Our Speakers

David E. Blask, Ph.D., M.D.

blask_1Dr. Blask is Professor and Head, Laboratory of Chrono-Neuroendocrine Oncology, Department of Structural and Cellular Biology, Tulane University School of Medicine, Tulane Cancer Center and Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium, New Orleans, Louisiana.

For over 30 years, Dr. Blask’s research has focused on the circadian control and therapeutics of cancer by melatonin as well as the consequences of the circadian disruption of melatonin production by light at night on cancer risk. He has published over 250 journal articles, reviews, chapters, and abstracts on this topic. His research has been supported by funding agencies such as the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and The Edwin Pauley Foundation.

He currently serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Pineal Research, Neuroendocrinology Letters, and Integrative Cancer Therapies, and is a consultant for the photobiology group of the International DarkSky Association. Dr. Blask has also served as a member of the working group on shift work for the International Agency for Cancer Research of the World Health Organization.

Kerri Dotson, RD

Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at the Tulane University School of Medicine

Kerri Dotson received her B.S. in Culinary Nutrition from Johnson & Wales University and completed her Dietetic Internship at Tulane University. She has worked in diverse areas of nutrition and foodservice industries including restaurants, hospitals and critical care, maternal and child health, and community nutrition. Currently, she is the Culinary Medicine Educator for the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine.

The Goldring Center is the United States’ premier interdisciplinary program between culinary arts, science, nutrition, and medicine. Here she fulfills her passion in teaching others how to make delicious food that just happens to be good for you with an innovative program that combines nutrition education with hands-on cooking classes. Specializing in diabetes, chronic kidney disease, weight loss, cardiovascular disease, and other nutrition-related diseases, she provides individualized counseling with a food first approach to nutrition to help patients manage their disease. Clients then apply their nutrition knowledge through practical hands-on cooking classes where they gain the skills and confidence to become successful.

Chef Kerri also teaches professionals in the healthcare and foodservice sectors, as well as the community at large, how to cook food that is affordable, beautiful, healthful, easy to prepare, and most of all, delicious.

Christopher DuCoin, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.S.

christopher-ducoin-photo-acsDr. DuCoin is a board certified general surgeon who completed his Fellowship in Minimally Invasive Surgery at the University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla, California. Returning to Tulane University in the Medical Center’s Department of Surgery is coming full circle for him, as he received his Bachelor of Science degree from Tulane University and his Masters of Public Health degree from the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. He has a very strong affinity for New Orleans and desires nothing more than to participate in the health care and wellbeing of its’ population. He completed his general surgery residency and was also the Academic Chief Resident at Orlando Regional Medical Center, a large, Level One trauma center, which is the only branch of M.D. Anderson outside of the state of Texas.

Dr. DuCoin’s surgical interests include: Minimally Invasive Surgery of the Foregut, Advanced Endoscopy, and complex abdominal wall pathology such as hernia repair and fistula management. The foregut surgery in which he specializes is distal esophagectomy, large paraesophageal hernias, anti-reflux surgery, and solid organ surgery such as gastrectomy, hepato-pancreato-biliary, and splenic procedures. His endoscopy area of expertise is that of the foregut nature and includes both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, such as Peri-Oral Endoscopic Myotomy (POEM) and Peri-Oral Endoscopic Tumor Resection (POET). He recently performed the first POEM surgery in the Gulf South.  He is also trained in both Robotic and Bariatric surgery.

Dr. DuCoin is well published, having written 12 articles and 3 book chapters on topics including as abdominal wall reconstruction and anti-reflux surgery. He is involved in organizations such as the American College of Surgeons (ACS), the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES), the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), and the American Hernia Society (AHS). He has served as Resident Chair to the American College of Surgeons, and currently serves on three SAGES committees, the Grant Committee and the Membership Committee.

Dr. DuCoin is also extremely passionate about surgical education and has been published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons on this topic. He is involved in resident education, training, and research at Tulane University.

Joel S. Elliott

Joel is a native Texan. He graduated from Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, Texas with a B.B.A in finance.  Joel’s first job was in a Dallas area country club as a busboy at the age of 15.  His love for the art of food service was born. After working his way through college in the food service industry, he embarked upon a three year classical French apprenticeship under Chef Marc Gauronc. Upon his completion of his culinary apprenticeship, he worked for various fine dining establishments before settling into the hotel sector with Omni Hotels. He also was a food consultant with the Dakota Group during this time.

In 2004, Joel began his career with RATIONAL Cooking Systems, accepting the position of Executive Chef, Regional Sales Manager for the Texas Area. Over the last 13 years, he has held various positions within RATIONAL Cooking Systems, from Key Accounts Manager to Sales Director. He currently holds the position of Sr. Application Chef where he leverages his experience and expertise to help larger accounts maximize their resources and educates industry partners, sales managers, and end users in combi-cooking technology.

