Our Team

We are here to provide support to the people that we serve: patients we care for, learners who entrust their education to us, and our colleagues who work here.


David J. Brown, MD headshot

David J. Brown, M.D.

Associate Vice President and Associate Dean for Health Equity and Inclusion
Associate Professor of Pediatric Otolaryngology

Dr. Brown has been a Michigan Medicine faculty member since 2011. He is an associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology. He was the medical director of the Pediatric Otolaryngology Clinic, the medical director of the Multidisciplinary Aerodigestive Clinic, the pediatric otolaryngology liaison for the Global Tracheostomy Collaborative, and founder and faculty lead of the Otolaryngology Essential Skills Simulation Bootcamp. He is a member of Michigan Medicine’s Global REACH (Research, Education, and Collaboration in Health) program and is part of an otolaryngology team that travels to Ghana multiple times a year to collaborate on research projects and advance the surgical skills of local Ghanaian otolaryngologists.

As part of the University of Michigan’s comprehensive Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan, Dr. Brown leads the Michigan Medicine Office for Health Equity and Inclusion and the health system’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. OHEI includes pipeline programs, diversity professional development and education, mentorship programs and health equity research. In 2011, Dr. Brown restarted the Michigan Otolaryngology Diversity Team which won the U-M Distinguished Diversity Leadership Award in 2013. Dr. Brown is a member of the Society of University Otolaryngologists Diversity Committee. Dr. Brown is currently regional representative for the Association of American Medical College’s Group on Diversity and Inclusion and serves as a member of the AAMC GDI Steering Committee.

Dr. Brown graduated from Brown University and Harvard Medical School. He completed his residency in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at U-M and his fellowship in pediatric otolaryngology at the Children’s Hospital of Boston. Before returning to Michigan, Dr. Brown was on the faculty at Johns Hopkins Hospital. There, he was the Otolaryngology Residency associate program director and winner of the 2005 George T. Nager Award for Excellence in Teaching. While serving at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Dr. Brown was honored with the 2009 Otolaryngology Faculty Teaching Award.

Phyllis Blackman OHEI headshot

Phyllis M. Blackman, M.B.A.

Director, Office for Health Equity and Inclusion

Ms. Blackman is a highly respected administrator at Michigan Medicine who currently serves as the director for the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion (OHEI). In her role, she consistently upholds values near and dear to her heart by leveraging OHEI’s diversity, equity and inclusion work throughout the academic medical center. Ms. Blackman also manages a multi-million-dollar budget that supports several different teams within OHEI and the organization.

Previous to her position with OHEI, Ms. Blackman served as the administrator for the Section of Pediatric Surgery and Trauma for over two decades. While there, she was responsible for all aspects of operations, finances and management, including its collaborating programs. She also implemented the Children’s Intestinal Rehabilitation Program, Fetal Surgery Program and Mott Solid Tumor Oncology Program.

Ms. Blackman has vast experience with facilitating change at Michigan Medicine and currently serves on the Leadership Development Advisory Group, Advancing Women and Inclusive Leadership Sub-Committee and the Leadership Day Planning Committee. In 2012, she was honored as the Medical School Administrator of the Year, and is recognized as a strong partner and relationship builder.

On an extracurricular level, Ms. Blackman is active in many professional health care and diversity organizations, and is a charter member of the American Pediatric Surgical Managers Association. She has worked on hurricane relief efforts and has been an avid supporter of the fight against breast cancer. Ms. Blackman is engaged in her community and works to set positive examples for the next generation. 

Alex Blackwood, MD headshot

Alex Blackwood, M.D., Ph.D.

Faculty Lead, Leaders and Learners Pathways Program
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Infectious Diseases

Dr. R. Alexander Blackwood graduated from Columbia College in 1976 and Columbia University Medical School and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1983. Dr. Blackwood also completed a pediatric internship, residency, and fellowship at the University of California San Francisco. He was a Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Scholar (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) before coming to the University of Michigan in 1992.

Dr. Blackwood’s primary research interest has been in neutrophil cell biology. However, he has been most noted for his involvement with U-M students in serving as the faculty adviser for Multicultural Association of Pre-Health Students, Black Undergraduate Medical Association, and Wolverine Tutors. He is vice-chair of the Institutional Review Board of U-M Medical School. He is a member of the Admissions Committee, Student Biomedical Research Committee and Advisory Board, and the M.D./Ph.D. Program Advisory Committee.

