SUWANEE, GA — Today, Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA-07) assembled a community-based COVID-19 Advisory Task Force as one of her first acts in Congress to tackle the pressing pandemic issues Georgians are facing, from vaccine distribution to safely reopening schools.
The task force is made up of a group of 18 experts from diverse backgrounds who will advise Rep. Bourdeaux’s COVID-19 legislative priorities. Among others, the task force includes Georgia business leaders, health care and public health professionals, elected officials, and school board representatives.
“As one of my first actions in Congress, I am assembling a COVID-19 task force of Georgians from a wide range of backgrounds so we can hit the ground running to get our arms around this deadly pandemic,” said Rep. Bourdeaux. “As a country, we’re nearing the horrific milestone of 375,000 lives taken by this disease. Georgia’s hospitals are at capacity, forcing patients to wait for care sitting in hallways while our exhausted health care workers scramble to treat them. It is my top priority to get COVID-19 under control, and I’m glad to have this task force working alongside me to address the urgent needs here in our district.”
The task force held their first meeting this week. You can find more information about the task force members below:
Nick Masino is the President & CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber and Partnership Gwinnett, located in Duluth, Georgia. Masino joined the Gwinnett Chamber and Partnership Gwinnett in 2007 and most recently served as Partnership Gwinnett’s Chief Economic Development Officer where he oversaw the business recruitment and retention efforts for Gwinnett, as well as the implementation of the Partnership Gwinnett Strategy. Prior to his economic development leadership role in 2007, he ended his eighth year as one of Georgia’s youngest Mayors for the City of Suwanee. Prior to this post, Masino spent twelve years in Division, Regional and Territory Management within the recruiting and staffing industry attaining the position of Professional Services Division Manager for Ablest Staffing Services, a national staffing agency. Masino is a graduate of The Ohio State University.
Brian Westlake is the President of the Gwinnett County Association of Educators (GCAE). For nearly two decades, Westlake has proudly taught social studies at Berkmar High School. He has been an active member of the National Education Association (NEA) during his entire teaching career—serving on both state and local boards and as an eight-time delegate to the NEA Representative Assembly. One of his proudest career moments was when his vision to reimagine public schools resonated with over 60,000 Georgians who trusted him with their vote for State School Superintendent in 2010. In addition to his teaching credentials, Westlake holds a J.D. from the GSU College of Law and an M.P.A. from the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.
Dr. Michelle Au is a recently-elected Georgia State Senator (SD-48) and an anesthesiologist at Emory-St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta, GA. Born and raised in New York City, she graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College in 1999 with a degree in Psychobiology, and received her medical degree in 2003 from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. She completed two years of residency training in Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of New York (CHONY) prior to a residency in Anesthesiology at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia University, from which she graduated in 2008. A decade later Dr. Au returned to Columbia to study at the Mailman School of Public Health, focusing on healthcare management and policy, and graduated with a Masters of Public Health in 2019. Dr. Au is involved in physician advocacy with the Medical Association of Georgia and is an alumna of the Georgia Physician Leadership Academy. Dr. Au lives in Johns Creek, GA.
Dr. Audrey Arona is the CEO/District Health Director for three of Georgia’s counties: Gwinnett, Newton, and Rockdale. She received her undergraduate degree at University of California San Diego in Biochemistry/Cell Biology, graduated medical school at University of Cincinnati, and completed an OB/Gyn residency at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Prior to becoming Health Director, Dr. Arona served as Medical Director for the District and owned her own OB/Gyn practice in Lawrenceville for 20 years.
Dr. Melanie Thompson specializes in HIV care, clinical research, and public policy. She is currently interested in the bidirectional effects of the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and HIV. As Principal Investigator at the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta (ARCA) since 1988, Dr. Thompson has led over 400 studies in the areas of HIV treatment and prevention, complications, diagnostics, testing, epidemiology, and, recently, hepatitis C treatment. She is co-chair of the HIV Primary Care Guidance panel of the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA). She serves on the Department of Health and Human Services Antiretroviral Guidelines Panel as well as the International Antiviral Society-USA’s Antiretroviral Therapy Guidelines Panel which she chaired from 2009-2013. Dr. Thompson served as Special Advisor to the Commissioner of the State of Georgia Department of Public Health for HIV, STDs, Viral Hepatitis, and TB in 2012-2013. She currently serves on the DPH Medical and Legal Committee and its HIV Medical Advisory Committee. She is past chair of the Board of Directors of HIVMA, a national organization representing over 5000 HIV care providers. Dr. Thompson earned her MD degree from Emory University School of Medicine and her diploma in Internal Medicine from Emory in 1987.
