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Staff Bios

SAMIA ABBASS joined Health Access in July 2013 as Legislative and Policy Assistant. Samia has been active in social justice causes throughout her life. While in college, she co-organized a student group that focused on education and activism around the conflict in Palestine-Israel. Samia studied abroad in Northern Ireland, where she researched how sharing personal stories of conflict has the potential to heal trauma and break down social barriers. Before coming to Health Access, she worked as a Program Assistant for the Quaker United Nations Office in New York City and volunteered with the International Rescue Committee to help refugees resettle in California.

Samia graduated from Swarthmore College with a double major in Sociology/Anthropology and Peace Studies. In her free time, she is a yoga instructor, loves to be outdoors and see the world; she has lived, traveled, and studied in Vermont, New York City, Philadelphia, Nepal, Palestine-Israel, Mexico, Italy and Northern Ireland.


  ELIZABETH ABBOTT joined Health Access in January 2006. As the Director of Administrative Advocacy, she focuses on public policy and advocates on behalf of California consumers before state and federal agencies. Beginning in March 2010 she was named one of 10 national health Consumer Representatives to advise the National Association of Insurance Commissioners on the implementation of health care and insurance market reforms.

She previously served as the Regional Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that serves the states of California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Far Pacific. She was responsible for the oversight of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, managed care plans, and the quality of care delivered in hospitals and nursing homes. The region serves over 10 million beneficiaries, and has a programmatic budget exceeding $30 billion per year.

Before CMS, she worked for the Social Security Administration (SSA) in 17 field and regional offices in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, and throughout California. Ms. Abbott has B.A. in psychology from the University of Redlands and has done graduate work in public administration at the University of Southern California.


ROSE AUGUSTE, Northern California Regional Organizer, joined Health Access in 2010.  Rose has professional experience in community, union, and student organizing.  Her motivation to organize stems from her commitment to social justice and passion to advocate for underserved communities.

Originally from Queens, New York, Rose graduated from Binghamton University with a double major in Political Science and Africana Studies. In her spare time, Rose enjoys exploring the abundant sights and sounds of the Bay, running and playing with her Maltese, Kali.


KATE BURCH, Coordinator for the California LGBT HHS Network, joined Health Access in 2011. Kate participated in the Community Organizing Residency program, a project of Jewish Funds for Justice, as an organizer with the San Francisco Organizing Project. She is an alumna of Teach For America and taught 8th grade science in Los Angeles for four years. Kate is passionate about social justice issues, and has worked toward economic justice, equitable education, and full LGBT inclusion. In addition to a penchant for justice work, Kate enjoys building community and being actively involved in Jewish life.
 
Kate has Bachelors of Arts in Biology and Religion from Oberlin College, a Masters in Secondary Education from Loyola Marymount University, and a Masters in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley. She lives in Berkeley with her wife Margee, their three cats and two dogs.


BETH CAPELL , principal with Capell & Assoc., provides policy analysis, legislative advocacy, and other strategic input to Health Access and to other consumer, labor and public interest organizations on health care issues.

Ms. Capell has headed Capell & Assoc. and represented Health Access since 1996. During those years, Health Access fought for and won the HMO Patient Bill of Rights as well as expansions of health coverage, including the creation of Healthy Families.

Ms. Capell has worked in and around the state capitol since 1977, working on legislative staff, in the executive branch, and in campaign consulting. She has been a legislative advocate since 1984 working on health care issues.

Ms. Capell has a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California at Berkeley and has also served as a Visiting Scholar, research associate and teaching assistant at that campus.


MUNEERA SHARIFF GARDEZI, Community Organizer - Southern California, joined Health Access in 2013. A graduate of UCLA and having received her masters from CSUN, Muneera started her career in activism by working at Leadership Development in Interethnic Relations as a program assistant. Soon after, she joined South Asian Network where served as a health advocate. Recently she finished two years of serving as an AmeriCorps fellow for Public Allies. On her free time, Muneera organizes with South Asians for Justice Los Angeles and other progressive groups in Los Angeles advocating for social justice.


NANCY MARISA GOMEZ, Southern California Program Director, joined the Health Access Staff in 2008. Educated in North and South America, she brings a cross-cultural perspective and twenty years of experience in the social/human service field. She has worked for organizations focused on pediatric AIDS, chronic illness, domestic/spousal/child abuse, and affordable housing. Most recently she served as the Director of Social Services for a service enriched affordable housing development organization serving hundreds of at-risk families, youth, children, and seniors.

A pragmatic and creative problem solver, she credits her tenacity and resourcefulness to having served in the U.S. Navy, and counting on the support of a loving and passionately opinionated family. Nancy enjoys graphic design and solving the Sunday Times crossword without assistance.


SAWAIT HEZCHIAS-SEYOUM joined Health Access in 2013 in the role of Health Care Policy Advocate. Sawait is a former California Executive Fellow with over a decade of professional experience in the state legislature and with labor. Hezchias-Seyoum will be working to implement and improve upon the Affordable Care Act, and otherwise advocating at the Legislature for quality, affordable health care for all Californians. Sawait received a Bachelors of Arts in Government, and a Masters of Arts in Higher Education Leadership & Policy Studies from the California State University Sacramento.


BRUCE OCCENA is the Project Director for our Video Medical Interpretation project, working to implement this new technology to assist patients in getting linguistically appropriate care. Working out of our Oakland office, he comes to us from running the Substance Abuse Program at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and decades of political and programmatic work.

 


RICK PAVICH, Director of Operations and Development, joined Health Access in 2005 with sixteen years of nonprofit experience with advocacy and political organizations. He began is career in Washington, DC, as a fundraiser for nonprofits such as Voters for Choice, the Human Rights Campaign, and World Wildlife Fund.

In 1998, Rick came to California to become the Director of Donor Relations for Lutheran Social Service of Northern California, an organization with an array of programs including ground-breaking work in San Francisco assisting homeless people living with AIDS. Prior to Health Access, he served as the Executive Director of the National AIDS Memorial Grove, a 7.5-acre memorial honoring all lives touched by AIDS, located in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

Rick received his BA from the University of Utah, has been credentialed as a Certified Fund-Raising Executive (CFRE) since 1997, and holds a Masters degree in Nonprofit Administration from the University of San Francisco. He lives with his partner Sam and their twin mutts, Lily and Algernon.


ANTHONY WRIGHT has served as Executive Director for Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, for over a decade, since 2002. Health Access has led state and national efforts to win consumer protections, fight budget cuts and invest in our safety-net, encourage prevention, and advance coverage expansions and comprehensive health reform. Wright led California’s coalition effort to help pass the Affordable Care Act and state laws to implement and improve it, and campaigns to successfully pass first-in-the-nation laws to ensure timely access to care, and to stop hospital overcharging of the uninsured.

As a consumer advocate and community organizer, Wright has been widely quoted in state and national media. He has also worked for New Jersey Citizen Action, the Center for Media Education, The Nation magazine, and in Vice President Gore's office in the White House.

Born and raised in the Bronx, Wright graduated from Amherst College magna cum laude in both English and Sociology. He lives in Davis with his wife Jessica, his son Jefferson, a turtle Tortuga, and two cats, Patience and Fortitude.



 
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