Meet our Plenary Speakers

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Wilma Alvardo-Little, MA MSW
Associate Commissioner

Ms. Alvarado-Little joined the New York State Department of Health as Associate Commissioner and Director of the Department’s Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities Prevention in July 2017. She has focused on health equity issues from a linguistic and cultural perspective in addition to her interests in public policy, research, health literacy and health disparities prevention. She has been instrumental in the development and implementation of hospital and clinic-based programs and is a healthcare interpreter and trainer with over 30 years’ experience in the healthcare field.

She is the former Co-chair of the Board of the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care, serves as a member of the National Project Advisory Committee for the Review of the CLAS Standards, HHS Office of Minority Health, and has served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Roundtable on Health Literacy and Chair of the New York State Office of Mental Health Multicultural Advisory Committee.

She also serves on various boards, at the state and local levels, which address multicultural and language access issues. She has a Master Arts degree in Spanish Literature and a Master’s in Social Welfare.


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Ana Chavez
D.R. In-Home Family Support Specialist

Ana K Chavez is an In-home Family Support Specialist with the Differential Response Program in Orange County Social Services Department - a division created to protect children from child abuse through skill building and parent education. Previously, Ana worked with victims of Domestic Violence as a Personal Empowerment Program Facilitator and a parenting educator with emphasis on trauma due to violence. Ana is certified through the state of California as a Domestic Violence Counselor and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Adelphi University. 


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Joy Deupree PhD, APRN, WHNP-BC
Professor and Associate Dean for Practice Innovation, Partnerships & Policy

Joy Deupree, PhD, RN, WHNP-BC is a Professor and Associate Dean for Practice Innovation, Partnerships, and Policy at the University of South Carolina College of Nursing in Columbia, South Carolina. A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellow 2014-2017, she teaches Leadership in the doctoral program and is actively involved in health literacy research for numerous projects that target underserved and vulnerable populations in the southeast.

A certified Laubach literacy tutor since 1997, Dr. Deupree began her research in the field of health literacy in 2002 as co-investigator for a grant to study health literacy and caregiver fever management for children ages 6 months to 6 years. In 2004, Dr. Deupree developed the curriculum for a popular campus-wide course at UAB entitled Health Literacy: Identification of At-Risk Populations, which continues to be offered twice annually.

She earned her PhD in Health Promotion/Health Behavior in 2011 via a joint program from the Schools of Public Health and Health Education at UAB, Birmingham, Alabama and the School of Human Studies at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Using her expertise in the field of health literacy her dissertation study entitled Health Literacy: A Community-based Mixed Methods Study of Prescription Medication Self-management among Community Dwelling Older Adults provided significant findings regarding how seniors cope with the many challenges of polypharmacy management. Recognizing Dr. Deupree’s expertise and leadership in health policy and health literacy, in 2015 by gubernatorial Executive Order #4 Dr. Deupree was appointed to serve on the Alabama Health Care Improvement Task Force. During her tenure on the task force, she organized and hosted a statewide Health Literacy Summit to determine the readiness of the state to support an organized effort for health literacy. Results of the study led her to establish and chair the Alabama Health Literacy Initiative which continues to be sustained by the UAB School of Nursing. In 2017, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention added Alabama to the list of recognized statewide health literacy initiatives.


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Stan Hudson MA, CDFT
Director of Health Literacy

Stan Hudson is the Health Literacy Director for Wisconsin Literacy, Inc. He is a health literacy expert and health policy analyst with 21 years of experience in health services research and 15 years of experience in health literacy with a focus on curriculum development. He earned an M.A. in Sociology from the University of Missouri with a focus on race, class, and gender inequalities and earned B.A.s in History, Political Science, and Sociology from Columbia College. Over the last decade he has led the development and implementation of health literacy and health justice education programs and curricula for health professionals in training and in practice. In 2014, he became an NCCJ-Certified Diversity FaciliTrainer and has been developing and implementing innovative inclusion and diversity workshops for education, health, public health professionals, and students that bridge cultural competency and health literacy. He also currently serves as a NCCJ STL Program Associate and leads programming opportunities in the Upper Midwest.


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Barbra Kingsley, Ph.D

Barbra Kingsley, Ph.D., a Partner with Kleimann Communication Group, has 25 years of experience managing high-impact communication projects to create clear, usable information. She is an information design and plain language expert with a deep understanding of how individuals, particularly vulnerable populations, use print and online information. She has led projects for multiple high-profile clients to develop information that people of all demographics can understand including the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the SNAP notices and forms for the Department of Agriculture, and the HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices for the Department of Health and Human Services. Each of these projects have produced forms and notices that are – and will be – used daily by millions of consumers and industry partners. She also works nationally and internationally to promote the use of plain language. Nationally, as Chair of the Center for Plain Language, she oversees both the Annual Federal Report Card, which rates federal agency compliance with the Plain Writing Act of 2010, and the Annual ClearMark Awards, which celebrates the best in U.S. plain language. Internationally, she is helping create global ISO plain language standards as a Board Member of the International Plain Language Federation.


