Speaker Bios

David Berrigan, PhD, MPH

Program Director, Behavioral Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health

David Berrigan, PhD, MPH, is a biologist in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the National Cancer Institute. His recent research has examined energy balance, carcinogenesis, physical activity and acculturation using a mix of animal models, population data, and methodological studies aimed at improving survey data and incorporating GIS tools and data-layers into survey data sets. He is strongly committed to research aimed at health for all via environments and institutions that foster healthy behaviors, preventive services, and health care regardless of demographic or economic circumstances.

Aron Bhatnagar, PhD, FAHA

Professor of Medicine and Director, Diabetes and Obesity, School of Medicine, University of Louisville

Aron Bhatnagar, PhD, professor and distinguished university scholar in the Institute of Molecular Cardiology, professor of medicine, and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, joined University of Louisville in 1998. Dr. Bhatnagar is a Distinguished University Scholar and a Fellow of the American Heart Association. His research interests include cardiovascular effects of environmental pollutants, atherosclerosis, injury from loss of blood to the heart muscle, cardiovascular complications of diabetes, and sepsis. Bhatnagar’s work has led to the creation of the new field of environmental cardiology. His research is supported by several grants from the National Institutes of Health, including two program-projects.

Gregory Bratman, PhD

Professor, Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington

Greg Bratman’s work takes place at the nexus of psychology, public health and ecology, and is focused on investigating the ways in which the environment is associated with human well-being. He takes both empirical and theoretical approaches to understand how nature experience impacts human mental well-being, specifically cognitive function, mood, and emotion regulation, with an emphasis on people living in urban environments. He is also working to inform the ways that the mental health effects of nature can be incorporated into ecosystem service studies. Greg is the Doug Walker Endowed Professor at The University of Washington.

Laura Bush

Former First Lady of the United States & Founder, Texan by Nature

Mrs. Bush is the former First Lady of the United States and Founder of Texan by Nature. A hiking and outdoors enthusiast, Former First Lady Laura Bush encourages Americans to spend time in and care for our national parks. As honorary chair of the National Park Foundation, she visited more than 30 national parks and historic sites throughout the US and spotlighted the glories and needs of the parks. President and Mrs. Bush support native prairie restoration efforts and the education of Texans about the importance of conserving our state’s natural resources.

Carrie L. Byington, MD

Vice Chancellor for Health Services, The Texas A&M University System

Dr. Carrie L. Byington serves as the vice chancellor for Health Services at The Texas A&M University System, in addition to being the Jean and Thomas McMullin Professor and Dean of the Texas A&M College of Medicine, and Senior Vice President of the Texas A&M University Health Science Center. Dr. Byington’s research spans the translational spectrum from basic laboratory science to health services research and has focused primarily on bacterial and viral respiratory pathogens in children. A national leader in pediatrics and infectious disease, Dr. Byington is an elected member of the National Academy of Inventors and the National Academy of Medicine.

Joni Carswell, MEM

CEO and President, Texan by Nature

Joni Carswell is the CEO and president of Texan by Nature where she is responsible for leading their mission to spur Texan-led conservation that produces tangible benefits for people, prosperity and natural resources. Joni pairs her business strategy, engineering and technology background with her passion for Texas and the outdoors to realize Texan by Nature’s vision of bringing both science-based and community-organized initiatives to the forefront. Joni is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma and served on the Advisory Board for the Kellogg Women’s Business Association.

Perry Hystad, PhD

Assistant Professor, Spatial Health Lab, College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University

Dr. Perry Hystad is an Assistant Professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University. He is the program direction for the environmental health program and leads the Spatial Health Lab. His research focuses on connecting people to places to determine chronic disease risk factors and prevention opportunities. He is developing new methods to assess environmental exposures for large population- based health studies using new technologies and data science approaches. He has been PI and co-investigator on several grants that assess green space and built environment exposures, determine associations with health outcomes, and translate information into effective policy and prevention activities.

Edward Jones, MBA

President and CEO, Houston Methodist Research Institute

Edward Jones, president and CEO of the Houston Methodist Research Institute, is responsible for academic administrative functions, including governance, communications, financial services, grants and contracts, regulatory oversight and research protections. In addition, he oversees the Academic Office for Clinical Trials which provides leadership for clinical trial operations and for regulatory and coordinator support. Jones joined Houston Methodist in 2005 to establish the Research Institute. Prior to his appointment at Houston Methodist, he was the Administrative Director of Biomedical Research at the Nemours Children’s Clinic and Alfred I. du Pont Hospital for Children.

Bita Kash, PhD, MBA, FACHE

Director, Center for Outcomes Research, Houston Methodist Research Institute Professor, Department of Health Policy Management, Texas A&M University

Dr. Bita Kash is director of the Center for Outcomes Research at Houston Methodist Research Institute. She currently teaches health care strategic planning and marketing for MHA and MPH programs, the MHA capstone course, and serves on multiple PhD student committees. She is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and an active member of Academy Health, the Gerontological Society of America, and Academy of Management. Her areas of research include organizational capacity for change and transformation, nursing home staffing and cost, and health care strategic planning and marketing. Her most recent research projects focus on examining elements of integrated primary provider networks as potential sources of competitive advantage using resource-based theory.