Dr. Deep J. Shah, M.D., M.Sc. is a board-certified primary care physician and Vice President at Gwinnett Clinic. He is a practicing internist with recognized expertise in health policy, clinical operations, population health, and health care finance. Gwinnett Clinic has been a community leader in the COVID-19 response and an early adopter of testing, treatment, and vaccination across its 18-clinic network. A native of metro Atlanta, Dr. Shah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Georgia. He was awarded Truman and Rhodes Scholarships to study public policy at Oxford University. Dr. Shah then attended Harvard Medical School and trained in internal medicine / primary care at Emory. He continues to teach third-year medical students in his practice as adjunct clinical faculty at Emory. Dr. Shah has held a variety of local, state, and national leadership roles in health care.
R. Trent Lind, a FACHE, has more than 20 years of extensive healthcare experience, serving in a variety of healthcare leadership roles within a number of markets throughout the United States. Lind currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Eastside Medical Center in Snellville, Georgia and has served in executive leadership roles within Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) for more than 18 years. Lind came to Eastside Medical Center by way of Texas Orthopedic Hospital in Houston, Texas, where he served as Chief Executive Officer for four years. Lind has led the development and implementation of the Eastside Urgent Care network, which is now the largest urgent care network in Gwinnett County consisting of six urgent care centers. Lind serves on various nonprofit and civic boards, including the Georgia Association of Healthcare Executives Board (GAHE) as the GAHE President, the Evermore CID Board of Directors, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the J.M. Tull-Gwinnett Family YMCA Board, the Gwinnett Community Foundation Board in association with the Mitsubishi Electric Classic, and the HCA Hope Fund Board of Directors. Lind leads Eastside Medical Center’s active involvement with local charities and non-profit organizations such as Gwinnett County Relay for Life supporting the American Cancer Society, The Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services, Gwinnett County March of Dimes, Run the Reagan, and The Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia. Prior to joining Eastside Medical Center, Lind served as the CEO of Texas Orthopedic Hospital for four years, and served as Chief Operating Officer at two HCA hospitals, Swedish Medical Center in the Denver, Colorado market, and Brandon Regional Hospital in the Tampa, Florida market. Lind began his health care management career with Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Florida and joined HCA in 2002 as an Associate Administrator at Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Southwest Florida. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Wake Forest University and a Master of Healthcare Administration and Master of Business Administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Dr. Harry J. Heiman is Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Behavioral Sciences at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University (GSU), where he also directs the Doctor of Public Health applied public health doctorate program. Prior to joining GSU, he served as Director of the Division of Health Policy at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine, where he was also Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians, with more than 20 years of clinical practice experience. Dr. Heiman received his medical degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and his master’s in public health from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. From September 2012 to August 2013, he was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation health policy fellow in Washington, D.C. and served on committee staff for the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives under Ranking Member Henry Waxman. He previously served on the Southeastern Health Equity Council, one of ten regional health equity councils in the U.S. formed as part of the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities. He is also a board member and former board chair of Georgians for a Healthy Future, a statewide consumer health advocacy organization.
James McCoy is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Forsyth County Chamber. Over the last 15 years he has led several successful campaigns to gain voter approval for over $2 billion dollars for education, transportation and public safety infrastructure improvements. During his tenure at the Chamber, the organization has worked with over 300 economic development clients that have announced the creation of over 20,000 new jobs and over $2 billion dollars of new capital investment in Forsyth County. Prior to joining the Forsyth County Chamber team, McCoy served as the Vice President of Public Policy and Communications for the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce in North Carolina. McCoy received his BA from Wake Forest University and his MBA from the Mike Cottrell College of Business at the University of North Georgia.
