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Steering Committee - 2019 Leadership

Steering Committee Chair / Vice Chair

  • Jessica Mackey, Chair

    Jessica is a registered dietitian with a Masters in Public Health. She is an energetic, self-motivated dietitian with experience in clinical and community nutrition. She has a passion for youth wellness and previously worked for Children's Mercy Hospital and Midwest Dairy Council where she served as a nutrition liaison to health professionals providing science-based information and nutrition education. Jessica now works for Mead Johnson Nutrition as a Hospital Nutrition Business Manager.

  • Natalie Hampton

    Natalie Hampton, Vice Chair

    Natalie is the acting director at the University of Missouri Health Communication Research Center and a transplant from Southeastern Missouri. She has a rich background in public policy, advocacy and public health. Natalie has supported state and national campaigns related to policy change, particularly with underserved populations in Iowa, Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Oklahoma. As a community-based behavior change practitioner, Natalie has extensive experience in field testing campaign messages and working with community-driven media firms. She has also led initiatives to increase healthcare access through telehealth and mHealth and has facilitated student-driven advocacy work through photovoice methods. She has a master’s degree in public health from the University of Missouri and has taught in Ecuador and Spain.

  • Jill Lucht

    Jill Lucht, Past Chair

    Jill is the University of Missouri MO HealthNet Data Project Director at the Center for Health Policy. In this position, she partners with state and academic institutions to analyze Medicaid expenditures and trends in Missouri and nationwide. She also directs the Boone Indicators Dashboard Project, which utilizes data and creates indicators to help guide decisions by local policymakers and nonprofits in Columbia and Boone County, Missouri. Jill has a rich background in policy research related to agriculture and food security, as well as the impact of food policy on health. She received her Master's Degree in Rural Sociology from the University of Missouri, and her Bachelor’s Degree in Rural Sociology and Political Science at the University of Wisconsin. In her spare time, Jill is part of the goat milking team at Goatsbeard Dairy.

  • David Ross

    David Ross, Treasurer & Financial Stability Ad Hoc Chair

    David is currently the development manager for KC Healthy Kids in the metro Kansas City area. KC Healthy Kids is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing obesity and improving the health of Greater Kansas City’s children. David is a graduate of Westminster College and University of Missouri-Columbia Law School. David gained a working knowledge of Kansas City philanthropy while working as the Senior Vice President at Bank of America in Kansas City for 38 years. During David’s 38 years he administered many grants for the Bank of America’s charitable trusts. He has been active in various health prevention causes for the past 30 years.

  • Lisa Nelson

    Lisa Nelson, Membership Committee Ad Hoc Chair

    For the past several years Lisa has brought her professional experience in nonprofit leadership, strategic communications, project design and implementation, and system change design and evaluation to MOCAN. In 2018 she served as Past Chair, and in 2019 she leads the Membership Committee and serves on the Childhood Obesity Advisory Committee. For the past 15 years Nelson has worked for Freeman Health System, a nonprofit health system in Joplin. She holds B.A., B.S., and M.A. degrees from Boston University and an M.A. from the University of London. She has traveled extensively and experienced health and social systems in Egypt, England, and France, as well as rural and urban America, and firmly believes there is no scarcity of resources to improve health and well-being.

Communications Work Group

  • Derek Hashimoto

    Derek Hashimoto, Chair

    Derek serves as a Community Health Educator at the Barnes Jewish Center (BJC) School Outreach and Youth Development in St. Louis, Missouri. Derek has been a co-chair of the Communications work group for the last two years. His dedication to the work group as well as his communication skills are an asset to his leadership. Derek is committed to educating youth in the area of safety by teaching the Buddies, Intersections and Difference Makers programs. His passion for empowering the lives of youth inspires him to be engaging and relatable in the classroom. Derek sees the best part of his job as watching his students grow over the course of a program. He believes that children are our future and it is our role as educators to equip them with the right information. An interesting fact about Derek is that he lived in South Korea for a year.

Food Systems Work Group

  • Erica Williams, Chair

    Erica is the Founder and Executive Director of A Red Circle. A Red Circle is a community-based collaborative nonprofit organization, which was founded to address racial disparities in the North St. Louis County region. It has five focus areas: employment, education, holistic living, policy and the arts. Erica’s leadership addresses income inequality, educational achievement, access to healthy and affordable food to holistically improve St. Louis communities.

