Erin Sweigert

Erin joined the Clinic for Special Children in 2023 as a Research Associate. As the Research Associate, Erin will be supporting a number of CSC’s research endeavors. These projects will provide insights into rare genetic conditions and she will be involved with prospective natural history studies, clinical trials of gene replacement therapies, and the analysis of vital data.

Erin is originally from Lancaster County and attended Lancaster Catholic High School. In 2020, she was exposed to the field of research and began to love the field. Her first research project was analyzing the genome of a Mycobacterium phage by the name of Agape74. This research was published in the National Library of Medicine. While she enjoys research, she is also drawn to patient care. When she found the Clinic for Special Children, she liked the balance of research and patient interaction and knew it would be the perfect fit for her.

In her spare time, Erin enjoys spending time outside, going to the beach, reading, and spending time with family and friends. She also enjoys looking at art and visiting art museums.

Why are you passionate about the Clinic?
I am passionate about the clinic because when searching for a job I came across the Clinic and its mission to serve the Plain Community. I grew up in Lancaster so I have always been surrounded by the Plain Community. This job stood out to me and drew me in because I knew that my work would be helping the Plain community and I could directly see the impact it had. When I graduated college, I was unsure of what I wanted to do specifically with my degree. However, I was sure that I wanted to work in the research field and help individuals as much as I could. After meeting the staff at the Clinic for Special Children I determined that this would be the perfect fit for me!

Erin’s Credentials


  • 2023 La Salle University, Bachelor of Science in Biology

Published Papers

To view Erin’s peer-reviewed published papers, please visit our Published Papers page HERE.

Joelle Williamson Clark, MPH

Joelle Williamson Clark, MPH, joined the Clinic for Special Children in June 2023 as the Clinical Research Manager. As the Clinical Research Manager, Joelle is responsible for leading a variety of tasks within research including regulatory submissions and compliance, and study coordination. Joelle also aids in the communication and outreach with patients and families involved in research.

Prior to joining the Clinic, Joelle worked for Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, and the University of Pennsylvania as a research coordinator and project manager. She has ample experience in cardiology, infectious disease, hematology, urology, oncology, and neurogenetics.

In her free time, Joelle appreciates staying active outdoors hiking, biking, running, and swimming. She enjoys exploring new locations with her husband and their dog Jarvis as well as gardening and baking.


Why are you passionate about the Clinic?

I am passionate about the Clinic because I see how it serves people. Ever since my first encounter with the Clinic in 2013, I have had a heart for this wonderful team and the community that it serves. It continues to amaze me the people that have been seen and treated in this facility and the care that is provided. Serving the Plain community is such a privilege and joy and I hope to continue to grow from working alongside the patients, their families, and the Clinic professionals.

Joelle’s Credentials


  • 2023  Pennsylvania State University, Master of Public Health
  • 2018  Messiah University, Bachelor of Science

Professional Experience

  • Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, Research Assistant
  • Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, Research Coordinator
  • University of Pennsylvania, Research Coordinator B
  • University of Pennsylvania, Project Manager

Published Papers

To view Joelle’s peer-reviewed published papers, please visit our Published Papers page HERE.

Ashlin Rodrigues, MS

Ashlin joined the Clinic for Special Children in 2017 as a Laboratory Technician and was promoted to Laboratory Scientist in 2019. In 2024, she moved to a newly created role in our research team as a Clinical Research Analyst. She is actively involved in all facets of research protocols and plays a vital role in the planning, execution, and analysis of clinical research studies while overseeing the financial aspects of research projects. In 2023, Ashlin graduated with her Master of Science degree in Bioinformatics from the University of Delaware.

Before joining the Clinic, she worked at Rutgers University as a Senior Lab Technician performing microarray preparation and analysis. From there she took a position as a Cell Processing Specialist at Novartis Pharmaceuticals. At Novartis she assisted in the development of a CAR T-Cell immunotherapy used to treat pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After living in New Jersey for 4 years, she and her husband moved back to PA in 2017.

Why are you passionate about the Clinic?

The Clinic gives me the opportunity to see the impact my work has on patients first hand, which was something I was never able to experience in an industry setting. It is evident that everyone here is passionate about what they do and will go through great lengths to provide the best care to patients. I’m excited to serve alongside the talented clinic staff and to directly see the importance of my work everyday.

Ashlin’s Credentials


  • 2023  University of Delaware, Master of Science in Bioinformatics
  • 2013  Misericordia University, Bachelor of Science in Biology; Minor in Chemistry

Professional Experience

  • 2015 – 2017 – Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Senior Cell Processing Specialist
  • 2013 – 2015 – RUCDR Infinite Biologics, Senior Lab Technician, Genomics Technology Center

Published Papers

To view Ashlin’s peer reviewed published papers, please visit our Published Papers page HERE.

Kevin A. Strauss, MD

Kevin Adams Strauss, MD joined the Clinic as a Pediatrician in 2001 and was promoted as the Clinic’s Medical Director in 2008. In 2024, Dr. Strauss became the Clinic’s first Head of Therapeutic Development. As the Clinic’s Head of Therapeutic Development, he leads collaborative work to develop new life-changing therapies for disorders that commonly afflict people of Plain ancestry, serves as a key opinion leader to advance therapeutic research efforts locally and abroad, and mentors Clinic staff in the design, execution, and publication of clinical research.

