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SARRC Welcomes Four New Board Members

(From Left to Right: Dr. Leslie Barakat, Chris Carlson, Ryan Ewing and Amir Nizam)

Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) is pleased to welcome Leslie Barakat, Chris Carlson, Ryan Ewing and Amir Nizam to its board of directors.

Leslie Barakat, MD, MBA, FAAP | Cigna Healthcare, Clinical Performance and Quality, Market Medical Executive for Arizona

Dr. Leslie Barakat spent much of her career as a pediatrician and regional medical director for Cigna Medical Group, and is now the Market Medical Executive for Cigna Healthcare. As a pediatrician, Dr. Barakat became acquainted with SARRC, referring families for diagnostic and intervention services. Subsequently, she has become actively involved at SARRC as a donor and volunteer. Dr. Barakat now looks forward to contributing to the advancement of SARRC’s mission and vision in her capacity as one of the newest members of SARRC’s Board of Directors.

“My initial connection to SARRC was through advocacy for my pediatric patients, and they were already at the forefront of treatment and research for autism and a beacon of hope in my early days of practice,” Dr. Barakat says. “All of these years later, as a leader in the larger healthcare landscape, I have been fortunate to watch the tremendous impact they have had on this community and on so many individual lives all over Arizona. I was truly honored to have the opportunity to volunteer my time and energy to an organization that has meant so much to me and to people I care deeply about throughout my time and career in Arizona.”

Chris Carlson | QuikTrip, Arizona Division Sales Manager

A graduate of California Lutheran University, Chris Carlson has spent his career at the QuikTrip Corporation, where he now serves as Arizona Division Sales Manager. Chris has been an advocate of SARRC’s programs and services since his oldest son was diagnosed with autism in 2013.

“SARRC has been a fundamental part of our family since 2013 when our eldest son, Andy, was diagnosed with autism at 14 months,” Chris shares. “After receiving the best advice we’ve ever received to attend SARRC’s JumpStart program, all four of our kids have benefited from their amazing staff, programming and resources. Joining SARRC’s Board of Directors is a way, I hope to help SARRC’s mission of advancing research and providing a lifetime of support for other individuals with autism and their families.”

Ryan Ewing | Palo Verde Painting, Owner

Ryan Ewing has been the owner of Palo Verde Painting since 2023, a family-owned and operated commercial painting contractor that has been serving Arizona customers for over 20 years. Before taking on the role of owner, Ryan spent 15 years with Amazon, starting as an Area Manager and advancing to the position of Senior Manager. Ryan has been an advocate of SARRC following his son Owen’s autism diagnosis in 2019.

Drawing on his extensive experience and expertise, Ryan aspires to contribute towards making SARRC’s vision of integrating individuals with autism into inclusive communities a reality.

“I have been impressed with the work of SARRC since my son was diagnosed with autism. I have seen first-hand the positive impact SARRC has made on his life and our family’s. I see SARRC continuing to be there for my son throughout his life and I can see how SARRC is improving the community around him,” Ryan says. “I am honored to join SARRC’s Board of Directors where I aim to support our mission and vision of advancing research, providing lifelong support, and creating inclusive communities.”

Amir Nizam |, President and Master Electronics, Vice President

Amir Nizam serves as the president of and holds the position of vice president at Master Electronics, both Phoenix-based distributors of electronic components. Amir is driven by a passion for people and problem-solving to fuel growth, spearheading digital transformation and revenue initiatives.

“SARRC stands as a beacon of hope, profoundly impacting the lives of families in the Phoenix community, including mine,” Amir says. “By dedicating itself to groundbreaking research, offering lifelong support, and championing the integration of individuals with autism into our society, SARRC addresses a cause of ever-growing significance. I am deeply honored to contribute to SARRC’s mission and vision, looking forward to making a meaningful difference in the years ahead.”

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