2021 OPHA Virtual Annual Conference & Meeting
Featured Presentations

October 11 & 12, 2021

This year, our conference will be held virtually, with no travel required to attend.

2021 Keynote Speakers & Presentations

DEI and Public Health: Implications for Leadership

James L. Mason, Ph.D.

This session explores why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is important to the public health workforce, public health leaders and managers.  The focus includes talking points as to why and how such rationale might vary by audience.  The session will also examine challenges to applying equity based on ways data is currently collected and analyzed.  This will lead to ensuring the examination of social determinants and how they can vary within and between diverse groups. 

The presentation explores talking points or rationale, and how such reasoning might resonate with a variety of stakeholders.

“If You Can Read This, I Am Evidence”:
Poetry as Antiracist + Decolonizing Praxis for Health Equity Knowledge + Action

Dr. Ryan J. Petteway, DrPH, MPH

The events of the last couple of years have made it clear that public health is much too enamored with numbers. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing millions of lives reduced to disembodied counts, color-coded maps, and singular effect estimates. And while data in the form of numbers is integral to advancing population health equity, they are not the only expression of knowledge/form of “evidence” through which to see and understand health (in)equity. We need words and voices of urgency, inspiration, and candor to buttress our calls for action. Perhaps now more than ever, it is imperative that we embrace our full humanity and the full range of expressions of knowledge that accompany it—to create new narratives of health equity and what it requires of us.

In this spirit, I articulate a vision of poetry for/as resistance, reimagination, healing, and counternarrative—to challenge public health’s history of violence against our bodies, its reductionist (re)colonization of our lives, and its (a)political silence on matters of social (in)justice. I draw from social epidemiology, critical, critical race, Black feminist, and decolonizing theory literatures to outline poetry as antiracist and decolonizing praxis—an inclusive space for the production of counternarratives within discourse of health (in)equity. Specifically, I draw from/enact public health critical race praxis principles of “disciplinary self-critique”, “centering the margins”, and “voice” to interrogate dominant paradigms of health equity knowledge production and outline a path towards epistemic justice. I then illustrate poetry as praxis through the reading of a poetic work of public health counternarrative. In doing so, I suggest the epistemological, ethical, and material imperative of remixing/reimagining public health knowledge production processes to more fully—and unapologetically—center the voices and knowledge(s) of those most burdened by the embodied health consequences of social inequity, with poetry a necessary format of health equity discourse for research and practice.

Finding our way from here – Trying to look ahead while exhausted and overwhelmed

Charlie Fautin, RN, MPH

Among the great motivations and hardships of public health practice is the constancy of system evaluation, analysis, and improvement. Every event in every program, every funding cycle, every change in management or staffing, and every change in our social environment represent both an opportunity and a test of how we operate and think about public health.
The COVID pandemic has challenged and consumed our staff and our systems to an extent that few of us have ever experienced. It has diverted our staff, resources, and attention from virtually all other ongoing and developing health issues, and there is no going back to the old “normal”.
Despite profound fatigue, losses, and disputes, we cannot lose time in getting back to work on addressing the backlog of deep and worsening health challenges, and in modernizing Oregon’s public health system.

Syndemics: Understanding COVID-19 and its companions

Emily Mendenhall, PhD, MPH

This presentation will discuss what are syndemics and why they matter in public health and medicine. Syndemics describe the "synergies" of "epidemics", and how no epidemic travels alone but rather is transformed by society, climate, co-conditions, and context. The idea involves three claims: (1) political-economic forces with historical depth lead to entrenched social, economic, and power inequities; (2) those inequities shape the distribution of risks and resources for health, leading to the concentration of disease in specific social contexts; and (3) some overlapping diseases make one another worse because of biological interactions between them or because of ways that the burden of disease exacerbates social and economic conditions that shape who gets sick in the first place. Using examples of the COVID-19 syndemic in the United States and elsewhere, as well as a five country study of trauma, poverty, and diabetes, this presentation conveys why syndemic thinking matters not only for understanding what, where, and how epidemics occur but also the social complexities through which diseases move together within populations and contexts. Finally, the presentation concludes with a discussion of why silver bullets are never enough to solve syndemic problems.

