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SDH 2019

Social Determinants of Health Symposium Speakers

Keynote Speaker:

Camara Jones

Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, PhD is a family physician and epidemiologist whose work focuses on naming, measuring, and addressing the impacts of racism on health and well-being. She seeks to broaden the national health debate to include the social determinants of health (including poverty) and the social determinants of equity (including racism), alongside universal access to high-quality health care. Jones’s allegories on race and racism illuminate topics that are otherwise difficult for many Americans to understand or discuss, and she aims to catalyze a national campaign against racism.

Dr. Jones is currently a Senior Fellow at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute, an adjunct professor at the Rollins School of Public Health, and an adjunct associate professor at the Morehouse School of Medicine. 

Dr. Jones received her BA in Molecular Biology from Wellesley College, her MD from the Stanford University School of Medicine, and both her Master of Public Health and her PhD in Epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.


Healthy Communities Panel

James Piper Bond

James Piper Bond is President and CEO of the Living Classrooms Foundation, and was the first fulltime employee in 1986. Living Classrooms is a non-profit organization that annually serves 25,000 children, youth, and adults and manages and operates diverse programs at 30 different facilities including one of Maryland’s first charter schools - The Crossroads School. Living Classrooms Foundation strengthens communities and inspires individuals to achieve their potential through hands-on education and job training, using urban, natural, and maritime resources as "living classrooms." Living Classrooms’ goal is to disrupt the cycle of poverty by motivating and empowering individuals to learn by doing to succeed academically, in the work place, and in their lives; utilizing a multi-generational approach with the Baltimore Target Investment Zone community centers (UA House, POWER House, Patterson Park House, Broadway Overlook) and diverse programs focused on making our community safer, stronger, and healthier through education, workforce development, health & wellness, and violence prevention. Living Classrooms manages two Safe Streets sites, two Early Childhood Centers, two Environmental Centers, and also has worked extensively with juvenile and adult returning citizens.

Michael Braverman

Michael Braverman has 30+ years of experience in Baltimore City as a prosecutor, a director of Code Enforcement’s legal team, a deputy commissioner of Permits and Code Enforcement, and now as commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development. As Commissioner, Michael is helping to implement a comprehensive community development framework to support the Mayor’s new era of neighborhood investment; utilizing new tools, like the Community Catalyst Grants Program, to support locally driven community development work.

As Deputy Commissioner, he reengineered cleaning, boarding, and housing code enforcement operations, reducing response times while increasing service outputs. He was also a key architect of the Vacants to Value program, leading its innovative receivership and strategic demolition programs; and an essential collaborator on Project CORE, which is providing unprecedented funding for blight removal and community greening in Baltimore.

Michael holds a J.D. from the City University of New York and a B.A. from the Johns Hopkins University. He currently lives in Baltimore with his wife and his two children.

Pastor Gary Dittman


Pastor Gary Dittman has served at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church for nearly 10 years.  The congregation is deeply connected to the community and responding to neighborhood challenges with community created solutions and resident leadership. Amazing Graces hosts weekly Bread for the Journey soup kitchens, a monthly community breakfasts, and weekly opportunities to connect with neighbors through Bible Studies, healing support groups, and advocacy work groups. 

In addition, the congregation at Amazing Grace Church operates the Center for Grace-Full Living (CGL), a wellness center with an afterschool program, client choice food pantry as well as The Revolution Within (TRW). TRW is a trauma informed healing program offering resident requested programming like Yoga, Mix-Fit aerobics, Art Learning and Healthy Cooking classes. Other partner organizations also use the CGL, including BHLI Suboxone clinic, United Workers, NAMI support groups and Supporting Male Survivors of Violence through the Health Department. A partnership with Charm City Land Trusts uses greenspace for play, prayer, and community gardens.   


Joel Gittelsohn


Dr. Joel Gittelsohn is a professor in the Center for Human Nutrition and Global Obesity Prevention Center, International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Gittelsohn is a public health nutritionist, who focuses on developing, implementing, and evaluating community-based programs for the primary prevention of chronic disease in disadvantaged ethnic minority populations.  With more than 265 publications, Dr. Gittelsohn has led multiple food source-centered intervention trials aimed at improving the food environment and providing education needed to support healthy food choices and reduce obesity and diabetes in Native communities, Baltimore City, and Pacific Islander communities. Dr. Gittelsohn developed a multi-institutional program for diabetes prevention in 7 First Nations in schools and food stores, which has been extended to 11 American Indian communities and includes worksites, social media, and policy components.  These programs have shown success in increasing knowledge, healthy food purchasing and consumption, in reducing obesity, and in improving stocking and sales.

