Conference Presenters

Keynote Speaker

Peter J. Hotez, M.D., Ph.D

Peter J. Hotez, M.D., Ph.D. is Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine where he is also the Co-director of the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development (CVD) and Texas Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair of Tropical Pediatrics. He is also University Professor at Baylor University, Fellow in Disease and Poverty at the James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Senior Fellow at the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at Texas A&M University, Faculty Fellow with the Hagler Institute for Advanced Studies at Texas A&M University, and Health Policy Scholar in the Baylor Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy.

Peter Hotez has actively used his public profile on Twitter and other social media platforms to help combat misinformation about the outbreak of COVID-19. He has also appeared as an invited expert in a number of cable news and radio shows. In an interview with the American Medical Association, Hotez noted that communicating clear messages about the ongoing pandemic is of vital importance in an environment that is rife with confusing and misleading messages. "We’ve been hearing either the sky was falling or there was no problem… the reality is more nuanced than that and that requires some explanation based on scientific principles." Hotez has also warned that contrary to popular belief, more young adults than expected would be hospitalized due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus: "The message is that we’ve been trying to appeal to younger adults and have them shelter away and do the social distancing and explaining why they’re at risk for transmitting the virus to vulnerable populations."Hotez has also warned against optimistic coronavirus vaccine timelines, arguing that rushing through the conservative timeline could cause problems, "potentially mak[ing] individuals worse and threaten[ing] vaccine development in the U.S." On August 7, 2020, he said in a television interview that the US can expect to be affected by coronavirus for "years and years" even after Americans are vaccinated. In that interview, he also blamed the federal government for not taking action to contain the spread of the virus.

Jamboor K. Vishwanatha, PhD Regents Professor and Vice President

Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, MD, PhD is Professor of Clinical Internal Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at UC Davis Health and the Director of the Community Engagement Program of the UCD Clinical Translational Science Center (CTSC).  He is a past member of the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC), National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). He is Past Chair of the Board of Directors of Mental Health America (MHA; formerly the National Mental Health Association) and Past President of the Board of Directors of NAMI California.   He is a member of the National Advisory Council of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) - Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), and board member of the California Health Care Foundation, Physicians for a Health California, and the Public Health Institute.  He was recently appointed to the California COVID-19 Vaccine Drafting Guidelines Workgroup with the charge of drafting guidelines for the prioritization of initial supplies of available COVID-19 vaccines.  He is a national and international expert on health and mental health comorbidities on diverse populations.  Over the last 25 years, he has held several World Health Organization (WHO) and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) advisory board and consulting appointments and is currently a member of the Executive Committee of WHO’s World Mental Health Survey Consortium (WMH) and its Coordinator for Latin America overseeing population-based national surveys of Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, a regional survey of Brazil, and two surveys of the Medellín, Colombia. 

Dr. Aguilar-Gaxiola’s applied research program has focused on identifying unmet mental health needs and associated risk and protective factors to better understand and meet population mental health needs and achieve equity in health and mental health disparities in underserved populations. He is also very active translating health, mental health and substance abuse research knowledge into practical information that is of public health value to consumers, service administrators, and policy makers.  

Dr. Aguilar-Gaxiola is the author of over 190 scientific publications.  He is the recipient of multiple awards including the Vanderbilt University Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Medal of Congress (“Medalla de la Cámara de Diputados”) of Chile for work related to mental health research, the DHHS' Office of Minority Health's 2005 National Minority Health Community Leader Award (Hispanic Community), Washington, DC, the 2007 UC Davis Academic Senate Scholarly Distinguished Service Award, the 2008 Latino Mental Health Conference Excellence in Science and Research Award from NYU Univ., the 2009 National Award of Excellence in Blending Research and Practice from the National Hispanic Science Network, the 2012-2013 UC Davis Chancellor's Achievement Award for Diversity and Community in the Academic Senate category, the 2014 National Award of Excellence in Public Service by the National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse, the 2016 Dean's Award for Excellence in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion - Community Engagement, UC Davis School of Medicine and was named a distinguished member of the Top 10 U.S. Latino Physicians in the May, 2016 issue of Latino Leaders Magazine.  More recently, he received the 2018 UC Davis Health Dean's Team Award for Inclusion Excellence, along with the Center for Reducing Health Disparities Team for outstanding multidisciplinary team contributions in the area of community engagement, the 2018 NAMI California Multicultural Outreach Excellence Award, the 2018 Mental Health California’s Research and Health Disparities Award, and the 2018 Mental Health California’s Research and Health Disparities Award. In September 2020, he received the Ohtli Award, the highest honor granted by the Mexican government to individuals who have dedicated their lives to improving the well-being of Mexicans, Mexican Americans and other Latinos in the US and abroad.   

