Health Disparities Symposium Presenters
NYU Langone’s 2021 Health Disparities Symposium featured George A. Mensah, MD, FACC, FAHA, as the keynote speaker and other esteemed presenters.
Dr. George A. Mensah is a clinician–scientist who currently serves as the director of the Center for Translation Research and Implementation Science at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Mensah leads an NHLBI-wide effort to advance late-stage translational research and implementation science to address gaps in the detection, prevention, treatment, and control of heart, lung, and blood diseases and sleep disorders, and the elimination of related health disparities. His goal is to maximize the health impact of advances made in fundamental discoveries, clinical and translational research, and population science research. Dr. Mensah is an honors graduate of Harvard University. He obtained his medical degree from Washington University and trained in internal medicine and cardiology at Cornell University. His professional experience includes more than 25 years of public health service at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the NIH.
Ghadeer (Gigi) Ady is a licensed master social worker and public health educator skilled in leadership development, capacity building, and program management. Currently, Gigi works at the Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC) in Brooklyn, New York, where she serves as the director of community health and well-being. In this role, she oversees the organization's mental health, public health, emergency fund, and youth and young adult programs, which address the intersections between gender, race, religion, and socioeconomic class. During her tenure at AAFSC, Gigi and her colleagues launched the Reclaiming Our Health Initiative, which focuses on reducing stigma of mental health and increasing access to care in the Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian communities. Prior to joining AAFSC, Gigi was a Global Health Corps Fellow, a fellowship program for emerging leaders advocating for social justice and health equity. Gigi holds an MSW and MPH from the University of Southern California.
Anthony Buissereth is a veteran of New York City’s nonprofit sector with more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, program development, advocacy, and government and community relations. Since 2018, Anthony has been the executive director of North Brooklyn Neighbors, an environmental and community planning organization based in Williamsburg. He is the organization’s first executive director. Previously, he worked at other organizations including Youth Communication, Good Shepherd Services, and Cool Culture. A native New Yorker, Anthony is currently serving a two-year term as first vice chair of Brooklyn’s Community Board 3, is an at-large member of the Brooklyn NAACP’s executive committee, and the board treasurer for MUSA, a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening swimming abilities in communities of color. Anthony holds a master’s degree from Long Island University Brooklyn.
Kizzy Charles-Guzman is a deputy director at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability, where she leads the social and environmental policy team. For more than a decade, she has engaged in citywide sustainability and resiliency planning efforts to ensure that social, public health, and environmental justice priorities are integrated into climate action agendas and environmental policies. She led the development of Cool Neighborhoods NYC, the city’s first comprehensive strategy to address the impacts of rising temperatures and heatwaves, and other equity-focused initiatives that ensure that city residents are ready to withstand and emerge stronger from the impacts of climate change. Kizzy also served as deputy director for social resiliency at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Resiliency and as director of the Climate Change and Public Health Program at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, developing and implementing effective initiatives that support and promote the city’s environmental health. She received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Quality Award and a Champion of Change Award from the White House in recognition of her work. She is a graduate of Carleton College and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Dr. Yu-Kang Chen is the clinical psychologist and training director of the APA- accredited Psychology Internship Program at Hamilton-Madison House. He has many years of experience working with underserved communities of diverse racial and cultural backgrounds. His clinical and training interests include stigma and its impact on mental health, minority stress, and multicultural competence.
Dr. Walter D. Conwell joined Morehouse School of Medicine from the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine, where he has served as the associate dean for equity, inclusion, and diversity since 2018. A graduate of the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, Dr. Conwell also holds an MBA from the University of Colorado Business School. He is board certified in internal medicine, pulmonary disease, critical care medicine, and sleep medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Conwell has published peer-reviewed articles on various topics related to medical education, health economics, and health equity.
