QPR Instructor Team

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CDPH Suicide Prevention

CDPH’s Certified QPR Instructor Team

CDPH’s QPR Instructor team includes more than 50 public health professionals who represent Chicago’s diverse populations: 71% instructors are BIPOC, 67% female, 40% over age 51. Instructors speak nearly a dozen different languages, including Spanish, German, Romanian, Hindi, Gujarati, Amharic, Telugu, Urdu, and Arabic.

Many of our instructors have lived experience of suicide, including knowing someone who has attempted or died by suicide, or having themselves experienced suicidal thoughts or engaged in self-harm.

Team members work across a range of different public health areas, and they all share a share a passion to take action to prevent suicide and create an equitable, safe, and resilient and Healthy Chicago.


QPR Instructor Demographics

Get To Know The Team

Isabel Abrams

Isabel Abrams
She/Her/Hers

Isabel (Izzy) Abrams (she/her) is a Project Coordinator in the Healthy Chicago Equity Zones initiative. Izzy has her MPH/MSW from UIC and has been with CDPH for almost two years! She is excited to be in the QPR cohort to continue to end the stigma on seeking support for mental health crises.

Teffany  Anderson

Teffany Anderson
She/Her/Hers

Teffany Anderson is a public health professional with more than 15 years of experience in HIV, more than seven years of experience in the racial equity space, and more than five years of experience working with children with mental health diagnoses.

Saul Ayala

Saul Ayala
He/Him/His

Saul Ayala, Supervising CDCI, has been working for the Chicago Department of Public Health for over 19 years in the Communicable Disease Program. As part of the Chicago Department of Public Health he has lead education classes to Chicagoans about their health including mental health. Having personally experienced the heartbreak of suicide, Saul is acutely aware of the urgent need for increased education and awareness surrounding suicide prevention. He advocates for greater understanding of the signs and thoughts associated with suicide, emphasizing the crucial importance of supporting those who reach out for help.

Deborah Ranieri Banifazl

Deborah Ranieri Banifazl
She/Her/Hers

Deborah Ranieri Banifa works as a K-8 and High School Nurse, a Community College Medical Educator, and is neonative intensive care unit trained. She was on the front line, triaging students at risk. Deborah has worked and lived in many different countries, and has a culturally diverse family with three adopted foregin children and partner. She has also worked as a school nurse in an urban high school and has supported students, families, and the general population related to issues surrounding suicide and prevention.

Challis Bell

Challis Bell
She/Her/Hers

Challis Bell is 26 years old and works with the Chicago Department of Public Health in the Lead Poisoning Prevention and Healthy Home Program. Challis is passionate about the importance of mental health as it pertains to suicide prevention. She has experienced the loss of loved ones and friends due to suicide, and hopes to bring compassion, leadership, and positivity to this group.

Charles Blackwell

Charles Blackwell
He/Him/His

I'm a Project Manager (in the city of Chicago) for District Councilors for the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability. I served in the US Military for over 12 years and am a disabled veteran. I also volunteer with various non-profit organizations and am a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.

Micah Burkey

Micah Burkey
He/Him/His

Micah Burkey is an Emergency Manager for the City of Chicago who has worked complex, high stress responses and collaborated with a wide range of government agencies and community groups during prolonged emergencies. He holds a concern for the mental health of first responders and community members who assist people impacted by disasters. Micah believes he can be a solid voice in communicating with these groups.

Kathy Calderon

Kathy Calderon
She/Her/Ella

Kathy Calderon, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, serves as the Director of Mental Health Operations at the Chicago Department of Public Health. With a background as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Kathy brings over 14 years of experience in assisting youth and families within community mental health settings. Currently, Kathy's primary focus lies in implementing city-level mental health equity initiatives.

Ben Cammack

Ben Cammack
He/Him/His

Ben Cammack experienced trauma growing up, and he knows people who have experienced extensive trauma.