Infants, Children, and Families Panel

Rebecca Dineen


Rebecca Dineen is the assistant commissioner for the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health and since 2008 has led the B’more for Healthy Babies Initiative at the Baltimore City Health Department, which has achieved a 36% reduction in infant mortality and a 55% reduction in teen births.  She has over 25 years of experience in business development and program design, implementation, and evaluation in a variety of areas including: quality assurance, performance improvement for health systems development, training, community mobilization, and behavior change. Starting as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Central African Republic, Rebecca has worked in fourteen countries in maternal and child health, family planning, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and primary health care programs. Her experience includes work in both the public and private sectors. She earned a Master of Science in Health Policy and Management from the Harvard School of Public Health and her undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Northwestern University. 

Anne Duggan


Anne Duggan, ScD is a professor of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health, Health Policy and Management, and Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She works with public and private agencies at all levels – national, state, and local – in research to strengthen services for young families to promote positive parenting directly and by strengthening social determinants of parenting and of child health and development. Much of her work focuses on early home visiting.  She co-directs evaluations of Maryland and New Jersey’s work to build statewide home visiting.  She is co-principal investigator of the national evaluation of home visiting scale up. She is founding director of the Home Visiting Applied Research Collaborative, which brings stakeholders together in research to broaden and strengthening home visiting’s benefits for families through greater personalization of services.  

Debbie Rock


Debbie Rock, CEO and founder of LIGHT Health & Wellness Comprehensive Services, Inc., serves individuals impacted by HIV/AIDS, mental health/trauma, and substance abuse. LIGHT has impacted approximately 20,000 clients through the provision of comprehensive programs including child care, counseling, and education. As an advocate, Debbie has helped develop legislation for the Maryland Kinship Care Program, served as the Chair of the Greater Baltimore HIV/AIDS Planning Council, member of the President Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, the Mercy Medical Center Board of Directors and currently serves as the Chair of the Morgan State University School of Social Work Advisory Board. The business community has recognized Debbie’s various contributions to the Baltimore metropolitan area by naming her one of the Top 100 Women in Maryland, Top 100 MBE, and Top 5 Daily Record Health Care Heroes. Debbie holds a master’s degree from the University of Maryland and a bachelor’s degree from Morgan State University.

Danitza Simpson


Danitza Simpson-Escano is director of the Adelphi/Langley Park Family Support Center. Ms. Simpson is bilingual in Spanish and English and has worked at the Family Support Center for 21 years in increasingly responsible capacities, including the In-Home Interventionist and Assistant Director. Ms. Simpson received her bachelor’s in business administration in 1992 from the University of the District of Columbia. In February 2004, she was promoted to the Family Support Center Director position. A native of Panama, Ms. Simpson arrived in America at age 13 and closely identifies with the Hispanic immigrant issues 
In her capacity as Director, Ms. Simpson is responsible for managing all programs at the Family Support Center, including supervising ten staff. Ms. Simpson ensures that effective, high-quality services are delivered to families in a warm, nurturing and welcoming manner. Hugs are dispensed freely along with education. Active in the community, she served on the Prince George's County Commission for Women and numerous local committees including the Hispanic Festival, Planning Committee President of Action Langley Park, and PTA. Ms. Simpson's extraordinary leadership abilities and fine-tuned people skills help the Adelphi/Langley Park Family Support Center to be a respected and culturally competent community resource

Adolescent and Youth Panel

Sarah Hemminger


Sarah Hemminger is a social entrepreneur, scientist, and ice dancer who co-founded Thread with her husband Ryan Hemminger in 2004. Equipped with the fundamental understanding that we all need deep interpersonal bonds to thrive, Sarah knows that caring relationships have the power to radically and permanently alter the social support structure of everyone involved. She has fourteen years of experience in nonprofit management and expertise in the development, expansion, and replication of innovative, paradigm-shifting models of forming relationships across lines of difference between high school students, volunteers and collaborators.

