I was excited to announce at today’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS meeting in Jackson, Miss., that my office – the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) – is standing up a new team of highly qualified U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (USPHS) officers to support our regional “Ending the HIV Epidemic” initiatives in Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles.
This team – three officers in each region – is part of our Corps’ “Prevention through Active Community Engagement” – or “PACE” program. These officers will work collaboratively with the HHS interagency leadership spearheading the “Ending the HIV Epidemic” effort, as well as with other federal and non-federal partners, to develop targeted, public health interventions specifically geared toward the communities they are trying to reach. Advancements in science and treatment have provided significant improvements in prevention, care and treatment, but we need to make sure all impacted communities have access to those resources. So our PACE teams will be leading this effort for us in these regions. They will also be assisted by other PACE volunteers in their efforts.
I would like to point out that this PACE effort is part of a much larger effort that we are calling “Operation Change the Map,” which is led by my remarkably talented and dedicated Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, RADM Sylvia Trent-Adams. “Operation Change the Map” more globally refers to our office’s plan to target zip codes inordinately impacted by certain health conditions (including HIV, hepatitis C, HPV, hypertension, diabetes and other issues), to transform their health outcomes by increasing access, diagnosis, treatment and awareness in these vulnerable areas.
RADM Trent-Adams and I are very proud of this new PACE team, and we expect significant advancements from them. But it’s important to underscore: This effort is a partnership. We implement this effort within, for, and in full collaboration with individual communities. All of us anticipate great results from this bold new program!
Meet the New PACE Directors
Region 4, Atlanta
CDR John Oguntomilade, who will be the PACE director in Atlanta, is a dentist with a public health background. Since 2015, CDR Oguntomilade has been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Mozambique, where he was the Associate Deputy for Program Management, providing oversight over all CDC Mozambique’s U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) partners ($200 million annually) who provide HIV care and treatment services in six provinces with the highest HIV prevalence. Earlier, he spent many years with the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Global HIV/AIDS program, managing its $700+ million PEPFAR Catholic Relief Service program to provide HIV care and treatment services in 10 countries across sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. In the course of his duties, CDR Oguntomilade traveled to 11 countries providing technical assistance, conducting program assessments, and supporting program transitions to in-country local partners. He successfully transitioned more than 700,000 patients in the HIV care and treatment program initially managed by U.S. implementing partners to in-country local organizations in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Zambia, Guyana, Haiti and South Africa. CDR Oguntomilade is the recipient of numerous USPHS (and other) honor and service awards.
LT Neelam ‘Nelly’ Gazarian, who will be PACE Deputy Director in Atlanta, is a passionate health service provider and educator who spearheaded development of programs aimed at establishing public health strategies to mitigate the crisis of hepatitis C and HIV epidemics within the rural and tribal communities across the United States. LT Gazarian, a pharmacist, served in an isolated hardship site with the Indian Health Service (IHS) in North Dakota. There she witnessed firsthand the burden of hepatitis C and HIV plaguing the local community. She was instrumental in establishing the first hepatitis C program in the Great Plains area of the IHS. She also pioneered the NICE Project (Northern tier Initiative for hep C Elimination), which was designed to provide comprehensive and patient-centered support tools for facilities nationwide aiming to start hepatitis elimination clinics from scratch, and launched the first and only federal syringe service program within the IHS. LT Gazarian is a recipient of several awards and is part of the Rapid Deployment Force RDF-5 team.
Region 6, Dallas
CDR Luz Rivera, who will be the PACE director in Dallas, is a scientist and clinical psychologist with specialized training in working with victims of psychological trauma. She has served in a number of national and international positions developing programs responding to community urgent needs and serving vulnerable populations. In the late 1980s, CDR Rivera served as an adviser for a telephone hotline providing confidential support to patients and families living with HIV/AIDS. She also assisted Hispanic families in creating panels to be sent for the AIDS Memorial Quilt Project and developed creative training tools to educate adolescents on facts about HIV. Most recently, CDR Rivera has been working at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, managing product quality for new drug applications under PEPFAR. In addition, she serves as a clinical provider at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center caring for sexual abuse survivors. CDR Rivera is a member of the USPHS Commissioned Corps Music Ensemble and member of Mental Health Team-2. She has served in multiple national and international deployments as a mental health provider.
LCDR Rodrigo Chavez, who will be the PACE Deputy Director in Dallas, has extensive experience in HIV, having worked at the CDC for more than a decade in the areas of infectious disease and epidemiology. Later in his career, he was the administrator of an HIV clinic, where he instituted innovative disease-intervention models under the Ryan White HIV Program – Special Projects of National Significance. At the same time, he served as a regional administrator of federal, state, and local funding in Texas, representing the needs and advocating for healthcare centers in the region. He was also Health Services Administrator for more than 2,000 inmates for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In his last Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ assignment, he was a health insurance analyst responsible for monitoring $1.8 billion for New Mexico Medicaid and overseeing Medicaid Waiver expenditures for five states in the region.
Region 9, Los Angeles
CDR Michelle Sandoval-Rosario, who will be the PACE Director in Los Angeles, has been with the CDC for 13 years and has extensive experience working with state/local government entities and other partners both in the U.S. and overseas on a variety of public health initiatives, including HIV, polio, and chronic diseases. She is currently a senior epidemiologist with the CDC’s Division of Population Health, assigned to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), where she provides leadership and technical assistance on epidemiology and surveillance efforts to address chronic diseases and health disparities. She also worked at the Indiana State Department of Health, where she provided critical leadership during high-profile infectious disease investigations, including one of the largest rural community outbreaks of the HIV infection among persons who inject drugs. CDR Sandoval-Rosario has worked with the CDC Division of Global Migration and Quarantine in Los Angeles, and the United States Mexico Unit in El Paso, Texas. Prior to joining the USPHS, CDR Sandoval-Rosario was a CDC Council of State and Territorial Epidemiology Fellow working on border health research in the United States/Mexico border region and the Rio Grande. CDR Sandoval-Rosario has deployed on several missions, both domestically and internationally.
LCDR Jose Antonio Ortiz, who will be the PACE Deputy Director in Los Angeles, began his career as USPHS Commissioned Corps Officer in February 2007 as an Assistant Health Services Administrator with the Division of Immigration Health Services in El Paso, Texas. Since 2015, LCDR Ortiz has served as a Senior Public Health Analyst for HRSA’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. His expertise was instrumental in developing and implementing an integrated plan to build collaborations between HRSA and CDC, which focused on ending the HIV epidemic.