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Internal & External Advisory Board Members

» External Advisory Board


Terence R. Flotte, MD
Professor of Medical Education
Dean, School of Medicine Provost and Executive Deputy Chancellor University of Massachusetts Medical School
Dr. Flotte joined the Medical School in May 2007 from the University of Florida, where he was the Nemours Eminent Scholar and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics for the College of Medicine. He earned his undergraduate degree summa cum laude in the biological sciences from the University of New Orleans in 1982, and his medical degree from the Louisiana School of Medicine in 1986 where he was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. After serving his residency in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), he completed a pediatric pulmonary fellowship, postdoctoral training in molecular virology and a Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Fellowship at JHU and NIH in 1992.
Since joining the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Dr. Flotte has led numerous successful initiatives elevating the academic stature of the institution including, for example, establishing the department of Quantitative Health Sciences and elevating Ophthalmology to department level and recruitment of those chairs; recruitment of the chairs of Neurology and OB/GYN; development of the Advanced Therapeutics Cluster including the Gene Therapy Center, the Center for Bioinformatics and Integrative Biology, and the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. The class size of the School of Medicine was increased from 104 to 125; a revised curriculum has been developed and implemented with "Learning Communities" with faculty mentors. The research enterprise of the institution has grown to over $258M, 2 additional faculty have been appointed to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for a total of seven HHMI faculty at UMMS, and a new 500,000 sqft facility is being built to house the growing clinical and translational research laboratories as well as provide a new "educational home" for faculty and students.
An internationally known pioneer in human gene therapy, Dr. Flotte is currently leading a research group that is investigating the delivery of therapeutic genes and microRNA with recombinant vectors for genetic diseases, such as alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency. In 1995, he was part of a team at Johns Hopkins that was the first to use rAAV, as a vehicle to deliver corrective genes to targeted sites in the body. Since then, he has conducted several Phase 1 clinical trials for both AAT and Cystic Fibrosis as well as a Phase 2 clinical trial in AAT with vectors developed in his lab.
Since joining UMass, Dr. Flotte has also continued his pediatric pulmonary practice. He is the author of more than 180 scholarly papers and his research has been funded by the National Institutes of health, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Alpha One Foundation and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Dr. Jean Swinney, PhD, RN, Professor & Interim Dean
School of Nursing
Jean E. Swinney received her Baccalaureate and Master's in Nursing at New York University (NYU), and her doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst School of Nursing where she served as interim dean (2007-2010) and also teaches in the graduate nursing program.
Dr. Swinney's career has been dedicated to providing quality health care to vulnerable populations, the uninsured and underinsured through her teaching, public health experiences and practice both in the United States and Africa with the Botswana Meharry Project.
Dr. Swinney is committed to eliminating health disparities and increasing workforce diversity in nursing. In order to accomplish these goals, she uses the social determinants of health framework to examine the impact of workforce diversity on health disparities with an intentional effort to move towards health equity and improved health outcomes. Her work has focused on African Americans with Cancer, and increasing the number of historically underrepresented minorities in nursing.

Judith K. Ockene, Ph.D., M.Ed., M.A., is a tenured Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Ockene holds the Barbara Helen Smith Chair in Preventive and Behavioral Medicine and is Associate Vice Provost for Gender and Equity. Dr. Ockene is the recipient of numerous NIH grants funding research in the prevention of illness and disability and the promotion of health and quality of life for individuals and communities. Much of her work has focused on the risk behaviors of tobacco, alcohol, and diet. As principal investigator of the NIH-funded Women's Health Initiative and other research in women's health, Dr. Ockene also has focused her research on women's health and factors affecting morbidity, mortality, and quality of life in older women. Dr. Ockene's work is at the intersection of clinical medicine and public health. She teaches medical, graduate, public health students and clinicians how to help patients make lifestyle changes. She has over 180 publications and was a scientific editor of two Surgeon General's Reports on Smoking and Health. Dr. Ockene is a past member of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and past President of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.
Dr. Ockene has received several school, state, and national mentoring awards. These include the Society of Behavioral Medicine Distinguished Mentor Award in 2009, the Katharine F. Erskine Mentoring Award for Women in Medicine & Science in 2008, and the UMMS Women's Faculty Committee Mentor Award in 2006.