Karla M. Kurrelmeyer, MD, FACC, FASE

Medical Director, Department of Cardiology, Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center

Dr. Karla Kurrelmeyer is medical director of the Department of Cardiology at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center and associate professor of clinical cardiology at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Kurrelmeyer’s research centers on the role of inflammatory cytokines on disease progression in heart failure. Dr. Kurrelmeyer began her research activities while still a cardiology fellow at the Baylor College of Medicine where she won the Best Basic Research Award in 1998. That same year, she was also the recipient of the American Heart Association Melvin L. Marcus Young Investigator Award in Cardiovascular Science.

Chanam Lee, PhD, MLA

Professor, Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Texas A&M University

Dr. Chanam Lee is a Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and founding director of Design Research for Active Living at Texas A&M University. Dr. Lee’s research focuses on linking the built environment with public health outcomes. Her expertise is in ‘active living research,’ a transdisciplinary area of research that deals with environmental and policy approaches toward promoting physical activity. Dr. Lee co- authored 85 peer-reviewed publications in leading journals/books in health and design/ planning disciplines, and is among the most cited scholars in her field. She has made almost 300 presentations including 150 conference and 60 invited keynote/plenary presentations. The significance of her scholarship has been recognized by awards from the American Public Health Association, American Society of Landscape Architects, and Scott & White Healthcare. Her work has also impacted professional practices in urban planning and landscape architecture, by informing new policy development and by providing evidence-based guides for multiple built and under-construction design projects in the US, Japan, and Nigeria. These projects range from hospital healing garden designs to large-scale health-oriented community planning projects.

Zhipeng Lu, PhD, LEED AP BD+C

Associate Director, Center of Health Systems & Design and Senior Lecturer, Department of Architecture, Texas A&M University

Dr. Zhipeng Lu, PhD, LEED AP BD+C, is the Associate Director of the Center for Health Systems & Design (CHSD), and a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Architecture, Texas A&M University. Dr. Lu’s research interests include health care design, senior living environments, healthy community and healthy city, and Building Information Modeling. He teaches graduate and undergraduate seminars and design studio courses with focuses on design for health. Dr. Lu has served as PI, Co-PI, Co-I and project manager for multiple research projects supported by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and American Institute of Architects.

Jay Maddock, PhD, FAAHB

Dean, School of Public Health, Texas A&M University

Jay Maddock is dean of the Texas A&M School of Public Health. He is internationally recognized for his research in social ecological approaches to increasing physical activity. Maddock serves as the Senior Academic Advisor for the President George H.W. Bush China-US Relations Foundation and serves on the Board of Directors for the Texas Health Institute and the Well-Connected Communities Initiative. His research has been featured in several national media outlets including The Today Show, Eating Well, Prevention and Good Housekeeping.

Terri Menser, PhD, MBA

Scientist, Center for Outcomes Research, Houston Methodist Research Institute

Dr. Terri Menser is a scientist at the Center for Outcomes Research at Houston Methodist Research Institute and an assistant member of the Houston Methodist Research Institute. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Ohio State University in the Department of Family Medicine working on projects related to health information technology, patient engagement, implementation evaluation and health disparities. She received her doctoral degree in Health Services Research, with an organizational focus, from Texas A&M University. During her studies, Dr. Menser worked as a research assistant for the NSF- funded Center for Health Organization Transformation, and later as a research associate to evaluate the implementation of primary care into mental health care settings through the Texas 1115 Medicaid Demonstration Waiver Evaluation. Her current research examines surgical outcomes, burnout, patient portal use and telemedicine.

Rev. Charles R. Millikan, DMin

Vice President, Spiritual Care and Values Integration, Houston Methodist

Dr. Charles Millikan is the vice president for Spiritual Care and Values Integration for Houston Methodist and holds the Dr. Ronny W. and Ruth Ann Barner Centennial Chair in Spiritual Care. Ordained as a United Methodist Pastor in 1969, Dr. Millikan has been with Houston Methodist since 2005. Dr. Millikan is a graduate of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas; The Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, and Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. Prior to coming to Houston Methodist, he served a number of congregations as a senior pastor throughout East Texas and the Houston/Galveston Area; most notably the Moody Memorial First United Methodist Church on Galveston Island and as a district superintendent for the Houston South District.

