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Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey recently released a brief highlighting the unequal and inequitable impact of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. This brief describes the various ways in which targeted and marginalized communities are disproportionately bearing the brunt COVID-19 and climate change. The Attorney General’s brief will be discussed during this panel.

Read the full brief here.

Featured Panelists

Representative Aaron Vega, Fifth Hampden District, Massachusetts House of Representatives

Aaron Vega represents Massachusetts’ Fifth Hampden District. In 2009, Aaron was elected one of Holyoke’s first Latino at-large councilors and went on to be elected State Representative in 2012.  He is Vice-Chair of the Committee on Technology & Intergovernmental Affairs, and also serves on the Committees of Higher Education, and Cannabis Policy.

Aaron was born in South Holyoke, attended Morgan Elementary School and eventually followed his parents’ footsteps by attending Holyoke Community College. He graduated from Keene State College with a dual bachelor degree in film and psychology. Aaron soon became a film editor, working on projects for Ken Burns, PBS, TLC and HBO. After living in New York City and New Hampshire for a number of years, Aaron moved back to Holyoke with his wife Debra. Aaron, Debra, and their son Odin live in a historic row house in downtown Holyoke.

Dr. Frank Robinson, Vice President of Public Health, Baystate Health

In 2015 Frank Robinson, Ph.D., became the Vice President of Public Health & Community Relations for Baystate Health. In this role, Dr. Robinson is responsible for integrating clinical and community care to better serve vulnerable people and populations across the spectrum of diversity and create healthier communities. In leading Baystate’s efforts to expand the definition of health to include economic opportunity; access to education, nutritious food and culture; safe neighborhoods, and other underlying essentials of a person’s and a community’s ability to thrive, Dr. Robinson focuses on building community partnerships to achieve large-scale health improvements, including resource development, health education and health equity initiatives and community benefits. Dr. Robinson also represents Baystate Health in the area of Community Relations by building a shared agenda and common goals for community improvement with neighborhood, community and business representatives and other key stakeholders.

Dr. Robinson joined Baystate Health in 1995, for the past 20 years Dr. Robinson simultaneously served as the Executive Director of Partners for a Healthier Community and the Director of Community Health Planning at Baystate Health. In his role at Partners for a Healthier Community, Dr. Robinson excelled in breaking down traditional non-profit sector silos and fostering innovative community responses to community problems.

Dr. Robinson has led many of Baystate’s community-benefit contributions to Springfield, particularly in support of public education through the establishment of the Baystate Springfield Educational Partnership (BSEP) and the founding of the Baystate Academy Charter Public School. With over 40 years of public and not-for-profit experience, Dr. Robinson has spent his career working to build healthy communities.

Dr. Robinson has won several awards for his community work, including: 2008 Luminary Award the highest public health honor and recognition granted by the City of Springfield for service to the City on behalf of residents; 2009 Rebecca Lee Award by Harvard School of Public Health and Massachusetts Department of Public Health in recognition of Dr. Robinson’s commitment to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities and improve health within communities of color in Springfield; 2010 Lemuel Shattuck Award by the Massachusetts Public Health Association, a statewide award in recognition of Dr. Robinson’s distinguished public health prevention service to the Commonwealth; 2013 Power Couple of the Year Award (won jointly with his wife) Dora Robinson and in 2014 Annual Human Relations Award by the National Conference for Community and Justice.

Dr. Robinson has served as adjunct faculty at various colleges including University of Massachusetts at Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences; Springfield College School of Social Work; Western New England College Criminal Justice Program; and Westfield State College Sociology Department.

Dr. Robinson earned his Ph.D. in Public Health – Community Health Education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA; his Master of Arts in Community Psychology from Mansfield University, Mansfield, PA; and his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from State University of New York, Oswego, NY.

Melissa Hoffer, Bureau Chief, Energy and Environment Bureau, Attorney General of Massachusetts

Melissa joined the Attorney General’s Office as Chief of the Environmental Protection Division in November 2012, and was named Chief of AG Healey’s newly formed Energy and Environment Bureau in February 2015.  She oversees the work of the Bureau’s attorneys on a range of matters including prosecuting civil enforcement of environmental laws and cost recovery cases, proceedings before the DPU, energy policy, defensive cases, and undertaking affirmative advocacy, including litigation in support of EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, and federal regulation of carbon pollution. In 2013, Melissa received a Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Top Women of Law award.

Prior to joining the Attorney General’s Office, Melissa served for over five years as a vice president of Conservation Law Foundation and director of its Healthy Communities and Environmental Justice Program, and from 2007-2010, as director of CLF’s New Hampshire Advocacy Center.  Melissa coordinated CLF’s regional transportation advocacy, represented CLF in federal Clean Air Act litigation, led CLF’s advocacy efforts in connection with complex federal water permitting issues at a coal-fired power plant, and, in 2010, launched CLF’s Sustainable Farm & Food System Initiative.

Melissa practiced at WilmerHale for many years before joining CLF, where her focus was environmental law and litigation and she worked on a range of matters including cost recovery under the Massachusetts and federal Superfund laws, corporate successor liability, NEPA, insurance cost recovery, zoning, Clean Water Act, Toxic Substances Control Act, and state clean water, wetlands, and hazardous and solid waste disposal laws.  In 2007, Melissa received a Boston Bar Association President’s Award for her pro bono work at WilmerHale representing six detainees interned at Guantanamo Bay in Boumediene v. Bush.

Melissa served as a law clerk for the Honorable Magistrate Judge Joyce London Alexander, Boston Federal District Court.  She received a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law, Certificate in Environmental Management from Tufts University, M.Ed. from the University of Massachusetts, and B.A. from Hampshire College.  In her spare time, she raises a small herd of Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats at her farm in Central Massachusetts.

David Wittenberg, Assistant Attorney General, Energy and Environment Bureau, Attorney General of Massachusetts

David Wittenberg is an Assistant Attorney General in Attorney General Maura Healey’s Energy and Environment Bureau. He is a co-author of AG Healey’s recent issue brief, “COVID-19’s Unequal Effects in Massachusetts: Remedying the Legacy of Environmental Injustice & Building Climate Resilience.” At the AGO, David works on criminal and civil enforcement of environmental laws, ensuring that justice is served on those who put health at risk, especially in our most vulnerable communities. Before joining the AGO, David worked at district attorney’s offices, at the State House, and in private practice. In the community, David serves on the boards of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action and the Harvard Law School Alumni Association of Massachusetts.

Dr. Jonathan Jackson, Director, CARE Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital

Jonathan Jackson, PhD, is the director of the Community Access, Recruitment, and Engagement (CARE) Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. CARE investigates the impact of diversity and inclusion on the quality of human subjects research and leverages deep community entrenchment to build trust and overcome barriers to clinical trial participation. He has become a well-known representative to underserved communities and dozens of affiliated organizations, particularly regarding participation in clinical research. Dr. Jackson serves on the leadership team of several organizations focused on community health, and has drafted guidance for local, statewide, and national groups on research access, engagement, and recruitment.

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