Featured & Keynote Speakers

Laura Bush

Laura Bush

Former First Lady
Texan by Nature Founder

In 2011 Mrs. Laura Bush founded Texan by Nature to unite business and conservation leaders who believe prosperity is dependent on the conservation of our natural resources. One of the most beloved and admired American First Ladies, Laura Bush is actively involved in issues of national and global concern with a particular emphasis on education, health care, human rights and the preservation of our nation’s heritage. As founder of Texan by Nature, Mrs. Bush is committed to native prairie restoration efforts and to teaching Texans the importance of conserving the state’s natural resources. The George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas features a 15-acre native prairie landscape, and the Bushes are currently working to restore the prairie at their ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Aruni Bhatnagar, PhD, FAHA

Aruni Bhatnagar, PhD, FAHA

Professor
University of Louisville

Aruni Bhatnagar, PhD, is professor and distinguished university scholar in the Institute of Molecular Cardiology, is a professor of medicine, and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Louisville since 1998. Bhatnagar is a distinguished university scholar and a fellow of the American Heart Association. His research interests include cardiovascular effects of environmental pollutants, atherosclerosis, injury from loss of blood to the heart muscle, cardiovascular complications of diabetes, and sepsis. Bhatnagar’s work has led to the creation of the new field of environmental cardiology. His research is supported by several grants from the National Institutes of Health, including two program-projects.

Perry Hystad, PhD

Perry Hystad, PhD

Assistant Professor
Oregon State University

Perry Hystad is an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University. He is the program director for the environmental health program and leads the Spatial Health Lab. His research focuses on connecting people to places to determine chronic disease risk factors and prevention opportunities. He is developing new methods to assess environmental exposures for large population-based health studies using new technologies and data science approaches. He has been principal investigator and co-investigator on grants that assess green space and built environment exposures, determine associations with health outcomes, and translate information into effective policy and prevention activities.

David Berrigan, PhD, MPH

David Berrigan, PhD, MPH

Biologist
National Cancer Institute

David Berrigan, PhD, MPH, is a biologist in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the National Cancer Institute. His recent research has examined energy balance, carcinogenesis, physical activity and acculturation using a mix of animal models, population data, and methodological studies aimed at improving survey data and incorporating GIS tools and data-layers into survey data sets. He is strongly committed to research aimed at health for all via environments and institutions that foster healthy behaviors, preventive services, and health care regardless of demographic or economic circumstances.

Florence Williams

Florence Williams

Journalist, Author,
Podcaster, and Public Speaker

Florence Williams is a journalist, author, podcaster and public speaker. She is the author of The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. Her public speaking includes keynotes at Google, the Smithsonian, the Seattle Zoo, the Aspen Ideas Festival and many other corporate, academic and nonprofit venues. Her new podcast, The 3-Day Effect, is now available through the audible originals channel. A fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature and a visiting scholar at George Washington University, her work focuses on the environment, health and science.

Center Speakers

Carrie Byington, MD

Carrie L. Byington, MD

Vice Chancellor for Health Services
The Texas A&M University System

Carrie L. Byington serves as the vice chancellor for health services at The Texas A&M University System, in addition to being the Jean and Thomas McMullin professor and dean of the Texas A&M College of Medicine, and senior vice president of the Texas A&M University Health Science Center. Dr. Byington’s research spans the translational spectrum from basic laboratory science to health services research and has focused primarily on bacterial and viral respiratory pathogens in children. A national leader in pediatrics and infectious disease, Dr. Byington is an elected member of the National Academy of Inventors and the National Academy of Medicine.

Joni Carswell

Joni Carswell

CEO and President
Texan by Nature

Joni Carswell is the executive director of Texan by Nature where she is responsible for leading their mission to spur Texan-led conservation that produces tangible benefits for people, prosperity, and natural resources. Joni pairs her business strategy, engineering and technology background with her passion for Texas and the outdoors to realize Texan by Nature’s vision of bringing both science-based and community-organized initiatives to the forefront. Joni is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma and served on the Advisory Board for the Kellogg Women’s Business Association.