Dr. Strauss has served as a Principal Investigator on several industry-sponsored and investigator-initiated clinical studies to identify disease-modifying therapies for spinal muscular atrophy, phenylketonuria (PKU), Crigler-Najjar syndrome, and more. Dr. Strauss has co-authored over 80 peer-reviewed journal articles and given over 65 lectures about medical, scientific, and cultural issues all across the globe.

Why are you passionate about working for the Clinic?

I have the best job in the world. Every day I meet with families and I help them through difficult times. Sometimes I can offer a cure, sometimes a specific diagnosis, sometimes I can only offer sincere advice, but I can always reduce or prevent suffering for a child.


Dr. Strauss’ Credentials

Education and Certifications

  • Board certified in Pediatrics by American Board of Pediatrics
  • 2001  Boston Combined Residency in Pediatrics, Resident in Pediatrics
  • 1998  Harvard Medical School, Doctor of Medicine
  • 1990  Colgate University, Bachelor of Arts in Biology

Professional Associations

  • American Academy of Pediatrics, Fellow
  • American Board of Pediatrics, Member
  • American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy, Member
  • Society of Inherited Metabolic Disorders, Member
  • Aspa Therapeutics, AAV-mediated gene therapy for Canavan Disease, Data Safety Monitoring Committee
  • CoA Therapeutics, Scientific Advisory Board Member
  • DDX3X Foundation, Scientific Advisory Board Member
  • FNIH-FDA-NIH Accelerated Medicines Program, Bespoke Gene Therapy Consortium, Clinical Task Force
  • MSUD Family Support Group, Scientific Advisory Board Member
  • Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children, Staff Physician
  • Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, Staff Physician
  • University of Massachusetts School of Medicine, Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics; Department of Molecular, Cell & Cancer Biology
    • Investigator, Horae Gene Therapy Center
    • Investigator, Li Weibo Institute for Rare Diseases Research


  • 2020 Rare Impact Award, National Organization for Rare Disorders
  • 2018 Physician Achievement Award: Science and Innovation, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital
  • 2018 Community Star, National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health
  • 2013 Bock Prize for Innovation in Developmental Disabilities Research, Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children
  • Michael Osband Memorial Award for Excellence in Clinical Research
  • Medical Student Education Committee Award for Teaching Excellence
  • Senior Resident Teaching Award
  • The New England Pediatric Society Prize

Published Papers

To view Dr. Strauss’ peer reviewed published papers, please visit our Published Papers page HERE.

Karlla W. Brigatti, MS, CGC

Karlla W. Brigatti, MS, CGC, joined the Clinic for Special Children as its first genetic counselor in 2014, bringing extensive experience in clinical genetics and research from across the lifespan. In 2018, she was promoted to Research Operations Director and in 2024 she was promoted to Research Director.

As the Research Director, Karlla is responsible for managing and coordinating research projects at the Clinic and interfacing with collaborators. She works with the Clinic team to generate research protocols, ensures proper collection of data and samples, and coordinates with Institutional Research Boards (IRB) to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. She is also a member of the Clinic’s leadership team.

Karlla has authored over 50 lay and scientific publications, mentored undergraduate, graduate, and medical students, given over 25 lectures, and served on the Human Genetics Faculty at Sarah Lawrence College and the Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling program at Jefferson College of Biomedical Sciences. Her research interests include gene discovery, implementation of personalized medicine, and rare disease advocacy.

Why are you passionate about the Clinic?

I feel this experience has enriched and prepared me for my work at the Clinic for Special Children. I promote the partnership between clinical care and innovative research to improve the lives of those with genetic conditions. That trust and mutual investment with the community is a key element to the Clinic’s longtime success in advancing Genomic Medicine, and I’m proud to be a part of the Clinic team.


Karlla’s Credentials


  • Fluent in Portuguese and English; Proficient in Italian and Spanish
  • Rare Disease Scholars program, National Center for Advancing Translational Science/NIH
  • ABGC Certified/Licensed genetic counselor, Pennsylvania
  • 1998  Sarah Lawrence College, Master of Science in Human Genetics
  • 1994  University of Pittsburgh, Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology

Professional Experience

  • Graduate Adjunct Professor, Jefferson College of Biomedical Sciences, Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling Program
  • Senior Genetic Counselor in Clinical Genetics, Pediatric Oncology, and Neurology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)
  • Clinical Research Associate, Friedreich Ataxia Program, at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)
  • Clinical Care Coordinator, Research Associate, and Genetic Counselor, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center
  • Faculty Instructor, Issues in Genetic Counselor IV, Sarah Lawrence College in Human Genetics Program
  • Genetic Counselor, Prenatal and Pediatric Genetics, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center

Professional Associations

  • Pennsylvania Newborn Screening Technical Advisory Task Force
  • Scientific Advisory Board, DDX3X Foundation
  • Board of Directors, CROWN Foundation
  • National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) Jane Engelberg Memorial Fellowship Advisory Board


  • 2020  Rare Impact Award, National Organization for Rare Disorders
  • 2016  CodeTalker nominee for Outstanding Genetic Counselor, Genome Magazine
  • 1998  Founding member, Joan H. Marks Award in Genetic Counseling

Published Papers

To view Karlla’s peer reviewed published papers, please visit our Published Papers page HERE.