Meet Our Board Members

Catherine Gray Haywood

Catherine Gray Haywood is the current chair for Louisiana Community Health Outreach Network, and she has worked for Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC) for 20 years. Catherine received her BSW from Southern University at New Orleans. Catherine has worked for the last 30 years advocating for individuals living below the poverty level, as well as, working to educate communities about health disparities such as HIV/AIDS, breast and cervical cancers, other cancers, obesity, and active living,


She is one of the founding members of Women with a Vision, a non-profit organization that has been in existence for the last 30 years. She provides structured mentoring for community members about the PRC’s activities. She also implements training programs for community residents, barbers, stylists, and health care providers around health issues.  Catherine provides information on webinars that present community-based participatory research for organizations and neighborhood associations.


In the past she has worked with people leaving prison in the pre-release program through the Community Service Center. She has served as Co-Regional Director for the South region for the National Community Committee (NCC), a member of the Executive Board of the Louisiana Cancer Control Partnership, and a member of the leadership committee for the American Cancer Society’s COFFEE Program.  Catherine was one of two Community Health Worker Core Consensus (C3) Project fellows in the nation and she is a National Association of Community Health Workers board member.  

Merri Roussell

Dana Rae Feist

Dana R. Feist is a clinical research coordinator with over fifteen years of cancer prevention and control experience, particularly working with underserved populations in the areas of clinical trials, community outreach, and patient navigation. She chaired the Louisiana Healthy Communities Regional Coalition, which helped to improve the health and quality of life of Louisianans by mobilizing communities through implementing policy, systems, and environmental changes in order to build healthy communities. A major highlight of the coalition was advocating for the passage of Smoke-free NOLA, which eliminated smoking in bars and casinos in New Orleans. Ms. Feist successfully supervised a patient navigation program, implemented and enhanced targeted outreach efforts, and coordinated statewide partnership efforts. As a professional development coordinator, she monitored and organized professional development activities for staff and the public. In her current role, as coordinator of Cancer Care Delivery Research (CCDR), she works with oncology staff in developing and implementing recruitment strategies, as well as, manages the day to day activities of CCDR studies including problem solving, communication, and protocol management.

Charles Haywood

Gail Sherman

Gail Sherman is a Community Outreach (CHW) Coordinator. She has over 15 years of experience in working with under-served populations in the areas of housing, homelessness, and health.  She serves as a liaison between clients/patients to ensure that the lines of communications remain open, help clients and homeless Veterans to maintain employment stability, increase skill levels, and achieve great self-determination. She assists patients with obtaining access to health care, employment and other community resources. Gail is adept at explaining a variety of community services, and programs to homeless Veterans and broader community representatives in a clear and accessible manner. Gail also conducts health education and holds health fairs at community events. Her goal is to earn a reputation as an engaging, empowering, trustworthy, honest, and effective Community Outreach Coordinator who delivers services and resources for her clients/patients.

Michelle Wiley

Merri Roussell is no stranger to the Community.  She is a Community Health Worker (CHW) who has an extensive history (15 plus years) of working with families and communities statewide.  Her role with Louisiana Healthcare Connections as a Community Health Service Representative affords her the opportunity to build community relationships, educate while connecting members to resources, as well as provide enrichment to the community through health and educational events. 


Merri is a crucial partner in collaborating with schools locally and statewide to bring awareness to anti – bullying. The program No One Eats Alone, teaches 5th graders about inclusion and isolation. The goal is to impart best practices for the students to be respectful of their peers.  Merri’s community service entails health fairs, resources fairs, feeding the hungry, volunteering at nursing homes, building strong collaborations, and the list goes on.  


Merri works tirelessly to impact the community’s health outcomes. She ambitiously strives to increase her audience reach. She serves on several community coalitions and is honored to serve on the LACHON Board. 

Yolanda Criss

Yolanda Michelle Criss is a Louisiana native. She is married to Dallas Criss Sr. and is the mother of one son, Dallas Criss Jr.  She graduated from Scotlandville Magnet High School in 1984 and continued her education at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Yolanda obtained a Bachelor degree in Psychology and further, a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling.  

Over last 30 years, Yolanda has been working tirelessly servicing the underserved communities/populations within the great state of Louisiana.  However, within the last 8 years of her career she has been the manager of the Community Education and Outreach team with AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana. This role has been especially fulfilling to her as she has always believed in a holistic approach to healthcare, which is the exact approach AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana takes.


Yolanda has a wealth of knowledge and experience and lends her expertise to a plethora of community organizations. To name a few, she works with Volunteers of America -Greater Baton Rouge, Department of Children and Family Services, and Catholic Charities. Additionally, she serves on the several boards, Louisiana Community Outreach Network (LaCHON), South Baton Rouge Kiwanis and Metro Health Board of Directors. Throughout all of her accomplishments and all that she has endured, she credits all of her success to God.

Charles is a native and resident of New Orleans, LA who has provided twenty years of advocacy, community service, social service and HIV prevention/education work in and around New Orleans and Tampa, FL. He has had the opportunity to coordinate and facilitate focus groups promoting healthy behaviors, build support systems within the LGBTQ community, provide case management services, lead peer education projects, and work as a PrEP Navigator for local clinics. Charles is currently working with Women with a Vision as the Ending the Epidemic (ETE) Program Associate. As the ETE associate, he works diligently to create necessary conversations that address stigma, racism, homophobia, transphobia and ways to reduce risks/ HIV transmission within communities across Louisiana. 

Ashley Wennerstrom

Meredith Sugarman

Meredith Sugarman, MPH, is an ally to community health workers. She conducts research on policies related to workforce development for community health workers. Through continued partnerships with the CDC and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD), she has led the initial development of a public-facing, searchable database of CHW-related documents as a resource for state health departments, researchers, CHW organizations, and CHW allies. She also partners with community and academic stakeholders to develop and implement an array of community- partnered participatory research projects to address health disparities in New Orleans.

Michelle is a Mississippi native who relocated to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Michelle has worked over twenty-five years in social services, mental health, and community advocacy. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Social Services and a minor in Education from the University of Southern Mississippi. Before coming to Women with a Vision, Michelle worked as a Case Manager in the medical field assisting individuals with mental disabilities who were not able to receive proper resources to manage daily living. Upon relocating she was hired at Women with a Vision where she oversees the Crossroads Diversion program. She helps to meet the needs of clients and their families by providing case management services while facilitating group sessions. Michelle works diligently advocating for her clients to get their charges dropped once completing the program. Her passion is making sure they have the resources, proper skills that are needed to cope with the streets of New Orleans. 

Ashley Wennerstrom is an Associate Professor at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans. She has been a proud ally of the CHW workforce for over a dozen years. She focuses on CHW workforce development, policy, and community-academic partnered research.  Ashley is a co-founder of LACHON. She is also a founding board member and the chair of the policy committee for the National Association of Community Health Workers.


Special Advisors

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