Office of the President
President and CEO
David Sandman, Ph.D., is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth), a private foundation dedicated to improving the health of all New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable. Since 2006, NYSHealth has invested more than $146 million in initiatives to improve health care and the public health system in New York State. Equally important, the Foundation is committed to sharing the results and lessons of its grantmaking; informing policy and practice through timely, credible analysis and commentary; and serving as a convener of health care leaders and stakeholders throughout New York State.
Dr. Sandman was named President and CEO in 2016, after serving as NYSHealth’s Senior Vice President. Previously, Dr. Sandman was appointed by the Governor of New York as Executive Director of the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century, also known as the “Berger Commission.” The Commission was a nonpartisan, broad-based panel charged with evaluating and reforming the State’s health care delivery and financing systems. It developed recommendations to reconfigure the supply of hospitals and nursing homes to best respond to community needs for high-quality, affordable, and accessible care.
After serving as Executive Director of the Berger Commission, Dr. Sandman became a Managing Director of Manatt Health Solutions, where he advised health care providers, foundations, payers, associations, government, and companies regarding development of new health care programs, services, and restructuring plans. Earlier, he was a Vice President at Harris Interactive, a global research and consulting firm. Prior to joining Harris Interactive, Dr. Sandman served as Assistant Vice President at the Commonwealth Fund, where he was responsible for projects related to health care coverage and access, health care in New York City, Medicare, and quality of care issues. He also served as a policy analyst with the City of New York Department of Health; at a number of community-based HIV/AIDS organizations; and as a researcher at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Sandman received his Bachelor of Arts degree, Phi Beta Kappa, from Haverford College, and his Master of Public Administration degree and Ph.D. from New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service. He is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine and a member of the Herman Biggs Society; he also serves on Philanthropy New York’s Board of Directors.
As Executive Assistant to the President and CEO of the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth), Olivia Williams is responsible for directly supporting the president and assisting in the facilitation and execution of administrative responsibilities for NYSHealth. Her duties include coordinating meetings and travel arrangements; preparing correspondence and reports; maintaining schedules; and assisting with managing the executive office. Ms. Williams also serves as liaison to the Board of Directors.
Prior to joining NYSHealth, Ms. Williams worked in the education industry for 10 years. She served as a high school teacher at Westfield Ninth Grade Center, Westfield High School, and Dekaney High School in Houston, Texas. She taught 9th–12th grade math to students in general education, special education, and the English as a Second Language (ESL) program, specializing in working with students with emotional disturbances.
Ms. Williams earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting from the University of Houston, a teaching certificate from Texas Teachers, and a Master of Public Administration degree from Rutgers University’s School of Public Affairs and Administration.
Senior Program Officer
As Senior Program Officer, Brian Byrd manages the New York State Foundation’s (NYSHealth’s) Special Projects Fund, a $3 million annual funding opportunity that allows NYSHealth to respond to opportunities that fit the organization’s mission, but fall outside the Foundation’s two priority areas. The Special Projects Fund also serves as an opportunity to be responsive to the changing health care environment, especially to innovative ideas that emerge from the health field.
Prior to joining NYSHealth, Mr. Byrd was the director for community partnerships for CARE, an international humanitarian organization. He was responsible for building relationships with policymakers, the media, and government and corporate officials. Before that, he was deputy director for membership affairs at the Council on Foreign Relations. Mr. Byrd has considerable experience in the health field. As a senior government relations advisor, he worked on public health policies and services in New York. He was also an assistant director with the Rockefeller Foundation, where he managed an HIV/AIDS project in Africa.
Mr. Byrd holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Rutgers University and a Master of Public Administration degree from New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service. He is a member of Philanthropy New York’s PhilanthroPost editorial board and Health Policy Working Group Program Planning Committee. He serves on the board of the Overseas Press Club of America and the advisory committee for Witness.
Veterans' Health Officer
As Veterans’ Health Officer, Derek Coy focuses on expanding veterans’ access to community-based services; leveraging federal and private funds to increase the dollars available to returning veterans in New York State; and serving as a thought leader, convener, and advocate to improve the health of returning veterans and their families.
Prior to joining NYSHealth, Mr. Coy served as the development manager at The Doe Fund, an organization dedicated to breaking the cycles of recidivism and homelessness, where he revamped and modernized its fundraising efforts. Before that role, Mr. Coy was the annual fund officer at the American Civil Liberties Union, helping produce STAND, the organization’s bi-annual magazine, and its annual appeals. Mr. Coy has considerable experience working in the veteran space, and used his role as senior development associate at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to advocate for changes in our nation’s capital.