Mawiyah J. Coates

Mawiyah J. Coates
She/Her/Hers

Mawiyah J. Coates is a Chicago South Side native, and has encountered countless individuals in her 32 years of professional experience. She has always had a passion to be at the forefront of providing support and guidance for people who face challenges. She willingly shares her own personal experiences and seeks out professional learning tools to provide additional support as needed.

Jennifer Cooper

Jennifer Cooper
She/Her/Hers

Jennifer Cooper graduated from Marquette University with a Bachelor's degree in History and a Master's degree in Nursing from DePaul University. She has previous experience working with children in school settings. She has a personal connection with someone who has experienced suicidal thoughts and self harming behaviors; this has given her both experience in responding to these situations as well as a passion for helping others know how to help those at risk of suicide.

LaToya Cooper

LaToya Cooper
She/Her/Hers

LaToya Cooper an Administrative Assitant III for the Chicago Department of Public Health Office of Community Planning and Equity Zomes. As a lead volunteer in the community, she advocates for individuals affected by anxiety, depression, food insecurities, and suicidal ideation. Her goal is to provide effective training that will help reduce the number of suicide victims/attempts. LaToya is grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this crucial work.

Gordon Crisler

Gordon Crisler

Gordon Crisler is a passionate leader, intervention specialist and counselor, and someone who loves finding solutions and meeting people right where they are. Gordon has worked with individuals before who were struggling with suicidal ideation, and learned how to tailor unique approaches to individuals at risk. He is motivated by helping people discover and unlock their own potential.

Dr. Margaret Eaglin

Dr. Margaret Eaglin
She/Her/Hers

In addition to her roles and responsibilities as an Epidemiologist, Dr. Margaret Eaglin is also an Adjunct Professor at two universities. Recently, one of her students had to withdrawal from the university due to mental health issues. The student expressed having had suicidal thoughts in the past, and Margaret's hope is that he is getting the medical care necessary to be mentally and physically healthy.

Michele Evans-Brock

Michele Evans-Brock
She/Her/Hers

Michele Evans-Brock is an individual who has overcome past struggles with suicide. While navigating through challenging times, she made decisions without concern for her well-being. Today, Michele stands as a testament to mental resilience and faith in her religion. Michele emphasizes the significance of recognizing warning signs, intervening to redirect negative paths towards positive outcomes, and offering solace to those in need. Michele serves as a beacon of hope, reminding others that there is always light at the end of the tunnel and that the storm always passes.

Pablo Fernandez

Pablo Fernandez
El/He/Him

Pablo Fernandez is a proud Queer Latino dedicated to communicating health disparities through data. Currently, Pablo is an epidemiologist within the Community Health Services Division of the Syndemic Infectious Disease Bureau. He has previously worked in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to assess barriers and facilitators to suicide prevention care for Latinx populations.

Zeruya Gaddam

Zeruya Gaddam
She/Her/Hers

Zeruya Gaddam is a nurse with 25 years of clinical experience; she recently attained certification as Master of Science in Nursing-Family Nurse Practitioner - Board Certified. Zeruya has personally experienced the loss of young adults of family/friends.

Nancy Gajewski

Nancy Gajewski
She/Her/Hers

Nancy Gajewski is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has worked with the Chicago Department of Public Health for over 30 years as a Clinical Therapist III. Nancy wants to learn and overlearn all of the ways to disucss and prevent suicide. She respects the gift of life and hopes to enthusiastically communicate this gift to all.

Jennifer Garross

Jennifer Garross, LCSW

Jennifer, LCSW, is a Mental Health Crisis Clinician for the CARE program through Chicago Department of Public Health. She has been working in the behavioral health field for over 25 yrs in various positions from doing case work to private therapy. Jennifer interacts frequently with individuals who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts or attempts. She has always been drawn to helping people but am very passionate about preventing individuals who want to die from suicide.

