Depth of experience, passionate advocates.

We have a bipartisan team with experience working in key offices, on key committees, and in federal agencies with oversight of our clients’ issues.

Catriona Macdonald


Catriona Macdonald leads the Linchpin team in assisting clients in the areas of health, education, and disability to communicate their priorities and needs to audiences at all levels of government.

When your priorities are at risk, or you need a highly accomplished, tenacious advocate, you want Catriona on your side. Since founding Linchpin in 2004, she has led successful efforts to establish new medical research funds; protect small business opportunities from federal agency overreach and multi-million dollar competitors; and secure increases of more than $4 billion for early childhood education.

Catriona’s experience on Capitol Hill includes working for Senator Edward Kennedy on the Senate Labor Committee; staffing domestic social issues and appropriations for Congressman Steny Hoyer, the former House Majority Leader; and serving as the Legislative Director for Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, the current Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. Her experience in the executive branch includes working as a budget and policy analyst in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Management and Budget at the US Department of Health and Human Services.

She received her B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, and a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.

Suzi Plasencia

Senior Policy Advisor

Suzi Plasencia is a Senior Policy Advisor at Linchpin Strategies. She joined Linchpin in 2020 after seven years in the office of Congresswoman Kay Granger, including serving as Legislative Director and Deputy Chief of Staff. Suzi worked for Congresswoman Granger while she was Chairman of both the State and Foreign Operations and Defense Appropriations Subcommittees, as well as her position as the Ranking Member of the full House Appropriations Committee.

Over her tenure in the office, Suzi managed the majority of the legislative portfolio. She specializes in policy areas related to health and education on both a domestic and global scale. Suzi was deeply involved in securing billions of dollars of funding increases through the regular appropriations process as well as in emergency supplementals, including COVID packages.

Prior to her career in Washington, Suzi worked in early intervention, delivering therapy to those with speech and language disorders, with a focus on bilingual communities. This practical experience informs her policy work and motivates her to help shape policy that empowers medical professionals and educators to follow best practice.

Suzi received her undergraduate degrees in Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences and Special Education from the University of Arizona. She earned a Master’s in Public Health with a focus on policy from George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Carolyn McCoy

Policy Advisor

Carolyn McCoy serves as a Policy Advisor for Linchpin Strategies. Carolyn is a dedicated to advancing societal well-being by addressing health disparities through initiatives that ignite change and elevate social health for generations. She brings over 20 years of experience in health policy analysis, legislative strategy, and lobbying, with expertise that spans international project management, grant writing, research methodology, and health IT. She has brought these skills to bear helping shape legislation such as the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act and the Affordable Care Act.

Carolyn brings a collaborative spirit and a touch of humor to every project, fostering an environment ripe for innovation. Fluent in Spanish, skilled in social media engagement, and proficient in many technology platforms, she is poised to tackle complex challenges and drive tangible results. She received her B.A. in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles and her Master’s of Public Health from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

Douglas P. McCormack

Vice Chairman

Doug McCormack has spent the past 25 years engaged at the intersection of health care policy, law, politics and business. He specializes in solving complex challenges at the federal level through creative solutions and tenacious advocacy. Mr. McCormack returns to providing professional services after a decade of corporate health care experience.

For the past ten years, Mr. McCormack has been founder, CEO and Chairman of two venture-backed technology companies in the medical device and digital health sectors.  Under his leadership, these companies amassed nearly two dozen patents, were recognized with multiple R&D 100 and Edison Awards for innovation, and partnered with Apple to feature the first medical device brought to market with patient connectivity and control via an iPhone app. Mr. McCormack exited his first business through a strategic asset sale to a global market leader based in Germany.

Prior to his entrepreneurial career, Doug spent fifteen years in health policy and advocacy, including as a lawyer in a top DC-based law firm, and then as a partner in a global law firm where he was a co-founder of that firm’s public policy and advocacy practice group.  In this capacity, he focused on representing before Congress and federal agencies a range of health care interests, including hospitals and health systems, hospital consortia, physician and specialty practice groups, trade associations, group purchasing organizations, and medical technology companies.

Doug received his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California and his Juris Doctorate from American University’s Washington College of Law. He is a member of the Maryland and District of Columbia bars, and serves on the boards of several early-stage technology companies.

Blake Gudgel

Senior Policy Associate

Blake Gudgel specializes in advocacy at the intersection of health policy and technology.  He brings to bear his experience with private sector development, government agencies and Congress to create new opportunities for Linchpin’s small business clients. Specific areas of focus include new product and market launches, corporate partnerships, IP, in-and-out licensing, business modeling, venture financing, and federal partnership development.