Mr. Coy received a Bachelor of Arts degree, Phi Alpha Theta, from the University of Houston Clear Lake, and a Master of Arts degree in Middle Eastern History from the City College of New York, where he focused on 20th century Iranian history. He is also a former Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, and served a yearlong deployment to Iraq’s Anbar Province in 2005.
As Administrative Assistant, Blandine Etienne is responsible for supporting NYSHealth’s team of program officers. Her duties include coordinating travel arrangements; assisting with meeting and event planning; tracking expenses and submitting expense reports; and providing general administrative assistance.
Prior to joining NYSHealth, Ms. Etienne has used her customer service and administrative skills in the telecommunications, allied health, and publishing industries.
Ms. Etienne has an Associate’s degree in Biology from Kingsborough Community College and a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Cornell University.
Vice President, Programs
Vice President, Programs
As Vice President, Programs, at the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth), Avital Havusha, M.P.H., oversees and develops the Foundation’s programs and priority areas, Empowering Health Care Consumers and Healthy Food, Healthy Lives, as well as its Special Projects Fund and focus on Veterans’ Health. Ms. Havusha plays a leadership role in developing and implementing the Foundation’s goals and strategies and in ensuring quality and accountability of its grantmaking. She promotes synergy across all of the Foundation’s grantmaking, contributes to the Foundation’s proactive policy agenda, and builds partnerships with other foundations and stakeholders.
Prior to joining NYSHealth, Ms. Havusha held a number of leadership roles in the public health and health care sectors in New York State. At the Primary Care Development Corporation (PCDC), Ms. Havusha oversaw operations, strategy, project execution, and business development for PCDC’s capacity-building and technical assistance programs, supporting primary care practices to provide patient-centered and coordinated care. At Public Health Solutions, Ms. Havusha oversaw and managed large-scale health and human service programs in the areas of food and nutrition, reproductive health care, maternal and child health, and health care access. Earlier, at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, she played a lead role in coordinating the department’s response to federal and State health care reform and was a member of the leadership team that developed the Take Care New York policy agenda. Ms. Havusha has also held roles at Yale University’s School of Public Health and at an anti-hunger organization in Massachusetts.
Ms. Havusha holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master of Public Health degree from Yale University, with a concentration in health policy and administration.
As a Program Officer at the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth), MaKaya Saulsberry focuses on NYSHealth’s priority area of empowering health care consumers, which explores ways to engage patients as partners in their health care decision-making and increase transparency in the health care system.
Ms. Saulsberry is a seasoned health care leader with a background in organizational transformation and process improvement. Prior to joining NYSHealth, Ms. Saulsberry was the director of patient experience at Mount Sinai Health System. In that role, Ms. Saulsberry oversaw the development and implementation of data-driven strategies to address gaps in exceptional patient, family, and staff experiences. Previously, Ms. Saulsberry was the assistant director of patient and family engagement at NYU Langone Health, where she led patient engagement throughout the enterprise, including patient and family education and communication. Before joining NYU Langone Health, she was a patient engagement strategist and advisor at GetWellNetwork, a patient engagement software company, where she focused on building consulting relationships with clients around defining patient engagement action plans and building functionally integrated ecosystems.
Ms. Saulsberry holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of Oklahoma and a Master of Public Health degree from The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Senior Program Officer
Senior Program Officer
As Senior Program Officer, Bronwyn Starr helps lead NYSHealth’s Healthy Food, Healthy Lives priority area, with a goal to create a more equitable food system that connects all New Yorkers with the food they need to thrive.
Prior to Healthy Food, Healthy Lives, Ms. Starr managed the Foundation’s Building Healthy Communities priority area, supporting residents, community-based organizations, and government agencies to improve neighborhood health. She has also supported county health departments in reducing health disparities and preventing chronic disease; expanding primary care access and capacity in the most rural parts of New York State; and increasing recruitment and retention of New York State’s primary care workforce.
Prior to joining NYSHealth, Ms. Starr led a program at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that helped primary care providers improve medication adherence for their patients. She previously worked in the international health sector with Catholic Relief Services and Planned Parenthood, and was a New York City emergency medical technician for 10 years.
Ms. Starr holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Oregon and a Master of Public Health degree from New York University. She serves on the steering committee for Community Food Funders and The New York State Council on Hunger and Food Policy.