Sarah was awarded fellowships from Ashoka, Echoing Green Foundation, Open Society Institute, and the Albert Schweitzer Fellows Program, which support social entrepreneurs with innovative ideas. In 2010, Sarah received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University for her work on the role of the cerebellum and the primary motor cortex on the time scales of consolidation of motor memory. She received the prestigious Siebel Scholars Award for outstanding work in the field of technology and engineering. Her research was published in the Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Neurophysiology, and Cerebral Cortex and she has lectured internationally on her work. Sarah received her undergraduate degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 2002, and prior to pursuing her PhD, she worked as an engineer for Medtronic XOMED.

Joni Holifield


Joni Holifield is a west Baltimore native and founder of the local grassroots organization lovingly known as HeartSmiles. HeartSmiles was founded in 2015 after the Freddie Gray riots left many youth feeling powerless and hopeless. The mission is to help motivate, inspire and empower our youth through the ideas of leadership and entrepreneurship. Today HeartSmiles operates a city-wide program teaching youth the fundamentals of leadership and entrepreneurship. In 2017 HeartSmiles was invited to partner with the JHBSPH Center of Adolescent Health to serve as part of the Youth Advisory Board. Since joining Joni has been promoted to a leadership position on the board and has helped increase youth membership and attendance on a consistent basis. 
Through her efforts with HeartSmiles Joni has created a family-oriented community among youth in Baltimore who are success-driven, capable leaders and ready to create a brighter future for Baltimore.

Follow the journey on Instagram @heartsmilesmd

Tamar Mendelson


Tamar Mendelson, PhD, is an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is a Bloomberg Professor of American Health, Director of the Center for Adolescent Health, and co-leader of the Adolescent Health area of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Consensus Committee on Promoting Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Functioning in Children and Youth. A clinical psychologist by training, Dr. Mendelson studies the prevention of mental health issues and promotion of positive development in urban adolescents. For over twelve years, she has tested mindfulness-based prevention programs to enhance student mental health and school success in Baltimore City schools. Through the Center and the Bloomberg Initiative, she also collaborates with multiple partners to help reduce the number of young people who become disconnected from school, the workforce, and other key supports. 

Dana Stein


Dana Stein is the executive director and founder of Civic Works, a nationally-recognized "urban Peace Corps" that transforms the lives of young adults through community service.  Participants rehab homes, build parks and gardens, tutor and mentor students, make improvements in the homes of senior citizens, and grow fresh produce at an urban farm.  
Dana Stein is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates and represents District 11 in Baltimore County.  He was first elected to the House in 2006 and is vice-chair of the Environment and Transportation Committee and chair of the natural resources and agriculture subcommittee.  
Prior to establishing Civic Works, Dana practiced law for several years at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey in Washington, D.C.  He has a B.A. in government from Harvard University, a law degree from Columbia Law School, and a Master’s in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.


Adults and Seniors Panel

Michelle Carlson


Dr. Michelle Carlson is a professor in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH), core faculty member in the Center on Aging and Health at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and holds joint appointments in the JHSPH Department of Epidemiology and the School of Nursing’s Center on Innovative Care in Aging.  Dr. Carlson examines the relationships between modifiable lifestyle and vascular risk factors and risk for age-related cognitive and functional declines and Alzheimer’s disease.  Dr. Carlson leads these investigations using both observational studies and randomized controlled trials, including the Women’s Health and Aging Study (WHAS) II Cognition Study, the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS) now in its 30th year, the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEMS) trial, and the Baltimore Experience Corps Trial (BECT) where she evaluated the impact of school-based volunteer service on older adults’ cognitive, functional, and brain health.

Joe Jones


Joseph T. Jones, Jr. is founder and CEO of the Center for Urban Families (CFUF), a Baltimore, Maryland nonprofit service organization established to empower low-income families by enhancing both the ability of women and men to contribute to their families as wage earners and of men to fulfill their roles as fathers. Mr. Jones is now a national leader in workforce development, fatherhood and family services programming, and through his professional and civic involvement influences policy direction nationwide. 
Mr. Jones’ civic engagements include service on the boards of the Open Society Institute-Baltimore, Baltimore Workforce Development Board, and My Brother’s Keeper-Baltimore.  Mr. Jones has received numerous awards and honors for his leadership and programming including the Johns Hopkins University Leadership Development Program’s Distinguished Leadership Award, an honorary Doctorate in Public Service from Morgan State University, the Walter Sondheim Public Service Award, and the White House Champion of Change. He was a 2004 Weinberg Fellow, a 2013 CNN Hero, and current Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow.

