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Conference Resources
Speaker Biographies and Presentations
Speaker Biographies 
Thursday, October 26th

Chelsea Fosse, DMD, MPH American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Chelsea Fosse is the Director of the Research and Policy Center at the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). She is a diplomate in dental public health, and had a few years of practice under her belt in hospital and health center settings before moving fully into the world of oral health policy and health services research. At AAPD, she leads a team that analyzes the pediatric dental workforce, Medicaid policy and program implementation, evidence-based dental care delivery, access to high quality and safe dental care, and other contemporary issues in oral health, public health, and health policy. She’s a proud “alum” of Jacobi Medical Center, Columbia, Rutgers, The University of Texas, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the ADA Health Policy Institute (HPI).

Richard Niederman, DMD, MA New York University, Department of Epidemiology & Health Promotion, WHO Collaborating Center Dr. Niederman is a professor in the Department of Epidemiology & Health Promotion at the New York University College of Dentistry. He is a founding director for NYU’s WHO Collaborating Center, and a co-author of the textbook Evidence-Based Dentistry. Rick graduated magna cum laude from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine where he also received his periodontal specialty training. He received certificate training in Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University, and worked in Brazil as a Fulbright Senior Specialist. He began his clinical work at the Boston VA Medical Center. Following specialty training he collaborated on the development of periodontal DNA diagnostics, and periodontal therapeutics using tetracycline fibers and GORE-TEX Periodontal Material. After the 2000 Surgeon General’s Report on oral health, Rick shifted his focus to implementing effective caries prevention programs locally, nationally, and globally.

Dr. M.Cecilia Escarra, DDS PRASAD CDHP, CEO Dr. Cecilia Escarra is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and holds a Master’s Degree in Health Administration. She worked as an orthodontist and also has expertise in medical auditing and health administration. Dr. Escarra arrived at PRASAD in 2002 to work as administrator of the PRASAD Children’s Dental Health Program in Sullivan County, New York State. Under her leadership, the PRASAD Children’s Dental Health Program has received numerous awards from local, state, and national entities, and PRASAD’s work has been recognized in numerous national publications.

Additional Presentations:
Speaker Biographies
Friday, October 27th

Vanessa Threatte NYS Council on Children and Families, Executive Director Vanessa Threatte was appointed to the position of Executive Director for the Council on Children and Families in August 2022. Prior to coming to the Council, Vanessa was Assistant Deputy Chief Operating Officer at the State University of New York working on campus-related projects and initiatives. Vanessa worked at SUNY for nine years where she served in a variety of capacities including Executive Deputy Director for Best Practices and Partnerships for SUNY’s Charter School Institute and Executive Director of SUNY’s New York State Cradle to Career Alliance. Her efforts were focused on strengthening New York’s education pipeline by improving outcomes for students from birth, through college, and to career. Vanessa has experience providing strategic guidance, technical assistance services, facilitation, and a wide range of support to communities and leaders across the state and country engaged in education efforts. She brings her leadership and education experience as a charter school founder, and her work as a classroom teacher, administrator, and principal, where she worked to ensure the quality of educational experiences for high-risk, high-need populations. Additionally, she brings her understanding of social, emotional, and mental health needs from her training as an art therapist and her work with children and adults with a variety of special needs. Vanessa received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College, a Master of Arts in Art Therapy degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and dual Master of Science degrees in both Special Education and Literacy from the University at Albany.

Patricia E. Persell, MS.Ed NYS Council on Children and Families Patty has a long history in early childhood education and Head Start. In the 1990s she started teaching nursery school and then became the Education Coordinator for Albany County Head Start, and then the Director of the Bank Street Head Start program in New York City. After a leave to raise her first child she returned to Head Start to work as a Technical Assistant Specialist providing trainings, resources, support and technical assistance to Early Head Start and Head Start programs across the state. In 2010, she became the Director of the New York State Head Start Collaboration Project at the NYS Council on Children and Families. In that capacity, she works to ensure that Head Start and child care programs that serve children most at-risk, are included in state programs and policies and she links Head Start and Early Head Start programs to state and local initiatives designed to meet the needs of children and families living in poverty. In this role she is also tasked with supporting the expansion and access of high-quality workforce and career development opportunities for staff, collaborating with QUALITYstarsNY, working with the State Education Department to ensure continuity, and supporting ACF Regional Office priorities. In 2015 Patty was appointed as the Co-Chair of the Governor’s Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC). In this capacity she works to keep the Governor’s office informed of the most current best practices and recommendations around young children’s health, education, family engagement, social service and coordinated and responsive systems.

