DAC Pillar 3 Chair
LaShandal Pettaway-Brown serves as a Practice Transformation Consultant for the South Carolina Rural Health. She is responsible for coordinating the activities of the Medical Oral Expanded Care Collaborative and Practice Transformation which provides technical assistance, practice assessment, change facilitation and consultation as rural providers adapt to change. LaShandal is a Patient Centered Medical Home Content Expert.
Prior to her role at the South Carolina Office of Rural Health, she served as a Quality Improvement Coordinator at The Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence where she focused on The Million Hearts Initiative, Physician Quality Reporting System, Meaningful Use and Patient-Centered Medical Home.
LaShandal received a Master in Business Administration and a Master in Healthcare Administration from Webster University. She earned her Bachelors of Science with specialization in Healthcare Administration from Austin Peay State University.
Evaluation Subcommittee Chair
Kelly Kavanaugh is a Program Evaluator within the Division of Diabetes and Heart Disease Management at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Kelly is the evaluation lead for the Diabetes Advisory Council’s Statewide Comprehensive Diabetes Prevention Plan and is responsible for evaluating additional statewide efforts related to community-clinical linkages. Kelly holds a Master’s of Public Health from the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist and is a member of the South Carolina Public Health Association.
Communications Subcommittee Chair
Amy Weaver is the Communications & Marketing Coordinator within the Division of Diabetes and Heart Disease Management at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Amy is the Communications lead for the Diabetes Advisory Council and she is responsible for managing the rebranding and development of materials disseminated on behalf of the council. She has many interests in public health, including food systems work and recently completed her term on the City of Columbia’s Food Policy Council.
However, Dr. Wilson is most notably known for his work and volunteerism in the Midlands Community where he has served on numerous committees, foundations and advisory boards. He has received the President’s Award from the South Carolina Medical Association and the Columbia Medical Society, he was recognized by the SC DHEC Board for Distinguished and Outstanding Leadership for dedication and commitment to the goal of eliminating health disparities in 2004 and he was awarded the Order of the Palmetto on May 6, 2017 for his activities. He has been a lifetime member of the USC and MUSC alumni associations. He has a passion for promoting health and minority health disparities in his community.
Dr. Wilson has a particular passion for Diabetes awareness and has provided much guidance on the issue for the Midlands Community. Dr. Wilson is currently the Chair of the Diabetes Advisory Council of South Carolina (DAC), which is a statewide organization that promotes the education and prevention of type 2 diabetes for South Carolinians. Dr. Wilson has a very hands-on approach to facilitating the DAC as he attends Quarterly Meetings, Executive Meetings, and individual breakout Pillar workgroups to keep up with the DAC’s progress. Dr. Wilson recently spearheaded the creation of a Sustainability Committee and Bylaws Committee with DAC to ensure that the goals and reach of DAC regarding diabetes prevention in the state can be maintained and that communities across South Carolina reap the benefits of diabetes prevention and awareness tools and programs.
DAC Pillar 2 Chair
Joshua W. Peake, MPH, is the Manager of Chronic Disease Prevention and Community Population Health at Prisma Health–Midlands Affiliate. In this role, he provides direct oversight of the chronic disease prevention intervention programs, including the Prisma Health Diabetes Prevention Program. He also oversees all adult and youth community education, community health care coordination, and community outreach. Prior to his current role, Joshua spent five years working as an Exercise Physiologist and three years as the Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation at Fairfield Memorial Hospital. During his time at FMH, he developed a passion for the prevention of chronic disease and a desire to assist patients in adopting healthy behaviors to reduce their risk for disease.
Joshua earned a BS in Exercise Science from the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health. He later returned to USC to complete a Master’s in Public Health with a focus in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior. While working on his MPH, Joshua was selected by the Arnold School of Public Health for the I Am Public Health distinction in July 2017. He was recognized by Palmetto Health when he received the Community Pillar of Excellence Award, as well as a Man of Impact nomination. Early in Joshua’s career, he was awarded a Certificate of Recognition for Extraordinary Personal Action by the American Red Cross.
Elizabeth Todd Heckel is a native of Columbia, South Carolina. She received a BA in psychology and Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of South Carolina after having attended St. Mary’s Junior College in Raleigh, NC.
For the past 20 years she has been the Program Director for the Diabetes Initiative of South Carolina/University of South Carolina Site housed at the Family Practice Medicine Center at the USC School of Medicine in Columbia. She was awarded the “Outstanding Service Award for Extraordinary Leadership and Dedication to Diabetes Service in SC” in 2000 by the Association of Black Health Professionals. In March of 2012, she was named “Certified Diabetes Educator of the Year” by DHEC. Currently she serves on the Diabetes Initiative of SC Board and the DAC Board.
She has lived with Type 1 diabetes for 51 years. Over the last 24 years she has been Chairman and member of the Camp Adam Fisher Board, the Carolina’s largest overnight camp for children with diabetes. Currently, she is camp “grandmother”.
