Director of Health Equity
Connecticut State Medical Society
New Haven, CT
“The best example of leadership is by example. We have the capacity to become a healthcare and wellness leader whether at the home, office or to our community.”
A native New Yorker, M. Natalie Achong, MD graduated with honors from the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education and received her Doctorate of Medicine from New York University School of Medicine. She completed her residency training in obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine and is on faculty at Yale’s department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences. She has been in academic practice in Connecticut for over fifteen years.
Dr. Achong worked to establish the first National Medical Association society in Connecticut and continues to provide leadership to the membership. Through her work as the Director of Health Equity for the Connecticut State Medical Society, she developed and executed health equity programs and initiatives.
Dr. Achong is an articulate and engaging speaker as well as a writer. She served as health editor and columnist for Lifetime Magazine. Through the “Ask Dr. Natalie” column and as health editor for The Green Magazine and Health Power website, she reached over two million readers. She has been quoted in several news and medical publications and has appeared on NBC’s Today show.
M. Natalie Achong, MD, FACOG
Postdoctoral Clinical Psychology Fellow
Yale University Department of Psychiatry
New Haven, CT
“A leader must possess the ability to listen critically, synthesize information at multiple levels of complexity, effectively organize human potential, develop strategies and tactics for achieving objectives, deliver the right messages to the right people at the right time, and, most importantly, inspire hope.”
Ranjit Bhagwat, a postdoctoral psychology fellow at Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC) and Yale University, serves as a psychology consultant/liaison to Columbus House, Inc., a broad-based nonprofit service organization focusing on the needs of homeless individuals in the Greater New Haven area. He is committed to generating systemic change through mental health programming, policy, and community organizing to eliminate health disparities across social and economic lines.
Prior to his time in the field of psychology, Bhagwat spent a number of years working as a community organizer for issues of educational justice, immigrant rights, and police-community accountability on the southwest and north side of Chicago, IL. His community interventions experiences generated a broad context for his professional turn to clinical psychology, and he strives to connect these varied training backgrounds in his current work.
He loves to travel, read, cook, and spend time with friends and family. Bhagwat and his wife, a social psychologist with a passion for research and advocacy on issues of equity, reside in the New Haven area.
Ranjit Bhagwat, PhD
Training Program Coordinator
Department of Mental Health and Addictions Services
Office of Multicultural Healthcare Equality
“Leadership means having the vision, knowledge, character and will to lead those you wish to serve.”
Ellen Boynton went to college to become a teacher but realized that the traditional classroom would not be where she helped youth. She changed her major and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in applied social relations and psychology from Eastern Connecticut State University. This led to directing youth programs and allowed Boynton to focus on exposing young people to experiences with people from diverse backgrounds so they would appreciate difference and reduce their stereotypes and discrimination.
“I heard firsthand the impact of disparities in healthcare when consulting and conducting focus groups around the state. I heard stories of discrimination and of family tragedies because providers didn’t speak their language or understand their culture with relation to mental and physical health issues.” Profoundly impacted by her work with youth and the experience of having done the research, Boynton is driven with passion for the work she is doing for the Department of Mental Health and Addictions Services, providing cultural competency training for clinicians, physicians and staff in the system.
Boynton and her husband enjoy their children and grandchildren, spending time with close friends and traveling.
Ellen S. Boynton
Director, Community Based Education
University of Connecticut Health Center
“Leadership is not about telling people what to do, but rather showing people what they are capable of and inspiring them to act upon it.”
As director of community based education at the University of Connecticut, Stacey Brown works with students to develop strategies to address the impact of social, economic, political and environmental influences on health. “Too often, health profession students are narrowly focused on the biological diagnosis of a patient without taking into consideration that the disease lives in a person, who lives in a family that lives in a community within a culture.” The educational activities Brown helps to develop and implement teach students to treat the whole patient and identify community resources to improve the quality of care.
Brown became aware of the challenges of the healthcare system and existence of disparities when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. “This firsthand understanding further cemented my resolve and dedication to being a part of the solution,” she says.
She is passionate about being the best parent, role model and mentor she can be to her daughter. She enjoys reading, biking and trips to discover new things in small Connecticut towns.
Stacey Brown, PhD
U. S. Navy Retiree
New London, CT
“Leadership is the ability to remain humble and embrace integrity, combined with the ability to inspire.”