Senior Program Assistant
As Senior Program Assistant, Liz Ward supports the Healthy Food, Healthy Lives and Veterans’ Health program areas. She assists program staff and senior management with grants management, grantee communications, event coordination, and programmatic research. She works closely with program staff to help design and develop grant opportunities.
Prior to joining NYSHealth, Ms. Ward was an executive assistant for a woman-owned, New York City-based lobbying firm, responsible for event coordination, communications, public relations, and general administration. She also worked in Boston as a paralegal for the Consumer Assistance Program at Health Law Advocates and as a development intern at Health Care for All. She also interned for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Outreach and Enrollment Program at the Western MA Food Bank, where she assisted people with their SNAP benefits applications and helped organize community outreach events.
Ms. Ward holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Health, a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, and a certificate in Public Policy and Administration from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree, concentrating in Urban Development and Sustainability, at CUNY Baruch’s Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, with an expected graduation date of May 2021.
Policy and Research
Policy and Research Associate
Policy and Research Associate
As Policy and Research Associate, Sophie Wheelock works with the Policy and Research team to enhance the Foundation’s internal analytic capabilities. Ms. Wheelock also works with program and communications staff on conducting research and analytics to inform the Foundation’s policy agenda and contribute to internal and external publications.
Ms. Wheelock’s interest in health policy and research is shaped by her previous experience in patient care and advocacy. Prior to joining NYSHealth, she served as an AmeriCorps member at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, providing HIV testing and education to New Yorkers from the LGBTQ community. During graduate school, she led research with Planned Parenthood of Southern New England to develop the affiliate’s first childbirth education program. She conducted her graduate practicum with NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut and advanced the organization’s legislative agenda through reproductive health policy research and advocacy at the state capitol.
Ms. Wheelock has a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Affairs from Vassar College and a Master of Public Health degree from the Yale School of Public Health.
Director, Policy and Research
As Director, Policy and Research, at the New York State Health Foundation, Mark Zezza, Ph.D., works in close partnership with Foundation staff to develop the evidence base necessary to support a proactive policy agenda that advances and magnifies outcomes in the Foundation’s key programmatic areas of Empowering Health Care Consumers and Building Healthy Communities.
Dr. Zezza joined the Foundation after spending nearly two decades using advanced analytics to evaluate the impact of various health policy initiatives for private payers and providers, as well as for local and federal government agencies. As a vice president at the Lewin Group, he was responsible for applying economic, financial, and statistical tools to design and evaluate health care policies. While at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Dr. Zezza analyzed all facets of Medicare payments to private plans participating in Medicare managed care programs, as well as updates to payment systems for hospitals. Dr. Zezza has also worked as a research director for The Brookings Institution, helping to launch pilot initiatives in accountable care delivery models. At The Commonwealth Fund, he worked with leading researchers and health care provider organizations across the country to identify best practices in changing provider incentives based on concepts from behavioral economics, cognitive psychology, and organizational innovation.
Dr. Zezza holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Dickinson College, a Master of Arts degree in Psychology from The New School, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Vice President, Communications
As Vice President, Communications, Maureen Cozine oversees all communications activities for the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth). She is responsible for developing the overall communications strategy to advance NYSHealth’s mission to improve the health of all New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable. The Foundation’s key communications priorities include sharing the results and lessons of the Foundation’s grantmaking; developing and disseminating timely, credible analyses of and commentary on pressing policy issues; and serving as a convener of health care leaders and stakeholders throughout New York State.
Prior to joining NYSHealth in January 2010, Ms. Cozine held a number of positions at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), most recently as senior communications officer and director of policy connections. In that role, she managed RWJF’s relationships with federal policymakers and worked with grantees to communicate effectively and build relationships with elected officials, the media, and other key audiences.
Ms. Cozine holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Colgate University and a Master of Public Health degree from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She serves on the board of the Communications Network, a national membership organization for communications professionals working in the social sector.
As Communications Officer, Stephany Fong supports NYSHealth’s communications strategies through capturing and sharing stories, news, and information relevant to NYSHealth’s mission. She is responsible for developing the Foundation’s social media presence, updating and streamlining website content, promoting the Foundation’s work, and drafting and editing written materials for external and internal audiences.
