We've helped thousands of people lose weight. Now it's your turn!

Our Staff of Experts

Meet the clinical team behind the Structure House Online Weight Loss Program.

This is a group of dedicated professionals with unique expertise in the areas of: Psychology, Nutrition, Fitness, Nursing, Stress Management, Relapse Prevention, Smoking Cessation, Career Counseling, Lifetime Goals Therapy, Pain Management, Binge Eating, and Weight Loss Surgery, just to name a few.

Members of the Treatment Staff

Gerard J. Musante, PH.D.


Renowned clinical psychologist, Dr. Gerard J. Musante founded Structure House in 1977 and understands firsthand the struggle faced by overweight people. After spending his overweight adolescent years trying countless diets that never worked, he devoted his professional life to developing and teaching the principles of behavior modification to overweight people.

Today, his internationally respected weight control program has helped more than 30,000 people change their attitudes, perceptions and lifestyles with diet, exercise and education at Structure House, a residential weight loss center in Durham, N.C. Many celebrities, celebrity relatives, and notables in the field of business and government come to Structure House for its superior programs, integrity, and policy of absolute privacy.

Lee Kern, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.

Clinical Director

Lee joined Structure House as the program's Clinical Director in 1982. As Clinical Director, Lee is responsible for the development of the treatment program and oversees and teaches classes and workshops, supervises the treatment staff, and provides individual and group therapy. His special interests and group topics include relapse prevention, stress management, shame, addiction, self-defeat, body image, smoking cessation, and lifetime goals. A member of the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals, Lee has presented at national conferences and has been published in peer-reviewed journals. He utilizes a blend of cognitive, psychodynamic, and behavioral techniques. He has an undergraduate degree from Duke University and a Masters in Clinical Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Anna L. Stout, Ph.D.

Associate Director of Research and Clinical Programs

Anna Stout joined Structure House in 2002 as Associate Director of Research and Clinical Programs. Her responsibilities include research investigations into the problems of overweight and obesity and working with the treatment staff in providing clinical services. She has a joint appointment as an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavior Sciences and Director of the Women’s Behavioral Health Program at the Duke University Medical Center. Her specialty areas include eating disorders, sleep disorders, sexual therapy, psycho-educational programs for weight reduction, and behavior treatment for anxiety and phobia disorders. She has had her research findings published in numerous professional journals. She has an M.A. in psychology from Wake Forest University and a Ph.D. in Clinical-Community Psychology from the University of South Carolina.

Carol Richman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.


Carol Richman has been on the Structure House treatment staff as a therapist since 1987. Carol, who has a career-long interest in the mind-body relationship, utilizes various treatment approaches, based on the needs of the client, in therapy sessions. Carol's specialties include understanding and working with the "inner child”, psychodrama, reality therapy, assertiveness training, and understanding loss and the grieving process. She received her graduate degree in social work from Florida State University and her undergraduate degree from the State University College of New York at Oneonta.

Shula Lazarus, Ph.D.


Shula Lazarus joined the Structure House treatment staff in 1989. In addition to individualized therapy, Shula provides career counseling, facilitates groups, and teaches classes. Utilizing an integrative approach, she conducts a weekly session in creative visualization and relaxation, and her classes and groups reflect her clinical interest in dealing with cravings, motivation, self-esteem, binge eating, body image, perfectionism, and procrastination. Shula earned her Doctorate in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed her clinical internship at Duke University. Her dissertation involved the study of obese binge eaters. She is a member of the American Psychological Association and its Obesity and Eating Disorder Special Interest Group.

Geri Nelson, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.


Geri joined our staff in 2004. She has over twenty years of experience as an Administrator, Program Developer, Professor, and Clinician. She is a part time Clinical Instructor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work. At Structure House, she provides individual therapy and teaches classes on lifestyle change and the use of food and activity diary. Her special area of interest is the mind-body connection, particularly the use of mindfulness techniques such as meditation and yoga to enhance health and well-being. Other interests include assertiveness training and lifestyle assessment and planning. She has an undergraduate degree from Colby College and a Masters in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Jennifer (Jen) Pells, Ph.D.

Psychologist and Program Facilitator

Jen is a member of the Clinical Treatment Staff and Research/Program Development Team at Structure House. Jen joined Structure House in July 2006. She teaches classes and workshops, provides individual and group therapy, assists with development of new programs, and works with the Structure House and Duke University Medical Center research team to study psychosocial factors that contribute to obesity and weight loss. Jen earned her B.A. in Psychology from Middlebury College, and her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Maine at Orono. She completed an internship in Health Psychology at Duke University Medical Center, and an NIH-funded fellowship at the Duke Pain Prevention Research and Treatment Center. Jen’s areas of interest include cognitive-behavioral approaches to binge eating, depression, anxiety, and persistent pain, enhancing motivation, and using acceptance and mindfulness-based techniques to manage emotions and enhance well-being.

