Opening Keynote Speaker

Loretta Sweet Jemmott, PhD, MSN, RN, FAAN, Vice President, Health and Health Equity and Professor, College of Nursing and Health Professions, Drexel University  

Loretta Sweet Jemmott, PhD, an expert in health promotion research, is one of the nation's foremost investigators in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention, with perhaps the most consistent track record of evidence-based, HIV risk-reduction interventions. She and her husband, John B. Jemmott, III, PhD, have attracted more than $150 million in NIH funding over the past two decades to design and test interventions to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among diverse populations in the U.S., Botswana, South Africa, Jamaica, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Publishing over 100 peer-reviewed articles, books and chapters, her studies not only reported reducing risk-associated sexual behaviors, but also the incidence of STIs.

Jemmott is an outstanding translational and community-engagement researcher. She partnered with community-based organizations, from churches and clinics to barbershops, housing developments and schools, transforming her research outcomes for use in real-world settings. To date, eight of her evidence-based interventions have been designated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health for national and international dissemination used in 48 states across the nation.

After retiring from a successful 20-year tenure at the University of Pennsylvania, she joined Drexel in 2015 as vice president for Health and Health Equity and professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions. Here she led the We’re Here Because We Care: Building Healthy Communities Together, using a qualitative, community-engaged approach to determine their health concerns and partnered with them to create health promotion initiatives. This led to the creation Drexel’s Community Wellness HUB. Jemmott also works with faculty to build their program of research, coleads the Implementation Science Research Working Group, the Fall Institute on Implementation Science Research and teaches community engagement, intervention development and implementation science courses.



National Institute of Nursing Research Plenary Speaker 

Shannon N. Zenk, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, Director of the National Institute of Nursing Research 

Dr. Zenk was previously a Nursing Collegiate Professor in the Department of Population Health Nursing Science at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) College of Nursing, and a fellow at the UIC Institute for Health Research and Policy.

Dr. Zenk was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in 2013, received the President’s Award from the Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research in 2018, and was inducted into the International Nurse Researchers Hall of Fame in 2019. She has spent time as a visiting scholar in Rwanda and Australia. She earned her bachelor’s in nursing, magna cum laude, from Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington; her master’s degrees in public health nursing and community health sciences from UIC; and her doctorate in health behavior and health education from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her predoctoral training was in psychosocial factors in mental health and illness, funded by the the National Institute of Mental Health. Her dissertation examined racial and socioeconomic inequities in food access in metropolitan Detroit. She completed postdoctoral training in UIC’s Institute for Health Research and Policy’s Cancer Education and Career Development Program, funded by the National Cancer Institute, in 2006.

Dr. Zenk’s own research focuses on social inequities and health with a goal of identifying effective, multilevel approaches to improve health and eliminate racial/ethnic and socioeconomic health disparities. Her research portfolio has included NIH-supported work into urban food environments, community health solutions and veterans’ health. Through pioneering research on the built environment and food deserts, Dr. Zenk and her colleagues increased national attention to the problem of inadequate access to healthful foods in low-income and Black neighborhoods.

They have since examined the role of community environments in health and health disparities. Recognizing that restricting empirical attention to the communities where people live and not the other communities where they spend time may misdirect interventions, Dr. Zenk led early research adopting GPS tracking to study broader “activity space” environments in relation to health behaviors. She and her colleagues have also evaluated whether the effectiveness of behavioral interventions differs depending on environmental context and, most recently, how environmental and personal factors interact to affect health. This work has leveraged a variety of technologies and emerging data resources such as electronic health records. Energy balance-related behaviors and conditions have been a major focus.


Plenary Panel

Lisa M. Lewis, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN, Associate Professor of Nursing, Calvin Bland Fellow, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusivity, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing - (Moderator) 

Dr. Lisa M. Lewis is an Associate Professor with the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Africana Studies. She has taught at Penn since 2005 and has lived in the College House system since 2007. Before joining Gregory College House as its Faculty Master, she served as a Faculty Fellow in Hill College House.  Lisa earned a PhD in Nursing, along with a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2002, an MA in Nursing Education from New York University in 1998, and a BSN from Syracuse University in 1991. She previously held a faculty position at Teachers College, Columbia University and has clinical experience working at Mount Sinai Medical Center (NYC) and as a public health nurse for the New York City Department of Health.
A behavioral scientist, Lisa has an active research program focused on reducing racial disparities in blood pressure control. With a focus on urban and underserved populations who are living with high blood pressure, she investigates barriers and facilitators of their adherence to treatment. She also has expertise in the development and testing of community-based health interventions targeted at improving the behavioral management of high blood pressure using settings such as faith-based organizations to deliver these health interventions.  As an educator, her main focus is to prepare nursing students who provide health care to diverse populations and regularly provides lectures on topics related to health disparities including spirituality, patient adherence to treatment and high blood pressure.  
Lisa was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City to Caribbean parents who emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago. So, from time to time, you may hear the sounds of calypso and reggae music coming from her apartment. She is a dancer at heart and, not having the opportunity to take dance lessons in her childhood, began taking adult ballet lessons a few years ago. While she has always enjoyed cooking, Lisa only recently learned to bake cookies and you will likely find her inviting you over to her apartment to discuss issues related to diversity (among other topics) over these tasty treats.

