Creating Accountable

Communities for Health 2015:

Advancing a Systems Approach to

Community,Health and Well-being

Courtney Jordan Baechler, MD, MS is vice president of the Penny George™ Institute for Health and Healing, the prevention and wellness clinical service line of Allina Health. Baechler attended the University of Minnesota, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, a medical degree from the School of Medicine, and a master’s degree in epidemiology and public policy from the School of Public Health. She is a cardiologist and director of preventive services for United Heart and Vascular Clinic.  She started her own integrative clinic focused on prevention of heart disease and behavioral change that supports wellness.

Baechler has served on the national prevention committee for the American College of Cardiology and the Minnesota Department of Health State Prevention of Cardiovascular and Stroke Committee.  She is a consultant to the Statewide Health Improvement Plan and chair of the clinical work group for Minneapolis.  She is one of the authors of the Healthy Lifestyle Guideline for the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement.

Dr. Gail Christopher is vice president for policy and senior advisor at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In this role, she serves on the president’s cabinet that provides overall direction and leadership for the foundation. Since joining the foundation in 2007, Gail has served as vice president for program strategy with responsibility for multiple areas of programming, including Racial Equity; Food, Health & Well-Being; Community Engagement and Leadership; as well as place-based programming in New Orleans and New Mexico.

Gail is a nationally recognized leader in health policy, with particular expertise and experience in the issues related to social determinants of health, health inequities and public policy issues of concern to our nation’s future. Her distinguished career and contributions to public service were honored in 1996 when she was elected as a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. In 2011 she was awarded the “Change Agent Award” by the Schott Foundation for Public Education; in 2012 she was the recipient of the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP) John C. MacQueen Lecture Award for her innovation and leadership in the field of maternal and child health. Most recently in 2015 she was the recipient of the Terrance Keenan award for Grantmakers in Health. She is president of the board of the Trust for America’s Health.

Carolyn Denton MA, LN focuses on nutrition for general health and disease prevention and as a complementary therapy for existing chronic and degenerative diseases. In addition to nutritional counseling, Carolyn has developed and implemented nutritional programs addressing specific health concerns. She has also designed and conducted numerous large-group patient education programs as well as presented nutrition education in a variety of corporate settings. 

Carolyn has published articles in various magazines and periodicals and wrote the nutritional content for the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing “Taking Charge of Your Health” website focusing on personal health. She is a contributing writer of The “Chemistry of Joy Workbook” with Dr. Henry Emmons. Carolyn currently practices privately with Partners in Resilience and is a member of the Integrative Medicine Team at Abbott Northwestern’s Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. She also teaches Functional Nutrition and Food Synergy at the University of Minnesota. Carolyn holds a Master’s Degree in Nutrition with an emphasis on Nutrition and Aging.

Lori Knutson RN, BSN, HNB-BC is both a clinician and healthcare administrator with over 25 years of dedication to the advancement of integrative healthcare. Ms. Knutson is the senior director of health and wellness services for Touchstone Mental Health in Minneapolis, MN. She is the founding executive director (2002-2011) for the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, Allina Health, Minneapolis, MN, named the largest integrative health program in the U.S. Ms. Knutson is an advisor to the Academic Consortium of Complementary and Alternative Healthcare, an editorial board member of Global Advances in Health and Medicine, and core faculty member for Duke University’s Integrative Healthcare Leadership program. She has co-authored several book chapters and published peer-reviewed articles. In 2006, the American Holistic Nurses Association honored Ms. Knutson as the Holistic Nurse of the Year.

Scott Shannon, MD, ABIHM, has been a national leader, instrumental in the creation of a holistic and integrative perspective in psychiatry for almost two decades. He is a nationally recognized leader in integrative medicine through his roles as past president of the American Holistic Medical Association, the immediate past President of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine and Executive Committee of the Academy for Integrative Health and Medicine.

As a child and adolescent psychiatrist, his focus involves supporting young people to find wholeness and recover their full health in body, mind and spirit. Although he uses prescription medication his preference is to employ natural methods like nutrition, mind-body skills, acupuncture and a shift in awareness to support the healing process. This approach represents the new field of Integrative Psychiatry.

