Speakers

Speakers


Laura Ackerman, MS
Program Manager
Texas A&M University Health Science Center

Laura Ackerman serves as a Program Manager for the Texas Vaccine Outreach and Education Grant at Texas A&M Health. Prior to joining Texas A&M Health, Laura worked with the College of Medicine at Texas A&M University serving to guide medical students through their Internal Medicine and Radiology third year clerkships and fourth year electives. While working for the College of Medicine at Texas A&M University, Laura worked to connect local physicians to teaching opportunities to further expand the array of electives available to undergraduate medical students.

Kevin Allen
Immunization Information Systems Unit Director
Immunization Section, Texas Department of State Health Services

Kevin Allen has over 31 years of service with the state of Texas, the last 22 years being spent with the Texas Immunization Registry. Kevin has held various positions within the registry, including Website Coordinator, Data Exchange Specialist, Records Management Team Lead, Business Analyst, and he currently serves as the IIS Unit Director within the Immunization Program.

Antonio Aragon, MS
Immunization Unit Director
Texas Department of State Health Services

Tony has over 10 years work experience with DSHS in which all of those years working have been either for the Immunization or Emerging & Acute Infectious disease programs. He holds a Master’s degree in Health Services Research and recently served as the Vaccine-Preventable Disease Group manager. Tony brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise of the core functions of immunization program activities.

Sarah Auerbach, MPH
Epidemiologist II
Access, Compliance, and Evaluation Branch, Texas Department of State Health Services

Sarah Auerbach is an epidemiologist with DSHS’s Immunization Unit and has worked with DSHS since March 2021. Prior to working with DSHS she was involved with contact tracing efforts with Dell Medical School, and previously worked in community health education and outreach in the fields of sexual health and HIV/AIDS. She has helped the unit track the Public Health Region 2/3 homelessness-associated hepatitis A outbreak, including requests for vaccine and its provision and administration, in collaboration with Dallas County HHS.

Maria Baños Jordan
President & Founder
Texas Familias Council

Maria Baños Jordan is a native Houstonian, with a baccalaureate degree in Sociology from the University of Houston. She is the President and Founder of the Texas Familias Council, serving the Houston region since 2011. The Council advocates for the wellbeing of local Latinx, immigrant, and underserved communities, through partnerships and volunteer networks. Since 1995 Maria has served in various roles in the social service sector, including public health, disaster response, women’s leadership, and policy guidance. She has authored numerous family and community articles for Spanish language publications. In 2013, Maria received a Texas State Senate Proclamation for her community development work, and was appointed to the Montgomery County Historical Commission. In 2021, Maria was a finalist for the Conroe Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce Athena Leadership Award and the Council was selected for the COVID-19 Vaccination Education Community Outreach grant.

Shana Batten, MS
Program Manager
Texas A&M University Health Science Center

Shana Batten is currently a Program Manager for the Texas Vaccine Outreach and Education grant at Texas A&M Health. Prior to this role she served as the Program Coordinator for the Texas A&M Family Medicine Residency Program. She worked with residents, faculty and staff to ensure residents completed the three-year program and became board certified Family Physicians. She has a background in Community Health working at the American Heart Association for many years with the physicians, researchers and scientists that write the guidelines on how to treat patients with heart disease and stroke.

Julie Boom, MD
Director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Immunization Project and Director of Infant and Childhood Immunization for the Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research
Texas Children’s Hospital

Dr. Julie Boom is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and the Director of Infant and Childhood Immunization for the Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research and the Director of the Immunization Project at Texas Children’s Hospital. Dr. Boom leads several research projects that focus on immunizations. Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Boom and her staff have collaborated with other pediatric hospitals to complete five years of rotavirus disease surveillance. This surveillance project examines the long-term effectiveness of rotavirus vaccines given to infants. From 2002-2005, Dr. Boom served as the principal investigator for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) grant “Raising Immunizations Thru Education” (RITE) and Dr. Boom led the development, implementation and expansion of the Houston-Harris County Immunization Registry from 2001-2008. In collaboration with Dr. Carol Baker and Rachel Cunningham, Dr. Boom co-authored the booklet, “Vaccine Preventable Diseases: The Forgotten Story” which features 20 stories of children and families whose lives were dramatically impacted by illnesses that could have been prevented by immunization.

Dr. Julie Boom graduated with highest honors with a B.S. in Biology/Biological Studies from The University of Texas at Austin and completed her medical education at Baylor College of Medicine. Julie completed her internship and residency in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School/Children’s Hospital.

Robert Owens Carpenter, MD, MPH, FACS
Director of MD Plus Program
Texas A&M College of Medicine

Robert Owens Carpenter, MD, MPH, FACS, FASMBS hails from Bastrop County in Central Texas. He completed his undergraduate work in biochemistry at Texas A&M University, and attended Baylor College of Medicine where he was awarded an MD. Thereafter, he accepted a two-year non-clinical faculty appointment within the Departments of Cell Biology and Allied Health Education at Baylor. During this period, he completed post-graduate coursework within the Clinical Scientist Training Program, taught on the gross anatomy faculty, and developed curriculum to better integrate application of basic science information into the clinical education environment. Dr. Carpenter completed an MPH with special focus on quality improvement and graduate medical education policy during a seven year general surgery residency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Thereafter, he completed a one year clinical fellowship in advanced laparoscopy, endoscopy, and bariatric surgery in Nashville, TN.