Presenter Bios:

James L. Mason, Ph.D.

Dr. Mason is the chief equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) officer for Care Oregon. He is the president of OCCAT, an Oregon based company providing comprehensive DEI and cultural competence consultation and training services. He is the former chief diversity officer for Providence Health & Services in the Oregon region, and directed the Office of Multicultural Health for the State of Oregon.  He was one of the inaugural founders of the National Association of State Offices of Minority Health.  He was also a senior consultant and original member of the National Center on Cultural Competence at Georgetown University.  He has consulted with health systems, professional schools and programs, and related health and human service organizations in the United States, Latin America, and Canada on issues of work force diversity and culturally competent service delivery.

Dr. Ryan J. Petteway, DrPH, MPH

Dr. Ryan J. Petteway is a social epidemiologist and assistant professor in the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health. His applied research integrates social epidemiology, critical theory, decolonizing methods, and CBPR/YPAR to examine notions of place, embodiment, and “placemaking” in community health and development. More broadly, his scholarship engages: 1) notions of epistemic, procedural, and distributive justice within public health knowledge production processes, and 2) applications of critical theory to examine dominant discourse/narrative frames of “health equity”, and pervading ethical frames of public health law/police powers.

Dr. Petteway is also an award-winning poet. His poem, “TOGETHER//Untethered”, was awarded an April 2020 National Poetry Month Prize and nominated for a 2021 Pushcart Prize. His poem, “LATENT//Missing”, was honored with the 2020 Lawrence W. GreenPaper of the Year Award by Health Education & Behavior at the 2021 meeting of SOPHE. Other poems have appeared in both academic and poetry presses, including Health Promotion Practice and Kithe, among others.

Prior to his doctoral training, Dr. Petteway served as social epidemiologist and chief epidemiologist for the Baltimore City Health Department. He is an alum of the University of Virginia (BA), University of Michigan (MPH, and University of California, Berkeley (DrPH).

Charlie Fautin, RN, MPH

From 2001 through 2020 Charlie worked at Benton County Health Department administering public and environmental health programs. He focused on building strong, sustainable prevention-oriented programs with a strong emphasis on policy development, equity, and accountability. He also endeavored to better integrate public and environmental health services with behavioral health and primary care medical care, as well as with several other county government departments.

Charlie has served as a board member and President of OPHA, and as Chair of the Conference of Local Public Health Officials (CLHO). In 2015 he was a member of the Governor’s Task Force on the Future of Oregon Public Health, and has continued the effort to fully fund and implement Oregon’s Public Health Modernization initiative.

Emily Mendenhall, PhD, MPH

Emily Mendenhall, PhD, MPH is a medical anthropologist and Professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She has published widely at the boundaries of anthropology, psychology, medicine, and public health and led a Series of articles on Syndemics in The Lancet. Recent books include, Rethinking Diabetes: Entanglements with Trauma, Poverty, and HIV (2019, Cornell) and Unmasked: How the Coronavirus Response Failed America’s Heartland (in press, Vanderbilt). In 2017, Dr. Mendenhall was awarded the George Foster Award for Practicing Medical Anthropology by the Society for Medical Anthropology. She was recently appointed co-editor-in-chief of Social Science and Medicine—Mental Health.

Plenary Panel 

Improving Health through the Planned Environment: A Call to Action on Health, Climate, and Equity

The planned environment has always shaped human health and behavior, from the quality of our drinking water and the air we breathe, to how we move from place to place, where our food is grown, and where we live. The ways we structure ourselves as communities and as a state not only affect our health and resilience, but also the climate, which in turn will affect all aspects of our lives for generations to come. We must implement actions now that will benefit not only well being in the near term, but also help to ensure a more healthful, equitable Oregon for all.  This session is framed by the Oregon Call to Action on Climate, Health, and Equity, which was developed by the OPHA Healthy Environments Section in 2019-2020.  Panelists will explore how policy, design, and other planning innovations have shaped — or can shape -- the communities, state, and region we call home. In addition, they will discuss work currently underway in Oregon and the Northwest to help communities plan the resources they wish to protect, assess specific vulnerabilities, and create opportunities to build health and resilience for everyone. 