Prior to joining NYSHealth in 2015, Ms. Fong served as a Health Promotion Assistant at Columbia University’s Alice! Health Promotion office, developing and implementing health initiatives to improve physical activity, nutrition, and healthy relationships among students. Previously, Ms. Fong interned at Camino Public Relations, American Heart Association, and Orange County Health Care Agency.
Ms. Fong holds a Master of Public Health degree from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego. She serves on the editorial board of Philanthropy New York’s PhilanthroPost and on the Engagement Advisory Council at The New York Women’s Foundation.
As Communications Officer, Michele McEvoy is responsible for supporting the New York State Health Foundation’s (NYSHealth’s) communications initiatives. Her duties include assisting with press releases and Foundation-related announcements, editing NYSHealth publications and materials, and maintaining the Foundation’s website. Ms. McEvoy serves as the liaison for reporters and researchers seeking information about the Foundation’s work.
Ms. McEvoy has more than 10 years experience in the nonprofit field. Prior to joining the Foundation in January 2011, Ms. McEvoy was director of communications and fundraising at Grace Institute, a nonprofit providing tuition-free job training to underserved New York City-area women. Ms. McEvoy has also worked for the American Society for Microbiology as part of the production team for Microbe, the Society’s monthly magazine.
Ms. McEvoy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology from University of Maryland at College Park and a Master of Arts degree in Journalism from New York University.
As the Communications Intern, Liz McNeill works to support the Foundation’s marketing and communications initiatives. She assists the communications department in maintaining the Foundation’s website and editing NYSHealth written materials, publications, and grant outcome reports.
Prior to joining NYSHealth, Ms. McNeill previously worked as a research and writing intern at New York University’s Department of Public Health Policy and Management, in conjunction with Lifespan of Greater Rochester, for a large grant proposal on integrating social services with health care delivery. In addition, she worked with the team to further understand dissemination and implementation of public health policy, as well as assisted with study and intervention design.
Ms. McNeill holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry with a minor in Business Administration from Roberts Wesleyan College, and is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health degree, concentrating in Public Health Policy, at New York University’s School of Global Public Health, with an expected graduation date of May 2021.
Finance, Operations, and Investment
Vice President, Finance and Operations
As Vice President, Finance and Operations, Amy Driver oversees finance and operations activities for the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth). She is responsible for implementing policies and procedures that promote good stewardship of the Foundation’s resources. Ms. Driver oversees accounting, human resources, grants management, and facilities. She is responsible for the annual audit and tax returns. Ms. Driver’s priorities are to ensure that NYSHealth is an excellent workplace, that its operations are efficient, and that its legal and financial compliance requirements are met.
Ms. Driver has more than 20 years of nonprofit experience in finance, administration, fundraising, and public affairs. She joined NYSHealth after 10 years in finance and administration for Children’s Rights, an advocacy organization working to reform the child welfare system nationwide.
Ms. Driver received a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Russian Area Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz.
As Grants Manager, Lynn Fitzgerald-Tahsir is responsible for developing, implementing, monitoring, and documenting systems and procedures that facilitate the execution of the Foundation’s grantmaking. In addition, she is responsible for NYSHealth’s grants management information data systems administration. Ms. Fitzgerald-Tahsir oversees the overall success of the database environment by implementing strategic solutions to continuously enhance NYSHealth processes.
Ms. Fitzgerald-Tahsir has more than 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, including direct services with homeless families and program management for the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Financial Empowerment. She also served as the Assistant Manager of Programs and Evaluation for Community Education Group, an organization working to promote health equity in Southeast Washington, D.C. Most recently, Ms. Fitzgerald-Tahsir served as the Director of Grants Management and Operations at The New York Women’s Foundation.
Ms. Fitzgerald-Tahsir has a Master of Public Administration degree from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Social Work degree from The City University of New York, Lehman College.
Senior Finance and HR Associate
Senior Finance and HR Associate
As the Senior Finance and HR Associate, Elisa Nikoloulias is responsible for accounts payable and receivable, payroll, reconciliations, vendor management, grants accounting, investment accounting, and assistance with the annual audit and budget. She also assists with Human Resources, including benefits administration and annual benefits review.
Ms. Nikoloulias worked in the finance departments of two top theatrical publishing houses before transitioning her love of education, human rights, and finance to the nonprofit world where she was the finance and operations manager for the National School Climate Center, a nonprofit that helps schools integrate crucial social and emotional learning with academic instruction. Prior to joining the Foundation in June 2011, she was the finance manager for PILnet, a nonprofit focused on connecting with local partners to develop the institutions essential to rights-respecting societies.
