Board of Directors

Patrick J. McConnon MPH

Board Chair

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Patrick McConnon worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1967-2002. He undertook challenging international assignments in refugee health, smallpox eradication, Guinea worm eradication, and domestic and international outbreak coordination. His work included long term domestic assignments in 3 states, and assignments in Thailand, Nigeria, and CDC Headquarters. He completed his career as the CDC Senior Management Official responsible for the Emerging and Reemerging Infectious Disease Program from 1994-02. This effort targeted core infrastructure needs and use of new technologies to support programs at the Federal, state and local level. Mr. McConnon was the recipient of many awards with CDC including the William C. Watson Medal of Excellence, the Order of the Bifurcated Needle (Smallpox Eradication), and a Chieftaincy in Nigeria for his work in Guinea worm eradication. From 2002-12, he served as the Executive Director for the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, promoting the use of epidemiology to guide public practice at the state and local level. His work included supporting public health surveillance and epidemiologic practice through training, fellowships, capacity development, developing standards of practice, and advocating for scientifically based policy. From 2013-15, he worked with the CDC Foundation where he developed a public health management training program for less developed public health agencies in Africa and Asia. Mr. McConnon is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (BS-1967) and Emory University (MPH-1988).

LaKesha M. Robinson MPH

Vice Chair

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LaKesha M. Robinson is an applied public health epidemiology professional with 20 years of experience in technical grant writing and development, special projects, recruiting and management. She is former Senior Deputy of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) and served in several roles for the organization from 2000-2019, including Acting Executive Director, Senior Deputy Director, Chief of Grants Management and Development, and Epidemiology Program Director. In her 20 years with CSTE, the organization experienced rapid growth in membership, national office staff, projects, and the size of its annual budget. LaKesha has also served on several professional boards and projects in her career, including the Rollins School of Public Health Mentorship Program, University of North Carolina Management Academy for Public Health, Council to Improve Foodborne Illness and Response (CIFOR), Clark Atlanta University National Alumni Fundraising Co-Chair, and the Woodward Academy Parent Community Executive Board. Her hobbies include volunteer service, helping others achieve healthy lifestyles, traveling and running. LaKesha and her husband live in the Metro Atlanta area and they have two children.

Verla S. Neslund JD

Secretary

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​Verla S. Neslund is retired from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) where she spent the majority of her career in CDC’s Office of the General Counsel and Office of the Director. She spent several years assigned by CDC to the CDC Foundation, a non‐profit organization created by Congress to support the life‐saving work of CDC through public‐private partnerships with individual donors and philanthropic organizations. Ms. Neslund is an attorney. She received her BA Degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota and her JD Degree from Emory University. She has published in peer reviewed legal, medical and public health journals.

Kenneth R. Stachler CPA

Treasurer

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Kenneth R. Stachler is a certified public account with over 45 years of experience in finance, accounting, and treasury management. Ken started his career in public accounting with the Los Angeles office of Deloitte (formerly Haskins & Sells) and then transitioned into the private sector as the Chief Financial Officer for Injury Management and Rehabilitation (IMARC) in Pasadena, California. Ken and his family relocated to Atlanta, Georgia in 1985 when IMARC was acquired by Crawford & Company. Ken held the position of Vice President and Treasurer for Crawford & Company for 20 years and was a key member of the Board of Director’s Audit Committee. After leaving Crawford & Company, Ken has had a highly successful consulting career providing treasury and finance services to a wide range of companies that included, Southern Company, Graphic Packaging, Genuine Parts Company, InComm and AXIS Capital. Ken is a member of the Georgia Society of CPAs and the Association of Financial Professionals. Ken is a graduate from the University of Southern California-BS Accounting with honors. Ken and his wife live in Atlanta.      

