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HCU 2021: Panelists & Speakers


Thursday, January 7
Politics, Possibilities & Policy

Photo of Citseko Staples

Citseko Staples
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Twitter: @ACSCAN

Citseko Staples Miller is the Director of Access to Care/Medicaid, State & Local Campaigns for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). She is responsible for managing and supporting ACS CAN’s state advocacy and engagement efforts related to Medicaid, Health Equity, Health Disparities and HPV. Citseko also serves as the Project Director of Medicaid Covers US – ACS CAN’s national public education project aimed at informing and promoting the value of Medicaid to individuals and families across the country. She has a background in health care, insurance and government finance. Citseko earned her Bachelors of Science in Speech Communication and performed her graduate studies in Public Administration at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Photo of Emily Barson

Emily Barson
United States of Care
Twitter: @ebarson, @USofCare

Emily Barson has spent over fifteen years on the front lines of political, governmental, and non-profit efforts and has built coalitions and political movements that deliver meaningful results, working with states and other stakeholders and creating a reputation as someone who gets things done working across the political divide.

She served for eight years at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama Administration, most recently as Director of Intergovernmental and External Affairs (IEA). Following her time in the administration, Emily served as a senior advisor with Get America Covered, a national campaign to help people get covered and stay covered in the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Before joining the team at HHS, Emily worked on numerous political campaigns. She also served as Events Manager at a progressive non-profit organization, organizing national-level convenings of prominent lawmakers, thought-leaders, advocates, and activists.

Emily holds a degree in Political Communications from the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. Emily lives on Capitol Hill with her husband and two sons.

Photo of Elise Blasingame

Elise Blasingame, Moderator
School of Public and International Affairs, University of Georgia
Twitter: @enblasingame

Elise Blasingame is a policy and research professional with over ten years of experience in public service. Elise’s public service interests include policy advocacy, community infrastructure, strategic planning, and building the capacity of civic and non-profit organizations to make real impact for the communities they serve. In 2020, Elise was honored as one of Georgia Trend's 40 under 40. 

Elise served as the Executive Director of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia (HMHBGA) (2015-2020). In her role, she supported a dynamic team to improve maternal and infant health through policy advocacy, research, stakeholder convening, education and access to vital resources through a high-performing call center. She is an alum of New Leaders Council Atlanta (2016), LEAD Atlanta (2019) and the Zell Miller Leadership Institute (2020) and served as the District 3- At Large Appointee to the City of Atlanta Commission on Women (2017-2020).

Prior to her role at HMHBGA, Elise served as Director of Community Education and Financial Protection for Georgia Watch. Elise also brings experience from The Carter Center’s Mental Health Program and Global Access to Information Initiative. 

Elise is an Atlanta native and returned in 2012. Elise received her MSW from the University at Buffalo (SUNY).  She holds a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University, where she focused on issues pertaining to inequality and human rights. Elise is currently pursuing her doctorate at the School of Public & International Affairs at UGA, where she is working to create greater dialogue on the political processes and policies that impact financially vulnerable American families each day.

Photo of Representative Sharon Cooper

Rep. Sharon Cooper
HD 43 (Marietta)
Twitter: @RepSharonCooper

Born in Houston, Texas, Sharon is proud to have called Georgia home for over 39 years and was married to the late Dr. Tom Cooper for more than 33 years. She was first elected to the Georgia General Assembly in 1996 as the State Representative for House District 41 (now House District 43). 

Rep. Cooper holds several degrees, including a B.S. in Child Development, a M.A. in Education and M.S. in Nursing. She has written two textbooks on psychiatric nursing.

Rep. Cooper is a graduate of the first class of the Coverdell Leadership Institute. She has served on the President’s National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women and on former First Lady Mary Perdue’s Advisory Committee on Foster Care. 

Rep. Cooper chairs the Health and Human Services Committee, one of the busiest committees in the House. She continues to author and foster legislation that promotes improved health and health care for Georgians. Her recent legislation has touched on healthy stable housing, HIV prevention and screening, tobacco prevention, the state’s opioid crisis and related addictions, and prescription drug access.

Rep. Cooper has earned the reputation of being one of the hardest working legislators at the Capito. Former Governor and U.S. Senator Zell Miller still calls her “the little legislator that tells it like it is.”

