Friday common lunches with an extra space for you
Prevention Institute Staff
Executive Director: Larry Cohen
Manager of the Executive Office: Anna Realini
Managing Directors: Rachel Davis, Leslie Mikkelsen, Manal Aboelata
Program Directors: Sana Chehimi, Sheila Savannah, Elva Yañez
Communications Manager: Jessica Berthold
Program Managers: Lisa Fujie Parks, Annie Lyles, Jamecca Marshall, Juliet Sims, Benita Tsao, Sandra Viera
Chief Administrative Officer: Emily Kemp
Administrative Manager: Justin Probert
Senior Advisor: Rea Pañares
Program Coordinators: Rachel Bennett, William L. Haar, Katie Miller, Maureen Silva, Myesha Williams
Communications Specialists: Sarah Mittermaier, Zack Kaldveer
Executive Assistant: Lauren Sharp
Bookkeeper: Linda Benson
Senior Communications Advisor: Rob Waters
Program Assistants: Nikta Akhavan, Alexis Captanian, Casey Castaldi, Alyshia Macaysa, Victoria Nichols, Vanessa Shih
Staff emails are available with individual staff bios.
Larry Cohen, Founder and Executive Director, MSW
Larry Cohen, founder and Executive Director of Prevention Institute, a non-profit national center dedicated to improving community health and equity through effective primary prevention: taking action to build resilience and to prevent illness and injury before they occur. With an emphasis on health equity, Larry has led many successful public health efforts at the local, state, and federal level on injury and violence prevention, mental health, traffic safety, and food and physical activity-related chronic disease prevention. Larry helped to define violence as a preventable public health concern, and developed one of the nation's first courses on violence prevention. Prior to founding Prevention Institute in 1997, Larry formed the first U.S. coalition to change tobacco policy and created the nation's first multi-city smoking ban. He established the Food and Nutrition Policy Consortium, which catalyzed the nation's food labeling law. Larry also helped shape vehicle safety policy, including strategy to secure passage of bicycle and motorcycle helmet laws, and strengthen child and adult passenger restraint laws. Larry has received numerous awards, including the Injury Control and Emergency Health Services Section Public Service Award from the American Public Health Association. He received his MSW from SUNY Stony Brook. Learn more about Larry.
Anna Realini, Manager of the Executive Office
Anna Realini, Manager of the Executive Office at Prevention Institute, is the principal contact for the Executive Director and provides support to the organization in all program areas with an emphasis on communications, outreach, writing and editing. She coordinates consultation services to government agencies, community collaboratives, nonprofit organizations, and foundations on sustainable strategies to improve health and health equity. Anna also serves as liaison to the Board of Directors. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 2007, Anna was Membership Director for Media Alliance, a national media justice organization where she directed a health program for independent media workers. Anna's background is in legal services and social justice policy and advocacy.
Rachel Davis, Managing Director, MSW
Rachel Davis, Managing Director at Prevention Institute, oversees management of projects related to prevention violence, community health and reducing inequity, and mental health. She creates tools and materials to support local and state initiatives and educates government agencies, foundations, and community groups throughout the country. Rachel serves as Project Director for UNITY (Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth through Violence Prevention), Prevention Institute's CDC-funded national initiative to strengthen and support the largest U.S. cities in more effectively preventing violence. Rachel co-developed THRIVE (Toolkit for Health and Resilience in Vulnerable Environments), an interactive web-based tool to help identify and foster factors in the community environment that improve health outcomes and reduce inequity. She has written numerous publications, including First Steps: Taking Action Early to Prevent Violence. Rachel also co-authored A Time of Opportunity: Local Solutions to Reduce Inequities in Health and Safety, Health for All: California's Strategic Approach to Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health, and Good Health Counts: A 21st Century Approach to Health and Community for California. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 1997, Rachel had extensive experience as a social worker for the San Francisco Unified School District. Rachel received her MSW from UC Berkeley's School of Social Welfare. Learn more about Rachel.
