2020 Plenary Speakers

We are pleased to announce the plenary sessions for the 2020 Alaska Health Summit.

Crossing Sectors for Public Health: Tackling Tough Questions and Messy Stuff

8:30 – 9:30 am ~ Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Lisa Carlson, President, American Public Health Association (APHA) Executive Administrator, Research Programs and Operations, Emory School of Medicine

Lisa M Carlson is executive administrator, research programs and operations, at Emory University School of Medicine, directing research initiatives across the School’s core missions, and working at the intersection of health sciences, research administration, and practice. She has served 18 years at Emory in the School of Medicine and the Rollins School of Public Health (RSPH). Her Emory experience includes launching the operations of Emory’s largest-ever sponsored award (CHAMPS) and facilitating Emory Transplant Center teams that grew academic program funding by >350% in 6 years. She is on the adjunct faculty at RSPH, where she teaches in the Executive Master of Public Health (EMPH) Program.  Carlson is president of APHA, past chair of APHA’s Executive Board, and is a past president and honorary lifetime member of the Georgia Public Health Association.


A New Public Health Practice Targeting the Root Causes of Health Inequity

9:45 – 10:45 am ~ Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Dr. Anthony Iton, M.D., J.D., MPH is Senior Vice President for Healthy Communities at The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation whose mission is to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. Prior to that Dr. Iton served for seven years as the Alameda County Public Health Department Director and Health Officer where he oversaw an agency with a budget of $112 million with a focus on preventing communicable disease outbreaks, reducing the burden of chronic disease and obesity, and managing the county’s preparedness for biological terrorism.

Dr. Iton’s primary interest is the health of disadvantaged populations and the contributions of race, class, wealth, education, geography, and employment to health status. He has asserted that in every public health area of endeavor, be it immunizations, chronic disease, HIV/AIDS, STDs, obesity, or even disaster preparedness, public health practitioners must recognize that they are confronted with the enduring consequences of structural poverty, institutional racism and other forms of systemic injustice. He further asserts that the only sustainable approach to eliminating health inequities is through the design of intensive, multi-sectoral, place-based interventions that are specifically designed to identify existing assets and build social, political and economic power among a critical mass of community residents in historically under-resourced communities. In the fall of 2009, Dr. Iton moved to The California Endowment to help oversee the organization’s 10-Year, Multimillion-Dollar Statewide Commitment to Advance Policies and Forge Partnerships to Build Healthy Communities and a Healthy California.

Dr. Iton received his medical degree at Johns Hopkins Medical School and subsequently trained in internal medicine and preventive medicine at New York Hospital, Yale, and Berkeley and is board certified in both specialties. Dr. Iton has also received a law degree and a Master’s of Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley and is a member of the California Bar. He has worked as an HIV disability rights attorney at the Berkeley Community Law Center, a health care policy analyst with Consumers Union West Coast Regional Office, and as a physician and advocate for the homeless at the San Francisco Public Health Department. His experience practicing both medicine and law independently has enabled him to blend both disciplines in the day-to-day practice of public health and in responding to recent public health emergencies such as SARS and anthrax.

Awards include the Champion of Children Award from the United Way; the National Association of City and County Health Officials Award of Excellence for the use of information technology in public health; the 2009 Clean Air Award from Breathe California; and the HeartSaver Award from the American Heart Association. In 2006, he was awarded the prestigious Milton and Ruth Roemer Prize for Creative Public Health Work, awarded by the American Public Health Association to a U.S. local health official in recognition of outstanding creative and innovative public health work. In February 2010, Dr. Iton was recognized by the California Legislative Black Caucus with the Black History Month Legends Award and presented on the floor of the California State Assembly with a resolution memorializing his life’s work and achievements.

He serves on the board of directors of the Public Health Institute, the Public Health Trust, the Prevention Institute, Jobs For The Future, and formerly served in various leadership roles at the Health Officers Association of California, the California Conference of Local Health Officers, and the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Fluoridation: After 75 Years, What We Know about the Science and the Opposition

11:00 – 12:00 pm ~ Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Dr. Johnny Johnson Jr. DMD, MS, is a pediatric dentist from Pinellas County, Florida who is also the co-founder and President of the American Fluoridation Society. Dr. Johnson has delivered presentations, training and testimony about fluoride in numerous states, including Kansas, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin and his home state of Florida, and also in the U.K., Israel, and Canada.  Dr. Johnson’s leadership role in fluoridation advocacy began after his county commission voted to end fluoridation to >700,000 residents — a decision that was successfully reversed after he worked with others to form a coalition in the Clearwater-St. Petersburg, FL area.  Dr. Johnson was a key source of information for the reporters and editors who helped the Tampa Bay Times win a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the fluoridation issue.  He received his dental training from the University of Florida, and he earned his Certificate in Pediatric Dentistry and Masters of Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Matt  Jacob, MA is the owner of Jacob Strategies, a consulting firm in Washington D.C. that advises public health organizations, children’s advocates and foundations.  Previously, Mr. Jacob managed communications and marketing efforts for the Children’s Dental Health Project and the Pew Center on the States.  For over 25 years, he has devised strategies, written content and provided training to help health and educational advocates communicate effectively.  Mr. Jacob has authored articles that have been published in Annals of Epidemiology, Advances in Dental Research, and Pediatrics.  In 2014, HealthLiteracyMonth.org named him a Health Literacy Hero.  