He serves on the clinical faculty at the Baylor Scott & White Memorial Hospital and Clinic. He serves as Director of Bariatric and Minimally Invasive Surgery Education and Associate Director of the General Surgery Residency in Temple and was recently promoted to Clinical Associate Professor of Surgery for the Texas A&M University Health Science Center.

Dr. Carpenter has been recognized for his passionate dedication as a medical educator with the 2017 Outstanding Surgical Faculty Teaching Award, induction as a Fellow of the Academy of Distinguished Medical Educators at Texas A&M University Health Science Center where he continues to teach on the Medical Gross Anatomy Faculty, and more recently receiving the award as most inspiring professor by the COM Class of 2022. In June 2020 Dr. Carpenter was recognized by the General Surgery Residents at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Temple with the Brindley Outstanding Faculty of the Year award.

Christine Clear
Team Lead
Texas Vaccines for Children Program, Texas Department of State Health Services
Christine Clear is the DSHS Texas Vaccines for Children (TVFC) Team Lead. She leads the consultant team to enroll providers in the TVFC Program and collaborates with the regions and local health departments. Prior to becoming the Team Lead she worked as a Texas Vaccines for Children Consultant. Christine has been with DSHS for 6 years.

Abby Cox-Chalmers, MPH, CHES
Epidemiologist I
Access, Compliance, and Evaluation Branch, Texas Department of State Health Services
Abby Cox Chalmers is an Epidemiologist I in the Surveillance, Epidemiology and Assessment Branch within the Immunization Section at the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). Before becoming an epidemiologist, Abby worked for the Texas DSHS Immunization Section as a Texas Vaccines for Children Consultant in the Vaccine Operations Group. Abby is a Certified Health Education Specialist and holds a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from Texas A&M University and a Bachelor of Science in Public Health: Health Promotion from Brigham Young University.

Robyn Correll, MPH, CHWI
Public Health Consultant, Communication and Evaluation
Vaccinate Your Family

Robyn Correll is a public health consultant working with the nonprofit group Vaccinate Your Family. She specializes in leveraging data to improve health education and communication initiatives. For the past decade, she has worked with organizations, health departments and healthcare providers to educate their communities about vaccines and combat vaccine misinformation in person and online. Robyn has a Master of Public Health degree from Tulane University and is a certified community health worker instructor in the state of Texas.

Matthew Davis
IIS Operations Group Manager
Access, Compliance, and Evaluation Branch, Texas Department of State Health Services

Matthew Davis joined the Texas Department of State Health Services in 2016 and has served in multiple roles within Immunizations. Mr. Davis currently serves as the IIS Operations Group Manager overseeing training, outreach, education, and customer support for the Texas Immunization Registry.

Angela De La Cruz
Interoperability Post Production Manager
Texas Immunization Registry (ImmTrac2), Texas Department of State Health Services

Angela would describe herself as someone who loves creating whether that be through adventures, opportunities, or designing new policy or processes and resources! With 14 years of state service, the majority of her work has been in state policy and information technology systems in public health. She currently serves as the registry’s subject matter expert for health level seven (HL7) data exchange assisting various stakeholders with reporting issues or questions.

Daniela Dwyer, JD
Managing Attorney – Farmworker Team
Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid

Daniela Dwyer is the Managing Attorney of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc.’s (TRLA) Farmworker Project, the nation’s largest LSC-funded civil legal aid organization. TRLA provides free, civil legal services to farmworkers throughout Texas and in six southern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Daniela is a second-generation Mexican-American. A native of El Paso, Texas, she is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin with dual B.A.s in Government and Sociology. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago School of Law (2013). Daniela formerly managed the farmworker program at the Legal Aid Bureau, Inc. (covering Maryland and Delaware). Afterwards, she was an attorney with Florida Legal Services, Inc., a non-LSC-funded legal services organization litigating class actions on behalf of farmworkers and other low-wage workers. Daniela has represented farmworkers in federal court in seven states to-date.

Karen Ernst, MA
Director
Voices for Vaccines

Karen Ernst is the Director of Voices for Vaccines. She is a nationally known expert in building vaccine confidence through peer-to-peer networking and interactions. Much of her work involves creating alliances between families and partner organizations in order to increase vaccine uptake and reimagine advocacy work. Voices for Vaccines is respected for its creative use of podcasting, social media, online learning, and advocacy training –in order to pioneer the increase of vaccine acceptance.

Fatima Frausto, MPH
Team Lead
Intervention Group, Assessment, Compliance, Evaluation Branch, Immunization Section, Texas Department of State Health Services

Fatima is the Team Lead for the Intervention Team, housed in the Immunization Section at Texas DSHS. Her team is responsible for developing interventions and evaluations aimed at improving Texas’ vaccine rates. Prior to her current role, she served as the Outreach Coordinator for the Blood Lead Surveillance Branch and worked for the State’s COVID-19 response efforts. Prior to DSHS, Fatima worked in, and conducted research in, sexual and reproductive health, early childhood development, and cancer prevention. Fatima holds a BA in Sociology and BSA in Neuroscience from UT Austin, and an MPH in Health Education & Health Promotion from UT Health-Houston.

