Yesenia Castro is the Mid-Columbia Health Equity Advocates Coalition Coordinator with Nuestra Comunidad Sana and The Next Door Inc. Ms. Castro was born and raised in Hood River, Oregon. She studied public health and merchandising management at Oregon State University and proceeded to work in the Mid-Columbia Region to ensure Latino inclusion and voice in community initiatives related to education, housing, transportation, immigration, access to healthy food, and access to free or reduced physical activities (the social determinants of health). Ms. Castro is the oldest child of Mexican immigrant parents and has four other siblings. As soon as she could speak, she was advocating for her parents; now she advocates for her community as a certified community health worker. Passionate about social justice and equity, this was a natural fit at her current job with The Next Door Inc.
Stephanie Co, M.P.P.A., has worked in community development in St. Louis for the past 7 years and has a passion for working to advance racial equity in cities. Ms. Co currently serves as the manager of public policy and special projects at Beyond Housing, a community development organization based in North Saint Louis County, where she leads public policy efforts, neighborhood marketing, and strategic projects. Previously, Ms. Co served as the special assistant to the president of Beyond Housing, and she continues in her current role to support the organizational leadership. Ms. Co has volunteered with a range of affordable housing, education, food access, and transportation projects, boards,
and committees and currently serves as a board member of Citizens for Modern Transit. Ms. Co earned her B.A. at Washington University in St. Louis and is an M.P.P.A. candidate at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
Kanwarpal Dhaliwal, M.P.H., is one of the co-founders of RYSE and currently serves as its community health director. Prior to her time with RYSE, Ms. Dhaliwal worked as an independent consultant and has more than 15 years of experience in facilitating and developing cross-sector collaborations, organizational development and strategic planning, and community-based and community-driven planning, organizing, and advocacy. Her work spans the fields of supportive housing; intergroup relations; violence prevention; youth leadership; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) advocacy; and immigrant rights. Ms. Dhaliwal holds an M.P.H. and is an instructor at San Francisco State University.
Will Douglas is a public health professional with project, team and departmental management experience both in for-profit and nonprofit settings. His expertise is in public health, evaluation, data collection and analysis, software-as-a-service technology, and community engagement. Mr. Douglas has broad experience with community health needs assessments, implementation strategy design, evaluation data collection and analysis, community health and health care, project facilitation, and group collaboration. He has worked in a variety of sectors, including public health, information technology, regional planning, and emergency management. Mr. Douglas holds a B.A. in international relations from the University of California, Davis. He also studied at Lund University in Sweden and the University of Barcelona in Spain.
George Flores, M.D., M.P.H., is a senior program manager for The California Endowment’s Healthy California Prevention team. He manages grants and oversees programs that strengthen primary prevention and the practice of health equity; link health care, public health, and community-based prevention; get the public involved in improving conditions for health; and increase the number of diverse health professionals practicing in underserved places. Previously Dr. Flores was a public health officer in San Diego and Sonoma Counties; a clinical assistant professor for the University of California, San Francisco, Family Practice Residency Program; the director of Project HOPE in Guatemala; and a deputy health officer in Santa Barbara County. His M.D. is from the University of Utah and his M.P.H. is from Harvard University. Early in his career he served in the National Health Service Corps and practiced family medicine in the Santa Maria, California, area. He is a member of two Institute
of Medicine committees that published the milestone reports Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance and The Future of the Public’s Health in the 21st Century. He is a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Health and Medicine Division Roundtable on Population Health Improvement, which recently published his Perspective, Democratizing Health: The Power of Community. Dr. Flores is a founder of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California. During his career, Dr. Flores’s work has addressed primary care, health policy, international health, obesity and chronic disease prevention, community prevention, health disparities, health workforce, and environmental policy. Dr. Flores’s work has been published in the Journal of the American Public Health Association, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, and Preventing Chronic Disease, among others. He is co-author of Latino Children’s Health and the Environment in At Risk! Latino Children’s Health. Dr. Flores was recognized by the National Hispanic Medical Association as 2011 Physician of the Year and is the American Public Health Association’s 2016 Helen Rodriguez-Trias Social Justice Award recipient in recognition of his career’s work to improve health and equity for the underserved and for Latino communities in particular.
