Cynthia Baur, Ph.D., became the director of the Horowitz Center for Health Literacy at the University of Maryland (UMD) in January 2017. Prior to working at UMD, Dr. Baur worked for 17 years in communication leadership roles with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC. Most recently, she served as the senior advisor for health literacy in the CDC Office of the Associate Director for Communication and as CDC’s senior official for the Plain Writing Act implementation. During her federal tenure, she led multiple initiatives to define best practices and guidelines in health communication and health literacy. She was the first manager of the Healthy People health communication objectives and the editor of the U.S. National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy. She created CDC’s health literacy website, which provides tools and online training to improve health literacy and public health, and she is the co-creator of the CDC Clear Communication Index, a set of scientific criteria for creating clear public communication materials. Her approach is based on communication science and focuses on providing diverse audiences with information in ways that they can understand and use.
Cindy Brach, M.P.P., is a senior health policy researcher at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). She conducts and oversees research on health literacy, cultural and linguistic competence, system design innovations, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Ms. Brach spearheads AHRQ’s health literacy and cultural competence activities, coordinating AHRQ’s work in developing measures, improving
the evidence base, and creating implementation tools. She has served on numerous expert panels in these areas for organizations such as the Office of Minority Health, the Joint Commission, the National Quality Forum, and The California Endowment. Ms. Brach also leads the national evaluation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act Quality Demonstration Grants. Her publications include New Federal Policy Initiatives to Boost Health Literacy Can Help the Nation Move Beyond the Cycle of Costly “Crisis Care”; Evidence on the Chronic Care Model in the New Millennium; America’s Health Literacy: Why We Need Accessible Health Information; Will It Work Here? A Decision Maker’s Guide to Adopting Innovations; and Integrating Literacy, Culture, and Language to Improve Quality of Health Care for Diverse Populations. Before working at AHRQ, Ms. Brach was the associate director for research and analysis at the Mental Health Policy Resource Center, where she directed mental health and health policy research projects with an emphasis on managed care. Her earlier health and human services experience includes serving as a welfare reform consultant and provider of technical assistance, a state-level administrator, and a municipal policy analyst. Ms. Brach received her Master of Public Policy degree from the University of California, Berkeley, where she was advanced to Ph.D. candidacy.
Maureen L. Daniels, M.Ed., is the director of wellness at work at Berkshire Health Systems (BHS), where she has designed and implemented programs to improve the health literacy of the community. Berkshire Health Systems is a small community health system nestled in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. It offers wellness programming for its staff and their spouses, community businesses, and the community at large. Ms. Daniels incorporates much of her social service background into the health literacy work in supporting her colleagues. In 2013, BHS partnered with the Canyon Ranch Institute to bring a health literacy curriculum into underserved neighborhoods in Berkshire County. Ms. Daniels oversees the three core teams that have developed since the program’s conception. More than 250 community members have already graduated from the program. She earned her bachelor’s degree from The State University of New York at Potsdam and her master’s degree in Health Promotion and Wellness from Springfield College.