Imelda Garcia, MPH
Associate Commissioner, Laboratory and Infectious Disease Services
Texas Department of State Health Services
Imelda Garcia serves as the Associate Commissioner of the Laboratory and Infectious Disease Services Division at the Department of State Health Services (DSHS). In this role, she has been leading the agency’s overall efforts in the COVID-19 pandemic response including disease surveillance, testing, and state’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts. In May 2021, she was recognized by the Texas Senate for serving as the Chair of the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel (EVAP). As the chair, she led the state in recommending the initial COVID-19 vaccines to eligible populations and the vaccine allocations. In addition to leading the COVID-19 response, she also led the agency’s response to Ebola, Zika, and other infectious diseases.

Commissioner Garcia has dedicated her professional career to public health. She began her public health service in 2004 working with New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. In 2007, she moved back home to Texas and resumed her public health work at DSHS. She has held various positions within DSHS with increasing leadership responsibilities working in the Family and Community Health Services Division. In 2014, she became the Director of Infectious Disease Prevention Section. In this role, she oversaw prevention and control activities related to zoonotic and emerging and acute infectious diseases, healthcare safety including healthcare acquired infections and preventable adverse events, antibiotic stewardship, and child and adult immunization programs. In 2018, she was promoted to her current role as the Associate Commissioner of Laboratory and Infectious Disease Services.

Commissioner Garcia received her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin in Mexican American Studies with a concentration in public policy. From 2001 to 2003, Ms. Garcia attended from The Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University gaining her master’s in public health with a focus on health policy and management.

Debbie Garza, RPh
Chief Executive Officer,
Texas Pharmacy Association

Debbie Garza joined the Texas Pharmacy Association as Chief Executive Officer in August 2017. Ms. Garza spent more than three decades with Walgreens, advancing through the company while taking on higher roles with increased responsibilities. She spent more than three decades with Walgreens, advancing through the company while taking on higher roles with increased responsibilities. She rose to Divisional Vice President of Government Relations in 2007. In that role she built the Government and Community Relations department and led federal, state, and local government affairs, public policy, pharmacy affairs working with state boards of pharmacy, and community relations in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She opened and ran Walgreens’ Washington, D.C. office and served as chief lobbyist for the organization. In 2016, Ms. Garza began utilizing her vast experience and expertise as an independent consultant providing consulting and advisory services in the pharmacy and health care industries.

Morgen Gawlik
Team Lead,
Adult and Influenza Group, Texas Department of State Health Services

Morgen Gawlik is the Adult Influenza Immunization Program Team Lead at the Department of State Health Services in the Immunization Section. Morgen received a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Texas State University. Her work includes experience in behavioral health, protective services, health care regulation policy and rules, and civil rights. Morgen is passionate about working to create communities where optimal physical and behavioral healthcare is available to everyone.

Emilio R. Gonzales, MPH
Epidemiologist II: State Flu Coordinator,
Vaccine Preventable Disease Section, Texas Department of State Health Services

Emilio Gonzales is an Epidemiologist II working as the State Flu Coordinator within the DSHS Emerging and Acute Infectious Disease Unit. He obtained his Masters in Public Health with a focus on epidemiology and biostatistics of infectious disease from Boston University School of Public Health. Much of his past experiences were focused on statistical data analysis and disease intervention. In his current role, Emilio assists with coordinating influenza surveillance and response in the 11 regions of Texas, and analyzing and interpreting data obtained through statewide surveillance to report on influenza-like illnesses such as Flu and RSV.

Claire Hannan, MPH
Executive Director
Association of Immunization Managers

Claire Hannan joined the Association of Immunization Managers as its first Executive Director in 2004 and has spent her career working to support immunization policies and practices. She is responsible for the overall administration and management of AIM, as well as representing AIM at conferences, meetings, on committees, and in workgroups. She also represents AIM in Congress, communicates with the CDC, and facilitates coordination among AIM members in addition to preparing AIM positions, policy papers, reports, letters, and presentations. Claire holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Wagner College and a Master of Public Health in health policy from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Before joining AIM, she worked on Capitol Hill, lobbied for children’s health issues, and was the Director of Immunization Policy for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

Mary Healy, MD
Associate Director of Pediatrics
Texas Children’s Hospital

Dr. Catherine Mary Healy is a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Texas Children’s Hospital and associate professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. She received her medical degree from the National University of Ireland in 1991 and membership in the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health (UK) in 1997. She is past chair of the Committee of Infection Diseases of Texas Medical Association and also serves on working groups for the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). She was one of the first healthcare professionals in the US to establish a pertussis cocooning program in 2008, and this nationally recognized program has adapted in line with changing vaccine recommendations and served as a model for other pertussis prevention efforts. Her current research involves assessing the acceptability, uptake, immunogenicity and effectiveness of maternal immunization with Tdap in preventing infant pertussis and has recently expanded to vaccine hesitancy. She is also the site principal investigator for three grants exploring methods to improve HPV vaccine uptake.

John Hellerstedt, MD
Commissioner
Texas Department of State Health Services

Dr. Hellerstedt earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Pittsburgh and completed his General Pediatrics Residency at the University of Texas-San Antonio Health Science Center. He moved to Austin in 1981 and practiced office-based general pediatrics for 18 years with Austin Regional Clinic. Dr. Hellerstedt first entered public service as the Medical Director of the Bureau of Medicaid Managed Care and CHIP at the Texas Department of Health in 2000 and became the Medical Director for the Medicaid CHIP Division of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in 2001. The Texas Pediatric Society presented Dr. Hellerstedt with the Child Advocate of the Year award in 2007.