DAC Pillar 4 Chair
Heath Neilson received a Bachelor’s of Science in Exercise Science from East Carolina University. His career started as the Health and Wellness Coordinator for the Sandhills YMCA. Heath then went on to his role as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist for Cape Fear Valley Hospital, where he worked with cardiac and pulmonary populations as well as patients in physical therapy. Through the development and management of various programs in his clinical role at Cape Fear Valley Hospital, he saw just how impactful education was on patients. His passion and interest for the prevention of chronic disease led him to Prisma Health in November 2015 as a Health Educator. He then transitioned at Prisma Health into the role as the Diabetes Prevention Program Coordinator at Prisma Health in the Upstate in 2018. Heath leads the Diabetes Prevention Program with Joshua Peake and Candice Hipp for Prisma Health. Heath and his wife Sarah live in Greenville, South Carolina with their dog, Maddie.
Statewide Infrastructure Coordinator
Ava Dean is the Statewide Infrastructure Coordinator within the Division of Diabetes and Heart Disease Management at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Her previous experiences include Program Manager for The National Kidney Foundation for 2 years, a Project Manager at Palmetto Health for the Office of Community Health in the Diabetes Health Initiative for 12 years, Assistant Administrator for an Assistant Living facility and Nurse/Nurse Tech in Long Term Care Facilities.
Ava received her BSN from Lander University, Master of Leadership for Evangelism and Discipleship from Columbia International University and her Master of Public Health from the University of South Carolina.
Ava has a passion to see people’s lives transformed. Her purpose in life is to be obedient to Ephesians 4: 11-13 and to educate, equip, and train people to live a healthy lifestyle in all aspects of their lives.
Ava has been married to Scottie Dean for 25 years and has two sons Joshua and Jonathan. She believes that life is short, and you simply need to have fun and live. She loves to dance.
DAC Pillar 1 Chair
Dr. Patricia Wilson Witherspoon, MS, MD, FAAFP arrived in Columbia over 27 years ago to start her Family Medicine Residency. After residency she was employed at a local Federally Qualified Health Center, Richland Primary Health Care. It was during those years she realized how much she enjoyed teaching learners at any stage and incorporated precepting into her practice. In 1998 she joined USC Family Medicine Residency full-time. As a new attending, she participated in a faculty development series which introduced her to public health and policy. Her early works involve the participation in the Tri- State Stroke Network. This collaboration allowed her work with public and private state holders from SC, GA and NC. It was during this process that she saw how individual clinical interventions could impact and affect communities and subsequent generations.
Cardiovascular and women’s health became her main focus of interest and outreach. The care of the patient with diabetes became very personal when her in- laws developed devastating complications from the disease. She understood the complexity of comprehensive diabetes care but felt as providers we were talking at patients and not working with patients. South Carolina has the distinction of ranking in the top 10 for Diabetes prevalence and mortality in the nation. Diabetic complications potentially affect every organ. After a series of practice improvement initiatives and a shared passion for improving the lives of her patients, she and a former colleague Dr. Sharm Steadman began group diabetes visits. This proved to be very well received and an effective way to deliver care. She has become a regular on the Palmetto Health Speakers Bureau and provides presentations both on the local and state level. She was recognized in 2010 and 2019 as the DHEC Diabetes Physician Champion of the year.
Over the course of the past 20 years she has been the recipient of a number of awards and honors: USC Kay McFarland Women in medicine award (2x), Gold’s Humanism Award, and USC-SOM Community preceptor, USC Social Justice Award, Richland School District 1 Community Partner of the Year and SC AHEC Halford Award for leadership in humane education. As a leader in her department, hospital and university she has served on a number of search and strategic planning committees and medical director of the USC FM clinical practice. She has served on the SC Academy of Family Physicians executive board and was selected as President from 2014-2015. She is a recurrent volunteer at the Columbia Free Medical Clinic, Good Samaritan Spanish Clinic and annually a SCMA doctor of the day volunteer. Dr. Witherspoon has been a part-time Consulting Assistant Medical Director at SCDHHS since 2018.
Dr. Gerald A. Wilson is a recently retired surgeon who practiced both general and peripheral vascular surgery at Midlands Surgical Associates, PA in Columbia, South Carolina. Prior to his career as a surgeon, Dr. Wilson received his undergraduate degree at the University of South Carolina and a medical degree at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Wilson completed an internship at Richland Memorial Hospital and a general surgery residency at Richland Memorial, Medical University Hospital, and the Dorn VA Medical Center. Dr. Wilson has a strong record of leadership in the medical community. He has chaired the State Health Planning Committee from 1998 till 2012 and the executive board of the Palmetto Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association since 2009. He is a past president of the Columbia Medical Society, the South Carolina Medical Association and the Congaree Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association. Dr. Wilson has served the American Medical Association as a Delegate of the South Carolina Delegation to the AMA. Dr. Wilson has held additional numerous leadership positions throughout his career including Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery. In addition, he has been involved in organized medicine both nationally and locally through his various roles at the Columbia Medical Society, the South Carolina Medical Association, and the American Medical Association. Dr. Wilson also has served as a clinical instructor in the USC School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery, as a member of the Palmetto Health Foundation Board of Directors and a board member of the MUSC Foundation.