I am the Executive Director for Population Health at Spectrum Health Lakeland (SHL) in St. Joseph, Michigan. In this role, I support strategic efforts to improve the health of the regional population.
Since 2018, I have been a commissioner of the city of St. Joseph. I am also a member of the Downtown Development Planning Committee and I have served on a number of boards within our community, including the Edgewater Bank Board, Benton Harbor Promise Zone, the Berrien County Mental Health Authority, and Cornerstone Alliance.
In 2018, I received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Culture of Health Leadership award. This leadership program is for people working in a wide variety of professionals seeking to build a Culture of Health. For more about the Culture Health Leadership program, please visit https://cultureofhealth-leaders.org/
I’ve been a keynoter, a panelist, and a moderator at conferences throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe on topics including social exclusion, the social determinants of mental health, mental health impact assessment, and health equity as well as social problems such as poverty, unemployment, food insecurity, incarceration, violence, homelessness. For a list of select presentations please see my CV.
I am passionate about population health and, in particular, the health marginalized and disadvantaged communities. To that end, I have served on the boards of such organizations such as Sergeant Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, and the Heartland Alliance for Human Rights and Human Needs.
I have written a number of opinion pieces including:
Berrien County children are suffering their own ‘invisible’ traumas. Herald Palladium. June 2018
In the wake of Flint crisis, are we asking the right questions? Guest Column, Herald Palladium February 21, 2016.
The overlooked effect of ‘criminal records’ on the unemployed. Chicago Crain’s “Morning 10.” June 6, 2013.
Arson: Blue-collar America is burning. Flint Journal. April 8, 2013.
Modern life is killing us. salon.com. August 11, 2012.
New EEOC guidelines on discrimination based on arrests, convictions bring hope to some communities. Chicago Reporter. May 9, 2012.
Arrests and Hiring. New York Times. Editorial Page. May 6, 2012.
Depiction of Englewood isn’t Fair. Chicago Sun-Times. October 2011.
We are working to determine the impact that both Community
Grand Rounds and Brave Talks are having on our community at large. This research leverages my role as a Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Leader.
Previously, I examined the relationship between diet and anti-social behaviors among youth. I did this work to determine whether living in a food desert (one of the many social determinants of health) might be a factor contributing to community violence. I am currently developing research around other social determinants of health, such as employment, income, education and housing.
In the News
We are living in extraordinary times: This micro blog is dedicated to the musings and informative materials to help us navigate a post covid-19 world.
– David Williams
Community Grand Rounds (CGR)
Launched in 2018, Community Grand Rounds (CGR) hosts local and nationally recognized speakers who discuss the issues of health equity and population health. Speakers address the health implications of racism as well as the emerging sciences of epigenetics and social genomics. The events are designed for professionals in medicine, allied health fields, and social work, as well as government leaders and community members.
Visit the Community Grand Rounds Speaker Series
Community Grand Rounds (CGR) is an effort to raise awareness and understanding of this new science and its implications for health. In a series of speakers and discussions, Spectrum’s clinicians, administrators, and board members, as well as government and community leaders will learn from experts about the impact of racism on health. The goal is to inform and to set the stage for further discussions and actions leading to improved health outcomes across the population served by Spectrum Health Lakeland.
One Street Two Worlds
Community Grand Rounds has a mission to heal the trauma of racism through education and awareness. Watch this video as Dr. Loren Hamel
Why Are Things the Way They Are?
Community Grand Rounds has a mission to heal the trauma of racism through education and awareness. Watch this video as Dr. Lynn Todman interviews Dr. David Ansell and asks about the double dynamic of race and poverty. David Ansell is the author of “The Death Gap: How Inequality Kills” and co-author of “County: Life, Death and Politics at Chicago’s Public Hospital.”
What is the impact of stress on health?
Tasha N. Turner, MA, LLPC, Program Director, Trauma Informed Initiatives discusses our physical response to stress.
What is the body's response to stress?
Our physical well-being is reliant on our mental and emotional state.
Health Inequities in Berrien County, Mi
The Community Grand Rounds Initiative requires the use of a health equity lens to identify and address the impact of institutional policies on health inequalities. The statistics support this focus. Download the PDF here.
Everyday Discrimination and Metabolic Syndrome - Racially Diverse Women's Health. Beatty (2018)
For every 1 point increase in discrimination score, 3% increase in incidence of Metabolic Syndrome (hypertension, obesity, lipids).
Discrimination and Cardiovascular Risk in Low-Income African American Youth. Goosby (2015)
Increase in perceived discrimination among youth aged 10-15 significantly associated with higher inflammatory markers and onset of hypertension.
