Conference Presenters

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Bernice Patterson
Founder & CEO
Infinity Consultation Group, LLC
Grand Rapids, MI


Keynote Presentation: Life After Quarantine: Dealing with the Trauma of Transitioning Back into Community  
Dr. Bernice Patterson is the founder and CEO of Infinity Consultation Group, where she collaborates with clients to deliver workshops and seminars on challenging topics, including issues of racism, cultural diversity and inclusion, anti-bias, mental health, and the intersection of mental health and spirituality. She holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology from Western Michigan University and is a licensed and ordained preacher of the gospel.


Keynote Speaker


Honorable Sara J. Smolenski, J.D.
Judge for the 63rd District Court
63rd District Court
Grand Rapids, MI


Keynote Presentation: We Need Humor Now More Than Ever 
Judge Sara Smolenski is a Grand Rapids native. She earned an Associate of Arts Degree from Grand Rapids Junior College and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Michigan. In 1982, she earned a Juris Doctorate Degree from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. She was elected to the bench in 1990. She was appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court as Chief Judge of the 63rd District Court, serving as Chief Judge from 1996 to 2020, and continues to serve as a District Judge for 63rd District Court.


Judge Smolenski has not only earned a reputation among her peers as a distinguished judge, but also is a proven strong community leader spending countless hours outside of the courtroom as a legal advocate, contributor and activist for several non-profit groups and organizations.

In addition to her legal work and community service, Judge Smolenski has established herself as a popular local humorist frequently exhibiting her unique “real life” humor for many organizations.

Judge Smolenski is a strong advocate for education. She believes education improves lives and our community.

Among many community organizations, she has done work with American Cancer Society, Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, Kids Food Basket, YWCA, Hospice of Michigan, Michigan Women’s Foundation, Senior Neighbors, and many others. She is a frequent speaker at community events, educational programs, charitable organizations, and civic and community groups.


Workshop Presenters


Laura Bahena, CHW
Owner of CHW Werks™
CHW Werks
Chicago, IL


Presentation: CHW Check-In Strategies for CHWs for Better Work Performance 
Laura Bahena, CHW/Promotores de Salud has over 20 years of experience as a Community Health Worker. She is owner of her own consulting business CHW Werks™ where she provides trainings, speaking engagements, consulting and creates curriculums for Community Health Workers, Promotores de Salud and Community Navigators.

She serves as part of an IRB Board at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago Il. She was temporary Chair of the APHA CHW Section 2020! She has served as a former Governing member there as well. She also continues to teach CPR and First Aid in her other business.


Belinda Cunningham, BSBA
Grand Rapids, MI


Presentation: The Inner You: Develop the Blueprint to Personal and Professional Growth 
Belinda Cunningham is the founder of Belinda Lynn, Inc. She is a motivational speaker, facilitator and is currently working on her first book. Belinda is passionate about educating, equipping, and empowering others.

During her time at Spectrum Health she held multiple positions. Belinda’s most recent role was the Diversity and Wellness Program Specialist for the Office of Medical Education. Before then, she worked in Community Relations and Healthier Communities as a CHW with the Strong Beginnings MIHP program. From listening to clients and witnessing the social disparities of healthcare, Belinda had a strong desire to complete her bachelor’s degree to enrich her momentum to drive change. She enrolled in Aquinas College and finished summa cum laude with a BSBA. She dual majored in Business Administration and Communications.

During her time as a CHW she led the coordination of the Annual CHW conference, MOMS program family support group, and facilitated the Baby Think it Over simulation in clients’ homes. In Community Relations, Belinda led and executed project campaigns and signature events. She served as a media spokespersons for community relations events and co-facilitates system new hire orientation and Managing Unconscious Bias workshops.

In addition to her work at Spectrum Health, Belinda also serves in ministry at Brown-Hutcherson Ministries, the Kent County Correctional Facility and Executive Board of Baxter Community Center



Denise Evans, MM, MA
Project Coordinator
Strong Beginnings-Healthy Start
Grand Rapids, MI


Presentation: Managing Unconscious Bias in Our Work
Ms. Evans serves as the project Coordinator for Strong Beginnings - Healthy Start program. She is a trained facilitator on health equity and social justice, Cultural Intelligence, unconscious/implicit bias, Technologies of Participation, Institutes for Healing Racism and is a Truth Racial Healing Transformation Racial Healing Circles practitioner.

Ms. Evans works closely with the National Healthy Start Association, the National Association of County & City Health Officials and state and local health departments on issues of equity, justice, bias, and inclusion.  She is a local guest lecturer for Spectrum Health Medical Residency programs, Spectrum Health University, local colleges, universities, seminaries, and conferences nationally. Denise is a 2017 National Equity Project Fellow and a trained community organizer. She works diligently to join community organizers, faith-based organizations, and public health professionals together to disrupt systems of oppression and build a more equitable future for those living in our nation’s most vulnerable communities. Ms. Evans is a two-time past chair of Spectrum Health’s System Inclusion Council and a founding member of the Greater Grand Rapids Racial Equity Network. She invests her time mentoring seminarians locally and public health professionals nationally while serving her local church as the pastor of outreach and development.