After 23 years of service to his country in the U.S. Navy as a Chief Petty Officer, Keith Carter retired to begin a second career as a community based education specialist at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. He dedicated himself to the cause of expanding educational opportunities for underrepresented minorities, especially in the healthcare professions. “This really changed my perspective about healthcare and the health disparities found within communities of color,” he says. Carter attributes his dedication to his aunt, who taught him how academic learning is not enough to help many health professionals successfully treat illness in African Americans and people from different cultures.
Carter earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University in workforce education and development, a master’s of human relations from the University of Oklahoma and a master’s of social work from University of Connecticut. In pursuit of his dream, he looks forward to begin work on a doctorate in human services.
His top two passions are mentoring and flower gardening. In his free time he keeps busy repairing small gas engines, carpentry, reading and family.
Keith A. Carter, MS
Pharmacy Clinical Specialist, Medication Safety Officer
“In order to achieve a quality healthcare environment for all the next generation of healthcare leaders need to simultaneously walk the line of patient empowerment, fiscal responsibility and regulatory risk.”
As a clinical pharmacy specialist at Norwalk Hospital, Patrick Corbett works with physicians, nurses, other health care practitioners and patients to optimize medications used and seek exceptional outcomes. He completed both his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees from the University Of Connecticut School Of Pharmacy. After graduation he worked as an overnight pharmacist where he was exposed to the diversity and disparities in healthcare and the impact on a patient’s life.
Corbett adheres to a philosophy of patient education and empowerment to ultimately drive healthcare decisions. As a pharmacist with training in pain and palliative care, he witnessed healthcare disparities in patient access to pain management resources as well as healthcare provider understanding of patient healthcare core values. “While pain may be subjective to our patients, our treatment & understanding of our patient’s pain management goals should not,” he says.
Outside of work in the pharmacy profession, he practices the Brazilian martial art of capoeira, and plays guitar and baritone horn. “I thoroughly love to travel, and honing my culinary skills.”
Patrick F. Corbett, PharmD
Health Program Assistant II
CT Department of Public Health
“A leader is someone who inspires, makes difficult decisions, and possesses the ability to mobilize people to work together towards achieving a common goal.”
Nordia Grant has always been passionate about addressing health inequities in her community. Born and raised in Jamaica, she moved with her family to Bridgeport at the age of nine. As a child, she witnessed how low socioeconomic status, lack of insurance and lack of access to care can contribute to poor health outcomes in individuals and stressors on the family. Grant believes strong multiracial collaboratives are crucial for successfully addressing the complexities of health inequities.
Grant earned a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Connecticut and her MPH from Southern Connecticut State University. At the Department of Public Health, she served as coordinator of a three year federal grant focused on providing systems change and resources for youth with special health care needs and their successful transition to all aspects of adulthood. Currently she serves as co-coordinator of a state implementation grant aimed at improving access to comprehensive, coordinated healthcare and related services for children and youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disabilities.
She enjoys bowling, traveling to new places, a diversity of cuisines and spending time with family and friends.
Nordia Grant, MPH
Professor of Social Work
University of Saint Joseph
West Hartford, CT
“Leaders bring people together for a common purpose, appreciate every person’s potential, and create opportunities for meeting individual and collective goals.”
Lorrie Greenhouse Gardella entered social work during high school as a settlement house volunteer. She earned an A.B. in Government from Smith College and a JD and MSW from the University of Connecticut. She served as a consultant in children’s law before beginning her higher education career. Gardella sees health equity and educational equity as two sides of a coin. Her goals as an educator are to improve college access for underrepresented communities and to prepare ethical, culturally responsive professionals who learn from the communities that they serve.
Gardella has been motivated to social action by her Jewish heritage and her historical research. “My Jewish heritage has taught me that every generation has the obligation to build a better world. In my research and writing, I have learned from examples of multicultural leaders of the past and from my students, the leaders of the future, that we have the ability to promote social justice and social change,” she says.
Outside of work, Gardella and her husband volunteer for the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in Lenox, MA, the orchestra’s summer home.
Lorrie Greenhouse Gardella, JD, MSW, ACSW
Social Media Manager
Community Health Center, Inc.
“Leaders help others find ways to express and act on their own passions.”