  • Andrea Cullers, Co-Chair

    Dr. Cullers is an Associate Professor at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri. She received her BS in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Arkansas, her MS in Clinical Nutrition from University of Kansas Medical Center and her PhD in Nutritional Biology with an emphasis in Community and International Nutrition from the University of California, Davis. She is currently chair of Joplin Area Food Action Network, and she serves on the Community Health Collaborative in her community. Her research expertise lies within Sports Nutrition and Nutrition through the lifespan. She has also served as an advocate for students who are food insecure and is currently working on a food pantry program on campus. Andrea loves working in the garden and visiting farmers markets with her husband and 3-year-old son, Asher.

Healthcare Work Group

  • Sarah Hampl

    Sarah Hampl, Chair

    Dr. Hampl graduated from the combined BA-MD program at the University of MO-Kansas City School of Medicine. She completed her residency and chief residency at Children’s Mercy Hospital. She is board certified in Pediatrics and Obesity Medicine. Dr. Hampl is a member of the Division of General Pediatrics at Children’s Mercy and leads the advocacy focus area at the Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition. She has been working with children and families with obesity for the past 20 years. She provides clinical care in the Promoting Health in Teens and Kids (PHIT Kids) Weight Management Clinic and is the medical director of Weight Management group programs. She is actively involved in resident and community primary care provider education and research on clinical outcomes of treatment. Dr. Hampl and Dr. Denise Wilfley were the co-chairs of the MO Children’s Services Commission’s childhood obesity subcommittee, which released statewide recommendations for childhood obesity treatment and prevention in 2014, and continue to work towards implementation of these recommendations. She is the current chair of the MOCAN Healthcare work group, a member of MO and KS Chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the AAP Section on Obesity, where she serves as an adviser for pediatric healthcare providers in DHHS Region VII. Sarah has been the chair of the Healthcare work group for the last two years.

  • Julie Benard, Co-Chair

    Dr. Benard is originally from Ste. Genevieve (in Southeast Missouri) and moved to Columbia in 2004 to attend MU for college. She continued to complete her medical education at MU and then went on to complete her residency in Child Health at MU Women’s and Children’s Hospital. She was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to join the MU Child Health faculty in 2015 after completing her residency training. She has always had an interest in childhood nutrition and obesity prevention/management which grew into a passion during residency and her early career on faculty. In 2018, she obtained board certification for obesity management to better assist her patients and the children of Mid-Missouri with weight concerns and overall health. She is very excited to serve the state of Missouri in the capacity of HCAG co-chair.

Physical Activity Work Group

  • Ron Bentch, Co-Chair

    Ron is the Project Coordinator for Missourians for Responsible Transportation, an organization dedicated to aligning local and regional efforts for streets, roads and trails that work for ALL Missourians. Prior to working for MRT, Ron was a building contractor and lived with his family in South Africa as a community development worker. He is passionate about infrastructure that allows a healthy lifestyle by default.

  • Laura McCulloch, Co-Chair

    Laura is a Health Educator at the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services. She coordinates programs under the DHSS Maternal Child Services Grant for Boone County. Laura received her MPH and Bachelor’s in Information Technology from the University of Missouri. Because childhood obesity was identified as a priority for Boone County, collaboration with other organizations working to increase child physical activity and the implementation of programs to increase physical activity are important for this effort. Boone County is implementing Fit-Tastic and a yoga and mindfulness-based program toward these efforts.

Policy Work Group

  • Kaitlin Brakke, Co-Chair

    Kaitlin is a Program and Policy Specialist with the Jackson County Health Department. Her role involves the development and implementation of activities that promote health and prevent disease across Eastern Jackson County (EJC). Current projects include an assessment of existing local policy and environmental efforts related to public health as well as an examination of suburban poverty and the social safety net within EJC. Kaitlin also co-facilitates the Overweight and Obesity Work Group for the Building a Healthier Jackson County Initiative. She holds a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Communities from Northern Arizona University and a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from the University of Minnesota Duluth.

  • Michelle Shikles, Co-Chair

    Michelle is the Public Health Promotion Supervisor at Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services. Her work focuses on improving the health of Boone County residents through program, policies, and environmental changes. She has worked in a variety of fields including Adolescent Health, HIV/STI Prevention, Tobacco, Obesity Prevention and Health Literacy. She holds a Master’s in Public Health with an emphasis in Health Promotion and Policy from the University of Missouri and a Bachelor’s in Health Sciences from Truman State University.

Schools Work Group

  • Laura Beckmann, Co-Chair

    Following more than 28 years of educational service in public schools as a teacher and curriculum coordinator, Laura now serves as the Director of Health, Physical Education and School Wellness for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

    Throughout her career, Laura has been awarded numerous local, state, and federal grants for improved wellness within the schools and communities she served. Due to documented success, Mrs. Beckmann has led multiple projects that have served as models within the areas of Health, Physical Education and School Wellness, conducted various workshops and presentations, contributed to many publications, and provided consultant services in the development of curriculum, grant and data programming and reporting at the state and national level.

