June Featured Member
For our inaugural E-news issue, we are honored to feature Larry Curley, a member of the Navajo Nation and part of our Executive Committee and Advisory Group. Larry has over 40 years of experience working in the aging and healthcare fields. He has worked with Congress, other branches of government, and national organizations on aging to develop support for programs affecting elder American Indians.
We asked Larry what inspired him to join the Advisory Committee and devote his time and energy to support the American Indian and Alaska Native Resource Center for Brain Health, and he said:
“Having worked for tribal governments (big and small), I have seen the conditions that exist in Indian communities. In juxtaposition to these conditions, I have seen the data on the impact of Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias on Indian tribes, communities, and families as they deal with this disease. But, there are ways that we can lessen the impact and even delay the onset by ensuring that the elements of the social determinants of health are addressed and ameliorated. That is what makes this a hopeful and worthwhile effort! The people who are on the advisory council make this even more enjoyable; it’s educational, and I am meeting experts in the field.”
Larry hopes the American Indian and Alaska Native Resource Center for Brain Health becomes the “go-to” organization on matters relating to Alzheimer’s disease and Indian and Alaska Native communities.
Thank you for all your support, Larry! We look forward making your vision for the Center a reality. Stayed tuned for next month’s feature.
Each month, our e-news will highlight one of the American Indian and Alaska Native Resource Center for Brain Health’s Advisory Committee members.
|Executive Committee Members|
National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA)
|Larry Curley is a member of the Navajo Nation with over 40 years of experience working in the aging and healthcare fields. He has worked with Congress, other branches of the federal government, and national organizations on aging to develop support for programs affecting elder American Indians.|
|J. Neil Henderson, PhD, MS
Memory Keepers Medical Discovery Team – Health Equity, University of Minnesota Medical School
|Dr. Henderson is Oklahoma Choctaw and a medical anthropologist with research areas of dementia and diabetes among American Indian people. Specifically, his work is on dementia and diabetes as an interactive syndrome, biological and cultural influences regarding recognition and treatment of dementia and diabetes, cultural constructions of disease, and community health interventions and education in the context of cultural diversity. He has been the PI on NIH/NIMHD RO1’s on diabetes among American Indian people as well as PI on Alzheimer’s Association funding on dementia among American Indian people.|
|Tassy Parker, PhD, RN
Center for Native American Health
Associate Vice Chancellor for American Indian Health Research & Education, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center
|Dr. Parker is an enrolled member and elder of the Seneca Nation and belongs to the Beaver Clan. The Seneca Nation consists of five Territories located in Western New York and has an enrollment of approximately 8,500 citizens. Dr. Parker is a medical sociologist and tenured professor of Family and Community Medicine, professor of Nursing, and professor of Population Health at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences. Her leadership roles at the UNM Health Sciences include Associate Vice Chancellor for American Indian Health Research and Education, co-medical director of the Mental Health & Resilience ECHO program, and director of the Center for Native American Health (CNAH). CNAH is a special project of the NM Legislature to address health disparities with all Tribes, Pueblos, and Nations, and urban American Indian communities in NM.
Dr. Parker serves her native nation as a Council-appointed member of the Health Board overseeing the Seneca Nation Health System Health. In Albuquerque, she serves the urban American Indian/Alaska Native population as President of the First Nations Community HealthSource (FNCH) Board of Directors. Her service on the FNCH Board of Directors spans 17 years. Other active service includes the NIH All of Us Research Program Advisory Panel and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center External Advisory Committee. Dr. Parker is a community-based participatory research practitioner and her NIH-funded collaborative research addresses a broad range of prevalent American Indian health concerns. Her current funding includes seven grants addressing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, suicide prevention among American Indian youth in primary care, use of technology to reduce hypertension disparity, diabetes prevention, social network analysis to reduce opioid and other drug misuse, and a RADx UP subaward for COVID-19 epidemiology, research, testing, and services. Immediate past NIH funding includes research on the American Indian health disparities issues of adverse childhood experiences and pediatric obesity prevention. Dr. Parker also has CDC awards for two public health associates to provide education and technical assistance in CNAH’s priority areas.
