Thank you 2016 Keynote Speakers

Jay Butler, MD

Jay C. Butler, MD was appointed by Governor Walker as Chief Medical Officer for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and Director of the Division of Public Health in December 2014. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina Medical School, has completed clinical trainings at Vanderbilt and Emory Universities, and maintains clinical board certifications in infectious diseases, internal medical, and pediatrics. Previously, Dr. Butler was Senior Director for Community Health Services at the ANTHC, where he was also a clinical infectious diseases consultant and Medical Director for Infection Control and Employee Health. Earlier work includes serving as Chief Medical Officer of the Alaska Department of Health Social Services from 2007 to 2009, Alaska State Epidemiologist, 2005-07, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Arctic Investigations Program, 1998-2005, and medical epidemiologist in CDC’s National Center for Infectious Diseases in Atlanta, 1991-98.


Val Davidson, JD

Valerie “Nurr’araaluk” Davidson is an enrolled tribal member of the Orutsararmiut Native Council (ONC). Davidson has worked for over 15 years as a national policy maker on matters affecting Indian health. Most recently, she served as the Senior Director of Legal and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, where she represented Alaska Native health needs at federal and state levels. Davidson served as Chair of the Tribal Technical Advisory Group to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from its inception in 2004 until August 2014. She represented all tribes over a period that spanned the terms of several Secretaries of Health & Human Services and under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Davidson was also the spokesperson, chief political and legal strategist for ANTHC’s Dental Health Aide Therapy Program, the country’s first mid-level dental program. Davidson served for 11 years as the Technical Co-Lead Negotiator of the Alaska Tribal Health Compact and served on a team to negotiate agreements with the Veterans Administration that allow rural veterans to seek care in their home communities. Valerie also negotiated a tri-party agreement to streamline rural sanitation construction projects with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the State of Alaska and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Davidson also served as Chair of The Foraker Group, Chair of the Alaska Commission on Children and Youth, and a member of the Alaska Health Care Commission. She currently serves on the U.S. Department of Justice Advisory Committee on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence and as a Trustee of the First Alaskans Institute.

Davidson earned her juris doctorate, with a certificate in Indian law, from the University of New Mexico School of Law, and a bachelor’s degree in education with a minor in bilingual education from University of Alaska Southeast. Davidson, a Yup’ik, was born in Bethel.


Hope Finkelstein

Hope Finkelstein is the Coordinator for the Alaska Wellness Coalition. She works with the Coalition to promote alliances through information sharing of best practices, strategic prevention, and current trends; garnering resources; and statewide advocacy for wellness. Her major responsibility for the past year has been to coordinate the award winning statewide positive community norms campaign, Be [You] 78% Alaska teens don’t drink. With over 30 years of community development experience, Hope has dedicated her professional career to cultivating & connecting community resources including co-founding the internationally known food systems organization, Growing Power. Hope now owns her own private firm, “Consulting with Hope.” And most importantly, Hope is a mother of two inspiring young women who have recently left her a novice empty nester.


Bill Griffith, MS

Bill Griffith has managed Division of Water facility programs in the State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation since 2004. He is a professional engineer and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and English from Carnegie Mellon University and Master’s degree in Construction Engineering from the University of New Mexico. After serving as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal, he spent ten years helping to design, construct and operate water and sewer systems on the Navajo Indian Reservation and with villages in the interior of Alaska. He then worked as a program manager for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium before coming to work with the state.


Mia Heavener

Mia Heavener is a Senior Civil Engineer at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Division of Environmental Health and Engineering. A graduate of MIT, Mia is a professional engineer with ten years of experience in the design of small water treatment and waste water systems throughout all regions of Alaska.


Shauna Z. Hegna, MA

Shauna Hegna is a tribal member of Native Village of Port Lions and Native Village of Afognak. She is a shareholder of Afognak Native Corporation and Koniag.

Shauna serves as the Chief Administrative Officer for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Prior to joining the Consortium, she was the Vice President of Shareholder Services for Afognak Native Corporation and the Deputy Director for RurAL CAP.

Shauna enjoys giving back to her community and serves on the Board of Directors for Koniag, Rural Energy Enterprises, and the RurAL CAP Foundation. She is a 2010 Native American Top Forty Under 40 and a 2007 recipient of Alaska’s Top Forty Under 40.

Shauna holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Alaska, a graduate certificate in Alaska Native Executive Leadership from Alaska Pacific University, and is a 2009 participant of Harvard Business School’s High Potentials Leadership Program.