Leslie Mikkelsen, Managing Director, MPH, RD
Leslie Mikkelsen, Managing Director at Prevention Institute, advances the conceptual work of the organization and supervises the Supporting Healthy Eating and Active Living projects and team. She develops tools and materials to support local and state initiatives, and guides government bureaus, foundations and community organizations throughout the country on effective environmental approaches, coalition building, and interdisciplinary partnerships. Leslie is the co-founder and Project Director for the Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments, a statewide advocacy network involved in creating healthy food and physical activity opportunities. Her research and publications had aided in the development of ENACT (Environmental Nutrition and Activity Community Tool), and the ENACT Local Policy Database. She is also a Policy Consultant to the national Convergence Partnership, where she directs research and helps shape national strategy related to policy priorities that support healthy food and activity environments. Leslie has written many articles, including Setting the Record Straight: Nutritionists and Health Professionals Define Healthful Food and Where's the Fruit? Fruit Content of the Most Highly Advertised Children's Food and Beverages. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 1999, Leslie worked for the Alameda County and New York City Food Banks. Leslie is the winner of the American Public Health Association Food and Nutrition Section 2008 Catherine Cowell Award for Excellence in Public Health Nutrition. She received her MPH from UC Berkeley. Learn more about Leslie.
Manal Aboelata, Managing Director, MPH
Manal J. Aboelata, Managing Director at Prevention Institute works collaboratively to improve access to healthy foods, prevent injuries, and increase access to physical activity opportunities. Her work emphasizes policy and community-based approaches, and demonstrates an overarching commitment to working with under-resourced communities to foster health and safety. Manal coordinates the Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments, a statewide advocacy network involved in bringing healthy food and physical activity opportunities to all Californians. She chairs the Joint Use Statewide Taskforce (JUST), whose mission is to increase community access to playgrounds through the policy of joint use agreements between school districts and local governments. Manal is principal author of The Built Environment and Health: 11 Profiles of Neighborhood Transformation, Mapping the Movement for Healthy Food and Activity Environments: Organizational Snapshots, a contributing author for Cultivating Common Ground: Linking Health and Sustainable Agriculture, and co-authored Emerging Issues in Improving Food and Physical Activity Environments: Strategies for Addressing Land Use, Transportation, and Safety in 3 California-Wide Initiatives, which was recently published in the American Journal of Public Health. She also is a contributing author on Community Engagement in Design and Planning, a chapter in "Making Healthy Places: Designing and Building for Health, Well-Being, and Sustainability." She is certified as a California Walkability Expert by the California Department of Health Services and CalTrans. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 1998, Manal received her MPH in Epidemiology from UCLA, where she was inducted into the Iota Chapter of the Delta Omega Honorary Society in 2001 and into the UCLA School of Public Health Alumni Hall of Fame in 2009.
Sana Chehimi, Program Director, MPH
Sana Chehimi, Program Director at Prevention Institute, oversees projects related to healthy eating and active living, developing tools and strategies to promote healthier, more equitable food environments. She manages Prevention Institute's technical assistance and training work for Communities Creating Healthier Environments, a national initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supporting diverse, community-based organizations and tribal groups in developing local policies that build food and recreation equity and address social injustice. Sana oversees national media advocacy efforts supporting prevention and health reform. She provides guidance and support for Strategic Alliance, and its statewide Rapid Response Media Network, providing tools and resources for effective media advocacy to promote healthy eating and active living. Sana is co-editor of Prevention Is Primary: Strategies for Community Wellbeing, one of the first academic texts on primary prevention. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 2003, Sana worked in the HIV field. She speaks fluent Swedish and French as well as conversational Tunisian. She received her MPH in Health and Social Behavior from UC Berkeley.
Sheila Savannah, MA, Program Director
Sheila provides leadership on health equity, mental health and violence prevention focus areas. In her leadership role on mental health, she focuses on its intersection with community resilience, and the social determinants of health; with projects aimed at improving outcomes for boys and men of color, and addressing trauma through a public health approach to early childhood development. Previous to her current position, Sheila was a division manager with the Houston Public Health Department, responsible for facilitating the alignment of strategic partnerships, leveraging multi-agency resources for system re-design and workforce development for within their planning, chronic disease and injury prevention unit. In this capacity, she also lead their Office of Adolescent Health and Injury Prevention, including Houston's CDC-funded youth violence prevention initiative, where she fostered partnerships with schools, the police, public works and other city departments to work alongside community and faith organizations to implement evidence-based programs in over ten neighborhood sites aligned with Houston's summer jobs program. With over 30 years of experience in policy analysis, community-level assessment, mobilization and development; as a national trainer; and a CDC Grand Rounds panelist in February 2014 on Preventing Youth Violence, she has expertise in multi-sector collaboration and youth/family engagement in addressing complex system issues of safety and equity.