Dr. Graham Dove is a human-computer interaction researcher, with experience in participatory design and citizen science. Based in NYU Tandon School of Engineering’s Department of Technology Management and Innovation and Center for Urban Science and Progress, Dr. Dove investigates ways that people who are not experts in data science can use quantitative data to inform decision making, advocacy, and creativity in design. His current projects include SONYC (Sounds of New York City), which investigates approaches to monitoring and mitigating noise pollution. He has previously worked in Denmark and the United Kingdom.
Dr. Damara Gutnick, MD, is senior director of Montefiore’s Office of Community and Population Health and an associate professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Departments of Epidemiology and Population Health, Family and Social Medicine, and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Gutnick is responsible for creating the vision and guiding system and practice transformation supporting the transition to value-based payment, and leading diverse community engagement efforts to address health disparities and social determinants of health needs. In her current role, she has adapted an evidence-based community engagement model that she helped design called Bridging Research, Accurate Information and Dialogue to improve COVID-19 vaccine confidence. She also manages a diverse portfolio of innovation projects with medical and social care partners to improve the quality of care delivery, expand access to care, and reduce costs and health disparities, among other priorities. An internist by training, Dr. Gutnick is passionate about providing culturally competent, high-quality, patient-centered care. She is also a certified Prosci Change Management Practitioner and a member of Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers.
Dale Jamieson is professor of environmental studies and philosophy; affiliated professor of law; affiliated professor of medical ethics; associated faculty, Center for Bioethics, College of Global Public Health; and director of the Center for Environmental and Animal Protection at NYU. He has published more than 100 articles and book chapters and is on the editorial boards of several journals. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Office of Global Programs in the National Atmospheric and Aeronautics Administration, and private foundations. He is the author of Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle to Stop Climate Change Failed—and What It Means for Our Future; Ethics and the Environment: An Introduction; Morality's Progress: Essays on Humans, Other Animals, and the Rest of Nature; and most recently, Discerning Experts: The Practices of Scientific Assessment for Environmental Policy, co-authored with Michael Oppenheimer, Naomi Oreskes, and others. He is also the co-author of Love in the Anthropocene, a collection of short stories and essays written with the novelist Bonnie Nadzam, and the editor or co-editor of nine books, most recently, Environment and Society: A Reader. He is currently co-convening a working group on climate and health as part of the Provost’s Climate Change Initiative with Dr. Arthur L. Caplan and Dr. Kyle Ferguson from NYU Langone.
Dr. Bonnie D. Kerker, PhD, MPH, is an associate professor in the Departments of Population Health and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone. She is also the director of Together Growing Strong, a community-based initiative aimed at supporting families with young children in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. With training in health policy and epidemiology, Dr. Kerker focuses her research on interventions and policies that prevent and mitigate the impact of adverse experiences among young children and families. Her work emphasizes the process of adapting evidence-based programs for implementation in different populations and settings. Dr. Kerker’s current projects include the adaptation of a postpartum depression prevention intervention for different populations and settings, and the development, implementation, and evaluation of community-wide programs to enhance early childhood development and school readiness at kindergarten entry in an immigrant community in New York City.
Dr. Crystal Fuller Lewis, PhD, is an associate professor and Laurie M. Tisch Scholar for Racial Equity in Mental Health at NYU Langone’s Department of Psychiatry. She also serves as department head of social solutions and services research at the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, supported by the New York State Office of Mental Health. Dr. Lewis earned a PhD in epidemiology from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, and from there, joined Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health where she launched a 15-year NIH-funded research program focused on the social environment and access to prevention and treatment services for people with substance use disorder in community settings. Since 2015, Dr. Lewis has continued this work at NYU Langone. Most recently, she has developed and is currently pilot testing educational curriculum and training in cultural and structural humility designed to contend with racial bias and stigma.
Dr. Audrey Lyndon, PhD, FAAN, RNC, is the Vernice D. Ferguson Professor in Health Equity and assistant dean for clinical research at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. Her research focuses on safety, communication, and teamwork in maternity and neonatal settings and population-based studies of maternal morbidity. Dr. Lyndon is a national leader in perinatal patient safety and is deeply committed to mentoring and sponsoring underrepresented clinicians and scholars across career stages. She is a key leader in the collaborative research and innovation partnership between NYU Meyers and the Howard University College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences.
