2019 State of Health Equity Forum Speakers

Amy Wolkin, DrPH, MSPH
Senior Advisor for At-Risk Populations, Center for Preparedness and Response, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Amy Wolkin

Dr. Amy Funk Wolkin is the Senior Advisor for At-Risk Populations for the Center for Preparedness and Response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Wolkin focuses on improving the resilience of at-risk populations to natural and human-caused disasters, disease outbreaks, and other adverse events. She provides scientific expertise for emergency preparedness and response activities. Since joining the CDC in 2002, Dr. Wolkin has led numerous national and international outbreak investigations and emergency responses. Her research experience includes vulnerable populations and emergencies, health impacts of extreme weather events, community health assessments, chemical and radiological terrorism, and toxicoepidemiology. Dr. Wolkin has authored more than 75 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on disaster epidemiology, environmental epidemiology, and surveillance. She received her Doctorate of Public Health from the University of North Carolina, her Masters of Science in Public Health from Emory University, and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia.

Patrick Breysse, PhD, CIH
Director, National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Patrick Breysse

Dr. Pat Breysse is the Director of the National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. He joined CDC in December 2014 as the Director of NCEH/ATSDR. Dr. Breysse leads CDC’s efforts to investigate the relationship between environmental factors and health.

Dr. Breysse came to CDC from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health where he was on the faculty for nearly 30 years. His primary appointment was in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences with joint appointments in the School of Engineering and Medicine. He held leadership positions in numerous research centers including the Center for Childhood Asthma in Urban Environment, the Education and Research Center in Occupational Safety and Health, and the Institute for Global Tobacco Control.

During his 30 years at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Breysse established  long-standing expertise in environmental health as well as a strong record as a leader in the field. Dr. Breysse collaborated on complex health and exposure studies around the world including studies in Peru, Nepal, Mongolia, Columbia, and India. He has published over 225 peer-reviewed journal articles and is a frequent presenter at scientist meetings and symposia. His research focuses on the evaluation and control of chemical, biological, and physical factors that can affect health, with a particular concentration on risk and exposure assessment.

Dr. Breysse received his PhD in Environmental Health Engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 1985 and completed postdoctoral training at the British Institute for Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is also a board certified Industrial Hygienist.

Mitch Stripling, MPA
Assistant Commissioner, Agency Preparedness and Response, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Mitch Stripling

Mitch Stripling is the Assistant Commissioner for Agency Preparedness & Response at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, where he manages units for Planning, Training/Exercises, Risk Analysis and Evaluation, among others. He has served in senior leadership roles across multiple citywide emergencies, including Hurricane Sandy, H1N1, the Ebola crisis and international epidemic of Zika virus. In 2017/18, he managed the Health Department’s supportive deployments to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

His unit has developed nationally recognized Threat Response Guides for 21 high-risk scenarios that could impact New York City, a data/consensus-driven risk assessment methodology, a set of health equity-based recommendations for ICS, and an evidence-driven all-hazards planning database, among other nationally recognized models.

Prior to working in NYC, Mitch worked for the Florida Department of Health. There, he helped plan and implement the responses to six federally declared disasters, including the 2004 record-breaking hurricane season and Florida’s response in southern Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.

Rafael Rodríguez Mercado, MD, FAANS, FACS
Secretary of Health, Puerto Rico Department of Public Health

Rafael Rodríguez Mercado

Dr. Rafael Rodríguez Mercado is the Secretary of the Department of Health of Puerto Rico, charge in which he has the mission to design and implement the public health policy as encompassed in the government platform of the current administration. His agenda is based on three strategic pillars: a patient-centered health system, fair and accessible health services and an emphasis on primary care and prevention.

He serves as Director for a renowned Endovascular Surgery Program and was Chancellor of the Medical Sciences Campus of the University of Puerto Rico.  Prior to his current position, he was performing as professor of Neurosurgery at the School of Medicine and director of the Endovascular Surgery Program of this institution.

Dr. Rodríguez Mercado obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and a Doctor of Medicine from the University of Puerto Rico. As a student, he received the research and student awards, as well as the recognition of the House of Representatives in 1988. He completed his specialty in Neurosurgery after seven years of traineeship at the University of Puerto Rico, School of Medicine. Then, he obtained a subspecialty in endovascular neurosurgery from the State University of New York at Buffalo, NY.

In September of 2017, he was appointed Associate Professor in Surgery of Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences of the Armed Forces of the United States. With this appointment, he joined the faculty of this prestigious military university. Until then, he held the position of Command Surgeon of the United States Army Reserve in Puerto Rico, first mission support command, military force to which he belongs since 1988. He is attending physician as a neurosurgeon at Walter Reed Medical Hospital and Brook Army Medical Center.

Dr. Rafael Rodríguez Mercado is married with Wanda Santiago-Pimentel, a Medical Technologist, and is the proud father of a young university student, Rafael Alejandro.

