Staff - Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Health & Medicine maintains a small staff with broad policy and organizational development expertise (including part-time consultants working on our long-term care projects) as well as a group of diverse, highly qualified graduate students and committed volunteers – allowing us to remain focused and on mission while successfully stewarding operational resources.

Margie Schaps, Executive Director

Margie has been Health & Medicine’s Executive Director since 1993. Prior to taking the position, she was a Health & Medicine board member and served as the organization’s vice president. While maintaining overall responsibility of all of Health & Medicine’s activities, her specific policy expertise is in public health systems development, public health workforce, women’s health, and health care safety net. Prior to joining Health & Medicine, Margie, who holds a Master's Degree in Public Health from the University of Illinois and a Bachelor's Degree from Washington University in St. Louis, served for eight years as the Director of the Women’s Health Resource Center at Illinois Masonic Medical Center, the nation’s first hospital-based comprehensive primary care center for women. She is passionate about creating a just and equitable health system that will improve the health of the public; speaks nationally and locally on a variety of health systems and health advocacy issues; and has published articles on women’s health, health care safety net, health system reform, and public health policy. Margie is adjunct faculty at the Northwestern University Program in Public Health. She currently sits on several boards and committees, including the Advisory Committee to the Northwestern University Program in Public Health, the Community Advisory Committee to the UIC School of Public Health, President Preckwinkle’s Health Equity Fund Taskforce, the Advisory board to the All of Us Research Program at the Feinberg School of Medicine, and the Advisory Committee to the UIC Center for Healthy Work. In her free time, Margie can be found reading, cooking, walking, and visiting with friends and family—many of these at the same time.

Contact Margie Schaps
Gita Krishnaswamy, Deputy Director

Gita joined Health & Medicine in January 2022 as Deputy Director. She is responsible for the oversight of day-to-day operations, working with program directors and staff to ensure alignment with our mission and vision. In addition, she will manage implementation of a new strategic plan and closely support the Executive Director. Gita began her professional career as a K-12 classroom teacher and later as a public health professional, she continued to work with school districts and nonprofit organizations interested in policy changes to support health equity and lifelong health for students. Just before joining Health & Medicine, Gita was the Acting Director of the Community-Oriented Public Health Practice program at the University of Washington in Seattle where she also taught courses on the social determinants of health, community health assessment, and participatory evaluation. She is passionate about building equitable community partnerships and views a strong anti-racist organizational culture as essential to this work. Originally from Illinois, Gita earned a B.A. in Cell and Molecular Biology from Northwestern University, a M.Ed. from DePaul University, and MPH from the University of Washington. Outside of work, you can find Gita in the kitchen, yoga studio, forest preserve, or vying for the attention of aloof cats everywhere.

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Marcia Burgess, Workforce Logistics Coordinator

Marcia joined Health & Medicine in March 2024 and supports Good Jobs Challenge training pathways and Community Health Worker learning collaborative initiatives. Raised in an underserved area of Chicago, Marcia Burgess has always been driven by a desire to uplift her community—a commitment that has only deepened through her varied experiences. Her journey began at Lawrence Hall, where she was a Community Response Worker and continued as a vital contact tracer for the Chicago COVID-19 Corps team during the pandemic. These roles provided Marcia with invaluable insights into the city’s dynamics and the specific needs of communities like her own. Through her work, Marcia has cultivated a deep passion and understanding of health equity, public health, and social causes. Eager to expand her expertise, she pursued a Master of Science in Civic Analytics at the University of Illinois-Chicago, within the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs. With her master's degree expected in spring 2025, Marcia aims to embark on a career that positions her to influence transformative policies for the communities most in need. In her spare time, Marcia enjoys exploring the restaurant and sports scene in Chicago. She is an avid basketball enthusiast and proudly supports the WNBA's Chicago Sky.

Contact Marcia Burgess
Leandra Carlyle, Events and Operations Associate

Leandra joined Health & Medicine in June 2021 and works cross-programmatically to ensure smooth running of the office across all areas, working closely with the Director of Finance & Operations and Director of Development & Communications. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Policy from Northwestern University and has worked with a variety of nonprofits, including UNSILENCE, Taproot Foundation, and Rainbows for All Children. As a former barista, she is passionate about combining her customer service and administrative, development, and communications experiences to build community and promote social justice. Outside of Health & Medicine, she loves exploring Chicago’s vegetarian restaurants, coffee shops, and concert venues and can usually be found reading, spending time by the lake, and playing music.

