Jessica Collins has dedicated her career to collaborative efforts that build equitable communities 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 health inequities 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. She was awarded the BusinessWest "Women of Impact" award in 2021. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Human Service Forum and was twice elected to the South Hadley Board of Health. She was President of the MA Public Health Association (2017-2019). Before moving to Western MA, Ms. Collins led the nationally recognized childhood obesity prevention effort "Shape Up Somerville: Eat Smart. Play Hard." Ms. Collins has a master's degree in Food Policy from Tufts University and is a proud 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. She particularly enjoys innovative, cross-sector work that strives to have a tangible and sustainable effect on the well-being of a community. At PHIWM, she helps to support the research and evaluation needs of the coalition team. She also works with a number of external clients and is energized by using different forms of information collection to aid these organizations to achieve their race and health equity goals. After spending many years in Washington, DC, she's come to cherish the uniqueness, eccentricities, and beauty of Western Massachusetts.
Francheska Bermudez, MS, MPH is a 413Cares Program Coordinator for the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. She currently works on the 413Cares community resource database where hundreds of community-based organizations can connect their services to those who need them. Being born and raised in Springfield, she is an advocate for her community and is very passionate about health disparities, women’s health, and minority health. She is committed to aiding communities in order to achieve health equity. Francheska is a prior Baystate Springfield Education Partnership (BSEP) student; throughout high school and undergraduate she was able to learn about allied health careers and was able to participate in various internships at Baystate Medical Center because of it. She became Baystate Health’s first Graduate Public Health Fellow in the spring-summer of 2022 under Frank Robinson, vice-president of Public Health. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Public Health as well as a Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in Health Policy and Management from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. When she is not working, she enjoys reading books and going to concerts.
Andrea Freeman, MS, has more than 25 years of experience working with community-based nonprofits in Massachusetts and nationally. As a policy advocate, coalition-builder, network-weaver, and a fundraiser, she is committed to further bending the arc toward justice. Before joining PHIWM, Andrea was the Field Director for the Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA) where she helped organizations, coalitions, and municipalities advocate for a variety of policies to improve health and equity in MA. Andrea previously directed training and outreach programs for The Trustees (MA) as well as the Land Trust Alliance (DC). She earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies & Economics from St. Lawrence University (NY) and a master’s degree in Natural Resource Policy & Planning from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
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.
Liv Anna Homstead, MSW, is a Coalition Building Manager for the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts (PHIWM). She currently works on COVID-19 Communications and the 413Cares community resource database. Prior to joining PHIWM, Liv Anna worked as the Project Coordinator of the Community Health Worker Program at Holyoke Community College. In her role, she worked with hundreds of students in training courses focused on CHW core competencies, substance use disorder, and behavioral health, while also managing multiple grants and developing partnerships with local providers and health centers. Previously, Liv Anna lived in New York City for 10 years where she worked extensively in the child welfare system on addressing service gaps and systemic barriers. She has a unique blend of community partnership, grant management, and leadership experience. Her passion lies in promoting health equity by amplifying community voices, building collaborative partnerships, and dismantling systemic structures rooted in racism and white privilege. Liv Anna received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Ithaca College and her master’s degree in social work from Columbia University. Fun fact: Liv Anna (pronounced “leave ah-na”) grew up in western Massachusetts and used to play in Eric Carle’s studio in Northampton as a child.
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 Senior 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 Healthy Air Network, Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition, the Springfield Healthy Homes Collaborative, and the 413Cares online community resource database initiative. She is a member of the Steering Committee of the Massachusetts Asthma Action Partnership and the board of Massachusetts Public Health Association. 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.
Amy Khalil, BA, is the Senior Finance and Contracts Manager for the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. Amy brings her unique experience to her dual role in overseeing the Public Health Institute’s many contracts and growing financials. After earning her bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, Amy held three roles at Fidelity Investments in Boston before taking a leap of faith to Denver, Colorado. Her time in Denver was spent investing in and connecting the music and arts community, as well as expanding a startup to 15 cities across the country. Amy returned to Western Massachusetts in 2018 to be closer to family and has since reconnected with her finance background as she is pursuing her Master’s in Business Administration at Western New England University. In her free time, Amy enjoys going to concerts and gardening.
Jen Ludwin, MS, MPH is a Senior Research Associate. Jen’s experience in public health as an evaluator and researcher focuses on health equity, turning data into action, and data visualization. Prior to joining the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts, she worked in large hospital systems, local health departments, and FQHCs. Jen has experience working as an evaluator on small-scale local to large-scale grants such as CDC HIV grants and SAMHSA youth mental health grants. She enjoys innovative, upstream work that results in sustainable changes to systems and improves the well-being of the community. At PHIWM, she takes on projects that explore social determinants of health such as community health needs assessments, Black men’s health, and evaluation technical assistance. When not working, Jen enjoys visiting our nation’s national parks and dark sky reserve for stargazing
Kate O’Brien is an Administrative and Contracts Coordinator for the Public Institute of Western Massachusetts. She supports the administrative needs and contracts for the organization. Prior to joining PHIWM, Kate worked for the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, working on programming to support the community health workforce, focusing particularly on loan repayment programs. She also previously worked as a Care Coordinator, supporting youth and families in Franklin County. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from George Washington University. In her free time, she enjoys reading and traveling.