Renée Funk, DVM, MPH&TM, MBA, DACVPM (CAPT, USPHS)
Associate Director for Emergency Management, National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Renee Funk

CAPT Renée Funk, US Public Health Service, is the Associate Director for Emergency Management, Office of the Director, National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Funk received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University, her Masters of Public Health and Tropical Medicine from Tulane University, and her Masters of Business Administration from Georgia State University. She is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine.

Dr. Funk is a recognized expert in environmental and occupational health and emergency management. NCEH/ATSDR’s portfolio includes emergency management of chemical, radiological, and natural disasters.  Dr. Funk recently served as CDC’s Incident Manager for the 2017 Hurricanes Response.

Daniel Dodgen, PhD
Senior Advisor for Strategy, Policy, Plans and Requirements, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)

Daniel Dodgen

Daniel Dodgen, Ph.D., directs the office of Operational Policy and Strategic Planning for the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  This encompasses national health security, health system policy, mental health, community resilience, and at-risk individuals. Dr. Dodgen served as the Executive Director of the White House directed national advisory group on disaster mental health and led the nation’s mental health response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, Katrina, Sandy, and others; the H1N1 epidemic, the BP oil spill, the Boston Marathon bombing, multiple mass shootings, and other natural and manmade disasters. He was one of the lead authors on The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment. Dr. Dodgen also served as an advisor to the government of Greece and the State Department for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Before joining HHS, Dr. Dodgen was Senior Federal Affairs Officer at the American Psychological Association (APA) following his AAAS Fellowship with the U.S. House of Representatives. With the Red Cross, he responded to the Los Angeles riots, the Northridge earthquake, the Oklahoma City bombings, and the September 11 Pentagon attack. He received the American Psychological Association 2005 Early Career Award and was elected a Fellow of APA in 2012. He is on the Board of Directors of the International Association of Applied Psychology and is a Harvard Senior Executive Fellow. He is also a licensed clinical psychologist in Washington, DC.

Sachiko A. Kuwabara, PhD, MA
Director, Office of Risk Management and Operational Integrity, Division of Emergency Operations, Center for Preparedness and Response, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Sachiko Kuwabara

Sachiko Kuwabara is the Director of the Office of Risk Management and Operational Integrity (RMOI) in the Division of Emergency Operations. As Director, she provides overarching strategic leadership, centralized management, coordination, and guidance to identify and mitigate risks inherent in public health emergency preparedness and response operations. RMOI is committed to addressing the various aspects of emergency operations that can impact personnel, processes, and performance; including the characteristics of and processes for evaluating and implementing risk and operational integrity management systems.

Prior to serving as the Director of RMOI, Dr. Kuwabara served as the Deputy for the Deployment Risk Mitigation Unit (DRMU). In this role, Dr. Kuwabara relied on her training as a psychiatric epidemiologist to help guide the development of support programs to meet the needs of agency staff working on the frontline of the Ebola outbreak. The DRMU was stood up during CDC’s 2014 Ebola Response and was tasked with addressing concerns related to responder well-being. The unit supported CDC’s mission of ensuring safer, healthier people by addressing the needs of deployed CDC staff and their families.

Dr. Kuwabara officially joined DEO in 2015 and has forged new working relationships and synergies across the organization – including serving as the co-lead and founder of the Deployment Community and the lead for OPHPR’s Excellence in Response Operations Initiative.

Post-Ebola, the unit’s role expanded to include mitigating risks to CDC’s ability to support and respond to public health emergencies more broadly effectively. To reflect this expanded role, the unit and was renamed RMOI in 2017. Through strategic risk management, preparedness and capacity development, a strong evaluation framework and measurable performance indicators, RMOI helps CDC to operate reliably, efficiently and safely in preparing for and responding to urgent threats to the public’s health.

Julio Dicent Taillepierre, MS
Team Lead, Initiatives and Partnerships, Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Julio Dicent-Taillepierre

Julio Dicent Taillepierre is the Team Leader for the Initiatives and Partnerships Team of the CDC Office of Minority Health and Health Equity in the CDC Office of the Director. In this capacity, he provides technical leadership for the agency on the development of health equity program development efforts and agency language access capacity building initiatives. He also oversees several agency-wide initiatives related to national public health pipeline programs, public communication efforts, and bi-national health equity collaborations with Brazil.

Prior to his current role, Mr. Dicent Taillepierre was a Public Health Analyst at the CDC National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention – Division of HIV and AIDS Prevention. In this capacity, he was the Branch lead for HIV Prevention Community Planning activities, and the lead for HIV capacity building efforts targeted to Hispanic-serving community-based organizations. He oversaw national HIV awareness campaigns targeted to men who have sex with men, migrant farmworker populations and Hispanic/Latinos.

Prior to joining the CDC, he was the Research Coordinator for the Star Center at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center, overseeing a national longitudinal study on the potential impact of changes in welfare legislation on Hispanic/Latina’s prenatal and postpartum health. He has also served as an organizational development consultant for nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and Latin America as Director of Care Services for an HIV prevention and care program targeted to immigrant populations in New York City.

Mr. Dicent Taillepierre has a Master’s Degree in Non-Profit Management and Policy Analysis from the New School University in New York City and a Liberal Arts degree from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Page last reviewed: January 29, 2019