Coming together to confront structural violence and racism in NYC

An Action-Oriented Forum Hosted by: NYC Coalition to Dismantle Racism in the Health System and NYC Department of Health’s Center for Health Equity

Saturday June 17th, 2017  8am-4pm



Mark Hannay is the director of Metro New York Health Care for All,  a citywide coalition of community groups and labor unions founded in 1993 that advocates for fundamental health care reform leading to a universal health care program.   Mark is a member of the Steering Committees of various statewide coalitions, including Health Care for All New York, New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage, and the Campaign for New York Health.  He also chairs the board of the national Universal Health Care Action Network, and serves on the board of the NY Metro Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program.  Mark began his health activist career in 1991 as a member of the Insurance and Health Care Access Committee of ACT UP/New York.  During the Clinton health care reform period of 1993-4, Mark worked as a Public Policy Associate at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, where he focused on health care and insurance issues for people living with HIV. Mark is a graduate of the University of Rochester with a degree in psychology, and studied psychology at the graduate level at New York University.

Conner Fox is a medical student at Mount Sinai, where he participates in research and activism surrounding segregated care in Mount Sinai’s outpatient practices. He formerly worked in Beth Israel’s HIV clinic as a case manager with the Alliance for Positive Change, and also has experience with sexual health and women’s health counseling through the Gay Health and Women’s Health Advocacy Projects at Columbia University, as well as with sexual assault and domestic violence crisis counseling through the Crime Victims Treatment Center.

Giselle Lynch is a third year medical student at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). She graduated from Williams College with a degree in History and Africana Studies. In her four years at ISMMS, she has also completed a research year in Emergency Medicine where she studied racial disparities in head pain management in the Sinai Emergency Department. Along with her research, she is actively involved in curriculum reform and development at the medical school including preclinical curriculum and faculty development. Giselle participated in designing and facilitating the Deconstructing Race in Medicine and Health course at ISMMS and presented on this work at the American Public Health Association national conference. She was awarded the Herbert W. Nickens Medical Student Scholarship by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in 2016. Giselle seeks to facilitate educational reform at an institutional level that will examine racism, health disparities, and focus on fostering the knowledge of healthcare providers to be centered on the health and wellness of marginalized communities.

Denys Salas, MS, originally from Ecuador, is a non-profit administrator working in the non-profit field for 12 years. She received her Bachelors in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and a Masters of Science in Childhood Studies from the school of Political and Social Sciences at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, UK in 2013. Ms. Salas’ program management experience ranges from building homes for individuals who were affected by natural disasters, coordinating a nutritional food program and emotional support groups for women living with HIV and AIDS, developing an after school arts program for high school students in rural Mozambique, providing shelter for homeless youth, and coordinating services for individuals affected by domestic violence. Ms. Salas is currently the Assistant Director of Voces Latinas where she oversees all programs, assists with the agency’s operations, and supervises the diverse team at Voces Latinas. Ms. Salas is also an active member of the NYC HIV planning Group, and the NYC Community Engagement Group in Sexual Reproductive Justice.

Judy Wessler is a champion advocate for patients and the public health and hospital system. She served as Executive Director for the Commission on the Public’s Health System (CPHS) for 16 years. While in that role, Judy, oversaw countless research projects and analyses of the city’s health system as well as advocated for policy that eliminates barriers and increases access to health care services for low-income, immigrant, and communities of color. Currently, Judy sits on the Project Approval and Oversight Panel and is an assembly representative to the state DSRIP board. She remains chair of the advisory committee for CPHS, co-coordinates the coalition to protect medicaid, and works on the Save Our Safety Net Campaign.

Iesha Sekou is a South Bronx native and the founder and CEO of Street Corner Resources Inc.. Street Corner Resources’ mission is to help young people by providing greater access to real employment, education, training opportunities, and other resources to improve their lives and stay away from gun and gang violence. Iesha’s responsibilities with Street Corner Resources include managing the Cure Violence Anti-Gun Violence program. Street Corner Resources is one of 18 Cure Violence sites throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Cure Violence stops the spread of violence in communities by using the methods and strategies associated with disease control – detecting and interrupting conflicts, identifying and treating the highest risk individuals, and changing social norms around violence.

Mary T. Bassett is the Commissioner of Health for New York City, a position she assumed in February 2014. Her focus is on ensuring that every New York City neighborhood supports the health of its residents, with the goal of closing gaps in population health across the diverse city. Additionally, she promotes continued use of innovative policy tools to reduce tobacco use, unhealthy food, and lack of physical activity that together drive contemporary mortality patterns. Originally from New York City, Dr. Bassett lived in Zimbabwe for nearly 20 years. Previously, she was the Program Director for the African Health Initiative and the Child Well-being Program at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. She received her B.A. in History and Science from Harvard University and her M.D. from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. She served her medical residency at Harlem Hospital Center, and has a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Washington, where she was a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar.