Elva has experience in policy advocacy, strategic planning, civic engagement and communications for non-profit organizations, government agencies and foundations in the areas of public policy, urban parks, public health, land use and the built environment. She has a long history of involvement in community-driven policy initiatives in both the public health and environmental arenas. She has served as director of the Center for Health and Parks at the Trust for Public Land; grant liaison officer at RWJF's SmokeLess States national initiative; deputy director of the RWJF Policy Advocacy on Tobacco and Health initiative; and senior associate director at Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights (ANR). She has been active in numerous local and statewide efforts to enhance access to parks and open space. Elva was appointed to the California State Parks and Recreation Commission in 2011 by Governor Jerry Brown.
Jessica Berthold, Communications Manager, MA
Jessica Berthold joined Prevention Institute in January 2015 as its Communications Manager. She helps design and implement multifaceted communication strategies that increase visibility and awareness of the institute, as well as its key projects and focus areas. Following stints as an independent book publicist and teacher abroad, she has worked as a journalist for the past 15 years. Most recently, she was the Editor-in-Chief of the American College of Physicians’ ACP Hospitalist magazine and Associate Editor of ACP Internist newspaper, where she assigned, edited, and wrote features and columns; and managed the design and production of ACP Hospitalist’s print and online editions, as well as the blog and Twitter feed. Her previous positions include working as an energy reporter for Dow Jones Newswires in Los Angeles during the California energy crisis, and as a features reporter for the Allentown Morning Call. She has won numerous national awards for writing and editing, and her work has appeared across the country in publications including the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, and the Miami Herald. Jessica has an MA in Journalism and is completing her MPH in Social and Behavioral Sciences.
Lisa Fujie Parks, Program Manager, MPH
Lisa works to promote community environments that support health and safety, with a focus on strategies to address community determinants of health to promote of health equity, and multi-sector strategies to foster community resilience and prevent injury and trauma. Lisa provides leadership to support PI's training, technical assistance and consultation services across topical areas to national, state, and local coalitions, government agencies, foundations and community organizations. Lisa is experienced in strategy development, policy development, policy advocacy, program design, and program evaluation, has authored numerous reports. She has designed, implemented, and evaluated local and state-level prevention initiatives employing policy, communications, and coalition-building strategies. Lisa also has extensive experience providing leadership in national primary prevention initiatives and capacity building efforts. She has extensive experience developing training curricula and tools, providing in-person and online training and technical assistance (TAT), and facilitating learning networks. Lisa also helped to build the capacity of schools and community-based organizations to foster environments that support adolescent health, with a focus on supporting healthy relationships among young people. Prior to her public health work, Lisa worked in the housing and community development field. Lisa has a BA in International Studies and a Masters in Public Health.
Annie Lyles, Program Manager, MSW
Annie Lyles, Program Manager at Prevention Institute, oversees projects to prevent violence, including community and street violence, violence against women, and sexual assault and exploitation. She manages UNITY (Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth), and she develops and hosts Prevention Institute's contributions to the webinar series PreventConnect. Annie is an advisor to STRYVE, the national violence prevention initiative at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and to the California State Department of Public Health's Teen Dating Violence initiative. She coordinated the Ms. Foundation Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Project and trains participants in the Catholic Health Initiatives Rural Violence Prevention Grant Program. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 2008, Annie was a program specialist in the County of San Diego Office of Violence Prevention, and an adjunct professor at San Diego State University. Annie has more than 15 years of experience coordinating and providing direct services to families and adolescents through local government, community clinics, juvenile detention facilities, and school-based initiatives. She holds a BA in Social Policy from Northwestern University and a MSW from University of Washington with a concentration on social justice models in multi-ethnic practice.
Juliet Sims, Program Manager at Prevention Institute, supports projects related to healthy eating and active living, with an emphasis on local, state, and federal policy initiatives aimed at increasing access to healthful food and limiting marketing practices that promote unhealthy food. She collaborates with agencies and organizations across the country, providing training and consultation to incorporate prevention strategies into their efforts. Juliet also provides staff support for Strategic Alliance, California's statewide network of food and activity advocates, including coordination of its Rapid Response Media Network, which fosters effective media advocacy to advance food and activity policy and practice change. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 2008, Juliet worked in clinical nutrition. She is a Registered Dietitian, and received her MPH with an emphasis in Nutrition from UC Berkeley.
