Olympics of Nevada, which raised more than $60,000. In her free time, Melissa stays involved with the community as a Culinary Arts Committee Member for the Nevada Museum of Art. Melissa is also a member of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Young Professionals Committee, which assists with various events, volunteering and recruiting Bigs and Littles. She also stays involved with the University of Nevada, Reno as a member of the Pi Beta Phi Alumni Club and UNR Alumni Club.
Yani Dickens, Ph.D. -Sport Psychology, Therapist, Researcher
Dr. Dickens joined the staff of Center for Hope of the Sierras in August 2010. In addition to his work as a clinical psychologist for the University of Nevada, Reno Counseling Services, Dr. Dickens has a background in sport psychology and a passion for working with athletes and individuals with eating disorders. Dr. Dickens’ interest and experience in this field helps Center for Hope provide a much needed specialty for the treatment of eating disorders in this distinct population. Dr. Dickens is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno and received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas APA-accredited doctoral program in 2007 after completing his sport psychology-based dissertation on inner experience and golf performance. Dr. Dickens joins Center for Hope of the Sierras a part-time therapist and research analyst.
Lisa Brown, MFT – Therapist
Lisa joined Center for Hope of the Sierras in July 2010 as a full-time staff therapist and marriage and family therapist intern. Previously, Lisa worked for the Children’s Cabinet and in private practice counseling couples and families.
Lisa has a passion for helping people which has been a reoccurring theme in every job she has held including those not formally in the therapy field. It seemed a natural choice to pursue an education and career that would allow for the intrinsic value of helping others to be met daily.
In addition to serving as a primary therapist, Lisa also runs numerous groups for the residential program.
Paula Allec – Operations Director
Paula joined the Center for Hope as the office manager in 2009 and was promoted to Operations Director in 2010. Paula has been working in the medical billing field for over 10 years. She has worked as the office manager for a major laboratory chain, as well as the billing manager for a family practice office and an orthopedic office. She has extensive background in insurance and third party billing and has a good track record of getting claims paid.
In her free time Paula enjoys hiking, camping, and, most of all, spending time with her children and grandson.
Katie Cudworth – Outpatient Program Director
Katie Cudworth has worked at Center for Hope of the Sierras since its opening in 2003 after discovering her passion for the field of eating disorders. Katie has worked as a resident assistant and lead resident assistant and was promoted to outpatient program director in 2010. In her position, Katie oversees the partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs and also runs several of the DBT Skills groups at both the residential and outpatient levels of care.
In addition to her position at Center for Hope, Katie’s passion for and dedication to helping individuals struggling with eating disorders has led her to pursue her master’s degree in Marriage & Family Therapy. Katie is DBT-certified and is especially skilled at working with borderline personality disorder and conflict resolution.
In addition to her professional life, Katie enjoys being a mother to her two children, going to the movies, and enjoying a nice Italian dinner.
Brenda Oberg, B.S. – Registered Dietetic Technician, Yoga Instructor, Massage Therapist
Brenda Oberg joined the Center for Hope of the Sierras team in 2010 as the nutrition assistant, yoga instructor, massage therapist, and part-time resident assistant. In her roles, Brenda meets with clients in the outpatient program to discuss nutrition triumphs and challenges between meetings with the registered dietitian, runs yoga and meditation groups for the residential and outpatient programs, and is the massage therapist for the residential program.
Brenda obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition (dietetics) from the University of Nevada, Reno and is a Registered Dietetic Technician. Brenda has also attended Seven Centers Yoga Arts in Sedona, Arizona to obtain her yoga teacher training in Hatha yoga and massage school at Sedona School of Massage in Sedona, Arizona. Prior to her work at Center for Hope, Brenda worked in a variety of health-oriented settings using yoga, massage, nutrition, and meditation.
Brenda is passionate about helping others find a deeper peace that can exist in daily life and being able to utilize her education and experience to help others to discover a more balanced relationship between mind and body. In her role at Center for Hope, she is able to challenge and encourage clients to separate from thoughts and behaviors that limit their experience of food, life, and their true self. When she’s not at Center for Hope, Brenda enjoys enjoying and exploring nature with her family and friends.
Kate Sedinger, MSW – Continuing Care Coordinator
Driven by a passion for communication and connection with people, Kate completed a dual bachelor’s degree in psychology and Spanish literature before pursuing her master’s in social work at the University of Nevada, Reno. Prior to joining the Center for Hope team, she worked in outpatient settings leading groups for adults living with chronic mental illness and in an inpatient psychiatric hospital conducting assessments for teens and adults experiencing acute mental illness and substance abuse. She has also worked at the Nevada Legislature as a lobbyist with specific focus on advocating for underprivileged populations.
Kate is passionate about supporting clients as they move out of intensive care and re-integrate into their communities. She views supported transitions as a critical component in eating disorder treatment and invests her energy in researching and connecting with providers throughout the country to ensure discharging clients have the support they need to continue their journeys to recovery. As part of Center for Hope’s continuing care program, she also maintains contact with clients after they discharge to offer continued support and encouragement.
Vanessa Hayden – Program Supervisor
Vanessa joined the Center for Hope Team in May of 2010 as a resident assistant. During her time as a resident assistant, she learned about every aspect of what an eating disorder program resident goes through during treatment. In 2013, Vanessa was promoted to program supervisor where she now and is responsible for overseeing day-to-day program operations and mentoring resident assistants.
Vanessa is currently obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Health and Human Services. She is extremely passionate about her studies in codependency, and has a goal of becoming certified to run codependency groups. Outside of her professional life, Vanessa loves being a mother to her three children, playing badminton, and gardening.