PLENARY SPEAKERS

We are excited to announce three plenary sessions covering a variety of topics related to upstream child abuse and neglect prevention. 

Opening Plenary Keynote
Leslie Crutchfield
Leslie Crutchfield is an author, educator, executive director of the Global Social Enterprise Initiative at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, and a senior advisor at FSG Social Impact Consultants. Her three books include How Change Happens: Why Some Movements Succeed While Others Don’t; Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits (recognized by The Economist on its Best Books of the Year list); and Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World. She was previously a managing director at Ashoka, the global venture fund for social entrepreneurs, and she co-founded a national nonprofit social enterprise in her 20s.
 
Ms. Crutchfield has contributed to Fortune, Forbes, Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Stanford Social Innovation Review, and has appeared on programs such as FOX, NPR, and ABC News. She has served as a trustee of the SEED Foundation and Kiva, and volunteered with Crossroads Africa. She holds a BA and MBA from Harvard University, and resides in the Washington, DC, region.
 
Ms. Crutchfield’s plenary will draw upon lessons learned from successful social movements, providing important insights for harnessing grassroots change-agents in child maltreatment prevention.
“The Big 3 in Home Visiting” Lecture Series,
Sponsored by the Verizon Foundation
Pradeep Gidwani,
MD, MPH, FAAP
Dr. Pradeep Gidwani is a pediatrician and community health leader focused on creating systematic solutions and changes to improve the lives of children and their families. He is currently the medical director at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), California Chapter 3, San Diego and Imperial Counties, providing countywide coordination and support of Healthy Development Services and First 5 San Diego’s First Steps family support program. These communitywide programs have reached more than 25,000 children annually for the past decade.
 
In addition to his work with AAP, Dr. Gidwani serves on numerous community advisory boards, as well as the national advisory committee of Healthy Families America and state advisory board for California Nurse Family Partnership. He teaches in the Department of Child and Family Development at San Diego State University, is a Child Trauma Academy Fellow, and is a member of the Child Health Leadership Network through the Annie E. Casey and David and Lucile Packard foundations.
 
Dr. Gidwani completed a Pediatric Health Services Research fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, and earned a master’s degree in public health at the Harvard School of Public Health. He completed his residency at Children’s Hospital Medical Center, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and received his doctor of medicine degree from George Washington University, in Washington, DC.
 
Dr. Gidwani’s plenary will focus on the "big three” in home visiting—mental health, intimate partner violence, and substance abuse—and how relationships are a critical factor in building resilience.
Casey Keene, LMSW
Casey Keene is director of programs & prevention at the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, where she has served since 2001. Ms. Keene provides programmatic leadership and oversight to the technical assistance, training, and resource development initiatives of the programs & prevention team on a broad range of topics related to gender-based violence. She also provides leadership to key initiatives including VAWnet, the NRCDV’s online resource library; PreventIPV; and other online projects.
 
Specializing in issues related to children’s exposure to domestic violence, Ms. Keene leads the Adult Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Leadership Forum and provides national-level technical assistance and training on childhood trauma and resilience. She is a licensed social worker and graduate field instructor who earned her master’s degree in social work from Temple University and has been active in the movement to end domestic violence for nearly 20 years.
Carla Worley Saunders,
DNP, APRN, NNP-BC
Dr. Carla Worley Saunders has been a board-certified neonatal nurse practitioner since 1991 and received her Doctor of Nursing practice in 2017. She is a dedicated advocate for mothers and babies affected by substance use, including the opioid epidemic, which led her to her doctoral work and has now created a larger vision for improving communities and public health through empowering women to make educated healthcare [“healthcare” v. “health care”] choices.
 
In late 2010, Dr. Saunders gathered a multidisciplinary team in Tennessee in response to the alarming rise in the number of babies suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) as a result of intrauterine drug exposure (IDE). The work done by her team has treated more than 2,000 babies for NAS through 2016 and has received local, state, national, and international attention. She is consulted frequently and involved extensively in research surrounding IDE and NAS and has been called to testify as an expert witness before the Tennessee State Senate.
 
Dr. Saunders has received multiple awards for her innovative leadership in quality improvement and patient advocacy. She is a member of numerous local, state, and national professional organizations, including Tennessee Initiative for Perinatal Quality Care and the Tennessee Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, and has served as an advisory board member for the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit since 2011. As CEO of ONE Tennessee she intends to facilitate multidisciplinary collaborative work within healthcare, as well as transdisciplinary collaborative work beyond healthcare, identifying innovative approaches that unite communities in supporting families and addressing perinatal substance use.
Plenary Speaker
Melissa T. Merrick, PhD
Dr. Melissa T. Merrick recently became the new President and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. Prior to joining PCA America, she was a senior epidemiologist at the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, where she served on a detail in the office of the commissioner at the Children’s Bureau, an office of the Administration for Children & Families. She has nearly two decades of clinical, research, and leadership experience related to the etiology, course, and prevention of child abuse and neglect. Dr. Merrick has been involved in multiple projects examining safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments as they relate to child maltreatment prevention and the effects of adverse childhood experiences throughout the lifespan. In partnership with the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN), she served as the lead scientist for the adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) study at CDC.
 
Dr. Merrick received her BA in psychology, magna cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania, and her master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from the San Diego State University/University of California, San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, where she served as a program coordinator for the San Diego site of the Longitudinal Studies on Child Abuse and Neglect consortium. Prior to joining the CDC, Dr. Merrick was a National Institute of Health-funded postdoctoral fellow at the University of Miami Child Protection Team (CPT), where she was involved in a multi-site program of research that examined child maltreatment risk and protective factors in families evaluated by CPTs across the state of Florida.
 
Dr. Merrick’s plenary will leverage her clinical and research experiences and focus on the critical public health importance of preventing early adversity and the need to focus on upstream prevention.
Jerry Milner, D.S.W
Dr. Jerry Milner is the associate commissioner at the Children’s Bureau, the acting associate commissioner at the Family and Youth Services Bureau, and the acting commissioner for the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families. He began his career as a case carrying social worker, served as the state child welfare agency director in Alabama, and previously worked for the Children’s Bureau designing and implementing the Child & Family Services Reviews. Immediately prior to his appointment, Dr. Milner served as the vice president for Child Welfare Practice at the Center for the Support of Families.