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Thank you to our 2020 Speakers!


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Deb Blackburn

Deb Blackburn holds a Master of Science in sociology, a Master of Education in university administration and community counseling, and a Bachelor of Arts in art as well as coursework for a doctorate of public health. Her career goal is to address disparities in communities that impact the economy and stifle the potential of those affected. Her professional experience includes work with the Division of Family and Child Services (DFCS), nursing homes, home health and serving as executive director of a community-based HIV organization and a sexual assault center. She has been a board member with numerous agencies and on many collaborations and commissions/coalitions. Blackburn’s specialties are grants, sensitivity and multicultural training, team building, social service mapping and evidence-based programming, among others.

Taylor Chambers

Taylor Chambers received her master’s degree in public health in epidemiology from Emory University in 2016. She joined the staff of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in December 2018 after years of volunteering. As a loss survivor, her passion is in bringing other loss survivors hope and continuing to help reduce stigma around mental illness. Chambers oversees chapter volunteers, marketing and the junior board. When not working, you can find her cuddling with her cats, experimenting in the kitchen, or trying to convince her husband to go kayaking.

Adrienne Cohen

Adrienne Cohen, Ph.D., received a bachelor’s of science degree in gerontology in 1986 and has held several professional positions in the field over the past 30 plus years. In 2011, she earned a Ph.D. in social gerontology from Miami University and became a professor of sociology for Georgia souther in 2011. Since then, she has developed and taught several gerontology courses and, in 2013 and 2014 , she opened the Center for Social Gerontology and began to oversee the Senior Companion Program. She has generated over $1 million in grant funds to support the needs of older adults in the southeastern region of Georgia as well as helped in the creation of an interdisciplinary gerontology minor. She collaborates with faculty on aging-related research including studies specifically designed to improve the learning experiences of students in aging-related courses. Cohen has published research on rural aging, family assistance, social supports for older adults, and aging focused pedagogy in several journals and has done over forty presentations at local, regional and national conferences.

Laura Cribb Todd

Laura Cribb Todd is a board-certified music therapist, licensed to practice in the state of Georgia. She developed the music therapy program at Baptist Village Retirement Communities in Waycross, GA, where she has worked since November 2015. Through this program, she provides group and individual music therapy sessions to residents in the personal care home and skilled nursing facility. She obtained her Bachelor of Music degree in music therapy from Florida State University in 2015 and completed her music therapy internship with Metro Music Therapy, LLC in Atlanta, GA. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science in gerontology through Kansas State University, with plans to further the effective use of music therapy with the aging adult population. Cribb Todd has completed additional trainings to become a neurologic music therapist, certified dementia practitioner, and certified Montessori dementia care professional. Her principal instrument is the cello, which she has played for more than 20 years. She is also proficient at guitar, voice and piano. She and her husband George, a trombonist, enjoy playing their instruments in the community.

Sonya Dunbar

Sonya Dunbar, RDH, MHA, has over 28 years of clinical, private and academic experience in dental hygiene. Also known as the Geriatric ToothfairyTM, she is a philanthropist and advocate for aging adults in long term care facilities as well as a professional speaker and published author. She has presented courses nationally and internationally in areas of mobile dentistry, oral-systemic link, dental decay and OCHA. Her passionate, energetic keynotes include, “S.O.S.: Saving Our Senior and Don’t by Divided by Diversity.”

Sarah Ekhart

Sarah Ekart is the chief programs officer at Second Wind Dreams, Inc. where she oversees the Virtual Dementia Tour® and state Civil Money Penalty (CMP) grants. She has a wealth of experience in the field of aging from two State Units on Aging: Georgia and Missouri, the West Central Florida Area Agency on Aging, and the Missouri Department of Social Services. She strives to change the perception of aging through providing coordination of programs for older adults and their caregivers. She received her Master of Arts in gerontology from the University of South Florida and holds a Bachelor of Journalism with an emphasis in strategic communication with minors in psychology, leadership and public policy, as well as business administration and multiculturalism from the University of Missouri. Ekhart was instrumental in the development of the Assistive Technology Partnership between Tools for Life and the Georgia State Unit on Aging bringing a variety of tools to support independence for older adults and their caregivers.

Kayley Fleming

Kayley Fleming is the family support programs manager for the Alzheimer’s Association. She received her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Auburn University, where she focused on geriatrics. She has worked in a variety of settings with older adults: assisted living communities, nursing and rehabilitation facilities and inpatient geriatric psychiatric units. Before joining to the Alzheimer’s Association, Fleming’s previous experience includes working as the director of residents and family services at a nursing facility specifically for persons with Alzheimer’s, or related diseases, in the moderate to end stage of their disease process.

Martha Hage

Martha Elaine Hage, LCSW has been active in the social work field since 2009. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Georgia State University and her master’s degree in social work from the University of Georgia. She has had experience working in many clinical/community settings including, hospice, transitional housing, domestic violence and homeless/low-income needs. She has also had experience facilitating early memory loss support groups, program development for older adults, and interventions for those experiencing geriatric depression and dementia. Hage has spent most of her time working in hospice care for six years, providing clinical interventions, resources and management of the social work team. She has provided families with assistance in managing anticipatory grief and coping with the loss of a loved one. She currently works as an advanced care planning facilitator with Wellstar Health System, providing patients with assistance in having value based conversations in the outpatient setting.

