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.

Dr. DuCoin christopher-ducoin-photo-acsis 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 well-being 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 hernais, 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.

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 tenants 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

Timothy 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, teach the community and patients how to return to their kitchens and transform their health.

Travis Johnson

travis-johnsonDistrict Executive Chef at Tulane University

Chef Travis Johnson is the District Executive Chef at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he oversees the university’s culinary operations and its reciprocal dining program with Loyola University.  Previously, he’s held executive chef roles at universities in Missouri and in Iowa, where he was born.  His drive to develop his culinary skills ultimately brought him to New Orleans, which he calls a destination for chefs due to its food-centric culture and culinary history.

His specialty in the kitchen is fusing the flavor profiles of Italian and Creole cuisines; his specialty in the professional world is creating exceptional dining experiences through the close, mentoring relationships that chefs develop in their culinary work.

These relationships have been central to his experience of professional kitchens since he poured his heart into his first restaurant job in high school, and he strives to help other chefs build those bonds.  Chef Johnson’s passion for beautifully executed dishes and richly varied meals is reflected by sought-after professional honors, including the American Culinary Foundation of New Orleans’ “Best Chefs of Louisiana 2012” and “Chef of the Year 2014,” and by the opportunities he’s had to serve meals to world leaders, entertainers, and presidential candidates as well as thousands of hungry university students.

In addition to his career as an executive chef and his ten-year record of “Traveling Chef” appearances, Chef Johnson serves his community by providing culinary expertise to programs like Café Reconcile and Grow Dat Farm, which benefits at-risk youth living in the heart of Gulf Coast food culture.  These community needs drive him to keep building a professional record that’s all about a passion for fine dining done to perfection.

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 1930s 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 1970s.

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.

Lane Levine


Lane 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.

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

Chef Leah Sarris

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.