Home > About Us > Our Staff

Our Staff

E-mail Print

Friday common lunches with an extra space for you



Our distinguished team brings passion for equity and community change and expertise in developing strategies, best practices, writing, and training in the fields of injury and violence prevention, chronic disease prevention, healthy eating and physical activity, mental health and wellbeing. Our diverse staff contribute unique talent, insight, and perspective from backgrounds ranging from academia, social work, nutrition, journalism, law, public policy, organizational development, direct service, community organizing, and technical assistance.
Prevention Institute Staff

Executive Director: Larry Cohen
Manager of the Executive Office: Anna Realini
Managing Directors: Rachel Davis, Leslie Mikkelsen, Manal Aboelata
Program Director: Sana Chehimi
Senior Communications Advisor: Rob Waters
Program Managers: Annie Lyles, Juliet SimsBenita Tsao, Sandra Viera
Administrative Manager: Justin Probert
Senior Advisor: Rea Pañares
Program Coordinators: Rachel Bennett
Bookkeeper: Linda Benson
Communications Assistant: Sarah Mittermaier
Program Assistants: Nikta AkhavanCasey Tran

Staff emails are available with individual staff bios.

Larry Cohen, Founder and Executive Director, MSW

Larry_resizedlarry-at-preventioninstitute.org
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_resizedanna-at-preventioninstitute.org
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_JTRSrachel-at-preventioninstitute.org
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_resizedleslie-at-preventioninstitute.org
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_Aboelata_JTRSmanal-at-preventioninstitute.org
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_resizedsana-at-preventioninstitute.org
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.


Rob Waters, Senior Communications Advisor

fb-robrob-at-preventioninstitute.org 
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.

Annie Lyles, Program Manager, MSW
annie_lyles_updatedannie-at-preventioninstitute.org
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, MPH
juliet-2juliet-at-preventioninstitute.org
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.

Benita Tsao, Program Manager, MPH, CHES
Benita_photo_for_web_1benita-at-preventioninstitute.org
Benita Tsao, Program Manager at Prevention Institute, works to promote community safety and prevent violence affecting youth. She staffs the UNITY initiative, Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth, and oversees UNITY communications. Benita is co-author of Advancing Multi-Sector Approaches to Preventing Community Violence and Violence Affecting Youth, a Collaboration Multiplier guide. Benita develops tools and delivers trainings for local government and non-profit agencies to prevent violence using public health frameworks. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 2010, Benita coordinated youth programs and public education projects for the Asian Pacific Fund, a San Francisco Bay Area community foundation. She also contributed to an award-winning U.S. Geological Survey handbook designed for recent immigrants and English-language learners, Protecting Your Family from Earthquakes. Benita is a certified HIV test counselor and interned with the Los Angeles County Immunization Program. She earned a master's degree in community health sciences at the UCLA School of Public Health, and received her bachelor's degree in sociology from UC Berkeley.
Sandra R. Viera, Program Manager, MPA
sandra-at-preventioninstitute.org
Sandra_030_JTRSSandra 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.

Justin Probert, Administrative Manager, BS
Justin_resized
justin-at-preventioninstitute.org
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, Senior Advisor, MPH
rea-at-preventioninstitute.org
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.
Rachel Bennett, Program Coordinator, MPH, MURP
rachelb-at-preventioninstitute.org
rachelbRachel Bennett, Program Coordinator at Prevention Institute, works to advance health, safety, and equity through planning and policy approaches. She supports projects related to land use, transportation, regional planning, and community prevention. As a former Prevention Institute intern, Rachel helped prepare the organization’s Testimony to the National Research Council Committee on Health Impact Assessment and supported the establishment of the Public Health Alliance of Southern California. Rachel earned dual Master’s degrees in Public Health and Urban and Regional Planning from UCLA, and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from UC Davis. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 2013, Rachel served as a research and teaching assistant to Richard J. Jackson at UCLA, and worked with the City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation Pedestrian Program, UCLA Complete Streets Initiative, and Seva Foundation.

Linda Benson, Bookkeeper
lindablindab-at-preventioninstitute.org
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.

Sarah Mittermaier, Communications Assistant, BA
sarahmsarah-at-preventioninstitute.org
Sarah Mittermaier, Communications Assistant at Prevention Institute, provides communications support to Prevention Institute and Strategic Alliance. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 2012, she worked as a Communications Assistant at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, supporting the Communities Putting Prevention to Work, Farm to School, Active Schools and Active Early initiatives. She has also assisted in the development of a range of environmental education materials for early childhood and K-12 settings. Sarah earned her BA in Journalism and History from the University of Wisconsin.
Nikta Akhavan, Program Assistant, BA
nikta-2nikta-at-preventioninstitute.org
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.
Casey Tran, Program Assistant, BA
caseycasey-at-preventioninstitute.org
Casey Tran, Program Assistant at Prevention Institute, supports projects that prevent injury and trauma. Prior to joining Prevention Institute in 2013, she was a communications intern with Grassroots Change, which empowers grassroots leaders to build and sustain public health movements at the local, state and national levels. She is a proud graduate of The Greenlining Institute's Leadership Academy, where she worked on an online campaign for ballot initiative reform in California. Casey's bachelors degree is in Ethnic Studies is from UC Berkeley.