Ms. Evans holds graduate degrees from the Southern California School of Ministry and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.  She received the 2010 Woman of Influence Award from Cornerstone University, the 2013 Community Leadership Award from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and was recognized in 2017 by the Kent County Health Department for her passionate and tireless work to eliminate health inequities and the corresponding racialized outcomes that plague our nation’s most vulnerable communities.



Michael Lhamon
CPS Supervisor
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services-Kent County
Grand Rapids, MI


Presentation: Mandated Reporter 
Michael Lhamon has been with MDHHS-CPS for over 8 years (5 as a Services Specialist/Investigator, 2 as a Services Specialist/Lead Worker, and 1 as a Supervisor). Prior to that Michael spend 10 years with the Families First of Michigan program in both Muskegon County and Kent County. Michael earned his BS in Social Services through GVSU (Class of '98).


Celeste Sanchez Lloyd
Program Manager
Strong Beginnings-Healthy Start
Grand Rapids, MI


Presentation: Active Supervision for CHWs: More Than Managing People  
For more than 15 years, Celeste has been involved and dedicated within community work prior to her educational interest and degree seeking from Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. As an undergrad she participated in teaching English as a second language in her spare time. Found a passion for helping those that found themselves in vulnerable situations. Being able to relate due to her experience as a first generation Dominican-American she began to work diligently in eliminating social and structural social determinants of health. After relocating back to Grand Rapids, MI from Richmond, VA she began to focus within underserved communities which led to once again furthering her education and receiving her M.A. from Western Michigan University. Celeste attributes her professional growth to that of her commitment and surrounding herself with organizations and businesses that employee a positive culture and precisely defined goals in the advancement of vulnerable families and communities.As Program Manager of Strong Beginnings-Healthy Start, Celeste supports the elimination of disparities amongst prenatal African American and Latina mothers and their families within Kent County. She specifically focuses on implementing the use of Community Health Workers and the value they add to communities of Color. Her effort is to strengthen and provide strong support surrounding racial equity in breaking systemic infrastructures.

Celeste has been identified as a co-author and showcased in the Maternal and Child Health Journal, recognized as an ATHENA Young Professional Finalist, West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Young Professional of the Year Finalist, and various other recognitions for showcasing leadership within individuals of Color. Celeste sits on various boards focused on serving and eliminating racism and disparities amongst the most vulnerable communities along with being a current W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. She currently serves as a Board Member of Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative, Michigan Community Health Worker Alliance, Latina Network of West Michigan, past advisor to National Healthy Start Epic CHW Advisory Group. Additionally, she has been involved with United Christian Outreach Ministries, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, Heart of West Michigan United Way, and Business Leaders Linked to Encourage New Directions (BLEND). Celeste lives in Grand Rapids with her husband and three daughters.



Leanne Mauriello, PH.D.
Director, Spectrum Health Lifestyle Medicine Department

Libby Stern, LMSW, NCTPP
Specialist, Clinical Program
Spectrum Health Lifestyle Medicine
Grand Rapids, MI


Presentation: Keys to Successful and Lasting Lifestyle Change  
Dr. Leanne Mauriello, a health psychologist and behavioral scientist, is Director of Spectrum Health’s department of Lifestyle Medicine. Leanne has expertise in lifestyle medicine, consumer engagement, health behavior change, and digital health. She leads the development and implementation of evidence-based programs to engage and support consumers around making positive lifestyle changes to improve health and well-being and reduce chronic disease.

Libby Stern is the Clinical Program Specialist for the Tobacco and Nicotine Treatment (TNT) Program in the Lifestyle Medicine Department at Spectrum Health. She is a licensed master’s level social worker and certified tobacco treatment specialist with extensive experience as an educator, clinician, program planner and leader. As the lead for TNT, Libby’s focus is on developing a comprehensive, easily accessible program whereby any patient, employee or community member who wants to quit using tobacco and nicotine can!


Janée A. Tyus, MPH
Executive Director
Michigan Community Health Worker Alliance (MiCHWA)
Ann Arbor, MI


Presentation: MiCHWA CHW Update 
Janée Tyus, MPH, is the new Executive Director at the Michigan Community Health Worker Alliance (MiCHWA). Prior to joining MiCHWA Janée has had a leadership role as the Director of Community Engagement at the Greater Flint Health Coalition (GFHC) in Flint, MI. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from the University of Michigan and a Master of Public Health from Drexel University’s School of Public Health with a concentration in Health Management and Policy. Janée has also taught classes for the University of Michigan – Flint’s Public Health and Health Science Department. Her strengths are in community organization, community-based collaboration, and project management. Her career has been dedicated to public health research, opportunities, and advancement for populations in need.


Sarah Zuidema, LMSW
Program Director
Children’s Advocacy Center of Kent County
Grand Rapids, MI


Presentation: Adverse Childhood Experience 
A licensed social worker who has spent her entire career in child welfare, Sarah has experience in foster care and adoption, trauma, prevention, and international social services. She earned a master’s degree in social work from Grand Valley State University. Sarah is also an ACE Master trainer through the Michigan ACE Initiative. Sarah wants to ensure that all Kent County children have a safe place to talk and heal from abuse.