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Connecticut Academy 2020 Fellows

Reverend Robyn Anderson, Director of Ministerial Health Fellowship

Reverend Robyn M. Anderson is an ordained Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. She currently serves as Pastor of the Blackwell AME Zion Church in Hartford, CT. She is the Director for the regional Ministerial Health Fellowship Advocacy Coalition encompassing Middletown, New Britain and Hartford, CT. Robyn served as an Associate Minister at Cross Street AME Zion Church in Middletown, CT for over 15 years. In the ministry at Cross Street AME Zion Church, Robyn had Pastoral Oversight of Administration, Christian Education, Women’s Ministry, Family Life, and Education; and currently serves as President of the Board of Directors for the Cross Street Training and Academic Center. Robyn served as the Former Coordinator for the Hartford District of the New England Conference Balm of Gilead Ministry. She served for four years as the New England Conference Christian Education Director. Robyn currently serves as the Chairperson for the AME Zion Christian Education Department of The Commission on Family Life and serves as Assistant Conference Director of the New England Conference Christian Education Department. Prior to relocating back to Connecticut, Robyn served in the ministry at Covenant Baptist Church in Washington, DC for over sixteen years. Robyn is currently pursuing her Master of Divinity with a concentration in Urban Ministry at the Boston Campus of Gordon Conwell Theological Institute. She holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling, Bachelor’s Degrees in Computer Science and Counseling, and an Associate Degree in Information Systems. She is a graduate of Middlesex Theology and Technical Institute, FaithWorks Leadership Institute, Connecticut Health Foundation’s Academy for Health Equity Advocacy & Leadership (AHEAL), Saint Francis Clinical Pastoral Counseling Program, and Hartford Seminary Women’s Leadership Program. She has a Graduate Certificate in Spirituality from Hartford Seminary.

Robyn Anderson has over thirty-five years of experience in the Human Services field. She most recently served as the Program Director for the Multidimensional Family Therapy, Training, Consultation and Quality Assurance Program for the State of Connecticut at Advanced Behavioral Health, Inc. She has over thirty years of experience working with adults and adolescents who have co-occurring disorders. She has managed and directed Inpatient and Outpatient Substance Abuse Programs for adults and adolescents. Robyn has and continues to provide Clinical Consultation to state programs, community-based substance abuse treatment programs, and the faith-based community in the Hartford and Washington, DC areas. She is a facilitator for the Saint Francis Pastoral Counseling Program and has served as an Adjunct Professor and Lecturer for universities and community colleges. Robyn served as a Cultural Ambassador at the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation, a Church Liaison for the Imani Breakthrough Project, and as a Member of the Universal Health Interfaith Council.

Robyn has authored many articles and publications that have been published in Psychology Journals. As a change agent for the Human Services field, Robyn is a strong advocate for HIV / STD Education & Treatment along with culturally competent, innovative, trauma-sensitive, gender-specific, family-driven quality services for families throughout the Diaspora. Robyn is a National Trainer for Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT), a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC), and Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Robyn Anderson has served and still serves on many civic and community boards. She is an author and has received many community service leadership awards. Robyn loves the Lord and God’s Church! Her favorite scripture is: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV) Robyn is a member of the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation. Robyn has a blended family and is the proud mother of 5 children and 10 grandchildren.

Laurie Collins, Executive Director, CT Association of School-Based Health Centers

Laurie brings to her new role a professional background that includes various senior management positions within Ontario Canada’s health system, including leadership and oversite of programs that supported initiatives to resolve patient complaints and develop health dispute resolution policy. Laurie spent eight years as Clinical Manager and then Clinical Director of the Geneva Center for Autism, providing guidance, analyzing community needs, and designing group services and programs for children, youth, and adults. She last served as Executive Director of the Housatonic Youth Service Bureau in Connecticut, where she provided leadership and strategic oversight for youth development programs, juvenile justice programs, and mental health services. Laurie is passionate about children’s health and has spent her career advocating for the healthcare needs of children and their families.

Jonathan Gonzalez-Cruz, Connecticut Students for a Dream

Jonathan Gonzalez-Cruz is part of Connecticut Students for a Dream, a statewide, undocumented youth-led organization advocating for the rights of immigrants. He is currently working on the HUSKY4Immigrants campaign which seeks to expand Connecticut’s HUSKY Medicaid program to all regardless of immigration status.

