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Executive Advisory Board

Lee Francis headshot.

Dr. Lee Francis ’00 joined Erie Family Health Center in 1991 and has served as President and CEO since 2007. Dr. Francis is charged with enacting Erie’s strategic vision of serving as a national leader in the provision of community-based health care. Erie currently serves over 87,000 patients at 13 locations from North Lawndale, West Town and Humboldt Park, to Albany Park, Evanston-Skokie and Waukegan. Dr. Francis is a board-certified internist and cares for adult patients at Erie. He received his MPH (’00) and MD (’88) from UIC and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, a fellow of the Leadership Greater Chicago Class of 2000 and is fluent in Spanish.

Wayne Giles headshot.

Dr. Wayne H. Giles (ex officio board member) is the Dean of the School of Public Health.  He joined UIC after serving for 25 years as a leader at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focused on chronic disease prevention and health promotion.  Immediately before joining UIC he led the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention where he oversaw initiatives to improve cardiovascular health by enhancing state and global activities focused on the prevention, treatment and control of heart disease and stroke. His  past research and scientific work has included examining the prevalence of hypertension in Africa, studying racial differences in stroke incidence, and leading clinical trials evaluating the effectiveness of cholesterol-lowering agents.

Katherine Koo photo.

Katherine Koo, BA in Public Health ’17, is a program manager at Rush University Medical Center focused on leveraging community-based health technology and data interoperability to address health disparities in long-covid and cardiometabolic disease. Her research interests include validation of medical devices for patient remote monitoring and risk-prediction modeling of social determinant of health needs, in efforts to eliminate the 16-year life-expectancy gap on Chicago’s South and West Sides. She is an adjunct lecturer at Rush University where she has taught the course Health Equity and New Models of Care and currently serves as co-chair of the UIC SPH Alumni Council. Katherine received her BAPH from UIC and MS-HSM from Rush University.

Jessica Lederhausen photo.

Jessica Lederhausen, MPH ’03, has always been entrepreneurial minded. At a young age, she launched herself into professional golf and continued her metamorphosis into various ventures. She is an accredited Dentist who challenged herself to reach patients through a research project looking at “Mobile Dental Care.” After moving to Chicago from Stockholm, she spent ten years in the lifestyle business, sharing her passion for healthy habits. In 2017, she committed herself to “Ideas Worth Spreading” by producing TEDxChicago until 2022, when she left to pursue her consulting business working with clients to understand the connectedness of oral and overall health. Above all else, Jessica prioritizes family and enjoys watching her four grandchildren flourish while always multi-tasking with hobbies such as playing golf, reading, baking, and knitting.

Suzet McKinney headshot.

Suzet M. McKinney, DrPH ’09, currently serves as CEO and executive director of the Illinois Medical District, one of the largest urban medical districts in the United States that includes 560 acres of medical research facilities, labs, a biotech business incubator, universities, raw land development areas, four hospitals and more than 40 healthcare related facilities. She is the former deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response at the Chicago Department of Public Health, where she oversaw the emergency preparedness efforts for the department and coordinated those efforts within the larger spectrum of the City of Chicago’s public safety activities, in addition to overseeing the department’s Division of Women and Children’s Health.


Bob Merrick photo.

Robert Merrick, MD, MPH ’76, practiced pathology and was laboratory director and hospital epidemiologist at Blessing Hospital, Quincy, Illinois.  He subsequently served as medical director quality and performance improvement for the Blessing Health System until retiring.  He was medical director for the Adams County Health Department, a Baldridge Performance Excellence Examiner and on the faculty of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

Uche Onwuta photo.

Uche Onwuta, MPH ’97 is the director of the division of health protection at the Kane County Health Department. She leads a team of dedicated professionals in the areas of infectious diseases, environmental health and food safety.  In her previous roles in her 22 years at the Kane County Health Department, she led  efforts in epidemiology, community health assessment and planning, immunizations and opioid use disorder surveillance programs. Uche is an adjunct instructor at Benedictine University where she has taught courses in Community Health Analysis, Epidemiology, and Public Health Systems. She volunteers for several organizations including Destiny Global Foundation, a medical missions organization focusing on prevention, treatment, and management of Hypertension and Diabetes Mellitus amongst the medically underrepresented in Africa.

Clarita Santos headshot.

Clarita Santos ’96 (board chair) is the executive director of community health initiatives at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. In this role, she oversees statewide community engagement, including the launch of the Blue Door Neighborhood Center, the company’s first community-based health and wellness center. For more than ten years, she has lead the allocation of grant funding to community partners to help increase access to care, improve population health and improve health equity among the uninsured and under-insured in Illinois.  She earned her MPH in Health Policy and Administration from the UIC School of Public Health.