Dr. Shannon teaches as an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Colorado-Children’s Hospital in Denver. In 2010, he founded the country’s largest and most comprehensive integrative mental health clinic, Wholeness Center in Fort Collins. He published the first textbook on integrative psychiatry in 2001 followed by “Parenting the Whole Child: A Holistic Child Psychiatrist Offers Practical Wisdom on Behavior, Brain Health, Nutrition, Exercise, Family Life, and More . . .”, and “Please Don't Label My Child: Break the Doctor-Diagnosis-Drug Cycle and his latest textbook, “Mental Health for the Whole Child: Moving Young Clients from Disease & Disorder to Balance & Wellness”.

Gregory J. Van Hyfte, MA, MA/HAP, RYT 500, is one of the three co-founders of YogaCare, a nonprofit organization founded in November of 2014 with a mission to catalyze the spread of yoga in underserved communities to improve health. Also as a co-founder of the Socially Engaged Yoga Network (SEYN), he co-coordinates this Chicagoland network with Julia Pedersen, YogaCare and SEYN Co-Founder and certified yoga teacher with extensive retail, sales, and management experience, most recently at Moksha Yoga Center. 

Through working with YogaCare Co-Founder Dr. Kohar Jones at the University of Chicago Medicine Department of Family Medicine, Mr. Van Hyfte conducts research projects that provide evidence for the benefits and operations of YogaCare programs. In his role, he helps YogaCare secure partnerships with community health centers and non-profit organizations to develop affordable and culturally responsive programs. He also co-coordinates the strategy, operations, and fundraising of YogaCare programming, including helping to develop both a teacher training program for yoga teachers who want to teach at community sites and a scholarship program for YogaCare students to become fully-trained teachers. 

Mr. Van Hyfte has been practicing yoga since 1999, has been teaching in English and Spanish since 2006, and is certified by Yoga Alliance at the 500-hour level.  He is also Founder & Principal of GrowthVisionHealth, a consulting company that works with nonprofit organizations.  His consulting work has included grant writing and management, capacity building, fundraising, coalition building, program development, community planning, applied program evaluation, research, and staff training and development. Mr. Van Hyfte earned a Master of Arts in Social Sciences, a Master of Arts in Social Service Administration, and a Graduate Certificate in Health Administration and Policy from the University of Chicago, and he is a Schweitzer Fellow For Life.

Xavier Bell is Director of Community/Civic Engagement- 2009-present; Circles of Support Program Manager-2007-2009; Volunteer Coordinator Race Awareness Workshop designer-author; Intersection of Poverty, Race and Class Community Initiatives Development-2005-present; EXPERIENCE: Minnesota Circles of Support Poverty Initiative Coordinator 2006-present;  Public Policy Advocate for Circles of Support- Legislative Commission to End Poverty in Minnesota by 2020; Community Advocate;  Stanislaus County Juvenile Hall Chaplain-Youth Guidance Director-2002-2004; Youth Outreach Director- 1996-2002 EDUCATION: Certificate of Ordination received in 2002-Non-Denominational Faith Tradition; plans to continue distance learning  at Moody Bible Institute- Biblical Studies; attended Laney College-Oakland, Ca Business Marketing- 1982. X is a father of 5 talented people; married at 17 and married to the same woman for 36 years and counting.

Jamie Harvie, P.E. is the Executive Director of the Institute for a Sustainable Future (ISF), and is a nationally recognized prevention leader through his extensive experience at the intersection of healthcare and ecological health. For this work he has been interviewed and cited in media including Time Magazine, USA Today, Minnesota and National Public Radio. Jamie founded the Healthy Food in Healthcare Initiative in which he directed a nationwide collaboration of NGO, clinicians and healthcare partners, to create healthcare food policy and practice change prevention models. His organization, with Duluth based St. Luke’s, won a MN Governor’s Award for their work on Healthy Food in Healthcare. In 2009, along with awardees Growing Power’s Will Allen and food management company Bon Appetit; Jamie was awarded the “National Thought Leader” category for his work on healthcare and sustainable food systems. In 2015 is was received the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Award from the Minnesota Public Health Association for life time achievement.