International Association for Indigenous Aging (IA2)
|Bill Benson is the Board President of the International Association for Indigenous Aging. Along with IA2 Executive Director Dave Baldridge, Benson has co-authored numerous papers on aging issues in Indian country. As former staff director for the Senate Labor Subcommittee on Aging, Benson oversaw the successful reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA) in 1992 including the creation of Title VII, Subtitle B – Native American Organization and Elder Justice Provisions. This provision was the first federal law to address the issues of elder abuse and elder justice for Indian elders.
Benson has worked in aging and health for four decades. He serves as principal of Health Benefits ABCs, an independent consulting practice offering aging and policy, strategic planning, program development, facilitation, research and evaluation services. Benson has held senior leadership positions in the U.S. Congress and at the U.S. Administration on Aging. He spent 10 years with the California Department of Aging including as California’s State Long-Term Care Ombudsman. In addition to IA2, Benson serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations including the American Society on Aging and the Kendall Corporation.
|Michael Splaine is owner and principal in Splaine Consulting, a small advocacy and government affairs consulting firm based in Washington DC. Immediately prior to starting this company, Mike was Director of State Government Affairs in the Public Policy Division of the US Alzheimer’s Association with whom he enjoyed a 23-year career. He is the managing partner of a related company Recruitment Partners LLC focused on improving the pace, quality and diversity of recruitment into dementia clinical trials. Among his clients Mike is a consultant to the Alzheimer’s Association/CDC Healthy Brain Initiative and recently was the lead on behalf of the Association on its Road Map for Indian Country document and related outreach. He has also been policy adviser for Alzheimer’s Disease International and teaches dementia policy classes at two US universities. Mike makes his home in Columbia Maryland with his amazing wife Sandy.|
|Advisory Group Members|
|Collette Adamsen, PhD
(Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa)
National Resource Center on Native American Aging
|Collette Adamsen has served as director of the National Resource Center on Native American Aging (NRCNAA) at the Center for Rural Health (CRH) at the University of North Dakota (UND) School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Grand Forks, North Dakota, since October 2017.
In this position, Collette provides grant project direction and leadership, conducts research on health disparities among American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian elders throughout the nation, manages data for the NRCNAA, and functions as an American Indian content specialist. Previously, Collette served as an NRCNAA project coordinator, beginning in May 2014.
Prior to joining the CRH, Collette worked as a redetermination examiner and redetermination officer at Noridian Healthcare Solutions.
Collette received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, a Master of Public Administration, with an emphasis in Health Administration, and a Doctorate in Educational Foundations and Research from UND.
Collette is originally from Belcourt, North Dakota, and is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.
|Melissa Begay, MD
Department of Pulmonology, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, University of New Mexico
|Melissa Begay, MD (Diné) was raised on the Navajo Nation. She is Towering House (Kinyaa’áanii) clan born for Black Streak through Forest (Tsi’naajinii). She is a second-generation physician and daughter of Ray Begay. MD. Melissa completed undergraduate studies at Stanford University and received her MD from the University of New Mexico (UNM) School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency in Internal Medicine and a Fellowship in Sleep Medicine at UNM Health Sciences. Dr. Begay practices at the New Mexico VA Sleep Center and is an Assistant Professor in the UNM Department of Pulmonology, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine. She is a past board member of We Are Healers, a Gold Humanism Society member and recently recognized as a Hometown Hero by Senator Martin Heinrich for her work in assisting Native communities during the pandemic. In her free time, Dr. Begay enjoys creating graphic designs and exploring the Southwest in her 1980’s Land Cruiser.|
|Denise Dillard, PhD
Director of Research
|Denise Dillard is Inupiaq Eskimo and was born in Fairbanks and raised in Anchorage. She has conducted post-doctoral quantitative and qualitative research since 1998 and is a licensed psychologist. She is the Research Director for Southcentral Foundation, an award-winning tribal health organization in Anchorage which created their own Research Department in 2004. She oversees the direction of research projects in behavioral health, pharmacogenetics, ethics, and other projects addressing health disparities. She works with SCF’s Board of Directors as they review research involving the Alaska Native community and serves on the Alaska Area Institutional Review Board. She has been nominated by the King Island Native Community since 2015 to serve as the Alaska Delegate or a Member of Large on the National Institutes of Health Tribal Advisory Committee.