Maddie Press is a part-time Research Associate at the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. She was a member of the research team for the 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment reports for the Coalition of Western MA Hospitals and Insurers. Currently, Maddie’s work includes an evaluation component of a larger study focused on novel and emerging public health interventions focused on the intersection of health equity, social determinants of health, and COVID-19. Her recent work includes leading the youth component of the MOSAIC film produced by the Western Mass Health Equity Network and leading anti-racism work with the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts. Maddie focuses her work on the dismantling of oppressive systems as a function of health promotion - in particular focusing on reproductive justice. She received bachelor’s degrees in Public Health and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and a certificate of Civic Engagement and Public Service from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is completing her Master of Public Health in May 2023. Maddie enjoys cooking and baking for friends and family, spending time outdoors with her dog, and yoga.
Leela Ramachandran is a Research Associate at the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts and has worked on the Community Health Needs Assessment reports and a Status of Gender Equity report. Leela’s background is in community organizing and advancing health equity, with previous experience in mixed-methods research, local public health initiatives, advocacy related to campus sexual violence, and mentorship of student activists. Her passion lies at the intersection of dismantling systems of oppression, centering historically marginalized populations, and decolonizing the field of public health. She received her bachelor’s degree in Public Health Sciences and a certificate in Civic Engagement and Public Service from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In her free time, Leela enjoys reading, baking, and is an elected member of her local School Committee.
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. She currently serves as a Board of Director for YWCA. Fun fact: Victoria has studied French since 6th grade and hopes to one day travel to France.
Lisa Ranghelli, MRP, is the Director of Assessment and Capacity Building for the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. Lisa conducts research and evaluation for anchor institutions, collaboratives and community-based organizations that are striving to advance health equity in the region. Currently she manages the Community Health Needs Assessment process for a The Coalition of Western Massachusetts hospitals and insurer. Lisa also provides evaluation technical assistance for grassroots groups that receive funding through Baystate Health’s Better Together program and Health New England’s Where Health Matters. Lisa has more than two decades of experience supporting community change efforts as an organizer, advocate, policy guru, researcher, evaluator, facilitator, coalition builder and strategic planner. Most recently she spent 13 years at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, helping grantmakers more effectively build power, share power, and wield power for equity and justice. Lisa has a BA from Wesleyan University and a Master of Regional Planning from Cornell University. Lisa is a proud member of Offbeat Womyn’s Drumming Ensemble and is co-board chair of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts.
Tiffany R. Rufino, MS is the Youth Mental Health Coalition Manager and Evaluator at the Public Health Institute of Western MA (PHIWM). Born and raised in Springfield, MA, Tiffany is a proud graduate of the Springfield Public School system and committed to serving her community, especially as it relates to Springfield youth. Tiffany leads the Coalition’s charge to destigmatize mental health among Springfield youth and begin to normalize conversations about experiencing stress, anxiety, trauma, depression, and when to seek help. The Coalition also seeks to educate parents, guardians, caregivers, teachers, community-based organizations, and the community about youth behavioral health and how – together as a community – we can combat this stigma, seek solutions to root causes, begin to heal our beloved community, and pave a healthier future for our youth! Tiffany earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing from the University of Hartford, as well as a Master of Science degree in Communications and Information Management from Bay Path University. She has 14 years of professional experience in community and youth development, program evaluation, team leadership, and relationship management. Prior to joining PHIWM, Tiffany consulted for Parent Villages, Inc, served as the Regional Director for Boston-based organization Scholar Athletes, and was the Community Development Manager for the Girl Scouts of Central & Western MA. Tiffany enjoys spending time with her husband and relishing in all the adventures that come with being a mom of three daughters. She also enjoys learning about herbalism – using plants and herbs as kitchen medicine - gardening, reading, and doing random DIY projects around the house.
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.
Jacqueline Velez is a Community Project Coordinator for LiveWell Springfield, focusing on the Transforming Communities Initiative. She has a Liberal Arts Associate's degree from Bard College and comes to us with thirteen years of experience working in advocacy, organizing, and communications. She is the chair of the Hampden County Commission on the Status of Women & Girls, and in her spare time works on criminal justice and reentry issues. Jacqueline was a radio co-host when she lived in New York and the main host called her J-Breezy on-air once and was called that ever since.
Keleigh Waldner, M.A. holds a dual role at the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts (PHIWM), as Communications Manager and Senior Research Associate. As Communications Manager, Keleigh develops and disseminates communication materials for PHIWM and partners in a variety of formats (such as newsletters, web, social media, print materials, flyers, posters, training, webinars), and she monitors and evaluates metrics to understand performance and trends. She supports the Western MA COVID-19 Data Dashboard as well as many other communication activities.
As Senior Research Associate, Keleigh coordinates and conducts evaluation and assessment activities for a variety of research and evaluation projects. She is the Research Coordinator for the R.O.A.D.S. study (Research on Active Design in Springfield), and she has coordinated the administration of population-based youth health surveys in Springfield, MA (Youth Health Survey, Youth Risk Behavior Survey) since 2015. She was part of the team that researched and authored a Health Impact Assessment aimed at expanding access to affordable housing for older adults with previous criminal legal system involvement, supported Live Well Springfield’s Transforming Communities Initiative prioritization process in 2022, and has been involved with many other projects since she began working with PHIWM in 2014.
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 and design skills. Keleigh is pronounced like “Kelly”.