Tynisha George

Tynisha George
She/Her/Hers

Tynisha George is a social justice warrior who works diligently to provide adequate resources to disadvantaged communities. Her diverse professional experience includes providing clinical services to marginalized communities and leveraging this expertise to advocate for racial and health equity across interdisciplinary issues, including but not limited to behavioral health and social injustices.

Swati Goyal

Swati Goyal
She/Her/Hers

Swati Goyal (phonetically pronounced as Swa-thee) is an American-born, South Asian female and daughter of immigrant parents. Mental health is not something typically discussed in her household, which is why Swati wanted to become a QPR instructor.

Eve Green

Eve Green
She/Her/Hers

Eve Green is a licensed social worker who qualifies to sit for the Licensed Clinical Social Worker exam. The preparation for the exam includes professional development and supervision hours in direct clinical services and mental health counseling.

Kim Hamilton

Kim Hamilton
She/Her/Hers

Kim Hamilton is a Community Advocate educating families on how to maintain their health, and promote wellness and prevention. She has many years of public health experience along with management/leadership experience as a Health Care Professional. When she's not working, Kim enjoys traveling and spending time with family and friends. She also enjoys listening to music and watching television based on medicine, law, and science.

Henry Hartsfield

Henry Hartsfield
He/Him/His

Henry Hartsfield currently works for the City of Chicago in the Department of Public Health as a Finance Officer. Henry graduated from Brother Rice High School in 1992, and went on to earn a Bacherlor's degree in Finance from DePaul University. He is a Local 505 Executive Board Member, Delegate, Steward and Contract Negotiations Committee Member, Chicago Public School Council Member, and a Community Representative for the Arthur Ashe Grammar School.

Faith Hong

Faith Hong
She/Her/Hers

Faith began her career at a small non-profit in Chinatown, where she worked with youth and on the health and wellness of immigrant communities. She then transitioned to Cook County where her focus shifted to the justice system and working with justice-involved individuals. These experiences have emphasized the important intersection of policy, community, and justice in public health. The various, unique mental health experiences of the communities she worked among has further impacted her desire to advocate for mental health and wellness and to become a QPR instructor.

Dwight Hunter

Dwight Hunter
He/Him/His

Dwight currently works for the Chicago Department of Public Health as Program Director. He is grateful for the opportunities he has been given by CDPH in humbly serving the citizens of Chicago and providing lifesaving, prevention, risk reduction and care information, skills and resources. He has personally experienced the trauma of suicide and has a greater passion in strongly advocating for more education and awareness surrounding suicide prevention. He believes that having the QPR information, skills, and resources to now share is another awesome tool we all should have in our self-care toolboxes. Dwight knows that it’s imperative to share this QPR resource with family, friends, then our communities, particularly those with health inequities. A favorite African proverb that he equates with his work at CDPH as a public servant is “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion”.

Rev. Nilsa Irizarry

Rev. Nilsa Irizarry
She/Her/Ella

Rev. Nilsa Irizarry serves as CDPH’s Senior Equity Officer and oversees the Office of Racial Equity and Belonging (OREB). She has been a passionate leader in the public health field for two decades; she answered God’s call to serve in love with a liberating, interfaith lens for equity and justice. Rev. Nilsa holds a Master of Divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary. She is an ordained clergywoman with the Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC).

Tywanda Kirk

Tywanda Kirk
She/Her/Hers

Tywanda Kirk is an Administrative Assistant in the Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion program at CDPH. Motivated by personal experience with loved ones affected by suicide, she wants to be able to assist anyone who has or is thinking about hurting themselves. As a QPR instructor, Tywanda wants to assist as many people as she can in preventing suicide.

Lorzell Johnson

Lorzell Johnson
She/Her/Hers

Lorzell Johnson is a behavior health professional and advocate and is dedicated to serving and connecting individuals in underserved communities with essential resources and support systems to enhance their quality of life.