Dr. Aguilar-Gaxiola was a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM/NRC) Committee on Depression, Parenting Practices, and the Health Development of Young Children (2007-2009) report and a member of the IOM/NRC Women’s Health Research: Progress, Pitfalls, and Promise (2010) report. He is currently serving as co-chair of the Steering Committee of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) Assessing Meaningful Community Engagement in Health and Health Care, a project of the NAM Leadership Consortium and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

Hoda Badr, Ph.D.

Dr. Hoda Badr is a health psychologist and tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, Section of Epidemiology and Population Science at Baylor College of Medicine. She is also the leader of the Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences Program at the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Badr’s research program focuses on developing and implementing psychosocial interventions that leverage family support to improve patient and caregiver health behaviors and well-being across the cancer control continuum. Toward that end, she has developed novel methodologies to assess and analyze patient-caregiver dynamics and used eHealth platforms to facilitate patient/caregiver engagement with health promotion materials. Dr. Badr's research has been supported by the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, and U.S. Department of Defense.

Robert Ferrer, MD, MPH

Robert Ferrer, MD, MPH is Professor and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at UT Health San Antonio.  He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the Hahnemann University School of Medicine. He completed his family medicine residency at Duke and then a National Research Service Award Fellowship and MPH at the University of Washington. His research interests include primary care quality improvement and the social determinants of health.  He currently serves as an associate editor for the Annals of Family Medicine. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine. Dr. Ferrer continues to practice and teach family medicine in the University Health System.

'No Más/No More Misinformation, Miscommunication, Mistrust'

Venus Ginés

Ms. Venus Ginés, a 28-year breast cancer survivor, who survived cancer for the second time in 2017 after 25 years of survivorship. In 2018, Venus retired as a faculty member at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, teaching cultural competence and health literacy, as well as conducting research on Latino medical mistrust.

From her personal experience with breast cancer and her sister’s untimely death to cervical cancer, Venus founded Día de la Mujer Latina, Inc., (DML), in 1997 as a national non-profit organization, celebrating its signature health fiesta in 40 states, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, providing the medically underserved Latina community with culturally and linguistically proficient health education, early detection screening for cancer and other chronic diseases, culturally-tailored preventive programs for Latino teens and patient-centered navigation. She trained 4212 Promotores/Community Health Workers (P/CHWs) in Texas alone. Venus is a State Certified Instructor of P/CHWs with DML being the first approved bilingual Texas State-Sponsored Certification Training Program. She developed a bilingual training curriculum on Dispelling Myths and Rumors about Women’s Cancers, STDs, Patient-Centered Care, Mental Health and more recently on COVID -19, Clinical Trials and Vaccines. On April 9, 2020, she launched the Telehealth Community Navigation Program, Behavioral Health Community Navigator and in December 2020, the Clinical Trial Community Navigation training, preparing Promotores/CHWs to debunk Misinformation on COVID 19, Vaccines & Clinical Trials. She is currently working on launching a Bilingual TCN Digital Health Center for cancer patients, as well as a venue for Debunking Misinformation, Dispelling Myths, Rumor and Misinformation.

Gary Kesling, PhD, LMFT, LPC, NCC

Dr. Kesling is a health care executive, academician, and clinician with over four decades of experience across a broad range of organizations in both the public and private sector working with local, state and federal agencies. Half of those years in collaborating, promoting and nurturing in academic environments serving as a faculty at academic health science centers’ Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions and the Executive Dean of the John B. Coleman, M.D. College of Health Sciences at the Texas Medical Center, Houston.