Sandra Viera is a graduate of the University of San Francisco with a Masters in Public Administration and Policy and earned her bachelor's degree in Political Science from California State University, Long Beach. She joined Prevention Institute in 2010 working to promote safe and healthy communities through projects focused on improving the built environment and increasing equitable opportunities for physical activity and play. Sandra has provided support to the Healthy Places Coalition, a statewide coalition seeking to advance public health involvement in land-use and transportation planning, as well as the Joint Use Statewide Task Force (JUST) whose mission is to increase community access to playgrounds through the policy of joint use agreements between school districts and local governments. As a Program Manager, Sandra serves as a lead trainer for the organization in the areas of community engagement, stakeholder engagement, coalition building, and cross-sectoral collaboration to audiences that include non-profits, government agencies and grant-making foundations. Prior to joining Prevention Institute, Sandra served as the Associate Director of Policy at Latino Health Access (a non-profit based in Santa Ana, California) where she coordinated multi-sector, long-term healthy eating and active living initiatives focused on changing policy, systems and environmental change.
Emily Kemp, PI’s Chief Administrative Officer, received her Master’s in Health Finance and Management from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She has in-depth knowledge of health care financing, grant management, cash management as well as non-profit accounting and operations. Emily also has significant experience negotiating and administering contracts and developing the requisite systems to ensure contractual compliance. Committed to helping organizations embrace change associated with external challenges, she was a member of the original office of managed care at Johns Hopkins Medicine and went on to lead operations and managed care contracting for Baltimore Medical System, a large FQHC in Baltimore. She also has substantial physician practice management experience, including primary care and specialty practices.
Justin Probert, Administrative Manager at Prevention Institute, oversees financial management, human resources, technology, administration, and facilities management. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 2006, Justin was Operations Director for a statewide youth-led advocacy organization that connects school-based gay-straight alliance clubs to each other and to community resources as part of the safe schools movement. He was Director of Operations for A Home Away From Homelessness, which provides educational, social, and recreational opportunities to homeless and formerly homeless families in San Francisco and Marin counties. He spent eight years at the Tides Center, the national leader in fiscal sponsorship services to hundreds of nonprofit organizations. Justin has served on many local and national boards of directors, reflecting his ongoing commitment to community service. He received his BS in social science from California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo.
Rea Pañares is currently a health policy and philanthropy consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a Senior Advisor with Prevention Institute, she works on projects to advance community prevention in health reform implementation and health care settings. At The California Endowment, Rea works on projects related to program development and capacity building with a racial equity lens. Most recently, Rea served as Director of Minority Health Initiatives at Families USA, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the achievement of high-quality, affordable health care for all. Previously, Rea lead efforts in the areas of racial and ethnic health disparities for Grantmakers In Health (GIH). She was also involved with projects related to foundation support for public policy and advocacy, public health, and environmental health. Rea has held positions at the National Business Group on Health and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Rea holds a master's degree in health policy and management from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, in molecular and cellular biology.
Katie Miller, Program Coordinator, MPH
As part of Prevention Institute's Health System Transformation team, Katie works to promote community prevention as a key component of ongoing health reform efforts. Katie also provides support for community-centered health homes demonstration projects. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 2014, Katie worked with local health departments in California and across the country to implement policy, systems, and environmental change strategies to improve community wellness-most recently as part of CDC's Community Transformation Grant initiative at Public Health Institute in Oakland, CA, and previously as part of CDC's ACHIEVE initiative at the National Association of County and City Health Officials in Washington, DC. She also previously worked as a health educator and public information officer at Escambia County Health Department in Pensacola, FL. She received her MPH from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and her BA in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley.
Sarah Mittermaier, Communications Specialist, BA
Sarah Mittermaier, Communications Specialist at Prevention Institute, coordinates communications efforts for Prevention Institute and the Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments, with a focus on California policy, food policy, equity, and environments that support physical activity and safety. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 2012, she worked as a Program Assistant at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, supporting the Communities Putting Prevention to Work, Farm to School, Active Schools and Active Early initiatives. Sarah earned her BA in Journalism and History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Lauren is the primary contact for Managing Director Leslie Mikkelsen and provides focused support to the executive office. Lauren supports the organization with an emphasis on projects related to health reform and promoting equitable healthcare outcomes for all. She coordinates outreach efforts on behalf of the Executive Director and the Manager of the Executive Office. Lauren is responsible for the coordination of a variety of fund development activities. She is a member of the PI Ambience Committee and takes pride in contributing to the aesthetic aspects of the Prevention Institute Oakland office. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 2013, Lauren worked in fund development for seven years as a consultant to a micro-lending nonprofit and as Development Associate at Mission Dolores Academy, a K-8 school dedicated to educating underserved students. She has a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from SFSU and her background is in museum studies, interior architecture and design, and graphic design. Lauren is an amateur tour guide and has a special passion for "noticing walks."