Devin Madden is a program manager for the Office of Gender Equity and the Institute for Health Equity Research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Devin has worked in public health for more than a decade on community-centered initiatives ranging from improving active design in schools and facilitating healthier local food retail environments to building safe, supportive school spaces for LGBTQ youth and fostering access to youth-friendly clinic providers. In Devin’s current role, she works collaboratively on community- and workforce-facing programs designed to improve health and gender equity.
Chief Vincent Mann is the Turtle Clan Chief of the Ramapough Lenape Nation, which encompasses Passaic County, New Jersey; Warwick, New York; and other surrounding areas in New York. He has held this title for approximately 12 years and in this time has been awarded the Russell Berrie Foundation’s highest award in recognition of his efforts, together with his community, to fight back after the Ford toxic dumping. Working with NYU Langone’s P30 Center for the Investigation of Environmental Hazards’ Community Engagement Core for the past seven-plus years, he helped create a community health survey and has been at the forefront of protecting drinking water used by 4 million people. He has also worked in the area surrounding the Ringwood Mines Superfund site, formerly as a member of the Citizen Advisory Group, and is a trustee of the Highlands Coalition. He has been a guest speaker at Ramapo College in the Environmental Master’s Program on pipelines and environmental justice and the University of Dayton in Ohio on the effects of toxic dumping on his people. Chief Mann is currently working on co-creating the United Lunaapeewak with long-term goals of cultural restoration, as well as providing an educational aspect for the greater citizens of New Jersey and Southern New York. He is also working with the Clement A. Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience at Rutgers-Newark and with Rutgers-New Brunswick on a book titled Our Land Our Stories.
Dr. Terri McFadden is a general pediatrician and professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. She sees patients and teaches medical students, pediatric residents, and allied health students. She is also the director of clinical initiatives with the department’s PARTNERS for Equity in Child and Adolescent Health program. She is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, where she serves on the Executive Committee of the Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention. Dr McFadden is the immediate past president of the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She serves as the medical director of both the Injury Free Coalition for Kids–Atlanta and Reach Out and Read Georgia. Her academic and professional interests include comprehensive care for the underserved, health equity, breastfeeding promotion, childhood injury prevention, early brain and literacy promotion, and medical education. She is chair of the Georgia Board of Healthcare Workforce and serves on the national Reach Out and Read Board, as well as the Project Healthy Grandparents Advisory Board. She has a medical degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Born in China, Steve Mei immigrated to New York with his parents in search of better economic opportunities. He was accepted into Brooklyn Tech High School and received his undergraduate degree from the State University at Buffalo. Steve is currently enrolled in the Master’s Education Program in CUNY Brooklyn College. He has been working with The Chinese-American Planning Council, Inc. (CPC) for the past 17 years. For 14 years, Steve worked in youth development in different capacities. In his role as deputy director of CPC’s Youth Services Division, Steve led, advocated, and fought for services for young adults. He currently serves as the director of CPC’s Brooklyn Community Services and continues to advocate for lower income and immigrant communities in Sunset Park and throughout Brooklyn. Through partnerships with community leaders, engaging local elected officials, and rallying constituents, Steve looks forward to achieving the goal of empowering all community members.