Aldon Hynes has always been interested in helping people find their voices, especially the underserved and disenfranchised. He has worked as a blogger and freelance writer covering topics that too often get ignored, particularly in terms of local news. He was one of the first bloggers to be credentialed to cover a national political convention at the 2004 Democratic National Convention as well as various state and local political conventions. He continues to explore how the Internet can help activists get their messages out.
As the social media manager at the Community Health Center, Hynes promotes events and causes that tell stories of improving health outcomes for underserved populations. He has participated in and helped organize many online discussions and has spoken at conferences on the use of social media in health care, including conferences of the National Association of Community Health Centers and the American Group Psychotherapy Association.
For many years he has been involved in politics, promoting the use of social media as a means of encouraging people to become more active in their civic life. In 2012 he accepted the Democratic Party Nomination to run for State Representative.
Post-doctorate in Clinical Health Psychology
VA Connecticut Healthcare System
West Haven, CT
“Leaders are keenly aware that they are accountable to more people than just themselves. As such, leaders maintain the vision and mission of the organizations they serve while showing compassion, commitment and sensitivity to those they lead.”
Francisco Lopez’s passion has consistently been for learning and understanding the manifestations of mental health issues within the context of culture, health, and quality of life. His passions have flourished in the field of psychology, in which observation and service of others can occur simultaneously. Lopez received a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Buffalo State College, his PhD in psychology from the University at Buffalo, and completed his doctoral internship at Yale University department of psychiatry.
His motivation to actively work to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities has been influenced by personal experiences and observations he made across varied health settings, which included the lack of access to medical interpreters and the inability of health professionals to provide culturally sensitive treatment.
Apart from his professional interests, Lopez is committed to serving the needs of his local community by serving on the Board of Directors for the Spanish Community Center in his hometown.
Francisco A. Lopez, PhD
Aetna Foundation, Inc.
“I see leadership as a way a person can motivate and gain the help and support of others in order to fulfill a common task.”
As a program officer for the Aetna Foundation, Melenie Magnotta is responsible for managing a portfolio of national and strategic grants in the Aetna Foundation’s focus area of racial and ethnic health equity. As grants manager, she oversees the grants management system and administers the Foundation’s grant application, review and evaluation processes. Through her work at the Aetna Foundation, Magnotta has seen the great need for health equity for all Americans and feels that by focusing on these disparities we can eliminate them.
Prior to joining the Aetna Foundation in 2006, she was community director for the March of Dimes Foundation in Hartford, where she coordinated fund-raising walks, motorcycle rides and other events. At Hewitt Associates, a human resources consulting and outsourcing firm, she was a project manager/business analyst in the company’s Norwalk office. She holds a bachelor’s degree with a double major in marketing and French from Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA.
Outside of her profession she enjoys cooking, traveling, working out, and spending time with friends and family.
Melenie Magnotta, BS
Community Based Education Specialist
University of Connecticut Health Center
“Leadership is the ability to engage, motivate, and influence others to achieve a certain goal.”
As a Cambodian refugee, Rasy Mar is an active member of the Cambodian community. Mar is very aware of the challenges faced by immigrants who have no knowledge of the language or customs here. She is often called upon to act as interpreter during medical visits, explaining what the doctors said and meant. Upon earning her MPH from the University of Connecticut she accepted a position at the health center. She develops and maintains community relationships between the medical students and outside organizations where they learn about health disparities, cultural barriers and other aspects of medicine not found in a classroom setting.
Mar spearheaded seminars to promote better understanding of the various cultures and communities in Connecticut. As Co-chair of the Awareness and Outreach Committee for the Connecticut Multicultural Health Partnership, she hosted numerous viewing of the film Unnatural Causes ‘Place Matters’ on the social determinants of health and strategies for change.
Mar is passionate about learning, educating, and increasing cultural awareness. She dedicates a significant portion of time to family and friends, is active in her sons’ school and sports activities, and enjoys running and playing tennis.
Rasy Mar, MPH
Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine
Department of Cardiology
University of Connecticut School of Medicine
“Leadership is the ability to inspire, motivate and empower a group of individuals to align their interests and efforts to deliver excellence towards a common goal that is beneficial for each person and the wider community.”
Atique Mirza, MD is a consultant cardiologist at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Connecticut, and partner at Central Connecticut Cardiologists, LLC. He graduated from Allama Iqbal Medical College in Lahore, Pakistan with a medical degree. He completed his medical residency at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke Medical Center and Westlake Hospital in Chicago, IL. Dr. Mirza pursued his medical specialty training in cardiovascular medicine in Boston at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School as well as a cardiovascular medicine fellowship at the University of Connecticut.