Katie Rickel, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist

Katie joined the Structure House staff in 2008 as a post-doctoral fellow. She designed and implemented two new treatment services, the Pain Coping Skills Training program and the Virtual Family Support Program. Additionally, she provides individual and couples therapy; teaches classes on motivational issues, social support, and mindful eating; and facilitates support groups. Katie has expertise in the areas of motivational interviewing, behavior and habit modification, anxiety, couples and family issues, chronic pain, and mindfulness approaches to wellness. In her clinical work, she strives to tailor her therapeutic approach to meet the specific needs of each participant.

Katie graduated summa cum laude from Duke University with a B.S. in Psychology, and she earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Florida. She then completed a clinical internship in Health Psychology, specializing in obesity, at Duke University Medical Center, where she was trained in the management of chronic pain, behavioral weight loss, and surgical interventions for obesity. Katie’s research has been presented at various professional conferences and has been published in scientific journals.

Members of the Nutrition Staff

Marlene Lesson, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E.

Nutrition Director

Marlene has been the Nutrition Director at Structure House since 1983. In addition to teaching numerous classes on various aspects of nutrition, she provides individual dietary counseling and directs the “Individualized Nutritional Counseling” program at Structure House. She also directs the dining out restaurant series, the wise shopper supermarket series, the fat controversies series, behavior modification, and nutrition for special individual needs. Her special interest is eating patterns for weight control. A registered dietitian and member of the American Dietetic Association, Marlene participates in several of the Association's special practice groups. She has a graduate degree in Human Nutrition and Foods at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and an undergraduate degree in Fine Arts and Art History at the University of Maryland.

Members of the Nursing Staff

Nancy Freeman, R.N., B.S.N., C.D.E.

Nursing Coordinator

Nancy joined Structure House in 1986 and is responsible for coordinating the medical services program. She conducts medical checks of participants to help determine an appropriate exercise level, provides counseling for medical issues, arranges for any further medical treatment that may be necessary, and works closely with the exercise staff to ensure the appropriate exercise environment. Nancy has a B.S. degree in nursing and is a certified diabetes educator by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators. She is also certified as a personal trainer by the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Janice Mills, R.N., A.G.N.P.

Registered Nurse

Janice Mills joined the Structure House medical treatment team in March of 2005 as a Registered Nurse. Janice works with Nancy Freeman to coordinate the diverse medical needs of participants. Together they work with the exercise specialists to ensure safe and rewarding participation. Health assessments are performed at the beginning and end of each individual's stay at Structure House. Janice graduated from a New York State Hospital school of nursing n 1977 and was certified as an adult/geriatric Nurse Practitioner through the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in 1983. Janice has extensive Medical/Surgical and intensive care unit experience from many years at Duke Hospital. Many years were devoted exclusively to Cardiology nursing, including service in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at UNC Hospitals. Her cardiology experience included outpatient cardiac rehabilitation which developed an enthusiasm for preventative health card and health maintenance.

Members of the Exercise Staff

Megan C. Simmons, MS, ACSM HFS

Exercise Director and Physiologist

Megan joined the Structure House Team in March of 2009. As the Exercise Director, she is responsible for the overall development of the exercise education program. Megan has past experience with the obese population. She worked for The University of Tennessee’s Obesity Research Center (UTORC) followed by another well-known residential weight loss center, Duke University Diet and Fitness Center. She is still the current Clinical Project Coordinator for a Duke study which analyzes appropriate functional testing for the obese population, an area yet to be researched. Megan graduated from the University of Tennessee with a BS in Education, followed by an MS in Exercise Science, concentrating on exercise physiology and gerontology. Her research at UT on the Nike Plus has been widely recognized and cited in various article, and she continues to promote activity monitors as a useful tool to keep track of exercise and physical activity. She holds the American College of Sports Medicine HFS certification, and enjoys working with individuals with severe orthopedic limitations.

Alicen Cisco, M.S.

Exercise Specialist

Alicen has been a member of the Structure House exercise staff since 1995. She conducts a series of fitness classes ranging from lectures, yoga, Pilates, various muscle conditioning workouts to more vigorous water classes. Alicen holds certifications in Pilates equipment and mat, ACE personal training, ACE fitness specialist, rehabilitation specialist, yoga, and aquatic exercise. She is one of our personal trainers as well as trains participants on an individual basis on the Pilates equipment. She attended East Carolina University where she earned undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Sociology and a graduate degree in Rehabilitation Counseling with an internship at Duke.