Dr. Gbenga G. Ogedegbe, MD, MPH, is the inaugural director of the Institute for Excellence in Health Equity at NYU Langone. He is the Dr. Adolph and Margaret Berger Professor of Medicine and Population Health and serves as director of the Division of Health and Behavior in the Department of Population Health. He is a leading NIH-funded scientist in health disparities research and has led numerous NIH-funded studies for cardiovascular disease risk reduction with a focus on developing and evaluating clinic–community linkage models of care to address racial disparities in health outcomes. Dr. Ogedegbe is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. He is a Fellow of scientific organizations including the American Heart Association, American College of Physicians, and Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research. After obtaining his MD degree in Ukraine, Dr. Ogedegbe completed his residency in internal medicine at Montefiore Medical Center, followed by fellowship training in health services research and clinical epidemiology at Cornell University, during which he received his MPH from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Prior to his current position, he was a faculty member at both Cornell Weill Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Crystal Soo-Jung Oh is a project coordinator for the Korean Community Services' Public Health and Research Center. In her role, she advocates for and educates community members about their overall health and wellbeing. As part of the “Get Tested Queens” RADx-UP Coordination and Data Collection Center project, she conducts culturally tailored COVID-19 outreach and PCR testing services for underserved community members that include Korean immigrants, the wider Asian community, and other communities residing in New York City. She collaborates with faith-based and other community organizations and also provides education relating to vaccine access and hesitancy. Through the Vaccine Access Fund, she also helps coordinate Uber rides, enabling community members to travel to and from Queens vaccine sites free of charge. As an advocate of human rights and social justice, Crystal strives to preserve the dignity of her own people and culture as a second-generation Korean American.
Crimson Porco is an outreach coordinator with more than 10 years of experience servicing their community. Driven by the plight of displaced, disparaged, and forgotten LGTBQIA++ youth, Crimson takes pride in providing outreach, clothing, hygiene items, and a great emphasis on triaging to other care providers within Hetrick-Martin Institute’s network. As the homeless youth outreach case manager at the institute, the oldest and largest not-for-profit, multiservice agency dedicated to serving LGTBQIA++ youth ages 13 to 24, Crimson’s goal is to provide the highest quality of care within each young person utilizing the institute’s services.
Dr. Joseph E. Ravenell, MD, MS, is an associate professor in NYU Langone’s Departments of Population Health and Medicine. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, completed his internal medicine residency training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and finished a clinical epidemiology and health services research fellowship at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Ravenell has been a principal investigator of multiple NIH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant–funded clinical trials to test community-based strategies to improve colon cancer screening and cardiovascular disease prevention among Black men in urban settings. This work has led to a research network of more than 200 community-based sites including churches, barbershops, mosques, and social service agencies. Dr. Ravenell’s community-based research was the subject of an invited TED talk he delivered in Vancouver, BC, in February 2016, which has received over 1 million views. Dr. Ravenell is also an established mentor for students, trainees, and junior faculty seeking careers in academic medicine and health disparities research. He continually cultivates a holistic approach to promoting health equity through research, scholarship, and mentorship.
Mona Sarfaty, MD, MPH FAAFP, is the director of the Program on Climate and Health in the Center for Climate Change Communication. The program collaborates with medical societies and research organizations to increase awareness, research, and preventive activity regarding the health effects of climate change. As a family medicine professor and physician for more than 30 years, Dr. Sarfaty has engaged in research and teaching focused on primary care, cancer screening, and public policy, including the health effects of climate change. She has lectured at national and regional venues including medical societies, health plans, health departments, professional organizations, and government conferences.
Paul Schwabacher has held the position of senior vice president for facilities management at NYU Langone since 2006. Mr. Schwabacher is responsible for construction management, facilities operations, security, environmental health, and safety and clinical engineering. He has an extensive background in facilities management and the design and construction of capital projects, including large-scale building programs. He is responsible for creating and overseeing the sustainability and energy management program at NYU Langone, which has achieved a 37 percent reduction in carbon emissions and has earned more than 50 energy and environmental excellence awards for our sustainability achievements. Prior to joining NYU Langone, he held numerous positions at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, including vice president of design and construction and vice president of facilities operations. He earned his MBA from Columbia University and received his professional engineer license in New York State.