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Jessica Coffee, Interim Chicago Area Health Education Center Coordinator

Jessica Coffee earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology and a PharmD from the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Health Information Management, also at UIC. She previously worked in the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine Pharmacy at the University of Chicago, which allowed her to experience working with a patient population that is much like the people she grew up around, being born and raised in the Chicago area. Passionate about addressing healthcare disparities, Jessica is a staunch advocate for the Black community within the healthcare sector. As a testament to her commitment, she played a pivotal role as a founding member of the Black Pharmacy Student Association during her time at the UIC College of Pharmacy. With a unique blend of clinical expertise and a fervent dedication to advancing healthcare equity, Jessica aspires to become a Clinical Informaticist Specialist. Her trajectory aligns with a broader vision of leveraging information management to improve clinical outcomes and bridge gaps in healthcare delivery. In a rapidly evolving landscape, Jessica is poised to make lasting contributions at the intersection of healthcare, information technology, and community advocacy. In her free time, Jessica enjoys spending time at cafes and restaurants in downtown Chicago. She is also learning Korean to eventually travel to South Korea and better communicate with her significant other’s family.

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Karol Dean, Program Director, Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellowship

Karol joined Health & Medicine in June 2022, driven by a passion to nurture a community service orientation among evolving health and human service professionals. Her career journey thus far has been focused in higher education as an educator and academic administrator at mission-centered liberal arts institutions focused on preparing non-traditional students for their lives and careers. In these positions, she has focused on ensuring the quality of teaching and learning for students and for faculty, while contributing to organizational change and resiliency. Karol’s scholarly and professional focus is on reducing violence, supporting women, and building leadership. She is committed to the expansion of equity, inclusion, and social justice. She earned her Ph.D. and master's degrees in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and her bachelor's degree from Boston University. As she gets to know Chicago, Karol is learning about philanthropy as a member of the West Suburban Giving Circle of the Chicago Foundation for Women, while she dreams of travelling, reads, and enjoys great meals with family and friends.

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Mayra Diaz, Policy Analyst, Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative

Mayra joined Health & Medicine in February of 2022 as Policy Analyst for the Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative. As Policy Analyst, Mayra plays a critical role in supporting institutions across Illinois in integrating trauma-informed and healing-centered frameworks into their policies and practices. She holds master’s degrees in public health and social work from the University of Illinois at Chicago, with concentrations in Community Health Sciences and Mental Health, and a bachelor’s degree in Latina/Latino Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to beginning her position at Health & Medicine, Mayra worked on numerous public health projects in various settings, including Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Department of Public Health, and the UIC Collaboratory for Health Justice. Mayra has a strong passion for health justice work in BIPOC communities, with special expertise in the Latinx community, and advocating for the integration of anti-racist, health equity frameworks in public health policy. Aside from her role at Health & Medicine, Mayra supports the work of Telpochcalli Community Education Project (Tcep), a Latinx-serving community-based organization in Little Village, Chicago, where she began as an intern and largely credits for sparking her interest in addressing health inequities through policy work. In addition to being a public health nerd, Mayra is a Latin dancer, gym goer, true crime documentary lover, and fur mom to her dog, Maddie.

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Ann Duffy, Director of Finance and Operations

Ann, who joined Health & Medicine in December 2010, holds a Bachelors Degree in English from The University of Georgia. Prior to Health & Medicine, Ann worked for several years at a non-profit animal shelter in Colorado. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her daughters.

