Director’s Council of Public Representatives (COPR)
Class of 2007
- James J. Armstrong (Ohio)
- Ruth C. Browne (New York)
- Barbara D. Butler (Missouri)
- Frances J. Dunston (New York)
- Robert Michael (Mike) Hill (Florida)
- James Kearns (California)
James J. Armstrong
Mr. James Armstrong is the Director of Public and Media Relations at the Akron General Medical Center in Akron, Ohio. Mr. Armstrong is the former Director of News and Information at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, a private not-for-profit group practice that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. A veteran of the communications field, Mr. Armstrong has worked in radio, television news, and public affairs for more than 25 years. He has earned three local Emmy awards for his work as a television journalist, which includes a 13-year stint at local Cleveland television station WKYC-TV where he helped oversee news coverage from 1978 to 1991. Since joining the Cleveland Clinic, Mr. Armstrong has worked with journalists from around the globe to bring their readers, listeners, and viewers the latest news in medicine. He has also produced numerous award-winning, medically oriented television programs for the Cleveland Clinic.
In addition to his work in communications, Mr. Armstrong is an advocate of health education and has a special interest in heart and kidney disease. He has been involved in many health-related public awareness campaigns, including efforts to promote colorectal and prostate cancer screening. He also holds several memberships in professional organizations, including the Cleveland Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the Press Club of Cleveland. He is a member of the curriculum advisory committee for the Corporate College of Cuyahoga Community College.
Mr. Armstrong is a graduate of Cleveland State University with a degree in communications. In 2001, he was ordained as a Catholic deacon for the Diocese of Cleveland after four years of study at the Center for Pastoral Leadership in Wickliffe, Ohio. He currently ministers as pastoral associate at St. Wendelin Parish, an inner city, ethnic parish near Cleveland's downtown. Mr. Armstrong also currently serves with his wife Loretta on the leadership staff of the diaconate program for the Diocese of Cleveland. In this role, the Armstrongs work together with deacon candidates-in-training and their wives to help them succeed. Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong live in Sagamore Hills, Ohio, with their dog, Nutmeg.
Ruth C. Browne
Dr. Ruth C. Browne is a nationally recognized visionary and innovator in the field of urban health and education. As Chief Executive Officer of the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health (AAIUH), Dr. Browne has served as the Institute's spokesperson and public persona since its inception. Founded by legendary tennis champion and humanitarian Arthur Ashe just two months prior to his death in 1992, AAIUH has gained national recognition as a pioneer in developing culturally competent programs that address racial, ethnic, and gender disparities in health.
A leader in the development and implementation of community health empowerment programs, Dr. Browne has an unrivaled record in bridging the gap between medical institutions and individuals in underserved urban communities. Determined to encourage people to lead their own efforts to be healthy, she creates model programs that provide health education to culturally diverse and economically disadvantaged communities in non-traditional settings. Using meeting places such as beauty salons, barbershops, laundromats, tattoo and body piercing salons, libraries, and places of worship, Dr. Browne brings health education directly to people within the comfort and familiarity of their communities. Dr. Browne is the architect of AAIUH's successful 13-year partnership with SUNY Downstate Medical Center and is the principal investigator for several NIH grants that train hair stylists and barbers to promote breast, prostate, and cardiovascular health with their clients.
Prior to working with AAIUH, Dr. Browne held diverse program, research, and health policy positions. With extensive experience in the development and analysis of health policy and the monitoring of health policy implementation through sponsored programs, Dr. Browne has served as staff for major policy commissions for the Office of New York City Mayor Ed Koch, New York State Governor Mario Cuomo, and the foundation affinity group Funders Concerned About AIDS.
Dr. Browne serves on the Board of Directors of Cable Positive, the cable industry's response to AIDS, and is a member of the Brooklyn Borough President's Task Force on Fiscal and Social Equity. She is also an active member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. Dr. Browne is an assistant clinical professor in the College of Health Related Professions and the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. She is also a member of the SUNY Downstate Planning Committee for its School of Public Health.
Dr. Browne has been profiled and quoted in numerous media outlets, including the New York Daily News, The New York Times, AOL Black Voices, and New York Newsday, and was selected as a "New Yorker of the Week" by NY1 in 2002
Dr. Browne received her doctorate from the School of Public Health at Harvard University and master's degrees in public health and public policy from the University of Michigan. She received a bachelor's degree from Princeton University and pursued lower undergraduate studies at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.
Barbara D. Butler
Ms. Barbara Butler, a native of St. Louis, was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus at the age of 22. She first became an advocate for lupus patients and their families on the local level by developing strong relationships with members of the medical community and the public to increase public and professional awareness of lupus and its impact on both individuals and the families of those afflicted with the disease. She has also helped patients and their families directly by counseling newly diagnosed patients and writing a book for parents on the subject of child rearing while coping with a chronic illness.
Ms. Butler was an original member of the Board of Directors for the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) and chaired the Board's Public Relations Committee. She was responsible for developing the first series of radio and television public service announcements featuring a nationally recognized spokeswoman. This awareness campaign was distributed to 80 LFA chapters for placement on their local radio and television stations. Also during her tenure as committee chair, Ms. Butler began providing science and medical reporters at major television networks and their local affiliates with direct access to representatives within the NIH.