Photo of Representative Jasmine Clark

Rep. Jasmine Clark
HD 108 (Lilburn)
Twitter: @JasmineforHD108 

Dr. Jasmine Clark was born in Atlanta, Georgia. At a very young age, Jasmine realized her passion for the sciences and aspired to follow in the footsteps of her father and one day be a doctor. She received her Bachelor of Science in biological sciences, with a concentration in microbiology, from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 2005. She then went on to receive her doctoral degree from Emory University’s Laney Graduate School in microbiology and molecular genetics in 2013 and completed a subsequent postdoctoral project in 2014. Rep. Clark currently serves as a lecturer of microbiology and human anatomy and physiology at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University. 

On November 6, 2018, she was elected to the Georgia State House of Representatives, as the state representative of House District 108 (Lilburn and Mountain Park in Gwinnett County). Along with her academic and professional accomplishments, Jasmine is a mother of two, living in the Lilburn/Tucker area of Gwinnett County. When she is not teaching at Emory or legislating at the State Capitol, you can usually find her at one of her kid’s soccer games or track meets, or with a microphone in her hand singing karaoke. Her personal philosophy can be summed up in the following quote by the late Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Photo of Laura Colbert

Laura Colbert, Moderator
Georgians for a Healthy Future
Twitter: @ColbertLLC, @healthyfutureGA

Laura Colbert is the Executive Director at Georgians for a Healthy Future. Laura came to GHF in June 2014 as the Community Outreach Manager. Previously, Laura was employed at  Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta's Strong4Life program. Laura’s other previous positions include working at HSTAT, a student-run health policy and advocacy organization; and the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention.  Laura was recognized in 2014 by the Society for Public Health Education as one of the organization’s “30 under 30”. 

She currently serves as a Consumer Liaison Representative to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and sits on the Georgia Department of Community Health's Medical Care Advisory Committee. She has previously served as a board member to the Georgia Society for Public Health Education and the Dick Lane Velodrome, a bike racing track in East Point.

Laura has an MPH from Emory University, where she focused on health literacy and the social determinants of health, and a B.S.Ed in Kinesiology from the University of Georgia. She is also a Master Certified Health Education Specialist. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, two dogs, and many bicycles.

Friday, January 8
In Their Own Words

Photo of Netha Odom

Netha Odom
Waynesboro, Georgia

My name is Netha Odom. I am the proud mother of five children. I enjoy cooking, music, shopping, and time at the beach with my kids. I am a respiratory therapist and family nurse practitioner. I work with patients who have developmental disabilities. Many of my patients and co-workers have contracted COVID, sometimes leaving us short-staffed. I have managed to stay healthy and COVID-free so far. My notable pandemic experience has been adjusting and managing life around the school system. One of my children has special needs and was left out of the school's virtual learning plan. 

Photo of Sharonda Powell

Sharonda Powell
Community Health Worker and Nurse
Albany, Georgia

I am Sharonda Powell. I am a community health worker and nurse in Albany, Georgia. I have four children who are in high school and college. I have a passion for working with people with mental health issues and have worked in corrections for 15 years. During COVID-19, I have delivered PPE gift baskets to community members, taken care of patients with COVID-19, and had losses within my family and friends.
Photo of Savannah White

Savannah White
Sugar Hill, Georgia

My name is Savannah White. I am 25 years old and my pronouns are she/her. I am from Sugar Hill, GA, which is right on the Gwinnett and Forsyth county line. I am a second year teacher at North Forsyth Middle School, where I teach agriculture and environmental science to 6th, 7th and 8th graders. I am an avid reader and outdoors-woman and you can usually find me at Lake Lanier with my hound dog, Stella. Besides contracting COVID, my most notable pandemic experience was switching to virtual school. I was thrown into it without much notice and I had to navigate how to teach our students in this new environment. 

Photo of Andy Miller

Andy Miller, Moderator
Georgia Health News
Twitter: @GAHealthNews

Andy Miller has been a health care journalist for the past 25 years. From 1992 to mid-2009, he covered health care for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He won numerous awards for his newspaper reporting on hospitals and health insurers, state government and Georgia’s mental hospitals.

Miller has been an Association of Health Care Journalists member for 17 years and is past president of the organization’s Atlanta chapter.  He was a Kaiser Family Foundation health journalism fellow in 2001-2002. He has worked as a freelance health care reporter for several organizations, including WebMD, AOL’s WalletPop, Kaiser Health News, msnbc.com and AARP Bulletin.