Dr. Blackwood has received numerous teaching awards including the Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award and he was inducted as a teacher into the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society’s Michigan Chapter in 2009. He also has been developing partnerships with area schools to foster education and to provide mentoring and tutoring for disadvantaged and underrepresented student populations.

Gary Freed

Gary L. Freed, M.D., M.P.H.

Faculty Lead

Dr. Freed is the Percy and Mary Murphy professor of Pediatrics in the University of Michigan School of Medicine and professor of Health Management and Policy in the U-M School of Public Health in Ann Arbor.

From 1998-2013, Dr. Freed served as director of the division of General Pediatrics and founding director of the Children's Health Evaluation and Research Center. From 2013-2016, Dr. Freed divided his time between U-M and the University of Melbourne (Australia) where he served as director of the Australian Health Workforce Institute, professor of Population Health, and as visiting scholar in Health Care Policy at the Royal Children's Hospital. In 2016 Dr. Freed returned full time to U-M to continue his research in health policy and economic issues focused on children.

Dr. Freed has more than 25 years of experience in children's health services research. He has been the principal investigator of numerous federal, state and foundation-funded grants, and of the first pediatric health services research fellowship program funded by the National Institutes of Health. He has published more than 275 peer-reviewed articles on child health policy and health economics, immunizations, physician behavior, the medical workforce and inter-specialty variation in the provision of preventive services to children.

Dr. Freed received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin, his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and his Master of Public Health degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC-CH, Dr. Freed was a Robert Wood Johnson clinical scholar as well as a preventive medicine fellow.

He is a past president of the Society for Pediatric Research, the largest research society in the field of child health. SPR awarded him its 2009 Douglas K. Richardson Lifetime Achievement Award for Perinatal and Pediatric Health Care Research.

Dr. Freed serves on several national and international committees regarding child health. He is past chair of the Department of Health and Human Services National Vaccine Advisory Committee. He is a frequent consultant to state and federal agencies as well as to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and to the World Health Organization. He is a member of the American Board of Pediatrics and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Oluwaferanmi O. Okanlami, M.S., M.D.

Faculty Lead for Medical Student Success

Dr. Oluwaferanmi Okanlami is an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine with a joint appointment in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Dr. Okanlami was born in Nigeria before immigrating to the US at a young age. He attended High School at Deerfield Academy and college at Stanford University where he also ran Track & Field serving as captain his last two seasons and achieving Academic All American recognition.

Dr. Okanlami then earned his M.D from the University of Michigan before matching into Orthopedic Surgery at Yale. At the beginning of his 3rd year he suffered a spinal cord injury, paralyzing him from the chest down. After two surgeries and intense rehabilitation, he was blessed with some return of motor function.

Dr. Okanlami went on to earn a Master’s degree in Engineering, Science, and Technology Entrepreneurship from The University of Notre Dame, and completed his Family Medicine Residency at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana. He served on the St. Joseph County Board of Health, appointed by Mayor Pete Buttigieg; is the VP of the River City Challenged Athletes, a non-profit that supports the local adaptive sports teams; wheelchair basketball and sled hockey. He was the Chairman of the capital campaign for St. Joseph County Clubhouse, a community organization for people with serious mental illness, and is the Director of Design the Future: Midwest, a summer program that teaches high school students to utilize design thinking and entrepreneurship to create solutions for problems facing people with disabilities.  He was awarded one of Michiana’s 2017 Forty under Forty awards and has a catch phrase, “Disabusing Disability,” hoping to demonstrate that DISability doesn’t necessarily mean INability, with a goal of creating a health system that is both inclusive and accessible for all.



Patti Andreski OHEI headshot

Patti Andreski

Senior Research Area Specialist

As a member of the research team, Patti develops analytic plans in response to research needs of the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion. She similarly collaborates with other investigators throughout the health system. Patti has more than 20 years of experience in the research field. She has a Master of Arts degree in applied sociology and a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology, both from Wayne State University.

Jodi Forrester-Hutchins OHEI headshot

Jodi Forrester-Hutchins

Administrative Assistant Senior

Jodi is responsible for providing general and high-level administrative support at OHEI to faculty, program managers, as well as grants and specialized support to its Grants & Finance Manager. She received her bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management from Concordia University in 1998. Jodi brings nearly 15 years of experience working at the University of Michigan in financial, grants management, human resource and supervisory roles.