Dr. Catarina I. Kiefe, Ph.D., M.D., Liaison with CHEIR Investigators
Catarina I. Kiefe, Ph.D., M.D., is Professor of Quantitative Health Sciences and Medicine, and Founding Chair, Department of Quantitative Health Sciences (QHS), at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. An internist as well as a mathematician, Prof. Kiefe's main research theme is applying rigorous research methods to the transformation of health care delivery. To that effect, she has contributed to the science of measuring quality of care and has been continuously funded since 1993 as Principal Investigator for over 20 studies funded by NIH and other US federal agencies in the general area of outcomes and effectiveness research, and has participated in over 30 additional studies. She studies interventions that lead to change in physician practice patterns and to the reduction of disparities in health care. Prof. Kiefe has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles and has served on multiple US and Canadian research advisory committees. She is currently Co-Editor-in-Chief of Medical Care, one of the leading peer-reviewed journals in health services research.
Before moving to UMass to found QHS in June, 2009, Dr. Kiefe was Professor of Medicine, and Director, Division of Preventive Medicine at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB). At UAB, she was also founding Director of the Center for Outcomes and Effectiveness Research and Education (COERE) and of the Deep South Center on Effectiveness Research at the Birmingham VA. Of particular relevance to CHEIR, Dr. Kiefe has a long-standing interest in health disparities research and was Director of the Research Core for UAB's NIMHD-funded Center for Health Disparities Research.

Dr. Ira Ockene, Director of Preventive Cardiology
UMASS Medical School

Dr. Ira S. Ockene is the David and Barbara Milliken Professor of Preventive Cardiology and the Director of the Preventive Cardiology Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is also the Director of the Community Engagement Research Component of the University of Massachusetts Center for Clinical and Translational Science. This effort is entirely devoted to more rapidly translating the accomplishments of basic and clinical science research into improved health in our communities.
He is an active clinician and teacher, working with students, house staff, fellows and his peers in the hospital and the clinics. His research interests are directed at increasing our knowledge of methodologies to improve preventive interventions directed at the patient, the provider, and the system. He is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, the Society for Preventive Cardiology, and a fellow of the councils on Clinical Cardiology, Epidemiology and Prevention, and Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism of the American Heart Association. He recently completed the "Lawrence Latino Diabetes Prevention Program" funded by NIDDK, which demonstrated that dietary and physical activity intervention for weight loss in a low-income pre-diabetic Latino population in Lawrence, Massachusetts slows the rate of progression to diabetes with even very modest levels of weight loss.

Linda WeinrebLinda Weinreb, MD,
Multi-Principal Investigator, Professor and Vice-Chair, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Dr. Linda Weinreb is a primary care physician with extensive experience developing behavioral health interventions in primary care settings and leading complex epidemiologic and intervention studies involving vulnerable populations. She has been PI on numerous studies, including a SAMHSA-funded study examining the efficacy of an integrated behavioral health-primary care intervention for low income mothers, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported study to test the chronic illness model for depression management in 6 primary care settings for Massachusetts Medicaid patients, and a recently completed NIAAA-funded R21 that aims to address alcohol problems among homeless women in a primary care setting. She currently serves as PI of an NIMH-funded intervention development study focused on behavioral health-primary care integration for homeless women with depression and a HRSA/MCHB three year health care based study to adapt and test an evidence based intervention for pregnant women with posttraumatic stress disorder.