Dr. Mirza is a community activist, who has been involved in increasing the recognition of health and social issues faced by Asian Americans at local and national level. He serves as a board member of the Asian Pacific American Coalition where he is involved in increasing awareness of health issues and health disparities faced by our community,
Dr. Mirza has made Connecticut his home and resides here with his wife and three children.
Atique A Mirza, MD, FACC
The Institute for Community Research
New Britain, CT
“Leadership is a way of thinking that positions one to take responsibility for bringing transformation to lives, systems and contexts.”
After completing her bachelor degree with honors at the University of Nigeria, Chinekwu Obidoa was admitted to the University of Connecticut for graduate study in geography. On completing her master’s in geography, specializing in medical geography, she went on to earn a master’s in public health at the University of Connecticut and a master’s of science in international studies at Central Connecticut State University. More recently, she earned her PhD in public health concentrating in social and behavioral health from the University of Connecticut.
As a graduate student, Obidoa was involved in different types of public health research, practice and teaching at the college level. As a public health professional, her area of work has focused on community-based research addressing structural and social inequities that affect the quality of health of marginalized populations. She hopes to contribute to the elimination of health disparities through research and practice that promote justice and equity.
Outside of work, Obidoa enjoys interior decorating, mentoring young people and helping people achieve their goals.
Chinekwu Obidoa, PhD
Director of Operations
Norwalk Community Health Center
“Leadership is the ability to engender change in others and leverage their innate skill set for the benefit of the whole.”
Jaquel Patterson became interested in community health during her tenure at the University of Bridgeport. As a volunteer she became more acutely aware of the barriers to care for those of lower socioeconomic status and/or underrepresented populations. After receiving her doctoral degree in Naturopathic medicine from the university, she took a position working at a federally qualified health center in the Bronx, NY. Her work there more clearly illustrated how patients were hindered by their inability to afford medicines and transportation to health care facilities, language barriers, access to quality food and exercise – just some of the challenges that directly had an impact on their health needs.
Patterson completed her MBA in healthcare management at Quinnipiac University and continues to remain devoted to community health in her current position. “If we truly believe in equal rights of all people, systematically denying access to quality of care that is on par with the large majority is unfair and society loses as a result; to let one fall aside means that we, on average, are lesser because of it,” she says.
Outside of work Patterson maintains a private practice, Well Med CT, in Norwalk, CT.
Jaquel Patterson, ND, MBA
Community Health Ambassador
MOMS Partnership of New Haven
Yale University School of Medicine
New Haven, CT
“Leadership is sharing a common problem with a group of your peers, refusing to allow it to continue by offering solutions, and becoming a voice for those who suffer the same disparity in silence.”
A licensed cosmetologist and a certified massage therapist, Natasha Rivera-LaButhie decided as a young student she would one day come back to her hometown of New Haven to make a difference no matter how small. While her professional background is focused on improving the physical and emotional well being of a person, she has changed her focus from the individual to community health.
As a mother of three children, she has struggled to find quality programs that meet her family’s basic needs. “I can relate to my community through my own experiences and knowledge,” she says. Her experiences in the community have directed her onto the path of wanting to improve services not only for her community but for future generations. In her current position as a Community Mental Health Ambassador for MOMS, she serves as a platform to be a voice for New Haven families.
Outside of work she enjoys free time with her husband and children, her extended family and friends, in addition to her cosmetology and massage therapy careers.
Natasha I. Rivera-LaButhie
Yale University – Department of Internal Medicine
New Haven, CT
“The greatest leaders among us have the hearts of servants; understanding that they are continually at the service of a particular idea, community, or position in a multitude of capacities.”
Tyra Pendergrass’ passion lies at the intersection of the environment and human health, particularly in low income and communities of color. “I became interested in environmental health while studying abroad in South Africa as an undergraduate. I volunteered in a local township, where the residents lived in subpar environmental conditions. Through that experience, I began to develop a deeper understanding of the essential role that one’s environment can play in one’s health and ultimately quality of life.”
Her long-term goals include research and community engagement. “I want to be instrumental in designing environmental health research projects for communities: I want to help educate communities about environmental health issues that specifically affect them and ultimately empowering them to enact change.”