Nicole Love Hendrickson is the newly-elected chairwoman of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, making her the first African American to hold this position. Prior to her election, she was the founding director of the Gwinnett County Community Outreach program engaging diverse constituents in county government. After joining the County in 2015, she launched several community-based initiatives, including the Gwinnett 101 Citizens Academy and the Gwinnett Youth Commission. Before her tenure with the County, Hendrickson served as the associate director of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services for eight years.
She has served on the boards of the United Way Gwinnett Community Board, the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Aurora Theatre. She also served on the Children’s Healthcare Community Board from 2013 to 2020 and chaired the board of the Gwinnett Young Professionals from 2017 to 2019. Hendrickson is a member of the Rotary Club of Gwinnett County, having held the positions of treasurer and public image chair. Hendrickson holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Rhode Island and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Georgia.
Lejla Prljaca serves jointly as the Executive Director of the Lawrenceville Housing Authority and CEO of the Gwinnett Housing Corporation. Since 2007, her organizational resources have been leveraged to produce over $80M in local economic development activity. Her local community development leadership has collectivized resources to mitigate crisis situations such as COVID-19; and her outcomes have drawn wide-spread attention from organizations such as the National Low-Income Housing Coalition due to her ability to create new data-sets on precariously housed residents previously absent from socio-economic studies. Prljaca’s organizational engagements include: the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing, the Lawrenceville Response Center; the Georgia Association of Housing Redevelopment Authorities, the GA Department of Community Affairs Homeless Continuum of Care, and the Gwinnett County Housing Authority and Regional Housing Task Force. She regularly provides presentations on best practices and standards guiding affordable housing and community development. Prljaca holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Georgia and a bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University.
Everton Blair represents District IV on the Gwinnett County Board of Education. Elected in November of 2018, Everton is the first person of color, the youngest-ever and the first openly gay member of the Board — serving 180,000 students and 1 million constituents in the largest and most diverse school system in the state of Georgia. In his current, full-time role as National Governance Director at New American Leaders, Everton supports first- and second-generation Americans in state and local elected offices. A former AP Calculus teacher in Atlanta Public Schools and a graduate of Gwinnett County Schools, Everton comes to the Board with district, state and federal education policy experience – including serving as a Fellow in President Obama’s White House Initiative on Educational Excellence. Everton received his Bachelors in Applied Mathematics from Harvard College and his Masters in Policy, Organizations and Leadership from Stanford University.
Representative Sam Park (HD-101) is the first Asian American Democrat and the first openly gay man elected to the Georgia State Legislature. Currently, Rep. Park serves in leadership as a Deputy Whip in the Georgia House Democratic Caucus and as Chair of the Gwinnett State House Delegation. In his personal capacity, Rep. Park works as General Counsel for Positive Impact Health Centers, a nonprofit working to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Georgia. Rep. Park is a native Georgian, born and raised by a single mother, and the grandson of refugees from the Korean War and son of Korean immigrants. He became the first lawyer in his family after graduating from Georgia State University College of Law, and obtained his master’s degree in Law, Politics, and Legislation from American University Washington College of Law. After Rep. Park’s mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he ran for office in 2016 to ensure every Georgian has access to healthcare. As a first-time candidate, he challenged and unseated a three-term Republican chairwoman winning by 460 votes and overwhelmingly won re-election in 2018.
Dr. Wandy Taylor has 23 years of experience as an administrator in public education. She has worked in SC and GA as a counselor, assistant principal, director of early childhood development, and elementary school principal. In addition, she worked 15 years in the corporate sector as a director of human resource services. Dr. Taylor holds an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership & Management from Capella University; an Ed.S. from the University of West Georgia; an M.Ed. from South Carolina State University; and a B.A. from the University of South Carolina. Currently, Dr. Taylor serves on three boards in Gwinnett County: Vice Chair of the Board of Registrations and Elections; Vice Chair of the Public Library Board; and member of the National Advisory Board for Preface, a nonprofit early literacy organization. Dr. Taylor also works as a performance consultant with the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement, and she is the CEO of Taylor & Taylor Education Consultants, LLC. Dr. Taylor is the co-author of a book that is scheduled to be released this spring titled The Imperfect Storm: Racism and a Pandemic Collide in America. How it Impacted Public Education and How to Fix It.