Discrimination and Depression among African American Men. Wheaton (2018)
The acclaimed author of A Raisin in the Sun and civil rights activist, Lorraine Hansberry, died of pancreatic cancer at age 34 in 1965. At her funeral, author James Baldwin said: “It is not at all farfetched to suspect that what she saw contributed to the strain which killed her, for the effort to which Lorraine was dedicated is more than enough to kill a man.”
What is Community Grand Rounds?
Dr. Lynn Todman shares how “CGR” became a speaker’s series designed to deepen the understanding of how racism impacts the health in communities of color.
What inspired Community Grand Rounds?
Spurred on by the findings of Lakeland Health’s Community Needs Assessment, Todman found significant health disparities in the region that she wanted to delve into further.
What can people expect to take away from CGR?
Todman shares she wants people to walk away with increased awareness around the following:
- There is no biological basis for the concept of race
- Racism is a form of psychological trauma
- Like all forms of trauma the toxic impacts are preventable.
Interview with Dr. Bechara Coucair
Kaiser Permanente’s Dr. Bechara Coucair interviewed by Spectrum Health Lakeland’s Norma Tirado on what matters most to community health.
Does a better diet lead to better behavior?
While the science indicates that it does, children in one Benton Harbor, Michigan, school helped to demonstrate the link between better mental health and a food palate that involves less sugar, preservatives, trans fats and other additives and more fish, whole grains and green leafy vegetables. During the 12-week project, the students at Sorter ate meals based on scientific studies over the past 20 years that show a strong correlation between diets high in omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins and other essential nutrients help to reduce aggressive and anti-social behavior. Here’s what we learned from Sorter School’s staff and project leads.
Let's talk about health
Here are some interesting and important TED Talks on the subject of racism and its impact on health. The first is by Dr. David Williams, our July 2018 Community Grand Rounds speaker.
The new field of epigenetics sees that genes can be turned on and off and expressed differently through changes in environment and behavior. Rachel Yehuda is a pioneer in understanding how the effects of stress and trauma can transmit biologically, beyond cataclysmic events, to the next generation. [Listen to her podcast here]
David Williams Live Stream CGR Event
Understanding The Health Consequences Of Racism & What You Can Do About It. July 10, 2018 10:00 am to 11:30 am
‘Hidden History’ Panel participants (clockwise from upper left): Kabria Baumgartner, Ph.D, ABC57’s Brian Conybeare, Christy Clark-Pujara, Ph.D., and Jonathan Daniel Wells, Ph.D. ‘Hidden History’ Panel Depicts How the Slave Trade Enriched Whites and How African...
"Health Equity in Action" panelists were (clockwise from upper left): Aletha Maybank, MD, MPH; Lynn Todman, PhD; Reneé Canady, PhD, MPH; and Nicki Britten, MPH ‘Health Equity in Action’ Panelists Urge Health Systems to Reach into Their Communities ST. JOSEPH,...
Medically Underserved Benton Harbor Gets a Med Center, with Social Services, in the Center of Downtown BENTON HARBOR, Mich.— In the heart of this small city, a place opened in early November where people can get flu shots, or home water filters, or masks and hand...
‘Come down here to 100. Maybe they can help you with the situation that you have.’ BENTON HARBOR, Mich.—Jamal McGee is one motivated man. You could think of him as a recruiter for the Center for Better Health. The 40-year-old Benton Harbor resident estimates that...
BENTON HARBOR, Mich.—What are the good things about your town? What’s working? What do you hope for? These are the sorts of questions researchers will be asking residents of Benton Harbor and other people in the 49022 ZIP code as they seek a long-term vision of...
Author of ‘Medical Apartheid’ Harriet Washington Explains Why African Americans, after 400 Years, Are Justly Suspicious of U.S. Medicine ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- Why are many African Americans suspicious of health care professionals and institutions? What explains this...
ST. JOSEPH, Mich. – Medical Writer Harriet Washington has some advice for what a health care system can do to earn the trust of the Black people who come through its doors. After her online presentation Sept. 24 to the Spectrum Health Lakeland system in southwest...
A Team of ‘Community Influencers’ Gave Vital Coronavirus Information to Black and Hispanic Communities BENTON HARBOR, Mich.—Early in the coronavirus pandemic, it was becoming clear that African Americans and other minorities were far more vulnerable to the virus in...
‘Community Influencer’ Ronnika (R.J.) Williams Works Out a Formula of Engagement with Her Facebook Audience BENTON HARBOR, Mich.— Sometimes you can serve up a serious message with a side order of humor. If you do it right, it makes for easier digestion. Ronnika (R.J.)...