She has a son, Reid, and is close to her family. She enjoys spending time camping, fishing, quilting, going to hot yoga, and attending her son’s baseball games.
(Pyramid Lake Paiute)
Senior Services Director (Title VI)
Director of Dementia Friendly Pyramid Lake
Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe
|Pesa Tabeno/Good Day!! Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribal Member Carla Eben is the Numaga Senior Services Director at the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe in Nevada. Hired to the position in 2016, Carla was familiar with tribal operations, and hit the ground running. In 2017, she attended a two-part training on Dementia and Hoarding. It was offered by the state of Nevada. After reaching out to the University of Nevada Reno Sanford Center on Aging, she began arranging training sessions to educate her elders, her community, and local departments. In 2018 she applied for and received the Dementia Friendly Nevada Grant- “Pesa Sooname”. She hosted the Nevada Tribal Summit on Brain Health and Dementia drawing 113 attendees with 14 tribes represented. She continues to educate her people. The Numaga Senior Services Program operates under 12 different Grants for the Elders of Pyramid Lake.
Carla is a Mother of three (four) and Grandmother to nine. Carla hopes to increase awareness of Dementia on her reservation and to the tribes across the western Great Basin.
Director, Northwest Tribal Cancer Control Project
Director, Western Tribal Diabetes Program
Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB)
|Kerri Lopez, BA, (TolowaDee’ni Nation) joined The Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB) Tribal EpiCenter in October 2002 as the Director of the Western Tribal Diabetes Project. Kerri is also the director for the Northwest Tribal Comprehensive Cancer and BOLD projects. Her new role as the BOLD grant director will work to expand NW tribe’s knowledge, resource and capacity related to ADRD. The WTDP provides computer trainings to tribal programs on the Diabetes Management System and additional on-site/virtual technical assistance to SDPI programs/tribes. In addition, WTDP partners with Nike to provide a national interactive training in: fitness activities and curriculum, motivational interviewing, data resources, tools and templates for diabetes programs to implement. Ms. Lopez has 20 years’ experience of program management for diabetes, tobacco, and cancer prevention. Kerri has provided training and technical assistance in Diabetes, Tobacco Education and Cessation, Breast and Cervical Cancer, Cultural Competency, as well as the history of Indian Health.|
|Evelina Maho, MAdm
Public Health Program Manager
National Council for Urban Indian Health (NCUIH)
|Evelina has worked many years in the health the care industry; primarily with American Indian/Alaskan Native populations. She holds a Master Degree in Administration with an emphasis in Health Sciences and an undergraduate degree in Clinical Dietetics and Chemistry from Northern Arizona University. Experienced in broad community and public health programming, Evelina has used community base participatory approaches and other methodologies in the work of prevention, management of chronic health; and the promotion of health & wellness. Much of this work involved coordination, integration and collaboration with clinical services within each health care organizations she has worked with. She has a strong background and skilled in working with American Indian tribes and urban Indian health- engagement, project management, program development, fiscal management, public health, community health, policy, and evaluation|
|Wes Martin Jr., JD
Great Lakes Native American Elder Association
|Wes has many years of practicing law in Indian Country. His experience ranges from criminal, civil, probate and guardian ad litem; he is an accomplished prosecutor, public defender and has operated his own private law practice.|
(Laguna/Zuni Pueblo, Maidu)
Elder Consumer Representative
Chair, National Congress of American Indians: Disabilities Committee
Elder Consumer Representative
|Jennifer Williams, MA
Professional Research Assistant & Community Outreach and Engagement Specialist
Centers for American Indian & Alaska Native Health, Colorado School of Public Health
|Jennifer Williams (Lakota) is a Professional Research Assistant, and serves as a Community Outreach and Engagement Specialist for the Centers for American Indian & Alaska Native Health (CAIANH) at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in the School of Public Health. Jennifer works on several projects at CAIANH, which includes Alzheimer’s and Related Dementia with Stakeholder’s, caregivers, and AI/AN communities throughout Colorado.
