Check out our great lineup of speakers for the 2023 Policy Action Institute.
Born the oldest of four boys to a single teen mom, Craig Andrade grew up on public assistance in the housing projects of Boston and Brockton, Massachusetts, directly experiencing poverty, drugs, violence, trauma, community and love that sparked and drives his academic and community service practice. Craig is a registered nurse, athletic trainer, licensed massage therapist, strength and condition specialist, health educator and racial equity advocate with masters and doctoral degrees in public health from Boston University School of Public Health. Craig previously lead as director of the Bureau of Family Health & Nutrition at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and helped found the Racial Equity Leadership Team and Cross-Department Racial Equity Collaborative at DPH. Now he serves as associate dean of practice, director of The Activist Lab, and associate professor of community health sciences at Boston University’s School of Public Health where he works to catalyze bold public health practice that promotes racial justice and health equity locally, nationally and globally.
Shavon Arline Bradley is the president & founding principal of R.E.A.C.H. Beyond Solutions LLC, a strategy and innovation consulting firm designed to expand the leadership and strategic capacity of government, corporation, foundation and non-profit partners. She is also a co-founder of The Health Equity Cypher Group, a collaborative of nationally recognized health equity experts designed to expand the work of health, equity and diversity & inclusion in all sectors. Arline Bradley has over 20 years of professional experience. She served in the Office of the 19th United States Surgeon General as the director of external engagement and senior advisor. Prior to her tenure in the Office of the US Surgeon General, Arline Bradley served as the executive vice president of strategic planning & partnerships and senior director of health programs for the national NAACP where she served for 6 years. In January 2023, Arline Bradley was selected to serve as the president & CEO of the National Council of Negro Women as the first in this new infrastructure. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science and Master of Public Health degree from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. She also has a Master of Divinity from the Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University with a Master of Divinity. Arline Bradley serves on many boards including an advisory board member of the Oprah Winfrey Network initiative OWN Your Health.
Chiquita Brooks-LaSure is the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, where she will oversee programs including Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance Marketplaces. A former policy official who played a key role in guiding the ACA through passage and implementation, Brooks-LaSure has decades of experience in the federal government, on Capitol Hill, and in the private sector. Earlier in her career, Brooks-LaSure assisted House leaders in passing several health care laws, including the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 and the ACA, as part of the Democratic staff for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee. Brooks-LaSure began her career as a program examiner and lead Medicaid analyst for the Office of Management and Budget.
SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO
Shelley Moore Capito was first elected to the United States Senate in 2014, and re-elected in 2020. She is also the first female Senator in West Virginia’s history and was elected with the largest margin of victory for a Republican in state history—winning more than 70 percent of the vote and all 55 counties, surpassing the previous mark she set in 2014 when she won more than 62 percent of the vote and all 55 counties. After serving West Virginia’s Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for 14 years, and as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates for four years prior, Senator Capito decided to run for Senate to be an even stronger voice for the Mountain State. Senator Capito currently serves on the Appropriations Committee; the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; the Rules and Administration Committee; and the Environment and Public Works Committee as Ranking Member. A lifelong West Virginian herself, Senator Capito was born in Glen Dale in the Northern Panhandle. She holds a B.S. in Zoology from Duke University and a M.Ed. from the University of Virginia. She and her husband Charles L. Capito Jr. reside in Charleston. They have three adult children: two sons, Charles (wife Laura) and Moore, and one daughter, Shelley (husband Colin Macleod). They have also been blessed with eight grandchildren: Celia, Charlie, Eliza, Rose, Arch, Macaulay, Lewis, and Thomas.
SARAH DE GUIA
As chief executive officer of ChangeLab Solutions, Sarah de Guia oversees development and implementation of the organization’s goals, priorities, strategies, and budget. She is committed to applying her legal expertise and leadership experience to advancing equitable laws and policies that ensure healthy communities for all. Prior to joining ChangeLab Solutions, Sarah was director of government affairs and then executive director at the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN). Sarah sits on the advisory committee for the Office of Health Equity at the California Department of Public Health, the advisory council of the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge, the editorial committee of Public Health Watch, the principles alliance stewardship council of Raising the Bar: Health Care’s Transforming Role, and the board of directors of the CARESTAR Foundation and the Health Access Foundation.
Rhea is the founder and current executive director of the Environmental Justice Coalition. In her role at EJC, she leads a team of young individuals to create intersectional environmental justice-based solutions for disadvantaged communities. She also does outreach on behalf of EJC, creates and nurtures their partnerships and oversees the educational initiatives. Rhea is currently studying at Cornell University, where she hopes to use computers, artificial intelligence, and computer vision for societal good. She also is an incoming first responder and drone intern at MTIRE.
