Leadership and Momentum in Advancing Health Equity


A Webinar on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, from 1:00 to 2:15 p.m. EDT

An insightful conversation on health equity in clinical research with a spotlight on youth mental health. The event will be moderated by Dr. Philipia Hillman, and speakers include Eliseo Pérez-Stable, M.D., Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Shelli Avenevoli, Ph.D., Deputy Director, National Institute of Mental Health, Victoria Ojeda, Ph.D., Representative Robin L. Kelly, D-Illinois, 2nd District, Cathy Morales Chief Program & Services Officer, The Children’s Inn, and Jennie Lucca, CEO, The Children’s Inn.

Gain an understanding of the ways diversity contributes to improved health outcomes and learn how the NIH and The Inn address inclusivity within their research and programs.

You can view a recording of the webinar here:


Shelli Avenevoli headshot

Shelli Avenevoli, Ph.D.

Shelli Avenevoli, Ph.D., is the Deputy Director for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). NIMH is the lead federal agency for research on mental illnesses and seeks to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure. In 2001, Dr. Avenevoli joined the NIMH intramural research program as a staff scientist in the Section of Developmental Genetic Epidemiology of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program. In 2005, she moved to the NIMH division of extramural research as Chief of the Emotion, Mood, and Depressive Disorders Program. In 2008, Dr. Avenevoli became Chief of the Developmental Trajectories of Mental Disorders Branch. She has been heavily involved in a number of key NIMH efforts, including revising NIMH’s Strategic Plan, re-defining the Institute’s approach to supporting research in neurodevelopment and bipolar disorder and serving as a liaison to other agencies for special initiatives. Prior to joining NIMH, Dr. Avenevoli received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Temple University and completed an NIMH-funded postdoctoral fellowship in psychiatric epidemiology at Yale University School of Medicine.

photo of Dr. Philipia Hillman

Dr. Philipia Hillman


Dr. Philipia Hillman is the founder of The October Group and serves as the client lead on all projects, building the team as needed.

The October Group is a small consulting firm in Washington, DC. We partner with C-suite executives and their teams to drive growth. Our clients embark on a transformational journey that not only enhances personal and professional growth but has a profound ripple effect within their organizations. We are always in awe and honored to be part of any growth journey.

Throughout her career, Philipia has supported leaders as they navigate the complexity of cultural transformation, strategy, and leadership development. Philipia has more than 25 years of professional experience in government, academia, and private consulting. This offers a wide lens to observe, analyze, and appreciate the interplay of professional and personal concerns with business performance and growth.

Philipia holds a BA in journalism from Howard University and a Ph.D. in sociology from American University. She served as an adjunct sociology professor at both alma maters. She has certifications in coaching from George Mason University and organizational development from Georgetown University and is certified in Appreciative Inquiry, Emotional Intelligence, and facilitation.

She is known for injecting fun, creativity, compassion, and straight talk into her work. Philipia lives in DC with her family and uses her talents volunteering on boards. She enjoys amazing meals accompanied by thought-provoking conversations and traveling with family and friends.

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Congresswoman Robin Kelly

Congresswoman Robin Kelly has dedicated her career to public service as an advocate for Illinois families. Since being elected to serve the 2nd Congressional District in 2013, she has worked to expand economic opportunity, community wellness, and public safety across the state, championing numerous initiatives to generate job growth, reduce health disparities, and end gun violence.

Congresswoman Kelly is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (the main policy-writing body of the House) and serves on the Health, Communications and Technology, and Innovation, Data, and Commerce subcommittees. Her Energy and Commerce work is focused on expanding access to healthcare, consumer protection for American families, and economic development.

She is also a member of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which sets the policy direction of the Democratic Caucus.

A staunch champion of common sense gun reforms and responsible community policing, Representative Kelly is a Co-Chair of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Taskforce and is the author of The 2014 Kelly Report on Gun Violence in America, the first-ever Congressional analysis of the nation’s gun violence epidemic that offers a blueprint for ending the crisis.

Committed to improving the health and wellness of vulnerable communities across the country, the Congresswoman serves as Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, and Co-Chairs the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls. She also Co-Chairs the House Democratic Policy Group and House Tech Accountability Caucus.

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Jennie Lucca, Chief Executive Officer The Children’s Inn

Jennie Lucca is the CEO of The Children’s Inn at NIH. Located directly across from the NIH Clinical Center, the nonprofit organization provides free lodging and a wide range of supportive services to families of children and young adults with rare or serious illnesses who are participating in clinical research studies at the NIH.

Jennie Lucca is a seasoned human service professional with over 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. She previously served as The Inn’s chief program and services officer, where she oversaw the daily management of operations and therapeutic, educational and recreational programs. Under Jennie’s leadership, The Inn was awarded the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 Visionary Award. Jennie was also honored by FedHealthIT in 2022 where she was presented with the Leading for Impact, Women in Leadership Award.

Jennie’s career began in Anchorage, Alaska, working for The Arc of Anchorage, an organization dedicated to serving individuals with disabilities. Since that time, her focus has primarily been on developing and managing family support programs in community and healthcare settings. She is passionate about supporting families during times of significant stress and has been acknowledged for her compassion, dedication, and strategic leadership.

Jennie holds a master’s degree in social work with a focus on policy, planning and administration from The Catholic University of America, a bachelor’s degree in child psychology from the University of Minnesota, and a Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate from Georgetown University.

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Cathy Morales, Chief Program & Services Officer, The Children’s Inn

Cathy Morales is a committed public health professional, experienced in non-profit management, stakeholder engagement, and program and project development and management. In her capacity as the Chief Program & Services Officer at The Inn, she has further enhanced the supportive environment experienced by pediatric patients and their families through her leadership and guidance of the Resident Services, Family Programs, Volunteer Services, and Facilities Teams. She previously served as the National Program Director for the National REACH Coalition. 

Cathy earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Services from Lesley College in Cambridge, MA. She has a Master of Business Administration from Northeastern University in Boston and was awarded a Certificate of Recognition from Boston University’s School of Public Health.

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Victoria Ojeda, Ph.D.

Victoria D. Ojeda, PhD, MPH, is Professor of Public Health at the University of California, San Diego. Her research focuses on improving the use of health and mental health care services among young adults and persons living with serious mental illness. 

Dr. Ojeda was recently Principal Investigator of the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities grant: “Impact of Peer Support on Health Service and Social Disparities Among Minority Youth with SMI,” (NIH Grants: R01MD011528 and  # R01MD011528-S1). She also led the UCSD RE-LINK program (funded by DHHS-Office of Minority Health grant #CPIMP161137), which sought to improve healthcare access, including the use of mental health services, among racial and ethnic minority young adults on probation.

photo of Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable

Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D.

Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D. is Director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), which seeks to advance the science of minority health and health disparities research through research, training, research capacity development, public education, and information dissemination. Dr. Pérez-Stable practiced general internal medicine for 37 years at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) before moving to NIH in September 2015. He was professor of medicine at UCSF and chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine for 17 years. His research interests include improving the health of racial and ethnic minorities and underserved populations, advancing patient-centered care, improving cross-cultural communication skills among clinicians, and promoting diversity in the biomedical research workforce. For more than 30 years, Dr. Pérez-Stable led research on Latino smoking cessation and tobacco control policy in the United States and Latin America, addressing clinical and prevention issues in cancer screening and mentoring over 70 minority investigators. He has published over 300 peer-reviewed articles and was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2001.

Additional panelists, including NIH leadership and a Member of Congress, will be added shortly.

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