As her interest in the NIH grew, she created and chaired LFA's Government Relations Committee and was also appointed to the first National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) Advisory Council. Ms. Butler was also elected to the Board of Trustees of the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) and later became the organization's chair.
Ms. Butler has received many local and national awards. She was given the prestigious St. Louis Woman of Achievement Award and was named the first Health Citizen of the Year by Combined Health Appeal. Nationally, she has received many awards from the LFA, NPF, and the American Skin Association.
She continues her involvement with several organizations and remains an active and passionate advocate for federal funding of medical research and professional training.
Frances J. Dunston
Dr. Frances Dunston is Chairperson of the Department of Pediatrics at Morehouse School of Medicine, where she is a Professor of Pediatrics and of Community Health and Preventive Medicine (Secondary). She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and is board certified in both Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine.
She served as New Jersey's State Commissioner of Health, which is a cabinet-level position that made her responsible for state health policies, health regulation, health planning, and public health services. During this time, she also served as Chairperson of the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority. Dr. Dunston has also served as Assistant State Health Commissioner in Virginia and as the Director of Public Health in Richmond, Virginia.
Her contributions in child health policy at the national level include service on the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, on the National Child Health Leadership Council, and as the Chairperson of the Pediatrics Section of the National Medical Association. Her publications and research interests address the issues of health services delivery for poor and medically underserved children.
She has served as a member of national and regional committees, including the Advisory Committee of the National Institutes of Health's Office of Research on Women's Health (1999–2002), the Advisory Committee to Georgia's Office of Minority Health (2000–present), and the Georgia State Board of Medical Education (2001–present).
Dr. Dunston has received awards and honors from numerous professional societies and community organizations, including the Outstanding Physician Award from the North New Jersey Medical Society, recognition for her Outstanding Contributions to Medical Education by the National Association of Minority Medical Educators, induction into the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society and the Delta Omega Honorary Public Health Society, the Alumni Leadership Award by the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from UMDNJ.
Dr. Dunston received her medical degree from UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey, and completed her residency in Pediatrics at the Medical College of Virginia. She obtained a master's degree in Public Health in Health Policy and Health Care Management from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Robert Michael (Mike) Hill
Mr. R. Mike Hill is Executive Director of the Northwest Florida and Big Bend Health Councils, which serve 18 counties in northwest Florida. He is also president of the Florida Association of Health Planning Agencies, representing all 11 of Florida's legislatively mandated Health Councils that serve the state's 15 million residents. In addition to developing and negotiating state and federal legislation for the Certificate of Need and Healthy Kids programs, Mr. Hill has led community coalitions that successfully established a Federally Qualified Community Health Center and an indigent clinic for Florida's Port Saint Joe and Panama City.
Mr. Hill's constituents include racial and ethnic minorities, the economically disadvantaged and their children, the elderly, and migrant and seasonal farm workers. Most live in rural areas with inadequate access to primary health care or in rapidly developing coastal regions. Many, including several of Mr. Hill's relatives and friends, have been fatally affected by cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and end-stage renal disease.
In addition to his Health Council work, Mr. Hill is Executive Director of Hill and Company, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in education, health care, social services, and government relations. Before working with the Health Councils, Mr. Hill held several positions in Florida's educational community, including chief lobbyist for federal and state legislative and regulatory policy activities at the Florida Association of School Administrators. Earlier in his career, he worked for Bay District Public Schools and the Bay Correctional Facility. Over the years, Mr. Hill has received many awards for his work for a broad range of civic and professional organizations.
Mr. Hill completed undergraduate studies in social and political science and graduate studies in Public Administration at the University of West Florida. He earned an Ed.S. in educational leadership from Florida State University. He and his wife Janice live in Panama City, Florida.
Mr. James Kearns is an award-winning screenwriter whose work includes the screenplay for John Q., a feature film starring Denzel Washington. The film, released in 2002, addresses issues of the medically underserved and other problems inherent in the health care delivery system. Mr. Kearns believes that tackling world health issues is critical to the nation's well-being. He hatched the idea for John Q. after reading an article about a wealthy businessman who criticized the health care system after receiving a heart transplant, saying, "If I wasn't rich, I'd be dead now."
Mr. Kearns is a member of the nonprofit Entertainment Industries Council (EIC). The Council, in partnership with the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, created the PRISM awards to recognize accurate depictions of drugs, alcohol, tobacco use, and addiction in television, film, music, and comic books. Mr. Kearns is on EIC's Nomination Review Committee and values the opportunity to help reward accurate, creative portrayals of health issues.
Mr. Kearns is a member of the Center for Community Change in Washington, DC, that works to combat poverty in America. He is a long-standing member of the Writers Guild of America and PEN International and currently is adapting for the screen photographer Robert Capa's autobiography Slightly Out Of Focus. He began his writing career as a playwright with Days in the Dark Light. His next full-length play, Favorite Sons, was chosen as a Selection Committee Finalist at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Conference in Waterbury, Connecticut. Both plays attracted the attention of Hollywood producers, who hired Mr. Kearns to write for television and film, including such critically acclaimed shows as NBC's A Year in the Life and CBS's crime drama Wiseguy. During that time, Mr. Kearns sold his first screenplay, Dead of Summer. Although the script was never produced, it opened the door to writing opportunities in feature films.