Trained at Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Washington, and Harvard University, Gounder is an internationally renowned internist, infectious disease specialist, and epidemiologist. She is a CBS News medical contributor and a senior fellow and editor-at-large for public health at the Kaiser Family Foundation and Kaiser Health News. Dr. Gounder is also a clinical associate professor of medicine and infectious diseases at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine. She cares for patients on the wards at Bellevue Hospital Center. She is one of the world’s leading experts in science, medicine, and public health communication. Gounder is best known for her coverage of health inequities and the COVID, Ebola, Zika, mental health, opioid overdose, gun violence, and disinformation epidemics.
Shelley Hearne is the inaugural Deans Sommer & Klag Professor of the Practice and director, Lerner Center for Public Health Advocacy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The Lerner Center’s vision is to catalyze a diverse, dynamic field of advocates ready to solve the greatest public health challenges of our time. Previously, she was the president of CityHealth, Trust for America’s Health’s founder, and the managing director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Health Group. She also led the Big Cities Health Coalition, which represents the largest cities’ health officials and the Pew Environmental Health Commission. Shelley has served in numerous national leadership positions, including APHA’s executive board chair and vice president, Council on Education for Public Health. She has testified before national, state, and local policymakers and successfully catalyzed new laws and regulations on issues ranging from financial security to food safety. She graduated from Bowdoin College in chemistry and environmental studies and Columbia University’s School of Public Health.
Kim Irwin has served as the administrator of the Indiana Public Health Association since 2019 and executive director of Health by Design since 2008. She guides the strategic direction, partnership development and programmatic, operational and financial management of both organizations. She served as a member of Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s Public Health Commission in 2021 and 2022. Her prior work experience includes health promotion activities and program and administrative management for the American Lung Association, the Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) and in senior services. Irwin has a Master of Public Health from the IUSM Department of Public Health and an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University.
Greg Jackson, executive director of the Community Justice Action Fund, is a community organizer, political strategist and issue advocate. Prior to becoming the organization’s executive director, Greg served as the national advocacy director where he worked with communities, elected officials, community leaders and impacted residents to advocate for proactive and preventive solutions to end gun violence. As a gun violence survivor, gun violence prevention is personal for Greg. While being questioned by law enforcement in his hospital bed, Greg remembers being treated like a criminal and not like a victim. This experience and his recovery propelled Greg into action, becoming a vocal and leading voice on gun violence prevention for Black and brown communities. As the youngest member of Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration, Greg served as Director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services. Greg then went on to lead Community Engagement and Communications for the Washington, D.C.’s Office of Neighborhood Safety & Engagement. Before dedicating his life to gun violence prevention, Greg worked as a community organizer through various roles, including the Co-Chair of DC for Obama, the Obama for America, North Carolina - Field Director, the Southern Regional Director at Organizing for Action and the National Field Director, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, where he ran the largest mid-term election voter registration program in U.S. History.
Johnson joined HRSA from the White House COVID-19 Response Team. She previously served as ommissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services, leading the state’s largest agency and providing health care and social services to one-in-five New Jerseyans. Johnson served for more than five years as the Domestic Policy Council public health lead in the Obama White House, working on the Ebola and Zika responses, implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and combatting the opioid epidemic. In addition, she served on Capitol Hill as health staff for the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging and for members of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee. At the Department of Health and Human Services, Johnson previously managed health care workforce policy issues for HRSA. She also was policy director for the Alliance of Community Health Plans, program officer with the Pew Charitable Trusts health program, and senior government relations manager with the American Heart Association. She holds a master’s degree in government from the University of Virginia.
Olivia Julianna is an abortion rights activist from Houston, Texas. She currently serves as the director of politics & government affairs at Gen-Z for Change, a nonprofit that focuses on civic engagement amongst Gen-Z, with focus on labor rights, abortion rights and education. She is also a political activist and commentator who has acquired over 800 million impressions across social media platforms.