Pendergrass received her bachelor’s degree in biology, with a minor in chemistry at Howard University and earned her master’s in environmental management, with a concentration in environmental health and justice at Yale University.
In her free time, she enjoys traveling to different countries, attending live theater performances and concerts, and volunteering.
Tyra Pendergrass, MEM
Program Director, Special Kids Support Center
Connecticut Children’s Medical Center
“Leadership is the ability to recognize, develop, and empower individuals to think and act in ways that encourage growth and success.”
Early in her nursing profession, Susan Román focused on two vulnerable populations: children with mental health issues and children and adolescents with special healthcare needs. She quickly realized that hospital nursing only gave a glimpse of the child/family during an acute event, where the focus was often dictated by the hospitalization and not the events leading up to admission. Román transitioned her career to an outpatient community setting, where she could see and treat each child as a whole. “I became aware of all the factors – poverty, asthma, illiteracy, etc. – that affected the health outcomes of children with special health care needs.” This experience compelled Román to pursue an education in public health.
Graduating from Saint Francis Hospital School of Nursing with her RN, she went on to earn her bachelor’s in psychology at Central Connecticut State University and her MPH from the University of Connecticut in maternal child health/research. “It was my graduate work and subsequent volunteer work in Haiti that has had the greatest impact on my life and desire to eliminate health disparities.”
Román enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, son and extended family members. She loves to run, bike, swim and sail/kayak.
Susan B. Román, MPH, RN
Community Programs Coordinator
Center for Health Equity
Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center
“Leadership is about creative thinking that leads to positive equitable change and includes a commitment and passion for doing things in a new or different way. Most often it involves support from others.”
Mary Stuart’s work is influenced by her training, her experiences, her colleagues, and most importantly by the people public health programs are designed to serve. She received her undergraduate degree in nutrition education from Cornell University and completed her MPH at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Stuart held a variety of public health positions that include conducting program evaluations in Guatemala for Christian Children’s Fund and directing a local Women, Infants and Children program.
“During my nine years at Saint Francis my position has evolved to include a strong focus on public health. A Catholic nun described the people she works with as ‘those who had been made poor.’ This description of a system that serves some people but not others continues to motivate me to work in public health and to focus on the elimination of health disparities.”
Outside of work Stuart keeps herself busy as parent to three children, enthusiast of a wide range of activities that include cooking, sailing, biking, reading, and taking care of a 100-year-old house.
Mary C. Stuart, MPH
Director, Office of the President
Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, Inc.
New Haven, CT
“Leadership requires commitment to continuous learning and self-reflection. Only by challenging ourselves to push our own boundaries can we inspire others to grow and change as well.”
Erika Ulanecki’s professional path has been consistently informed by a commitment to helping others. After graduating from college, she worked in the district office of Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, providing casework services to constituents seeking housing and utility assistance.
Over the past eight years, she has worked at PPSNE serving in positions of increasing leadership. “Ensuring access to women’s health services is critical to creating and sustaining healthy communities. I’m proud to be a part of an organization that has made women’s health a priority for nearly a century,” she says. In her current role, she collaborates with the agency’s senior leadership team to provide strategic organizational systems support to the CEO. She has also helped to develop and facilitate several internal leadership development programs for PPSNE staff members.
Ulanecki holds a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Smith College, as well as a graduate certification in nonprofit management from the University of Connecticut. She enjoys traveling and exploring new places, reading, and rooting for her beloved Red Sox.
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellow
Yale Child Study Center
New Haven, CT
“A leader is someone who can motivate, inspire and organize a group of people to achieve a common goal through collaboration.”
Nicole Zuber, MD received her undergraduate degree in biology from Howard University and medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine. Currently pursuing a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center, she received her general psychiatry training at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.
“Over the course of my medical training, I have learned that to be a good physician, I must strike a balance between the academic standards and rigors of medicine and the humanism, compassion and empathy needed to care for each individual patient,” she says. Dr. Zuber is particularly interested in exploring issues related to child and adolescent psychiatry, such as substance abuse disorders, family/social issues, and school based interventions for at risk youth. She is a recipient of the American Psychiatric Association’s Minority Fellowship Program – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Award.
Outside of her professional responsibilities, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, watching football, cooking, arts and crafts activities and working on home improvement projects.