Anthony Iton, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., is a senior vice president for healthy communities at The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation whose mission is to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. Prior to that, Dr. Iton served for 7 years as the Alameda County Public Health Department director and health officer, overseeing an agency with a budget of $112 million with a focus on preventing communicable disease outbreaks, reducing the burden of chronic disease and obesity, and managing the county’s preparedness for biological terrorism. Dr. Iton’s primary interest is the health of disadvantaged populations and the contributions of race, class, wealth, education, geography, and employment to health status. He has asserted that in every public health area of endeavor, be it immunizations, chronic disease, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, obesity, or even disaster preparedness, public health practitioners must recognize that they are confronted with the enduring consequences of structural poverty, institutional racism, and other forms of systemic injustice. He further asserts that the only sustainable approach to eliminating health inequities is through the design of intensive, multisectoral, place-based interventions that are specifically designed to identify existing assets and build social, political, and economic power among a critical mass of community residents in historically under-resourced communities. In the fall of 2009 Dr. Iton moved to The California Endow-
ment to help oversee the organization’s 10-Year, Multimillion-Dollar Statewide Commitment to Advance Policies and Forge Partnerships to Build Healthy Communities and a Healthy California. Dr. Iton received his M.D. at Johns Hopkins Medical School and subsequently trained in internal medicine and preventive medicine at New York Hospital, Yale University, and the University of California, Berkeley, and is board certified in both specialties. Dr. Iton has also received a law degree and an M.P.H. from the University of California, Berkeley, and is a member of the California Bar. He has worked as an HIV disability rights attorney at the Berkeley Community Law Center, a health care policy analyst with Consumers Union West Coast Regional Office, and as a physician and advocate for the homeless at the San Francisco Public Health Department. His experience practicing both medicine and law independently has enabled him to blend both disciplines in the day-to-day practice of public health and in responding to recent public health emergencies such as severe acute respiratory syndrome and anthrax. His awards include the Champion of Children Award from the United Way, the National Association of County & City Health Officials Award of Excellence for the use of information technology in public health, the 2009 Clean Air Award from Breathe California, and the HeartSaver Award from the American Heart Association. In 2006 he was awarded the prestigious Milton and Ruth Roemer Prize for Creative Public Health Work, awarded by the American Public Health Association to a U.S. local health official in recognition of outstanding creative and innovative public health work. In February 2010 Dr. Iton was recognized by the California Legislative Black Caucus with the Black History Month Legends Award and presented on the floor of the California State Assembly with a resolution memorializing his life’s work and achievements. He serves on the board of directors of the Public Health Institute, the Public Health Trust, the Prevention Institute, and Jobs For The Future, and he formerly served in various leadership roles at the Health Officers Association of California, the California Conference of Local Health Officers, and the National Association of County & City Health Officials.
Pete Knox has been associated with Bellin Health System in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in a variety of leadership roles for the past 34 years. Bellin has been on the leading edge of quality for many years and is recognized nationally for superior results. Currently, Mr. Knox is the executive vice president and chief learning and innovation officer. In this role he is responsible for population health strategies, physician networks, employer strategies, learning and innovation, and the execution of strategy. In addition, he is a consultant for health care and non–health care organizations and is a senior fellow at the Institute for Healthcare
Improvement. His book The Business of Healthcare is used by a number of universities and organizations across the country, and he is currently working on a second book, The Strategy Execution Playbook.
Andrea Manzo is a hub manager for the East Salinas Building Healthy Communities (BHC), a 10-year initiative funded by The California Endowment. Her role is to support the BHC initiative, including its grantees, by forging relationships with community and government to ensure meaningful collaboration. She is an advocate for authentic community engagement and is passionate about supporting youth to be agents of change and opportunity in their community. In partnership with the City of Salinas, she co-leads the Salinas Governing for Racial Equity (GRE) Steering Committee and leads the BHC GRE Action Team, which focuses on implementing racial equity policies and practices within local government. As the daughter of immigrant parents, she is deeply rooted in her culture. She grew up in Salinas and received her B.A. in Chicana/o studies and French studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2015 she was honored as one of the Women of the Year by the Monterey County Commission on the Status of Women, which commended her work with youth on the only nationally youth-led open streets event, Ciclovía Salinas.