Becca Telzak is the deputy director of Make the Road New York (MRNY). Since 2009, Becca has been building MRNY’s health department into a 30-plus person operation that serves more than 8,000 community members a year and operates in all MRNY’s offices. Under Becca’s leadership, MRNY’s health programs have expanded to include health insurance enrollment; health navigation services; food stamp enrollment; community health worker training and home visiting services; two food pantries; transgender, gender nonconforming, intersex, and queer health services; COVID-19 outreach and education, as well as organizing campaigns to expand access to health insurance and improve care for immigrant communities. Becca led MRNY’s advocacy efforts that resulted in the creation of the NYC Care Program. Prior to working at MRNY, she received a Fulbright scholarship to Argentina. Becca holds an MPA from Baruch College. In 2020, she received the Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize.
Cassandra Thiel is an assistant professor at NYU Langone’s Departments of Population Health and Ophthalmology, with joint appointments at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Her research utilizes life-cycle assessment (LCA) and principles of industrial ecology to analyze and improve the environmental performance of medical systems, hospital design, healthcare practice, and medical technologies. As a 2014–15 Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Fellow, Dr. Thiel calculated the environmental footprint of cataract surgery at Aravind Eye Care System in southern India, finding that Aravind’s carbon footprint for phacoemulsification was 5 percent of the same surgery done in the United Kingdom. Dr. Thiel has since worked with ophthalmologists at NYU Langone and through the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness to establish tools for baseline LCAs of global cataract surgeries and to measure the cost and environmental footprint of unused pharmaceuticals wasted during phacoemulsification in the United States. She received her PhD from the University of Pittsburgh. Her graduate training was supported by the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and a National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship, where she also worked on green building design and construction.
Ran (Grace) Tian is a core member of the Together Growing Strong initiative, dedicated to supporting families with young children in Brooklyn. She completed her master’s degree in counseling psychology at Columbia University. Grace engages Chinese immigrant families through community activities and social media to advance the equity of early education and behavioral health. She also facilitated operations of the Early Learning Network, developing a learning community for early childhood educators and informal childcare providers. Her training and work experience sparked her interest in exploring the psychosocial factors associated with resilience among immigrant families. She is committed to developing culturally appropriate prevention and intervention programs that support optimal wellbeing. Grace also volunteers at clinics to support families through mindfulness-based psychotherapy and trauma-sensitive wellness programs.
Dr. Natasha J. Williams, EdD, MPH, MSW, is an assistant professor in NYU Langone’s Department of Population Health and a member of the Institute for Excellence in Health Equity. Since joining the faculty, her work has focused on social and structural determinants of health and community-engaged approaches to achieve health equity. She received a K23/Career Award funded by the NIH to study sleep disparities and social determinants of poor adherence to treatment for obstructive sleep apnea among Non-Hispanic Black and Non-Hispanic White adults. Dr. Williams has led and contributed to more than 70 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters on sleep disturbance and chronic conditions. She serves as chair of the Science and Research Committee for the Society for Behavioral Sleep Medicine and topic chair for the Society of Behavioral Medicine, Sleep Special Interest Group. She is a multiple principal investigator on two NIH-funded, COVID-related projects as part of the NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics-Underserved Populations (RADx-UP); site principal investigator on the COVID-19 Citizen Science Study funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute; and co-investigator for community engagement on the NIH’s RECOVER: Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery initiative at NYU Langone.
Dr. Judith T. Zelikoff, PhD, a professor in NYU Langone’s Department of Environmental Medicine, has 30 years of experience in environmental health and toxicology and serves as co-director of NYU Langone’s Community Engagement Core along with Simona C. Kwon, DrPh, MPH. For more than 15 years, Dr. Zelikoff has engaged with environmentally impacted groups, including tribal nations and marginalized communities throughout the New York metropolitan area, to raise education, awareness, and understanding; build community capacity; and disseminate environmental health knowledge. Her sustained relationship with North Brooklyn Neighbors representing Williamsburg and the Ramapough Lenape Nation, who have been the target of industrial dumping for two decades, are prime examples of partnerships for empowerment. Through these partnerships, policy changes have been made and local governing bodies have taken action.