Deb Hagerty

Deb Hagerty is the Georgia President of the National Association of Directors of Nursing Administration Long-Term Care (GADONA) and served as a director of nursing in a facility for over 30 years. She is a full-time, tenured associate professor of nursing at Georgia Southern University, teaching leadership to the BSN and ABSN nursing students, in addition to being an adjunct professor at Boise State University, teaching policy and leadership. Part-time, she serves as a nursing home consultant, legal nurse consultant and leadership coach and expert in gerontological nursing. For over 40 years, Hagerty has been an administrator and nursing home consultant for more than 40 years as well as an international speaker on geriatrics, nursing and leadership. She was the recipient of the 2004 Nightingale Award for Long-Term Care and Rehabilitation Nursing (Michigan) and awarded the Above and Beyond recognition at the NADONA national 2017 convention. Her work is published in several peer-reviewed journals and she currently serves as an advisor for Paradigm LTC and the Georgia Southern chapter of the Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society. Hagerty is a volunteer for the Riverview Health and Rehabilitation Board (President), Hospice Savannah’s Steward Center Palliative Care board (Vice Chair), and the Edel Caregiver Institute, Demere Center. As both a certified dementia practitioner and an Alzheimer’s disease and dementia certified trainer, she also teaches dementia care, is active in the national nursing honor society SIGMA, Georgia Nurses Association, American College of Health Care Administrators, and is a licensed nursing home administrator (GA) and certified director of nursing in long-term care.

Adam Harris

Psychiatrist Dr. Adam Harris reminds us that “Your Mind Matters” every Saturday at 11 a.m. EST on public access radio 107.5FM. By using this additional platform to spread the word about mental health issues as they pertain to overall health and wellness, guests are invited to share their expertise on various mental health topics.

Abby Johnson

Former lecturer at Georgia Southern University, currently at University of North Georgia as a remote sociology instructor, Abby Johnson has committed the last 10 years to educating both students of higher learning and the public on aging related issues as well as death and dying.

Gwenyth Johnson

Gwenyth Johnson, MS, RDN, LDN, is the CEO of Second Wind Dreams. She brings more than 10 years of experience with the implementation of state-wide programming for older adults with the Georgia State Unit on Aging. She also has more than 20 years of working with the health and wellness of an aging population. This includes experience working in long-term care facilities and with community service providers. Johnson holds bachelor’s degrees in communications/theater from Berea College and in dietetics/food administration from Eastern Kentucky University as well as a master’s degree in nutrition science from Georgia State University.

Peggy Luukkonen

Peggy Luukkonen is the current ADRC program manager at Coastal Area Agency on Aging in Darien, GA. She has a BS in human development and the family with a certification in gerontology from the University of Nebraska. She has worked in the field of aging for over 35 years. Her work for the last 21 years has been in the home and community-based services setting helping the elderly and disabled remain independent in their homes and helping their caregivers continue to provide supportive networks of care.

Eric Nelson

Eric Nelson is a licensed clinical social worker who has been working in end of life care for the past decade. His experience ranges from visiting hospice and palliative patients in their homes, working in a palliative care clinic, and working inpatient palliative care at one of Atlanta’s regional hospitals. Currently working as an advance care planning facilitator, Nelson has a passion to educate his patients as well as the community about Advance Care Planning and the issues facing the end of life population.

Rebecca Ryan

Rebecca Ryan received her Ph.D. in life-span developmental psychology from West Virginia University. During her time at Georgia Southern University, she has taught a range of undergraduate and graduate courses at both the introductory and senior level. Select undergraduate courses include Introduction to Psychology, Life-Span Developmental Psychology, Older Adult Developmental Psychology, Research Methods, Senior Research, and Senior Seminar: Psychology and Service (Service-Learning course). Graduate courses include Geropsychology and Advanced Developmental Psychology. Her current research interests broadly include gerontology and the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Roger Smith

Roger Smith, a Savannah native, has been involved in the community since high school. After college and a 10-year stint as a high school teacher and museum educator, he served six years as director of education for the Georgia Historical Society, he joined Senior Citizens, Inc. in 2006, in order to establish The Learning Center (TLC), a humanities-based, academically rigorous educational program for people ages 55 and over in coastal Georgia. He administers TLC’s programs, working with instructors and members to create unique educational opportunities. In only five years, the center has grown from a one-day-per-week program with 200 attendees to a five-day-per-week program with 500 members. Smith frequently lectures at TLC, combining his work in administration with his love for classroom instruction. Smith travels extensively with seniors, as well as with his life partner, Kevin Peek. He has served on boards of directors for organizations including the Friends of Massie Committee, the Savannah Council on World Affairs and Historic Savannah Foundation.

Pamela Worrell-Carlisle

Pamela Worrell-Carlisle holds a master’s degree with a double major in nursing and counseling psychology and a doctorate of psychology in educational psychology and human development. Her focus is on education, service and scholarship is a stigma toward vulnerable populations including those with mental health disorders and the elderly. She believes student nurses need experiences that promote seeing individuals as humans rather than their disease labels, and that happens when given the opportunity to engage with others and build relationships.

A special thank you to our 2020 sponsors! Check them out!

Last updated: 10/27/2020