Mr. Harvie was one of the national experts invited to present a white paper on food and healthcare at the Food Systems and Public Health Conference: Linkages to Achieve Healthier Diets and Healthier Communities and was also one of an invited expert panel on policy and environmental approaches to improve food, physical activity, breastfeeding and tobacco environments in hospitals by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. 

Maria Reyes, R.N. is the QI Nurse at Ecumen and Project Director for the nationally recognized Awakenings approach. She was introduced to the profession of eldercare as a child in her hometown of Salinas, Puerto Rico.  There she cared for her Grandmother, who had raised her into her teenage years.  Families provided most eldercare in Puerto Rico, not nursing homes, and Maria knew early that elders are our human treasures and deserve our utmost respect. She earned her Registered Nurse Associate’s Degree from Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in 2004 and then joined Ecumen in Duluth, Minn.  A sought-after speaker on nursing and dementia care, Maria has worked across all long-term care settings (nursing homes, assisted living and home care) and held several key leadership roles at Ecumen.  A lifelong learner, Maria graduated from Ecumen’s Velocity Leadership Program in 2010.  Velocity is an invite-only year-long program for select Ecumen leaders.  She also has completed her Level 4 for a Certification in Healing Touch and is certified in Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Instructor.  Diverse leadership responsibilities combined with her passion for learning and innovation, has prepared Maria well for her current role in providing caregiver education and expanding Ecumen Awakenings, an integrated, holistic approach to dementia care that improves lives while reducing the use of antipsychotic medications. While Maria has traveled far since providing care for her Grandmother, her desire to honor elders in her daily work and make lives better through positive change is a constant.

Cari Michaels, MPH, is an Extension Educator with the University of Minnesota Children, Youth & Family Consortium (CYFC).  In this role, she works across Extension and the University of Minnesota and in partnership with community members to create collaborative networks, research documents, educational tools and trainings for providers and families. For the past twenty years, she has worked at the University of Minnesota in positions of leadership that include teaching, creating curricula and educational tools, directing academic programs, and speaking and writing on topics related to strengthening children and families. 

A health educator by training, Cari focuses much of her work on children’s mental health, and speaks about mental health as a public health issue.  She is creator and editor of the Children’s Mental Health eReview, a collaborative online publication that engages research and community authors in writing about topics such as historical trauma, parental incarceration, youth homelessness, and educational disparities.  She provides leadership to the Cultural Providers Network, a coalition of providers for children of color, institutions of higher learning and Minnesota policy professionals. She has presented to higher education and community audiences on topics related to children’s mental health, promotion and prevention, family and community violence, and case study teaching and learning.  Cari has worked in several settings with families in crisis and served as a county foster parent.  She earned a masters degree in public health from the University of North Carolina Department of Heath Behavior/Health Education in 1995 and a bachelor’s degree in public health and child development from the University of Minnesota in 1988.

Michele Craig, Ed.D., is the Manager of Outreach and Training with the Community Catalyst Hospital Accountability Project. The Community Catalyst Hospital Accountability Project (HAP) helps community-based organizations, consumer advocates and others working with vulnerable communities to analyze hospital and public policies; to develop effective strategies for engaging hospitals, public health leaders, strategic allies, and policymakers on areas ripe for change; and to lift up promising practices and address ongoing barriers to care and community engagement.


In her role as the Manager for Outreach and Training with Community Catalyst, Michele provides and coordinates a broad range of technical assistance to state and local consumer organizations through cutting-edge community engagement and training programs, including community organizing, coalition-building, asset mapping, and action implementation. She also serves as a liaison to hospital and public health leaders, government agencies, and national organizations.