After seven years with the state government, he accepted a position as Vice President of Medical Affairs at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas. He became the Associate Chief Medical Officer at Seton Family of Hospitals in 2009 and the Chief Medical Officer in 2013.

Dr. Hellerstedt is a member of the Texas Medical Association, Travis County Medical Society, and Texas Pediatric Society. His honors and awards include the 2007 Texas Pediatric Society Child Advocate of the Year. He has served the Central Texas community through his membership in and leadership of numerous committees at the Children’s Hospital of Austin, Brackenridge Hospital, the Seton Hospital Network, and Austin Independent School District.

In January 2016, Dr. Hellerstedt assumed the role of Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. With his leadership, the agency strives to achieve the vision of “A Healthy Texas” and fulfill the mission of improving the health, safety, and well-being of Texans through good stewardship of public resources, and a focus on core public health functions.

In 2020, Dr. Hellerstedt co-authored the chapter “Resilience Is Key: Lessons from Past Public Health Disasters” in the book Preparing for Pandemics in the Modern World, published by Texas A&M University Press.

Kristen Hobbs, MPH
Director, Quality Improvement and Equity
National Minority Quality Forum
Center for Sustainable Health Care Quality and Equity

Kristen Stevens Hobbs is a senior level public health professional with experience in epidemiology, public health program evaluation, public health program development and implementation, and partnership development. She is proud to champion the advancement of health equity and believes in the value of implementing epidemiologic principles for making data actionable. Kristen earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology and Chemistry from Texas Woman’s University and her Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from Saint Louis University.

She also worked for the Saint Louis County Department of Public Health’s Communicable Disease Control Services Division to evaluate and monitor the department’s perinatal hepatitis B program, conduct epidemiologic surveillance of infectious diseases, and refine behavioral health marketing messages for STD prevention and awareness in north St. Louis, Missouri. Kristen brings unique experiences in pharmaceutical business analytics, emergency medicine, and research to the National Minority Quality Forum/SHC.

Elise Huebner, MS
Epidemiology Team Lead
Vaccine Preventable Disease Section, Texas Department of State Health Services

Elise earned her Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Austin College in 2008, and her Master of Science in Health Services Research from Texas State University – San Marcos in 2012. Her first job in public health focused on community health assessments and program evaluation. While it did provide her a foot in the door, her interests are mainly focused in infectious disease epidemiology, immunization development and programs, and vaccine-preventable, invasive diseases. In 2013, she began her career as an infectious disease epidemiologist with Williamson County and Cities Health District, and, over time, moved up to Epidemiologist II. In 2020, she advanced to the Vaccine Preventable Disease Epidemiologist III Team Lead at DSHS, with a brief stint as the interim manager for the team. Overall, she has worked in infectious disease epidemiology for over 8 years with field experience in interviewing, case investigation, small- and large-scale outbreaks, testing, surveying, data collection, data analysis, reporting, and data quality.

Renuka Icchapurapu, RN, MSN, CAPM
Epidemiologist III
Texas Immunization Registry, Texas Department of State Health Services

Renuka is a Registered Nurse with over 12 years of experience in various healthcare settings and considers herself an enthusiastic healthcare professional contributing towards the advancement of health sciences through innovative technologies. She completed the Health Informatics & Health Information Technology (HIHIT) program from UT Austin before starting in her current role with the informatics division of Texas Immunization Registry. She has established efficient processes and procedures that helped with 60% efficient report generation and is working towards helping providers identify gaps in performance and enhance their coverage rates using key performance indicators. Renuka also works on following CDC guidelines to keep Texas Immunization Registry’s Immunization Information System up to date with current recommendations.

Adaeze Ifesi
Data Analyst
Immunization Section, Texas Department of State Health Services

Adaeze Ifesi is a data analyst with the Texas Department of State Health Services, working in Immunizations Unit (ImmTrac). As a data analyst, Adaeze retrieves and interprets large data, while identifying data quality issues for stakeholders. She has also served under the Immunization Informatics System (IIS) Operation Interoperability team, where she assisted in the onboarding of Unidirectional and Bidirectional organizations for Electronic Data Exchange with the registry, as well as trained new staff on onboarding processes and data analysis.

Prior to her role with DSHS, she worked as a data analyst for a marketing company. She has a BSc in Biology, six years’ experience with SQL, SAS and data scrubbing with Excel. Adaeze continues to assist in generating reports such as weekly Immtrac Texas Vaccine for Children(TVFC) reports and monthly TVFC CDC reports.

Prageet Kaang, PhD, MPH, BDS
Data Analytics Manager
Immunization Section, Texas Department of State Health Services

Dr. Prageet Kaang is the Manager for the Data Analytics Team in the Immunization Unit at Texas Department of State Health Services. She completed her PhD project in nutrition and clinical dentistry from UT Austin in 2020. She is a dentist by background, with a Master’s Degree in Public Health from Texas A&M University. She has also completed a certification in Applied Statistical Modeling from UT Austin. Her research interests include infectious diseases, childhood obesity, disparities in health care services, food assistance programs, and health policy. She has 14 publications to her credit, all of which have been published in various public health peer reviewed public health journals. She has previously interned with Brazos Valley Council of Government and Johnson Center for Child Health and Development. Prageet is very passionate about policy that aims at increasing access to reliable health care services to the disadvantaged sections of society.

