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«Heller Alumni Association Board Biographies 2015-2016 Chrisann Newransky (President), MA SID’05, is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social ...»

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Heller Alumni Association Board Biographies


Chrisann Newransky (President), MA SID’05, is an Assistant Professor in

the School of Social Work at Adelphi University in New York. Her current

research focuses on disparities in the utilization of health services. Chrisann is

particularly interested in disease prevention through vaccination, and

understanding the impact of political factors on health service utilization in the US.

She has worked with several research programs to understand the financial and health impacts of microcredit programs in South India and Northern Ghana.

Chrisann has been a board member for Empower Dalit Women of Nepal (EDWON), a human rights organization for “untouchable” women, and has served as president of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program Alumni Association in New England. Before coming to the Heller School, Chrisann spent eight years working overseas, in the Philippines and Japan. In the Philippines, she coordinated the volunteer programs of Habitat for Humanity International. In Japan, she worked as a coordinator for grassroots international relations projects and as a translator for the private sector. In addition to her Heller degree in Sustainable International Development, she has an M.S.W. and a PhD from Boston College. Chrisann lives her husband and daughter in Long Island.

Sarah K. Emond (Vice President), MPP’09, currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer at the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), an independent non-profit dedicated to conducting and implementing comparative effectiveness research. As COO, Sarah uses her experience in the business and policy of healthcare to execute the strategic planning and operations of ICER.

Previously, she was Principal at SKE Communications, a health policy consultancy, and was Manager of Corporate Communications at Oscient Pharmaceuticals. She also held positions at Feinstein Kean Healthcare and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Sarah is a graduate of Smith College (biological sciences). A resident of Walpole, Sarah recently learned to ski and enjoys taking her dog for walks around her new neighborhood.

Arnaa Alcon, PhD’00, is the director and chair of the School of Social Work at Bridgewater State University, where her teaching is concentrated in the areas of aging, social policy, research, and financial literacy. Previously, Arnaa was the Associate Director of the National Center on Women and Aging of the Heller School. Having spent several years on the Boston staff of AARP, she has worked extensively with volunteers and community groups on policy, program evaluation and advocacy in the areas of health and family economic security. She holds a Master of Social Work degree and Certificate in Gerontology from Boston University, and is a faculty scholar in the fourth cohort of the National Institute on Aging and Hartford Foundation Institute on Aging and Social Work.

Arnaa is a member of the Advisory Board of the Boston-based nonprofit Generations Incorporated and of the Board of Advocates of Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Greater Boston.

Kelly Axtell, MBA’05, was a Property Manager for Project-based section 8/tax credit housing for elders and people with disabilities in Boston during her time at Heller. After graduating and concentrating in Elders and People with Disabilities, she went back into the assisted living industry and expanded her knowledge and experience through various management roles. These roles included Assisted Living Manager, Dementia Neighborhood Manager and Marketing Director. Kelly has been Assistant Director of Senior Services for the town of Lexington since August 2012. In addition, she is involved in the strategic planning for a (potential) new community center for the town as well as strengthening the senior services team of the human services department through improving customer service, implementing best practices and creating a policy/procedure manual. Kelly lives in Bedford, MA with her husband, Rich, and their two children, Kaylee (6) and Mason (3). In her spare time, Kelly enjoys creating jewelry and spending time with her family.

Sunindiya Bhalla, MBA’11, is the Community Impact Director at the United Way of Mass Bay and Merrimack Valley. Formerly, she was a Program Coordinator at the Massachusetts Children's Trust Fund, a quasi-state agency dedicated to strengthening families and preventing child abuse. She has dedicated her career to children, youth and families with a focus on early education and family support. She has worked at the agency for over six years, overseeing family centers funded throughout the state and working with other state agencies on initiatives related to early education, family support, and child abuse prevention.

After completing her MBA, she has been leading her organization in strategic and business planning efforts. She holds a BA in Child Development and Community Health from Tufts University and an MPH in Health Services Management and Policy from Tufts School of Medicine. She is also a chair for the Tufts Alumni Admissions Program, an active member of the Association of Tufts Alumnae, co-founder of the Tufts Public Health Alumni Association, and a founding member of the Tufts Alumni Nonprofit Network. While in residence, she served as the student representative on the MBA Program Committee.

Pem Brown, MA/MPP’11, is a Senior Strategist at M+R where he works with progressive non-profits like the Union of Concerned Scientists, SEIU, and PETA to develop and implement innovative online fundraising and online advocacy campaigns. Pem joined M+R after working for NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts for five years, where he managed their fundraising and online communications programs. In addition, he has worked with a range of progressive candidates and issue advocacy organizations. Pem majored in French and European Studies at Amherst College, and received joint degrees that include the MPP in social policy and an MA in women's and gender studies.