Steve Flynt is the Associate Superintendent leading the Division of School Improvement and Operations for Gwinnett County Public Schools. He has worked at the district level since July 2008 as the Chief Academic Officer as an Area Superintendent in the Division of Teaching and Learning and as the Associate Superintendent of School Leadership and Operational Support. Immediately prior to coming to the central office, Flynt served as the principal of Gwinnett’s Peachtree Ridge High School, in Suwanee GA. Initially certified as a science teacher, Flynt spent nine years in the classroom teaching in both Gwinnett and neighboring DeKalb county schools. Flynt’s experience in Gwinnett County since 1994 also includes service as a Biology, Chemistry and Physics teacher, high school science department chair, and assistant principal, prior to being named principal in January 2006. During Flynt’s tenure at the district level, he has led the effort to open thirty-five new schools and numerous programs across the district. Flynt also serves on a number of educational boards and committees including the IMS Global Learning Consortium Board of Directors, Georgia District and School Flexibility Research Alliance and the Gwinnett Student Leadership Team (GSLT) Board. He studied at Young Harris College (AA Education), Lees-McRae College (BA Biology), Piedmont College (MA Science Education), and the University of Georgia, where he completed his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership.
Dr. Jasmine Clark has served as the Representative to House District 108, covering the Lilburn and Mountain Park areas of Gwinnett County, since 2018. She is also the Vice Chair of the State House Delegation and the Secretary of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus. Dr. Clark also currently serves as a Lecturer of Microbiology and Human Anatomy and Physiology at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Biological Sciences, with a concentration in Microbiology, from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and holds a doctoral degree from Emory University’s Laney Graduate School in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in 2013 after publishing work on retroviral particle tracking using live cell imaging microscopy. In 2014, she completed a Postdoctoral project at Emory University, studying high-throughput sequencing of HIV patient samples. Dr. Clark also served as the Director of the March for Science held in Atlanta in April 2017. She was born in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dr. Rebecca Mitchell, DVM, PhD is a Georgia State Representative (HD-106) representing Snellville and parts of Loganville, Lawrenceville and Grayson. She holds an undergraduate degree in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology magna cum laude from Harvard University (2003). She graduated from Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine in as a DVM (2010). Her Epidemiology PhD from Cornell University (2011) was focused on transmission dynamics of infectious disease. Through grants and fellowships, Rebecca has worked in the USA as well as internationally on infection dynamics for a wide variety of pathogens. Her training involved work on transmission of multiple strains of a pathogen in a closed population, impact of different vaccine strategies on herd immunity, as well as laboratory work identifying antiretroviral resistance in acute and early HIV infections. Most recently she held a Visiting Assistant Professor appointment at Emory University in the Atlanta area, where she was cross appointed between Computer Science and the School of Nursing. At Emory she focused on complex data analytics- looking at assessing cell phone metadata and influenza transmission, and microbiome and metabolomic analysis as related to health conditions during pregnancy. She hopes to bring her unique skillset to the taskforce to understand the implications of policy choices on transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 within her community.
Marlene M. Fosque serves on the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners District 4 seat, which covers Lawrenceville, Buford, and Rest Haven, as well as parts of Braselton and Sugar Hill. She was elected by the board to serve as vice chair for 2020. Fosque participates in the Gwinnett health care round table, and also serves as vice chair on the National Association of Counties’ Transit/Rail subcommittee of the Transportation steering committee, the Large Urban Counties Caucus steering committee, and the International Economic Development Task Force. She also sits on the board of directors as 2020 vice chair for the Gwinnett Convention and Visitor Bureau Inc. Board of Directors overseeing the Infinite Energy Center and Explore Gwinnett, the county tourism board. Fosque is chief executive officer of Coalesce Consulting, an administrative and consulting company specializing in office, events, meeting, and political strategic planning. She retired from Aetna Inc. in 2017 after 20 years in the health insurance industry. Fosque holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Shorter University and a Master of Public Administration with Pi Alpha Alpha from Regent University. Fosque moved to Georgia from North Carolina in 2002 and settled in Lawrenceville in 2003.