Mississippi Centers for Autism and Related Developmental Disabilities

Turning Disabilities Into Possibilities One Day at a Time.

Board of Directors

Alfred E. McNair, Jr., M.D.
President & Founder

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.

Dorothy Dunning
First Vice President

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.

Leslie H. Johnson
Second Vice President

Founding Member Leslie H. Johnson has served on the Board of Directors for the Mississippi Centers For Autism & Related Developmental Disabilities since 2005 and served as Secretary of our Board of Directors 2005 through 2020. As the mother of our honorary Board member, Donald R. Johnson, Jr., she has been actively involved as a parent advocate for over fifty years for children on the Autism Spectrum.  In 2015, she retired from Biloxi Regional Medical Center/Merit Health Biloxi where she served thirty-five years as Director of Medical Staff Affairs.  Her professional involvement included having served as Vice President of the Mississippi Association of Medical Staff Services Board of Directors,  Past Vice President of the Mississippi Association of Healthcare Administrative Professionals, past membership in the National Association of Medical Staff Services, Lighthouse Business & Professional Women, Biloxi Bay Chamber of Commerce and past twenty-three year coordinator for Coast Counties Medical Society, local branch of the American Medical Association.  Leslie is a past President of the Biloxi Lions Club and past First Vice District Governor, 30-S, for the Lions of Mississippi. As an avid patron of the Arts, she has also served on the board of directors for several community theatres.

Mike Dill

Dr. Persharon Dixon
Board Member

Persharon M. Dixon, MD is a board-certified pediatrician with 22 years of experience.  Currently she is a Medical Director for Medical Claims Review for United Healthcare Clinical Services.  Prior to her present role, she served for five years as Medical Director of Coastal Family Health Center, the 13 site Federally Qualified Health Center along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  She led a provider staff of over 200 and led several projects to move the center’s clinics toward patient-centered care.

Dr. Dixon has been very engaged in community service since arriving on the Coast more than 10 years ago.  She has served in a number of leadership positions in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. allowing her to not only serve the citizens of the Coast, but also the South-Eastern Region.  Her involvement also included Chairman of the Martin Luther King Jr. Coast Wide Celebration Committee for two years.  Under her leadership the options for involvement were expanded to include a week of socially engaging activities and service opportunities.  Most recently, she was elected President of the Gulf Coast (MS) Chapter of the Links, Incorporated, a newly charted chapter of the revered 15,000-member organization of Professional African American Women.  Dr. Dixon has represented the state of Mississippi in Washington, D.C. as a guest of President Obama, has served on several boards including The Mississippi Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, The Pink Lotus Project, South Eastern Division of Planned Parenthood, and most recently she was selected as a member of the Clinical Advisory Board for the Physician’s Assistant Program for Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Ga.  Dr. Dixon believes her life’s work reflects the mission God placed on her life; to be an advocate for children and underserved families in her community through her work as a physician, as a community advocate, and as a subject matter expert on healthcare topics.

Dr. Dixon is married to Mr. Walter Dixon and has three children Briana, Jahmil, and Lauren.  She lives in Ocean Springs, MS.

Matthew Mestayer
Board Member

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.

Dr. Durand Payton
Board Member

Dr. Durand Payton is currently serving as an educational consultant with the Kirkland group. He received his Master’s 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 a Doctorate Degree in Education Administration from University of Southern Mississippi.

In 2003, Dr. Payton received the Star Teacher Award at Moss Point School District.  He was a Participant of Northrop Grumman’s Weightless Fights of Discovery Program of Huntsville, AL in 2006. Dr. Payton also received the Team Player Award and Teacher of the Year at Moss Point School District in 2006-2007, and he received the Emerging Leader from Mississippi Association of Educators, Jackson, MS in 2009, just to name a few. His publications:  (i) Payton, D.D. (2014) Teacher expectation of students in a predominantly African American school district.  THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI.

Dr. Payton was successful in the implementation of Adult HVAC Programs for the Moss Point Community in 2015. Additionally, he secured $210,537 in grant funds and equipment in 2014. Dr. Payton resides in Ocean Springs, MS.

Eric Chambless II
Board Member

Eric Chambless is President of the Gulf Coast Region for Community Bank of Mississippi. He has 20 years of banking experience, primarily in lending.  He is a graduate of The Mississippi School of Banking and a Graduate School of Banking at LSU.  He has been a Board Member of the Mississippi Center for Autism since 2010.  Eric is also the Finance Chairman of Coalville United Methodist Church, serves on the Board of Directors for South MS Planning and Development District, and is a Board Member for the D’Iberville/St. Martin Chamber of Commerce. 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.

Donald R. Johnson, Jr.
Honorary Board Member

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 Asperger Syndrome, Donald provides invaluable insight into the needs and services it takes to work with individuals on the Autism Spectrum and their families.  For eleven years Donald served as a volunteer in the Business Office at Biloxi Regional Medical Center and now serves as a Volunteer at Excel by 5 in Biloxi.  He enjoys his role as a spokesman for the Mississippi Centers for Autism and Related Developmental Disabilities in sharing his experiences of growing up on the Autism Spectrum. In 2020 Donald was presented Proclamations from the Mayor of Biloxi and Mayor of D’Iberville honoring him for his dedication and compassion in educating the community about life on the Autism Spectrum.

