Bill Benson has worked in aging and health for 36 years. Along with IA2 Executive Director Dave Baldridge, Benson has co-authored numerous papers on long-term care 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. Under his leadership, that year’s reauthorization included Title VII, Subtitle B–Native American Organization and Elder Justice Provisions — the first federal law created to address the issues of elder abuse and elder justice for Indian elders.
He established The Benson Consulting Group in 1998. In 2002 he joined with Sue Andersen to form Health Benefits ABCs (HBABCs), an independent consulting practice specializing in aging and health policy & services, program development, assessment and strategic planning, and training. Their clients include a number of national, state and private organizations, including n4a, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, the American Health Quality Foundation, National Adult Protective Services Association, American Society on Aging, the Population Association of America. American Planning Council, Institute for Health & Aging at the University of California, San Francisco, the Maryland Department of Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, WISER and others.
From 1993 to 1998 Mr. Benson was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aging at the Administration on Aging (AoA) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He was the acting Assistant Secretary for Aging in 1997. Mr. Benson spent eight years in various capacities in the U.S. Congress including staff director of the Subcommittee on Aging of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, staff director of the Subcommittee on Housing and Consumer Interests of the House Select Committee on Aging, and with the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Mr. Benson played a major role in the 1987 and 1992 amendments to the Older Americans Act including the creation of Title VII, the OBRA ‘87 nursing home reform legislation, numerous Medicare and Medicaid provisions, women’s health, pension and other notable legislative initiatives.
Prior to moving to Washington, D.C., Mr. Benson was with the California Department of Aging including serving for more than five years as the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
He is a past president of the National Citizens Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, president of the Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement & the American Association for International Aging, and chairs the advisory board to the Center on Global Aging at Catholic University of America’s School of Social Work. He is in his 13th season as host of First Person, a weekly series of interviews with Holocaust survivors before live audiences at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Goins is a nationally known specialist in American Indian aging issues.
She was recently named the first Ambassador Jeanette Hyde Distinguished Professor of Gerontological Social Work at Western Carolina University. She also is a Senior Scientist in the Center for Healthy Aging at the Mountain State Area Health Education Center in Asheville, NC and an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Dr. Goins, formerly Associate Director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research and Associate Professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, joined the Western Carolina University faculty in August of 2013. At Oregon State, in addition to her work with the Center for Healthy Aging Research, she was the interim director of the College of Public Health and Human Science’s gerontology program and taught community-based participatory research to the graduate students in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. She also serves as a faculty member in the Native Elder Research Center at the University of Colorado’s Health Sciences Center and serves on the editorial board of The Gerontologist and the Journal of Applied Gerontology.
Dave Baldridge, Board Member and Executive Director (Cherokee)
Dave is a nationally-recognized Native advocate for elder issues. Mr. Baldridge has served as the Executive Director of the International Association for Indigenous Aging since 2003. Prior to that he was the Executive Director of the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA) from 1992-2002. During that time he published nearly two dozen monographs and papers dealing with long-term care and elder abuse. Under his leadership at NICOA, NICOA became the nation’s foremost non-profit advocate for AI/AN elders. The organization tripled in size while significantly influencing legislation and federal policies affecting or Indian and Alaska Native elders.
Mr. Baldridge has been actively involved in public policy and research efforts on federal, state, and local levels. He has vast experience in the legislative, budget and advocacy process, representing the interests of older American Indians to Congress, states, and tribes. He has testified before Congress on several occasions. He has twice served on the board of the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and has been a technical assistance contractor to the Department of Justice Office of Violence against Women, assisting Native program grantees. His accomplishments include leading national advocacy for the Older Americans Act services for American Indian elders. He has authored numerous papers on Indian advocacy, health, demographics and culture. His work has involved extensive relationships with tribal councils and organizations, and sovereignty issues. His publications on a wide variety of Indian aging issues have been widely distributed and cited. He has interpreted Indian aging issues for Congressional subcommittees, federal task forces, state aging organizations, long-term care providers, Indian organizations, tribal- and inter-tribal councils.
In his spare time he volunteers as a K9 handler for Sandia Search Dogs (SSD) in Albuquerque, New Mexico (NM) and deploys on search and rescue missions with his 9-yr.-old border collie. A SAR volunteer for nine years, Dave currently is the team’s President. He served three years on the NM Emergency Services Council board of directors.
Melissa C. Brown, JD, Board Member
Melissa C. Brown (Shawnee Nation) is a frequent lecturer at legal conventions and seminars. Ms. Brown has been recognized in America’s Top Attorneys for over 15 years. She has studied International Mediation at the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.
Ms. Brown is a certified specialist in Workers’ Compensation as well as a national expert on Elder Law, Social Security Disability and Health Care Planning and decision-making. She is a law professor and published author.