    Mrs. Beckmann completed her undergraduate education at Missouri State University in Springfield, MO, her MEd in Curriculum and Instruction at University of Saint Mary in Kansas, and her MEd in School Administration from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.

  • Denise Strehlow

    Denise Strehlow, Co-Chair

    As a Curriculum Development Manager, Denise brings her public health expertise to BJC Healthcare School Outreach & Youth Development, ensuring curricula meet the national health education standards. She strives to build relationships with others in order to bring effective health information to students and school personnel. Denise is actively involved with school leaders and public health advocates in St. Louis to develop collaborations on health issues in order to build a healthier community. Denise sees the best part of her job as seeing local health educators work as a team to improve curricula, in order to meet the needs of youth. She enjoys Jazzercise and maintaining her home garden. Denise has been a co-chair of the Schools Workgroup for the last two years.

Child Care Work Group

  • Barbara Keen, Chair

    Barbara received a bachelor’s degree in Food Systems Management Dietetics from the University of Missouri. She served as a hospital dietary director and as a supervisor in campus dining services before finding her career path with child nutrition programs. Since 1980, she has worked with the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and currently manages a USDA Team Nutrition grant. She enjoys bicycling, gardening and dancing in her spare time.

  • Emily Meissen-Sebelius, Co-Chair

    Emily is project coordinator for Weighing In, a program at Children’s Mercy Hospital that works to prevent childhood obesity through community collaboration. Before joining Children’s Mercy, Emily was an analyst at the Kansas Health Institute, where she conducted research and worked with state agencies and elected officials on Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, early childhood mental health, home visiting, health care access and public health issues. Emily has a range of experiences, from grassroots nonprofit to federal government, but has always had a passion for and focus on children’s health, working with state policy-makers and community organizations on evaluation, health improvement planning and implementation of cross-sector initiatives. Emily has lived in the Kansas City area for 12 years with her husband Drew and two children, Ella (6) and William (3).

Worksites Work Group

  • Kris Drake

    Kris Drake, Co-Chair

    Kris is the Wellness Coordinator at Freeman Health System in Joplin, MO. As coordinator of Freeman’s employee wellness program - WellBalance, Kris works daily to improve the work-life balance of more than 4,500 health system employees. Since October 2002, she has developed an array of programs to empower Freeman employees to reach their personal wellness goals. The WellBalance program mission is to inspire total well-being by providing opportunities and encouraging employees to improve and maintain their quality of life.

  • Sarah Swearingen, Co-Chair

    Sarah is the Wellness Liaison between Freeman Health System and Neosho School District. She works with her staff daily to implement wellness into their everyday life. She obtained a Bachelors in Science from the University of Central Missouri. She choose the degree based on her passion which is stopping the obesity epidemic. She enjoys her early morning workouts before the sun comes up. In her free time she enjoys spending time outside especially camping and outside workouts.

At-Large Members

  • Mary Ellison

    Mary Ellison

    Mary has 20 years of public health experience with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. Currently, Ellison serves as the WIC coordinator and has been a member of MOCAN since the beginning. She has enjoyed being a part of the journey and has had the honor of serving as 2016 MOCAN Chair and currently partners with the food systems workgroup.

  • Deborah Markenson

    Deborah Markenson

    Deb started her career with the University of Missouri-Columbia Medical Center as a Clinical Dietitian and Assistant instructor and more recently has worked as the Consultant and Special Project Coordinator at Children's Mercy, working with statewide partners to implement recommendations made in 2014 to the Missouri Children’s Services Commission to prevent and treat childhood obesity. Her responsibilities include managing a grant received by Children’s Mercy to conduct a Kansas City regional pilot training for select health care provider groups (behavioral health, medical, and dietitian) to improve access and quality of care for children experiencing obesity. She also supports a statewide health care advisory board to guide regional pilot and statewide replication while coordinating with MOCAN to establish the Childhood Obesity Advisory Committee to provide oversight and facilitate collaboration between the health care, early childhood, school, and academic sectors to enhance alignment of efforts to prevent and treat childhood obesity.

    From 2010-2015, Markenson facilitated collaborative community based efforts to prevent and treat childhood obesity in the Greater Kansas City Bi-State Area as the Weighing In Director. For much of her career, Markenson served DHSS and held progressively responsible positions primarily in food and nutrition and chronic disease control and prevention units. Facilitated planning with diverse array of stakeholders, secured funding and managed budgets, and managed personnel to implement and evaluate efforts. More personally, Deb Markenson lives in Kansas City with her husband, Gary, and faithful pooch, Gus. She spends as much time as possible with her two daughters (in DC), two stepsons, 1.5 grandchildren, and 6 step grandchildren. She is currently on a journey exploring the arts, gardening, travels and duplicate bridge, working toward vegetarianism, and enjoying this chapter of life.