Alfgeir Kristjansson

Substance Use Prevention for Adolescents: The Icelandic Model

4:00 – 5:00 pm ~ Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Dr. Álfgeir Kristjánsson, PhD, MSc, Associate Professor, West Virginia University is from Iceland and has worked at West Virginia University since 2012, where he is an Associate Professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Public Health. Before coming to WVU he studied in the UK at the University of Edinburgh and at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, where he earned his doctorate in social medicine. He completed post-doctoral training at Columbia University in New York. Dr. Kristjánsson also holds the position of Senior Analyst and Data Coordinator with the Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis (ICSRA) in Reykjavík. ICSRA developed Planet Youth, an internationally recognized system of primary prevention across Iceland that has substantiated and sustained dramatic reduction in youth substance use. The research output from the Centre for Planet Youth continues to be at the forefront of international research efforts. Dr. Kristjánsson is providing expert consultation to Mat-Su’s Planet Youth adaptation, Youth 360.

Shots Heard ‘Round the World: Managing the Impact of Social Media Attacks

(Presenting Via Zoom)

8:30 – 9:30 am ~ Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Dr. Todd Wolynn, MD, IBCLC, MMM, President, CEO, and co-owner of Kids Plus Pediatrics — a cutting edge, independent practice in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He also serves as Chief Executive Director of the nationally renowned Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh, and as CEO of the National Breastfeeding Center. An active member and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Wolynn is a nationally recognized expert on pediatric sleep, breastfeeding, immunization, practice management, and the use of social media in pediatrics.


Entertainment Education: A New Paradigm for Public Health

9:30 – 10:30 am ~ Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Beth Hoffman, MPH After graduating from Brown University magna cum laude in 2007 with a BSc in Human Biology, Beth completed her first year of medical school at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania before deciding to switch her career focus to public health and health communication. She completed her Master’s in Public Health in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences at the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh in 2019 and began her PhD work in the same department. Since 2014, she has been a research assistant with the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburgh, where she has published several first author manuscripts on entertainment education topics. Her research interests include the portrayal of health topics in television programs, the influence of media on mental health, and the spread of health information (and misinformation) on social media.

Community Health: Lessons Learned and Future Opportunities

1:00 – 2:00 pm ~ Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Robert Onders has been the President of Alaska Pacific University (APU) since January 2017 when APU entered into an affiliation with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC). Dr. Onders also is the Medical Director of Community and Health Systems Improvement at ANTHC. Prior to joining ANTHC in 2015, Dr. Onders worked as clinical director for Kodiak Area Native Association and emergency department director at West Park Hospital in Cody, Wyoming. Dr. Onders graduated from a combined six year B.S./M.D. program through Kent State University and Northeast Ohio Medical University in 1997. He completed his family medicine residency, Juris Doctorate, and Masters of Public Administration with the University of Wyoming.


Collaborating to Reduce Suicide in Alaska: Attending to the Role of Firearms

3:30 – 4:30 pm ~ Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Deb Azrael, PhD, MS, AB – Director of Research, Harvard Injury Control Research Center received her doctorate in health policy with a concentration in statistics and evaluative sciences.  Dr. Azrael is Director of Research at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center where she is a key member of the Center’s firearm research program. Dr. Azrael has been an author on over 100 peer reviewed journal articles, the majority of which focus on the relationship between access to firearms and homicide and suicide. Dr, Azrael was formerly the Associate Director of the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center, where she lead the Center’s collaboration with the City of Boston. Throughout her two decades in the field, Dr. Azrael has overseen development of surveillance systems for firearm injury, and has extensive expertise in survey research on firearm ownership and use.


How A Grassroots Movement Took on the Gun Lobby

4:30 – 5:15 pm ~ Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Shannon Watts, BA is a mother of five and the founder of the nation’s largest grassroots group fighting against gun violence, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.  Prior to founding Moms Demand Action, Watts was a stay-at-home mom and former communications executive at Fortune 100 companies. The day after the Sandy Hook tragedy, Watts started a Facebook group to unite women against the gun lobby as Mothers Against Drunk Driving united mothers against the alcohol lobby in the 1980s. The online conversation turned into a grassroots movement with a chapter in every state and, together with its partner Everytown for Gun Safety, has nearly 6 million supporters. For the last five years, Moms Demand Action volunteers have stopped the NRA’s priority legislation in statehouses more than 90 percent of the time. In addition to her work with Moms Demand Action, Watts is an active board member of Emerge America, one of the nation’s leading organizations for recruiting and training women to run for office. Her book, Fight Like a Mother: How a Grassroots Movement Took on the Gun Lobby and Why Women Will Change the World, was released in May of 2019. In 2018, Watts was named as one of PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World, and InStyle named her as one in its 2018 “Badass Woman” series.