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Luis H. Zayas, Ph.D., Dean and Centennial Professor in Leadership for Community, Professional and Corporate Excellence, University of Texas at Austin

Luis H. Zayas was appointed as Dean of the School of Social Work in January 2012. Before joining UT Austin, Zayas was the inaugural Shanti K. Khinduka Distinguished Professor of Social Work and Professor of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis. During his nearly ten years at Washington University, Zayas held the post of Associate Dean for Faculty from 2005-2007 and founded the Center for Latino Family Research in 2007. At Washington University, he taught social work practice courses; mentored doctoral dissertations, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate research assistants; led outpatient management rounds and psychotherapy seminars for psychiatric residents; and conducted research in diagnostic processes, suicide attempts of young Latinas, and adapting interventions for Latino children, youth and families.
Born in Coamo, Puerto Rico, Zayas attended college and graduate school in New York City. In a social work career spanning 35 years, Zayas has cross-walked clinical practice, supervision, administration, and research. While extending his focus to research, teaching, and administration, Zayas has remained an active practitioner throughout, more recently providing pro bono services to community agencies.
Presently, Zayas is focusing on the plight of citizen-children whose parents are being deported. Through funding by the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development, he is examining the effects of deportation on the psychosocial functioning of U.S.-born citizen-children of undocumented Mexican immigrants. As a practitioner, Zayas is involved also in evaluating citizen-children and testifying in immigration courts on behalf of citizen-children and their families. This practice has also led to his public advocacy for citizen-children. In addition, Zayas continues his research on adolescent Latinas who have the highest rates of suicide attempts of any U.S. adolescent group.
Zayas has held social work faculty appointments at Columbia University, Fordham University, and Washington University, and a family medicine faculty appointment at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation; National Institute of Mental Health; Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research Foundation; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; and other public and private sources. In 1993, he was honored by the American Family Therapy Academy with the "Economic and Cultural Diversity Award" for his work with AIDS orphans and their families. He received leadership awards from several professional associations and mentoring awards at Washington University. He has lectured to university audiences in Chile, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, and the United States.

Dr. Sandral Hullett, Chief Executive Officer & Medical Director Cooper Green Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama

Sandral Hullett has dedicated her career to improving the lives and well-being of the poor of her native Alabama. Hullett earned her undergraduate degree in biology at Alabama A&M University, her medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, and her Master's in Public Health .
After completing her residency in Family Practice and fulfilling a National Health Services Corps obligation, she pursued her interest in rural health care, including health care planning and delivery to the under-insured, and poor. She has extensive experience in research, clinical trials, community outreach and teaching direct care delivery. She serves as project director and principal investigator for several grants funded by the National Cancer Institute; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; the Kellogg Foundation; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; and the Ford Foundation.
Hullett is the co-author of numerous articles on health care issues faced by rural primary care communities. For her efforts in rural health, she was honored with the National Rural Health Association's "Rural Practitioner of the Year" award in 1988, the National Association of Community Health Centers' "Clinical Recognition Award for Education and Training" in 1993, Leadership Alabama's "Distinguished Leadership Award" in 1996, and the National Black Churches Family Council's "Rural Leadership Image Award" in 1998.
She served with great distinction for 19 years on the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama. Her contributions to higher education were recognized in 2001 when she received the national Distinguished Service Award in Trusteeship, the nation's top honor bestowed on a lay board member of a public university. Active in many local, state, and national organizations, she serves as a member of the Practicing Physicians Advisory Council for the US Department of Health and Human Services; the Institute of Medicine; the National Academy of Sciences; Intercultural Cancer Council; the Steering Committee for the Alabama Partnership for Cancer Control in Underserved Populations; the Advisory Committee for the Minority Medical Education Program; the Institute of Medicine Committee on Environmental Justice; and the Institute of Medicine Committee on the Changing Market, Managed Care, and the Future Viability of Safety Net Providers.
Hullett has devoted her career to improving rural health care and helping restructure the provision of health care statewide. As a result, countless Alabamians who otherwise would have suffered neglect have access to health care.