Mary Beth Kurilo , MPH, MSW
Policy and Planning Director
American Immunization Registry Association

Mary Beth Kurilo is currently the Policy and Planning Director for the American Immunization Registry Association, or AIRA. Mary Beth has been involved with AIRA for nearly 15 years in a variety of roles, including Co-Chairing the Standards and Interoperability Steering Committee and the Education Steering Committee, and serving as AIRA’s Board President from 2012-2013. Prior to her current position, Mary Beth was the Director of the Oregon ALERT Immunization Information System, or ALERT IIS. She worked at the Oregon Immunization Program within the Public Health Division from 2003-2014, and was in the Director role for eight years. She also served as a member of the IIS Executive Board through CDC/NCIRD from 2013-2014. Mary Beth earned her Masters in Public Health and Masters in Social Work from the University of Washington.

Greg Leos, MPH
Manager III
Access, Compliance, and Evaluation Branch – Texas Department of State Health Services
Greg is currently the manager of the Assessment and Evaluation Group within the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Evaluation Branch at DSHS Central Office’s Immunization Section. At DSHS he has also worked as an epidemiologist with the foodborne team and then the vaccine preventable diseases team. Prior to joining DSHS he worked in the healthcare field in the private sector and in the Air Force. Combined, he has 26 years of experience in healthcare and public health.

Connor Lynd, MPH
Epidemiologist I
Emerging and Acute Infectious Disease Unit, Texas Department of State Health Services
Connor Lynd, MPH is an epidemiologist with the vaccine preventable diseases team for the Texas Department of State Health services. He has been with the Department of State health services since July 2021. Before this he worked with the Florida Department of Health in Volusia and Palm Beach counties as an epidemiologist. He is a two-time graduate of Florida State University with an MPH degree awarded in May 2020.

Heather Mayfield, MS
Epidemiologist II
Access, Compliance, and Evaluation Branch, Texas Department of State Health Services
Heather Mayfield is an Epidemiologist II in the Surveillance, Epidemiology and Assessment Branch within the Immunization Section at the Texas DSHS. She began her career with DSHS at the Texas DSHS state laboratory in Austin in the Endocrine section of Newborn Screening. Prior to working for Texas DSHS, Heather worked as a data analyst in neuromarketing and previously worked in the immunization program of Williamson County. Heather holds a Master of Science in Biotechnology from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a Bachelor of Science in Neurobiology from the University of Texas at Austin.

Chris Medina, MA, TEM
Operations Branch Manager
Response and Recovery Unit, Texas Department of State Health Services

Chris Medina is the Operations Branch Manager in the Response and Recovery Unit, Center for Health Emergency Preparedness and Response, Texas Department of State Health Services and has been activated for the past 28 months serving as the Texas State Medical Operations Center Director in support of the pandemic and disaster response. Chris has worked in DSHS for the last six years providing support to numerous disasters to include Hurricane Harvey, several other hurricanes, wildfire and industrial fire support, mass shootings, severe weather events, and numerous other disasters. Chris retired from the United States Army as a Lieutenant Colonel having supported numerous disasters and operations to include Operation Tomadachi – the US Army’s support to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the 2014 Fort Hood Shooting and operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. While on active duty, Chris received his Masters from Webster University and taught military science and leadership at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Jane Montealegre , PhD
Behavioral Epidemiologist
Baylor College of Medicine

Jane Montealegre is a Behavioral Epidemiologist with research expertise in health disparities and preventive healthcare utilization among immigrants, racial/ethnic minorities, and the medically underserved.

She is particularly interested in the intersection of nativity, race/ethnicity, and cervical cancer. Much of her work focuses on the design, implementation, and evaluation of behavioral and health system interventions to address cancer health disparities among the medically underserved.

Her current research involves evaluating the effectiveness and implementation of mailed self-collected human papillomavirus (HPV) testing kits for cervical cancer screening; and multi-level health system and community-based interventions to improve HPV vaccination, e-cigarette prevention, and cervical and colorectal cancer screening.

Jennifer Moore, BSN, RN
Nurse IV – Operations Team
Immunization Section, Texas Department of State Health Services

Jennifer Moore is the Clinical Team Lead in the Immunization Section for the Texas Department of State Health Services. She has worked as a nurse since 2002. She was a licensed vocational nurse in pediatrics from 2002-2015 and has worked in the public health sector since 2016. She received her Associate’s degree in nursing 2015 from ACC, and finally completed her education for the BSN in 2017 at TAMU-CT. Jennifer has assisted in the efforts of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Harvey, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Jennifer is currently attending Grand Canyon University to earn a dual Master’s degree in Public Health and Public Health Nursing. Jennifer is passionate about creating healthier communities through vaccine inclusion.

Ruth Okpara, MPH
Program Specialist III
Access, Compliance, and Evaluation Branch – Texas Department of State Health Services
Originally from Nigeria, Ruth Okpara serves as the Flu Vaccine Coordinator for the Vaccine Data and Finance Group. Prior to joining the team, Ruth assisted with the Title V Five-Year Need Assessment for the Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Unit, served as Research Technician for PPD and a Child Hunger Fellow for the Central Texas Food Bank. Ruth earned an MPH from the University of Texas School of Public Health and loves to spend her free time with her family cooking and baking. Quick fact about Ruth: She can carry anything on her head, including a 36 pack of Water!

