SHERC Advisory Committee Members
Amanda Aguirre, MA, RD
President and CEO
Regional Center for Border Health, Inc
San Luis Walk-In Clinic, Inc
Former Arizona State Senator Amanda Aguirre presently serves in the capacity of President & CEO of the Regional Center for Border Health, Inc. since 1991 and its subsidiary San Luis Walk-In Clinic, Inc., a primary care rural health medical center. Ms. Aguirre has been involved for more than 33 years in health care and business administration.
She possesses a lifelong commitment to education and in 2007 she established a licensed post-secondary vocational training center in the area of allied health training, which has generated job opportunities for over 1200 individuals. Ms. Aguirre has built these corporations that have become multi-million dollar corporations providing employment for 156 employees in a slow recovering economy. Ms. Aguirre also worked for Arizona Western College from 1995-1999 as the South Yuma County Campus Director.
Ms. Aguirre has lived in Yuma, Arizona, for the last 29 years. Her commitment to education is lifelong since she was raised by parents who both were elementary school teachers. Her Democratic values come from her parent who taught her to work hard and to serve her community before everything else.
Ms. Aguirre holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from the University of Sonora in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. In 1981 received her Master Degree from the California State University in Los Angeles, California with emphasis in Nutrition and Dietetics.
In April 2013, Ms. Aguirre completed a Certificate Program in Executive Leadership for Healthcare Professionals at Cornell University (online). In July 2005 Ms. Aguirre completed a Training Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government at John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
In 2003 Ms. Aguirre became the first female and first Hispanic to represent District 24 (new legislative district 4) in the Arizona House of Representatives and in the Arizona State Senate (in 2006) where she served in the Arizona State Senate through 2010.
During her time in office, Senator Aguirre has had great success in passing key bi-partisan legislation. In 2008 Senator Aguirre sponsored SB1263 Autism Spectrum Disorder “Steven’s Law,” which requires private medical insurance companies to provide autism intervention service coverage under their insurance plan benefits.
Other past successful legislation includes: the creation of a “Breast Cancer Awareness” special license plate (HB2526) with proceeds benefiting cancer screening for uninsured women; securing $1 million dollars to fund the state diabetes prevention and awareness campaign; establishing liability protection guidelines for volunteer citizens performing emergency medical assistance during a state of emergency (HB 2599) and many other legislations that have had a positive impact in the State of Arizona.
Hector Balcazar, PhD, MS
Dean, College of Science and Health
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
Dr. Balcazar has extensive experience as a leader in public health education, research, service and community outreach. Most recent among many honors and awards was his selection to receive the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) Academic Leader of the Year award, presented April 23, 2016 at the 20th Annual Joint NHMA-HDA Conference on Hispanic Health. F
rom 2003-2013, Dr. Balcazar served as the Co-Director of the Hispanic Health Disparities Research Center, an NIH funded initiative in collaboration with the College of Health Sciences and School of Nursing of the University of Texas at El Paso. He has served as reviewer and editorial board member for a number of scientific journals, and served as Chair of the Editorial Board of the American Journal of Public Health from 2008-2011.
Dr. Balcazar specializes in the study of public health problems of Latinos/Mexican Americans. He is a bilingual, bicultural family and public health scientist who has conducted numerous studies of Latino birth outcomes, acculturation and health related behaviors, cardiovascular disease prevention programs in Latinos, and border health issues.
Margaret Heitkemper, PhD, RN, FAAN
Professor and Chairperson, Department of Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Informatics
Adjunct Professor, Division of Gastroenterology
Co-Director, Center for Innovations in Sleep Self Management
University of Washington
Dr. Heitkemper received her BSN from Seattle University, Masters’ degree in nursing from University of Washington, and PhD in Physiology and Biophysics from University of Illinois, Chicago. She leads an interdisciplinary team focused on the study of the pathophysiology and non-pharmacological management of individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). At this time, her team is studying the interaction of stress, sleep, genetics, and symptoms (e.g., pain) in women with IBS. This work has been funded by the National Institute for Nursing Research, National Institutes of Health.
Jeffrey A. Henderson, MD, MPH
President and CEO
Black Hills Center for American Indian Health
Jeffrey Henderson is Lakota and an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Dr. Henderson acquired both his Bachelor’s and Medical degrees from the University of California, San Diego. After completing a residency in Primary Care Internal Medicine at the University of Washington, Dr. Henderson moved to Eagle Butte, South Dakota in 1992, where he served as Clinical Director of the PHS Indian Hospital there. He returned to Seattle in 1994 to pursue his graduate training in Public Health, after which he moved to the Black Hills of western South Dakota and returned to work in primary care once again for the Indian Health Service.
In 1998, Dr. Henderson began his transition to public health and epidemiology, joining the well-known Strong Heart Study as a co-investigator. Also in 1998, Dr. Henderson founded the Black Hills Center for American Indian Health, a community-based, non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance the wellness of American Indians through research, service, education, and philanthropy.