William (Bill) N. Elwood, Ph.D., is the Basic Behavioral and Social Science Opportunity Network (OppNet)/health science administrator in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR). OBSSR integrates BSSR within the larger NIH research enterprise and leads research on emerging topics across the agency. For example, OBSSR led a set of health literacy–targeted funding opportunities to ensure that applications in this emerging field received
expert, fair, and thorough review. Currently, Dr. Elwood manages NIH’s OppNet, a trans-NIH initiative that develops initiatives on basic social-behavioral mechanisms and processes that relate across the disease- and somatic-focused missions of NIH’s Institutes and Centers. To date, OppNet has funded 173 unique research projects. Before joining NIH, he was the research and development director for the largest mental health and substance abuse agency in South Florida. During this time, he developed and implemented quality assurance practices that led to the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities and Medicaid accreditation, supervised the implementation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and collaborated with a local housing authority to provide all clinical and medical supervision services for a family-centered, public housing-based treatment center. Prior to his work in health services, Dr. Elwood held faculty positions at Auburn University and The University of Texas at Houston, where he conducted community-based research throughout the United States and Mexico on substance abuse prevention and treatment, drug use epidemiology, public housing-based health initiatives, sexually transmitted infections/HIV-intervention efficacy studies, and economic self-sufficiency programs. NIH, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the World Health Organization, the state of Texas, and private foundations supported his research. His publications concentrated on attitudes and beliefs of hard-to-reach populations and the influences that cultural and personal values, as well as community settings, have on mental health, health-related behaviors, risky behaviors, and participation in civic life. His publications in community epidemiology of illegal and diverted substance use remain definitive in clinical, legal, and news fields. Dr. Elwood is the author of 35 peer-reviewed publications and 4 scientific books. He has received multiple NIH Director’s awards and two national awards for a research book and article of the year, respectively.
Michele Erikson is the executive director of Wisconsin Literacy, Inc., a coalition providing support and leadership to 75 local literacy agencies. In 2005 she began working in health literacy by directing small community-based projects with local literacy agencies to improve understanding of public health. In 2007 she led the formation of a grassroots regional effort to support health literacy initiatives throughout Wisconsin. In 2010, with three successful statewide health literacy summits completed and additional outside funding, Health Literacy Wisconsin, a division of Wisconsin Literacy, Inc., was launched under her leadership. The work of the division continues on local, regional, and national levels to deliver educational workshops on health information such as influenza, understanding medicines, health insurance, and health access. The division also developed a business plan that provides services to help health care professionals incor-
porate health literacy strategies into their communication with patients. Wisconsin Literacy continues to host a national Health Literacy Summit every other year.
Oscar J. Espinosa, M.A., is a senior associate at Community Science, a research, evaluation, and development firm in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He is an experienced health services researcher who specializes in the evaluation of programs that deliver services to vulnerable populations, including delivery of language assistance services in public health centers and hospital systems, culturally and linguistically appropriate services in managed care organizations (MCOs), and programs that deliver drug prevention education to recent immigrant families. His career began with extensive field research in the colonies along the U.S.–Mexico border, and he has expanded this work to successfully direct large, multisite evaluation projects for various federal clients, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. For the past 3 years, Mr. Espinosa has directed an evaluation related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for HHS’s Office of Minority Health, which assessed the effectiveness of outreach and education strategies designed to reach and inform underserved populations throughout the country on the benefits of enrolling in health insurance and accessing preventive health services. In addition to his field research, Mr. Espinosa has also completed a national survey to gauge the awareness of racial and ethnic health disparities among the general population and that of practicing physicians, as well as a national survey of MCOs that investigated the nature and extent of culturally and linguistically appropriate services delivered by MCOs.
Leslie A. Gelders is the literacy coordinator at the Oklahoma Department of Libraries (ODL) Literary Resource Office, which is nationally recognized for its support and leadership of statewide literacy efforts. Under the direction of Ms. Gelders, the literacy office works with library- and community-based literacy programs, state agencies, and other organizations to promote literacy throughout Oklahoma. In recent years, ODL has placed a major emphasis on health literacy. With Ms. Gelders’s assistance, public libraries and local literacy programs have initiated and enhanced efforts that address Oklahoma’s low health ranking. What started as a pilot project of five sites has developed into one of ODL’s priorities and is included in the agency’s new 5-year plan. Ms. Gelders serves on the steering committee of the Oklahoma Health Equity Campaign, was a two-term president of the Oklahoma Literacy Coalition, and served on a number of state and national literacy
committees and governance councils. Her skills in marketing, training, building partnerships, and grant writing have helped strengthen library and community-based programs throughout the state.