Samuel Ortiz-Severiano
Program Specialist V
Adult Immunization Program, Immunization Section, Texas Department of State Health Services
Samuel Ortiz Severiano is a Program Specialist V currently working at the Department of State Health Services in the Immunization Section. Samuel received his Bachelor of Science in Public Health from the University of Texas at Austin, and is currently studying to receive his Masters in Public Health from the University of Nebraska Medical College. His work includes experience in community outreach, first responders’ health, infection prevention, and system programs. Samuel wants to make the United States a healthier place to live, but is particularly passionate about reducing the burden of disease in communities that are high-risk for preventable diseases.

Stephen Pont, MD, MPH
Medical Director
Center for Public Health Policy and Practice, Texas Department of State Health Services

Since returning to Texas a decade ago, Dr. Stephen Pont has worked to improve the health of children, families, and communities with a focus on under engaged and Spanish speaking populations. Through working in Federally Qualified Health Centers in East Austin and as the medical director for Austin Independent School District, he recognized the need for clinical childhood obesity programs and co-founded and served as the medical director for Dell Children’s Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity. Nationally, Dr. Pont co-founded and served as the inaugural chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Obesity and was the lead author on the AAP Policy Statement Stigma Experienced by Children and Adolescents with Obesity. Additionally, he has been an investigator or center director on more than $20 million of Medicaid, philanthropic, and NIH and CDC research grants. Dr. Pont is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics with the UT Austin Dell Medical School, Clinical Associate Professor with the Texas A&M Health Science Center, and serves on the Texas Department of State Health Services executive team and as the Medical Director for the Office of Science and Population Health. The office works collaboratively to develop and advance public health priorities for Texas, serves as a focal point to provide medical and epidemiologic expertise across the department, and identifies opportunities to more effectively utilize DSHS data to monitor and drive improvement in health and wellness across Texas.

Ana Rodriguez, MD, MPH
Associate Professor
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Texas Medical Branch

Dr. Ana M. Rodriguez is an Associate Professor in the Division of Gynecology, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch. She completed her training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. She later completed the Masters of Public Health Program at UTMB. Dr. Rodriguez is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and is a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. She joined the staff of UTMB in 2009. Since then, she has been clinically active and has been performing innovative research in women’s health as well as being involved in the training of medical students, residents, and junior faculty members. Dr. Rodriguez is one of our minimally invasive gynecologic surgeons who received the Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology (COEMIG) designation in 2013, which was successfully renewed in 2017. This designation signifies the highest level of laparoscopic gynecological expertise accredited by the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists.

Dr.Rodriguez’s clinical areas of interest comprise the diseases related to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection, family planning/contraception, and minimally invasive gynecologic surgery, including robotic surgery. Dr. Rodriguez’s primary research interests are cancer prevention, minimally invasive gynecologic surgery, and HPV infection. She has been the principal investigator on projects involving the study of BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, the risk of cancer associated with obesity (especially endometrial cancer), and the risk of colorectal cancer among cervical cancer survivors. She is currently the principal investigator for projects investigating the long-term impact of HPV vaccination among women and projects implementing HPV vaccination strategies among high-risk populations in Texas.

Dr. Rodriguez has been elected into the UTMB Academy of Master Clinicians. This honor is the highest clinical honor bestowed at UTMB and is given only to distinguished and senior clinical providers. She is a member of several national and international societies, including the International Papillomavirus Society, the International Gynecologic Cancer Society, Society of Family Planning, American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Dr. Rodriguez has authored more than 30 peer-reviewed publications and has presented her work at numerous national meetings.

Anabel Rodriguez, PhD, MPH
Assistant Professor
University of Texas at Houston School of Public Health at San Antonio

Dr. Anabel Rodriguez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health in San Antonio, the Outreach Program Director of the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH), and serves as Senior Personnel for two Core Functions: (1) Preparedness at Small Rural Healthcare Systems and (2) Business and Food Chain Preparedness in the Texas Epidemic Public Health Institute (TEPHI) which is headquartered in the UTHealth School of Public Health. As a former National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Occupational Epidemiology Trainee, her research and outreach efforts focus on improving the health and safety of vulnerable working populations—in particular Spanish and Mayan (Indigenous) language-speaking, Hispanic working populations. Since 2014, her collaborative research work has helped improve and advocate for (1) the development, delivery, and evaluation of culturally, linguistic, and literacy appropriate safety trainings; (2) the identification of physical exposures and musculoskeletal symptoms associated with the workplace environment; (3) the level of awareness and knowledge of bovine tuberculosis among high-risk workplace activities and its application to the One Health model; and most recently, (4) the development, delivery, and evaluation of culturally, linguistic, and literacy appropriate leadership and management training courses; (5) the assessment of healthcare needs, barriers, and feasibility of on-worksite health service delivery and its application to Total Worker Health; (6) the burden and need of mental health care services; (7) the delivery of COVID-19 resources to workplace leadership and workers; and (8) the facilitation of on-work site COVID-19 and Tdap vaccine clinics for agricultural workers and their families in the Texas Panhandle, South Plains, Erath County, and South Texas. Dr. Rodriguez is a former migrant seasonal farmworker and daughter of Spanish-speaking Mexican immigrants from South Texas.