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Lakesha Kinnerson, MPH, RHIA, CPHQ

Lakesha Kinnerson is an Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator of the Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management Undergraduate Program Coordinator at Samford University.  She holds a Master of Public Health and Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and is currently a doctoral learner.  She is past president of the Alabama Health Information Management Association and serves on national health information workgroups.  Her research interests include consumer informatics, health inequities, and health literacy.


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Viki Lorraine, MS
Education Consultant

Whether teaching patient-centered communication at a medical school, teaching staff to deliver English as a Second Language programming, or working with communities to increase access to healthy foods, for the past 30 years Viki Lorraine’s work has focused on making sure verbal and written communication can be used and understood by all audiences.

Recognizing that plain language is a fundamental social justice issue, Viki has provided plain language and health literacy education for staff across many state departments and at national, state, and local conferences.

Born and raised in Flint, Viki often says that the best parts of her are the product of being a Flint kid.


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Casey Mank
Co-Founder and Principal at Bold Type

Casey Mank is the Co-Founder of Bold Type, a women-owned training firm that helps professionals write with greater confidence and clarity. After 10 years in university writing centers and traditional classrooms, Casey now creates writing training programs for teams at corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies. She has worked with writers from organizations including Kellogg, Boeing, Viacom Media, Sephora, General Dynamics, the EPA Office of the Inspector General, and the US Special Forces. She completed her master’s in English at Georgetown University and currently teaches research writing skills for dissertations and publications at Georgetown's School of Nursing and Health Studies. Casey serves on the board at the nonprofit Center for Plain Language, and is the head judge for this year’s ClearMark Awards, recognizing the best in Plain Language communication. She is proud to have helped thousands of writers get to the point and reach their audiences with greater impact.


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Julie McKinney


Julie has worked on a variety of health literacy projects for the past 20 years. She has done extensive work for World Education, Inc., the Institute for Healthcare Advancement (IHA), and other health and literacy organizations. She has moderated the Health Literacy Discussion List since 2004, written health literacy curricula, resource guides, and plain language educational materials; and designed and conducted health literacy trainings.


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Suzy Newby, MA, CCC-SLP
Genesis Rehab Services

Suzy Newby holds a master's degree in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She currently works at Genesis Rehab Services as a Clinical Director, University Relations Director and speech-language pathologist, and is based in San Diego, CA. She has worked as an SLP in long term care, skilled nursing, memory care and adult day centers, such as the PACE program. Suzy has presented at national conferences for ASHA, the American Society of Aging and the PACE Association. She is a certified dementia practitioner, Speak Out! certified, and a master clinician with GRS in cognitive-communication disorders. Suzy has a passion for the geriatric population and is devoted to patient advocacy, health literacy, cultural competency and dementia education.


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Janet Ohene- Frempong, MS
Strategic Partner

Janet Ohene-Frempong (o-HEN-ee frem-PONG), is a plain language and cross-cultural communications consultant with over 25 years of experience in patient/provider communications. She has conducted workshops and provided consultation on plain language
and cross-cultural communications for a wide range of health information providers, including: health care systems, government agencies, health insurers, pharmaceutical companies, medical publishers, health and human service agencies and schools of medicine, nursing and allied health. She is often an invited speaker at national conferences.

Ms. Ohene-Frempong has served on several national advisory committees and was a founding member of the Clear Language Group, a consortium of nationally recognized health literacy experts. In May of 2012, she was the fourth recipient of the IHA Health Literacy Hero Award, given by the Institute for Healthcare Advancement to recognize efforts in advancing the field of health literacy. She is currently a Strategic Partner with the same Institute for Healthcare Advancement, a not-for-profit, private operating foundation providing health care and improving health literacy at the national level.


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Diana Peña Gonzalez, MPH, CHES
Health Education Specialist

Diana is the Health Education Specialist at the Institute for Healthcare Advancement (IHA). She has implemented programs locally and nationally surrounding topics such as health insurance literacy, asthma, teen health, and oral health. Nationally, Diana has provided programmatic technical assistance for other community-based organizations through web-based or in-person trainings. She is co-author of “Innovative approaches to chronic disease management: health literacy solutions and opportunities for research validation” in Health Literacy: New directions in research, theory, and practice and “The Intersection of Health Literacy, Health Equity, and Nursing Practice” in Health Equity and Nursing: Achieving Equity Through Policy, Population Health, and Interprofessional Collaboration. As the Health Education Specialist, she manages IHA’s Annual Health Literacy Conference and provides programmatic assistance for the Health Literacy in Action Conference.