Ariella Herman, Ph.D., M.S., is the research director of the Health Care Institute, which is housed at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Anderson School of Management. Since 2001, she has successfully designed a systematic approach to health promotion intervention in Head Start/preschool community settings. She has developed tools and resources for early childhood programs to lead effective health care training programs through engagement and dissemination of knowledge and to better prepare parents to address the health care needs of their children. She has received numerous recognition and awards, including the Health Literacy Award, “Most Innovative Health Education & Promotion Program” from the Institute of Healthcare Advancement (2009), the Sabra Woolley Memorial Award for Most Highly Rated Abstract, Health Literacy Annual Research Conference (2009), and the Health Literacy Innovation Champions Award from Health Literacy Innovations (2010). Most recently, the UCLA Health Care Institute was named a partner in the Head Start National Center on Early Childhood Health & Wellness. She has been published in various peer-reviewed journals such as Journal of Community Health, Pediatric Emergency Care, and Journal of Health Communication. She has a B.S. in Mathematics from University Paris VII, an M.S. in Engineering from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in Business from the University of Paris IX Dauphine Business School.
S. Marisa New, M.P.H., OTR, is the chair of the Southwest Regional Health Equity Council and a board member of the Oklahoma Health Equity Campaign. Both are community-based partnerships that strive to address health inequities beyond the health community. Ms. New has always been passionate about advocating for persons disadvantaged by conditions that limit their health potential. Ms. New formally began representing her community as a member of the Oklahoma City Mayor’s Committee on Disability Concerns. Now, she is an active member of several councils, committees, and coalitions that include the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors Health Equity Council, Oklahoma Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness, Oklahoma Governor’s United We Ride Council, and Oklahoma Alliance for Public Transportation. She is the Oklahoma representative on the American Public Health Association’s Governing Council. For several years, she served as the director of the Health Equity & Resource Opportunities Division at the Oklahoma State Department of Health, where she developed partnerships with non-health sectors addressing food security, housing, transportation, and literacy. Today, she
is honored to provide occasional supervision to occupational therapy students who are going through the University of Oklahoma’s Health Sciences Center Interprofessional Education and Practice Collaborative. Ms. New has an M.P.H. (Health Administration and Policy) from the University of Oklahoma.
Catina O’Leary, Ph.D., M.S.W., serves as the president and CEO of Health Literacy Media (HLM). Under her direction, HLM’s service network has expanded to include some of the largest employers in Missouri, including pharmaceutical companies, hospital systems, business coalitions, and community-based organizations. Chosen by the St. Louis Business Journal for professional excellence and dedication to the community, Dr. O’Leary is a member of the 2013 class of “40 Under 40” leaders. She was recently selected to join FOCUS St. Louis’s 39th Leadership St. Louis class. Before her appointment as CEO of HLM, Dr. O’Leary was a faculty member at the Washington University School of Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry and the Program on Occupational Therapy. At Washington University, her community-engaged research centered on methods to engage underserved populations in health and social service programs. She focused specifically on women’s health. Dr. O’Leary is the past president and continues to serve on the board of The Bridge, a drop-in shelter that offers daily meals and basic social services to homeless and at-risk St. Louisans. She also serves as vice president for Magdalene Saint Louis, a nonprofit that helps women who have survived lives of abuse, prostitution, trafficking, and addiction by providing a community where they can recover and rebuild their lives. Dr. O’Leary earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Mississippi and M.S.W. and Ph.D. in Social Work from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University.
Andrew Pleasant, Ph.D., M.S., is the senior advisor on Health Literacy Interventions, Research, and Evaluation at Health Literacy Media (www.healthliteracy.media). Dr. Pleasant believes that health literacy is one of the most powerful tools to create informed behavior change. Dr. Pleasant has led and participated in hundreds of presentations and trainings in the United States and around the world, primarily on the topics of health literacy and science, risk, and environmental communication. He has taught at Cornell University, Brown University, and Rutgers University. Dr. Pleasant has published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and technical reports, and is co-author of the book Advancing Health Literacy: A Framework for Understanding and Action (2006). Dr. Pleasant holds a B.A. in journalism from Arizona State University, an M.S. in environmental studies from Brown University, and a Ph.D. in communication from Cornell University.