Bridget A. Walsh, MPH Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy Bridget Walsh is the Senior Policy Analyst for Health and Public Health at the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy. The Schuyler Center is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that advances policies to improve opportunity for families and increase child well-being so all New York children have a fair chance to thrive. Ms. Walsh has over 30 years of experience in the field of health policy in New York where her experience is concentrated in the areas of health financing, public insurance programs, maternal and child health, oral health and the social determinants of health. She has held positions in New York State government as well as in several non-profit organizations representing constituencies as varied as physicians and business. She received her Masters in Public Health from University of Albany School of Public Health and a she holds a Bachelors degree in Politics from Ithaca College.

Michele Griguts, DDS Dental Director, Division of Program Development and Management Office of Health Insurance Programs New York State Department of Health Dr. Michele Griguts is the Dental Director for New York State Medicaid and oversees the program operations for dental review and policy. Dr. Griguts current work focuses on policies that strengthen the oral health of New York Medicaid members and ensure access to care especially for children and the disabled population. Prior to her position at the New York State Department of health, she practiced dentistry for 17 years at a not-for-profit dental clinic located in Albany, New York which serves the disabled population. She is a current member of the New York State Dental Association and presents annually at the Greater New York Dental Meeting and New York State Oral Health Coalition meeting.

Simona Surdu, MD, PhD Oral Health Workforce Research Center With a background as a medical doctor and over 2 decades of experience in health sciences, Dr. Surdu has contributed to the development and implementation of epidemiologic studies supported by the US National Institute of Health (NIH), the European Union (EU), the World Health Organization (WHO), among others. Dr. Surdu has worked for the Center for Health Workforce Studies (CHWS) for over a decade and her current research involves comprehensive studies of oral health in various states, including the evaluation of oral health needs, delivery of oral health services, and access and utilization of oral health services, particularly for underserved populations.

Theekshana Fernando, MBBS, MPH Oral Health Workforce Research Center Dr. Fernando’s area of primary research is the oral health workforce and its impact on expanded access to cost-effective oral health services for underserved populations. His other research interests include health equity, maternal and child health, immigrant and refugee health, health policy, and strategic planning. Dr. Fernando is a physician, receiving his medical training at the Institute of Medicine at the Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was his experiences as a clinician providing care to vulnerable populations that informed his decision to pursue public health.

Korelle Cala Regional Economic Community Action Program, Inc. Korelle C. was born and raised in Bronx, New York. She attended P.S. 121 and M.S. 144. She then moved upstate with her mother and siblings in 2001. She attended Pine Bush High School where she graduated with her Regents Diploma and then attended Orange County Community College and Ashford University where she obtained her Bachelors in Child Development. She currently resides in Scotchtown, NY with her husband and 4 beautiful children.

Heather Millman Regional Economic Community Action Program, Inc. Heather gratuated from SUNY Orange in 2006 with an Associates Degree. After graduating SUNY Orange, Heather worked at a daycare for 9 years doing summer camp, latch key, and then teaching a preschool classroom. In 2010, Heather recieved her Bachelor's Degree from Ashford University in Social Science. Heather has been happily married for 14 years and has two wonderful children. She started working with Head Start in 2015 as a Teacher Assistant and quickly became a head teacher.