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Angela Eastlund, Workforce Initiatives Manager

Angela joined Health & Medicine in 2020, and her work as Workforce Initiatives Manager supports Health & Medicine's longstanding commitment to advancing the community health worker workforce in Illinois. In 2019, she earned a master’s degree in Anthropology and Community and Economic Development from Illinois State University and completed a professional practice fellowship focused on anti-hunger and workforce development policy advocacy. Additional prior experience includes coordinating former First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move! Outside” initiative in Omaha, Nebraska and conducting medical anthropology research studies on mosquito-borne illnesses in Mexico. Angela is motivated by the power of community engagement to identify the intersections of social, cultural, and economic well-being and to push the needle forward on health equity. In her free time, Angela enjoys exploring Chicago and learning its history, reading mystery/thriller novels, and spending time with friends and family.

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Ronisha Edwards-Elliott, Director, Chicago AHEC and Workforce Programs

Ronisha joined Health & Medicine in January 2023. She has held many professional titles (including recent work as a mental health therapist) in a career journey that has been shaped by her personal journey as a patient. Living with sickle cell disease, a disease hallmarked by pain that primarily affects people of African and Latin descent and increases health disparities and discrimination while receiving care, her life goal is to find ways to advocate and reform health care, including building a more educated and equitable health workforce. Ronisha earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and sociology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, a Master of Social Work from Boise State University, and is currently a PhD candidate at Northern Illinois University. Living again in her hometown of Lansing, Illinois, Ronisha enjoys her church, singing, and traveling, and she encourages students considering a health care career to choose a career that speaks to their purpose.

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Wesley Epplin, Policy Director

Wesley's work focuses on advancing health equity and public health, health reform and health safety net, and aging equity across the life course. As Policy Director, he leads development of and tracking of Health & Medicine’s annual policy agenda. Wesley advocates for equitable policies across structural inequities, making a public health argument for justice in social determinants such as housing. Wesley contributes to public health and broader planning efforts, including the Healthy Chicago 2.0 and Healthy Chicago 2025 plans, the OnTo 2050 Regional Plan, and the We Will Chicago citywide plan. At Health & Medicine, Wesley helped develop and leads planning for the Chicago Forum for Justice in Health Policy. He is also on the steering committee for the Collaborative for Health Equity Cook County. Wesley earned a Master of Public Health degree in Community Health Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) School of Public Health (SPH) and a BA in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2016, Wesley was selected for the inaugural cohort of the Culture of Health Leaders, a national leadership program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to create collaborative solutions that address health inequities and move communities and organizations toward a Culture of Health. During the program, he co-developed and piloted the Organizing Health institute to train people in health organizing. Outside of his work at Health & Medicine, Wesley is a co-founder of Radical Public Health, a group at the UIC SPH that moves the public health field to focus on root causes of health inequities. In his spare time, Wesley enjoys gardening and cooking, reading, and travel.

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Christina Esparza-Cassidy, Schweitzer Fellows Program Coordinator

Christina joined Health & Medicine as the Schweitzer Fellows Program Coordinator in early 2024. She brings a wealth of experience in medical and non-profit administration coupled with a strong dedication to mental health and psychology. Currently advancing her education as a nontraditional student at Northeastern Illinois University, she is deeply involved in community service, volunteering with I am ALS, a patient-led organization for people living with the fatal disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Driven by a desire to address the root causes of illness, suffering, and inequality in Illinois communities, Christina is keen on leveraging innovative research to pave the way for universal access to top-notch healthcare and well-being. Outside of her professional and academic pursuits, she enjoys enriching her knowledge, experiencing live music, and exploring the great outdoors with her loyal companion, Western.

Contact Christina Esparza-Cassidy
Emily Gallion, Grants and Communications Manager

Emily joined Health & Medicine in October 2023. As the Grants and Communications Manager, she supports the organization’s fundraising efforts and contributes to external communications to advance the mission of Health & Medicine. Emily graduated from the University of Missouri with a bachelor’s in political science and a minor in English. Previously, she worked as a grant writing consultant for municipalities and medium-to-large businesses in various industries. Emily discovered her love for root cause work at The Foodbank, Inc. in her hometown of Dayton, OH, where she managed the organization’s grants, advocacy efforts, and written communications. She is eager to participate in meaningful work that furthers systemic change and health equity. Outside of work, Emily enjoys reading science fiction and fantasy and listening to NPR.