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Rachel Roberts, MPH, CHES
Manager, Community Health Engagement and Strategy

Rachel Roberts, MPH, CHES is the Community Health Engagement & Strategy Manager at the Institute for Healthcare Advancement (IHA) where she is responsible for creating self-care education programs, identifying research opportunities, evaluating programs, and acting as a liaison for the Move More, Eat Healthy (MMEH) initiative. She also assists with creating and rewriting low-literacy patient and consumer health-related materials.

Rachel received her Bachelor's Degree in Health Science and Master’s Degree in Public Health from California State University, Long Beach, with an emphasis in community health education. She is also a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). As a bilingual health educator, Rachel has worked alongside healthcare professionals and providers to design disease management and health promotion programs. She has taught a variety of topics ranging from prenatal care to diabetes management. Over the years, Rachel has worked in a various clinical and community-based settings including the Orange County Health Care Agency, Mission Hospital’s Camino Health Center, Orange County Community Clinics and the American Diabetes Association.

In addition to working at IHA, Rachel is a part-time faculty member at California State University, Fullerton where she teaches in the Public Health and Kinesiology departments. Over the last 13 years, Rachel has taught numerous courses including program design in kinesiology and health promotion, children’s health, and worksite health promotion.

Rachel currently resides in Anaheim Hills, California with her husband and two teenage sons.


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Rima Rudd, ScD, MPH
Health Literacy Expert

Dr. Rima Rudd is Senior Lecturer on Society, Human Development, and Health at the Harvard School of Public Health.  Her work centers on health communication and on the design and evaluation of public health community based programs. She has been teaching courses at Harvard on innovative strategies in health education, program planning and evaluation, and health literacy since 1988.

Dr. Rudd is focusing her research inquiries on literacy related disparities and literacy related barriers to health programs, services, and care, working closely with the adult education, public health, and medical sectors. Her Harvard website on health literacy [www.hsph.harvard.edu/healthliteracy] serves scholars and practitioners around the world.

Dr. Rudd wrote several reports that are helping to shape the agenda in health literacy research and practice. They include the health literacy chapter of the Health and Human Services book Communicating Health: Priorities and Strategies for Progress (2003) and the Educational Testing Services report, Literacy and Health in America (2004). She served on the Institute of Medicine Committee on Health Literacy, on the National Research Council Committee on Measuring Adult Literacy, on the Joint Commission Advisory Committee on Health Literacy and Patient Safety. She currently serves on the National Health Literacy Advisory Board for the American Dental Association, the National Canadian Collaborating Center on Health Disparities, and the National Advisory Board for the Center of Excellence. She is a principal investigator and a co-principal investigator on several on-going health literacy research projects. Rima Rudd is considered a leader in this new field of research.     


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Marian Ryan PhD, MA, MPH
Chief Policy and Research Officer

Resigning her corporate healthcare position mid-career, Dr. Ryan elected to earn her PhD as an AHRQ fellow at Brandeis University, MA. She began her healthcare career 25 years earlier as a life-flight respiratory therapist working in the NICU for a tertiary hospital in southern California. Upon earning her MPH and leaving the hospital, she began a professional journey that included health program development and evaluation, health literacy and patient education, and performance improvement working with both payer and provider sectors.

While in her doctoral studies at Brandeis University and the Schneider Institute for Health Policy,
Dr. Ryan participated on and led several research teams. Her doctoral dissertation examined the impact of the physician-patient relationship on health outcomes among culturally diverse seniors living in Los Angeles. Dr. Ryan’s work experience since returning to California has included small research studies, clinical program effectiveness evaluations, Medicare/Medicaid compliance monitoring, provider profile reports, and the development and validation of a proprietary predictive risk algorithm.

Dr. Ryan has successfully combined her programmatic and clinical expertise with her informatics knowledge to help organizations use data effectively to improve performance and identify gaps in patient cohorts for targeted intervention. In her new position as Chief Policy and Research Officer for IHA she is enthusiastic about moving forward policy and research with the potential to immediately impact patients. She completed both her B.S. in Health Science and her M.P.H. in Community Health Education at Cal State University Long Beach.


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Chris Stigas
Social Advocate

My name is Chris Stigas. I am an entrepreneur (www.handihelp.ca) and a social advocate for persons with disabilities. My efforts are focused on ensuring the provision of equitable and dignified access to healthcare and community services.

I am a Patient Partner on the AODA Council for the University Health Network in Toronto and sit on the Advisory Council on Accessible Transit to the Toronto Transit Commission; and, I hold a position on the Young Professional Board at Spinal Cord Injury Ontario. I have successfully completed the Rick Hansen Accessibility Certification at George Brown College, and most recently had the great honour of being the recipient of the Patty Dawson 2020 Activist of the Year Award, from Spinal Cord Injury of Ontario.