Michele has with a wealth of experience in adult education and training, strategic planning and program evaluation, coalition building, and community engagement around a diverse set of issues that include land use, transportation, health, workforce housing, and economic development.She was previously the Executive Director for the Seacoast NH Workforce Housing Coalition and Program Development Director for Plan NH. Prior to that, she worked for over a decade as the Training and Planning Coordinator for UNH Cooperative Extension's Community and Economic Development program area, where she also taught undergraduate courses in community conflict and participatory planning. In addition to her work with Community Catalyst, Michele is also teaching graduate courses at Southern NH University in the MBA program. She has her doctorate in Education from Plymouth State University.

Liz Olson has worked in the nonprofit community in varying capacities for the last 10 years. Most recently Liz worked as the Program Officer for a foundation which focused around health care access. Prior to that, Liz was the Director of Outreach and Organizing for a social safety net provider in Duluth. Currently, Liz works for TakeAction Minnesota in Duluth doing policy and organizing around women's economic security. Her experience lies in bringing together a variety of individuals and resources for the common goal of a more just and compassionate community. Liz holds a BA in Sociology from the University of Minnesota- Duluth and a MA in Congregational and Community Care from Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

Adam Rees joined Essentia Health as President of its’ Central Region in early 2013.  This region includes St. Joseph’s Medical Center, a 162-bed nonprofit community hospital located in Brainerd, Minn., 12 clinics, and an outpatient surgery center partnership.  We employ 1,300 employees with over 100 physicians representing 21 specialties. As a Benedictine-sponsored Catholic organization, St. Joseph’s adheres to the values of hospitality, stewardship, respect, justice, teamwork and quality.


He spent 25 years in various Mayo Clinic leadership assignments starting as a management trainee in 1987, followed by research administration, and strategic planning/merger and acquisitions in the Rochester campus.  In 1998 he was a Luther Midelfort Vice President responsible for clinic operations and in June 2007, became the Chief Administrative Officer for the Austin Medical Center.


Adam has degrees in Architectural Engineering, Psychology, and a Master’s of Business Administration in Marketing and Finance.  Organizational memberships and community activities are numerous throughout the years.  Some examples include Chamber Board Member, Crow Wing Energized Co- Chair, Region Three MN Hospital Association, Brainerd Rotary, Vision 2020, MGMA, United Way, Church Worship Team, led bible studies, community projects, Yacht Club Commodore, and a musician/band leader since 1988.


He is blessed with a wonderful supportive wife, Rhoda, and 2 children (Nathaniel and Jula).  His family enjoys skiing in the winter and almost anything to do in the water during the summer (swimming, sailing, tubing/skiing, fishing, and kayaking).

Dan Russell is the Executive Director of our host facility the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center. During his 26 years of leadership the DECC has received national recognition for its commitment to reduce energy use and recycling. In 2012 the DECC received the “Minnesota Governors Award for Environmental Stewardship”. More recently the DECC has developed a comprehensive Wellness Program for its 400 plus employees. Included is a company work out facility, personal trainers, yoga classes and a program to encourage healthy activities with paid days off. Dan is married to and inspired by Michelle Russell a Duluth Holistic Health and Healing Practitioner.
Laura Sandquist, DNP, R.N., graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in May of 2012 with a dual specialty in Integrative Health and Healing and as an Adult and Geriatric Nurse Practitioner. While a student at the University, Laura received a fellowship from the George Family Foundation through the University’s Center for Spirituality and Healing to study functional medicine. She also holds certification as an Intrinsic Health Coach. Her undergraduate nursing degree and minor in psychology are from Winona State University. The first six years of her career Laura worked in inpatient acute care as a staff Registered Nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. Upon graduating from the DNP program, she worked part-time as a Functional Medicine Nurse Practitioner at a private practice in Edina, MN and also as a Health Advisor and Clinical Resource for a Minneapolis based corporate wellness company. In March 2014 she transitioned to her new role as the Health and Wellness Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Lead at Touchstone’s Community Health and Wellness Center, which is a nurse-designed and nurse-led wellness, care model.

Erika Jones, Executive Director, FairShare CSA Coalition  A self-proclaimed foodie, Erika joined her first CSA in 2006 while living in Berkeley, Calif. She returned to her native Wisconsin to pursue her interests in sustainable agriculture and food policy while completing her Master's degree through the La Follette School of Public Affairs at UW Madison. Erika volunteered for FairShare while in graduate school, and participated in two Bike the Barns rides before joining the FairShare team as a part-time staffer in 2012.