Yvette Harris

Yvette Harris

Administrative Manager

Yvette is a grounded professional with over 20 years of experience in a health system setting.  As the administrative manager in the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion, she has the responsibility overseeing the daily operations of the office and cultivating successful work processes.  Yvette’s prior experience in management includes administrative, human resource and clinical operations, direct working relationships with surgical faculty physicians, critical care fellows and physician assistants; and supervision of administrative assistants, program coordinators and other staff.

Yvette has a bachelor’s in health administration and a master’s in organizational management. She has taught courses at national conferences and facilitated cultural diversity workshops. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan Health System Masters Leadership Program, the Community Leadership Program and Hurley Medical Center’s Management Development Program. 

Yvette has strong commitment to community, and was recognized as an African American Achiever for her mentorship to various individuals.  She was also a founding contributor to the development and implementation of a hospital based career development program for staff who sought to improve their opportunities for advancement within the organization.  Yvette also served as a United Way chairperson and was a member of the local chapter of the Toastmasters club.

Tami Hart-Johnson OHEI headshot

Tami Hart-Johnson

Senior Research Manager

The Office for Health Equity and Inclusion is dedicated to ensuring our work is scientifically driven and systematically evaluated. Tami Hart-Johnson has been studying health disparities for nearly two decades. She guides OHEI’s health disparities research process. She works with OHEI’s research team to examine existing data within Michigan Medicine. She collaborates with program managers to ensure careful evaluation of projects and spearheads research that drives OHEI’s mission forward.

Michael Herrington, M.Ed., SPHR

Training Specialist Lead for Diversity Equity and Inclusion

With a deep knowledge of the field and a positive attitude, Michael enhances the competencies of individual employees by designing and conducting learning programs that boost employee's performance and promote an environment of diversity, equity and inclusion. He performs needs assessment, liaises and collaborates with unit partners, leadership and HR team members, designs and delivers curriculum and learning materials, designs employee engagement activities, and evaluates learning outcomes. All of these things facilitate the success of individual employees and leadership in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion, and help create an environment where everyone feels valued and can thrive. 

Prior to joining the OHEI team, Michael worked in Residence Education for 12 years at Penn State University, Arizona State University, University of Delaware and University of Southern California, as well as in Human Resources for 17 years at the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan. Michael holds a B.A. in Psychology and an M.Ed. in Counseling & Student Personnel Administration.

Ru Knoedler OHEI headshot

Ru Knoedler

Senior Financial Analyst

Ru is responsible for carrying out OHEI’s budget, finance, and contracts functions, as well as supporting internal controls, infrastructure, and strategy for its administration function. She received her combined Bachelor of Business Administration degree and Master of Science degree in accounting with a concentration in accounting information systems from Eastern Michigan University. She also owned and operated three small businesses over a 10-year period. Before coming to OHEI, she worked as a grants/contracts specialist in the University of Michigan’s Department of Anesthesiology and as an executive assistant in the Department of Psychiatry’s U-M Addiction Research Center.

Clarissa Love

Project Associate Manager
Brandon Lucas OHEI headshot

Brandon Lucas

Program Manager, Student Affairs

Brandon serves as Student Affairs Program Manager for pre-college and undergraduate research programs at OHEI. His main role is development and implementation of the Michigan Health Sciences Summer Institute for learner’s pathway. Prior to joining OHEI, he served as Education Coordinator for the regional node of the NSF-funded National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network.

Venice Onadia

Venice Onadia

Administrative Assistant

Venice supports OHEI’s administrative director and three faculty leads in all projects and efforts. She is also responsible for providing general office and administrative support to OHEI staff and programs. Before this role, Venice worked on various projects to implement Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Michigan Medicine. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in health administration from Eastern Michigan University in 2014 and is pursuing an MBA in health care leadership at Cleary University.  Venice brings to Michigan Medicine more than five years of administrative experience at other health care systems. Venice truly believes in and supports OHEI’s vision to create a world where people feel valued and can thrive.

Othelia W. Pryor, Ph.D.