Felix Polanco is a part of the New York City Crisis Management System. He is the supervisor for the hospital component for the anti-gun violence initiative on Staten Island known as True 2 Life. The team has responded to over 120 incidents with zero retaliations after we have performed a responses. The team is dedicated to saving lives and changing the social norms in our community.

Shani Jamila is an artist and cultural worker who designs and executes innovative programs that use the arts to catalyze social change.  She is a TED Resident and a managing director of the Urban Justice Center in New York City, where she curates exhibits and events with a human rights focus.  Previously, she directed a culturally grounded mentorship initiative to support the empowerment of incarcerated teens; interviewed artists, writers and change makers as the host and producer of a weekly talk radio show; received a Fulbright fellowship to research advocacy in the Caribbean; and produced the Art of Activism seminar series at Howard University. Her photography and collage work, which addresses themes of global identity, political imagination and witness, is informed by her travels to nearly fifty countries.  An avid supporter of initiatives that work to merge culture and social justice, Jamila has worked in an advisory capacity with government agencies and non-profits on issues including organizational strategy, program development and grant administration. Currently, she serves as a mentor for NEW INC — the first museum led cultural incubator.

K. Bain is no stranger to struggle; he was born in the struggle. His mother and Father emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago to escape third world poverty and found themselves navigating the many challenges of Brooklyn, New York.  Early on in school K demonstrated an ability to excel academically but with a growing resentment for having less and a bitterness stemming from the absence of a father figure, like many young black boys in todays society the streets became his priority. As a juvenile K. Bain’s activities in the streets lead him to use and embrace violence on a regular and consistent basis and as a result he endured a series of school suspensions and arrests. At the age of 15 a judge in Orange County New York informed K that he was facing a potential 15-year sentence for his most recent physical altercation. Watching every one of his 3 brothers engage in battles for their freedom at the hands of the criminal justice system and one being convicted and sentenced for attempted murder with a deadly weapon hit K hard. These types of experiences coupled with losing friends and family to senseless violence in the streets have all played a major role in influencing K. Bain’s transition from being a part of the problem to becoming a part of the solution. In his work as a serial social entrepreneur, in the restaurant or music industry in his community development or human justice endeavors K has maintained a mantra and code that he lives by to this day and it is “We are and So I am”. According to K,  “In the streets we said this to each other in our organization, it meant that right or wrong we had each others backs, I now understand this to be about a unity that is inclusive of the community at large.  “ We are and So I am” means that “We” the credible messengers the “tried and true” are responsible for taking control of our communities and that “We” are obligated to making our streets safe.  

Dr. Gary Slutkin is a physician and epidemiologist formerly of the World Health Organization, the Founder and CEO of Cure Violence, and an innovator in health, behavior change, and data based approaches to local and global health problems. Cure Violence has been statistically demonstrated to reduce shootings and killings by 41% to 73% by extensive independent studies – by the U.S. Department of Justice, Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and others. Some communities are reducing their rates of violence to zero. Dr. Slutkin received his M.D. from the University of Chicago Pritzker School Of Medicine, and completed his internship, residency, and infectious disease training at UCSF/San Francisco General Hospital, where he was also the Chief Resident in Medicine. Dr. Slutkin shifted his focus when he returned to the U.S. in 1995, and now leads the national and global work on re-defining violence as a contagious health process, pointing out that violence meets the definitions of both contagious (producing more of itself) and of disease (characteristic signs and symptoms producing morbidity and mortality). He also leads the efforts to demonstrate that treating violence as a contagious health epidemic yields strong results. The Cure Violence method is working in over 60 communities in 25 cities in the U.S. and on five continents including programs in Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Trinidad, Jamaica, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Israel/West Bank, and Syria. Cure Violence is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and multiple national, international and local foundations and city, state and federal governments.

Aletha Maybank, MD, MPH currently serves as a Deputy Commissioner in the New York City Department of Health and is the Founding Director of the Center for Health Equity. The Center’s mission is to bring an explicit focus to health equity in all of the Department’s work by tackling structural barriers, such as racism, ensuring meaningful community engagement, and fostering interagency coordination in neighborhoods with the highest disease burden. Prior to this role, she was an Assistant Commissioner in the NYC Health Department and served as the Director of the Brooklyn Office, a place-based approach. Dr. Maybank also successfully launched the Office of Minority Health as its Founding Director in the Suffolk County Department of Health Services in NY from 2006-2009. Dr. Maybank serves as Vice President of the Empire State Medical Association, the NYS affiliate of the National Medical Association. In the media and on the lecture circuit, she has appeared or been profiled on Disney Jr.’s highly successful Doc McStuffins Animated Series, ESSENCE Facebook live and their Festival’s Empowerment Stage, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry show, and various other outlets. She has also advised on the award-winning documentary Soul Food Junkies by Byron Hurt and Black Women in Medicine by Crystal Emery. For her accomplishments, she has won numerous awards. Dr. Maybank holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University, a MD from Temple University School of Medicine, and a MPH from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. A pediatrician board certified in Preventive Medicine/Public Health, she completed her Preventative Medicine Residency at SUNY Stony Brooklyn University and her Pediatrics Residency at Albert Einstein School of Medicine’s Schneider Children’s Hospital