Tom Hennessy, MD, MPH

Tom Hennessy is the Director of the CDC Arctic Investigations Program, an infectious disease field station in Anchorage, Alaska. He works to reduce infectious diseases among the people of the Arctic and subarctic through disease surveillance, research, and by promoting domestic and international partnerships. Dr. Hennessy has documented the health disparities associated with not having in-home water and sanitation service in rural Alaska and the health benefits realized when communities receive adequate volumes of clean water. Dr. Hennessy is trained in both Family and Preventive Medicine and has served in the US Public Health Service since 1990. He is a graduate of Antioch College, the Mayo Medical School and holds a Master’s in Public Health from Emory University. He is an affiliate faculty member of the University of Alaska, Anchorage in the Department of Health Sciences. He is also the Co-chair for the Arctic Human Health Experts Group, a multinational advisory group to the Arctic Council.


Susan Johnson
Regional Director, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Region 10

Susan Johnson was appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama as Regional Director of Region 10 serving Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. As HHS Regional Director, she serves as Secretary Burwell’s primary representative and liaison to key constituencies in the Region. In this role, Susan works with federal, state, local and tribal officials on a wide range of health and social service issues.

For twelve years prior to this she was Regional Health Administrator and Director of the King County Health Action Plan (KCHAP), a voluntary partnership of over forty organizations convened by Public Health – Seattle & King County to implement innovative collaborative policy development and pilot projects that focus on system change and improvement of worsening health trends affecting vulnerable populations within King County, Washington.

Before that, Susan was a member of the Washington State Health Care Policy Board, appointed by Governor Lowry in 1995, and prior to that was the state Governmental Relations Director for the Service Employees’ International Union, then, the largest health-care union in the AFL-CIO.
Susan served on the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and the Shoreline Community College Board of Trustees. She graduated from Middlebury College, Vermont and when not working on health policy, Susan skis, plays tennis and golf, enjoys fly fishing, writes and does water colors.


Brian Lefferts

Brian is the Director of Environmental Health & Engineering (OEHE).  He has been with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) in Bethel, AK for ten years.  His experience began at YKHC as a field environmental health specialist, where he worked with communities to improve environmental conditions affecting human health.  In 2008 he began managing the YKHC Remote Maintenance Worker Program providing training and technical assistance to rural water and waste water systems, and was promoted to Director of OEHE in 2010. Brian’s management, environmental health knowledge, and passion for preventing illnesses are the foundation for his crusade to improve the quality of life of the people of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta by ensuring universal access to an affordable, sustainable water and sewer service. In his time at YKHC, Brian has led several diverse projects and initiatives that improved the efficiency and effectiveness of the services provided by YKHC and furthered the corporate mission “working together to achieve excellent health.”


Claudia Plesa

Claudia Plesa is a Prevention Coordinator with the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.  Claudia is a graduate Eastern Oregon University with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology, with a minor in Gender Studies.  She also has her Master’s in Sociology from Portland State University.  After receiving her Master’s, Claudia spent a year teaching undergraduate level sociology classes at Eastern Oregon University.  Although she enjoyed teaching, Claudia wanted to work in a field where she could feel that she was making a real difference.


Elaine Ryan, MPA

Elaine M. Ryan is the Vice President of State Advocacy and Strategy Integration (SASI) in the Government Affairs Department of AARP. Elaine leads a team of legislative staff who work with our 53 AARP state offices to advance AARP’s state advocacy agenda with Governors and state legislators throughout the nation to enable individuals age 50+ and their families attain and maintain their financial and health security. Our priority legislative issues include supports for family caregivers; small business access to workplace savings; and consumer issues.

Prior to joining AARP in 2007, Elaine served as Deputy Executive Director of the American Public Human Services Association—a bi-partisan membership organization representing the 50 state Governor’s cabinet officers of health and human services agencies and the National Association of State Medicaid Directors. Elaine also served as Chief of Staff and House Budget Staff Associate in the U.S. House of Representatives and she served on the senior staff of New York State Governor Mario Cuomo for nine years. Elaine earned her Master of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and her undergraduate degree in Economics from Fordham University. She has served as a member of numerous boards and commissions in the public, private and non-profit sectors.


Karen Zeman

Karen Zeman has been the Executive Director at Spirit of Youth since 2008. She previously worked for Boys & Girls Clubs of America where she oversaw their outcome measurement and program planning initiatives. She also managed programs related to youth financial literacy and job readiness and assisted local Boys & Girls Clubs to improve their services. Karen has worked with teens for more than 20 years and says she is constantly amazed by their dedication, creativity and caring. Karen grew up in Wisconsin and attended Portland State University where she fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and Youth Development.

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