Robert Ellis, DO, PhD, FACP

robertellisdoThe College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific

With a PhD in Immunology, a graduate of the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, and a 24 year career in the Army, Dr. Ellis’ specialty is Hematology and Oncology. His grandmother, a DO, fueled his interest in caring for cancer patients. He approaches the care of his patients with malignant disorders in an integrative way, focusing on the least toxic method of controlling or reversing the condition.

He believes that attention to lifestyle factors such as nutrition, stress, and toxic occupational, personal, and environmental exposures are foundational to healing.  He lives the tenets that attention to the three levels of human existence; body, mind, and spirit, increase well being. A plant based diet combined with daily exercise and mindfulness practice have enabled him to function in his busy life as a physician, father, and husband.

Brian Frank, MD

profile-cropped-compressedOregon Health & Science University

Dr. Brian Frank is an assistant professor and full-time clinician in the department of family medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon. Since 2011 he has had the good fortune to provide care to multi-generational families and individuals in all stages of life at the OHSU’s Family Medicine Clinic at Richmond, a federally qualified health center for low-income families.  His research is focused on addressing food insecurity and other social determinants of health through collaboration between primary care, community wellness and health information technology.

Outside of his clinical duties, Brian is a Clinical Innovation Fellow with the Oregon Health Authority and serves on the executive boards of Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon, an advocacy group working to end food insecurity, and CSA Partnerships for Health, a collaboration of local farms, universities and public health entities studying the benefits of CSA “prescriptions” for patients in a primary care practice.

 Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP

tshbooks0711Tulane University School of Medicine

Dr. Harlan currently serves as Associate Dean for Clinical Services at Tulane University School of Medicine and is the Executive Director of the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, the first of its kind teaching kitchen operated by a medical school.

The Center offers an innovative program teaching medical students about diet and lifestyle that bridges the gap between the basic sciences, clinical medicine, the community, and culinary education. Medical students work side-by-side in the kitchen with culinary students to teach each other, and most importantly, to teach the community and patients how to return to their kitchens and transform their health.

Karen Karp

Karen Karp is a fourth-generation food entrepreneur. Her great-grandfather Morris, a first generation immigrant from Ukraine, opened a butter, eggs, and cheese wholesale outlet on Manhattan’s far west side and later a feed and seed company on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn. In the 1930’s the family relocated to Farmingdale, Long Island, where Karen’s grandfather transitioned Morris Karp & Son into Long Island’s first commercial manufacturer and distributor of fertilizer. After the sale of the company, Karen’s father Alan continued to serve the farmers of Long Island’s East End as a real estate broker concentrating on industrial and agricultural properties, and brokered the country’s first Transfer of Development Rights deal in the 1970’s.

Karen grew up visiting the farms with her father, but felt the irresistible pull of New York City, where she moved in 1978 to attend Parsons School of Design. Restaurant jobs put food on the table and captured her heart, and by the age of 29, Karen had grown a trendy downtown restaurant group from one to six outlets before setting her sights on entrepreneurship.

Establishing Karen Karp & Partners in 1990 (as Karp Resources), Karen developed interests that would soon become the company’s well-regarded niche: developing a range of bespoke strategies that explore the interconnections between agriculture, food, policy and people, and how to marry common interests of the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

In 2001 Karen obtained a master’s degree from the University of Bath School of Management, earning honors for her thesis, “How Does Food Sustain Us?” which explored how leaders convey and impart their personal food values within their organizations, and how these communities are then transformed through food.

KK&P has grown to become a nationally respected boutique consultancy with a uniquely skilled staff and a diverse roster of clients. Karen and her team are equally adept in the boardroom, in the kitchen, or on the land – their systems-based approach is always both conceptually rigorous and grounded in practical understanding.

Karen’s real success is measured by her ability to change the way a wide range of people – corporate executives, school officials, distributors, educators, and farmers – think about how food can be produced, processed, and distributed, and how she encourages them to overcome challenges and pursue innovation.

Chef Daniel Lessem, MBA, CPFM

Chef Daniel currently works as Culinary Applications Chef, supporting the East Coast for RATIONAL Cooking Systems, the industry leader in Combi-Cooking Technology. His dual role as Culinary Schools Liason for RATIONAL has him partnering with leading foodservice educators and institutions seeking to provide students with advanced cooking technology in the classroom.Prior to his current post.  Daniel taught a variety of culinary, hospitality and foodservice operations courses for the prestigious Johnson & Wales University in Miami, FL and worked as a product & process development chef for Pollo Tropical, the Latin American/Caribbean healthier quick-service restaurant concept based in Miami, FL.

