Public Health, Medical, and Science COVID-19 Advisory Team

  • City Schools of Decatur’s Public Health, Medical, and Science COVID-19 Advisory Team serves in an advisory capacity to the CSD Superintendent.

    The Public Health, Medical, and Science COVID-19 Advisory Team is comprised of medical and public health professionals who live and have children attending CSD schools. 

    The purpose of the Public Health, Medical, and Science COVID-19 Advisory Team is to:

    • Review emerging COVID 19 data to provide guidance to CSD
    • Provide guidance regarding appropriate and applicable COVID 19 mitigation strategies and protocols to maintain a healthy learning environment 


    Public Health, Medical, and Science COVID-19 Advisory Team Members

    • Sandra J. Valenciano, MD, MPH  –  District Health Director/CEO, District 3-5 – DeKalb; DeKalb County Board of Health 

    • Jesse Blanton -  Jesse is an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID).  He received his DrPH from the University of Georgia in 2017 and his MPH from Emory University in 2003. Dr. Blanton joined CDC in 2001. During that time, his research activities have included laboratory diagnostics, vaccine safety and efficacy, and disease surveillance for viral zoonotic and travel-related diseases. Dr. Blanton has been a member of multiple national and international advisory groups on infectious disease surveillance, vaccine safety, and immunization guidelines. In addition, he has participated in multiple public health response activities including pandemic influenza, Ebola, Zika virus, and COVID-19.

    • Michele Hlavsa - RN, MPH, - Michele is the lead epidemiologist for CDC's Healthy Swimming program. Her areas of expertise include recreational water–associated illness. She has worked on a number of outbreak investigations and studies of recreational water–associated illness at CDC and collaborates with U.S. and foreign public health authorities and the private sector to develop prevention and control measures. She has a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the College of New Jersey and a master’s in public health/epidemiology from Emory University. Michele was an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer prior to joining the Healthy Swimming program.

    • Colleen Kelley  - Dr. Colleen Kelley is an Infectious Diseases specialist and researcher at Emory University. Her clinical practice is based at the Grady Infectious Disease Program, a large publicly-funded HIV clinic, and at Grady Memorial Hospital. The primary focus of her research is HIV prevention, and Dr. Kelley serves as co-Director for the Emory Center for AIDS Research, an investigator in the HIV Vaccine and HIV Prevention Trial Networks at the Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Center. During the COVID pandemic, Dr. Kelley serves on the front lines providing clinical care and leading COVID vaccine and treatment clinical trials. Over the last 18 months, she has made multiple media appearances and educational presentations to increase knowledge about COVID vaccines and effective mitigation measures. Dr. Kelley has lived in Decatur for more than 14 years and has 3 kids in CSD (1 at Renfroe and 2 at FAVE). 

    • Nancy Messonnier - Nancy Messonnier, MD, is the Executive Director for Pandemic Prevention and Health Systems at the Skoll Foundation. Dr. Messonnier helps drive efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and build a global preparedness and response system to prevent future pandemics.

      Dr. Messonnier began her public health career in 1995 as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer and has held a number of leadership posts across the CDC. She led the CDC’s preparedness and response to anthrax and also played a pivotal role in the public-private partnership to develop a low-cost vaccine administered to more than 150 million people, preventing a meningococcal meningitis epidemic in Africa.

      As the Director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) from 2016-2021, Dr. Messonnier has been a champion for the prevention of disease, disability, and death through immunization and control of respiratory and other vaccine-preventable diseases. She spearheaded the CDC’s Vaccinate with Confidence initiative which works with national organizations to strengthen public trust in vaccines and prevent disease outbreaks.  In 2019-20, she led NCIRD response to an unknown respiratory disease in China and then to the COVID-19 pandemic, was CDC Chief Spokesperson on the pandemic, and was the chief architect of the COVID-19 vaccine implementation program.