Capt. Shannon Nobles

Captain of Administration and Special Services
D’Iberville Police Department

Capt. Shannon Nobles is a 21-year law enforcement veteran. Shannon Nobles was born and raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, he graduated from Biloxi High School in 1991. Shannon went on to attend Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and later earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice, from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1996.

Prior to becoming one of the first officers for the newly formed D’Iberville Police Department in 2008, Shannon worked as a Patrolman and School Resource Officer for Long Beach Police Department and the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department. In 2001 is when Shannon began his service to the City of D’Iberville specifically as a D.A.R.E. instructor providing this service for countless 5th graders for more than 17 years. Shannon has attended numerous Law Enforcement Trainings and is a 2007 graduate of the Southeastern Command and Leadership Academy.

Shannon has been recognized for his service to our community by the Sun Herald, the YMCA, and the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church. He was awarded the 2001 Officer of the Year and 2016 Citizen of the Year by the St. Martin / D’Iberville Chamber of Commerce as well as the 2010 Biloxi Elks Lodge Officer of the Year. In 2017, Shannon was promoted to the position of Capt. of Administration and Special Services the position he currently holds for the D’Iberville Police Department.

Shannon is married to Tammy Brown-Nobles and they have two children, Alex age sixteen and Anna Grace age twelve; he and his family attend Woolmarket Baptist Church.

Angela Troutman
Board Member

Angela A. Troutman’s personal motto is Purposeful Action.  Her passion is her community in which she lives but believes there are no boundaries when it comes to giving of oneself.  She has been an advocate of children, families and people from a young age.  Her parents instilled a “giving back” nature to Angela as a young girl and she can not remember when she did not help with her community in some way.

Angela holds a BSc, Masters in Microbiology and Industrial Chemistry, Medical Laboratory Technologist.   She served in the United States Air Force and currently owns and operates the Mississippi Gulf Coast Sports Pavilion, works at SAAD’s Home Health Care, Mississippi Gulf Coast Cryotherapy,  and sells her pottery and jewelry.

Angela is currently the board President of the Mississippi Gulf Coast YMCA, CASA representative,  active in the homeless community of the Gulf Coast,  active supporter of the American /Canadian Heart Association, American/Canadian Diabetes Association, American/Canadian Cancer Association, Boys and Girls Club, Special Olympics, United Way, Feed the Need and countless other associations.

Angela shares this passion of giving back to her community with her 4 boys Cameron, Derrick, Elijah, Benjamin and her husband Brad who is a Pediatric Cardiologist on the Gulf Coast.  Angela believes her best traits are to give with her whole heart, to connect others, and to make this world a better place .

Susan Hunt
Board Member

Susan Hunt has dedicated her life to the children of Biloxi, whether through being a career educator, or working with Biloxi Excel by 5 Program.

She is a graduate of Mississippi University for Women with Bachelors and Masters’s degrees in Elementary Education.  She began her career in 1978 as a principal at Gorenflo Elementary.  She later served as principal at Michel Middle School as the District’s Drug-Free Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator, as a Parent Liaison, and today leads the community’s initiative Biloxi Excel by 5 as Certification Manager.  Biloxi Excel by 5 helps parents prepare their children for classroom environment.

During her career, Ms. Hunt also served as the City’s Director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, and Human Services, and as the Executive Director of the Biloxi Bay Chamber of Commerce.

Ms. Hunt is a graduate of Leadership Gulf Coast, where she served as a Program Chair and on the Board of Directors, a graduate of Leadership Mississippi, and is on the board of several civic groups and educational foundations, including serving as the Chair of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Board of Trustees.

She says her life has been greatly impacted by her students as well.  “I always wanted to make a difference.”  I always used to tell my children and my parents your children are my children.  I want them to be successful.  I always was there, anytime they needed anything and I still work with parents and try to help them.  It’s all about children and making a difference in their lives because at the end of the day they have touched me.

Cheryl “Sherry” Bell
Board Member

Cheryl “Sherry” Bell currently serves as the Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Biloxi.   She has  been employed with the City for 34 years. She is a 1980 graduate of D’Iberville High School and a 1994 graduate of The University of Mississippi with a Bachelor’s of Science in Recreation Leadership.

Sherry has provided leadership to the City of Biloxi Parks and Recreation in promoting and hosting special needs events for the physically and mentally challenged for 20 years.  They have expanded their programs to include special need sports including recreational and special needs event.

As a mother of a special needs child Sherry always strives to promote inclusiveness when it comes to recreation as well as inclusive disabilities at all city events.

Sherry is married to Elijah Bell.  They are the parents of 2 sons and 1 daughter.  They are the proud grandparents of 2 grandchildren.