With strong passions for teaching, foodservice systems, and natural resources, Daniel embarked on a quest to raise awareness around the availability of locally-grown products in South Florida and designed a business plan for a micro-distributorship to connect local farmers, foodservice establishments and chefs in the region. The Miami Herald recognized this effort and the entity, Urban Forager, LLC. became a finalist in their annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge. To raise capital for this venture, Daniel began a boutique foodservice chef-consulting practice serving small and mid-sized operators in South Florida and the Caribbean seeking improvements in  food-safety, workflow efficiency, quality, and consistency. His efforts have helped many small business owners gain the insights to establish successful enterprises. These successes led Daniel to explore equipment-based solutions in the foodservice sector and he began contracting with several original equipment manufacturers providing chef services and learning about the role of technology in foodservice. In his current role with RATIONAL, Daniel takes his talents full circle, supporting client operations and assisting schools to bring state-of-the-art cooking into the classroom.

Lane Levine

lane-levineLane Levine, Project Manager for Population Health at LifeBridge Health in Baltimore, has spent ten years organizing and leading campaigns and various projects that have brought justice, resources, services, relationships and health to communities. In Population Health, Lane manages projects that support the patient populations of Northwest Baltimore to stay healthy and out of the hospital. As Community Network Director at Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc., Lane co-founded Northwest Neighbors Connecting, a neighbor-helping-neighbor, aging-in-place village in Northwest Baltimore. Prior to working with seniors and in healthcare, Lane has organized in other capacities, including worker rights, public health, LGBT youth advocacy and more.

As a volunteer, Lane serves on the Advisory Council for JUFJ (Jews United for Justice) and the Board of Directors for BNI (Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc.), and he is a tenor in Baltimore’s Charm City Labor Chorus.

Lane has a BA in Philosophy from Harvard University, a certification from the California Lead Organizers Institute, and a certification as a Project Management Professional. He lives in Baltimore with his partner, four generations of his family, and four chickens.

Geeta Maker-Clark, MD

Dr. Maker-Clark has always held the belief that any meaningful healing must involve the mind, body and spirit, and that whenever possible the most natural and least invasive intervention serves the highest good of the person. She has pursued study with traditional healers, midwives, herbalists, and energy healers in many countries around the world, including Brazil, Belize, India, Venezuela, and Cuba, and is fluent in Hindi and Spanish. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona Fellowship in Integrative Medicine, under the supervision and mentorship of Dr. Andrew Weil, and recently travelled with him to Cuba to study the system of natural medicine that has been in place there for many years.

She is a certified prenatal yoga instructor and a practicing yogini for the last 20 years. Dr. Maker-Clark relies heavily on the use of food as medicine in her approach to healing, as well as herbs, botanicals, breath work, conventional medicines, and healing practitioners in the community. She has lectured widely on the use of the anti-inflammatory diet to the medical community and to the public at farmers markets, yoga festivals, community organizations, schools, and through her popular Food as Medicine classes with Chef Ellen King.She is on the board of several groups including:

  • The Heartwood Women and Cancer program – a local foundation that provides integrative services to low income women with cancer.
  • Food Tank – a think tank that offer solutions and environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty.
  • Health and Medicine Policy Research group – a social justice organization dedicated to health care for all people.

Chef Cary Neff

Chef Neff, Vice President of Culinary Support at Morrison Healthcare is also the creator of the trendsetting food style of “Conscious Cuisine©” and author of NY Times best-selling cook book Conscious Cuisine.  Chef Neff is noted for his leadership in revolutionizing healthy cooking.

Chef Neff led Morrison Healthcare culinary team to launch industry leading innovations and concepts.

  • Morrison’s Great Living™ Patient Menu: a healthy menu platform for patient dining that emphasizes the use of whole sustainable and functional foods.
  • Award winning Flavors 450 and Central Table fast casual wellness retail concepts.
  • Culinary Healthcare Professional Certification.

A highly sought-after guest chef, cooking instructor, lecturer, and television/radio personality, Johnson & Wales Distinguished Visiting Chef, Princeton University Artist in Residence. Chef Neff has appeared on national programs such as “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Today Show,” “Food Network,” and “MasterChef USA.” He has been profiled in The New York Times, “O”, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Restaurant News, and Condé Nast Traveler.

Chef Neff trained in classical French cooking at Chicago’s venerable Washburne Trade School and has enjoyed an ever-evolving culinary career as an executive chef in many of the nation’s most prominent restaurants, resorts and spas.

