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, MPH, 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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Mehwish Ali, Summer 2022 Equity Intern

Mehwish is a Masters of Public Health student at Benedictine University in the divisions of Epidemiology and Health Management and Policy. She graduated from Loyola University in 2020 with a bachelor's degree in Sociology and Biology. She discovered my passion for public health while completing my undergraduate degree. She is passionate about conducting research. She completed a six month research study for my undergrad expanding upon research reported in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal. She also did an eight week study in which she developed a health improvement plan for Cook County to assess its community needs. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, traveling and watching movies.

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Leandra Carlyle, Development, Communications, 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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Anaga Dalal, Strategic Communications Specialist

Anaga joined Health & Medicine in May 2022 to focus on three aspects of external communications: social media, press outreach, and marketing. She was most recently an editor at MDRC, a social policy research organization based in New York where Anaga lived until August 2019. She has worked at a range of nonprofits including the United Nations Development Programme, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Ms. Magazine. Anaga received her B.A. in Philosophy from Barnard College and did work towards her M.A. in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, two kids (one soon off to college at the University of Chicago), and her dog. She loves to travel, play tennis, and paddleboard!

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Karol Dean, Director, 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 will play 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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Brigitte Dietz, MPH, Health and Aging Policy Analyst

Brigitte joined Health & Medicine in July 2021 because of her passion for public policy and equitable public health practices. She holds a Master’s in Public Health with concentrations in Health Management and Public Policy from Saint Louis University and a Bachelor of Science in Community Health Promotion from Illinois State University. Previously, Brigitte has worked with a variety of public health and healthcare organizations on COVID-19 related emergency interventions and communications. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering with animal rescues, reading, and hiking with her dog.

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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 Policy Analyst

Angela joined Health & Medicine in 2020, and her work as Workforce Policy Analyst 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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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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Bridget Gavaghan, Director, Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative

Bridget Gavaghan leads the Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative, a cross-sector movement to prevent trauma and promote thriving across the lifespan while placing childhood adversity at the forefront of the equity agenda in Illinois. Prior to joining Health & Medicine, Bridget led a national initiative to build stronger support for human services through evidence-based communications strategies. Previously, Bridget was director of Prevent Child Abuse America’s public policy program and a member of the public policy team at United Way of America. Bridget graduated from the College of William and Mary, where she studied history and classical singing. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two cats. Bridget still enjoys singing, and always tries to make time for runs on the lakeshore path, annual hiking trips to national parks, and long walk-and-talks with her friends.

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Madison Hammett, MPH, MSW, Manager, Training & Capacity Building, Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative

Madison Hammett is the Training and Capacity Building Manager with the Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative, which she joined in 2018 as a Policy Analyst. As part of her work with the Collaborative, Madison leads and develops training programs focused on trauma, trauma-informed policies and practices, and capacity development. She also manages capacity building partnerships to assist organizations develop and integrate trauma-informed and equity centered frameworks into their policies and programs. Prior to joining the Collaborative, Madison worked as a clinical social worker with the Department of Trauma at Stroger Hospital of Cook County and Cabrini Green Legal Aid, and as an anti-sexual violence educator in both rural Appalachia and Northern Uganda. She is also a Fellow for Life with the Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellowship at Health & Medicine. Madison obtained her bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and Geography from the University of Tennessee, and her Masters of Public Health and Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Sheronda Kimbrough, Director, Workforce Programs

Sheronda was a Chicago AHEC Advisory Board member before joining the Health & Medicine team in February 2021. Prior to assuming her role at Health & Medicine, Sheronda launched Trinity Mobility Company, a non-emergency medical transportation provider for the state of Illinois. In addition, she served as an educator and in program management for the Chicago Public Schools for more than 15 years and worked as a health care workforce consultant with several Chicago area hospitals. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Health care Management and Masters of Education in Educational Leadership. Sheronda is committed to developing equitable health care workforce opportunities for traditionally marginalized populations.

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Mayra Miranda, Summer 2022 Equity Intern

Mayra is a Master of Public Health student at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the Community Health Sciences division. Mayra is originally from Chicago and graduated with her BA in Gender and Women Studies from UW-Madison in 2014 and her BSN from Resurrection University in 2017. Mayra has worked as a Registered Nurse in community health and care management at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in Chicago. Before obtaining her nursing degree, Mayra completed an AmeriCorps term as a Health Educator at a school-based health center in North Lawndale. She provided oral health education to CPS students, facilitated healthy cooking classes for community members, and led an after-school gardening club. Mayra's work as a nurse care manager during COVID strengthened her passion for pursuing a public health degree. Mayra is passionate about preventative health and empowering community members to be participants in their health by providing education and advocating for quality healthcare services. She enjoys volunteering with various organizations, reading, and trying new restaurants.

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Mariam Siddiqui, MPH, MBA, Health Policy Analyst

Mariam joined Health & Medicine in February 2021. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Master's in Public Health and Business Administration. She also holds concentrations in Management and Global Health as well as a certification in Project Management from the University of California, Berkeley. Outside of Health & Medicine, Mariam works with a nonprofit in Chicago dedicated to enhancing opportunities for adolescent refugee girls. In her free time, she loves baking and trying out new coffee shops across the Chicagoland area.

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Kirstin Williams Smith, Senior Policy Analyst, Workforce

Kirstin Williams Smith is a public policy professional, writer, and community advocate. Over the course of her career, she has helped to create social impact programs with the civic community of the city, managed state-level initiatives, worked to fund community based not-for-profits, and helped to craft plans for the creation of educational institutions and programs within Chicago’s most underserved communities. Kirstin is a proud graduate of the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and Spelman College. In her spare time, she continues to volunteer with community organizations and causes that hold deep meaning for her. Kirstin resides in the North Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago with her husband and two sons, dog, and fish.

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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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Sara Wright-Pupo, Chicago AHEC Program Coordinator

Sara joined Health & Medicine in 2022 to coordinate Chicago AHEC initiatives. AHEC programming seeks to recruit and retain a more diverse health workforce. Sara has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago in public policy with a specialization in public health. Prior to joining Health & Medicine, she completed a global health fellowship with UNICEF. In her free time, Sara enjoys biking around Chicago, cooking with friends, and spending time by the lake.

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