Meet Our Founder

Christopher Lewis, M.D.
Founder, Village Life Outreach Project.

After his first trip to Tanzania in 2003(link to beginning section), Dr. Christopher Lewis completed his residency and began building his practice with the group that became UC Health’s Primary Care Network, but his urge to return to Tanzania grew stronger and stronger. He began planning a service trip with a core group of volunteers to accompany him. Chris’ idea quickly transformed from one person’s vision of helping into a full-fledged non-profit, non-government organization.

Board of Directors

  • Christopher Lewis, M.D.
    Founder and Chairman
    Vice Provost for Academic Programs,
    University of Cincinnati
    Family Physician, UC Health
    Associate Professor of Family Medicine,
    University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
  • Jeff Perry
    Senior Analytics Manager in Business
    Planning & Analysis, Citigroup
    Co-Founder, Cincinnati Fitness & Boxing
  • Deb Gerdes, M.D., MSc, DTMH
    Medical Director
    Internal Medicine Physician
    Faculty, Christ Hospital Internal Medicine Residency Program
  • Mark Miller, PE
    Chair of the Life Committee
    Sr. Mechanical Engineer, Jacobs Engineering
    EWB Technical Advisory Committee
    Mentor, Engineers Without Borders:
    University of Cincinnati Chapter
  • Michael Zaretsky, Architect
    Chair of the Building Committee
    Associate Professor and Director of architectural engineering, University of Texas at Arlington
    Director, MetroLAB Design/Build program
  • David B. Haire, CFP
    Senior Vice President, Financial Advisor, CAPTRUST
  • Richard Lofgren, M.D., MPH, FACP
    President and CEO, UC Health
  • Angela Penick, J.D.
    Associate Attorney, Kroener & Hale
  • Stewart W. Wright, M.D., MEd, FACEP
    Physician, UC Department of Emergency Medicine
    Associate Cheif Medical Officer, UC Health
    Co-Director of Global Health


Susan Casey-Leininger
Executive Director

Sue joined Village Life in May 2015. She has a B.A. in Political Science from The Ohio State University and a M.A. in Diplomacy and International Relations from Seton Hall University. Her master’s thesis was focused on the intersection of development economics and public health in sub-Saharan Africa. Her study of foreign aid and development is what drew her to Village Life.

“I’ve learned through travel and study that development solutions don’t work when we tell people what to do and how to do it. Village Life provides the expertise and support for Tanzanians to find their own solutions. That’s what drew me to Village Life and why I love this work.” (Sue Casey-Leininger)

She has spent significant time in East Africa, including travel to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Ethiopia. Sue lived and work in Kenya as a grant writer for a small clinic for a year between her undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Sue was born and raised in Cincinnati.


Richard Elliott
Design Build Lead
Co-founder, Delta Design Build Workshop

Richard Elliott and his wife Emily Roush-Elliott live and work in the rural Mississippi Delta. The pair co-founded Design Build Solutions and the Delta Design Build Workshop (an LLC and a non-profit) to work at the intersection of traditional market forces and public interest. The team values process as much as product, believes that waste is a social construct, and prioritizes a sensitive translation between unique local challenges and design in all of its projects.

Richard is a carpenter, teacher and entrepreneur. In addition to his work in Mississippi, he is currently leading the construction team in Roche through drawing review, material selection, budgeting, financial tracking, and coordination of construction techniques. 

Richard graduated from Jacksonville State University with a Bachelors in Business Management in 2003. After completing a Master of Design Build at Auburn University in 2007, he relocated to the Mississippi Gulf Coast where he managed volunteers and dozens of post-Hurricane Katrina home rehabilitation projects in partnership with the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio until 2010. From 2010 through 2013, he became Project Manager and eventually Executive Director of Village Life Outreach Project.


Buthaina Karaman
Communication and Development Associate

Buthaina joined Village Life in May of 2017. She has a BS in Biological Sciences from the University of Cincinnati and continued her higher education at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, graduating with her Masters of Public Health focusing on health services management and global health.