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Office of Health Equity

Advisory Committee Member Bios

The OHE-AC consists of a broad range of experts, advocates, health clinicians, public health professionals, and consumers who understand the importance of the health and mental health disparities and inequities of historically vulnerable, marginalized, underserved, and underrepresented communities.

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​Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, MD, PhD, is Professor of Clinical Internal Medicine, the Founding Director of the University of California (UC), Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities, Director of the Community Engagement Program of the UC Davis Clinical Translational Science Center, and Co-Director of the National Institute of Aging-funded Latino Aging Research and Resource Center. He has nearly 30 years of experience working in the mental health field as a researcher, clinician, professor, and advocate. He has created a substantive applied research program that focuses on cross-cultural comparative epidemiologic research on patterns and correlates of mental disorders, substance abuse, and health conditions; identification of unmet health and mental needs and associated risk and protective factors in underserved populations; community­ engaged approaches to reducing health disparities in underserved populations; and quality of care improvement through culturally and linguistically appropriate services. His recent work is focused on translating and bridging research with services delivery and policy development. He has been appointed to numerous policy and research advisory boards including a four-year appointment to the National Advisory Mental Health Council of the National Institute of Mental Health and the World Health Organization. In 2005, he was awarded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health's National Minority Health Community Leader Award.

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​Rye Baerg is the Regional Planner for Southern California Association of Governments. His expertise is in land use, transportation and active transportation, public health, data collection, modeling, the social determinants of health, cultural identification, behavior change and Health in All Policies.

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​Dalila Butler, MPH, Senior Associate at PolicyLink, works with the PolicyLink Center for Health Equity and Place to promote social, economic, and health equity through environmental and policy change, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color. As a co-lead of the statewide Alliance for Boys and Men of Color Health Policy Workgroup, she works with members of the network to advance policy to promote health, education, employment, and juvenile justice for California’s boys and men of color. Dalila also serves as a member of the Adverse Childhood Experiences Policy Workgroup and the YouthALIVE! START 2 Heal Advisory Group, focusing on health and healing for the communities that are most impacted by trauma.

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​Rocco Cheng, PhD. is Corporate Director of Prevention and Early Intervention Services at Pacific Clinics. A licensed clinical psychologist since 1996, Dr. Cheng has directed programs on mentoring, parenting, and gang awareness, as well as several prevention projects aimed at reducing substance abuse, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), youth violence, and gang affiliation. He has directed the Asian-Pacific Islander (API) Strategic Planning Workgroup (SPW) of the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP) since 2010. Additionally, Dr. Cheng and his culturally-responsive team, provide training and technical assistance for two statewide Stigma and Discrimination Reduction (SDR) Projects, collaborating with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), California and Mental Health America of California. Dr. Cheng advocates for underserved cultural communities. He is a steering committee member with the California Mental Health Services Act's (CalMHSA's) SDR Consortium as well as the Mental Health and Spirituality Initiative. Dr. Cheng also serves on the Mental Health Oversight and Accountability Committee's (MHSOAC's) Service Committee. He represents the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHP) immigrants/refugees populations in Los Angeles, the southern California region, and statewide (urban/rural).

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​Alison Chopel is the Director of the California Adolescent Health Collaborative, a program of the Public Health Institute, where she exercises her practical knowledge and experience in Community Based Participatory Research, social epidemiology theories, adolescent health, youth leadership development, and adolescent relationship abuse prevention. She also has lived family experience with the systems of incarceration and mental health as well as rural and low-income conditions.

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​ Sarah de Guia is the Executive Director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN), a multicultural advocacy organization dedicated to improving the health of communities of color in California. Sarah has over a decade of experience advocating for access to culturally and linguistically appropriate health care, advancing women’s reproductive justice, and promoting immigrants’ rights. Sarah currently serves as an advisory board member of the California Health Interview Survey and the Department of Health Care Services’ Stakeholder Committee. Previously Sarah worked with Latino Issues Forum and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Sarah earned her Juris Doctor from Santa Clara University School of Law and her Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Berkeley in Ethnic Studies and Public Policy.

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​Donnell Ewert holds the position of Director of Shasta County Health and Human Services, where he and his colleagues are demonstrating leadership to build health equity in a rural county that is disadvantaged economically. His areas of expertise include epidemiology, program evaluation, survey research, public health, mental health, and social services.

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​Lisa Folberg is the President and CEO of the California Medical Association Foundation. She has expertise in health policy, including health system reform and financing, designing and implementing public health programs, physician practice and ethnic physician organizations, coalition building, health care workforce development, and non-profit administration.

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​Aaron Fox, MPM, is Health Policy Manager at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. Fox focuses his work with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) and underserved communities; advocates for effective policies that continue to support access to quality culturally competent health care; and provides education to the community on changing health policies and funding streams. He continues to underscore that LGBTQ and Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) communities who need continued support and increased access to care that reduces disparities and enhances community wellness. Fox serves as the Co-Chair for the California HIV Alliance, is a Steering Committee member for the California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network, and is a Commissioner on the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV. Additionally, he has served on the Policy Committee for the National Coalition for LGBTQ Health.