The Center has met with considerable success, garnering over $28 million in funding through 49 peer-reviewed health research grants and contracts, largely from NIH and CDC; providing well-paying jobs and benefits for more than 40 reservation-based tribal members; and injecting over $6 million directly into impoverished reservation communities.
When not working, Dr. Henderson can be found spending time with his beautiful wife and two children, riding his bicycles, skiing and hiking throughout the Black Hills.
Senior Director of Tribal Affairs, First Things First
Candida Hunter serves as Senior Director of Tribal Affairs for First Things First (FTF). She is responsible for ensuring the facilitation of effective government-to-government relations between FTF and Arizona’s Indian Tribes and Nations; building and strengthening organizational relations with tribal partners; fostering tribal relations through collaborative partnerships; and, facilitating the provision of culturally responsive early childhood services in tribal communities.
Ms. Hunter is a fellow of the Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy focused on expanding the cadre of Arizonans in state-level civic leadership positions with the knowledge, skills, and commitment to address the state’s critical long-term issues. Candida also is a member of the BUILD Equity Leaders Action Network, which works to advance racial equity in early childhood systems.
Prior to joining FTF, Ms. Hunter served as a Hualapai Tribal Council member, Education Coordinator, Green Reentry Program Manager and as a volunteer on the FTF Hualapai Tribe Regional Partnership Council and several other community groups. She is a mother, a human services professional and former policymaker who strongly believes the success of future generations begins in the early years of life.
Nancy Jones, PhD, MA
Division of Scientific Programs
Community Health and Population Sciences
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities
National Institutes of Health
Dr. Nancy Jones’ research interests include the ethical, legal, and social ramifications that research, medicine, and healthcare have on underserved populations. Examples include making explicit underlying norms, values, and philosophies to improve cultural congruence and lessen group harms. Another interest is to support research to improve the ability of theoretical constructs and conceptual models to explain the causes of health disparities.
Dr. Jones’ background spans basic and translational biomedical research; medical ethics; legal and social implications of research, healthcare, and policy; and design of curricula and scientific programs. She developed a code of ethics for life sciences and a curriculum to teach ethics and professionalism for biomedical science and engineering graduate students. Dr. Jones lectures on the ethics of health disparities and serves as an adjunct professor of bioethics at Trinity International University.
Dr. Jones graduated with a B.S. in biochemistry in 1981 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in 1987 before receiving an M.A. in bioethics from Trinity International University in 2003. Jones joined NIMHD in 2012 and served as co-chair on the Etiology of Health Disparities for the Science Visioning as well as several trans-NIH committees on bioethics.
Karen Pugliesi, PhD
Professor, Department of Sociology,
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Northern Arizona University
Dr. Pugliesi previously served as Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Dean of the University College, and Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Northern Arizona University. As Vice Provost for Academic affairs she provided leadership for advancement of university academic programs, learning and curriculum design, use of technology to support enrollment and student progression, and instructional planning. As the founding Dean of University College, Dr. Pugliesi implemented a suite of programs and operations serving undergraduate students.
Dr. Pugliesi is Professor of Sociology and served as Chair of the Department of Sociology and Social Work. Her research has focused on the impact of chronic stressors linked to social conditions, work conditions, and familial care giving on well-being; social support networks; emotion management in the workplace; and self-diagnosis of premenstrual syndrome. She is a member of the International Society for Research on Emotion.
Lynda Ransdell, PhD
Dean, College of Health and Human Sciences
Northern Illinois University
Dr. Lynda Ransdell started in July of 2021 as Dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences at Northern Illinois University. She brings 12 years of administrative experience to Northern Illinois University, having served as Dean of the College of Health and Human Services at Northern Arizona University, as Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs in the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University, Dean of Education, Health and Human Development at Montana State University, and Department Head of Kinesiology at Boise State University.
Dr. Ransdell earned her Ph.D. in Exercise and Wellness Education from Arizona State University (1996), her master’s degree in Exercise and Sport Studies from Smith College (1988) and her bachelor’s degree in Physical and Health Education from Eastern Kentucky University (1985).
Dr. Ransdell has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers, books, and book chapters related to physical activity and public health, physical activity interventions and faculty development. Her current research is related to mentoring and developing department chairs, and effectively managing academic search processes. Her most recent journal articles include an integrative literature review titled: “Mentoring new and early-stage investigators and underrepresented minority faculty for research success in health-related fields,” and “Precision mentoring (PM): A proposed framework for increasing research capacity in health-related disciplines.”
She has also been primary or co-investigator on 21 funded grants or contracts. For her research contributions, she was named a fellow of the National Academy of Kinesiology (#579), National Association for Kinesiology in Higher Education (#46), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM); the North American Society of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Sport and Dance Professionals; and the Research Consortium of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.
Finally, Dr. Ransdell is strong advocate for the health benefits of exercise and sport, having served two terms as president of the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (NAGWS), and as vice president for the National Association of Kinesiology in Higher Education (NAKHE).
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