Neff’s concept is based on the idea that nutritious food can be exciting and flavorful by recreating the center of the plate with whole sustainable grains, fresh seasonal vegetables consciously selected for their flavor and nutritional value. Then using high quality mindfully portioned meats, poultry and fish to complement the meal create delicious and nutritiously balanced meals.

Chinwe Onyekere

In her three years as Director of Ambulatory Services and Business Development, Onyekere, who grew up in West Philadelphia, has implemented innovative models for primary care medicine at the Lankenau Medical Associates, developed a robust community health program, and has built important relationships with community-based organizations in the Philadelphia area.

In her community-based work, Onyekere has focused on reducing health care disparities and identifying innovative ideas for breakthroughs in health care delivery. Onyekere was previously executive director of Health Leads in New York, which implemented a new level of healthcare delivery in which patients’ unmet resource needs were systematically addressed as a standard element of patient care. She received a Master’s in Public Health from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Wellesley College in Massachusetts as well as a Certificate in Business Essentials from Wharton School of Business

Lisa Roberson, RDN, LD

As the National Director of Wellness & Sustainability for Morrison Healthcare, Lisa Roberson is a Registered Dietitian with 20 years of expertise in nutrition leadership and has an emphasis in corporate wellness. Lisa uses healthy choice architecture and tasty yet healthy, sustainable food to transform food environments in hospitals.

Lisa trained at leading medical institutions including Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN. She has 15 years of clinical experience in specialty care ranging from pediatric gastroenterology and metabolic disorders, adult nutrition support and cardiac rehabilitation. For the last decade, Lisa has specialized in Corporate Wellness.

Lisa helped the culinary team engineer Morrison’s Great Living™ Patient Menu and education experience – a leading wellness innovation and healthy menu platform for patient feeding in hospitals, which offers an abundance of whole foods and has 50% less sodium and unhealthy fat as compared to typical hospital menus.

Lisa has also led her company to achieve awards in Employee Wellness, such as:

  • Kaiser Permanente’s Most Fit Company Award for three consecutive years,
  • Recognition as one of the top 10 Healthiest Employers by the Atlanta Business Chronicle,
  • And the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles Award awarded to Compass Group for the fifth consecutive year in 2014.

As the Compass Group and Morrison Healthcare liaison to nationally recognized wellness organizations, Lisa has strategically aligned Morrison as the first healthcare foodservice company to partner with Healthcare Without Harm (HCWH) and A Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA). She is an active member of Practice Greenhealth (PGH) and is a selected member of the PGH Marketing Transformation Group, working to reduce antibiotics in the meat supplied to patients in hospitals and in the supply chain.

As a member of the Council of Future Practice in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, she strives to shape the experience of dietitians to include expertise in wellness and sustainability for promoting a healthier America.

Leah Sarris, RD

leah-sarris-225x300Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at the Tulane University School of Medicine

Chef Leah Sarris has worked in diverse areas of the foodservice and related industries from restaurants, to instructing culinary arts at a prestigious university, foodservice consulting, farming, and community outreach to improve school nutrition. Currently she is the Program Director for the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans. This means she has built and developed the first interdisciplinary program between culinary science, nutrition and a medical school, teaching future doctors and those currently in the medical field how to cook and prescribe healthier foods and lifestyles to their patients. This program is the first of its kind and over 30 other medical schools around the nation have licensed the curriculum.

Leah’s passion lies in teaching everyone from medical students, to community members taking free cooking classes at the center, to professional chefs how to make delicious food that just happens to be good for you. She strives to teach people that nutritious food should be tasty, easy to make, and affordable, while arming them with the knowledge and skills to bring that vision into their kitchens.

Rick Streiffer, MD

richard-streiffer1Dean, College of Community Health Sciences at The University of Alabama

Richard H. Streiffer, MD is the Dean of the College of Community Health Sciences at The University of Alabama. Dr. Streiffer, a native of New Orleans, earned a baccalaureate degree in Math from Tulane University, his medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans, and completed his Family Medicine Residency at The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences.

After several years in rural practice and serving as a preceptor for medical students in his office, he began an academic career at the University of Mississippi in 1984. He has subsequently served as director of the Mercy Family Medicine Residency in Denver, Colorado; as director of Predoctoral Education in Family Medicine at LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans, where he started the first required Family Medicine Clerkship in Louisiana; and as founding director of the Baton Rouge General Medical Center’s Family Medicine Residency program, the first community-based training program in Louisiana.

He was recruited back to New Orleans in 1998 to found the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine, a former “target” school, and served for 12 years as chair of that department, providing oversight to development of its clinical practice, student teaching programs and residency affiliations.