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Mia Hayford, Career Pathways Analyst

Mia Hayford joined Health & Medicine in October 2022. Before her time at Health & Medicine, she worked for two years as a contract tracer for the Boston area. She also worked as a Policy Fellow at the Chicago Jobs Council. Mia is passionate about eliminating health disparities as a way to advance social justice through anti-oppression policy change that centers community advancement and focuses on improving social determinants of health. She earned her BS in Health: Science, Society, & Policy and Biology from Brandeis University. Outside of work, Mia enjoys reading, dancing, photography, and spending time with her friends and family.

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Matt McClintock, Health Workforce Systems Manager

Matt McClintock joined Health & Medicine in November 2023 as the Health Workforce Systems Manager. Coming from a background in music, he has extensive youth development and community outreach experience, where he engaged young people in recruiting for after-school jazz programs, offered mentorship and guidance in college preparation, and helped design professional developments and networking events for publicly employed music educators. More recently, Matt entered the healthcare workforce as a front-line worker, gaining incredible insight into social determinants of health among patient populations and workforce issues among health employees. He hopes to synthesize what he’s learned in the health and art spaces to meaningfully engage Chicago’s youth through leading the Youth Pathways Committee. Additionally, Matt is involved in convening the Public Health Workforce Collaborative. In his free time, Matt plays the drums, runs, and reads, and reads. He is most happy when he is with his family.

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Kate McCormack, LCSW, Director, IL ACES Responsive Collaborative

Kate joined Health & Medicine in February 2024 and is responsible for leading the Collaborative in its effort to address trauma and ACEs to build resilience, promote healing, and advance equity throughout the state. She is a licensed clinical social worker and a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Social Work, where she was a Community Initiatives Fellow. Kate has more than 15 years of experience working in social services, including working in the adult and juvenile justice systems, providing child and family therapy in community mental health programs, and providing mental health therapy and consultation in K-12 schools. Kate has five years of experience working in public health, including providing Spanish language communications support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kate has experience bringing together multi-sector coalitions to enact systems multi-sector coalitions to enact system change. Under Kate’s leadership, the Kane County System of Care, a 7-year, 2.1-million-dollar grant, was recognized as an innovator in engaging Latinx families and expanding peer support services in the local system of care for children’s behavioral health. Kate has a special interest in trauma-informed care, perinatal mood disorders, and postpartum mental health care, working with Spanish-speaking immigrant youth and families, improving language access and bilingual services, and empowering family and youth voices within institutions. Kate has lived and worked in both El Salvador and Mexico and is bilingual in Spanish.

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Alizandra Medina, Health and Aging Organizer

Alizandra joined Health & Medicine in October of 2022. As the Health and Aging Organizer, her work focuses on engaging with community partners to identify key issues on aging for the strategic plan on aging in Illinois. Previously, she worked with community members and leaders to help bridge the gap of access to quality health care and resources for older adults. This work inspired her interest in the issues and brought her to Health & Medicine to continue her work in aging related issues. Outside of work, Alizandra enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and outings with her husband and two daughters.

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Hannah Shevrin, Training and Capacity Building Manager, Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative

Hannah joined Health & Medicine in May 2023. As a facilitator for over ten years, Hannah is energized by creating and leading trainings that fuel people’s visions for a better world. Hannah most recently worked as the Chicago Program Manager for Repair the World, where she developed over a hundred political education programs to organize Jewish community members into local justice work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to that, she was the Intake and Workshop Coordinator for Beyond Legal Aid, where she spearheaded the integration of trauma-informed practices into their legal services with grassroots partners. Hannah graduated from Tufts University with a BA in Sociology. She enjoys reading, cooking without recipes, improving her pottery skills, and visiting public parks.

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Shannon Sweetnam, Director of Development and Communications

Shannon joined Health & Medicine in 2020, and supports the organization through her work developing and executing an annual fund development strategy that grows and maximizes revenue and incorporates external communications into all aspects of the fundraising plan. She also provides support for Health & Medicine’s many events, including the Annual HMPRG Awards Gala, Black Men in White Coats Summit, and the Health & Medicine Forum for Justice in Health Policy series. Shannon holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Randolph College, a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Hollins University, and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Washington University in St. Louis. She also earned a certificate in nonprofit resource development from The Kellogg Center for Nonprofit Management. Prior experience includes work as director of development at a Chicago nonprofit supporting refugees and asylum-seekers and work in higher education marketing and communications. In her spare time, she likes to spend time outdoors with her family.