Ann Salyer-Caldwell, MPH
Deputy Director
Immunization Collaboration of Tarrant County

Ann Salyer-Caldwell retired as the deputy director at Tarrant County Public Health in 2020. She holds a BS degree in Dietetics from the University of Tennessee and a Master of Public Health degree from the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. She is a registered dietitian and a retired US Navy Captain with over 39 years of public health experience. Ann has served on many community boards and was selected as a Healthcare Hero by the Fort Worth Business Press in 2018. In addition to proudly serving ICTC, she is a Meals on Wheels volunteer and a member of the Board of Directors for the Open Arms Health Clinic in Arlington.

Kathy Phipps
CEO & Founder
Back To Eden Fellow Program

Kathy Phipps is the CEO and Founder of Back to Eden Fellow Program for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence. Ms. Phipps Founded Back to Eden in 2017 by providing outreach services to Survivors and their children living in DV Shelters. Back to Eden was founded on the mission to “Empower Survivors to be Leaders”, inspired by Ms. Phipps’ personal journey of Surviving domestic violence and sexual violence from an abusive marriage. Ms. Phipps has over 20 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector with Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence and is a Licensed Ordained Minister.

Joshua Shaver, MS
Interoperability Onboarding Manager II
Texas Immunization Registry (ImmTrac2), Texas Department of State Health Services

Joshua Shaver is an experienced executive level officer with a demonstrated history of working in the military industry. He is skilled in Intelligence Analysis, Government, Combat, Counterinsurgency, and Operational Planning.

Carolyn Smith, MSN, RN
Compliance Group Manager
Access, Compliance, and Evaluation Branch, Texas Department of State Health Services

Carolyn Smith honed her skills in translating complicated ideas into easily understandable stories during her decade in communications and public affairs. She then changed gears to earn both a master’s degree and a post-master’s certificate in pediatric nursing, which allowed her to spend many fulfilling years providing bedside care to women and children. Carolyn now combines her experience in communications with her passion for public health to monitor and promote childhood vaccines as manager of the Texas DSHS Immunization Compliance Group. When not working to improve children’s health, she enjoys spending time with her French bulldog Millhouse, her motorcycle, and her houseful of boys.

Paul Spock, PhD
IIS Training Manager
Texas Immunization Registry, Texas Department of State Health Services

Paul is a trainer for the Texas Immunization Registry at the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and has been an instructional designer and trainer for over 20 years. He has a Ph.D. in Instructional Technology from U.T. Austin, and a PMP in project management. His hobbies include hiking, meditation, and good food!

Denise Starkey, MPH, MA
Program Manager
Adult and Influenza Immunization Program, Texas Department of State Health Services

Denise Starkey comes to Texas from southern California where she worked for The Center for Cancer Prevention and Treatment at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange, CA. There she served as the Grants and Contracts Coordinator partnering with the National Cancer Institute and other federal government agencies. She has worked on various international research projects and medical teams focusing on disease transmission, prevention and health promotion. Denise has been with the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) since January 2016. She began her career as a Texas Vaccines for Children (TVFC) Consultant partnering with the DSHS Health Services Regions, Local Health Departments, and private providers providing education, program management, training, and presentations for vaccine preventable diseases. She currently is the DSHS Adolescent and Adult Immunization Coordinator located at the DSHS Central Office. Here she leads a team on improving adolescent and adult immunization rates in the state of Texas and the Adult Safety Net (ASN) Program partnering with the DSHS Health Service Regions Adolescent and Adult Immunization Coordinators, Local Health Departments, and private providers. As a team we provide ASN Program updates and policy revisions, as well as strategies to implement the CDC Adult Standards for Immunization Practice.

Trish Stowe, MHA
Vaccine Operations Group Manager
Texas Vaccines for Children (TVFC), Texas Department of State Health Services

Trish Stowe is the DSHS Texas Vaccines for Children (TVFC) Vaccine Operations Group Manager. Here she leads a team on improving pediatric immunization rates in Texas through partnership with regional and local health departments, and TVFC provider enrollment into the TVFC Program. Additionally, she oversees the quality assurance activities with enrolled TVFC providers and provider policies. She also led the COVID-19 Vaccine Program provider enrollment team. Her academic career includes a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA), from Ashford University, Clinton, Iowa.

Rebecca Tamayo, MPH
Program Manager
Texas A&M Health Science Center

Rebecca Tamayo is currently a Program Manager for the Texas Vaccine Outreach and Education Grant at Texas A&M Health Science Center. Prior to joining Texas A&M, Rebecca was the Program Director at Luke’s House: A Clinic for Healing and Hope, a free medical clinic in New Orleans, LA, serving the uninsured and immigrant populations with clinical, healthcare navigation, health education, and legal services. During her time at Luke’s House Clinic, she also served as the Interim Executive Director. While working in the free clinic world, Rebecca was an active member of the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC). Rebecca is a CDC/IMHOTEP Fellow, a program sponsored by the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity.

L.J Tan, PhD
Chief Strategy Officer
Immunization Action Coalition

Prior to joining the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC), Dr. Tan was the director of medicine and public health at the American Medical Association (AMA), a position he held since 2008. From 1997 to 2008, he was the AMA’s director of infectious disease, immunology, and molecular medicine.

