President & Founder
Alfred E. McNair, Jr., M.D.
Dr. McNair is a well known healthcare leader and strong supporter of charitable organizations along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Dr. McNair is the president and founder of Digestive Health Center, P.A. with offices located in Ocean Springs, Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula, MS. He currently serves as Chief of Medical Staff at Biloxi Regional Medical Center and is also a member of the Board of Trustees.
As an active member of the community, he is a member of the Corporate Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Club of the Gulf Coast, Delta Omicron Boule’, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He is an active supporter of the American Cancer Society, United Way, and Special Olympics.
Dr. McNair’s passion to make a difference in the lives of children and families impacted by Autism began when he heard the story of a single mother raising a child impacted by this disorder. After listening and watching this mother thrive, not just survive, in a loving environment and raising her child with autism, he took on the challenge of becoming a student of autism. He told the story of the need and took its fight to the very steps of the state capitol in Jackson, where he was serving as a member of the State Board of Health. Dr. McNair’s strong sense of family and belief in civic involvement is anchored by a strong religious belief that caring for his fellow man is his calling.
Dr. McNair resides in Gautier, Mississippi with his wife Rhonda who shares a family of seven children and eight grandchildren.
Honorary Board Member
Donald R. Johnson
Founding Member Donald R. Johnson, Jr. serves as an Honorary Board member of the Mississippi Centers for Autism & Related Developmental Disabilities. As a life-long individual on the Autism Spectrum, specifically Aspergers Syndrome, Donald provides invaluable insight into the needs and services it takes to work with individuals on the Autism Spectrum and their families. For the past eight years Donald has worked as a volunteer in the Business Office at Biloxi Regional Medical Center. He enjoys his role as a spokesman for the Mississippi Centers for Autism and in sharing his experiences of growing up on the Autism Spectrum.
Eric Chambless is a Senior Vice President with Community Bank, Coast. He has 18 years of banking experience, primarily in lending. He is a graduate of The Mississippi School of Banking and the Graduate School of Banking at LSU. He has been a Board Member of the Mississippi Center for Autism since 2010 and currently serves as the Treasurer. Eric is also the Finance Chairman of Coalville United Methodist Church. His past affiliations include President of Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, board member of Mississippi Gulf Coast Helpline, and Treasurer of Long Beach Kiwanis Club. He is married with two children and resides in Biloxi, MS.
Persharon Dixon, M.D. , MBA, FAAP
Dr. Persharon Dixon is married to Walter L. Dixon and is the mother of Briana (17), Jahmil (15), and Lauren (11). After earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Berry College in 1986, Dr. Dixon earned her medical degree from the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta and completed her residency in Pediatrics through the Emory University Hospital Systems. In December 2007, she received her MBA from the Physician Executive MBA program of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
In August of 2006 Dr. Dixon was recruited from Atlanta, GA to serve as Medical Director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Children’s Health Project. The long-term project is based in Biloxi and is supported by the Children’s Health Fund (CHF) in partnership with Coastal Family Health Center. In July 2010, she was promoted to the position of Medical Director of Coastal Family Health Center, a 10 site community health center that provides care for the lower 3 counties of the Mississippi Coast.
Dr. Dixon’s efforts and work in Mississippi has received media coverage by NBC’s Today Show, The New York Times, the National Ivy Leaf Magazine of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Contemporary Pediatrics Magazine, Black Health Magazine, and Black Enterprise Magazine.
She is a much sought after speaker and forum participant on children’s healthcare issues as she extends her expertise as a child advocate.
Durand Payton currently serves as Principal at Magnolia Junior High School in Moss Point, MS. He received his Masters Degree in Secondary Education from William Carey College in August 2005, Specialist Degree in Education Administration from University of Southern Mississippi in May 2007, and is currently enrolled at the University of Southern Mississippi pursing his doctorate of Education Administration.
In 2010, he was awarded the Coco Cola’s Scholars Foundation 2010 Educator of Distinction Award
He is married with one child and resides in Ocean Springs, MS.
Matthew Mestayer is an attorney and law partner at Reeves and Mestayer located in Biloxi, MS. He is an active community member having served on numerous civic and charitable boards on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He is a member of St. Alphonsus Parish where he serves as a lecter. He is a member of the Ocean Springs School Board and was past president of the school board. He is currently serving on the YMCA Board.
He served on several city committees concerning rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina; such as building the community of Ocean Springs and other civic duties.
He is a co-host on a live television show on WLOX, Channel 13 Law Call, which airs Saturday nights at 10:30 p.m.
He is married and the father of 4 children. He serves as a parent advocate on the board.
Paul Cannette served as Chief of Campus Police for Biloxi School District. He currently oversees School Resource Officers who are certified law enforcement officers responsible for assisting administrators with proactive approaches to all aspects of school safety.
Dorothy Saad-Dunning is the daughter of John and Dorothy Saad who, in addition to founding Saad Healthcare and raising seven children, were life-long and tireless advocates for improving the quality of health care for people on the Gulf Coast. Dorothy was the sixth of their children and the younger of their two daughters. She grew up in Mobile, Alabama, attending public schools in the city. The senior Saads instilled in all their children a sense of responsbility for serving their community and caring for those in need, as well as a strong work ethic.
Dorothy attended the Univeristy of South Alabama, graduating in 1977 with a B.S. She continued her studes at Mobile College (now the University of Mobile), graduating in 1982, with a B.S.N. In 1982, she also received an M.S. from the University of South Alabama.
In 1988, Mrs. Dunning, moved to Mississippi to open and operate Saad Healthcare of Mississippi. She quickly realized that she wanted to remain on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to make a home and raise her family. With a focus on serving the health needs of Mississippi’s
coastal communities, including those of retirees and military personnel, Saad Healthcare of Mississippi has thrived for over 23 years. Mrs. Dunning credits the operating philosophy that was passed down by her parents — “putting patient care first” — for the company’s success:
“This is not just a business for us; it’s our life.” Two years ago, the company moved to a new location in the Bayside Furniture Shopping Center, just off Interstate 110, in D’Iberville. The company now employes almost 100 people in Mississippi, including nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, dieticians, and certified nursing assistants, as well as office and store personnel. Mrs. Dunning says, “We have been blessed with a wonderful staff who share our family’s mission.”
Mrs. Dunning is married to Claude Dunning, a professional photographer based in Theodore, Alabama. They have two children, Leland, a senior at the Auburn University, and Cari-Ann, a high school senior who will be attending the University of Mississippi next year.