Melissa Hines Lowe

Director-at-Large

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Melissa Hines Lowe is a senior marketing research consultant with over 40 years of experience in global advertising and marketing. Her primary focus has been in the development of creative and innovative approaches to consumer marketing. Throughout her consulting career, Melissa has enjoyed being part of global teams and conducting primary research to advance her clients’ understanding of all types of target populations: general consumers, doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, voters, and others. With a base in consumer packaged goods, Melissa has advanced consumer learning for Fortune 100 companies in pharma, food, beverage, tech, politics and more. Her work is valued for positioning, branding, advertising and strategic consumer insights. Close to home, for over ten years, Melissa has been on the Advisory Board and then Board of Directors at Skyland Trail in Atlanta, Georgia. She is co-founder and past president of Ribbons of Hope, a non-profit in Atlanta, Georgia committed to improving the lives of women. Melissa is also chairwoman of the Dean’s Council for the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. She has a passion for learning about and promoting education and the cause of public health. Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. She is married to Willis Lowe and has two daughters.

Baoky Vu

Director-at-Large

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Baoky Vu is a principal of Silverberry Capital, an investment and strategic advisory firm based in Atlanta. Previously, he had served in capacities including director of research and portfolio manager with A. Montag & Associates from 1996 through 2008, and as policy advisor to former State Representative Bjay Pak. He holds degrees from Georgia Tech (BS’90) and Georgetown University (MBA’95). His affiliations include: Governor’s 4th Congressional District Board member of the Technical College System of Georgia, Leadership Georgia (Class of 2008), vice chair of DeKalb County Board of Voter Registration and Elections and most recently, treasurer of the DeKalb County Development Authority. In August 2001, Baoky was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.An active participant in the political process, he was on the Electoral College in the 2016 Presidential Elections and resigned after the 2016 Republican primary. He has appeared as political guest commentator on CNN, MSNBC and has been cited in local and national papers such as USA Today, Washington Times, POLITICO and the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. Baoky has lived in Atlanta for more than 40 years. In 1975, his family left Saigon prior to the collapse of South Vietnam to Communist North Vietnamese forces.

Gus Birkhead MD, MPH

Director-at-Large

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Dr. Birkhead is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Director of the Center for Collaborative HIV Research in Practice and Policy at the School of Public Health, University at Albany, in Albany, NY. Until 2015, he worked at the New York State Department of Health for 27 years in positions of increasing responsibility. From 2007 to 2015 he was Deputy Commissioner for all public health programs. He received his MD degree from the Yale School of Medicine and a Master of Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins University. He is a graduate of the CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service and Preventive Medicine Residency programs and is board certified in internal medicine and preventive medicine.Gus was a member of the CSTE Executive Board in the late 1990s and was the President of CSTE in 1997-1998. He is a recipient of the 2006 CSTE Pump Handle Award. He has also been a CSTE consultant in recent years. Gus served on the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)(2001-2005) at the CDC and was a member and chair of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC)(2006-2011) at the US Department of Health and Human Services. He is co-author of over 150 publications in the peer-reviewed literature, 2 public health textbooks and 8 book chapters. He is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice and of Public Health Reports. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the EIS Alumni Association and its president during 2021-2022. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the New York State Public Health Association.

Juanite Stedman JD

Director-at-Large

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Juanita Stedman is a former juvenile court judge of Cobb CountyGeorgia. Before she was on the bench, Stedman served as administrative law judge for special education due process hearings throughout Georgia. She has also been a private practice attorney, and prior to her career in law, Stedman was a special education teacher. Juanita received her undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia, and her masters in education and J.D. from the University of Georgia.Juanita is now the executive director of Together Georgia, a preeminent voice in Georgia’s child and welfare policy-making through Advocacy, Collaboration, Networking, and Communication.

Heather A. Christopherson CFRE, MPA

Executive Director

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For over 20 years, Heather Christopherson has been working with nonprofit organizations to advance their goals in fundraising, donor communications and volunteerism. She earned her BA in Sociology and Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh, as well as a master’s in public administration with a specialization in nonprofit management and fundraising. She has been a Certified Fund Raising Executive since 2003 and is a 2015 alum of the James P. Shannon Leadership Institute at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. Heather is a past president of the Minnesota Chapter of Association of Fundraising Professionals.

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