Grace Damio, Director of Research and Training at the Hispanic Health Council (HHC)

Grace Damio, MS, CD/N, is Director of Research and Training at the Hispanic Health Council (HHC). Ms. Damio joined HHC in 1986 and has developed and overseen many of HHC’s initiatives designed to reduce health disparities. Ms. Damio has been HHC’s lead in the development and evaluation of community health worker service models for health promotion and chronic disease management. Ms. Damio developed the original cross-cultural training curriculum that is currently being used in various modified formats for HHC’s Cross-Cultural & Diversity Inclusiveness initiative and currently oversees this initiative. Ms. Damio has worked with a number of academic and clinical partners, including her role as deputy director of the (NIH) Center for Eliminating Health Disparities among Latinos (CEHDL) from 2005-2011. Ms. Damio has co-authored many articles published in peer-reviewed journals. She serves on several local, statewide, and national boards and committees related to addressing health inequities through research and policy change. Ms. Damio holds a bachelor’s degree in community nutrition from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in public health nutrition from Columbia University.

Valen Diaz, Project Manager and Research Associate at UCONN Health Disparities Institute (HDI)

Valen Diaz, MPH, MCHES, is a Projects Manager and Research Associate at the UConn Health Disparities Institute (HDI). Before coming on board at HDI, Valenworked at Southern Connecticut State University for over two years, where she was the Project Manager for the CDC Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health. Valen started her public health career at Yale University, where she worked for over five years coordinating a diverse array of research projects that ranged from a relationship-strengthening HIV/STI prevention intervention for adolescent parenting couples in New Haven to a multi-site, longitudinal study examining genomic, psychological, and environmental influences on blood pressure among Black women and their children in Connecticut. She earned her B.A. in Healthcare and Health Disparities from UConn and her MPH from Southern Connecticut State University. Over the course of her eight years of experience doing health disparities work in partnership with Black and Brown communities, Valen has had the privilege to pursue and deepen her public health passions for health equity, racial equity, and social justice.

Marcia DuFore, Executive Director of Amplify

Marcia DuFore, M.Ed, is the Executive Director of Amplify, one of the five Regional Behavioral Health Action Organizations under contract with DMHAS. The five boards are charged by the State of Connecticut to assess behavioral health needs across our region, make recommendations, and develop plans to address gaps and problems. The RBHAOs work across the lifespan (children and adults) and across the continuum of prevention, treatment, and recovery. They serve as a Strategic Community Partner linking state initiatives and priorities to local and regional initiatives. Ms.DuFore is a human services leader and advocates with over 30 years of experience working with individuals with a variety of disabilities. She holds a Masters of Education in Rehabilitation Counseling and lives with her family in Suffield, Connecticut.

Rosana G. Ferraro, Policy and Program Officer at Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut

Rosana G. Ferraro is Policy and Program Officer at Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. She supports the Foundation’s policy, advocacy, communications, and grantmaking priorities to achieve accessible, equitable, affordable, high-quality health care for all. Rosana has worked in the non-profit sector for over ten years, focusing on working with children, youth, and families, predominantly in the New Haven area. She was a fellow in the Annie E. Casey Foundation Elm City Fellowship for Children and Families. Just prior to working at UHCF, she completed an internship at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, DC, as a Fisher Cummings Fellow from Columbia’s School of Social Work. She received her BA from Yale University and graduated from Columbia with a Masters of Social Work, with a focus in Social Policy.

Pareesa Charmchi Goodwin, Executive Director, Connecticut Oral Health Initiative

Pareesais a dynamic and strategic health advocate and leader. She comes to the Connecticut Oral Health Initiative (COHI) from Community Catalyst where she served as the State Advocacy Manager for the Children’s Health Initiative. In that role, Pareesa worked with health advocates in six states, including Connecticut, to improve access to quality health coverage for children. Her experience in the children’s health field also includes work with Boston University’s Catalyst Center on research projects related to financing strategies and improving care for children and youth with special health care needs. Prior to joining Community Catalyst, Pareesa worked for Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh within the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services. Her work in the Mayor’s office increased inter-agency collaboration and streamlined City services to better support people with substance use disorders. Pareesa sees COHI as ready to further its longstanding strategy of combining collaboration with advocacy to ensure that Connecticutpolicymakers support access to affordable, high-quality oral health care, especially for those most harmed by lack of accessibility and affordability. Pareesa holds a Master’s in Public Health from Boston University and a Bachelor’s in Sociology and Music from Chapman University.

