Who’s Who on the Panel?

Ask questionsInternational Conference on Stigma at Howard University
November 20, 2015

B Stigma-Free coordinated a panel of some of its partners for a workshop at the International Conference on Stigma at Howard University on November 20, 2015, Challenging Stigma Across Identities: Finding Commonalities & Developing Action Plans. Here we are taking first-person story telling to the next level by bringing together stakeholders to apply experiences of bias and discrimination and focus on solutions to create social change. Led by moderator Garland Nixon, our panelists are the leaders of major, national organizations representing hundreds of thousands of people. Their ideas and vision drive initiatives and programming across the nation.

Do you have questions to ask the panelists? Pose them at the conference, or you may ask them here. We’ll collect all the questions and incorporate them into the discussion.




NixonGarland Nixon
Radio host (WPFW) and TV progressive political commentator (Fox News)

Garland Nixon retired from the Maryland Natural Resources Police in 2008 holding the rank of Major. In that capacity he acted as commander of various divisions including homeland security, investigations, special operations, aviation, and training. After retirement he taught criminal justice classes at Anne Arundel Community College. He hosted radio shows in Baltimore and Annapolis from 1999 until 2006. In 2007 he moved his radio career to 89.3 WPFW in Washington DC and currently hosts the weekly radio show “News Views” each Friday evening from 6-7pm. He has made regular appearances as a progressive political commentator on The Fox News Channel and The Fox Business News Channel from 2010 until present.




Patrick Hendry
Vice President, Peer Advocacy, Supports, and Services
Mental Health America

Patrick has worked as a mental health advocate for the past twenty-four years. His areas of expertise include peer provided services, self-directed care, social inclusion, recovery based trainings, organizational development, and management and sustainability. Patrick received the Clifford Beers Award in 2012, and the SAMHSA Voice Award and Eli Lily Reintegration Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. He is the former Executive Director of the Florida Peer Network and has assisted in the development of numerous peer-run programs and organizations. Patrick is a strong supporter of the inclusion of mental health consumers in all aspects of the behavioral health system.


HodgeLaurin Hodge, MS candidate 2016
Executive Director
Mission: Launch, Inc.

It was the unexpected incarceration of Laurin’s mother that motivated her to craft a social entrepreneurial career. As the Executive Director of Mission: Launch, she envisions the elimination of the social stigma returning citizens face upon release from prison or jail. In order to reach this vision, she works as a mother-daughter team with Teresa Hodge to build community coalitions and software so that the complex re-entry process is simplified. Together, they believe this is the key to improve service delivery and unlock the potential of the 1-in-4 Americans with an arrest or conviction record so that they can become productive members of society. Laurin serves as the millennial vision keeper and ensures an innovative, systems level approach is applied. She is honored when she is invited to walk the re-entry journey with women and men rebuilding their lives.


LJ_headshot_casualLoretta Jay, MA
Executive Director
B Stigma-Free

Loretta is a nationally-recognized, inspirational change agent and advocate for families and children with more than twenty-five years of experience in comprehensive program design, implementation and evaluation. She built B Stigma-Free from an abstract concept into the change agent it is becoming. She has published, spoken and testified extensively on complex issues regarding child protection, mental health and specialized healthcare populations. Loretta’s work with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, the US Food and Drug Administration, major healthcare facilities and many non-profit organizations has yielded improved services and streamlined policy and protocols to better meet the population’s needs. She earned a Master’s degree in community psychology that benefits her capacity to build teams across identities and forge new relationships to create social change.


SpivakDenise Spivak
Director of Member Relations & External Affairs
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers

Denise Spivak is Director of Member Relations and External Affairs for CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers. Now in her fifth year at CenterLink, Denise joined the organization after working in the private sector for over twenty years. She has extensive experience in team management, talent acquisition and program development. Prior to joining CenterLink, Denise was a corporate executive recruiter. Her background also includes on-air and production roles in the broadcast industry and senior retail management positions with Fortune 500 companies.

Denise was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area. Starting in the early ‘90s she was part of the Sophie’s Parlor Radio Collective, the longest-running women’s music radio show in the country. She also served as a stage manager, producer and sound crew member for numerous Pride events and Women’s Music festivals, and was a production assistant for “A Simple Matter of Justice”, the video of the 1993 March on Washington. She has served on a number of local non-profit boards and committees focused in the LGBT arena. Denise is a graduate of Gettysburg College where she received her B.A. in Psychology.


WatmanMelinda J Watman, RN, BSN, MSN, CNM, MBA
Board member and Chair of Weight Bias Committee
Obesity Action Coalition

Melinda is on Obesity Action Coalition’s (OAC) National Board of Directors and she chairs its Weight Bias Committee, which is the hub for weight bias issue management within the organization. She is also the President and Founder of The F Word Fat, dedicated to improving awareness and elimination of weight bias, discrimination and fat-shaming, and has been involved in the pursuit of eliminating weight bias most of her life. As someone with obesity she has used her first-hand experience to help others identify, understand and rethink how they act towards those with obesity. Melinda received the 2013 OAC “Bias Buster of the Year” award for proactively combatting weight bias to change public opinion about individuals affected by the disease of obesity. She is nationally known for her public policy and advocacy work on the state and federal levels as well as her work with the media on obesity-related issues.

Board of Directors:

Dana Beyer, MD

Thomas Kaylor

Marvin Pannell, MBA

Vernon S. Thompson, DMin, MEd, MDiv


Advisory Council:

Neelum T. Aggarwal, MD

Patrick Corrigan, PsyD

Irwin Krieger, LCSW

William B. Lawson, MD, PhD, DLFAPA

Andrea Leonardi, MA

Deborah Lipschitz, MD

Michael Morris, PhD

Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD

Catherine E. Semcer

Marilyn Price Spivack

Janie Victoria Ward, EdD, MEd