(Klamath, Modoc, Yahooskin Paiute)
Tobacco Project Specialist
Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB)
|Blythe Winchester, MD, MPH, CMD
(Eastern Band of Cherokee)
Cherokee Indian Hospital
Certified Medical Director
Tsali Care Center
Chief Clinical Consultant: Geriatrics and Palliative Care
Indian Health Service
|Blythe Winchester MD, MPH, CMD, is a board-certified Geriatrician and member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, NC. She practices at Cherokee Indian Hospital and is the Certified Medical Director at Tsali Care Center. She received her MD and MPH at UNC-Chapel Hill and did a Family Medicine Residency in Greenville, SC.
Her Geriatrics fellowship was completed through the Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville, NC. She is board- certified in Family Medicine and Geriatrics and is a Certified Medical Director through the American Board of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.
She has served on the Ethnogeriatrics Committee for the American Geriatrics Society since 2011. Her presentations often focus on neurocognitive disorders among tribal communities and her research focuses on tribal elders. She is a mentor for the Jones Bowman Leadership Award Program and a recent graduate of the Right Path Adult Leadership Program through the Ray Kinsland Leadership Institute.
She lives on the Qualla Boundary with her husband, six dogs and one cat. She was selected for the Remember the Removal bicycle ride and completed a 950-mile bike ride in 2019 retracing the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears. She is a retired member of the Smoky Mountain Rollergirls roller derby team. She loves music, reading, and being outdoors.
|Leslie Best, BSW
Senior Public Health Consultant
National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD)
|Leslie Best has more than 40 years of experience in health and human services in Pennsylvania. Ms. Best has held a variety of positions, including statewide oversight of the licensure of personal care homes. In 1993 she joined the state Primary Care Office to implement a new program to increase the quantity and distribution of primary care practitioners, becoming program director in 1997. For nine years Ms. Best served as the Chronic Disease Director for the Department of Health, where she directed statewide planning and program implementation for the Divisions of Health Risk Reduction, Cancer Prevention and Control, Nutrition and Physical Activity and Tobacco Prevention and Control. Ms. Best served as the President of the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors in 2011 and has been a senior public health consultant with NACDD since 2014. Accomplishments include leading the development of the National Public Health Agenda for Lupus; recommendations for cancer prevention during early and older adulthood and integrating messages about Alzheimer’s Disease into chronic disease programs. She also manages community-based grants in strategic planning, data collection and lupus education for the American College of Rheumatology.
She holds a degree in social work from Penn State University.
|Jennifer Carson, PhD
Dementia Engagement, Education and Research (DEER), University of Nevada
|Jennifer Carson works to envision and develop opportunities for individual and collective growth to combat ageism and ableism, and improve the inclusion and well-being of elders, with a particular interest in persons living with dementia. Jennifer is Director of the Dementia Engagement, Education and Research (DEER) Program in the School of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno.|
Senior Analyst, Health Improvement
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO)
|Kelsey M. Donnellan, MPH is an emerging professional in public health with a focus on brain health. She serves as a Senior Analyst of Health Improvement at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), where she works with states and tribal serving organizations to implement the Healthy Brain Initiative Road Map series. Kelsey co-facilitates action planning meetings, supports development of communication materials with and for American Indian and Alaska Native communities, and advocates for tribal health.|
|Molly French, MS
Director, Healthy Brain Initiative
[Healthy Brain Initiative Component A]
|For more than 15 years, Molly French has been leading initiatives to improve the health and well-being of older adults. As the Alzheimer’s Association’s Director, Healthy Brain Initiative, Molly works closely with public health organizations to prepare all communities for the growing impact of Alzheimer’s and other dementia. Previously, she consulted with national nonprofits on population health issues, directed policy research for a national prevention policy group, and advanced health policy in California. Molly earned her MS from The University of Texas at Austin and a BA from Drake University.|
|B. Josea Kramer, PhD
VA Geriatric Scholars Program & Associate Director for Education/Evaluation
Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System