Lorna H. McNeill, PhD, MPH

Lorna H. McNeill, PhD, MPH, is professor and chair of the Department of Health Disparities Research at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. McNeill's research focuses on the elimination of cancer-related health disparities in minority populations. Her research has particular emphasis on understanding the influence of social contextual determinants of cancer in minorities, with a special focus of the role of physical activity as a key preventive behavior and obesity as a major cancer determinant. Her research takes place in minority and underserved communities such as public housing developments, black churches, community-based clinics and low-income neighborhoods—communities with excess cancer death rates. She has been continuously funded, receiving grants from various funding agencies (i.e., National Institutes of Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, etc.), to better understand and design innovative solutions to address health inequities in racial/ethnic minority communities. She holds two training grants to develop the next generation of health disparities workers, conducted in collaboration with minority-serving institutions, such as the University of Houston. As Associate Director for Health Disparities and Community Outreach within our CCSG Program, Dr. McNeill directs the Center for Community-Engaged Translational Research (CCETR). CCETR works with MD Anderson faculty to develop collaborations with underserved communities with a focus on conducting high-quality, relevant cancer prevention research. Since 2010, CCETR has supported more than 75 research studies representing over $120 million of total funding from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health. Dr. McNeill also serves on the new executive Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee at MD Anderson and she most recently contributed to the 2020 AACR Cancer Disparities Progress Report.

Rebecca Seguin-Fowler, PhD, RDN, LD, CSCS

Rebecca Seguin-Fowler, PhD, RDN, LD, CSCS is Associate Director for Texas A&M AgriLife Research; Chief Scientific Officer for Healthy Texas; and a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition. She also serves as Director of Healthy Living for the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Dallas. She is recognized internationally for her expertise in interventions development for rural and minority populations; food systems and food access interventions; civic engagement to catalyze policy, systems, and environment change; and dissemination and implementation research. Dr. Seguin-Fowler was recently honored with the Mead Johnson Award from the American Society for Nutrition; the Founder’s Award from the Society of Behavioral Medicine; and the Henrik L. Blum Award for Excellence in Health Planning from the American Public Health Association.

Emily Spence, MSW, PhD

Dr. Emily Spence-Almaguer is Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Health Equity and Associate Professor in the University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health. She also serves as Community Engagement and Dissemination Core Director for the Texas Center for Health Disparities, a National Institute of Health Specialized Center of Excellence. She obtained her PhD from Florida International University in Social Welfare. Her research interests include program evaluation, community assessment, poverty, homelessness, community-based participatory research, and interpersonal violence. She serves as lead evaluator or investigator for several large community initiatives associated with interpersonal violence, health coaching, poverty, mental health, financial stability, homelessness and mentoring. She has also conducted both regional and topic-specific community needs assessments.

Dr. Sylvia Trent-Adams SVP and Chief Strategy Officer

Dr. Sylvia Trent-Adams is the Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. In this role, she assists the President in developing, communicating, executing, and sustaining strategic initiatives. As HSC’s Chief Strategy Officer, Dr. Trent-Adams leads the strategic planning process, focusing on accelerating organization performance through cohesive strategy planning and execution, knowledge management and organizational accountability. A lifetime public servant, Dr. Trent-Adams began her extensive public health career in 1992 by joining the Commissioned Corps before ultimately retiring in 2020 from the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps with the rank of Rear Admiral Upper Half.

Scott Walters, PhD

My research looks at ways to use motivational interviewing and technology as behavioral health interventions. My experience ranges from brief interventions for underage drinking, to adults in the criminal justice system, to heavy drinkers in hospital settings, to people at risk of cancer or genetic disorders, to community-based health navigation. My current projects are testing ways to improve cancer risk screening, vocational success for veterans with a criminal history, alcohol interventions for adolescents, young adults and the homeless, and health advocacy for victims of interpersonal violence. I also serve as the Steering Committee Chair for the HEALing Communities Study, which is developing a national model to address the opioid crisis. My publications include more than 100 articles and five books, including Treating Substance Abuse: Theory and Technique. In addition to research, I have conducted numerous trainings for criminal justice workers, counselors, and healthcare professionals, and served as a consultant to develop Internet and mobile interventions for a variety of health behaviors.

Monica Webb Hooper, PhD

Dr. Monica Webb Hooper is Deputy Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. She works closely with the Director and leadership, to oversee all aspects of the institute and to advance the mission of promoting the health of populations with health disparities and health equity.
Dr. Webb Hooper is an internationally recognized translational behavioral scientist and licensed clinical health psychologist.