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Anna Yankelev, Director of Strategic Workforce Initiatives

Anna joined Health and Medicine in January 2023 and is responsible for overseeing efforts related to building a sustainable, equitable public health workforce, including managing the Good Jobs Chicago grant and various Community Health Worker initiatives. Anna works with local public health employers and training providers to assure that employers have access to the workers they need to best serve their communities, and that these positions provide the conditions and benefits workers need to thrive. Anna’s interests are at the intersection of health, work, and community, and how work can be used as a tool to build healthy communities and promote health equity. She began as a youth activist focusing on community engagement and organizing and furthered her passion for public health and social justice while earning her B.S. in Public Health from Brandeis University and her M.P.H. and M.B.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). While earning her master’s degrees, Anna worked as a researcher for the UIC Center for Healthy Work and taught academic writing to other students. After graduating, Anna joined the Lake County Health Department (LCHD) where she oversaw the development, implementation, and evaluation of the agency’s internal strategic plan and Community Health Improvement Plan. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Anna also served as the Chief Community Mitigation Officer for Lake County’s Public Health Emergency Operations Center (PHEOC) and developed and launched LCHD’s first Community Health Worker program. In addition to her professional role, Anna also serves as a facilitator for Radical Public Health and helped create its flagship course, Epidemics of Injustice. In her spare time, Anna enjoys hiking, cooking, and exploring new neighborhoods in Chicago and beyond.

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Julian Lance, MPP Student, Spring Intern

Julian joined Health & Medicine in February of 2024 as a Spring Intern and is currently a master's in public policy student specializing in Health Policy at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, with anticipated graduation in June 2025. She completed her B.A. in Political Science at the University of California Santa Barbara in December of 2022, where she was an executive member of the student radio station and led a research project on the 2020 pandemic’s effects on labor relations. Julian has a passion for improving public health and safety and has worked on presidential campaigns and non-profit foundations that sought to improve the standards of American life. In her free time, Julian loves reading classic novels, watching horror films, cooking new dishes, and exploring Chicago’s vibrant neighborhoods with her Polaroid camera.

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Mariana Martinez, MPH, MBA Dual Candidate, Spring Intern

Mariana M. Martinez was born and raised in Aurora. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in public health from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES®) and is currently pursuing a dual master’s degree in business administration and public health from Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois. Mariana serves on the Board of Directors for Compañeros en Salud/Partners in Health, NFP, a volunteer-led grassroots coalition, and on the Board of Directors for the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley and is the Chair of the Scholarship Committee. Outside of work, Mariana enjoys time with her husband and two daughters. Her favorite season is summer, and she looks forward to trips to Mexico to visit family and friends.

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Meera Puthenmadom, MPH Candidate, Spring Intern

Meera joined Health & Medicine in June 2024 as a Summer Intern and is pursuing a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology at Tulane University in the combined degree program. She graduated from Tulane University in 2023 with a dual degree in public health and cell and molecular biology. Over the past year, she worked as a clinical research assistant at Tulane in partnership with women, infant, and children clinics, focusing on reducing maternal diabetes. Driven by a passion for health equity, she has a particular interest in global health. In 2022, she studied abroad in Buenos Aires, where she completed a clinical practicum and enhanced her medical Spanish skills. She also participated in the School for International Training's International Honors Program (IHP), conducting research on the intersection of environment and health in urban and rural communities in India, South Africa, and Jordan. As an aspiring epidemiologist, she is determined to reduce health disparities and improve public health outcomes. She aims to identify at-risk populations and develop targeted interventions by analyzing disease patterns and their correlation with social determinants of health. Through rigorous data collection and analysis, she seeks to inform public health policies that address the root causes of health inequities and improve health outcomes for diverse communities. In her free time, Meera enjoys playing viola in community orchestras, spending time with her cat, and swimming laps.

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* Phyllis Mitzen, MSW; Long-Term Care
Contact Phyllis Mitzen