Meet White House Fellows in healthcare

Of 16 fellows, seven work in the healthcare field
By Bernie Monegain
10:35 AM
White House

The President's Commission on White House Fellowships announced Monday the appointment of the 2015-2016 class of White House Fellows, and seven among them work in the healthcare sector.

As a group, they come from a variety of backgrounds and occupations, but all of them have demonstrated a strong commitment to public service and leadership, according to the White House announcement.

The White House Fellows program was created in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson to give American leaders "first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the federal government and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs." The idea was to encourage active citizenship and a lifelong commitment to service. The fellows take part in an education program designed to broaden their knowledge of leadership, policy formulation and current affairs. Community service is another essential element of the program, and fellows participate in service projects throughout their year in Washington.

Selection is highly competitive and based on a record of professional achievement, evidence of leadership potential and a proven commitment to public service. Each fellow must have the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute meaningfully at senior levels of the federal government.

Here, beginning with the fellows in the healthcare field, is the 2015-2016 Class of White House Fellows:

Teeb Al-Samarrai, Oakland, California, is a physician and epidemiologist who served as deputy health officer and tuberculosis controller at the Santa Clara County Public Health Department in California. Her work focused on immigrant and refugee health issues, particularly tuberculosis and hepatitis B. Prior to this, Teeb served as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

She has worked internationally in diverse settings and in 2010, participated in CDC's emergency response to the Haiti earthquake. She completed her internal medicine residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she partnered with a local NGO, Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, to establish a multidisciplinary, patient-centered refugee clinic. For this work, she was recognized with the Fred L. Sachs Award and Chief Residents' Service Award. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals, presented at national meetings, and cited in The New York Times.

Al-Samarrai served on the California Tuberculosis Controllers Association Executive Committee and the TEDMED editorial advisory board. She graduated as a Regents and Alumni Scholar from the University of California, Los Angeles with a BS in Neuroscience. She received her MD and an MS in neuroscience from Yale University.

Alexander Billioux, Simpsonville, South Carolina, is an internist focused on primary care and improving healthcare delivery globally. He served as assistant chief of the Osler Medical Service at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he trained and mentored more than 140 internal medicine residents while treating patients in East Baltimore.

He served as co-chair of the Department of Medicine's High Value Care Committee, through which he led system-wide interventions to promote high value medical care. This included developing an innovative behavior change intervention aimed at reducing wasteful and potentially harmful medical practices, which the Society of Hospital Medicine recently adopted.
Billioux's prior work and research has focused internationally on diseases of poverty such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in India, Guatemala, Haiti and South Africa. As an Afya Bora Fellow in Global Health Leadership, he spent a year developing a public-private partnership to improve tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment in rural Uganda, and ran a clinical trial to improve tuberculosis management at rural health centers. He is a Marshall and Goldwater Scholar who received an MD from Johns Hopkins University, a doctorate in philosophy in clinical medicine from the University of Oxford, and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the Louisiana Scholars' College at Northwestern State University of Louisiana.

Sara Bleich, Baltimore, worked as an associate professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She was responsible for leading research teams, speaking nationally and internationally, teaching, and advising students. She has published more than 75 papers in top journals of public health and medicine and is widely known for her research on obesity prevention.

Prior to Hopkins, Bleich worked as a research associate at the RAND Corporation and The Measurement Group. She has received several awards: "most outstanding abstract" at the International Conference on Obesity; "best research manuscript" in the journal Obesity; and first prize for "excellence in public interest communication" from the Frank Public Interest Conference. Bleich also received several competitive grant awards: a Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health and multiple Healthy Eating Research grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Bleich is a board member at Garrison Forest School, an independent girls' school. She volunteers for the Baltimore Education Scholarship Trust by speaking to donors to raise funds for low-income, minority students to attend independent school. She received a BA in Psychology from Columbia University and a PhD in health policy from Harvard University.

Shereef Elnahal, Baltimore, is taking a leave from residency in radiation oncology at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He has authored more than a dozen publications on healthcare quality, operations management and patient safety.

Elnahal co-developed a published methodology that doubled clinic efficiency in the Johns Hopkins Pancreatic Multidisciplinary Clinic, cutting patient wait times by half. As an operations consultant for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Pittsburgh VA hospitals, he expanded on this work to improve care access for veterans and active duty service members. He was a Fellow in the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, and served as chair of the House Staff Patient Safety and Quality Council at Hopkins.

Elnahal served on advisory boards for two firms focused on patient education and clinical operations. He also co-founded the Baltimore chapter of The Triple Helix, a non-profit that publishes an international journal on science in society. His civic contributions earned him the 2015 National Quality Scholar Award from the American College of Medical Quality. He received a dual-degree – MD and MBA – with distinction from Harvard University, where he was president of the Harvard Longwood Muslim association. He also graduated summa cum laude with a BA in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University.

Rayden Llano, Miami, Florida, was program director of health policy and economics at LSE Enterprise, where he worked with public institutions on health policy issues and conducted healthcare research. Previously, he worked with the Clinton Health Access Initiative in Rwanda and as a consultant to the World Health Organization in Asia, where he developed a tuberculosis and migration framework providing policy guidance to WHO member states.