Mr. Jones is a graduate of the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He is happily married and has three children.  

Sarah Szanton


Sarah L. Szanton, is the Health Equity and Social Justice Endowed professor and director of the Center for Innovative Care in Aging at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. She holds a joint appointment in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  She tests interventions to reduce health disparities among older adults which have been disseminated in multiple states. She is a PBS “Next Avenue 2016 Influencers in Aging” a list of thought-leaders who are changing how we age. Szanton completed undergraduate work in African-American Studies at Harvard University, a bachelor’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, a master’s degree from the University of Maryland and a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. She has been by funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Innovation Center, and multiple Foundations.

Melvin Wilson

Melvin A. Wilson, co-director of Turnaround Tuesday, is a life-long resident of Baltimore City.  He spent 14 years on the Baltimore City Police Department. Melvin also worked for Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake for 12 years in various positions including Human Resource Generalist; Employee Engagement Coordinator and Assistant to the President. Prior to assuming his current role as Co-Director of Turnaround Tuesday, Melvin served as Chief Operating Officer of Zion Baptist Church. 

Melvin serves on the Deacon Board of Zion Baptist Church.


Philanthropy Panel

Robert Embry


As President, Robert C. Embry Jr. leads the Abell Foundation’s efforts to improve the quality of life for people in Maryland and Baltimore City. 

Prior to joining the Foundation in 1987, Robert served as president of the Board of School Commissioners for Baltimore City, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development for Baltimore City.  Since assuming the presidency of the Foundation, Bob has held leadership roles on numerous boards, including a five-year term as president of the Maryland State Board of Education.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Bob graduated from Baltimore City College High School, Williams College, and Harvard Law School.  He and his wife, sculptor Mary Ann Mears, have four adult daughters.

Lisa Hamilton


Lisa Hamilton is president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private philanthropy dedicated to building a brighter future for children, families, and communities in the United States.

Hamilton previously served as the Foundation’s executive vice president and chief program officer, overseeing investments to promote community change, economic opportunity for families and public system reform. She also guided efforts to strengthen the social sector and encourage the take-up of effective strategies. Before that, Hamilton was vice president of external affairs, leading efforts to provide data, analysis, research and policy solutions to help all children realize their potential.

Before joining Casey, Hamilton worked at UPS for 14 years. She serves on the boards of the Baltimore Community Foundation, Baltimore’s Promise, East Baltimore Development Inc., Living Cities and StriveTogether. She is president of the board of Casebook PBC. She earned a law degree from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s in commerce from the University of Virginia.

Shanaysha Sauls


Shanaysha Sauls currently serves as president and CEO of the Baltimore Community Foundation, focusing on fiscal responsibility and oversight, operations, fundraising and revenue management and generation, as well as strategic planning and execution.

Over the last fifteen years she has served as the founding treasurer of a school and in the same role for a nonprofit focused on advocacy and marketing for family-friendly community development. Shanaysha formerly served as chair of the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners and was a member of the Executive Committee of the Council of the Great City Schools, the nation’s leading advocacy and research organization for school districts in major U.S. cities.

Shanaysha graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Maryland, College Park and later earned her Master’s degree and Ph.D. from Duke University. Shanaysha currently serves on the boards of Teach for America Baltimore, Healthy Neighborhoods and the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance.

Closing Remarks

Congressman Elijah Cummings


The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings is Congressman of Maryland’s 7th district. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, where he still resides today. He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Howard University, serving as Student Government President and graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and then graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law. He has dedicated his life of service to uplifting and empowering the people he is sworn to represent. He began his career of public service in the Maryland House of Delegates, where he served for 14 years and became the first African American in Maryland history to be named Speaker Pro Tem. Since 1996, Congressman Cummings has proudly represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He currently serves as the Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and is also a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Congressman Cummings serves on numerous boards and commissions. He is an active member of New Psalmist Baptist Church and is married to Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings.


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