Jessica Collins has over twenty years of experience in domestic and international community health leading communities to create and sustain programmatic, policy and infrastructure change that supports quality of life. Ms. Collins is the Executive Director of the Public Health Institute of Western MA which does research assessment, evaluation and convening of initiatives that address public health issues that stem from unjust systems and policies. Ms. Collins also serves as the Co-Director of the BeHealthy Partnership, the ACO made up of Health New England, Baystate Health and Caring Health Center. Before moving to Western MA, Ms. Collins led the nationally recognized childhood obesity prevention efforts "Shape Up Somerville: Eat Smart. Play Hard." She currently serves as a Board of Director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association and Human Service Forum. She was elected to the South Hadley Board of Health in 2018. Ms. Collins has a Master's Degree in Applied Nutrition and Food Policy from Tufts University and is a graduate of Wellesley College.
Alisa M Ainbinder, PhD, MSW, MA, is a Senior Research Associate at PHIWM. Alisa has 15 + years of professional experience as an evaluator and researcher of health and social service programs, policies, and interventions. Prior to joining PHIWM, she worked at Mathematica and then VentureWell, mainly focused on contributing to large-scale federal or foundation data collection projects such as the evaluation of Living Cities’ “The Integration Initiative” or SAMSHA’s Supplemental Security Income/Social Security Disability Insurance Outreach, Access and Recovery (SOAR) program which focuses on supporting access to potential benefits for people who are at risk of homelessness. She particularly enjoys innovative, cross-sector work that strives to have a tangible and sustainable effect on the well-being of a community. For example, she currently is evaluating the benefits and challenges of a Collaborative Care program in the Berkshires involving a behavioral health-focused partnership between pediatric practices and a school system. Alisa also brings background and experience in the area of Social Work with a PhD in Social Services Administration. She teaches social work and social welfare courses at Westfield State University and Smith College, where creating interactive, meaningful, and memorable learning opportunities is another passion of hers. After spending much of her adulthood in Washington, DC, she's come to cherish the uniqueness, eccentricities, and beauty of Western Massachusetts.
Sandra is the newest team member of PHIWM, joining the team in late January 2020. She is in a dual role as Executive Assistant and Project Coordinator, providing administrative support to the Executive Director and staff, as well as providing program support. She has 10 years of administrative experience. She is currently working on her Bachelor in Science majoring in Health Service Administration with an anticipated graduation date of May 2021.
As the Research and Population Health Manager, Kim is part of the Research and Evaluation Team at PHIWM. Kim has 30 years of nonprofit experience, with over 11 years at Human Impact Partners as a national leader in the field of Health Impact Assessment (HIA), bringing health data, frame, and voice to public policy and practice change discussions. In her former position as the Health Instead of Punishment Program Director, Kim led the first HIA on a criminal legal system policy in the country, and went on to create a National Criminal Justice and Public Health Alliance – a movement to elevate human justice, repair harm, promote healing, engender true accountability – not punishment. Before creating the Health Instead of Punishment program, Kim helped to build the field of Health Impact Assessment by conducting more than 40 HIA and Health in All Policies research projects, training more than 1,000 people at nonprofits and agency partners across the country, and providing technical assistance. Kim taught graduate level Program Planning and Evaluation at the University of California – Berkeley, co-taught an HIA course at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, and was an evaluation specialist with the Alameda County Public Health Department. Kim’s efforts are informed by a desire to raise up the participation and voices of people who are most directly impacted by oppressive systems in our country. Also, she is a devoted dog owner living in Montague, MA.
Samantha manages the LiveWell Springfield Coalition where she leads the Transforming Community Initiative to promote health equity through policy, systems, and environment change strategies for access to nutritious food, safer Complete Streets, and healthier opportunities; and the Age Friendly City initiative, a process of community engagement and assessment to implement Age Friendly designation for the City of Springfield.
She came to PHIWM from the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services (MLKFS), where over 15 years she progressed from Lead Camp Counselor to Director of Operations. While at MLKFS, Samantha supported state and federal grant initiatives around gang violence, substance abuse prevention, and teen dating violence. In addition, she trained and engaged youth who successfully advocated for passage of Tobacco 21. Samantha’s leadership also resulted in youth safe haven programming, domestic and dating violence education, and annual community engagement events. Samantha has a BA in Business Management and a Master’s in Counseling Psychology from American International College. Ms. Hamilton has 15 years of experience working with residents including youth and adults in Springfield.