Javier William Lopez is the Assistant Commissioner for the Bureau of Systems Partnerships within the Center for Health Equity, a division of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). Javier’s work focuses on bringing together non-traditional partners to assist with systemic analysis and deconstruction of racially designed and motivated inequities. Providing a consistent gender, racial and social justice voice within the DOHMH, Javier is considered one of the  New York City leading voices in the health equity movement. Before his work at the DOHMH, Javier worked inside and outside government identifying new programs, policies, revenue streams and communication points that aim to address injustices that have  severely impacted communities of color.

Osakwe Beale is a lifelong Harlem Native who has been involved in community based programs and community mentoring since his youth.  As a young man Osakwe was involved in the Urban Youth Bike Corps (UYBC), a group run by the Harlem Hospital Injury Prevention Program (HHIPP). Lifted up by his family, community and mentors, Osakwe graduated from Morehouse College in 2004 with a degree in Business Marketing and upon returning to New York City began his career at Bloomberg LP.  In 2010 Osakwe found himself conflicted, everything prior to that point in his life had been about community uplift but his current job was taking him further away from that so he quietly stepped away from Bloomberg and ventured into a world without the cushion of a corporate check and expense account. Today Osakwe serves as a Group Facilitator with the Six Winners Mentoring Program where he is able to work daily with young men in his community and share some of the many life experiences he’s had in effort to expose the young men to the world of possibilities that await them.  

Lauren Quijano is the Community Organizer for the Health Justice Program at NYLPI, providing community advocacy and organizing for issues related to health justice and racial justice, as they intersect with a variety of social justice issues. Lauren works directly with communities to address pressing areas of health justice in New York City. Some of Lauren’s major campaigns include Healthy Homes to address asthma-causing mold in private housing, and NYLPI’s cutting-edge program addressing inadequate healthcare in immigration detention. Lauren is also involved with the NYLPI’s work in ACA and Medicaid advocacy. Lauren is a member of the Coalition to Dismantle Racism in Healthcare, and a member of the Community Health Worker Collective Learning Group with the Center for Health Equity at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Outside of NYLPI, Lauren organizes with the community members in Queens against gentrification and broken windows policing.

Khushbu is a Public health and social justice leader with a fourteen-year track record on intersectional gender, sexuality and racial/ethnic rights efforts across 15 countries. She has led initiatives for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, UN Women, the United Nations Population Fund, the World Bank, the U.S. State Department, the Ford Foundation, and CARE International. She’s worked in Bangladesh, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Liberia, Kenya, Myanmar, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Uganda, and the United States. Fluent in English, French, Hindi, and Urdu. She currently serves as Director of Special Projects for the Center for Health Equity and is leading the Gender Justice And Structural Violence work for the NYC Health Violence.

Jasmine D. Graves is a public health researcher and curator committed to examining the structural determinants of health experienced by communities afflicted by state violence. She has published articles on topics ranging from the prevalence of traumatic brain injury among incarcerated youth to the health impacts of structural racism. She most recently co authored “Structural racism and health inequities in the USA: evidence and interventions” published in the latest volume The Lancet. Ms. Graves currently serves as the Director of Public Health Programs at the Bard Prison Initiative. In this role, she has designed and administers BPI’s inaugural Tow Public Health Fellowship for formerly incarcerated professionals looking to advance in the field of public health. Prior to this role, Ms. Graves worked at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. From 2014 – 2016, she supported NYC Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett in developing policies and initiatives to advance health equity in New York City, serving as content expert in areas related to criminal justice. From 2012 – 2014, she worked as a researcher for the Bureau of Correctional Health services. In this capacity Ms. Graves conducted qualitative research on the nature and occurrence of injuries, health impacts of solitary confinement, and traumatic brain injury among incarcerated adolescents on Rikers Island. Additionally, she developed and facilitated support programs for incarcerated youth and women on Rikers Island.