|B. Josea Kramer, PhD is the Associate Director for Education/Evaluation of the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. She is the founder and director of the VA Geriatric Scholars Program, which is the national VA workforce enhancement program that integrates geriatrics into primary care practices. The Geriatric Scholars Program has provided tailored continuing professional development opportunities for the inter-professional primary care workforce since 2008. Components of the program have also been made available to Indian Health Service and Tribal Health Programs, as well as a program developed for Indian Health Service public health nurses on addressing behavioral challenges with dementia (ABCD). Dr. Kramer is also known for her earlier health services research on how the VA and Indian Health Service work together. She is an adjunct professor in the Division of Geriatric Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and an educator in the UCLA-VA Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP), which is funded by the U.S. DHHS Health Services Resource Administration.|
|Ian Kremer, JD
Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer’s Disease (LEAD) Coalition
|Ian Kremer became the LEAD Coalition’s Executive Director in 2012 and has worked on dementia policy for more than two decades. Throughout his career, Kremer has served as a board or advisory committee member for a variety of public service organizations, non-profits and government appointed panels in the fields of aging, technology and health. Kremer holds degrees from Washington University and the University of Michigan School of Law. He is a member of the Virginia State Bar and the American Bar Association.|
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a)
|Sandy Markwood is a national advocate for aging issues and a champion for ensuring that older adults have the best supports to age well at home and in their communities. As the CEO of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) since 2002, she is committed to ensuring that our society values and supports people across the lifespan. This commitment has taken many forms, including advocacy with multiple administrations and on Capitol Hill for the passage of legislation aimed at supporting older adults, including access to critical information, in-home services and caregiver support.|
Director, Health Improvement
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO)
|Talyah Sands is the Director of Health Improvement at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO). She has a passion for creating health-promoting environments and systems that advance health equity. Currently, she provides capacity building assistance to state and territorial health agencies related to heart disease and stroke prevention, healthy aging, and Healthy People 2030.
Previously, Talyah supported ASTHO’s tobacco control and diabetes portfolio. Before that, she implemented a smoke-free housing program in her home state of Arizona. Talyah is an alumna of the Truth Initiative Youth Activism Fellowship (2014-2015 cohort), a leadership development program to advance activism skills and local efforts in tobacco control. She earned her Master of Public Health degree at the University of Michigan with a concentration in health behavior and health education.
|Tom Teasdale, DrPH, FGSA, FAGHE
Presidential Professor & Chair
Department of Health Promotion Services, University of Oklahoma Health Services Center
|Ad Hoc Participants|
|Soo Borson, MD
University of Washington School of Medicine, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
[BOLD Center for Excellence: Early Detection of Dementia]
|Soo Borson, M.D., is founding director of the Memory Disorders Program at University Medical Center and a core investigator in the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. She is past President of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and the Gerontological Society of America, and an Associate Editor of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. She has published over 100 references dealing with late-life cognitive and mood disorders in patients with neurodegenerative diseases.
Dr. Borson is the developer of the Mini-Cog, a brief screening tool for cognitive impairment designed for use in primary care and other non-specialist settings and approved by the National Institute on Aging and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
|Rosie Ferris, MPH
Research Project Manager
Division of Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care, Department of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine
[BOLD Center for Excellence: Early Detection of Dementia]
|Valerie Gruss, PhD, APRN, CNP-BC, FAAN
[Healthy Brain Initiative Component B]
|As a researcher, geriatrician and educator with a broad range of experience and expertise working in primary care and geriatrics with multidisciplinary teams in a variety of settings, my overall research focus is in improving the care of older adults. In decades of work, my innovative research solutions have created workforce training programs, new models of care, and technology to address the needs of our increasing complex underserved population and create age-friendly and dementia-friendly communities across the globe. My research innovation in digital technology was recognized by the prestigious American Academy of Nursing “Edge Runner” award. This distinguished award recognizes nurse-designed models of care and interventions that impact cost, improve healthcare quality and enhance consumer satisfaction.|