Edward Jones, MBA

Edward A. Jones, MBA

President and CEO
Houston Methodist Research Institute

Edward Jones, president and CEO of the Houston Methodist Research Institute, is responsible for academic administrative functions, including governance, communications, financial services, grants and contracts, regulatory oversight and research protections. In addition, he oversees the Academic Office for Clinical Trials which provides leadership for clinical trial operations and for regulatory and coordinator support. Jones joined Houston Methodist in 2005 to establish the Research Institute. Prior to his appointment at Houston Methodist, he was the Administrative Director of Biomedical Research at the Nemours Children´s Clinic and Alfred I. du Pont Hospital for Children.

Bita Kash, PhD, MBA, FACHE

Bita Kash, PhD, MBA, FACHE

Director, Center for Outcomes Research
Houston Methodist

Bita Kash is Professor of Health Policy and Management at Texas A&M University and Director of the Center for Outcomes Research at Houston Methodist. She is also Co-Director of a seven-university National science Foundation (NSF) funded industry-university cooperative research center, the Center for Health Organization Transformation (CHOT), anchored at Texas A&M University. She currently serves as the Interim Director for the Center for Health & Nature. She is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and an active member of Academy Health, the Gerontological Society of America, and Academy of Management. Her areas of research include organizational capacity for change and transformation, evaluation of organizational innovations and technologies in the healthcare delivery system, and healthcare strategic planning and marketing. Her most recent research projects focus on development of strategy bundles to reduce hospital readmission rates, and access to appropriate care interventions.

Karla M. Kurrelmeyer, MD, FACC, FASE

Karla M. Kurrelmeyer, MD, FACC, FASE

Medical Director, DeBakey Cardiology Associates
Houston Methodist

Karla Kurrelmeyer is medical director of the Houston Methodist DeBakey Cardiology Associates and associate professor of clinical cardiology at Houston Methodist. Dr. Kurrelmeyer´s research centers on the role of inflammatory cytokines on disease progression in heart failure. Dr. Kurrelmeyer began her research activities while still a cardiology fellow at the Baylor College of Medicine where she won the Best Basic Research Award in 1998. That same year, she was also the recipient of the American Heart Association Melvin L. Marcus Young Investigator Award in Cardiovascular Science.

Terri Menser, PhD, MBA

Terri Menser, PhD, MBA

Scientist, Center for Outcomes Research
Houston Methodist

Terri Menser is a scientist at the Center for Outcomes Research at Houston Methodist and an assistant member of the Houston Methodist Research Institute. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Ohio State University in the Department of Family Medicine working on projects related to health information technology, patient engagement, implementation evaluation, and health disparities. She received her doctoral degree in Health Services Research, with an organizational focus, from Texas A&M University. During her studies, Terri worked as a Research Assistant for the NSF-funded Center for Health Organization Transformation, and later as a Research Associate to evaluate the implementation of primary care into mental health care settings through the Texas 1115 Medicaid Demonstration Waiver Evaluation. Her current research examines surgical outcomes, burnout, patient portal use, and telemedicine.

Cynthia Pickett-Stevenson, JD

Cynthia Pickett-Stevenson, JD

Attorney
Treasurer, Texan by Nature
Co-Chair, Houston Methodist Hospital Foundation

Cynthia Pickett-Stevenson is a fourth generation Houstonian and a practicing attorney with over 34 years of experience. She is the treasurer at Texan by Nature and a longtime board member and former chair of the Galveston Bay Foundation. She serves as a director and co-vice chair of the Lone Star Coastal Alliance Board focused on securing a Federal Congressional designation known as the Loan Star Coastal National Recreation Area for the upper Texas coastal counties. Cynthia is also director of the Center for Excellence in Education, established by the late Admiral Rickover and Joann DiGennaro, co-chair of the Methodist Hospital Foundation, co-chair of the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center Advisory Council, and senior cabinet member of the Houston Methodist President’s Leadership Council.