Robert Dunigan, PhD’04, is a senior research associate at the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy at the Heller School. He has 15 years of experience in clinical social work, and particular expertise in the areas of treatment intervention and program development for individuals diagnosed with chronic mental illness and substance abuse problems. His research has focused on health disparities and drug and alcohol treatment and prevention aimed at improving the quality of life and health service needs of marginalized groups and individuals. While studying at the Heller School, Robert was a recipient of a pre-doctoral training grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Lynn Garvin, PhD’14, MBA is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Boston University's School of Public Health and an Investigator with VA Boston Healthcare System. Focusing on patient engagement, organizational behavior and health information technology (health IT), her research focuses on how health care providers and patients use health IT for improved outcomes and more effective, efficient care. Dr. Garvin's research with VA developed and validated measures of Veterans' digital patient engagement using the My HealtheVet patient portal. This study offered evidenced-based support for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Stage 2 “Meaningful Use” rules for patient engagement using Blue Button personal health record and other provider-based online tools. Dr. Garvin most recently served as VP of Corporate Communications for EMD Millipore, a division of Merck KGaA, and held leadership positions at Boston Children’s Hospital, IBM/Lotus Software and P&G/ Gillette. In addition to her Heller degree, she has an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, and a B.A. from Wellesley College.

Yara Halasa, MS’06, has worked in policy and economic analyses of health related projects for the last decade. Her career began as a dentist at the Ministry of Health in Jordan. In 2002 she obtained her first Master’s from Bocconi University in Italy. She worked as a research associate with Partners for Health Reform Plus, where she focused on decentralization and health organization accreditation. In 2005, she obtained a Masters in International Health Management and Policy at The Heller School. She worked as a consultant for the League of Arab States, and the Regional Office of the Eastern Mediterranean of the World Health Organization. Since 2007, she has been working at The Schneider Institutes for Health Policy. Her focus and areas of expertise are: Costing and Cost-effectiveness research, Willingness to Pay, Burden of Disease, Health financing, Health equity and National Health Accounts. She is a co-founder of Leaders of Tomorrow, a youth NGO in Jordan.

Isabella Jean, MA COEX’06, is Adjunct Lecturer in the Program on Coexistence and Conflict at the Heller School. Her research focuses on International aid effectiveness and conflict-sensitivity, participatory program design, monitoring and evaluation methods, and peacebuilding. At CDA, she serves as Director of Evaluation and Learning, and leads field research efforts involving international peace and development practitioners in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Isabella Jean co-authored a book on cumulative impacts of international assistance, “Time to Listen: Hearing People on the Receiving End of International Aid.” She consulted with Coexistence International and conducted policy research on issues of conflict, coexistence, democracy and education in multi-ethnic societies. Earlier she conducted evaluation and training at a national non-profit focused on education policy, school reform and community organizing.

As a Watson Fellow, she conducted field research on youth coexistence initiatives in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. In addition to her Heller degree, she holds a B.A. in International Relations & Anthropology from Bowdoin College.

Eric Kingson, PhD’79, is professor of social work at the Syracuse University School of Social Work’s and recipient of Syracuse University’s 2010 Martin Luther King, Jr. Unsung Hero Award. He is also a Senior Research Associate in the Maxwell School’s Center for Public Policy. He served as policy advisor to two presidential commissions – the 1982-3 National Commission on Social Security Reform and the 1994 Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform. His scholarship examines the politics and economics of population aging, Social Security policy, the baby boomers, and cross-generational obligations. His research also examines the distributional effects of changes in retirement age. His most recent book “In Their Own Voices” (Center for Spiritual Care, SUNY Upstate Medical University, May 2009) presents the experiences, strengths, lessons and advice of 14 children and youth, each of whom face life-threatening illness.

Sandra Kretz, PhD’81, has worked in the health policy and aging fields for over twenty-five years. Her interest in the Heller School began while she was Director of the Southwest Mississippi Area Agency on Aging, a focus she continued at Heller on an Administration on Aging Fellowship. She has subsequently served as the Director of the Office of Health Policy in Massachusetts, and worked as a Senior Analyst for the Office of the Inspector General at HHS. In the private sector she developed one of the first centers of excellence national networks for organ transplantation, and moved on to apply the same outcomes based concepts to chronic illnesses as Vice President for Programs and Outcomes at Quantum Health Services.

Linda Sprague Martinez, PhD’09, is an Assistant Professor of Macro Community Practice at the Boston University School of Social Work. Her work is focused on how assets can be recognized and leveraged by communities to improve living environments and health. She is specifically interested in examining culturally relevant strategies to tackle health inequities. Community and youth engaged research approaches are central to her work. Dr. Sprague Martinez has expertise in urban health; community, student and youth engaged research; photovoice; community assessment and mobilization; and qualitative research methods and analyses.

Jane Martha (Oslin) Naseem, MA SID’07, manages ArtCorps' capacitybuilding programs and directs its communications strategy. With a background in community-based programs and participatory research, she is passionate about engaging communities in social change, sustainability and building strong nonprofits. Prior to joining ArtCorps, Jane evaluated Oxfam America’s gender equity and microfinance programs in Latin America and conducted research on health disparities at Tufts University. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa and also worked as an advocate for immigrant families in California.

In addition to her Heller degree, she has a BA in English from the College of William and Mary.

Mary Otiato, MBA’08, is currently the Acting Chief of Staff at the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind and has worked in state government for the past six years. First, she served as a Program Development Manager at the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) and currently as a Regional Director at the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB). Mary strongly believes that it’s important to define ones sphere of influence and enlarge it to advance social justice. Mary’s sphere of influence is state government. In her current position, she oversees Vocational Rehabilitation, Social Rehabilitation and Rehabilitation Teaching services for Commonwealth residents who are legally blind. It is one of the most rewarding positions in her life.

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