Anil Thota, M.B.B.S., M.P.H., is the lead for the systematic review science team at the Community Guide Branch within the Division for Public Health Information Dissemination at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Community Guide Branch supports the Community Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of public health and prevention experts that issues findings based on systematic reviews of effectiveness and economic evidence of public interventions and policies for decision makers, policy makers, and implementers. Previously at the Community Guide Branch, Dr. Thota led a team of experts focused on prioritizing and evaluating the effectiveness of interventions aiming to reduce morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease and conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of collaborative care to improve delivery of depression care. Dr. Thota has an M.B.B.S. from Manipal University in India and an M.P.H. from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. Before joining the Community Guide, Dr. Thota worked on evidence-based recommendations and decision making at multiple organizations such as the World Bank, Cochrane South Asia, and Health Quality Ontario.
Michael Villaire, M.S.L.M., is the CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Advancement, a nonprofit health care public charity dedicated to empowering people to achieve better health, with an emphasis on health literacy. Mr. Villaire produces the Institute for Healthcare Advancement’s annual Health Literacy Conference. He has written numerous articles and lectures nationally on health literacy. He is the co-author of the textbook Health Literacy in Primary Care: A Clinician’s Guide and the easy-to-read, self-help health book What to Do When Your Child Is Heavy. He is an adjunct faculty member at Brandman University in Irvine, California, where he teaches a health literacy course for the Master of Science in Health Risk and Crisis Communication program. His background includes 20 years as an editor in health care publishing, including peer-reviewed journals in nursing, hospital publications, physician news magazines, and an online health care portal experiment. He has helped redesign and launch several medical and nursing journals, and managed the development of a multimedia, interactive curriculum in critical care. Mr. Villaire earned his bachelor’s degree in English and Communications from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan. He earned his M.S. in Science, Organizational Leadership, and Management from the University of La Verne in California. His thesis examined health literacy in community clinics in regard to adequacy of patient education materials.
Sherrie Flynt Wallington, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of oncology and serves as the program director for the Health Disparities Initiative at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Cancer Center. Her research inter-
ests focus on using community-based participatory research approaches to explore the role of health communication in reducing and eliminating health disparities among minority and underserved populations. Dr. Wallington recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the Harvard School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Wallington attended Howard University and received a Ph.D. in Mass Communication, specializing in Health Communication, and also holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Earnestine Willis, M.D., M.P.H., is a Kellner Professor in Pediatrics, director of the Center for the Advancement of Underserved Children, and director of Health Equity and Urban Clinical Care Partnerships. She has nearly three decades of experience in addressing health disparities through the development of successful community initiatives to include research, education, and community services. Her interests include analyzing the impact of systems on children and adolescents, applied public policy, community-oriented programs, medical education, health assessments, and diversity in medicine and child advocacy.
Caroline Young, M.S., is the executive director of NashvilleHealth, an initiative focused on improving the health of the citizens of Nashville-Davidson County. NashvilleHealth is chaired and was created by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) in an effort to address the area’s health equity issues and ensure that Nashville continues to be a great place to live and work. Prior to leading NashvilleHealth, Ms. Young served as the president of the Nashville Health Care Council, one of the nation’s foremost health care industry associations. Under her leadership, the Council’s membership grew to encompass 300 diverse organizations and launched the one-of-a-kind fellows initiative, designed to further the skills of senior business leaders. Prior to joining the Council, she was the founding executive director of Life Science Tennessee (formerly known as the Tennessee Biotechnology Association). She also served as the director of communications and advertising for the State of Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Ms. Young currently serves on the boards of Cumberland Pharmaceuticals and the Center for Non-Profit Management. She is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Washington, DC-based Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Healthcare Industry. Ms. Young holds a B.A. from the University of Mississippi and an M.S. from the University of Tennessee.