Gaurdia Banister, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, Executive Director, Institute for Patient Care at Massachusetts General Hospital and Adjunct Professor, MGH Institute of Health Professions 

Gaurdia Banister, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, is the executive director of the Institute for Patient Care at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Banister has academic appointments at the Mass General Institute for Health Professions, the William F. Connell School of Nursing at Boston College, and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Prior to her work at Mass General, Dr. Banister served as senior vice president for Patient Care Services and Chief Nurse at Providence Hospital, a metropolitan community hospital in Washington, DC.

Dr. Banister received the American Nurses Association Mary Eliza Mahoney Award and the Prism Award by the American Organization of the Nurse Executives for her outstanding achievements and leadership in promoting the integration, retention and advancement of minorities in nursing. She is also a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, a former Johnson & Johnson Wharton nurse fellow and an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellows Program.

Dr. Banister earned her BSN from the University of Wyoming, where she received distinguished alumna awards from both the university and the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing. She earned her MSN and PhD from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was also chosen as a distinguished alumna.

Gina S. Brown, PhD, MSA, RN, Dean, College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences, Howard University

Dr. Gina S. Brown currently serves as the Dean for the College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences at Howard University in Washington, DC. 

For over 25 years, Dr. Brown has worked professionally in North America, Asia and Africa. Her expertise as a professional administrator (educator and nurse), in addition to her wide academic experience in many areas (traditional, adult and on-line learning) has allowed for the development of  graduate and undergraduate programs, in addition to sustained and substantial contributions to diversifying the healthcare workforce by structuring opportunities for an estimated 1000 underrepresented students to launch nursing, advanced practice, and other healthcare careers. She has worked on the development of international programs in schools and hospitals in Ghana, the Philippines, and Tanzania with international capacity building. 

She is engaged with active participation with a wide audience of nursing leaders, interdisciplinary health care professionals (Allied Health Sciences, Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy) in an effort to advance the nation's agenda in expanding inclusive health care. She currently serves as a Commissioner for the NLN Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (NLN-CNEA). She is a transformational leader who has spoken on 5 continents, addressing health disparities, social justice and religious liberty issues to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, which are hallmarks of her accomplishments.

Dr. Brown holds four degrees; an undergraduate nursing and an undergraduate biology degree, both from Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) in addition to graduate studies in anatomy. She received her Master of Science degree in Health Services Administration from Central Michigan University in 1989 and her Ph.D. degree in Nursing Administration (with a focus on Policy and Ethics) from George Mason University in 1999. Prior to joining the academic team at Howard, Dr. Brown held the position of Dean, School of Health Professions, Science and Wellness at Washington Adventist University for 12 years. Within this position, she was charged with total oversight for the following departments; nursing (largest department within the University), biology, biochemistry, chemistry, health wellness and physical education, respiratory care and all health-related pre-professional programs. The graduate programs of Nursing Business Leadership, Nursing Education and Healthcare Administration are also under her portfolio.  For almost four years, Dr. Brown held an academic position within the School of Nursing at the prestigious Loma Linda University, in Loma Linda California. She was charged with using her God-given expertise to provide insight into the Doctor of Nursing Program with curriculum development and course instruction for the final project phase of the program in addition to other responsibilities. Dr. Brown concurrently used her skills as the Academic Consultant for Atlantic Union College to assist in garnering the offering of its degree-granting authority, restarting of academic programs and restructuring of the organization. 

Currently Dr. Brown serves as the Dean for the College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences at Howard University. She has been charged with oversight for the entire College under the direction of the current President, Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick. Within this purview are many university-wide responsibilities which include but are not limited to; complete responsibility for the following departments: Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Health Management, Nursing (undergraduate and graduate); Nutritional Sciences, Occupational Therapy, Physician Assistant, Physical Therapy and Radiation Therapy. Dr. Brown holds a number of other responsibilities within the College and University and is excited and loves being a member of the Howard family. 

Antonia M. Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN, Margaret Bond Simon Dean and Senior Fellow, Leonard Davis Institute of Economics, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing 

Dr. Villarruel is the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and Director of the School’s WHO Collaborating Center for Nursing and Midwifery Leadership. As a bilingual and bicultural nurse researcher, Dr. Villarruel has extensive research and practice experience with diverse Latino and Mexican populations, and health promotion and health disparities. She incorporates a community-based participatory approach and has been the PI/Co-PI of over eight randomized clinical trials on reducing high risk behaviors in teens. She developed one such program to reduce sexual risk behavior among Latino youth – entitled Cuídate! which is disseminated nationally.

Additionally, Dr. Villarruel has assumed leadership in many national and local organizations. She is a charter member of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities. She currently chairs the IOM Roundtable on the Promotion of Health Equity and the Elimination of Health Disparities. She is a member of the Strategic Advisory Council of the AARP/RWJ Center for Health Policy Future of Nursing Campaign for Action and co-chairs the Diversity Task Committee. She has received numerous honors and awards including membership in the Institute of Medicine and selection as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing. Villarruel earned her BSN from Nazareth College, an MSN from the University of Pennsylvania and her PhD in nursing from Wayne State University. She is a registered nurse in both Michigan and Pennsylvania.