Allen M. McFarlane is the Assistant Vice President for Outreach & Engagement in the New York University, Division of Student Affairs. Allen’s major area of focus is in direct support the NYU global network university mission that addresses international student transition. He provides leadership and management oversight for the International Student Meeting Initiative at New York University. Since 2012, Allen has conducted research and held interviews with more than 1,000 international undergraduate freshman and transfer students to assess their adjustment to campus life and New York City. The goal for the International Student Meeting Initiative (ISM) is to provide Student Affairs units, colleagues and faculty with recommendations in support of international student life and community building at NYU. He also co-facilitates a weekly seminar entitled, English Conversation & Culture for International Graduate Students; serves as chair for the student affairs professional development subcommittee on Global Cultural Competency and Language Initiatives and is a standing member of the Internationalizing Washington Square All-NYU University Committee. In 2015, his article, “Lessons Learned: Internationalization and the Role of Student Affairs Professionals,” was published in the Journal of Student Affairs in Africa. As a part-time adjunct faculty member in the NYU Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, Allen conceived and co-developed an academic course with Dr. Candice Collins, NYU and Dr. Yolanda Sealy, Columbia University, entitled Black Diversity Contributions to America. Through literature, the Course examines how diversity and difference within the black community, the choice of career, religion, politics and gender roles, influences individual identity, reveals a dissonance and how black societal acceptance is in constant jeopardy. A veteran of the United States Air Force, Allen completed his tour of military service at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia. Upon his honorable discharge at the rank of Sergeant, he returned to New York and was enrolled at New York University.  

Christian Alexander Pean MD, MS is an orthopaedic surgery resident physician at the NYU Langone Medical Center. He is on the board of directors for the global health non-profit organization Orthopaedic Relief Services International, is a member of the Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform organization and has published several peer-reviewed articles on clinical outcomes of orthopaedic trauma. He graduated from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in 2016 with distinctions in medical education and research and is also a 2015 recipient of the American Medical Association Excellence in Medicine Leadership Award. The New York Times story by Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal “When the Hospital Fires the Bullet” featured the tragedy of his younger brother Alan Pean being shot inside his hospital room while seeking medical attention.  The story was a flashpoint for a national debate on the increasing presence of firearms in hospitals.  His family has since pursued advocacy efforts to address the impact racial bias and violence have on health outcomes for patients through speaking engagements and policy work.  His academic interests are primarily health disparities in the United States, medical education, orthopaedic trauma and ethics of global health.

Monifa Bandele, Vice President for, has more than a 15 years of experience in policy analysis, communications, civic engagement organizing, and project management working with groups like the Brennan Center for Justice, Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund, and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. At she manages the Healthy Kids and Maternal Justice campaigns, helping to increase children’s access to healthy food, dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, end mass incarceration, and making sure that every mother has justice. Forbes has named one of the top websites for women four years in a row. During her tenure at the Brennan Center as national field director for the Right to Vote Campaign, the coalition successfully change laws in five state expanding the franchise to more that 250,000 formerly incarcerated people. Finally, Monifa sits on the steering committee for Communities United for Police Reform and is an activist with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. For 15 years, MXGM has recruited, trained, and developed CopWatch patrols; helped launch two successful legal cases against police misconduct (Daniels v NYC and Floyd v NYC); conducted Know Your Right workshops for thousands of community members; and worked to pass landmark police reform legislation in New York City (Community Safety Act 2013).  

Dr. Luella Toni Lewis has spent her life committed to social justice. In 2004, Dr. Lewis became a family medicine resident and a member of the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR/SEIU)–the largest physician’s union in the Service Employees International Union. Dr. Lewis became very active with CIR/SEIU, working with unions and allies to advocate for the community served by the failing system.  She served the members of CIR/SEIU in many capacities from 2006-2010, including roles from delegate to National President. As the healthcare reform movement intensified in 2008, Dr. Lewis continued to work to raise the voices of healthcare providers and the communities they serve.  Because of this work, in 2010, with support of her family, friends, patients, and colleagues, she was appointed Chair of SEIU Healthcare and elected International Vice President of SEIU. Dr. Lewis has worked with SEIU in many areas — including ACA implementation and health system transformation, global health, youth engagement, racial justice, disaster response, and political strategy.  She serves on various boards and leadership committees of health and social justice organizations, including as President of the Public Policy and Education Fund of New York, and recent appointments to the National Advisory Committee of the Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Leadership Program, and the Equity Advisory Group for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. She is devoted to justice, especially health justice, for all communities. Dr. Lewis is a Family Physician, Geriatrician, and internationally credentialed Kemetic (African) yoga instructor. She currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.

Almitra Gasper is a training facilitator, counselor, holistic health advocate, and mother of two boys.  She is known for her enthusiasm for and commitment to restorative justice practices and traditions.  As the Coordinator of Trainings for NYC Cure Violence at the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, she uses her passion and zeal for healing to spread knowledge and cultivate innovative career pathways for Credible Messengers.



Structural Racism and Health Inequities in the USA: evidence and interventions                  An article from NYC’s Health Commissioner, Mary Bassett, on structural violence and health