Erika has managed the Partner Shares program, supported Grower programs, and coordinated events and donor appeals. She has also managed the volunteer and intern programs, and became the full-time director of programs in January 2014. She is a committed advocate for creating a sustainable and just local food system and is excited to be part of this movement in her role with FairShare. Her other passions include cooking, eating, food preservation and craft beer.

Rachel Gilbertson, M.Ed aims to live with purpose and make a positive impact each day at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) where she serves as the Community Health Coordinator and Lifestyle Health Coach at the Employee Health & Wellness Center.  Her goals are to support individuals in intrinsically motivated health behaviors, transform and advance traditional wellness programs, and engage in community outreach opportunities. As a Lifestyle Health Coach, she meets individuals where they are at in their journey to improved health in mind, body, and spirit using a whole person focus. Inspired to work collaboratively, she's sought out health professionals, wellness advocates, students, and community experts interested in creating a culture of wellbeing that supports and bridges individual, organizational, and community health to form the Wellness Collaborative at UMD. Recently she completed her Masters of Education and graduate minor in Integrative Therapies and Healing Practices. She is an Certified Intrinsic Coach, an A.C.E Certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and Mindfulness in Motion facilitator. Last, but certainly not least, she is a wife and the proud mom of 3 kids.

Natasha Ward, RDN, CD, Director of Community Health Improvement at Baldwin Area Medical Center, Inc. (BAMC) in Baldwin, WI. She oversees the community wellness program, The B_Well Initiative, the BAMC Center for Personal Wellness fitness center, the Integrative Health Services department, and the Nutrition Counseling department. The B_Well Initiative, a community wellness program established by the medical center in 2012, has emphasized bringing health screenings and nutrition, physical activity, and wellness programs to BAMC employees, the local community, and students in local school districts. She led the charge in eliminating both sugar sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages on the BAMC campus in 2014. Prior to taking on this position, she practiced as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at BAMC for 7 years. She continues to see patients in specialized areas of nutrition, particularly for autoimmune and cardiac/metabolic functional nutrition consults. Natasha has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Nutrition from the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota.

Jeff Washburne has served as the Executive Director of the City of Lakes Community Land Trust since November of 2002.  He was hired as the first staff hire for the organization with the goal of implementing the community vision of starting a Community Land Trust in Minneapolis.  He previously worked at Twin Cities Neighborhood Housing Services from 1997 - 2000 and 2001 - 2002, serving as the Executive Director the latter 2 years.  Prior to his nonprofit housing experience, Jeff worked as a construction supervisor and trainer for a residential construction firm in South Korea, a YMCA Program Manager in New Mexico, and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras.  He holds a M.A. in Public Administration from Hamline University and a B.A. in Psychology from DePauw University.  In February 2014, Jeff completed the 18-month NeighborWorks Achieving Excellence in Community Development Program at the Harvard Kennedy School.  He currently serves on the boards of the Minneapolis Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD), Twin Cities Community Land Bank (TCCLB), and the MN Community Land Trust Coalition (MNCLTC).  He, his wife Sarah, and son Max live in Minneapolis.

Dave Drozdowski, Duluth Police Department

Dave is a Duluth Police Department Community Police Officer who primarily works in the Duluth downtown area. One of his primary responsibilities is to work closely with the Community Intervention Group (CIG), which is made of up several community agencies such as the Duluth City Attorney’s Office, CHUM, Human Development Center, CADT, ARC Probation, Essentia Health, St. Luke’s, SLC Social Services, etc. One of their primary goals is to identify chronic consumers in an effort to focus resources towards them to better address their needs and to reduce their police contacts. He has been a police officer with Duluth PD since 2003. Before becoming a police officer, he worked for five years as a process engineer in the paper industry and was an intelligence analyst in the USAF/ANG for about 10 years. He graduated from Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College with a certificate in law enforcement in 2002 and graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point with a BS in Paper Science in 1997.