April Rockford, BS is a life-long Alaska and is now raising her two children here in Anchorage. April graduated from the University of Alaska, Anchorage with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences, and has since held multiple positions in a variety of laboratories relating to life sciences, including teaching laboratory courses. April also teaches yoga, creates art, loves music, and enjoys hiking and camping with her family. The rest of her time is spent fulfilling her duties as the local lead for the Anchorage Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, in hopes of reducing gun violence in our country. 


Healthy Alaskans; Celebrating Success, Partnering for Progress

8:30 – 9:30 am ~ Thursday, January 23, 2020

Lisa McGuire, MPH is the Public Health Quality & Performance Improvement Manager at the State of Alaska, Division of Public Health. She works with teams across the Division on quality improvement and performance management efforts, including strategic planning, Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) accreditation readiness and, in equal partnership with the Alaska Native Health Consortium, she leads the State Health Improvement Plan, Healthy Alaskans 2020/2030. Lisa has worked in health program management and evaluation in a variety of capacities and settings for over 20 years, including in State government, the private sector, and within non-profit, Tribal organizations and overseas.


Cheryl Dalena’s current work focus is providing evidence based technical assistance to public, private and tribal organizations seeking to change and implement systems to decrease tobacco use and nicotine dependence in Alaska. TA provision has included assisting primary care clinics, community health centers, hospitals, oral and mental health facilities and worksite wellness programs. In addition, Cheryl is a certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist and has coordinated and/or worked in several tribal cessation programs including rural village counseling through tele-video, phone-based programs and hospital based programs. During its initial two years, Cheryl coordinated the Growing Up Tobacco-Free In Alaska project, a collaborative community initiative between ANTHC and RurAL CAP to decrease the prevalence of tobacco use in Head Start families. Cheryl has a wide variety of education and healthcare experience ranging from volunteer work to program development, coordination and evaluation. She has lived and worked in rural Alaska for the last 16 years and understands the challenges of public health initiatives and implementation in rural and tribal communities. Cheryl Dalena has extensive experience as a teacher and adult learning trainer/facilitator.  Within the last 5 years, Cheryl has presented poster and lecture sessions at local, state, national and international conferences. Presentations focused on a wide variety of tobacco prevention, cessation and systems change topics including treatment strategies, Ask, Advise, Refer provider training, Alaska Quit Line, Mission 100 and Growing Up Tobacco Free In Alaska.

Dana Diehl is the Director of the Wellness and Prevention Department at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) where she oversees eight statewide programs focused on promoting culturally responsive wellness initiatives among Alaska Native families and Communities. Originally of Aniak in Western Alaska, Dana is Yupik and Dena’ina Athabascan and is an enrolled tribal member with the Native Village of Aniak. Dana is a core team member for the Healthy Alaskans 2020 Initiative, a trained facilitator of the Healthy Healers curriculum, a board member of the Kuskokwim Education Foundation, a recipient of The Kuskokwim Corporation’s 2018 Health Award, and a recipient of ANTHC’s 2018 Employee of the Year award. Dana holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise and Sport Science from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado and a graduate certificate in Alaska Native Executive Leadership from Alaska Pacific University. On her spare time she enjoys gathering and eating traditional Alaska Native foods, gardening, skiing, hiking, and traveling.

Andrea Fenaughty has a Ph.D. in Social Psychology, and spent a decade at the University of Alaska Anchorage conducting research on HIV risk behavior before becoming an epidemiologist with the Alaska Division of Public Health in 2002. She currently serves dual roles as Chronic Disease Epidemiologist and Deputy Section Chief for the Section of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Andrea sees surveillance and evaluation as powerful tools that can be used to improve public health programs and, ultimately, the quality of life of Alaskans. Andrea was a member of the original team that developed and launched Healthy Alaskans 2020, and has been working on Healthy Alaskans ever since.


The Public Health Role in the Social Determinants of Health

3:15 – 4:15 pm ~ Thursday, January 23, 2020

Dr. Gabriel Kaplan, PhD, MPA is the Chief of the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Branch in the Prevention Services Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. In this role, Dr. Kaplan directs and manages work units that seek to improve policies around health promotion and prevention, to transform the delivery of care within health systems, and to improve the linkages between community-based prevention and the clinical care system. Prior to this, he served as the Director of the Epidemiology, Planning & Evaluation Branch in the same division at CDPHE, where he directed the data analysis and research units that support public health prevention services and interventions. Before joining CDPHE, Dr. Kaplan served as an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs. He also serves as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Colorado School of Public Health. 

Dr. Kaplan has been a board member of the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) and he is  the 2018-2019 President of the Board. Dr. Kaplan’s President’s Challenge focuses on taking chronic disease work further upstream in the disease continuum, and  demonstrates how public health can change the political, social, and economic causes for some communities’ increased risk for chronic illnesses like diabetes, cancer, or heart disease. 

Dr. Kaplan has a PhD in Public Policy Analysis and Research from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and a master’s degree in Public Affairs and Urban and Regional Planning from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.