Prior to my spinal cord injury in 2014, I was a commercial industrial electrician. My injury journey has taken me through the full spectrum of the healthcare system from the 911 call, emergency decompression surgery, ICU, inpatient, outpatient, rehab, transitional housing, and finally living independently in the community.

As I slowly recovered from my accident, I began to re-engage with life and find a new role and a new purpose for myself. Advocacy quickly became a natural calling. I strongly believe that persons with disabilities face many inequities and they have especially been highlighted by COVID-19. We are an under-represented, unused resource that should be leveraged as architects of positive change towards equality, and inspiring contributors to Canadian society.

I’m honoured to contribute to my community as a Patient Partner.


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Michael Villaire, MSLM

Michael Villaire, MSLM, is President and Chief Executive Officer for the Institute for Healthcare Advancement, a nonprofit healthcare 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to empowering people to better health, with a major mission emphasis on health literacy.

Mr. Villaire has written numerous articles on various aspects of health literacy, and lectures nationally on health literacy. He is co-author of the textbook, Health Literacy in Primary Care: A Clinician’s Guide, published by Springer in 2007, and the self-help health book, What To Do When Your Child Is Heavy, published by IHA in 2009.

His background includes 20 years as managing editor for peer-reviewed journals in nursing and medicine, hospital publications, physician news magazines, and an online healthcare portal experiment for WebMD. He has helped redesign and launch several medical and nursing journals and managed the development of a multimedia, interactive curriculum in critical care.

Mr. Villaire earned his baccalaureate degrees in English (Journalism) and in Communications from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Mich. He earned his Master’s of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management from the University of La Verne, La Verne, Calif., in 2006. His thesis examined health literacy in community clinics in regard to adequacy of patient education materials.

As its CEO, Mr. Villaire leads IHA’s health literacy initiatives, which include the self-help health book series, “What To Do For Health,” all of which are written at a 3rd- to 5th-grade reading level; IHA’s annual continuing education health literacy conference; and IHA’s consulting service, which includes rewrite services, organizational assessment/systems change, document writing, video production, focus group/testing, conference management, training/curriculum development, and IHA’s growing research agenda in health literacy.


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Teresa Wagner DRPH, MS, CPH, RD/LD, CHWI
Assistant Professor, Department of Lifestyle Health Sciences

Dr. Teresa Wagner graduated with a Doctorate in Public Health from the University of North Texas Health Science Center where she is an Assistant Professor in the School of Health Professions and Clinical Executive for Health Literacy at SaferCare Texas. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Dietetics from Texas Christian University and Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

Dr. Wagner is a registered and licensed dietitian and a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as well as the Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is certified in public health and a certified community health worker instructor. As a clinician, she was recently certified in Lifestyle Medicine and Health Coaching. During Covid-19, Dr. Wagner has completed multiple media segments, webinars and blog posts addressing nutrition for population health as well as personal wellness while practicing self-isolation. She has received both the Media Award and Distinguished Scientist Award from the Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

In her role at SaferCare Texas, she has established a multi-stakeholder health literacy collaborative with the DFW Hospital Council Foundation and testified on health literacy legislation in Texas. Her testimony helped place health literacy into the State Health Plan. Recently, she developed the health literacy policy resolution for the Texas Public Health Association. She has delivered multiple programs, speaking engagements and trainings on health literacy issues. Currently, she teaches Health Literacy & Communication in the Lifestyle Health Sciences Program. As a result of her work locally, regionally & nationally, she received the 2018 Texas Health Literacy Hero Award as well as the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award from Texas Christian University.


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Ernesta Wright, BA
The G.R.E.E.N. Foundation

Ernesta Wright, BA is a native of Orange County, California. She served as the Executive Director of The G.R.E.E.N. Foundation who has more than 30 years of experience working in community health education and more than 32 years of entrepreneurial experience.

Ernesta Wright has established a track record as an effective collaborator for outreach and programming with large organizations, including completed projects with American Cancer Society, Covered California, Blue Shield of California, Susan G. Komen Orange County Affiliate, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Vines Medical Society, with five universities; National University, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal State Fullerton, Loyola Marymount, San Marcos University and other community/grassroots organizations, to facilitate a greater impact among African American constituents throughout the state of California. She has also positioned this grassroots regency as a leader in the fight against cancers. The G.R.E.E.N. Foundation has a reach and positive impact in the fight against cancers that spans from its Orange County base of operations in Southern California, to the Bay Area in Northern California. Ms. Wright constructed statewide (Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento and Alameda) collaboration between certified educators and enrollment counselors to provide expansive outreach in African American communities.

An author, of a culturally-conscious, comprehensive and evidence-based approach which encourages, empowers and engages communities of color about the importance of prevention, screenings and health coverage for a better quality of life. For three decades of providing professional workshops and conferences to reduce disparities, gaps to health care and to promote the importance of healthier choices.