Board of Directors
Our Board plays an instrumental role in the work that we do. Members collectively assist in setting the Foundation’s agenda and priorities and serve as stewards of our financial assets. We strive to have our Board represent the gender, racial, cultural, geographic, and ethnic diversity of our region.
Alan Barnette, MD
As a neonatologist at Saint Francis Healthcare System in Cape Girardeau, Dr. Alan Barnette cares for critically ill infants in the Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Barnette earned an engineering degree from Washington University, a medical degree from the University of Mississippi, and a pediatric residency and a neonatology fellowship at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. He has worked with Missouri Foundation for Health to reduce infant mortality through Bootheel Babies and Families since 2013. Continuing to partner with caregivers throughout southeast Missouri, Barnette is cultivating projects to optimize infant vitality and save infant lives. Current projects focus on safe-sleep education, Baby Boxinette distribution, and systematic improvements in vaccine administration.
Alex Garza, MD
Alexander Garza is Chief Community Health Officer of SSM Health, a Catholic not-for-profit health system serving communities across the Midwest through a robust and fully integrated health care delivery system. He is responsible for deepening the organization’s focus on social determinants of health, equity, social justice, and population health.
Alex has decades of experience in public health, quality and safety, and policy development. He led SSM Health’s overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic and served as Incident Commander for the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.
He became Chief Community Health Officer in August 2020, after serving as Chief Medical Officer and in several other leadership roles with SSM Health. He previously served as Assistant Secretary and Chief Medical Officer to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Alex received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, a medical degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a master’s degree in public health from Saint Louis University. He has been recognized by Modern Healthcare magazine as one of the “50 Most Influential Clinical Executives” in the United States.
Ashanti Tate, MA, MSW
Ashanti Tate began her career fighting substance use disorder beginning at age 19. She completed her undergraduate degree at Wichita State University, where she majored in social work. She also earned a Master of Social Work and Master of Instructional Leadership in Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She currently serves as the Regional Director at Heartland Center for Behavioral Change, a nonprofit organization that helps people begin a new life – free of alcohol and drugs.
Tate believes we were created for two sole purposes: to love God and love His people. She exercises her beliefs by mentoring at-risk youth through Big Brothers Big Sisters organization and also through various community involvements with her sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho, Inc. Tate also serves on the board for the Missouri Credentialing Board.
In 2020, she was selected as one of the top 40 professionals under the age 40 by Springfield’s Business Journal. In 2021 she was voted the best-dressed female by 417 Magazine.
Brian D. Kinkade, MA
Brian Kinkade is the vice president of children’s health and Medicaid advocacy with the Missouri Hospital Association (MHA). He advocates for Missouri hospitals on matters of Medicaid law, regulation, and policy at the state and federal level and serves as MHA’s primary liaison to the state’s freestanding children’s hospitals on these matters.
Brian joined the MHA after retiring from a 30-year career with Missouri state government as director of the Department of Social Services (DSS), a position he held for five years during the administration of Governor Jeremiah (Jay) Nixon. Brian has also served as the department’s deputy director, director of budget and finance, and director of child support enforcement. In addition, Brian has previously served as executive director for the Missouri Public Service Commission.
Craig Stevenson is the Member, Family, and Stakeholder Engagement Manager for Home State Health. He serves as a key point of contact for foster, adoptive, and kinship families and outside stakeholders to Missouri’s specialty health insurance plan for this population, Show Me Healthy Kids. Craig has served in policy and advocacy roles within the University of Missouri System and Kids Win Missouri for a decade.
Additionally, Craig is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church. Working to improve our collective community, Craig is in his second term on the Hallsville R-IV Public School District’s Board of Education. He was appointed in 2018 by Governor Parson to serve on the state’s Foster Care and Adoption Board and served as board chair of the Boone Electric Cooperative Community Trust’s Board of Directors (2021-2022).
Donna Checkett, MPA, MSW
Donna Checkett is a nationally known expert in Medicaid programs, insurance coverage, policies, and reimbursement with more than 30 years of experience in this complex field. Over the course of her career she has held a variety of senior positions, including serving for eight years as the Missouri Medicaid director. In addition, Ms. Checkett started and, for seven years, directed Missouri Care, a Medicaid health plan. She has also held several executive positions with Aetna, one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies, where her work focused on Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. Currently she is a vice president at Health Management Associates, a national consulting company focused on publicly funded health care.
Dwayne Proctor, PhD
During his 20-plus years in philanthropy, Dr. Dwayne Proctor has always worked to ensure that American communities were healthy and thriving. He joined MFH as President and CEO in 2021. The Foundation works to improve health through collaboration, convening, knowledge sharing and strategic investment, never losing sight of the equity lens that shapes all its work.
Under his leadership, MFH strives to become an antiracist institution that fairly targets its resources to achieve health equity in Missouri by 2023. The Foundation recently launched a 20-year Food Justice strategic initiative to build collaborative efforts and galvanize shifts in current policies and practices that shape the way Missourians eat. MFH works to address a diverse mix of pressing issues across the state, including Medicaid expansion, childhood obesity, firearm violence and suicide prevention, crisis response, and behavioral health. The Foundation works on several strategic initiatives focused on women’s health, such as access to contraception, and infant health and vitality.
Before his time at MFH, he served in a variety of roles at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In 2005, Dr. Proctor was tapped to lead RWJF’s national strategies to reverse the rise in childhood obesity rates. In this role, he collaborated with his colleagues to promote effective changes to public policies and industry practices, test and demonstrate innovative community and school-based environmental changes and leverage sustainable changes using both “grassroots” and “treetops” advocacy approaches to educate local and national leaders on their roles and opportunities to prevent childhood obesity.
