Direct Relief Welcomes Three New Directors to Board

Direct Relief has elected three new directors to its board. The new directors, who bring an abundance of knowledge in medicine, business and law, include Steven A. Amerikaner, Jamie A. Ruffing, Ph.D., and Thomas Sturgess. Each director will serve up to two three-year terms, the first of which began on June 29, 2017.


Steven A. Amerikaner currently serves as Office Managing Partner for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, a national law firm with offices in five California cities, including Santa Barbara. With 30 years of experience in real estate law, Amerikaner represents developers, businesses and homeowners with regards to zone changes, conditional use permits and other similar discretionary approvals. Past clients, such as a hedge fund with over 25,000 acres of coastal ranch land and a retirement community seeking to expand its medical facilities, are among those who Amerikaner has represented. He also serves as general counsel for two public agencies, in addition to his work in the private sector.

Amerikaner received his J.D. from Harvard Law School and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College. Before entering private practice in 1991, Amerikaner served as Santa Barbara and Los Angeles City Attorney and managed a field office for a Los Angeles-area Member of Congress.

As former president of the Santa Barbara Jewish Federation, former chair of the Santa Barbara Hillel and Regional Chamber of Commerce, Amerikaner has a long history of community involvement and leadership. He served on the Board of Directors for the Central Coast Judicial Selection Advisory Committee that advises the Governor on judicial appointments. Presently, he is Chair of the Santa Barbara Business Leaders Council and is also President of Congregation B’nai B’rith, an 800-member reform congregation in Santa Barbara.

In 1991, Amerikaner received the Anti-Defamation League’s Distinguished Community Service Award and was inducted into the Hillel Hall of Fame in 2010. Each year between 2012 and 2017, Amerikaner was named Best Lawyers in America and California Super Lawyer from 2014 to 2017.

Jamie A. Ruffing, Ph.D., MPH, M.S., with more than 20 years of experience leading critical, complex government projects and programs, is an epidemiologist and engineer. She is currently the Public Health Officer and Lieutenant Colonel for the 177th Wing of the U.S. Air National Guard. She also works as General Engineer, ARDEC Liaison to Port Hueneme for the United States Army.

Prior to the National Guard, Ruffing was a researcher at the Helen Hayes Hospital, a sales representative for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, and a general engineer for both the United States Army and Homeland Defense Technologies. In addition to being recognized as “Who’s Who Among Rising Young Americans” in 1990, Ruffing received the Air Force Commendation Medal four times over the course of nine years. She was also awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal in 2001 and 2006.

Ruffing received her Ph.D. in Epidemiology from Columbia University, after completing undergraduate studies at West Point Military Academy. She also attended Rutgers University, where she earned her MPH in Health Care Organization and Administration.

She has served as a board member for the Montecito Education Foundation, YMCA Channel Islands and currently the Girls Scouts California Central Coast. Ruffing is also a Girl Scout Troop Leader.

Thomas Sturgess, who served in the United States Marine Corps and California Division of Forestry, is Executive Chairman of Tiri Group Limited, a diversified New Zealand manufacturing company. He is also Executive Chairman and Co-Owner of New Zealand’s largest printing company, Blue Star Print Holdings, in addition to the proprietor of Lone Star Farms Limited.

Previously chairman of New Zealand King Salmon, Inc., Sturgess oversaw 400 employees and managed $100 million in revenue. He also led several other manufacturing corporations such as Blue Star Print Group, Angus and Robertson Whitcoulls for Pacific Equity Partners and Blue Star Group Ltd.

After graduating with honors from California State University, Sturgess attended Harvard Business School, where he received a master’s degree in Business Administration.

Sturgess currently serves as a board member for the Golden Bay Community Trust, Mercury Capital Limited Private Equity Fund and Fifeshire Foundation.

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