Kendall Kalustyan (he/him) is a proud transgender rights activist with experience fighting anti-transgender legislative attacks on both on the state and federal level. Currently, Kendall is the policy coordinator at the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Kendall is also a recent graduate of American University, where he graduated with an interdisciplinary degree in Political Science and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
Nat Kendall-Taylor serves as chief executive officer at the FrameWorks Institute. Nat oversees the organization’s pioneering, research-based approach to strategic communications, which uses methods from the social and behavioral sciences to measure how people understand complex socio-political issues and tests ways to reframe them to drive social change. An expert in psychological anthropology and communications science, Nat publishes widely in the popular and professional press and lectures frequently in the United States and abroad. Prior to joining FrameWorks, Nat’s research focused on understanding the social and cultural factors that create health disparities and affect decision-making. He has conducted fieldwork on the Swahili coast of Kenya, where he studied pediatric epilepsy, traditional healing, and the impacts of chronic illness on family well-being, and in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, where he studied child marriage and higher education. He has also conducted ethnographic research on theories of motivation in “extreme” athletes. Nat holds a BA from Emory University and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Mary Kusler is the senior director for the Center for Advocacy and Political Action at the National Education Association. Prior to assuming the senior director role, Mary was the director of government relations for NEA. In her current role, she oversees NEA’s advocacy and electoral work on behalf of students representing over 3 million educators and public sector workers across the country. Prior to joining NEA, Kusler served as the assistant director of policy and advocacy for the American Association of School Administrators. In her role with AASA, she represented more than 13,000 school superintendents and local educational leaders before members of Congress. Currently, Kusler serves on the board of the Empurpling Project, an incubator for strategies that help rebalance the country’s political geography. Kusler also serves as a co-chair of the newly launched Tax Equity for America aiming to build power and alignment through progressive tax and revenue to win for racial equity and communities.
Santiago Mayer is a political strategist and the executive director of Voters Of Tomorrow, a youth voting organization started by Santiago in December 2019. Originally from Mexico City, Santiago moved to Los Angeles in 2017 and quickly got involved in American politics. He gained experience as an on-the-ground organizer for city council and state senate campaigns and serving as a student leader for the Biden/Harris campaign, helping mobilize college students across the country. Santiago also co-founded the Prom At The Polls campaign, a non-partisan initiative meant to energize first-time voters who lost their senior prom due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In digital circles, Santiago is an influential political commentator, having garnered over 135,000 followers on Twitter and hundreds of millions of views across multiple platforms. In his spare time, Santiago is a full-time college student, pursuing a degree in Political Science at California State University, Long Beach.
Meg has led grasstops engagement for Care4Carolina for the past four years, cultivating business and local elected leadership to advance the business case for Medicaid Expansion. Prior to that, she founded and led NC Prevention Partners for 20 years, a nonprofit that advanced private policy and public policy campaigns for tobacco prevention, healthy food, and building healthy community environments across NC, and eventually scaled to over 30 states and a dozen global sites. She earned an MPH in Nutrition and a DrPH in health policy and administration from the UNC Gillings School of Public Health.
Andrea Palm is the deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. As deputy secretary, she is the chief operating officer and is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Department. Palm most recently served as secretary-designee of the Department of Health Services, overseeing one of the largest state agencies in Wisconsin as a member of Governor Tony Evers' cabinet. In this role, she had responsibility for the state's Medicaid program, its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and behavioral health programs, among others. DHS is also Wisconsin's public health agency, and as such, Palm led the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, Palm held a number of policy and operational roles in the Obama-Biden Administration at HHS. During her eight-year tenure, she worked on a variety of Administration priorities, including the Affordable Care Act, as well as providing leadership for the Department's work to combat the opioid epidemic. Palm was born and raised in rural, upstate New York. She holds a Bachelor's degree from Cornell University and a Master's degree from Washington University in St. Louis.
Susan L. Polan, PhD, is associate executive director for public affairs and advocacy with the American Public Health Association. She oversees the Association's departments of government relations and affiliate affairs, communications and membership. She is responsible for planning and directing APHA's legislative, regulatory and legal activities, communicating those initiatives and Association news to members and the public, and overseeing membership recruitment and retention and Affiliate, Caucus and Section relations. Prior to joining APHA, Polan worked as the director of government relations at the Trust for America's Health. Polan has almost three decades of experience in public health, government relations and associations. Polan earned her bachelor of science degree in psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She later earned a master's of science degree in health psychology from San Diego State University and a doctorate in social ecology from the University of California, Irvine.
Robinson is president of Color Of Change, a racial justice organization with more than 7 million members who demonstrate the power of Black communities every single day. Color Of Change uses innovative strategies to bring about lasting change in systems and sectors that affect Black people’s lives. Under Rashad’s leadership, Color Of Change has developed winning strategies for leading the $7 billion advertiser boycott of Facebook, changing how crime, policing and race are represented on TV, winning net neutrality as a civil rights issue, and holding decision-makers accountable to Black communities — from local prosecutors to multinational corporations. Rashad’s analysis, advocacy and activism are featured frequently in a wide range of major media and community media. He also regularly serves as a keynote speaker at events across the country, won a Webby Award for Best Political Podcast, has been a speaker at roundtables convened by both Oprah Winfrey and President Obama, has received several other awards and has authored several published works related to social change. He testified to Congress about regulating Big Tech corporations, and about ensuring racial equity in banking, housing and education, served as co-chair of the Aspen Commission on Information Disorder and sits on the board of the Marguerite Casey Foundation.