Her curriculum vitae reflects over 30 years of commitment to providing legal services to the elderly and disabled in clinical, legal services, and private practice settings. She has been instrumental in developing public policy and legislative approaches to the resolution of disability, health care and aging issues.
She holds a Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and is admitted to practice in state and federal court. Many of her appellate cases have paved new ground for injured and disabled workers, including several cases of “first impression” in such areas as age and gender discrimination, serious and willful misconduct and representation of employees of Indian Tribes.
She has spent considerable time in teaching and training law students, care providers, medical professionals, community services workers, paralegals and lawyers, and in writing and publishing practice materials for them. She presents legal and legislative information and analysis to unions, employer groups and organizations in various settings such as shop steward training, the Coalition of Organized Labor, the United Way Union and Community Relations programs, as well as to news reporters.
Ms. Brown is a Professor at the University of Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. She also serves as the supervising attorney at the Elder Law and Health Clinic at McGeorge’s Community Legal Services, where she oversees a select group of law students as they serve the elderly community on a pro-bono basis.
Her legislative advocacy has addressed issues affecting disabled and senior citizens, as well as advocacy on behalf of injured workers. Ms. Brown is a practicing partner with the law firm of Fraulob, Brown, Gowen & Snapp.
J. Neil Henderson is a Choctaw Nation tribal member, born in southeast Oklahoma. He has been working for 25 years in aging and is the director of the American Indian Diabetes Prevention Center and a professor in the College of Public Health at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Dr. Henderson’s has conducted extensive research on cultural influences on the recognition and treatment of diabetes and dementia, cultural constructions of disease, and community health intervention in the context of cultural diversity. He has conducted bio-cultural research on Alzheimer’s disease in American Indian tribes, developed Alzheimer’s support groups in African-American and Spanish-speaking populations, and conducted geriatric health care education for culturally diverse providers across the United States. Currently, he and his wife, Dr. L. Carson Henderson, are conducting research into health beliefs and behaviors of gestational diabetes among Oklahoma Choctaw women. The themes of this research are the prevention of disease, reduction of health disparities, and the building of healthier lives among the youth, adults, and elders in culturally diverse populations. Dr. Henderson was honored by the award of the Leadership in Prevention for Native Americans, 2006, by the Loma Linda University School of Public Health and the Award of Achievement by the University of Oklahoma, College of Public Health. Dr. Henderson is the former Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology and past-President of the Association for Anthropology and Gerontology. He has authored many articles in the scientific press and is co-author of the text, Social and Behavioral Foundations of Public Health and, with Maria Vesperi, is editor of The Culture of Long Term Care (1995).
Dr. Shenson has a special interest in indigenous populations and has lived with a Sioux family on Pine Ridge, S.D. reservation. Dr. Shenson is Associate Clinical Professor, Yale School of Medicine, and Associate Director, Clinical Preventive Services, at the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. Dr. Shenson also directs Sickness Prevention Achieved through Regional Collaboration (SPARC), a nonprofit agency dedicated to expanding the population-wide use of disease prevention services. As part of his work at SPARC, Dr. Shenson leads the Vote & Vax program, which is developing and testing a national strategy to provide influenza vaccinations at polling places. As part of this work, Dr. Shenson collaborated with public health nursing and tribal elders to help establish the first Vote & Vax clinics in Indian country. Dr. Shenson is working on research projects funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to better characterize the provision of vaccinations and cancer screening to older Americans. He is a co-founder of the medical humanitarian organization, Doctors of the World USA (now HealthRight International), and founder of the Human Rights Clinic at Montefiore Medical Center, the first clinic in New York City to attend exclusively to the documentation and service needs of survivors of torture. He is a board member of the International Association for Indigenous Aging (IA2), which focuses on health issues of concern to elder American Indians. Dr. Shenson is Course Director of Principles of Epidemiology and Public Health, a required course for Second-Year Yale medical students.
Jerry Smart, Cherokee, Comanche, M.S. health care administration, has worked as an administrator of continuing care retirement communities and other long-term care facilities, including renowned Maple Knoll Village in Cincinnati, Ohio. He also served as President/CEO of Southwestern Ohio Seniors’ Services, Inc. (now known as LifeSphere), the area agency on aging for Hamilton and surrounding counties in southern Ohio.
His leadership positions have included president of the Texas Association of Homes for the Aging, president of the National Association of Health & Welfare Ministries (United Methodist Church), president of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (1980-82), now known as LeadingAge. He helped found the International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing.
Smart’s list of awards includes Otterbein Homes’ Distinguished Service to Aging Award (2005), Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame (2005), Greater Cincinnati Joint Council on Geriatric Care’s Outstanding Achievement Award (1999), the Texas Association of Homes for the Aging Award of Honor (1973), and North Texas State University Center for Studies in Aging’s Distinguished Preceptor award (1980).
Smart was a delegate to the 1981 White House Conference on Aging.