Marlyce James, MSEd, RDH, CDA National Center for Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety & American Dental Hygienists' Association Marlyce James is an accomplished dental professional with over 12 years of progressive clinical and educational experience. As a former Professor and Director of Dental Hygiene at the State University of New York Erie Community College School of Dental Hygiene, Marlyce has transformed her knowledge and skills into roles such as Higher Education Consultant and Dental Hygiene Consultant for D’Youville University along with Education and Leadership Specialist for the American Institue of Dental Public Health. Driven by her deep dedication to advancing the Dental Hygiene profession, Marlyce holds several prestigious positions. She is the Director of the Buffalo Dental Hygienists' Association (BDHA) and represents New York as a Delegate to the American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA). Furthermore, she has been appointed as the Dental Hygiene Liaison for New York State through a collaboration between the ADHA and the National Center for Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety (NCHBHS). With her extensive leadership experience, Marlyce actively engages in community outreach efforts, collaborating with local organizations to promote oral health awareness and educate young individuals about the numerous education and career opportunities available in dentistry. Her outstanding commitment in this area has recently earned her a contract with the New York State Dental Association (NYSDA) to provide support to their Dental Demonstration Project. Marlyce has united her roles as a Dental Hygienist Liaison with her role at NYSDA to create special programming for Head Start programs in New York State. Residing in Buffalo, New York, Marlyce shares her life with her husband, their beloved child, and a charming Rottweiler. As an immigrant and first-generation college student/graduate, she has overcome numerous obstacles alongside her family. Her unwavering motto, "Be the change you wish to see in this world," continues to inspire her as she works tirelessly to make a positive impact in dentistry and for communities in need.

Adam Barefoot, DMD, MPH Chief Dental Officer and Population Based Oral Health Improvement Leader Health Resources and Services Administration Since May 2022, Dr. Adam Barefoot DMD, MPH has served as the Chief Dental Officer for the Health Resources and Services Administration, sitting in the Office of Special Health Initiatives. In this role, Dr. Barefoot provides leadership and coordination on oral health policy and initiatives, facilitates HRSA’s engagement on oral health related work groups, committees and task forces and serve as the agency’s liaison to international, national, state and local government agencies, universities and stakeholder organizations. Dr. Barefoot is a dual Georgia and Florida licensed dentist and was most recently the State Dental Director for the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). Prior to his role at Georgia DPH, Dr. Barefoot was a Dental Director for a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in rural Georgia.

Rachel King, DDS, MPH, MBA, MS Health Efficient Dr. Rachel King is the Clinical Director of Oral Health Programs at HealthEfficient, a not-for-profit, mission-driven organization that exists to support community health centers and other safety net providers in improving clinical and operational performance. At HealthEfficient, she serves as the Project Director for the Networks for Oral Health Integration Transforming Oral Health for Families project. She is a pediatric dentist and dental public health specialist with advanced training in public health, healthcare administration, and healthcare data analytics. She has worked in military, academic, and public health settings with her primary efforts focused on advancing oral health access and care to underserved and vulnerable populations.

Kathryn Rothas, DDS, MPH Whitney M. Young, Jr. Health Center Dr. Katie Rothas has had a passion for public health dentistry since obtaining her undergraduate degree at Illinois Wesleyan University where she was given the opportunity to work as a Spanish translator in a community clinic and shadow throughout different healthcare systems in South America. She then attended NYU Dentistry, graduating with her DDS in 2019. During her time at NYU she took advantage of numerous opportunities to expand her public health knowledge through participation in local and global outreach programs and completion of the Global Leaders in Dental Public Health elective. After graduation, she was selected for a 2-year combined General Practice Residency and Master’s in Public Health program through New York Medical College, which she completed in June 2021. In looking for opportunities to combine her interests for health policy and community-level interventions, she found Whitney M. Young Health Center (WYH). During her time at WYH, she has helped obtain a HRSA Teaching Health Center Grant to establish a dental residency program for the 2025 or 2026 cycle; she facilitated the partnership with the pediatric and family medicine departments to implement Health Efficient’s Transforming Oral Health for Families initiative into the well child visit; and she is currently working with Dr. Liza Whalen, former Health Commissioner for the Albany County Health Department, Common Councilman, Tom Hoey, and other local partners to get legislation passed to fluoridate the city of Albany’s water.

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