Political Determinants of Health Learning Laboratory

Meet our PDOH Champions

Our inaugural cohort participants were selected from a national applicant pool of elected/appointed officials and community leaders all serving vulnerable communities in their respective jurisdictions.  This is a selective cohort of policy officials and community leaders who, over the next two years, will be challenged to create actionable steps toward alleviating disproportionate health outcomes by utilizing the Political Determinants of Health (PDOH) framework.  At the conclusion of this inaugural cohort, these elected/appointed officials and community members will be better equipped to develop and implement actionable solutions to close the identified health gaps within their communities.

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Adrian Shanker 

Executive Director

Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center

Adrian Shanker is editor of the critically acclaimed anthology Bodies and Barriers: Queer Activists on Health and the executive director of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, PA. A specialist in LGBTQ health policy, he developed leading-edge health promotion campaigns to advance health equity through behavioral, clinical, and policy changes. Adrian administered data collection for the 2015, 2018, and 2020 Pennsylvania LGBTQ Health Needs Assessments. Adrian serves as Commissioner and health committee co-chair on the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs. City and State Pennsylvania listed him in their 2021 Pennsylvania Healthcare Power 100 and he has been named a “Healthcare Hero” by Lehigh Valley Business and twice named ‘Person of the Year’ by Philadelphia Gay News. He earned a Graduate Certificate in LGBT Health Policy & Practice from George Washington University.

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Ajeenah S. Amir, MS


Mayor's Office of Public Engagement

Ajeenah Amir is a Philadelphia native and strategist passionate about equity, inclusion, storytelling and impact. Ajeenah is currently Director for the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement in the City of Philadelphia. Within this role, Ajeenah develops, creates and manages numerous and impactful public engagement strategies around key initiatives and Mayoral priorities for the City of Philadelphia. Her focus is ensuring that communities that have not historically had a say in public policy are provided meaningful opportunities engage with government. She previously served as Deputy Communications Director for Mayor Jim Kenney in the City of Philadelphia, managing and advising the communications strategy for a broad portfolio of departments, including the Department of Planning and Development, the Office of Immigrant Affairs, and the Mayor’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion from 2016 through 2018. Prior to joining the Kenney Administration, Ajeenah worked as Deputy Press Secretary for PA Governor Tom Wolf, and as Associate State Director for Communications with AARP Pennsylvania. Amir earned her MS in social policy at the University of Pennsylvania and her BA in journalism from Howard University in Washington, DC.

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C. Virginia Fields, MSW

President and CEO

National Black Leadership Commission on Health

C. Virginia Fields is the President and CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on Health Inc., (NBLCH), formerly known as the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. Under Ms. Fields’ leadership, the organization has grown to include affiliate chapters in 12 cities nationwide and established partnerships with over 140 organizations. Her expertise in government and politics has led to the successful implementation of noteworthy public policy achievements in health promotion and disease prevention, including HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Ms. Fields received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Knoxville College, Tennessee, and a master’s degree in Social Work from Indiana University. Ms. Fields is a featured speaker on leadership issues, civil rights, health, government, and politics at numerous governmental, organizations, and private industry events. In 2004, she addressed the International Business Conference in Beijing, China; and was a speaker at the National Democratic Convention in Boston.

A civil rights activist, leader, educator, and philanthropist, she is the recipient of numerous awards, citations, and honors of distinction for her leadership on health, education, civil rights and social justice issues, Ms. Fields resides in New York City.


Charlene McGriff

Lancaster County Councilwoman

District 2


Charlene McGriff is the proud mother of two and grandmother of seven. She is a leader in the non-profit community of Lancaster, South Carolina. Ms. McGriff is a graduate of Brookstone College and attended the University of South Carolina – Lancaster. She is also a graduate of the Carolina Leadership Program. From 1995 to present, Ms. McGriff has served as the Executive Director of Palmetto Citizens Against Sexual Assault, an organization which serves Lancaster, Chester, and Fairfield Counties, and, in that capacity, she is responsible for developing budgets, raising money, marketing the services offered by the organization, and serving as a liaison with the community.


Clifton J. McMillan, Sr., M.Div.

Vice President

National Action Network


Clifton J. McMillan, Sr. currently serves as the senior pastor of the Maranatha Seventh-day Adventist Church in Montgomery, AL, and Christ is The Answer Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hurtsboro, AL, as well as a chaplain at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, AL, for the past 14 years. He has 26 years of pastoral experience in Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, Florida, and Tennessee as well as 30 years of chaplaincy experience. He is the Vice President of the National Action Network (NAN) in Alabama. He serves on the Board of Directors of Youth Towers and Co-Chair and Executive Board Member of People’s Justice Council. In Florida, he helped develop the Community Information Network to address African-American health disparities through education and intervention. He serves on the Advisory Committee for Alabama Interfaith Power and Light. He is also a member of the HBCU Law Call which focuses on prison reform.

He earned his BA from Oakwood University and M.Div from Andrews University. He has done advanced studies at Ashland Theological Seminary in Black Church Studies researching African-American health disparities. He is a graduate of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute.