As Director of Programs and Development, Sarita Hudson's responsibilities include resource development, planning, and program development as well as leading PHC's communications efforts. She currently leads the Health Policy Commission funded Shift Healthy Homes Asthma Program, the Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition and the Springfield Healthy Homes Collaborative. Other responsibilities included leading the asthma workgroup for the Healthy Holyoke Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund collaborative and engagement for the Springfield Climate Action & Resilience planning process. Sarita brings over 25 years of experience managing programs, developing coalitions, and building community capacity on issues including sexual violence prevention, women's rights and social justice. She is a member of the Steering and Healthy Housing Committees of the Massachusetts Asthma Action Partnership, the American Lung Association's Asthma in Adults Leadership Team and Treasurer of the Board of Safe Passage. Sarita holds a Master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School.
Victoria Ramos is a Research Associate for the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. She is working on various research and evaluation projects such as the ROADS (Research on Active Design in Springfield) study, the Age-Friendly City Project, as well as the evaluation of the Go Fresh Mobile Market. Victoria has broad interests in public health, but at the core of her work, she strives for social justice and achieving health equity. She has two years of public health experience working as a community health worker (CHW) at UMass Memorial Medical Center for the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund’s Pediatric Asthma and Senior Falls Prevention programs, where she was driven to understand the role of research and evaluation on the sustainability of public health programs. As a CHW, she supported each program by providing assistance with data management and grant reporting, in addition to providing direct services to her clients such as health education, case management, and home environmental assessments. Victoria holds a Master of Public Health degree from Thomas Jefferson University, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from Wesleyan University.
Shirley first joined PHIWM in 2016 as the organization's administrative assistant and now is the project coordinator for Springfield's Go Fresh Mobile Farmer's Market, Springfield Healthy Homes, 413Cares and communications. Other projects have included outreach for Springfield's Climate Action and Resilience planning process. She majored in Leadership and Organizational Studies with a Bachelor of Arts from Bay Path University and is an alumni of Leadership Pioneer Valley's Class of 2016. Shirley resides in Springfield with her two teenage sons and an adorable beagle named Luke.
Kathleen Szegda, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S. is the Director of Community Research and Evaluation. Dr. Szegda has over 20 years of public health/research experience working at the national, state and local level at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Emory University, Baystate Children’s Hospital, and University of Massachusetts. Dr. Szegda holds a Ph.D. in Public Health in Epidemiology from the University of Massachusetts, an M.P.H. from Emory University, and an M.S. in Counseling from Georgia State University. Her research interests are maternal and child health, mental health, and health disparities. Her research is also aimed at identifying effective community-level systems, policy, and environmental changes to improve health equity, which is informed by her experience working to promote policy and systems change at the national level at the U.S. CDC’s Office of Genomics and at a local level as the Director of the Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition. She is co-PI for a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Policies to Action Research award focused on understanding the impact of Complete Streets policy on health through an equity lens. Dr. Szegda is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UMass Medical School-Baystate, a fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Delivery and Population Science at UMass Medical School-Baystate, and an adjunct faculty in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she teaches a health impact assessment class.
Keleigh Waldner, M.A. is a Research Associate for the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. Keleigh coordinates and conducts evaluation and assessment activities for a variety of PHIWM’s research and evaluation projects, and she is the research coordinator for the R.O.A.D.S. study (Research on Active Design in Springfield). She has coordinated the administration of population-based youth health surveys in Springfield, MA (Youth Health Survey, Youth Risk Behavior Survey) in 2015 and 2017, aspects of the community health needs assessments for the Coalition of Western MA Hospitals in 2016, and evaluation activities for the Live Well Springfield Transforming Communities Initiative (TCI) and Healthy Hill Initiative (HHI). Keleigh has worked in both the private and public sector—most recently working as Senior Program Manager for the City of Springfield’s Office of Housing. Keleigh holds a Master’s degree in Community Development and Planning as well as a Bachelor’s degree in International Development and Social Change from Clark University.