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​Sandi Gàlvez, MSW, is Executive Director of the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative (BARHII), a collaborative undertaking of eleven local health departments in the San Francisco Bay Area to transform public health practice for the purposes of eliminating health inequities. Galvez has worked in the field of public health for over 20 years, combining expertise in health education, community organizing, organizational development, and policy. She also has substantial experience in cross-sectoral partnerships to advance optimal health and well-being for all communities. She has served as a Planning Commissioner in the City of Oakland, a Policy Advisory Committee member to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and a Regional Equity Working Group member in the development of the Bay Area’s first Sustainable Communities Strategy. She holds a Master's degree in Social Welfare with an emphasis in Management and Planning from the University of California at Berkeley.

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​Alvaro Garza, MD, MPH, is Health Officer at San Joaquin County Public Health Services, overseeing public health practice and services in the largely agricultural, rural, majority Latino population. In professional life, initially a pediatrician, he has local, state, national, and international public health practice and research experience. He is active with the California Conference of Local Health Officers, the American Public Health Association (APHA), its Latino Caucus, and other Latino health ­professional organizations. Garza is bilingual, bicultural, and binational, and has worked with Mexican migrant and immigrant populations throughout the state and along the border and internationally with Mexican counterparts on public health issues of importance to both the sending and receiving communities. He chairs the Advisory Group to the California Office of Binational Border Health and served several years on the Equal Health Opportunity Committee of the APHA. He brings perspectives from the public health and Latino communities and is an occasional bilingual poet.

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​Guillermo Gonzalez is the Director of Consortia Services for the Health Center Partners of Southern California in the County of Riverside.  His areas of expertise are in Medicaid/ Medi-Cal policy, working with vulnerable, uninsured and underinsured populations including migrant farm workers, increasing access to health care, and legislative process and programs at the state and federal levels of government

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​Carrie Johnson, PhD., (Dakota Sioux) is a licensed clinical psychologist and the Director of the Seven Generations Child and Family Counseling Center at United American Indian Involvement in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Johnson has been involved in local county-wide and state-wide advisory boards to increase the access and cultural competence of services provided to American Indians. Dr. Johnson has also been involved in various state and federal grants and other initiatives as an advocate and educator about tribal issues in county, state, and national policy for urban Indian communities. She is an experienced trainer and consultant on the impact of intergenerational trauma on Indian children, families, and communities; and provides consultation, training, and workshops. Dr. Johnson received her Ph.D. in clinical Psychology, with an emphasis in Multicultural and Community Psychology, from the California School of Professional Psychology, Los Angeles.

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Jo Ann Julien leads the Office of Health Equity within Public Health Services, Health and Human Services Agency for the County of San Diego. She is also on the Center of Excellence for Health Promotion and Health Equity led by the University of California, San Diego.

 Jo-Ann's public health career spans 20 years, starting at the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada, the Canadian  equivalent of the Centers for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health. Jo-Ann has worked in the area of cultural diversity and human rights at the federal level helping to create inclusive institutions.

Jo-Ann speaks French, and holds a B.A. in Communications and a Master's in Education, specializing in Counseling. She is trained in mental health first aid, risk communication, facilitation, deliberative dialogue, regulatory affairs, and public policy and is certified with the International Association of Public Participation. She will make an excellent addition to the Office of Health Equity Advisory Committee.

Manel Kappagoda

Manel Kappagoda, JD, MPH, is a senior staff attorney and program director at ChangeLab Solutions, a national non-profit that helps communities craft law and policy solutions that address America’s most common and preventable diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and asthma.  Before joining ChangeLab Solutions, she worked for many years at the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley as an attorney in the HIV/AIDS law practice. Her areas of expertise include using law and policy tools to improve health access and outcomes in under-resourced communities; obesity prevention and nutrition policy; and public health law.

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​Nahla Kayali is the Executive Director and Founder of Access California Services and the Chairperson of the Refugee Forum of Orange County.  Ms. Kayali is described as a foot soldier for her community in making sure individuals and families receive access to quality health and human services.  Ms. Kayali believes in a world in which each individual leads a dignified and enriched life.

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​Sylvia Kim is the Orange County Regional Director at Asian Americans Advancing justice, currently the nation's largest legal services and civil rights organization serving the needs of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Her areas of expertise are in advocating for cultural competency in a health and mental health context, civil rights/human rights, social justice and international law.

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​Jan King, MD, MPH, is Area Health Officer for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health where she oversees communicable disease investigations, public health clinical services, emergency preparedness, and community engagement activities in West and South Los Angeles. Dr. King is advancing health equity through cross-sector planning, policy development and community engagement that target housing, education, youth employment and community resilience in underserved areas of Los Angeles County. She has served on numerous boards and advisory committees including the Charles Drew University School of Public Health Advisory, Los Angeles County Women’s Health Policy Council, and the National Quality Center.