Blake brings to Linchpin more than a decade of experience leading development efforts in startup and institutional settings.  He has developed partnerships with multiple federal departments and agencies to support the development and launch of new technologies, including the Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, TATRC, DARPA, National Science Foundation i-Corps, and the Department of Energy’s National Labs.   He has worked extensively with the Veterans’ Administration health system to support data-driven outcomes and improved care for veterans who sustained injury in combat.  Blake’s primary focus has been in health technology, but his experience also includes co-generation energy, tech-education platforms, specialty pharma, e-commerce and agro-tech.

Prior to joining the Linchpin team, Blake served as Director of Business Development for the tech transfer office of a major state university, where he managed the transition of the university’s intellectual property portfolio from lab to market, via licensing with public & private companies, spin-outs and collaborative partnerships.  He has held positions on the leadership teams of multiple start-up health technology firms, and currently serves as an advisor to several high tech ventures.  Blake received his degrees in Entrepreneurship/Venture Management and Marketing from the University of Oklahoma.

Heidi Magnuson

Design Partner

Heidi Magnuson partners with Linchpin to help clients further develop their branding and identity in both print and electronic media. As a graphic designer, her award-winning work has been recognized by HOW magazine, the Web Marketing Association, and the Association of Education Publishers.

Heidi has worked with non-profit and association clients for the past 20 years helping build their unique strong recognizable presence. From print to online strategies and design, she has worked with such clients as The Association of State Home Visiting Initiatives (ASTHVI), Grameen Foundation, Feedmore, United Nations Girl Up, Mazon, and College Possible. She has also done work with many educational institutions such as the University of Maryland, George Mason University, the University of Delaware and Arizona State University.

Heidi is a graduate with honors of Syracuse University, Newhouse School of Public Communications. She has also judged numerous national design competitions in print and electronic media.

Advisory Board

Leslie C. Francis

Chairman, Advisory Board

Les is an independent communications and government affairs specialist. His broad experience in Washington spans both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, with multiple stops in between.  He has served as Chief of Staff to California Congressman Norman Mineta and as Deputy White House Chief of Staff to President Carter, where he was responsible for negotiating the formation of the US Department of Education.  He held the position of Executive Director of both the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. His own business, the FMR Group, was an early eighties pioneer in grassroots lobbying, known for its innovative and effective constituency development accomplishments. He has managed or consulted on dozens of initiative and referenda campaigns, and has served as staff, manager or senior advisor to campaigns for almost every office from city council to president. Les has returned to his roots, and lives and works in California with frequent trips to the nation’s Capitol.

Jennifer Luray

Advisory Board Member

Jenny is Director for Public Policy and Government Relations for BD, a global diagnostics, biosciences, and medical devices firm. Her expertise in health and family issues has been widely recognized inside and outside government.  Following her time as Legislative Director to New York Congresswoman Nita Lowey, she served as the Deputy Assistant to the President for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach in the Clinton Administration. Jenny moved to the Senate as Chief of Staff to Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, before directing public policy and government affairs for Abbot and Susan G Komen for the Cure.

Anthony McCann

Advisory Board Member

Tony is the Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.  His deep background in health program administration was launched at the National Association of Counties as the Program Director for Health Programs. His service on the Senate Budget Committee led to appointments as Assistant Secretary for Management and Budget at the US Department of Health and Human Services in the Reagan Administration, and Assistant Secretary for Finance and Information Resources and Chief Financial Officer at the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs in the George H.W. Bush Administration.  Following his years as Clerk/Staff Director for the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Associated Agencies Appropriations, he became Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene under Governor Ehrlich. Tony retired from government as Chief Financial Officer of the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration before his return to the Health Benefit Exchange and role as a Senior Fellow at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy.

Ted McConnell

Advisory Board Member

Ted is the Executive Director of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools.  In addition to his work for Republican Presidential campaigns, he served in the Reagan Administration as Congressional Affairs Assistant to US Department of Commerce Secretary Baldridge.  After consulting on campaigns and political affairs, Ted became the Assistant to the Chairman, Justice William Brennan, for the Commission on the Bicentennial of the US Constitution. This launched his subsequent career as a leader in nonpartisan civic education issues, including work as the Director of the National Campaign to Promote Civic Education for the Center for Civic Education and his current role supporting CMS co-chairs Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and the Honorable Lee Hamilton in promoting civic learning across the US.