Ms. Nikoloulias graduated from Wagner College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater/Communications. She is a Certified Non-Profit Accounting Professional.
Chief Investment Officer
Chief Investment Officer
As Chief Investment Officer, Nick Smirensky is responsible for managing the New York State Health Foundation’s (NYSHealth’s) investment portfolio and developing its investment strategy. He works with the Foundation’s Investment Committee to develop asset allocation policy, selects investment vehicles, and evaluates performance.
Prior to joining the Foundation, Mr. Smirensky was deputy chief investment officer and director of alternative investments with the $155 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund. He was director of New York’s College Savings Program and director of budget and financial analysis at the New York State Comptroller’s Office prior to joining the Common Retirement Fund.
Mr. Smirensky holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation, a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia College, and a Master of Arts degree from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Columbia University. Mr. Smirensky is a trustee and a member of the Investment Committee of the New York State Teachers Retirement System and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Administration at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Administration. He is also a member of the board of directors of the National Health Law Program.
Receptionist / Senior Office Assistant
Receptionist / Senior Office Assistant
Brunnie Urena has more than 14 years of administrative experience in nonprofit organizations. Prior to joining the New York State Health Foundation, Ms. Urena was an administrative assistant at the Salvation Army of Greater New York where she served in the training department and assisted with scheduling, preparing curriculum and training materials, and performing a variety of other administrative tasks.
As Grants Assistant, Keenen Willis provides administrative support for NYSHealth’s grants management process and assists program and finance staff in all grants-related activities. Mr. Willis directly supports the Grants Manager; participates in all grant-related processing operations; creates and monitors reporting schedules, deadlines, and requirements; and serves as a liaison for grantee organizations and applicants.
Prior to joining NYSHealth, Mr. Willis was a program coordinator at Citizens Committee for New York City, where he supported grassroots groups carrying out quality-of-life improvement projects in New York City through grantmaking, project planning assistance, and capacity-building workshops. Mr. Willis has also held internships with West Harlem Action (WE ACT) for Environmental Justice and the Department of Sanitation’s Bureau of Recycling and Sustainability.
Mr. Willis holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies, concentrated in environmental justice and urban sustainability, from Oberlin College.
NYSHealth is governed by a nine-member Board of Directors, with one-third (respectively) appointed by the State Governor, the President of the State Senate, and the State Assembly Leader. The Board members serve three-year renewable terms. While all Board members participate actively in the governance and guidance of the Foundation, three—Courtney Burke, Ellen Rautenberg, and Robert G. Smith—are voting members.
Ellen Rautenberg (Chair)
President and CEO (Retired)
Public Health Solutions
Chief Operating Officer
Healthcare Association of New York State
Mary E. Craig, M.S.H.C.
President & CEO
Mary Craig Consulting Services, LLC
Margaret I. Cuomo, M.D.
Michelle A. Koury, M.D.
Crystal Run Healthcare
Francis J. McDonough
Vice President, Government Programs
New York Health Plan Association
Robert G. Smith, Ph.D.
Founder and Chief Investment Officer
Smith Affiliated Capital Corp.
Community Advisory Committee
The Community Advisory Committee serves to broaden community input and perspectives on the development and implementation of activities related to NYSHealth’s strategic priorities. Committee members inform the Foundation’s strategies and plans, serve as a source of local expertise and connections in communities throughout New York State, inform the Foundation of organizations that could be productive grantees and partners, and increases the visibility of the Foundation throughout the State. The Committee reflects New York State’s rich diversity in terms of geography, race and ethnicity, and areas of expertise.
Public Health Director
Essex County Public Health
Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Oncology
University of Rochester Medical Center
KEE Concepts Consulting
President & CEO
Empire Justice Center
President & CEO
Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk, Inc.
Janice Harbin, D.D.S.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Anthony L. Jordan Health Corporation
Gail Speedy Mayeaux
Principal Healthcare Consultant
Health Management Associates
Make the Road New York
Amanda Parsons, M.B.A., M.D.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer
MetroPlus Health Plan
Clear Path for Veterans
Lake Fleet Consulting
Emma K. Tsui, Ph.D., M.P.H.
CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy
Senior Policy Analyst
Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy
Kevin D. Watkins, M.D., M.P.H.
Public Health Director
Cattaraugus County Health Department
Kimberly A. Williams, L.M.S.W.
President & CEO
Vibrant Emotional Health