Shelton McElroy, M.S., is the Change Makers Leadership Instructor at Jefferson Community and Technical College (JCTC), where he teaches classes and helps students with personal and career development. Mr. McElroy is also a recruiter for the school’s Samuel Plato Academy, which teaches historical preservation skills to students. In addition to his work at JCTC, Mr. McElroy is part of the Metro United Way’s Ages and Stages program, which helps new parents monitor their children’s development, and he works as a parent advocate helping foster children reunite with their families. Mr. McElroy was raised in the Cotter Homes housing project by a single mother of three, who lost custody due to substance abuse and mental health issues. Between the ages of 3 and 18, he lived in 25 different foster homes, usually in rural Kentucky away from any relatives. Mr. McElroy was sent to prison at 18 for trafficking in marijuana and burglary. At 25, Mr. McElroy got out of prison and returned to Louisville for the first time since he was a child. That is when his life began its upward trajectory. Through the Change Makers Program, where he teaches today, Mr. McElroy found his niche in human services. He earned an associates of arts from JCTC and 12 months later received a B.A. in human services and counseling from Lindsay Wilson College. He also has a master’s degree in education and human development from the same school and may pursue a Ph.D. “I’m trying to use my
own experience to guide other disadvantaged youth,” Mr. McElroy said. “I went from the walls of prison to the halls of academia. If I can make that journey then anything is possible.”
Soma Stout, M.D., M.S., has worked as a primary care doctor and health system transformation leader in the safety net for more than 15 years and in global community and population health for more than 20 years, working with health care systems and communities that have made remarkable strides to improve individual, community, and population health, well-being, and equity. She currently serves as the executive lead of 100 Million Healthier Lives, convened by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, to support 100 million people globally to live healthier lives by 2020. Previously, she served as the vice president for patient-centered medical home development at Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), where she led a whole-system transformation that aligned large-scale payment reform with delivery system redesign to meet the needs of populations. The CHA transformation garnered numerous national awards for achieving breakthrough results in the triple aim of better health, better experience, and lower cost while improving joy and meaning of work for providers and staff. In 2012 she was awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Young Leader Award for her contributions to improving the health of the nation. She has consulted with health system leaders from across the world in Australia, Brazil, Guyana, Singapore, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. She also directs the Innovation Fellows Program at Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care, where she is helping to grow a generation of change leaders who can create the needed changes in health and health care, and she continues as the lead transformation advisor at CHA.
Teal VanLanen is a community activator with the School District of Algoma, Wisconsin, and the Healthy Children team lead for Live Algoma, a community coalition. Ms. VanLanen focuses on using Institute for Healthcare Improvement science and ways of being to drive wellness within the community of Algoma, located just south of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Ms. VanLanen’s journey within the community started as a fifth-grade teacher, teaching the kids of Algoma for 8 years, and she was also the wellness coordinator for the school staff. Her two worlds joined together about 1 year ago as she moved into a leadership role in directing the wellness center for the community. Today she focuses on empowering individuals, young and old alike, to share their passions and lived experience in order to improve health and well-being within the community.
Jennifer Lacson Varano, M.P.H., is a health care professional with experience in nonprofit and private health care settings. In her role as the director of community health, volunteer services, and emergency management at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, Ms. Varano oversees the development and implementation of the community benefit plan, social accountability reporting, and grants administration. She also provides planning, backbone, and community health outreach support to the hospital’s community advisory committee and Tenderloin Health Improvement Partnership initiative. Ms. Varano holds a B.A. in public health policy from the University of California (UC), Irvine, and a master’s of public health from UC Berkeley.
Jomella Watson-Thompson, Ph.D., is an associate professor of applied behavioral science and an associate director with the Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas. As an applied scientist, her mission is to cultivate healthy, safe, and prosperous communities through the integration of research, teaching, and service that fosters meaningful improvements in people’s lives. Through engaged scholarship, her teaching, research, and service activities support a reciprocal process of knowledge discovery and application among students, community, and academic partners. Dr. Watson-Thompson is interested in the use and promotion of behavioral community approaches to support social problem solving. She facilitates courses to train students in community leadership and community health and development competencies. Her research team, the Kansas University Work Group Team for Community Youth Development and Prevention, conducts research in affiliation with the Work Group for Community Health and Development, a center in the Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies. Her particular interests focus on neighborhood development, positive youth development, and prevention, including substance abuse and violence prevention. Using community-based participatory research methods, her research has focused on the application of behavioral science approaches to improve how communities address issues related to community health and development.
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