Keynote Speakers


March 15-18, 2020

Our lineup of confirmed keynote speakers is growing!

Monday, March 16, 2020
Morning Keynote Address
8:30 am – 9:45 am 

David R. WIlliams, Florence and Laura Norman Professor of Public Health; Professor of African and African American Studies and Sociology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA

David R. Williams is a St Lucian and American social scientist who has specialized in the study of social influences on health. His research has enhanced our understanding of the complex ways in which race, socioeconomic status, racism, stress, health behaviors and religious involvement can affect physical and mental health. He has been invited to keynote scientific conferences in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, South America and across the United States.

Currently, he is the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health, and chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is also a Professor of African and African American Studies and of Sociology at Harvard University. His first 6 years as a faculty member were at Yale University where he held appointments in both Sociology and Public Health. The next 14 years were at the University of Michigan where he was the Harold Cruse Collegiate Professor of Sociology, a Senior Research Scientist at the Institute of Social Research and a Professor of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health.

Dr. Williams is the author of more than 450 scholarly papers in scientific journals and edited collections and his research has appeared in leading journals in sociology, psychology, medicine, public health and epidemiology. The Everyday Discrimination scale that he developed is currently one of the most widely used measures to assess perceived discrimination in health studies. He has served on the editorial board of 12 scientific journals and as a reviewer for over 70 journals. According to ISI Essential Science Indicators, he was one of the Top 10 Most Cited Researchers in the Social Sciences during the decade 1995 to 2005. The Journal of Black Issues in Higher Education ranked him as the Most Cited Black Scholar in the Social Sciences in 2008. And Thomson Reuters ranked him, in 2014, as one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds based on his scientific articles published between 2002 and 2012.

With funding from the National Institutes of Health and the sponsorship of the World Health Organization, Dr. Williams directed the South African Stress and Health Study, the first nationally representative study of the prevalence and correlates of psychiatric disorders in sub-Sahara Africa. This study assessed the effects of HIV/AIDS, exposure to racial discrimination and torture during apartheid, on the health of the South African population. He was also a key member of the team that conducted the National Study of American Life, the largest study of mental health disorders in the African American population in the U.S. and the first health study to include a large national sample of Blacks of Caribbean ancestry. He also served as the director of the Lung Cancer Disparities Center at Harvard, a center for Population Health and Health Disparities funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Williams received his elementary and high school education in Castries, St Lucia. After completing his undergraduate degree at the University of the Southern Caribbean in Trinidad and Tobago, he earned master’s degrees in divinity and public health, at Andrews University and Loma Linda University, respectively. He next earned a master’s and PhD degree in sociology from the University of Michigan.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Morning Keynote Address
8:30 am – 9:45 am

Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez, Vice President, Center for Systems Innovation, Annie E. Casey Foundation

Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez is the vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Center for Systems Innovation which entails overseeing national and state reform efforts in three key areas: child welfare, young people transitioning into adulthood, and juvenile justice. Prior to assuming this role in 2018, Sandra served as the director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, which aims to equip young people leaving foster care with the relationships, resources and opportunities needed to achieve well-being and success as they transition into adulthood. As the director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Initiative, Sandra led national, state and local efforts to improve policies and practices to ensure young people have the opportunity to successfully transition from foster care to adulthood. She is known for her fearlessness in tackling deep-rooted challenges and her willingness to go into diverse communities to increase engagement in a way that benefits children and families.

Sandra became director of the Jim Casey Initiative in April 2015 after serving as executive vice president of Practice and Leadership Integration for KVC Health Systems, where she led nationally recognized initiatives to transform child welfare systems with clinical best practices, change management skills and results-based measurement.

Before that, she was on assignment from KVC to one of the most embattled public child welfare systems in the U.S. – the Washington, D.C., Child and Family Services Agency – where she helped implement best practices and championed a culture shift. This work led to remarkable outcomes for D.C. children and families, including sharp reductions in the length of time children spent in foster care and dramatic increases in the number of children being placed with families. Additionally, Sandra has served as president of KVC Nebraska and worked for Youthville (now EmberHope), where she led the implementation of child welfare privatization for the South Central area of Kansas.

Sandra is a published author in the area of human trafficking of young people in foster care and translating adolescent brain science into child welfare practice. As an alumna of the Annie E. Casey Foundation Fellowship program, Sandra also is a graduate of the National Hispanic Leadership Institute, a recipient of an Executive Leadership Certificate from Harvard University, and has been recognized by business journals in two states as a “40 Under 40” leader. She earned a master’s degree in psychology from Emporia State University and a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern College.

Additional keynote speakers will be announced in the coming weeks. Check back frequently to stay up to date as we develop the conference agenda!