Patricia Johnson

Patricia Johnson
She/Her/Hers

Patricia Therese Johnson, MSHC, is a Public Health Administrator III with experience working across the Behavioral Health Bureau in the Office of Violence Prevention and the Office of Substance Use and Recovery Services. She currently serves as a critical team member in the Office of Mental Health and oversees Shelter-Based Care Initiatives and projects that drive increased access to more intensive mental health and substance use & recovery services. Patricia became a Narcan/Harm Reduction trainer in 2018 and graduated from Northwestern University with a Master of Science in Health Communication. Over the years, Patricia has participated in several Out of the Darkness Walks with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Serving as a QPR Gatekeeper Instructor is ideal for creating stronger partnerships with diverse populations in the AFSP community and beyond. QPR training can help to increase awareness and promote positive health outcomes.

Mada Leanga

Mada Leanga
She/Her/Hers

Mada Leanga works as a Mental Health Crisis Clinician for the Crsis Assistance Response and Engagement (CARE) program in Chicago during the day and a trauma therapist in private practice in the evening. She is also a mother of two girls, two cats, and a dog.

Colleen Lilly

Colleen Lilly
She/Her/Hers

Colleen Lilly is thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase and work alongside her colleagues while becoming a QPR instructor.

Sarah Love

Sarah Love
Anything respectful

Sarah Love works for the Chicago Department of Public Health in the Communicable Disease program. Sarah believes everyone should have access to mental health care, including suicide prevention.

Sidney Martinez

Sidney Martinez
She/They

Sidney Martinez is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Assignee to the Chicago Department of Public Health focused in adolescent sexual health. She is passionate about expanding access to mental health support and opportunities for community advocacy.

Loretta Miller

Loretta Miller
She/Her/Hers

Loretta Miller has a Master of Public Health degree with a focus on Emergency Preparedness and Health Education. She has over 25 years of experience in serving people with various high-risk infectious diseases including most recently tuberculosis.

Travis Moore-Murray

Travis Moore-Murray
He/Him/His

Travis Moore-Murray is a Black man who was born, raised, and educated in Chicago. As a West-sider, he was raised in Austin and is now a homeowner in West Humboldt. Travis has two sons - 16 and 12 - and a wonderufl, beautiful, and intelligent wife who is a Public Health nerd. Travis has spent his professional life serving youth in various capacities and considers himself an educator and advocate.

Margaret Okodua

Margaret Okodua
She/Her/Hers

Margaret Okodua is a Registered Nurse, Advanced Practiced Registered Nurse, educator, and devoted mother.

Alina Rahman

Atrik Patel
He/Him/His

Atrik Patel is currently a Master of Public Health student at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine. He serves as a Mental Health intern with the Chicago Department of Public Health. Atrik has contributed to mental health advocacy, research, and education efforts both as a student and a community member. He looks forward to continuing this work by serving as an advocate for suicide prevention through the QPR training program.

Danielle Pertiller

Danielle Pertiller
She/Her/Hers

Danielle Pertiller, LCPC, is an innovative therapist who guides her clients to achieve the things they believe are important to becoming their optimal selves. She is a trauma trained and informed, empathetic, non-judgmental advocate that strives to help clients navigate the hurdles of everyday life. Danielle believes in engaging clients in a self-worth and self-value journey as she's an advocate for quality of life and suicide prevention.

Alina Rahman

Alina Rahman
She/Her/Hers

Alina Rahman is a Public Health Administrator at the Mental Health Office within the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Margarita Reina

Margarita Reina
She/Her/Hers

Margarita Reina is a survivor of gun-violence, first generation immigrant born in Uptown, Latina, daughter of Colombian immigrants, community organizer, and an advocate for social justice. Margarita is a Social Epidemiologist at the City of Chicago Department of Public Health with over 30 years’ experience working on public health issues. She is passionate about integrating community engagement and improving data capacity for Chicago’s most impacted communities. Ms. Reina received her BA from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in Political Science and Latin American History and her MPH in Epidemiology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health. She enjoys watching sunrises at Montrose beach, photography, playing classical guitar, running, yoga, traveling, spending time with her family, and meeting new people. She is fluent in Spanish and French.