Galen Newman, PhD, ALA, APA

Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Texas A&M University

Dr. Galen Newman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning at Texas A&M University. He also serves as Associate Department Head, Coordinator of the Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Planning Program and Director of the Center for Housing and Urban Development at TAMU. Simultaneously, he is the current Vice President for Research and Creative Scholarship for the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture. Dr. Newman’s research interests include urban regeneration, land use science, spatial analytics, urban resilience, and community/ urban design. His work has been published in many high-quality peer-reviewed outlets including the Journal of the American Planning Association (JAPA), Landscape Journal, Environment and Planning B and Landscape Research. His work has been funded through numerous internal and external funding sources including the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Environmental Health. He has won many awards for his research including the Excellence in Research and Creative Scholarship Award from the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture and the Best Paper Award from the Journal of the American Planning Association. For his teaching efforts, he has also led many efforts to provide service learning opportunities which have won national and state awards including three American Society of Landscape Architects National Awards (ASLA), sixteen ASLA, Texas Chapter Awards, a American Planning Association, Texas Chapter Award and being designated as both a Service Learning Faculty Fellow and Student Success Faculty Fellow at TAMU.

Marcia Ory, PhD, MPH

Associate Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Initiatives, School of Public Health, Texas A&M University Regents & Distinguished Professor, School of Public Health, Texas A&M University

Marcia G. Ory, PhD, MPH, serves as associate vice president of strategic partnerships and initiatives, as well as Regents and Distinguished Professor at the School of Public Health. In this role, Dr. Ory identifies and evaluates programs in health promotion and chronic disease management with the goal of improving population health. As co-director of Healthy South Texas and Center for Population Health and Aging, Dr. Ory has built successful models of health initiatives that have expanded across the state, making a positive difference in the lives of Texans. Dr. Ory is also chairperson of the Opioid Task Force, a multidisciplinary academic team formed to mitigate the opioid crisis. The task force is identifying gaps in knowledge of opioid pain management safety and developing continuing education materials for practitioners.

Cynthia Pickett-Stevenson, JD

Treasurer, Board of Directors, Texan by Nature & Co-Chair, Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center Council

Cynthia Pickett-Stevenson is a fourth generation Houstonian and a practicing attorney with over 34 years of experience. She is a longtime board member and former chair of the Galveston Bay Foundation. She serves as a director and co-vice chair of the Lone Star Coastal Alliance Board focused on securing a Federal Congressional designation known as the Loan Star Coastal National Recreation Area for the upper Texas coastal counties. Cynthia is also director of the Center for Excellence in Education, established by the late Admiral Rickover and Joann DiGennaro, co-chair of the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center Council, and senior cabinet member of the Houston Methodist President’s Leadership Council.

Annette Ridenour

Founder and President, Aesthetics Inc.

Annette has been a leader in health care design for 35+ years. As president of Aesthetics, she leads in the design and facilitation of their Healing Arts Program that’s evidence- based, custom designed for each facility and improve the health care experience. A pioneer in the field of arts and health care, Annette served as one of the original board members and president of the Society for the Arts in Healthcare, is currently treasurer of the National Organization for Arts in Health, co-authored “Transforming the Healthcare Experience through the Arts” and authored numerous chapters in books, most recently “Managing Arts Programs in Healthcare”. She’s received awards including the Founders Award from the Healthcare Facilities Symposium, the Janice Palmer Award for Lifetime Achievement in Arts in Healthcare, first place for Art in the Patient Environment from the International Academy for Design and Health, and the Generative Space Award for St. Joseph Oakland Hospital.

Renee Stubbins, PhD

Senior Oncology Dietitian, Houston Methodist

Renee Stubbins grew up in Houston, Texas and received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Texas at Austin and has her PhD in Nutrition Biochemistry and Metabolism from the University of Texas at Austin. Renee is a registered, licensed and certified oncology dietitian and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Oncology Nutrition dietetic practice group. Renee is a senior oncology dietitian and a strong advocate for cancer prevention and personalized nutrition therapy before, during and after treatment.

Florence Williams

Journalist, Author, Podcaster, and Public Speaker

Florence Williams is a journalist, author, podcaster and public speaker. She is the author of The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. Her public speaking includes keynotes at Google, the Smithsonian, the Seattle Zoo, the Aspen Ideas Festival and many other corporate, academic and nonprofit venues. Her new podcast, The 3-Day Effect, is now available through the Audible Originals Channel. A fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature and a visiting scholar at George Washington University, her work focuses on the environment, health and science.

Xiaohui Xu, PhD

Department Head and Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Texas A&M University

Dr. Xiaohui Xu, PhD, Department Head and Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health, Texas A&M University, received a PhD in Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh in 2007. He also received trainings in both Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health in China. Prior to this appointment, Dr. Xu had served as a faculty member in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Florida. He has been extensively involved in research, teaching and mentoring activities during his academic career. He has taught several epidemiology methodological courses including Spatial Epidemiology, Exposure Measurements in Epidemiological Research and Epidemiology Method I&II at graduate levels and mentored 40+ graduate students over the past years. His research interests primarily focus on studying the effects of environmental factors on diseases. His secondary research area is to study the relationships between sexual hormones and cancer risk. His research projects have been supported by the funds from the NIH/NIA, NIH/NIEHS, AHA, NASA, and other local agencies. He has published over 100 papers on peer-reviewed journals.