Senior Project Manager, Pathways Learners and Leaders Program

Throughout her career, Dr. Pryor has focused on the needs of underrepresented students, diverse ethnic minority populations, and disenfranchised individuals. In the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion, she views the Pathways work’s importance as a continuation of her mission to make a significant impact in the lives of those whose potential and talents too often are discarded or discounted by the larger society. Dr. Pryor’s OHEI responsibilities include overseeing programming hosted by the Michigan Health Sciences Summer Institute and recruitment activities that continue to build the pipeline that is diversifying future generations of health care professionals.

Dr. Pryor’s professional experiences include being a founding member of the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities, an initiative sponsored by the federal Office of Minority Health. She is a past co-chair of the NPA’s Region V Health Equity Council and the most recent past chair of its Information and Communication Committee. Dr. Pryor founded the Michigan Minority Health Coalition, a statewide advocacy consortium that spotlights causes and advances health concerns of all Michigan communities of color. Under her leadership, MMHC successfully lobbied for the passage of Michigan’s Health Disparity Law (Public Act 653), convened Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act educational events, hosted statewide conferences addressing pertinent issues for communities of color, and collaborated with universities, local health departments, community organizations, and religious institutions to address health equity and disparities issues.

The Michigan Department of Community Health twice acknowledged Dr. Pryor’s leadership abilities in awarding to her its inaugural John B. Waller, Jr. Health Equity Award and its Public Health Director’s Award. Also on two occasions, the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus honored her with the State of Michigan Seal for her innovative approach to investigating minority health issues. 

Dr. Pryor’s academic accomplishments include a Ph.D. in educational psychology from Michigan State University, an M.P.H. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an MBA from the University of Illinois, and a Bachelor of Science degree in business from the University of Pittsburgh.


Elena Weissman

Senior Program Manager for Diversity Equity and Inclusion

Elena is an accomplished healthcare professional with a wealth of experience working in a large metropolitan health system. With over 20 years in healthcare she has cultivated a broad set of skills. Elena is a Certified Six Sigma Green Belt with extensive experience in Lean management processes, quality improvement and implementing best practices. She has been recognized for her use of creative and effective approaches to fostering workplace culture change, and demonstrated effectiveness as a change agent affecting organizational change.

Embracing the core values of integrity, creativity, and collaboration, Elena championed diversity initiatives across a multi-hospital system. As chair of the Diversity Committee for over 10 years she promoted initiatives designed to affect movement towards cultural competency among associates at all levels. Throughout her tenure in healthcare Elena has maintained a focus on quality service delivery—for patients, visitors, faculty, and staff.  She is committed to creating and fostering environments that recognize the intrinsic value of each individual, and how each contributes to the whole.

Elena has an impressive track record of developing innovative programming, curricula, teams, and research initiatives. She developed a multi-faceted, comprehensive, and engaging HCAHPS/Patient Experience/Quality initiative for all associates across a large health system. Elena also successfully established and operationalized a comprehensive integrative Healing Arts department to meet the needs of patients, community members, volunteers, and staff including a myriad of programs for body, mind, and spirit. Skilled at curriculum development, Elena wrote and maintained a comprehensive patient care manual provided to all newly diagnosed cancer patients within the region. Throughout her career she has been a frequent presenter at local and national conferences on topics ranging from Building Effective Teams to Preventing Burnout through Effective Self-Care.

A longtime passionate advocate of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts inside and outside the workplace, Elena has a strong commitment to building community. Over the years she has mentored, coached, taught, and supervised dozens of student interns from a variety of disciplines and institutions.  Elena earned her Masters in Public Health Policy and Administration OJ/OC program from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, and she is delighted to once again be among her fellow Wolverines.

Jazmine Wesley OHEI headshot

Jazmine Wesley

Program Manager, Learner Success

Jazmine serves as Program Manager for Learner Success. Her work focuses on development and implementation of the Michigan Health Sciences Summer Institute Career Development Academy; our 8-week residential program designed to prepare students for admittance into medical school. She also provides academic success strategies for medical students first through fourth year. Jazmine holds an M.Ed. in Educational Psychology from Wayne State University.

Peggy Wright OHEI headshot

Peggy Wright

Executive Assistant Senior

Peggy is Executive Assistant to the Associate Vice President and Associate Dean of OHEI. She also provides collaborative and strategic administrative support to the entire team. Peggy enjoys streamlining and producing various projects. She brings over 20 years of experience and leadership in marketing, sales and management, from the automotive, advertising and financial industries.