      Dr. Messonnier has written more than 140 articles and chapters and has received numerous awards. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and her MD from the University of Chicago School of Medicine, and completed internal medicine residency training at the University of Pennsylvania.


    • Hogai Nassery - Dr. Nassery is a family physician in active clinical practice who worked at the Grady Health System for 18 years (Chief of Community Medicine) and in public health for Fulton County (focusing on eradicating TB in homeless shelters and HIV in Atlanta). Dr. Nassery helped her patients navigate the pandemic, and she has a very keen interest in helping our schools stay open and safe.  Dr. Nassery is a member of the Fulton County Medical Reserve Corp, and volunteered to administer vaccines for Dekalb County this past spring. She has a pragmatic and population-based approach to disease prevention and is thankful to participate on this team to help our district continue to keep our students and staff safe.  


    • Daniel Payne - Daniel C. Payne, MSPH, Ph.D. is a senior epidemiologist and Team Lead in CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.  He attended Emory University (BA), University of Alabama, Birmingham (MSPH), and Tulane University (Ph.D.) in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Dr. Payne’s long-standing focal interest is in the prevention of enteric and respiratory infections, particularly in pediatric populations.  He has served as the Principal Investigator for several US infectious disease surveillance systems and vaccination effectiveness evaluations, has experience collaborating with federal, state, and non-profit health organizations, and has deployed for CDC responses involving SARS-CoV-2, MERS-CoV, Ebola, and Haitian cholera.


    • Bianca Perri - Bianca Perri is an epidemiologist in CDC’s Division of STD Prevention. She has over ten years of experience planning, implementing, and managing public health programs to identify and solve public health problems related to infectious diseases at both local and federal health agencies. As a research scientist at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Ms. Perri led epidemiologic investigations of tuberculosis outbreaks, oversaw field operations for CDC’s Vaccines for Children program, and participated in emergency response efforts (e.g., H1N1 pandemic, measles outbreak, Ebola). Ms. Perri’s primary career interests are infectious disease surveillance and the use of reportable disease data for public health action. She received her BA from Stanford University and MPH from Emory University.


    • Rachel Smith - Rachel Mann Smith is a board-certified internal medicine physician. She currently works as a hospitalist at Emory University Hospital and a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where she specializes in infection prevention and control, healthcare epidemiology, and antibiotic resistance. 


    • Allison Walker -  Dr. Walker has a Doctorate in disease epidemiology and control and a Master's in infectious disease epidemiology.  In her 16 years in public health, she has provided technical expertise to national governments and non-governmental partners, as well as state, local, and business partners, to improve disease surveillance and response in their locations and sectors.  Dr. Walker believes it is important to consider all perspectives and understand the implications inherent in policy change based on best practices and scientific evidence.


    • Dr. Denise Gangadharan - Dr. Gangadharan leads the Science office as the Associate Director for Science in the Division of Select Agents and Toxins (DSAT) within the Center for Preparedness and Response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Denise contributes to DSAT's broad portfolio of scientific and programmatic work, including overseeing the clearance of all scientific documents, development of scientific and operational policies, management and coordination of all scientific advisory committees and comprehensive training programs for both internal and external stakeholders. Prior to joining CDC, Denise was a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University in the laboratory of Dr. Rafi Ahmed where she studied the role of negative immune regulators in response to a chronic viral infection. She received her BS in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from UCLA and her PhD in Biomedical Sciences (Immunology) from UCSD. Denise resides with her family in Decatur and has 5 children.



    CSD Staff Committee Liaisons

    • Dr. Maggie Fehrman, Superintendent
    • Dr. Lillie Huddleston, Associate Superintendent
    • Courtney Burnett, Chief of Staff
    • Shonda Moore, School Health Coordinators

    Meeting Dates (Virtual)

    October 21, 2021 @ 6:30pm - Meeting agenda and recording

    December 2, 2021 @ 6:30pm - Meeting agenda and recording