Linda Benson, Bookkeeper
Linda Benson, Bookkeeper at Prevention Institute, handles the financial aspects of Prevention Institute's work, including grant budget reporting, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and organizational compliance. Linda feels privileged to have witnessed the impact the Institute has made in the public health sector. Prior to joining Prevention Institute shortly after its inception in 1997, Linda spent over fifteen years in the accounting industry, working with CPAs and focusing primarily in the nonprofit sector.
Before joining PI as senior communications advisor, Rob Waters worked in journalism for more than 30 years with a focus on health, science, mental health, health policy and child and family issues. He covered health, science and biotechnology for Bloomberg News, was a staff writer at Health magazine, a senior editor at WebMD, and the editor of the Tenderloin Times, a four-language monthly newspaper in San Francisco's inner-city Tenderloin neighborhood. Rob co-authored a book on men's health published by Scribner and wrote magazine features for Mother Jones, Parenting, San Francisco magazine, Reader's Digest, Family Circle, Columbia Journalism Review and dozens of other publications. He was awarded fellowships from the University of Maryland Fellowships in Child and Family Policy and the Rosalyn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism. He continues to write for Forbes.com and other publications while advising on communications for Prevention Institute, helping the organization craft its message and tell its story.
Nikta Akhavan, Program Assistant at Prevention Institute, supports the organization in creating healthier and more equitable communities by supporting a number of California-based projects related to improving access to healthy eating and safe places to play. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 2013, she worked at UC Berkeley's Continuing Education program with the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health. She has also worked on a range of projects relating to food justice, agricultural education, and labor. Nikta received her BS in Community and Regional Development from UC Davis.
Alexis supports the organization’s Health Equity and Injury & Trauma Prevention teams, as well as its growing international work. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 2014, she worked as a writing and communication tutor within Mzumbe University’s Health Monitoring and Evaluation Masters Degree Program in Tanzania. During 2012 she lived and studied in Chile, and later served as a bilingual Spanish research assistant examining access and health outcomes in Chilean primary health care. She has also worked on a variety of other projects related to poverty, homelessness, teen health, and the health impacts of climate change. Alexis received her BA in Public Health from the University of California at Berkeley.
Casey supports projects related to preventing injury and trauma, including the UNITY initiative, Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth. She helps develop collaborative multi-sector strategies to prevent violence and create safer communities. Prior to joining Prevention Institute, Casey worked for the University of California, Davis, coordinating the Provost’s Forums on the Public University and the Social Good. She has also worked with non-profit organizations in Sacramento area focused on public health, food access and health equity. Casey earned her bachelor’s degree in Community and Regional Development from UC Davis.Alyshia Macaysa, Program Assistant, BA
Alyshia supports projects related to advancing health equity and understanding the root causes of what shape community environments to be safe and healthy places. In addition, she oversees the Administrative Assistant program which offers undergraduate students the opportunity to acquire practical skills and insights about working in public health. Prior to joining Prevention Institute, Alyshia served as an intern for Oyate Tupu'anga, a community health group focused on the mental health of queer indigenous populations and as an HIV counselor for The Berkeley Free Clinic. Alyshia earned her BA in Psychology and Social Welfare from the University of California, Berkeley.
Victoria Nichols, Program Assistant, BA
Victoria Nichols, Program Assistant at Prevention Institute, supports the Transforming Our Health System team on projects related to advancing health care practices by integrating community prevention strategies. She is particularly interested in exploring community health prevention strategies and investigating public policy strategies to support a financially sustainable system of health. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 2015, Victoria worked for the Center for Genetics and Society, a non-profit organization based in Berkeley, California. Driven by a passion for reproductive health and social justice, she also worked as a consultant for Public Health Institute and as an intern for various Los Angeles-based law offices during the summers of her undergraduate career. Victoria earned her bachelor's degree in Philosophy and Government from Claremont McKenna College.
Vanessa Yanez, Program Assistant, BA
Vanessa supports the organization in a multi-faceted role. She supports THRIVE, Community Tool for Health and Resilience in Vulnerable Environments, and the Health Equity team. She also plays a key coordination role in the development and oversight of Prevention Institute consultation presentation materials. Vanessa received her BA in Fine Art Photography from San Francisco State.