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Dennis Deer Phd ,  CRC

Cook County Commissioner

Cook County 2nd District


Commissioner Deer is a graduate of Jackson State University, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Elementary/Special Education and the Master of Science in Rehabilitation Psychology. He later went on to earn his Ph.D. in Christian Psychology. Born and raised on Chicago’s west side, Dr. Deer remains a resident of the North Lawndale community. He has a long history of community service and has worked extensively with local community organizations on employment and training, re-entry, economic development, affordable housing, healthcare, and education. Dr. Deer is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Clinically Certified Forensic Counselor, and a Certified Corrective Thinking Therapist.

As Commissioner, Dennis serves as Chair of Health and Hospitals Committee with a budget of 3.3 Billion dollars. In addition, he was recently appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to serve as an advisory board member on the federal NACDA council of the National Institute of Health.

Dennis is married with three teenage children.

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Desmon Yancy

Director of Community Organizing

Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN)


Desmon Yancy, born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, is currently Director of Community Organizing with the Inner-city Muslim Action Network, a community organization that fosters health, wellness, and healing by organizing for social change, cultivating the arts, and operating a holistic health center. He is a longtime labor and community organizer who has trained hundreds of leaders to fight for dignity and respect in their workplaces and their neighborhoods, police accountability, and racial justice. Previously, he has held leadership positions at SEIU Healthcare IL/IN, the Action Now Institute, and the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability.


Geoff Brace

Lehigh County Commissioner

Lehigh County District 4


Lehigh County Commissioner Geoff Brace was elected to the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners representing District 4 in 2013 and took office in January, 2014.

Commissioner Brace’s legislative efforts have included a focus on a strong regional economy with jobs that pay a living wage. This includes strengthening the safety net that provides for seniors at Cedarbrook nursing home, human services for children and youth, mental health, intellectual disabilities and the homeless.
Commissioner Brace is currently Legislative Assistant to State Representative Mike Schlossberg, where he oversees legislation, policy and communication for Pennsylvania’s 132nd legislative district. Geoff has developed extensive experience in community and economic development, having worked for the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, Kutztown Community Partnership, Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and the West Chester Business Improvement District.

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Gwendolyn D. Reese

BHEA Coordinator

Black Health Equity Alliance of Pinellas, Inc.


Gwendolyn Reese is the President and CEO of Peaten Reese Peaten Consulting, Inc., providing professional development and consultation services to individuals and organizations.

Ms. Reese is President of the African American Heritage Association of St. Petersburg, FL, Inc, and the former co-chair of Pinellas Remembers, a project of the Equal Justice Initiative. Reese serves on the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative to insure equity and community involvement in the redevelopment of Tropicana Field. Additionally, she is a member of the Commission to Study Structural Racism in the City of St. Petersburg, the Sankofa Project Advisory Council, and the Community Benefits Agreement Policy Council.

Ms. Reese was the first Social Justice Coordinator for the Alabama Institute of Social Justice (AISJ). She was a primary organizer and facilitator for Agenda 2010, a historically significant political action and education project to increase black voter participation and candidate accountability during the 2009 City elections.


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Jackie Leung, JD, MS

City Councilor

Salem, Oregon Ward 4


Jackie Leung is the Executive Director and a Public Health Advocate with the Micronesian Islander Community (MIC). Jackie’s responsibilities include community engagement, outreach, and education including COVID19 wrap around services, developing job training opportunities including healthcare interpreters and community health workers, and working in partnership with an academic nurse at Washington State University focusing on early childhood learning and development. She serves on multiple commissions and organizations including the Oregon Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, the Asian & Pacific Islander Caucus for Public Health, and is a City Councilor. Jackie is a graduate student at Oregon State University majoring in Public Health (Global Health). In her free time, Jackie enjoys spending time with her family.

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Kimberly Brown-Williams


Black Health Equity Alliance


Mrs. Brown-Williams is a Maternal and Child Health (MCH) professional with over 21 years of experience, while addressing racial disparities that impact mothers, infants, fathers and families. Kimberly serves as the director of the Black Health Equity Alliance (BHEA), a newly formed non-profit dedicated to addressing will the systems, structures and policies that have prevented the realization of equity in communities of colors. As the current program manager for the federal Healthy Start Initiative at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital (JHACH), Kimberly sits on the JHACH Diversity and Inclusion Council and locally, Mrs. Brown-Williams is a board member for the Healthy Start Coalition (HSC)-MCH New Visions at the Well (Mental Wellness Services) and the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum. In addition, Kimberly also represents Healthy Start and the BHEA in a variety of grass-roots community-based initiatives. Ms. Brown-Williams’s education and professional development include: a Bachelor of Arts and Social Science from Eckerd College and certifications in Maternal Child Health and Portfolio Development from St. Petersburg College and Race and Equity certifications from USF.

Kimberly is a native of St. Petersburg, Florida and has been married to Calvin Williams for 15 years and they have a daughter, Aaliyah age 18.