Kristin Rosengren is vice president, strategic communications, at AcademyHealth, where she leads the organization’s public relations, marketing, membership, and advocacy efforts; guides the development of messaging and outreach to support the organization's mission; builds relationships with members, partners and other stakeholders; and increases the awareness and perceived value of health services research.
NIRAV D. SHAH
Nirav Shah, MD, JD serves as the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most recently, Shah served as the director of the Maine CDC. Prior to that, he served as the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, as well as the president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
Lisa Simpson has been the president and chief executive officer of AcademyHealth since 2011. A nationally recognized health policy researcher and pediatrician, she is a passionate advocate for the translation of research into policy and practice. Before joining AcademyHealth, Dr. Simpson spent eight years as a professor of pediatrics, first as an Endowed Chair in Child Health Policy at the University of South Florida and then as the director of the Child Policy Research Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati. She served as the Deputy Director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Dr. Simpson serves on the Board of Directors of the Institute for Accountable Care and the National Health Council and the Editorial Board of HSR, an official publication of AcademyHealth. In October 2013, Dr. Simpson was elected to the National Academy of Medicine and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies. Dr. Simpson earned her undergraduate and medical degrees at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, a master’s of public health at the University of Hawaii and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in health services research and health policy at the University of California, San Francisco.
SHEREE THAXTON VODICKA
Sherée Thaxton Vodicka is the president and chief executive officer of the NC Alliance of YMCAs, a NC nonprofit serving 25 North Carolina YMCA Associations. In this role, Vodicka conducts state-level government and external relations, and manages a staff team that provides consulting services to local YMCAs in support of the Y’s Mission and Cause.
Prior to her work with the NC Alliance of YMCAs, Vodicka served as the director of advocates for Health in Action, a Wake County-based healthy weight collaborative. Prior to that, Vodicka served eight years managing integrated marketing communications for the N.C. Division of Public Health’s Physical Activity and Nutrition Branch around healthy eating, physical activity and healthy weight for all North Carolinians. Vodicka received a Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics with honors from the University of Kentucky, and a Master of Arts degree in mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Park Fellow. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist, and holds a Nonprofit Management Certificate from Duke University. She is a member of the NC Professional Lobbyist Association, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Delegate Joe Vogel is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing District 17. A Montgomery County native, Joe has been a vocal advocate for issues such as gun violence prevention, reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and public education funding for Maryland students. During his first session in the Maryland House of Delegates, Joe led bipartisan legislation to address some of our most significant challenges, including making historic investments in the public school mental health workforce, addressing the fentanyl crisis, and combating hate crimes.
Jennifer Wang is the senior director of national policy for Fountain House, a national mental health nonprofit fighting to improve health, increase opportunity, and end social and economic isolation for people living with serious mental illness. Founded in 1948 in New York City, Fountain House originated the clubhouse model of community mental health that has been replicated more than 300 times in nearly 40 U.S. states and in 30 countries around the world. Jennifer oversees the federal, state, and local policy strategies for the organization, serves on its senior leadership team, and plays an integral role in Fountain House’s national campaigns. She carries the deeply held value that people most affected by policy and structural change carry the most meaningful expertise. She comes to Fountain House with more than a decade of policy and government affairs experience across a range of movements, including reproductive health, consumer protections, racial justice, and immigrant rights. Jennifer holds dual degrees in psychology and gender studies from UCLA, and a JD from the University of Iowa College of Law. She is the proud daughter of immigrants and lives in Washington, D.C.
Bobby Watts is the CEO of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, which supports the 300 federally-funded Health Care for the Homeless programs and 150 Medical Respite programs with training, technical assistance, sharing of best practices, research, publications, and an active policy and advocacy program working to eliminate homelessness. Bobby has 30 years of experience in administration, direct service, and implementation of homeless health services, beginning as a live-in counselor at the NYC Rescue Mission. He spent most of his career prior to joining the Council at an FQHC specializing in serving people experiencing homelessness which also operated shelters, and conducted policy analysis and advocacy in NYC, serving as the Executive Director from 2005-2017. Bobby has served on numerous boards, government-appointed task forces, and workgroups He served on the Biden-Harris Administration’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, and currently serves on the Health Equity Work Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director of the CDC. He is a graduate of Cornell University and the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and holds an MPH in health administration and an MS in epidemiology and a certificate of Theological Studies from Alliance Theological Seminary.