Angela Harris

Angela Harris is a member of Phillips Metropolitan CME Church, Hartford, CT and has served as a Steward, Trustee, Project Manager, and Owner Representative during the development and construction of the elderly housing complex Phillips Metropolitan Apartments in honor of Ida B. Wells, and on the Building Committee for the construction of the new church & administrative building, all located in the North Hartford Promise Zone (NHPZ). Angela was Phillips’ certified InPerson Assister for health insurance enrollment during the inaugural period of the Affordable Care Act and established the North Hartford Collaborative of Assisters to promote cultural competencies to meet the needs of Hartford residents, and currently serves as an Ambassador in the Access Health CT Regional Community Partner Program. Angela is Chair of the Phillips Health Ministry and an Executive Committee Member of the Ministerial Health Fellowship, a regional collaboration of churches focused on health equity, advocacy, elimination of disparities, and the mobilization of congregations to address health care needs in CT communities of color. Angela Harris has been appointed to serve as the Neighborhood Revitalization Zone (NRZ) Resident Liaison for Northeast, Upper Albany, and Clay Arsenal Neighborhoods for the NHPZ Health & Wellness Initiative. Angela is a member of the Well Being 360 Community Engagement Team that guided Youth Advocates through the successful passage of the Tobacco 21 Ordinance in the City of Hartford, the first municipality to do so in the State of CT. Angela is a member of the North Hartford Triple Aim Collaborative (NHTAC) Leadership Council comprised of local hospitals, anchor institutions, foundations, and the City of Hartford to promote policy and system changes to improve population health outcomes of Hartford residents. NHTAC is a participant in the State Innovation Model Health Enhancement Community (HEC) Project for Hartford. The CT Office of Health Strategy (OHS) has just named Angela to the Healthcare Cost Growth Benchmark Technical Team, whose members have a strong balance of technical expertise and consumer/stakeholder engagement experience, in response to Governor Ned Lamont’s Executive Order No. 5, which directs OHS to establish statewide healthcare cost growth and quality benchmarks and a primary care spending target. Angela serves on the CT Long Term Recovery Committee representing Region 3 and on the CT COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group, Communications Subgroup.

Sara LeMaster, Manager, Government Relations and Public Policy, Community Health Center Association of Connecticut (CHCACT)

Sara LeMaster is the Manager of Government Relations and Public Policy for CHCACT. She manages the legislative policy agenda and administers the grant program for the organization’s Certified Application Counselors. Prior to joining CHCACT, she worked with a public affairs consulting firm whose largest client was Access Health Connecticut and was a part of the team that planned and executed their community outreach plan for the 2018 Open Enrollment period. She has spent most of her career advocating for the advancement of progressive public policy. From 2014-2018, she worked in the Connecticut General Assembly as clerk of the Banking Committee and legislative aide to then-Rep. Matthew Lesser. Their office crafted the first-in-the-nation Student Loan Bill of Rights, and we also worked on many other important pieces of pro-consumer legislation, including protecting Connecticut’s Foreclosure Mediation Program, imposing regulations to end discriminatory lending practices, and protecting the financial interests of teachers and nonprofit employees by requiring fiduciary responsibility for 403(b) advisors. In 2017, she worked with a powerful local advocate to pass Melissa’s law, which requires insurance to cover fertility preservation for cancer patients.LeMaster holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration and Policy from American University and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Connecticut.

Nanfi N. Lubogo, Co-Executive Director of Path Parent-to-Parent & Family Voices of Connecticut

Nanfi N. Lubogo is Co-Executive Director (2004-present). She is a wife and mother of 3 children. Her daughter Stephanie is diagnosed with multiple special needs. Nanfi got involved first as a volunteer when Stephanie was in Birth to Three and has since gone on to serve on various committees, councils, and boards both in state and nationally. Current appointments include: Board Vice President for National Family Voices, CT UCEDD Consumer Advisory Board; CT Office of Healthcare Innovation SIM Consumer Advisory Board and Practice Transformation Task Force; National Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC) Family Advisory Network; Department of Transportation National EMS Advisory Council (NEMSAC) and State Affiliate Organization Representative to the Family Voices Board of Directors. Nanfi is a Maternal and Child Health/Public Health Leadership Fellow and Partners in Policy Making Graduate. Outside of work, Nanfi is a Girl Scouts Leader and enjoys time with family, reading, and gardening.