Miller graduated from Duke University in 1973 and received a master’s in education from Duke in 1979. He was a social studies teacher and basketball coach in a school system in North Carolina before switching careers to journalism.

Miller lives in Atlanta with his wife and children.


Michelle Conde, Moderator
Georgians for a Healthy Future
Twitter: @HealthyFutureGA, @holamishi

Michelle Conde is the Communications & Special Projects Manager at Georgians for a Healthy Future. She is a dedicated health care advocate with strong knowledge and understanding of policy and research development. In her role at GHF, she manages GHF's external communication channels (email, social media, earned media) and leverages social media for digital advocacy. She also provides policy research support as needed and contributes to the organization's policy analysis efforts.

Michelle is a graduate of Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Public Policy, where she received her Master’s in Public Policy with a focus on nonprofit policy. She is a creative and highly motivated leader with familiarity in working with diverse communities and quickly finding resourceful solutions. Before joining GHF she served as a policy fellow at Voices for Georgia’s Children and as a volunteer at Hemophilia of Georgia for over a decade. She is also a founding member of Hemophilia of Georgia’s Advocacy Board where she participates in efforts to advocate and educate the public and legislators.

Thursday, January 14
COVID-19 as Change-Maker

Photo of Toni Meyers Douglas

Roberta "Toni" Meyers Douglas
Legal Action Center
Twitter: @rtonimeyers, @LAC_news

As the Director of State Strategy and Reentry, Roberta “Toni” Meyers Douglas executes strategic state-based criminal justice and health advocacy goals and priorities for LAC. She also directs the National Helping Individuals with criminal records Reenter through Employment (H.I.R.E.) Network, LAC’s national project to improve employment and other opportunities for people with criminal records. She has decades of experience training workforce development, corrections, and behavioral health practitioners on employment strategies that best serve job-seekers with criminal histories; authored dozens of guidebooks and policy briefs on criminal record policies that impact employment, housing, education, and other opportunities; and testified before and served as a technical assistance provider to members of Congress, government agencies, and state legislators about effective reentry policies and practices that reduce recidivism. She co-leads LAC’s No Health=No Justice campaign to achieve racial equity in health care and criminal justice reform. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business, Management, and Economics from the State University of New York/Empire State College and a Master of Science degree in Public Safety with specialization in Criminal Justice and Public Administration from Capella University.

Toni serves on the Board of Directors of Youth Represent and the Collateral Consequences Resource Center and is an Advisory Board member of the National Clean Slate Clearinghouse.

Photo of Sarah Bobrow-Williams

Sarah Bobrow-Williams
Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative
Twitter: @sbobrow

Sarah Bobrow-Williams is a community planner, educator, and social entrepreneur.  Her work with community-based organizations in the southern Black Belt region and the Mississippi Delta has centered on cultivating equitable, sustainable economies and livelihoods rooted in the interdependence of human and ecological systems, human rights, civil rights, and self-determination.

As a longstanding member of the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative (SRBWI) team, Sarah has played a key role in asset development and related policy initiatives aimed at supporting alternative community-based economies, advancing the economic security of southern, rural Black women and eradicating the race, gender, and class barriers they face. 

Most recently she is co-coordinating a joint, participatory research project between SRBWI and Human Rights Watch that is looking at barriers faced by Black women in southwest Georgia in accessing reproductive healthcare services and information to prevent and treat cervical cancer. The project also considers whether Georgia and the federal government have taken steps to fulfill their human rights obligations and ensure all women have access to the reproductive health services and the tools needed to stay healthy and safe.

Photo of Olivia Coley-Pearson

Olivia Coley Pearson
Southern Rural Black Women's Initiative Mayor's Human Rights Commissioner, Coffee Co., Georgia
City Commissioner, City of Douglas, Georgia

Olivia is a Political Science Graduate of Clark College, Atlanta Ga., Graduate of UGA/Carl Vinson Institute of Government; Recipient of UGA & GMA 2013 Certificate of Distinction, and proud Honoree of 2020 American Bar Association Human Rights Hero. Olivia is a proud mother of four daughters: AiyEsha , Anntoine, and one son, Tony (deceased). Three grandsons: Kwaliq, Kyreon and Khalil.