Mrs. Tawara Goode, Assistant Professor
Department of Pediatrics, Georgetown University Medical Center

For the past 30 years and has served in many capacities. She has degrees in early childhood, special education, and human development and over 32 years of experience in the field. Mrs. Goode is Director of the National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) at GUCCHD. The NCCC has been in existence for the past 15 years during which Ms. Goode was the director for 13 years. The mission of the NCCC is to increase the capacity of health care and mental health care programs to design, implement, and evaluate culturally and linguistically competent service delivery systems to address growing diversity, persistent disparities, and to promote health and mental health equity. Mrs. Goode has been actively involved in the development and implementation of programs and initiatives in the area of cultural and linguistic competency at local, national, and international levels. These efforts address the needs of diverse audiences including health care, mental health, social services, early childhood and special education, community/advocacy organizations, professional societies/organizations, and institution of higher education. Mrs. Goode has conducted research on cultural and linguistic competence and its role in addressing health care disparities and is currently involved in a collaborative effort to create validated instruments to measure cultural and linguistic competence in health care settings.
Mrs. Goode is nationally recognized as a thought leader in the area of cultural and linguistic competency and had a primary role in: creating four instruments and protocols to assess cultural and linguistic competency within organizations and for health providers, and a series of checklists for professionals in the health, mental health, and education fields; conceiving and serving as the lead author or co-author of a curricula enhancement module series for leadership education for health professionals focused on cultural and linguistic competency; developing a professional development/in-service training series for personnel of the Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health & Human Services; developing the Policy Brief Series that centers on organizational policy and structures to support cultural and linguistic competency as essential approaches in the goal to eliminate disparities in health and mental health care; and building the National Center for Cultural Competence into a nationally and internationally recognized and award winning program.
Mrs. Goode has published articles, monographs, policy papers and curricula on such topics as policies and practices that support cultural and linguistic competence and its role in eliminating health care disparities, children and families who are homeless, community-based service delivery models and the inclusion of children with disabilities and their families in child care.

Ms. Antonia "Toni" McGuire, RN MPH, Chief Executive Officer,
Edward M Kennedy Community Health Center, Worcester, MA

Antonia "Toni" McGuire, RN, MPH joined Great Brook Valley Health Center as President and CEO in 2008. Having worked either in or with community health centers for over 25 years, Toni is committed to creating access to high quality, comprehensive health care for all people.
Toni received her RN from the Community College of Rhode Island, and her BA degree from Maryville University in St. Louis. While serving as the Health Services Director at the Family Care Health Center in St. Louis, MO, Toni received a United States Public Health Service scholarship and earned her MPH from St. Louis University. Toni then worked for the National Association of Community Health Centers as the Vice President of Clinical Services, and traveled across the United States assisting health centers determine their readiness for managed care. After moving to Massachusetts, she assumed the role of System Director for Health Education and Promotion at Fallon Health Care System. And when asked, Toni assisted in helping to organize the first ever Department of Family Medicine at Boston Medical Center as the Director of Administration and Community Affairs at Boston Medical Center. Among her accomplishments at BMC, she worked with others to establish a Family Practice Residency program embedded in Boston community health centers.
Toni came to Great Brook Valley Health Center from Manet Community Health Center in Quincy, MA where she was Chief Executive Officer. As a result of Toni's leadership through an intensive strategic planning process, Great Brook Valley Health Center was renamed the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center in August, 2010, one year after the death of Senator Kennedy, the legislative "godfather" of the national community health center movement.
Toni currently serves as the Chair of the Executive Board of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers (MLCHC), is a member of the Leadership Committee of the Kraft Family National Center for Leadership and Training in Community Health, and is on the Neighborhood Health Plan Advisory Board. She serves on the Alumni Association Board at the Community College of Rhode Island and works to encourage youth to consider jobs in health professions.
The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) recently presented Toni with the 2011 John Gilbert Award, which recognizes longstanding excellence and leadership in community health.