Panelist Bios: 

Mathew J. Martinson, P.E., BCEE 

U.S. Public Health Service
Chief, Permitting, Drinking Water and Infrastructure Branch
US Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10

Mathew J. Martinson is an Environmental Engineer and a Captain in the U.S. Public Health Service.  Over multiple agencies and assignments spanning 26 years, he has been involved in improving public health through infrastructure. He has been involved in short-term infrastructure assessments following natural disasters and longer-term programs involving infrastructure design, construction, and operation and maintenance support. From 2013-2019, he served as the Director of the Sanitation Facilities Construction program within the Indian Health Service, Portland Area, a program serving 43 tribes of the Pacific Northwest, and in 2019 he transferred to EPA in his current role. His focus and interest have increasingly shifted to considerations of capacity development and approaches that result in outcomes that endure after the project is complete. 

Some of his perspectives on water, rural and underserved communities, and the built environment were shaped in his youth, helping his parents run a plumbing shop in northern North Dakota during a time when lead content in plumbing and fixtures abruptly changed.

Vivek Shandas, PhD

Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning
Portland State University

Vivek Shandas is a Professor of Climate Adaptation and the Founding Director of the Sustaining Urban Places Research (SUPR) Lab at Portland State University. Professor Shandas specializes in developing strategies to reduce exposure of historically marginalized communities to climate-induced extreme events. He has published over 100 articles, three books, and his research has been featured in the New York Times, National Geographic, Scientific American, and other national and local media. 

Perry Hystad, PhD

Associate Professor
College of Public Health and Human Sciences
Oregon State University

Dr. Hystad is an Associate Professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, where he leads the Spatial Health Lab. He is an environmental epidemiologist who leverages new technologies and big data to understand how environmental conditions influence human health and wellbeing. He has examined a variety of environmental exposures, including air pollution, noise, green space, built environments and climate-related factors. His research spans local, national, and international populations. Currently he is leading an environmental health study within a global prospective cohort to understand how environmental exposures shape cardiovascular disease across 750 communities in 27 countries.

Robert L. Bertini, PhD

School Head and Professor
Civil and Construction Engineering
Oregon State University

Robert L. Bertini comes to the OSU College of Engineering from the University of South Florida, where he was executive director of the Center for Urban Transportation Research, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of sustainable transportation at the Patel College of Global Sustainability. He is a licensed professional engineer in Oregon, California and Florida and has been recognized as a Fellow by the American Society of Civil Engineers, by the Institute of Transportation Engineers, and as a Senior Member with IEEE.

Bertini was appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama as the deputy administrator for research and innovative technology at the U.S. Department of Transportation, where he also led the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office and chaired the department’s Innovation Council. He had a special responsibility for civil rights within the agency, working with labor and employee organizations to strengthen the diversity, collaborative spirit, trust, and employee satisfaction of the organization. Earlier in his career Bertini was a professor at Portland State University and California Polytechnic State University, as well as working for seven years in industry. He was the founding director of the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium, a statewide, four-campus, national university transportation center in Oregon.

Bertini’s primary research interests are sustainable transportation solutions, traffic flow theory, intelligent transportation systems, multimodal transportation and proactive traffic management and operations. He is a recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, is the editor of the Journal of Public Transportation and chairs the National Academies’ Transportation Research Board Operations Section. He is committed to engineering education at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels, strongly supports student organizations and has led a study abroad course on sustainable urban mobility.


Briana Arnold, MPH

Chairperson, OPHA Healthy Environments Section

Passionate about advancing public health, Briana works by day as a Senior Consultant with Rede Group. Later she rolls up her sleeves to advocate for food justice and human health by volunteering with Farmers Market Fund ,OPHA, and Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered. Briana was led to public health through a background in farming and Peace Corps, experiences which she uses to empathetically learn and design solutions. When not working, Briana can be found  elbow deep in the garden or trying new adventure sports like rock climbing and alpine skiing. Find Briana on LinkedIn or Instagram at briana.arnold.pdx. 

Registration is OPEN!