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LaTricea Adams, MAT, EdS

Founder CEO and President

Black Millennials 4 Flint


LaTricea Adams is a proud native of Memphis, Tennessee, and is the Founder CEO & President of Black Millennials 4 Flint (BM4F), a national grassroots, environmental justice, and civil rights organization with the purpose of bringing like-minded organizations together to collectively take action and advocate against the crisis of lead exposure specifically in African American & Latinx communities throughout the nation. She is also a former member of the Board of Directors for the Memphis Urban League and the recipient of the National Urban League Young Professionals (NULYP) Honors Award in 2019.

Ms. Adams is a recent presidential appointee for the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC), a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and a terminal doctoral student at Tennessee State University.

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Sharon Novinger

Executive Director

Lancaster County Partners for Youth


Sharon Frain Novinger has been the Executive Director of PFY since March 2007. During her leadership she has successfully implemented and administered $6 million in federal grants that have impacted all 4K classes in Lancaster County and Clinton Elementary School; overseen the distribution of $1.3 million in scholarships for the Gear Up programs and PFY’s annual scholarships; led PFY’s involvement with a multitude of community collaborations positively impacting our county’s parents and youth; and, awarded teacher classroom grants, professional development grants, and community grants to dozens of recipients. Her dedication to education has been a constant throughout her life starting with her father as a career military training specialist and her mother an early elementary teacher. Before PFY, she was a communications director at Savannah College of Art and Design as well as led the United Way of Lancaster County. She grew up in Martinez, Georgia, is an American Leadership Fellow, Lancaster Breakfast Rotary member, and is an alumnus of St. Andrews Presbyterian University.

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Sheila Tyson

Jefferson County Commissioner

Jefferson County District 2


The Birmingham native is a business accountant, former president of the West End community, and the Birmingham Citizens Advisory Board Commissioner Tyson studied business accounting at the Quartermaster School operated by the U.S. Army.

Commissioner Tyson maintains a reputation as a community leader for the people. Her most proud and notable accomplishment is the act of leading the Alabama Coalition on Black Civic Participation in its pursuit to concentrate on the formerly incarcerated population to engage and mobilize them to participate in the 2008 presidential election.

With hopes to create a better footprint for the southwestern district, Commissioner Tyson assisted on passing laws that removed alcoholic coolers from convenience store fronts and minors no longer have access, helped pass a smoke-free ordinance for four cities in the state of Alabama, completed a one year training program for Organizing Project, started a walking team for 99 communities, and chosen to host a webinar for Equal Voices, which was shown in twenty-seven states across the country. She is certified by the International Research Board and is now a certified facilitator by UAB and one of thirteen people chosen to lead a webinar about getting influenza vaccination grass roots up and running. Within the West End community, she assisted in starting eight gardens and helped several uninsured women receive breast cancer screenings through the Reach Us program. Currently, she assists with feeding needy citizens of Birmingham three meals a day.


Stacy Stout, MPA

Director of Equity and Engagement

City of Grand Rapids


Stacy Stout demonstrates her values of community and equity by volunteering as a K-Connect board trustee, Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) Native American Education Program (NAEP) Parent Committee member, service on diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) committees, and co-founding LatinxGR – a collaborative of local Latinx led and focused organizations - and the Latina Network of West Michigan.

Stacy also lives these values as the Director of Equity and Engagement with the City of Grand Rapids and oversees the City’s community engagement, DEI strategies, framework, policies, and training. She also provides executive strategic leadership to embed equity into policy and practice throughout the organization for long-term change. Her approach pulls from her lived experience and training as a former Michigan team member with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Dean of Students at GRPS Burton Middle School, Education Director with the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, and as the former Freshmen Academy Coordinator with Grand Valley State University (GVSU).



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Tasnim Sulaiman, LPC

Executive Director

Black Men Heal


Tasnim Sulaiman is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Marriage & Family Therapist who is the CEO of a private practice in the Philadelphia area. Tasnim is passionate about relationship issues, social justice, and equitable access to quality mental health treatment for BIPOC. Her dedication to men’s health and wellness issues led to becoming the Founder/Executive Director of Black Men Heal, a mission dedicated to offering free therapy to Black men and working to remove the stigma around mental health care. Tasnim is also a event speaker and frequent media contributor who enjoys training other therapists.

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Vanessa A. A. Vassall,MSPH, MCHES

National Programs Director for Maternal Health and Environmental Justice

Black Millennials 4 Flint


Originally from South Seattle, Vanessa Amandla Awetu Vassall is a maternal health epidemiologist and full spectrum Doula whose research and practice centers the life-saving scope of practice of Black, Brown, and Indigenous community-based Doulas, midwives, and ancestral birth workers. Her middle name, meaning “power to the people,” is the spirit of who she is and the purpose of all she does.
For over a decade, Vanessa has developed her maternal health expertise at such agencies as the CDC, HRSA, NIH, USAID, Planned Parenthood, March of Dimes, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and at local and state health departments in Florida, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, and Vermont to name a few. Vanessa advanced to Ph.D. candidacy at Florida International University studying Maternal and Child Health Promotion and Disease Prevention as a McKnight Doctoral Fellow. Vanessa is a proud graduate of Meharry Medical College where she studied Public Health Practice.