Brenda Jenkins, Community Relations Director
YMCA of Central Massachusetts, Worcester, MA

Brenda Jenkins has dedicated her career to improving the live of men of color in addressing health disparities, social determinants, racism, and implicit bias that impact men of color. I have been working with vulnerable populations for 30 years.
 I am a former YMCA Health and Wellness Director and currently the Community Relations Director that oversees the Men's Health and Families Department for the last 14 years. I have a partnership with UMASS Memorial, Henry Lee Willis Sober Houses, in connecting men and their families to health services, in the area of oral health, medical services and primary care physicians.
Outside of the work I do for the YMCA I also have my own business called Mosaic Cultural Complex: I am Co-Founder/President of a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional organization that empowers, educates, and repairs men of color from across the county.
In 2010 Henry Lee Willis and Mosaic and partners establish Men's Health Alliance. Mosaic has convened a broad spectrum of institutions and community members that bring a variety of expertise and experiences related to the health and wellness of Men of Color (MOC). Members were strategically invited to the team because of the lens, expertise, resources, and access points they embody. This group consists of barbers, CBO's, mental health professionals, community organizers, public health, wellness, medical professionals, and clergy that have demonstrated a commitment to the health and wellness of MOC through their work in the community. Most importantly, the majority of the consortium is comprised of MOC that represent the class, educational, employment, sexual orientation, and religious diversity within the Black and Latino communities of Worcester. This structure is intentional and allows for the design of the model to be led by MOC with the technical expertise contributed by professionals that also largely consist of MOC.
The coalition structure includes a Steering Committee, the full MoCHEP Coalition which consists of all members of the coalition, and the Work Groups which are organized by strategic program activities. Through that course of action we develop Mosaic Barbershop Health Network where we collected data by race, ethnicity and disparities indicators. We expand community based participatory research and translation, form strategic multidisciplinary partnerships, advocate policy and system change and accelerate health among men of color. Mosaic is data driven environment that utilizes a national recognized web-base evaluation system Efforts to Outcome (ETO). This system allows us to track time and energy for every individual we work with, and provide outcomes we are looking for.
Mosaic understands the issues such as health disparities; reparation, safety, health, and quality of life are issues that are important to us. I am a global thinker who identifies needs and visualize critical solutions. I adept at evaluating and addressing challenging problems that men of color face on a daily basis.

Jose F.Tosado, MSW, LCSW
Director, Greater Springfield Area, Massachusetts Dept of Mental Health

Mr. Tosado has served on numerous boards and commissions in Western Massachusetts, including; The Regional Employment Board, The Regional Education and Business Alliance and as President of Springfield School Volunteers. He also served on Baystate Medical Center's Board of Trustees and on the Board of Directors of The United Way of Pioneer Valley.
br> Mr. Tosado has also held elective office as a member of The Springfield School Committee and as President of The Springfield City Council. He also served as a Mayoral appointee on The Springfield Police Commission.

Joanne Calista, MS, LICSW
CEO, Central Massachusetts Area Health Education Center, Inc.

Ms. Calista has focused her career on developing innovative community-academic-governmental partnerships to promote health equity. In her role as CEO of the Central Massachusetts AHEC, Inc. she has addressed organizational and policy strategies to enhance health care access and utilization particularly in the arenas of behavioral health, language access services, and end of life care. Under her leadership, CM AHEC has been awarded numerous state and federal awards including those from the NIH, Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services, and the American Psychiatric Foundation.
In recent years, Ms. Calista has worked on several aspects of Massachusetts health care reform, particularly those related to end of life care and those related to the emerging role of Community Health Workers (CHWs) in healthcare redesign. Ms. Calista serves on the MA Steering Committee for Life Sustaining Treatment (MOLST, in which she provided qualitative research in diverse communities). She has also taken a leadership role in state and national Community Health Worker (CHW) initiatives. Ms. Calista was appointed by Governor Deval Patrick to serve on the newly created MA Board of Certification of CHWs, serves on the American Public Health Association's CHW Section Council, and served on the MA Department of Public Health's CHW Advisory Council. Her work has focused on the integration of CHWs in the clinical care team and enhancement of workforce development strategies.
Prior to her work at Central MA AHEC, Ms. Calista served in the role of Director of Health Services at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's HIV/AIDS Bureau, where she developed a HRSA/CDC funded community reintegration program for persons with HIV/AIDS. Her professional roles also included serving as the Director of Worcester's HealthCare for the Homeless Program (the Homeless Outreach and Advocacy Project), President of AIDS Project Worcester, and the Coordinator of Mental Health Services at the HIV Clinical Center at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center (where she developed a partnership with the Department of Psychiatry for an integrated behavioral health clinic within the primary care HIV setting).
Ms. Calista has presented her work in numerous state and national settings. She received a master's degree in social work from Columbia University, a bachelor's degree from Harvard-Radcliffe College, and is an Instructor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Ms. Calista was the recipient of the Manuel Carballo Governor's Award for Excellence in Public Service.

