Loyola University Chicago

Healthy Homes & Healthy Communities

Speakers Bios

The State of the City and County: An Issue Briefing on Lead Poisoning in Chicago and Cook County

Helen Binns, MD, is Professor of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. She directs the Lead Evaluation and Wellness & Weight Management Programs at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.  She also directs the Center on Obesity Prevention and Management at Lurie Children’s Hospital.  She completed medical school at Northwestern University, a pediatric residency and Ambulatory Pediatrics Fellowship at Children’s Memorial Hospital (now Lurie Children’s) and obtained a Master’s in Public Health degree in epidemiology at University of Illinois at Chicago.  She is past chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health.
Dr. Susan Buchanan is Director of the Great Lakes Center for Children’s Environmental Health/ Region 5 Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) School of Public Health. Dr. Buchanan is board certified in Family Medicine and Occupational and Environmental Medicine. She teaches occupational and environmental medicine including children’s and reproductive environmental health topics in the UIC Family Medicine Department, School of Public Health, and Occupational Medicine Residency Program. Her research interests include the occupational health of vulnerable populations including day laborers and prenatal exposures to environmental pollutants. Most recently she has completed research on methyl mercury exposure among high-risk groups including pregnant women. 
Deanna Durica is Director of the Lead Poisoning Prevention and Healthy Homes Unit Cook County Department of Public Health and has been leading the Lead Poisoning Prevention and Healthy Homes Unit at the Cook County Department of Public Health for five years.  Her work in the Unit centers on the prevention of elevated blood lead levels in young children through program initiatives, policy development, and community education and outreach.  She also contributes to agency work on issues of early childhood development, quality improvement, communications, and chronic disease prevention.  Before coming to CCDPH, she worked on early childhood health and education policy as a staffer in the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development and as a senior policy associate at the Ounce of Prevention Fund. 
Dr. David Jacobs is Chief Scientist at the National Center for Healthy Housing in Washington DC and an adjunct associate professor at the UIC School of Public Health. He is also Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Healthy Housing Research in the US. He previously served as the Director of the HUD Office of Lead Hazard and Healthy Homes and has published over 80 studies in the peer reviewed scientific literature, including a book chapter on lead toxicology. He has testified before Congress and other legislative bodies numerous times and was a principal author of the President's Task Force report on childhood lead poisoning in 2000. He has degrees in Environmental Engineering, Technology and Science Policy, Environmental Health, and Political Science. Most recently, he published an evaluation of the Illinois Comprehensive Lead Education and Reduction through Window Replacement (CLEAR-WIN) program. 
Katherine Kaufka Walts is the Director of the Center for the Human Rights of Children at Loyola University Chicago. The Center represents, coordinates, and stimulates efforts of the Loyola University community to understand and protect the human rights of children utilizing an interdisciplinary approach. Prior to joining Loyola, Ms. Kaufka Walts served as the Executive Director of the International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA). At IOFA she developed several projects in the US and abroad advancing the rights of children and youth, including a program to develop the capacity of child welfare system to better respond to child trafficking and exploitation cases. Prior to IOFA, Ms. Kaufka Walts managed the Counter-Human Trafficking project at the National Immigrant Justice Center, where she worked with several local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies on single and multiple-victim sex and labor trafficking cases. She successfully represented dozens of victims of human trafficking in the United States within immigration and criminal justice proceedings under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. 
Dr. Cort Lohff serves as the Medical Director for Environmental Health at the Chicago Department of Public Health. In this role, he oversees several environmental health programs, educates and informs the general public and decision makers on environmental health issues, and assists in the development and implementation of public health policy. Prior to taking this role, he served as the State Epidemiologist for Vermont and the Deputy State Epidemiologist for Iowa. He received his MPH from the University of Michigan, his MD from the University of Wisconsin and completed residency training in General Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the New York State Department of Health/University at Albany School of Public Health. 
Dr. Terry Mason was appointed the Chief Operating Officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health in 2013 after serving more than three years as the Chief Medical Officer and six months as interim Chief Executive Officer for the Cook County Health and Hospitals System.  He is responsible for public health programs and services for one of the nation’s largest metropolitan health departments, ranging from disease prevention, control and epidemiology; health statistics; health promotion; STD/HIV screening; emergency preparedness; and environmental licensing, inspections and complaints. Before joining the County, he served as the Commissioner of Chicago Department of Public Health.  Dr. Mason was in private practice for 25 years.  He is a nationally recognized health educator and inspirational speaker who champions holistic approaches to health management.  Dr. Mason has delivered countless presentations and conducted numerous interviews on a range of public health matters and continues to share his holistic approach to health on his popular radio show on WVON 1690 AM call in show, “The Doctor in the House” for more than 21 years.
Dr. Julie Morita is Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). Mayor Rahm Emanuel nominated Dr. Morita for this position in January, following 15 years of service to the department. As CDPH Medical Director for Immunization, Dr. Morita fostered partnerships with health systems and the private sector, achieving recognition for both the improvements in and overall coverage rates. In 2009, Dr. Morita led the City’s response to the pandemic influenza outbreak, developing a system to distribute more than one million doses of vaccine to clinics and residents across the City. Most recently, as Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Morita led the City’s efforts to prevent the introduction and spread of the Ebola virus, including developing and launching the Chicago Ebola Resource Network, the first local network of medical centers working jointly to prepare and respond to a possible Ebola case. As a result of her efforts, Chicago was the first jurisdiction in the nation to establish four CDC-approved Ebola response hospitals.  Prior to her time with CDPH, Dr. Morita served as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the CDC and worked in private practice. 
LaTrice Porter-Thomas has been the Environmental Quality Manager at the Cook County Department of Public Health for the past twelve years.  Mrs. Porter-Thomas is responsible for overseeing enforcement of the Illinois Lead Poisoning Prevention Act and Code.  This includes managing the Department’s lead risk assessors and providing oversight of the lead abatement contractors who work in the Department’s grant program.  Her other duties include managing the indoor air quality/toxicology, retail tobacco and vector control programs.  She also oversees environmental surveillance for the Cook County West Nile virus program and contributes to the agency’s work on quality improvement and health equity.
Anita Weinberg, JD, MSSW,  has worked on behalf of children and families for over 35 years as an attorney and as a social worker.  Currently she is a Clinical Professor and Director of the ChildLaw Policy Institute at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.  Professor Weinberg involves students in interdisciplinary projects in the areas of child welfare, juvenile justice and children’s health. For over ten years she and students were intensively involved in efforts to eliminate childhood lead poisoning in Chicago and Illinois.  Their work included raising awareness, building collaborations among stakeholders, and policy and legislative reforms.  Professor Weinberg is the recipient of grants from the Chicago Community Trust, Telligen, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for work on lead poisoning prevention.  In 2006, Loyola’s childlaw program received the U.S. EPA Children’s Environmental Health Excellence Award for its efforts to reform policies on lead poisoning and protect future generations from being harmed by lead.  Professor Weinberg has co-authored amendments to the Illinois Juvenile Court Act and the Illinois Lead Poisoning Prevention Act.  She has testified before congressional and state legislative committees on child welfare and health related issues.