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 Alvarado is in a dual role as Executive Assistant and Project Coordinator for the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. She provides 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 at Bay Path University.
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.
Sarita Hudson brings over 25 years of experience managing programs, developing coalitions, and building community capacity on issues including environmental health, climate action and resilience, sexual violence prevention, women's rights and social justice. As Director of Programs & Development at the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts, she leads the Coalition Building team and her responsibilities include resource development, planning, program development and organizational communications. She currently directs the Health Policy Commission funded Shift Healthy Homes Asthma Program, the Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition, the Springfield Healthy Homes Collaborative and the 413Cares online community resource database. She is a member of the Steering Committee of the Massachusetts Asthma Action Partnership and is a former Treasure/Board Member of Safe Passage. Sarita holds a Master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School. She was awarded the 2020 Partners Asthma Center Asthma Achievement Award and under her leadership, the Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition was awarded the 2019 EPA Region 1 Environmental Merit Award for Children’s Health. She enjoys biking around the Pioneer Valley and cooking Italian favorites from her family’s cookbook.
Victoria Ramos is a Research Associate for the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. She currently works as a data manager for the Springfield and Holyoke Healthy Homes programs, as a co-facilitator for the Hampden County Community Health Improvement Plan, as data manager for the Springfield Youth Health Survey Initiative, and on various other programs. Victoria has previous work experience as a community health worker with a concentration on asthma management and falls prevention that continues to drive her passion for helping her community and centering community voice in her work. She received her bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from Wesleyan University and her master’s degree in Public Health from Thomas Jefferson University. Fun fact: Victoria has studied French since 6th grade and hopes to one day travel to France.
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 II and Communications Coordinator for the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. She began working with PHIWM in 2014. Keleigh coordinates and conducts evaluation and assessment activities for a variety of 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) since 2015. She is also currently working on a Health Impact Assessment aimed at expanding access to affordable housing for older adults with previous criminal legal system involvement. Keleigh began working on communication activities when the pandemic started, and in July 2020, she became Communications Coordinator. She supports the Western MA COVID-19 Data Dashboard as well as many other communication activities. Prior to joining PHIWM, Keleigh worked in housing and community development, both in a non-profit and municipal setting. 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. Keleigh loves to learn new things and is working on growing her data visualization skills. Keleigh is pronounced like “Kelly”.