As a Luce Scholar at the University of Tokyo, he was the lead author of a study published in The Lancet and helped secure funding for the establishment of a global health committee within the Japanese parliament that has been chaired by two former prime ministers. Collectively, he has worked on healthcare issues in the U.S., Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. He is an adviser to the president of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and mentors Hispanic high school and college students. A Marshall Scholar, he received an MPP from the University of Cambridge, an MSc in international health policy and health economics from the London School of Economics, and a BA in human biology from Stanford University.

Jennifer Macdonald, St. Cloud, Minnesota, is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a family medicine physician at UCLA. She served 11 years in the Minnesota Army National Guard and completed a tour abroad, during which she volunteered as a medical provider in addition to her primary duties as a musician. She completed morale missions to remote bases as a keyboardist and traveled as a solo vocalist to high profile international Transition of Authority ceremonies, performing the American and Iraqi national anthems as territories of Iraq were relinquished from American back to Iraqi authority.
She participated in humanitarian aid missions to benefit disabled children of Basra, Iraq, and was awarded a U.S. Army Bronze Star for her collective efforts. She is committed to care of the underserved, and toward this end, co-led a humanitarian mission to East Africa and co-founded an NGO during her undergraduate years at the College of St. Benedict, served as a class representative and free clinic volunteer during her time at the University of Minnesota Medical School, engaged in multiple patient outreach and quality initiatives with the UCLA Family Medicine Residency Program, served on the California Academy of Family Physicians Resident Council, and established a lasting connection between her institution and the West Los Angeles VA Homeless Patient Aligned Care Team. A rich family life with her husband and two young children balances her professional aspirations.

Kamillah Wood, Washington, D.C., served as the associate medical director of Mobile Health Programs at Children's National Health System, providing comprehensive medical care to underserved children in the Anacostia region of Washington, D.C. In addition to providing direct clinical and wraparound services, she created an educational program for parents and families called the Legislative Educational Advocacy Program, or LEAP, which helped to inform local community members about current policy issues, the legislative process and the importance of civic engagement.

Prior to this position, Wood completed a fellowship in health policy and health disparities as a Mongan Commonwealth Fund Fellow in Minority Health Policy where she also obtained an MPH from the Harvard University School of Public Health. In addition to her fellowship training, she completed her pediatrics residency at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where she was selected to be a Chief Resident.  In this leadership role, she worked on several hospital-wide committees to address issues from emergency preparedness to implementation of an inpatient electronic health record. She received her MD from George Washington University School of Medicine as a member of Alpha Omega Alpha, and graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Howard University.

Other 2015-2016 White House Fellows outside the healthcare field are:

C. Spencer Abbot, Yorktown, Virginia, is a commander in the U.S. Navy. He recently served as commanding officer of Strike-Fighter Squadron 27 in Atsugi, Japan. The squadron was recognized with the "Battle E" award as the top FA-18E/F squadron in the Pacific Fleet for 2014.

Andrew Anderson, Douglas, Wyoming, is a major in the U.S. Air Force. He recently served as the program director for a classified Department of Defense system that supported operations of highest national priority.

Naomi Dennis, Houston, Texas, is a major in the U.S. Air Force and most recently served as deputy staff judge advocate to the Commander of the Air Force Expeditionary Center. Having served as both a prosecutor and defense attorney, she has frequently lectured on advanced trial advocacy and used her experience in sexual assault litigation to create an interactive training module for Air Force senior leaders on how to manage sexual assault allegations from trauma to trial.
September Hargrove, New Orleans, Louisiana., served as chief operating officer of the PowerMoves. NOLA Initiative at the New Orleans Startup Fund, where she led a national effort to address the lack of racial diversity in tech entrepreneurship and provide access to venture capital for high-growth entrepreneurs of color. Her efforts have supported nearly 90 startups collectively raise over $17 million.

In 2014, she was recognized as one of the 100 most influential people in tech and entrepreneurship throughout Louisiana.

Corey Harrison, Browns Mills, New Jersey, was the corporate strategy executive at iCIMS, a leading talent acquisition software company. At iCIMS, he drove the development and execution of corporate strategy and evaluated merger and acquisition opportunities. Before joining iCIMS, he was an associate director at UBS Investment Bank where he advised private equity general partners on raising institutional capital.

La'Shanda Holmes, Fayetteville, North Carolina, is a lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard and is the Coast Guard's first African-American female helicopter pilot. After growing up in the foster care system, she put herself through college, became a pilot, and amassed more than 1,500 flight hours conducting search and rescue, counter drug, and law enforcement missions.
Erik Malmstrom, West Hartford, Connecticut, was a business development manager for Cargill Grain and Oilseed Supply Chain Mideast and Africa at Cargill, Inc., a leading multinational agribusiness. He was responsible for sourcing, analyzing, and managing investment opportunities across Africa, including his business unit's largest ever acquisition of an oilseed crush plant in Zambia.

Rei Onishi, Citrus Heights, California, was a deputy attorney general in the California Department of Justice. He was responsible for defending the constitutionality of California's laws, and helped craft and implement the legal strategy to defend California's 2012 public pension reforms. He also played a leading role in developing and implementing the department's agenda to fight transnational organized crime, and served as an adviser to the Department's Bureau of Children's Justice.

Maxeme Tuchman, Miami, Florida, served as the executive director of Teach For America Miami-Dade and was responsible for overseeing daily regional operations for 26 staff members and cultivating $6M of private and public support in service of more than 500 current teachers and alums. Prior to that, she served in Mayor Bloomberg's bullpen managing the NYC Waterfalls, a public art installation that generated $69 million in economic activity.