  • Bill McKelvey

    Bill currently serves as the Project Coordinator for the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security at the University of Missouri. McKelvey’s interests and experience center on building and strengthening community food systems. He has been involved in community gardening, youth gardening, farm to school, and related projects for a number of years. Currently, McKelvey works with food pantries to incorporate programs and practices that enhance their current operations and improve food pantry clients’ health. He is also developing a curriculum to help communities convene food system stakeholders and create plans to enhance their local food system.

  • Donna Mehrle

    Donna Mehrle

    Donna has a wealth of experiences in public health nutrition through her work at the Department of Health and Senior Services and the University of Missouri Extension. During her time at the Department, Donna worked in aging, WIC, planning and surveillance and obesity reduction and prevention. Currently, at Extension, she assists in day-to-day implementation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Nutrition Education and leads several special projects. She recently served as the coordinator of MOCAN and has been involved since the council's first developments. In addition, Donna also worked part-time as a registered, licensed dietitian at the Jefferson City Medical Group, counseling patients at the Weight Treatment Center. She continues to be active in her state dietetic association, the national Association of State and Territorial Public Health Nutritionists (ASTPHN) and the national Association of SNAP-Ed Nutrition Networks and Other Implementing Agencies (ASNNA). She has presented at local, state and national conferences about policy and environmental changes to make the healthy choice the easy choice in Missouri, the socio-ecological approach to behavior change and the impact of obesity in various settings and populations.

  • Pat Simmons

    Pat Simmons

    Patricia has worked as a registered dietitian for over 20 years. She currently serves as the Chief of the Bureau of Community Health and Wellness with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Through her work at the Department, Ms. Simmons has been active in statewide obesity prevention efforts, including the Missouri Council for Activity and Nutrition (MoCAN). She has been a member-at-large on the MOCAN Steering Committee for several years. In past roles with the department, she has spearheaded the planning, development and implementation of local and statewide nutrition and physical activity strategies and provided technical assistance to stakeholders on program implementation. Ms. Simmons also represents DHSS on several statewide advisory councils, including the Missouri Injury and Violence Prevention Advisory Committee, the Council for Adolescent and School Health, and the Missouri Convergence Partnership. She also provides fiscal and programmatic oversight for activities of Missouri’s Adolescent Health, Injury and Violence Prevention, School Health, Comprehensive Tobacco Control and Physical Activity and Nutrition programs. She is also active in professional organizations and has served in several leadership roles in multiple organizations, most recently the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists.

  • Dave Zellmer

    Dave Zellmer

    Dave has proudly lived his whole life as a Missourian. He grew up in Kansas City, MO and attended college at Truman State University in Kirksville where he earned a B.A. in Business Management. In 2000, after college, Zellmer moved to Columbia and shortly afterward, he began working in grant research at the School of Nursing at the University of Missouri. He began working with the Center for Health Policy (CHP) in 2008. Zellmer's present duties at CHP divide his time between working on issues regarding obesity reduction efforts, health equity, and health literacy. Dave has also been instrumental in coordinating the 2018 MO Health Policy Summit being held in October.

    More specifically, Dave lends health literacy guidance to multiple teams as a part of the Show-Me ECHO project as well as review health documents and revise them into plain language (6thgrade reading level or below). In addition, Dave helps develop, which serves as a virtual community of health collaborators, researchers, and community groups throughout Missouri and the country. Finally, Dave has been the Chairperson for the MOCAN Health Policy Workgroup for more than 5 years.

MU Extension Coordinating Staff

  • Leah Gagnon

    Leah serves as the Coordinator of MOCAN and works out of MU Extension in Columbia, MO. She completed her MPH in Community Health Education at Baylor in May 2018 and received her BS in Health Promotion and Wellness from Missouri Southern State University in 2016. Though she is a Kansas-native, Leah grew a deep love for the state during her time in Joplin and considers Missouri home. Her graduate research included holistic health approaches to better understand how the dimensions of health interact, specifically across physical, mental, social, and structural levels. She is proud to apply and grow her skills in community health engagement, collaboration, and research alongside MOCAN to advance the health of Missouri children and families.

  • Dana Meyer

    Dana works with MOCAN administered by the University of Missouri Extension. Dana supports MOCAN as well as promotes the WorkWell Missouri Toolkit Program and the Missouri Work Place Award with Kelsey Weitzel. Dana graduated from St. Louis University with an Ed.D. in Educational Administration.