Leadership Team

Curtis Pickering | Founder & President

As founder and CEO of VPR Creative Group, Curtis has garnered more than 350 awards for excellence in media and communications including the Most Innovative award from the Consumer Electronics Tradeshow for his interactive CD-Rom “Dennis Miller: That’s News to Me”. He was also honored by Kodak for his role in the Frank Sinatra Duets project. And, both USA Today and The Wall Street Journal have recognized his contributions to the aviation and telecommunications industries.

The projects that mean the most to Curtis, however, are those that focus not on technology but on people. Working with Marion Laboratories in the early 1980s, Curtis pioneered the concept of talking about disease states through the eyes of the patient. Initially, Curtis developed several of these “patient profiles” for Cardizem; eventually, the VPR library would grow to include hundreds of these stories spanning therapeutic areas from respiratory to oncology and diabetes to multiple sclerosis.

Among the highlights of that library is a film featuring Kevin Costner that was used in 2010 to raise awareness for deep vein thrombosis, a potentially life-threatening medical condition. Curtis was working with the Academy Award winner on an unrelated project when he learned that Mr. Costner was one of the nearly 2 million Americans affected by DVT each year. Curtis asked him to share his powerful story with healthcare providers during DVT Awareness Month to help spread the word about this silent killer.

In addition to his work with patients, Curtis has led the VPR team to produce 22 pharmaceutical product launches and dozens of healthcare industry programs.

Rachel Sexton | Vice President

After graduating cum laude from the University of Missouri’s Journalism School in 1998, Rachel went to work as a Writer for VPR Creative Group, ultimately being named Creative Director.

In 2010, after years of developing product launches and marketing campaigns for pharmaceutical clients, Rachel took the lead in developing VPR Patient Outreach Program (VPR POP), using a peer-to-peer model to educate and offer hope to people living with progressive and rare diseases.

Rachel has been recognized as one of Kansas City Business Magazine’s Most Influential Women in 2011, Ingram’s Magazine 40 Under Forty in 2012, a Kansas City Business Magazine Rising Star in 2013, a member of both the Women Who Mean Business and the NextGen Leaders for the Kansas City Business Journal in 2013, and one of PharmaVoice magazine’s top 100 in 2014.

A passionate believer in giving back to the community, in 2015 Rachel served as the President of the Board of the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri, a 1,500 member nonprofit organization focused on promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving our community. In 2017, Rachel co-chaired The Midwestern Cattle Baron’s Ball for the American Cancer Society and served as a member of the Cambridge North Steering Committee for the University of Kansas Hospital. In 2018, Rachel served as the Co-Chair for an event benefitting Southwest Boulevard Family Healthcare.

 Becky Lodes | Program Director

Becky began working in patient outreach in 2000. Since that time, she has helped develop and launch patient mentoring, education programs in rheumatoid arthritis, multiple myeloma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and rare diseases.

Becky’s experience and current role at VPR Patient Outreach Program includes program development, script writing, patient recruitment, and strategic communication.

Becky and her husband Jason have one daughter, Jordyn. They live in St. Louis and enjoy riding bikes, playing sports, and going to movies together. Becky enjoys photography and reading and also volunteers as a youth group leader at her church, for the PTA at her daughter’s elementary school, and as a coach for Jordyn’s basketball, softball and soccer teams.

 Kristen Schmidt | Training Director

Kristen graduated from Rockhurst University in 2005 with a degree in Business Communication. She brings over 15 years of experience in volunteer management, event planning and marketing. Since 2009, Kristen has worked specifically with patient-driven education programs as a patient trainer and then training director.

Kristen’s current responsibilities include training peer speakers  through a self-study program, on-site training and ongoing coaching focused on developing presentation and facilitation skills. 

She also assists with planning continuing education and program updates.

In her free time, Kristen enjoys volunteering in the St. Louis area, reading, traveling and spending time with her husband and children.

Traci Rogers | Coordination Director

Traci joined VPR Patient Outreach Program with 19 years of meeting and event planning experience. Since 2005, Traci’s primary focus has been planning and coordinating patient education events. 

Jordan Sexton | Program Director

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