Dr. Mario De La Rosa
Director, Center for Research on U.S. Latino HIV/AIDS and Drug Abuse
Professor, College of Social Work, Justice, and Public Affairs
Florida International University

Dr. De La Rosa is a Professor of Social Work at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work at Florida International University (FIU). He is an internationally known researcher who has published over 70 scholarly publications focusing on Latino substance abuse, substance use as a risk factor for HIV/AIDS, violence, delinquency, and cross-cultural issues. He has conducted research documenting the influence of familial factors on the substance abuse and HIV behaviors of adult Latina immigrants and the impact that pre-immigration factors have on the use of alcohol among recent young adult Latino immigrants. The findings from his research have clearly demonstrated the influence that cultural factors have on the HIV and substance abuse behaviors of Latinos and have led to the development of culturally sensitive and effective HIV and substance abuse interventions targeting Latino populations. Over the course of his academic career, Dr. De La Rosa has received more than 15 million dollars in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and served on numerous NIH scientific review committees and peer-review scientific editorial boards. He is a past member of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparity (NIMHD) National Advisory Council. Dr. De La Rosa is the founding and current director of Center for Substance Use and AIDS Research on Latinos in the United States (CRUSADA) , an National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparity (NIMHD funded) P-20 Center of Excellence. The primary aim of this Center is to contribute to the reduction, prevention, and eventual elimination of HIV and substance abuse health disparities affecting Latino minorities in the U.S., and in particular among Latinos residing in South Florida. Since 2003 the center staff, faculty and students have published more than 100 scholarly publication and presented over 150 invited and peer review presentation in international, national, state, and local conferences focusing on health disparities issues. Additionally, since 2003 CRUSADA has provided fellowship funding support and mentoring to 25 doctoral students. Six of these students were awarded the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Institute of Health (NIH) Fellowship to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research and 14 received their doctoral degrees in various disciplines such as sociology, social work, psychology, and dietetics and nutrition and the other 11 are at various stages of their doctoral degree and are expected to graduate. Seventeen of the 25 students that enrolled in CRUSADA training program are of African American or of Latino descents. He is also the Principal Investigator of a National Institute of Nursing Research R01 research titled "A Longitudinal Study of Substance Abuse and HIV Risk Among Latina Mother-Daughters from , two NIH R24 , an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Administrative Supplement involving Migrant Worker populations, and a supplemental grant addressing the Haitian community post-earthquake. Prior to joining FIU, Dr. De La Rosa served as: Visiting Research Associate Professor at Boston University's School of Social Work, Health Science Administrator at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's David Rockefeller Center for Latin America Studies. He holds a doctorate degree in Social Work from Ohio State University, a master Degree in Social Work from Case Western Reserve University, and Bachelor degree in Political Science from the State University at New York, Oswego.

Ivette Cruz, Med, Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center Inc; UMASS Boston

Ivette Cruz is the Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Inc. She has lived in the City of Springfield for 26 years and has consistently been working to improve the conditions of the Latino community. She has a BA in from the University of Puerto Rico in Cayey. While pursuing studies in medicine at the Universidad Central Del Este in the Dominican Republic, she decided to seek better opportunities in New York City, and later moved to Springfield to run a family real state small business. In 1998, completed her Master Degree in Education from Cambridge College, and since then has worked in health and human services for Gándara Mental Health Center, the Hampden County Sherriff's Department and the City of Springfield. She became the director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in 2009. In this role, she works with people who are been affected by disparities in education, health and economic development, and advocates for social and economic justice

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