Dr. Proctor serves on the National Academy of Medicine’s Leadership Consortium, focused on advancing and supporting the learning health care system and through evidence mobilization, digital health, value incentives and systems, and culture inclusion and equity.
Dr. Proctor was an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine where he taught courses on health communication and marketing practices to reach multicultural populations. During his Fulbright Fellowship in Senegal, West Africa, his research team investigated how HIV prevention messages raised awareness of AIDS as a national health problem. Dr. Proctor received his doctoral, master’s, and bachelor’s degrees in marketing and communication science from the University of Connecticut. He is the former chairperson of the board of directors for the Association of Black Foundation Executives and currently is the chairperson of the board of trustees for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Foundation, as serves as an advisor to both the University of Health Sciences & Pharmacy and the Wisconsin Medical School.
Estrella Carmona, MA
Estrella Carmona is the County Engagement Specialist in Nutrition and Health Education at University of Missouri Extension in Ste. Genevieve. In this role, she serves as a primary representative of the University of Missouri and as the administrative leader of the Ste. Genevieve County Extension Office. She promotes the wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities with special attention for the needs of vulnerable populations.
Underlying the work that Estrella does is a drive to create change for underrepresented individuals. This is why she pursued a master’s in human development with an emphasis on family and community services. Not only does her education support her passion in helping others, but her life experience as an immigrant raised in a rural setting shaped how she views the barriers that often exist in marginalized groups. She uses her lived experiences and her understanding of how people best learn, combined with evidence-based programming, to empower individuals to make changes in their health and communities.
Francine Micheline Pratt serves as the director of Prosper Springfield (Springfield, MO). The organization uses a community collective impact model to reduce the poverty rate and increase participation in postsecondary education by local youth.
She is president of Pratt Consultants, LLC, with a focus on community engagement, business infrastructure development, conflict resolution, strategic planning, and diversity training.
Francine is also a creative partner for the Queen City Soul Kitchen restaurant.
Kyler James Sherman-Wilkins, PHD
Dr. Kyler James Sherman-Wilkins is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Faculty Affiliate in the Gerontology program at Missouri State University. A social demographer and life course sociologist by training, Sherman-Wilkins’ research centers around the social and structural determinants of health and health inequities, particularly as they pertain to cognitive health across the life course. He is a dedicated educator who focuses on empowering students to address challenges in their communities through activism and policy.
Sherman-Wilkins earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, and both a master’s and a PhD from The Pennsylvania State University. He sits on the board of trustees for PRB, a population research organization in Washington D.C., as well as on the board of directors for PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBTQ+ advocacy organization.
Nalini S. Mahadevan is the Principal Attorney with MLO Law LLC and has been in practice since 2003, specializing in immigration, estate planning, and special needs. Nalini was a corporate lawyer in India before relocating to the United States. She earned a master’s degree in law from the University of Mumbai, India, an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis, and a JD from Saint Louis University School of Law.
She sits on the President’s Advisory Council at the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy. Nalini is currently serving as an Alderwoman in the City Council of Frontenac and a Division Chair of the Specialty Bar for the Missouri Bar. She is also a board member of FOCUS St. Louis.
Nalini recently co-founded a group to empower immigrant women in St. Louis, called Immigrant Professional Women’s Network in STL. She also mentors with SCORE (a non-profit organization dedicated to helping small business get off the ground).
The St. Louis Business Journal has awarded her the Most Influential Business Women Award (2020) and the Champions for Diversity and Inclusion Award (2022).
Stephen H. Lewis
Stephen H. Lewis is Vice President and National Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industry Leader at Segal, a human resources and benefits consulting firm. He works to expand services to the built environment for Segal’s corporate market. Stephen has more than 30 years of experience as a leader in the commercial and industrial built environment industry.
He has held leadership roles in numerous professional, civic, and charitable organizations. Stephen was recognized in 2020 with a Diverse Business Leaders Award from the St. Louis Business Journal for his construction industry DEI initiatives in Missouri and nationwide. He is the board president of Thomas Dunn Learning Center, a board member of the Regional Union Construction Center, and a member of the city of St. Louis’ Program Review Committee, which certifies minority- and women-owned businesses.
Stephen earned a bachelor’s degree in management from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Todd Ahrens, JD
Todd Ahrens is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Hannibal Regional Healthcare System, which provides hospital, clinic, and specialty healthcare services to communities throughout northeast Missouri. He earned his Bachelor of Science and Juris Doctor degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Todd recently chaired the Missouri Hospital Association Board of Trustees, and currently serves as board chair for the Healthcare Services Group board of directors.
He is a staunch advocate for rural healthcare in Missouri. In his role at Hannibal Regional and through his volunteer activity, Todd has worked to increase access to quality health care for all Missourians. A lifelong resident of Hannibal, he has served on many local boards including the Hannibal Free Clinic, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, the Salvation Army, Beth Haven Nursing Home, the United Way of the Mark Twain Area, and the UsTOO International Prostate Cancer Education and Support Network.
Vetta Sanders Thompson, PHD
Vetta L. Sanders Thompson is the E. Desmond Lee Professor of Racial and Ethnic Studies at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. She is committed to research, interventions, and engagement to support community efforts to achieve equity in health and well-being. She is a noted researcher in the areas of racial identity, experiences of discrimination, psychosocial implications of race and ethnicity in health promotion and the social determinants of health, and mental health services utilization.
Sanders Thompson serves as a co-director of the Institute for Public Health Center for Community Health, Partnership and Research. An associate member of the Siteman Cancer Center, she also works closely with the Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities. At Washington University, Sanders Thompson is a faculty affiliate of the department of African and African-American studies and the interdisciplinary program in urban studies.