Dr. Tan was a voting member of the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Vaccine Advisory Committee from 2009 to 2013, where he served on the adult immunization, vaccine safety, and healthcare worker immunization working groups, and chaired the immunization infrastructure working group. For more than ten years, he was the American Medical Association’s liaison to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, where he served on the influenza, pneumococcal, zoster, and adult immunization working groups.

He co-founded and currently co-chairs the National Adult and Influenza Immunization Summit. He serves or has served on the steering committees/advisory boards of the 317 Coalition, the Adult Vaccine Access Coalition (AVAC), the Unity (United for Adolescent Vaccination) Consortium, the National Network for Immunization Information, and the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable and on the IAC scientific advisory board. Dr. Tan has also serves, or has served, on the National Quality Forum’s Adult Immunizations Expert Committee, the Pharmacy Quality Alliance’s Adult Immunization Working Group, and numerous national and international expert and technical advisory committees, including panels for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, The Joint Commission, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on issues ranging from vaccine hesitancy, immunization quality measurement development, adult immunizations, to immunization access and delivery. In 2007, he founded the National Immunization Congress and organized its 2007 and 2010 meetings.

Dr. Tan received his Master of Science degree in biology at New York University and earned his PhD in microbiology/immunology from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. Dr. Tan is an editor for Vaccine, BMC Infectious Diseases, Medscape Infectious Diseases, and a member of the ESCMID Vaccine Study Group and has published more than 50 peer-reviewed articles. During his tenure at the AMA, he wrote numerous scientific reports to guide the association’s policies on a diverse range of public health topics. A skilled and sought-after speaker, Dr. Tan has been invited to address international, national, and state immunization audiences on issues ranging from vaccine financing to risk management in vaccine safety to emerging infectious diseases.

Dr. Tan has received several awards for his advocacy work including the 2011 CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Honor Awards: Excellence in Partnering recognition, and most recently was awarded the American Pharmacists Association’s national Friend of Pharmacy Award. As a former part-time faculty member at the Institute for Science Education and Science Communication, Columbia College, Chicago, he received the 2000 Excellence in Teaching Award.

Demi Tomasides, MPH
Vaccine Outreach Coordinator
Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities

Demi Tomasides serves as the Vaccine Outreach Coordinator for the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities. Working under the Executive Director, she manages a 17-person team working on various disability rights activities. Demi is an undergraduate student at Southwestern University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and Spanish. She recently completed an internship at the White House in the Office of Presidential Correspondence.

Alexander Whitman, MS
Deputy Communications Director
Texas Department of State Health Services

Alex Whitman is the Deputy Communications Director for Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). Alex helps direct DSHS public awareness campaigns centered around topics such as COVID-19, immunizations, disaster preparedness, mosquito prevention, Alzheimer’s, vaping and more. Alex also manages the DSHS digital/social media team and helps direct public health information shared on DSHS communication channels. He has been with the state health department since 2018.

Kenneth Williams
Program Specialist V
Adult and Influenza Group, Texas Department of State Health Services

Kenneth Williams Jr, is a Program Specialist V with the Adult Flu Immunizations Unit. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in Washington, DC. Williams graduated from American Intercontinental University with a bachelor’s degree in Communications and is currently working on a master’s degree in Psychology with a concentration in Addiction studies. As a veteran of the United States Navy, he is a huge proponent of teamwork, planning, and structure. He believes in a relentless work ethic to accomplish objectives and goals. In his current role, he most looks forward to developing interpersonal relationships and providing support to the people of Texas.

Marc Williamson, RN
Public Health Nurse & Nurse II
Dallas County Health & Human Services

Marc Williamson has six years of clinical experience, spending the last four of those years in the Acute Communicable Disease division of Dallas County Health and Human Services, where he is privileged to be able to engage in primary prevention, early health screenings, and epidemiology for Dallas County residents. His primary areas of concentration are on viral hepatitis, other VPD, and public safety worker occupational exposures. Marc has previously presented on the topics of blood borne pathogen exposures to City of Dallas first responders and on hepatitis A to the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, homeless shelter staff, and to persons experiencing homelessness. Additionally, he was the staff that initially identified the hep A outbreak in his team’s jurisdiction. His specific role in the recent outbreak has included case investigation, data visualization, and some PEP vaccination delivery with the Dallas County Health and Human Services Immunization Department. Marc has also created educational materials that were shared with the CDC and offered to other health departments experiencing hep A outbreaks.

JoEllen Wolicki, BSN, RN
Nurse Educator
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Communication and Education Branch

JoEllen Wolicki is a Nurse Educator with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Communication and Education Branch. Before joining CDC, she served for 14 years as a Nurse Consultant with the immunization program of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. At the Michigan immunization program, she worked with multiple programs. At CDC, JoEllen serves as a committee member of several work groups for the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), contributes to the Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases textbook (the Pink Book), and works on various immunization training and educational materials and programs. Currently, she has been serving as the team lead for the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Materials Team. JoEllen holds a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the University of Detroit/Mercy.

David Zulli
Program Specialist IV
Adult and Influenza Group, Texas Department of State Health Services

David Zulli is a Program Specialist IV on the Adult Influenza Team. He graduated in 2021 from UT Austin. In 2017, he was awarded the Texas State Military Youth of the Year award from the Air Force.