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Seasoned Leaders From Bay Area Join Cal Wellness Board

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Board of Directors of The California Wellness Foundation (Cal Wellness) announced today the election of three new members: Xóchitl Castañeda, Arnold X.C. Perkins and Pamela J. Simms-Mackey, M.D., FAAP. Their Board service will begin in January of 2016.

“We are thrilled to expand our Board by welcoming three influential community heroes from the Bay Area,” said Elizabeth M. Gomez, Cal Wellness’ Board chair. “Xóchitl, Arnold and Pamela exhibit steadfast commitment to health equity and advancing wellness for all Californians, particularly within the most underserved communities. We all look forward to working with them and learning from their unique perspectives.” 

Since 2001, Castañeda has served as the director of the Health Initiative of the Americas within University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health. She is also a coassociate director of the University of California Global Health Institute’s Center of Expertise on Migration and Health and codirector of University of California, Davis’ Migration and Health Research Center. Castañeda has also led a variety of research projects for universities, foundations and other institutions involved in data analysis and advocacy. In 2015, Castañeda was honored by the San Francisco Department of Public Health with the Public Health Hero award, and in 2010 the California Latino Legislative Caucus awarded her with the Latino Spirit Award. Her full biography is available here.

For Castañeda, joining Cal Wellness’ Board is a natural fit. Both Castañeda and the Foundation have been longtime champions of improving the health and wellness of Latino immigrant people, including the undocumented. She specifically noted her respect for the Foundation’s commitment to increasing the number and diversity of culturally competent health care professionals serving immigrant communities.

“It is with great enthusiasm and responsibility that I accept being a part of The California Wellness Foundation’s Board of Directors. I am fully committed to the duties and expectations that this honorable position requires. I deeply look forward to devoting my human capital — knowledge, passion and networks — to ensure that the Foundation’s mission is achieved to meet the health needs of all Californians with justice and dignity.”

Perkins was the director of the Alameda County Public Health Department from 1994 through 2006, where he led an organizational shift to reflect a community development orientation. Currently, he is a consultant and speaker in a number of areas, including youth development, intergenerational work in African American communities, HIV and AIDS, organizational change and community engagement. He works with diverse institutions, including foundations, government agencies, community groups, law enforcement, hospitals and school districts. In 2014, The California Endowment awarded Perkins with the Health Equity Founders Award and created the Arnold X. Perkins Award for Outstanding Health Equity Practices in his honor. To read Perkins’ full biography, click here.

For years, Perkins said, he has admired Cal Wellness’ dedication to addressing some of the most controversial and unconventional issues affecting Californians while using a public health lens, recalling that Cal Wellness was one of the first funders to invest in violence prevention among boys and men of color.

“I have followed the growth and maturity of The California Wellness Foundation since its birth in 1992. A comprehensive philosophy of health and wellness and an understanding of the community are hallmarks of its work in the philanthropic community,” he said. “By proactively seeking input from the nonprofit community and the community itself, the Foundation keeps abreast of the trends and needs of those it supports and serves. I am honored to have been selected to serve the community as a trustee of The California Wellness Foundation.”

Simms-Mackey is the associate director of graduate medical education at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, as well as an attending physician of the hospital’s Primary Care Center. She also serves as an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine. Previously, Simms-Mackey was the director and a physician facilitator for the Multicultural Curriculum Program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. She was honored as one of the recipients of the 2013 Women of the Year Award from Nancy Skinner’s Assembly district office and is the recipient of the Stanley Higashino MD Award and the Charles R. Drew MD Award for Clinical Excellence from UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and the Charles R. Drew Medical Education Program, respectively. Simms-Mackey earned her bachelor’s degree in human biology from Stanford University and her doctorate in medicine from UCLA/Drew Medical Education Program. To read her full biography, click here.

Simms-Mackey is excited to work with the rest of the Board of Directors and the Foundation on advancing wellness in the state. She said she appreciates the focus the Foundation places on health equity and making sure that all Californians have access to quality health care.

“I am thrilled and honored to be given the opportunity to join such a prestigious organization,” said Simms-Mackey. “I have spent my career addressing the health care needs of the underserved and educating young physicians to go out into the world and do the same. This opportunity will allow me to participate in having a broader impact in helping all the people of California achieve greater health and well-being.”

Judy Belk, Cal Wellness’ president and CEO, expressed her enthusiasm with the results of the Board’s search and the appointments of these three new members as the Foundation enters the second year of its Advancing Wellness grants program.

“These seasoned leaders have dedicated their careers to helping underserved populations, whether through academia, community work or health care,” said Belk. “They are experts in their respective fields and draw from their diverse backgrounds in their efforts to level the playing field for all Californians. All three new members truly ‘get’ Cal Wellness and its mission.”

Castañeda, Perkins and Simms-Mackey join Cal Wellness Board Chair Elizabeth M. Gomez, M.S.W., Vice Chair M. Isabel Becerra, B.A., and Board members Barbara C. Staggers, M.D., M.P.H., David S. Barlow, M.B.A., C.P.A., Elisabeth Hallman, M.B.A., R.N., Joseph M. Lumarda, Debra Nakatomi and Ernest J. Wilson III.

For more information about the Foundation’s trustees, please visit’s Board of Directors page.

The California Wellness Foundation is a private independent foundation created in 1992 with a mission to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention.

Cal Wellness’ Advancing Wellness grants program is designed to promote equity through advocacy and access. The grantmaking focuses on three interconnected portfolios: Bridging the Gaps in Access and Quality Care; Promoting Healthy and Safe Neighborhoods; and Expanding Education and Employment Pathways. The program also includes the Opportunity Fund to support innovation in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.

Since its founding, Cal Wellness has awarded 7,690 grants totaling more than $912 million.

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