Impacting the Health of Tennesseans in a Pre- and Post-COVID World

September 29 - October 1 | Virtual Event

This year's virtual conference was a huge success!  Three hundred and forty-eight people joined us online to hear forward-thinking local, state and national speakers discuss the current state of public health and predictions for how things will change going forward.  The pandemic certainly accelerated the transition to technology, which given the right amount of investment and training, should increase productivity in identifying, tracking and delivering services to meet the needs of the public.  It has also led to a high rate of employee turnover because of retirements and others seeking less stressful working environments leaving the field with a dearth of knowledge and practical experience that will take years to replace.  This clearly leaves Tennesseans vulnerable while practitioners begin to address the tremendous opportunities to increase education and awareness among policy makers, nontraditional partners and the public in general about the importance of public health to the welfare and prosperity of all Tennesseans while carving out their role in what is sure to be an expanded and more complex system of public health.

Keynote and Plenary Speakers

Opening Keynote: Dr. Leana Wen Dr. Leana Wen

Leana Wen, MD, MSc, is an emergency physician, visiting professor of health policy and management at George Washington University, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. She is also a contributing columnist for The Washington Post, a CNN medical analyst, and author of the critically-acclaimed book on patient advocacy, When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests (St. Martin’s Press, 2013) and a forthcoming memoir, Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health (Metropolitan Books, July 2021).

Previously, she served as Baltimore's Health Commissioner, where she led the nation’s oldest continuously operating health department in the U.S. to fight the opioid epidemic, treat violence and racism as public health issues, and improve maternal and child health. Dr. Wen obtained her medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine and studied health policy at the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. She completed her residency training at Brigham & Women's Hospital & Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was a clinical fellow at Harvard Medical School. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Dr. Wen has received recognition as one of Governing's Public Officials of the Year, Modern Healthcare's Top 50 Physician- Executives, World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders, and TIME magazine's 100 Most Influential People.

Thursday Plenary: Dr. Tim Jones, Dr. Randy Wykoff and Dr. Jeanette Kowlik

Photo of Tim JonesTimothy F. Jones, MD completed medical school at Stanford University and a residency in Family Medicine and fellowship in Maternal Child Health at Brown University/Memorial Hospital of RI. After practicing in an underserved area for several years he, joined the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) and was assigned to the Tennessee Department of Health. He served for many years as State Epidemiologist, and is now Chief Medical Officer in the Tennessee Department of Health, with oversight of communicable diseases, emergency preparedness, laboratory services, informatics, substance use disorder response, and statewide county health department services. He holds clinical appointments at Vanderbilt Medical Center, and is a member of the CDC/Office of Infectious Diseases Board of Scientific Counselors. He has served as President of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, and is Chair of the MMWR Editorial Board. He has done numerous training and consultation assignments with CDC and WHO, and published over 160 articles in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

Wykoff photoRandy Wykoff, MD, MPH & TM became the founding dean, College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University in 2006. He is a physician, board certified in both Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine, with additional training and certification in Tropical Medicine. He teaches courses in Social Justice, Public Health Leadership, and in various aspects of applied public health, and he lectures extensively on the social determinants of health. His research focuses on the inter-relationship of poverty and health, with a specific interest in how to improve the health status of people living in poor and/or rural areas. In 2019, he was asked to direct the newly created Center for Rural Health Research.

Prior to his current position, Dr. Wykoff served as Senior Vice President for International Operations at Project HOPE, overseeing health education, disaster response, and humanitarian programs in over 30 countries around the world. He previously served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health (Disease Prevention and Health Promotion) in the US Department of Health and Human Services. In this position he oversaw the release and implementation of Healthy People 2010, and the Surgeon General’s first Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease and Overweight and Obesity and served for one year as the acting Executive Director of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport.  Additionally, he served for 11 years at the Food and Drug Administration, holding the positions of Associate Commissioner for AIDS and Special Health Issues, and, later, Associate Commissioner for Operations. In this latter capacity, he served for 18 months as the deputy to the Acting Commissioner. While at FDA, he also led the Science Team for the Tobacco Working Group, served as the Executive Director of the National Task Force on AIDS Drug Development, and completed a detail with Senator Edward Kennedy and the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. He began his career as District Medical Director of the Upper Savannah Health District in the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, responsible for all public health activities in a rural six county region.                                                                                                                                                                       

Dr. Jeanette photoDr. Jeanette Kowalik has 19 years of progressive public health experience representing the life course. She began her career as an intern at the City of Milwaukee Health Department in 2002; she returned in 2018 to serve as the Commissioner of Health until fall of 2020. Jeanette was drawn to public health, so she attended Northern Illinois University’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program while maintaining full-time employment in the field. Post completion of her MPH, Jeanette attended the Management Academy for Public Health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; she began her doctorate in health sciences at the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Milwaukee shortly thereafter. Her initial focus was infant mortality disparities among Black and Latinx adolescents; this shifted after she realized

 the significant gap in research regarding recruitment and retention of a diverse public health workforce. Jeanette completed her coursework and dissertation while working full time for the Wauwatosa Health Department, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, and the Chicago Department of Public Health. In the fall of 2014, Dr. Kowalik returned to Wisconsin to serve as UW-Madison’s Director of Prevention and Campus Health Initiatives. In 2016, she transitioned to the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) in Washington DC. Jeanette served as the Associate Director of Women’s and Infant Health at AMCHP, a professional membership organization for maternal and child health professionals nationwide. This role enabled Jeanette to focus on Social Determinants of Health, Health Equity, and Anti-racism work. Dr. Kowalik’s diverse set of experiences continues to motivate her to represent those who are unable to have a voice and advocate for equity through policy and practice change at all levels. The highlights of Dr. Kowalik’s public health career to date are collaborating to Declare Racism as a Public Health Crisis in July of 2019 and prioritizing the impact of COVID-19 by race and ethnicity in Milwaukee, which motivated other jurisdictions to do the same. In essence, data sharing enabled the country to see a disturbing pattern of COVID-19 incidence among communities of color. This increased awareness led to recalibration of outreach strategies and resources to save lives. Dr. Kowalik returned to Washington D.C. in late 2020 to serve as the Director of Policy Development for the Trust for America’s Health, a non-profit, bi-partisan health policy organization.

Closing Plenary: Dr. José Ramón Fernández-PeñaDr. Pena

José Ramón Fernández-Peña, MD, MPA, is the director of Health Professions Advising at Northwestern University, where he leads the university's efforts to support students interested in pursuing careers in the health sector.

Previously, Fernández-Peña was an associate professor (now Emeritus) and the associate chair in the Department of Health Education at San Francisco State University, where his work focused on health workforce diversity and cross-cultural communication in health. Prior to this, he worked at Mission Neighborhood Health Center in San Francisco as director of Health Education, where he managed the health education programs in the HIV, Adult Medicine, Women’s, and Teen clinics. He is the founder and executive director of the Welcome Back Initiative, a program to assist immigrant health professionals already living in the U.S. through the necessary steps to enter the U.S. health workforce.

He has advised the White House Domestic Policy Council on the economic integration of foreign-trained professionals and has served as an expert panelist on this topic in national and international forums. In 2011, he received the “Champion of Health Professions Diversity” award from The California Wellness Foundation and was recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change” for his work on immigrant integration. He is an active APHA member and has served, among other roles, as Executive Board chair. In 2012, he received the Henry J. Montes President’s Award from APHA's Latino Caucus for his work with the Latino community.