Geralynn McGee, Policy Director for Connecticut Health Foundation

Geralynn McGee is the policy director for the Connecticut Health Foundation. She leads strategies for advocacy and policies that will help eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities and improve the health of all Connecticut residents. Before joining the foundation, Geralynn worked at Greater Hartford Legal Aid, where she most recently served as the organization’s policy advocate, representing the interests of low-income state residents to legislators, administrative agencies, and in community and advocacy coalitions. She began her career at Greater Hartford Legal Aid as an oral health policy fellow, developing expertise in oral health issues, health equity, and advocacy through a series of rotations with advocacy, government, and nonprofit organizations. Geralynn is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of Connecticut School of Law. Before attending law school, she spent four years as assistant director at Resources for Human Development in North Carolina, providing clinical oversight to staff and working on the operation of five mental health residential programs. She also worked as a case manager for people involved in the justice system and served as an intake specialist for the Governor’s Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities in North Carolina.

Ann R. Smith, Executive Director, African Caribbean American Parents of Children with Disabilities Inc. (AFCAMP)

Ann R. Smith, JD, MBA is Executive Director of African Caribbean AmericanParents of Children with Disabilities, Inc. (AFCAMP) commonly known asAFCAMP Advocacy for Children, a nonprofit organization that has been headquartered in Hartford, CT for almost 20 years. Providing resources, training, and advocacy, AFCAMP promotes family and youth voice to improve outcomes for children and families involved in systems including education, juvenile justice, child welfare, and children’s behavioral health. Pursuing equity fuelsAFCAMP’s work to reform systemic policies and practices that proliferate disparate academic, justice, economic and health outcomes for people of color. Ann serves in multiple statewide roles, including:

  • Tri-Chair, Connecticut Children’s Behavioral Health Plan ImplementationAdvisory Board
  • Leadership Team Member, Connecticut Family Schools Partnerships
  • Member, Social and Emotional Learning and School Climate Advisory Collaborative
  • Member, Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance Steering Committee
  • Member, Office of Health Strategy, Consumer Advisory Council

Ann is an attorney licensed in Connecticut with a private practice focused on estate planning and elder law.

Katherine Villeda, community organizer for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England & Planned Parenthood Votes! Connecticut

Katherine Villeda is a Community Organizer for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England and Planned Parenthood Votes! Connecticut. She majored in an Individualized Major: Health and Social Inequalities with a focus in Latinx and Latin America, and Human Rights from the University of Connecticut (’18). As the daughter of formerly undocumented parents, Katy became involved with CT Students for a Dream (C4D), a statewide youth-led organization that fights for the rights of undocumented youth and their families, and currently continues her involvement as a Board member. As a Young People For (YP4) Fellow (’17), she focused her Blueprint project on how to improve healthcare access for undocumented immigrants in Connecticut. Presently, Katy continues her organizing and policy work working within her intersecting passions for public health, health equity, and immigrant rights, fighting for policies in Connecticut to reduce the uninsured rate by expanding the state Medicaid program to cover everyone regardless of status. In her downtime, Katy enjoys traveling, being with her nieces, and training her birds. Katy can be reached at katherine.villeda@ppsne.org.

Alison M. Weir, Policy Advocate, and Staff Attorney, Greater Hartford Legal Aid Presenters

Alison Weir is the Benefits Policy Advocate and a staff attorney at Greater Hartford Legal Aid (GHLA). Prior to joining GHLA, she was at the National Diaper Bank Network for seven years where she developed and implemented the advocacy agenda for a network of 300+ diaper banks across 47 states. Alison has also worked as an attorney at the Wiggin and Dana law firm in New Haven; she was a clerk to the Hon. José A. Cabranes of theU.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; and she was a Supreme Court Fellow with duty at the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Prior to her legal career, Alison was an active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. She earned B.A. and B.S. degrees at Cornell University, a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, a J.D. from Georgetown University, and an LLM (Insurance) from the University of Connecticut School of Law.