Madeleine Saldon

Madeleine Saldon
She/Her/Hers

Madeleine Saldon has worked for the Chicago Department of Public Health since 2022. Madeleine has always been a supportive presence for friends and family grappling with suicidal ideation and emotional distress, but has wanted to do more for the people she cares about. Madeleine is excited to become an instructor and learn about the ways she is able to help.

Allie Sontag

Allie Sontag
She/Her/Hers

Allie Sontag is the Director of School Nursing with the Chicago Department of Public Health's Maternal, Infant, Child, and Adolescent Health Bureau's Office of School Health. She is a native Chicagoan. Allie has a Bachelor's degree in Cell & Molecular Biology and African Diaspora & African History from Tulane University in New Orleans. After graduating from Tulane, Allie completed the direct entry master's for non-nurses at Rush University in 2013. Allie worked as a night nurse at Rush University Medical Center while completing her Doctor of Nursing Practice in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program. Her doctoral project focused on using motivational interviewing in a school-based health center. She comes to this role from Chicago Public Schools where she worked as a nurse practitioner.

Shirley Tankersley

Shirley Tankersley
She/Her/Hers

Shirley Tankersley is the Project Coordinator for Substance Use and Recovery Services at CDPH. She has many years of administrative and project management experience. Shirley serves on several ministries at her church which includes the Congregational Care. She has a passion for helping improve the lives of others.

Eva Terry

Eva Terry
She/Her/Hers

Eva Terry is currently a Public Health Administrator III for the Syndemic Infectious Diseases Bureau. She leads the Resource Coordination team for the Community COVID-19 Response Corp (The Call Center). She was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, she holds a Bachelor of Science in History and Sociology from Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama and a Master of Science in Education with a concentration in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University in River Forrest, Illinois. She also has an extensive list of certifications and trainings in Public Health and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She is a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. She was an educator for over 25 years predominately at the high school level. She has a strong focus on reducing health inequities by providing services to communities of color hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. She is dedicated to fostering and nurturing strong relationships with various constituencies in the communities of the participants she serve.

Tasha Trask

Tasha Trask
She/Her/Hers

Tasha Trask is a Staff Assistant with the Behavioral Health Bureau that loves to interact with people and bring them joy. Tasha is a person who realizes the importance of active listening and hopes to learn everything she can to better help others.

Octavia Tyson

Octavia Tyson
She/Her/Hers

Octavia, LCPC is a public health and behavioral health professional who has co-designed trauma-informed initiatives for CDPH, involving curriculum development and workshop facilitation. She has years of experience as a social justice advocate offering advanced training and technical support, assisting in the development of systems that support prevention and promote health.

Haifa Wahbeh

Haifa Wahbeh

Haifa Wahbeh has worked with the Chicago Department of Public Health as a Public Health Administrator II, and worked directly with Congenital Syphilis cases. Haifa believes that the resources she provided made a significant difference in the lives of others.

Marlita White

Marlita White
She/Her/Hers

Marlita White directs the Chicago Department of Public Health, Office of Violence Prevention where she oversees violence prevention and response initiatives. She is trained to support children/adolescents, couples, families and groups in managing emerging conflicts and strengthening positive outcomes. Marlita blends her clinical, public health and urban planning/community development experience to deconstruct the structural barriers that burden vulnerable communities.

Michelle Williams-Harper

Michelle Williams-Harper
She/Her/Hers

Michelle Williams-Harper is a healthcare professional with extensive management experience in public health, quality management, and HIV testing. Michelle is passionate about people and their well-being, especially in securing their mental health.

Aida Zeleke

Aida Zeleke
She/Her/Hers

Aida Zeleke's motivation to become an instructor stems from a need to acquire skills to effectively intervene in situations involving suicidal ideation or self-harm. Despite lacking personal experience with suicide or knowing individuals affected by it, Aida wants to be prepared to support to those who need it. Aida also aspires to equip others with these skills in her community and beyond.