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​Patricia Lee has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Rhode Island and is currently the Research Scientist for the Office of Medical Director (OMD) in the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS). Dr. Lee determines potential key areas of research in health disparities and inequities, to be undertaken by OMD, and disseminate findings of scientific research in written reports. Prior to joining the OMD, Dr. Lee worked for the Office of Women’s Health (OWH) in DHCS. Before working for the state, she was an assistant professor in the department of Health Behavior at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB) School of Public Health, and she was an associate scientist position in the UAB Minority Health Research Center. 

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​Uriel Lopez is the immigration advocate at Centro La Familia Advocacy Services in Fresno, CA, in which he assists low-income immigrants with various immigration services. He has worked extensively with several communities in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as in the California San Joaquin Valley. Most recently, he participated in an internship program in Washington, D.C. with the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Workforce Committee.

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​Dexter Louie, MD, JD, MPA, is a founding member and Chair of the Board of the National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians. This organization advocates as the voice of Asian-Pacific Islanders (API) physicians for improved and optimal health for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander (AANHPI) and all communities and populations, with particular attention to the underserved and vulnerable. He is past Chair of the California Medical Association Foundation, serves on the Steering Committee of the Foundation's Network of Ethnic Physicians Organizations, and is past Chair of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum. These organizations focus on issues of health and healthcare disparities, healthcare access, cultural competence and language access, and meaningful and effective patient engagement. Dr. Louie has worked both with policy-makers and legislators in government, and with patients, communities, and physician colleagues, at the grassroots level. He continues to practice in Chinatown, San Francisco, now for 35 years.

​Denise Middlebrook is currently the Wellness Coordinator for the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians Tribal Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) program, where she provides culturally and evidence-based wellness programming to tribal TANF recipients in Tuolumne, Stanislaus, and Calaveras Counties. Dr. Middlebrook uses her 30 years of behavioral health prevention/intervention experience to also promote and develop new programs to help American Indian and Alaska Native TANF recipients to be mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually ready to transition from dependence on TANF to seeking education and permanent employment. As a Tribal epidemiologist with expertise in American Indian/Alaska Native behavioral health, she has a special emphasis on youth suicide, domestic violence, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and community wellness.

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​Yvette McShan is the Chief Operating Officer of Victorious Black Women, an organization she co-founded with a simple but powerful idea back in 2009 that the path towards healing lies in the ability of black women sharing their stories with one another. Her expertise lies in promoting life skills, mentoring, and substance abuse counseling, and she in strong advocate for individuals and communities facing incarceration and re-entry, addiction, and mental illness.

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​Lloyd Nadal is directing the Safe Routes to School Program for the Solano Transportation Authority. He was previously the Program Manager for CA4Health, a program of the Public Health Institute. His expertise is in youth engagement (on a local, state and national level), organizing and advocacy, developing community- and youth-led public health programs/projects particularly in the areas of nutrition and physical activity policy, systems and environmental change. He has knowledge of school, after school and community based settings, where he has developed culturally appropriate and relevant curricula and social media/technology strategies and campaigns

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​Hermia Parks, MA, RN, PHN, is Director of Public Health Nursing/Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health for the County of Riverside. Parks has enhanced the quality of care to the community by developing population and evidence-based services to the community. As a member of the Council of Multicultural Health, Parks was part of the workgroup that updated the California Medical Association Foundation's Child and Adolescent Obesity Provider toolkit. As 2011/12 President of Directors of Public Health Nursing (DPHN), she initiated a partnership that contributed to updating the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health Care. She also engaged DPHN in strategic planning that resulted in a Health Equity/Social Determinants of Health workgroup and co-authored a white paper titled The Role of Public Health Nurses in Achieving Heath Equity. Parks also serves on the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials Health Equity committee.

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​Katie Valenzuela Garcia, an organizer and advocate, is the Health Advocacy Program Manager at Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails, where she oversees the asthma education program and the organization’s local policy work. She has done extensive volunteer work with the Kern County Network for Children and was a member of the Central Valley Tribal Environmental Justice Transportation Collaborative. Katie is also currently a member of the board for the Oak Park Neighborhood Association and the South Oak Park Community Association.

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​Michael Witte has been a physician since 1970 and currently serves as the Chief Medical Officer for the California Primary Care Association, where he works with a dynamic group of health policy experts who support the most vulnerable populations in California. Family medicine and Federally Qualified Health Centers are his primary areas of expertise.

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​Linda Wheaton is the Assistant Director for Intergovernmental Affairs for the California Department of Housing & Community Development (HCD). Linda works at the interface of housing policy, planning, and financial assistance related to transportation, air quality, and the influence of the built environment on public health. She is a member of the Health in All Policies Task Force of the Strategic Growth Council, chairing the Housing Siting and Air Quality Workgroup. Linda has managed or led housing issues representation on collaborative projects involving statewide affordable housing and other advocacy groups, e.g., the 2012 State Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing, TOD Housing Program Guidelines, the 2010 Regional Transportation Plan Guidelines update, SB 375 implementation, and the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) process. She has a Master's Degree in Urban and Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley, and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and the Ass’n. of Environmental Professionals.

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