Moderator: Stephen L Williams, MEd, MPA, Director, City of Houston Health Department
Dr. David Persse, Health Authority, City of Houston Health Department
Ericka Brown, MD, MBA, FACHE, Director - Community Health and Wellness Division

Stephen L. Williams, MEd, MPA, Director, City of Houston Health Department

Stephen serves as the Director for the Houston Health Department (HHD), a full service public health department with 1300+ employees serving the 2.3 million residents of Houston while also overseeing a $166 million budget.   

Stephen is actively involved in Public Health issues at the local, state and national levels. Under Stephen’s leadership, HHD has become more visible and the citizens of Houston have been afforded a better quality of life.  He has spear-headed the implementation and institution of several programs in HHD such as See to Succeed, Assessment, Intervention and Mobilization (AIM), Project Saving Smiles and pioneering the Affordable Care Act outreach and enrollment efforts through the Enroll Gulf Coast collaborative.  The collaborative allowed stakeholders across the Gulf Coast to work together as partners with a common strategy and organization to provide outreach and enrollment to the region’s estimated 1.4 million uninsured while also gaining national attention and White House support. 

Stephen received his Masters in Public Administration from Baruch College, City University New York, Masters of Education from the Auburn University and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology/Social Work from Huntingdon College.  He is an Alumnus of the American Leadership Forum, Houston/Gulf Coast Chapter/Medical Community Class, and is a graduate of the National Urban Fellowship Program and Executive Leadership Institute sponsored by the National Forum for Black Public Administrators. 

Stephen L. Williams chairs the Texas Department of State Health Services Public Health Funding and Policy Committee (Senate Bill 969), is the past Board President of the Coalition of the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, and a former Chair of the Harris County System of Hope.  He is an Adjunct Professor at the UT School of Public Health and serves on the National Commission on Prevention Priorities, Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health External Advisory Board, Texas Agri-Life Extension Services Urban Advisory Board and Texas Health Improvement Network Advisory Board Council. 

He is a member of the National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO), Texas Association of City and County Health Officials (TACCHO), American Public Health Association (APHA), Rotary Club of Houston and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA). 

Prior to serving as the Health Director in Houston, Stephen also served as Administrator of Public Health and Deputy Director of Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department and Executive Manager Travis County Health Human Services and Veterans Services. 

Dr. David Persse, Health Authority, City of Houston Health Department

Dr. Persse's career in medicine started with ten years experience as a field paramedic and paramedic instructor in upstate New York and New Jersey. After receiving his pre-med training at Columbia University in New York, he then attended Georgetown University School of Medicine. Graduating with honors in emergency medicine from Georgetown, Dr. Persse then completed residency training in emergency medicine at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California.

After residency, Dr. Persse completed a resuscitation research fellowship at the Ohio State University. Dr. Persse was then awarded a grant from the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine and completed fellowship training in emergency medical services and resuscitation at the Baylor College of Medicine and the City of Houston Emergency Medical Services program. Following his EMS fellowship Dr. Persse became the Assistant Medical Director for the Emergency Medical Services system of Houston. He then moved to California to become the Medical Director of the Los Angeles County Paramedic Training Institute, and the Assistant Medical Director of the Los Angeles County EMS Agency.

In 1996 Dr. Persse returned to Houston to assume the role of the Director of Emergency Medical Services for the City of Houston. In May of 2004 he was appointed by City Council as Houston’s Public Health Authority. In his role as Public Health Authority Dr. Persse is responsible for the medical aspects of clinical care quality management, disease control and public health preparedness. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the South East Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council and the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians.
Dr. Maria Rivera is the Medical Director for the Division of Nutrition and Chronic Disease Prevention at Harris County Public Health (HCPH). She oversees mental and behavioral health, school health, early childhood programs, and chronic disease prevention. She is also the co-chair of the School Advisory Group at HCPH that oversees all school related activities for the COVID-19 response. She is one of Harris County’s alternate local health authorities.
Ericka Brown, MD, MBA, FACHE, Director - Community Health and Wellness Division

Dr. Ericka Brown, MD, MBA, FACHE, serves as our Division Director for Community Health and Wellness Division (CHWD) and Deputy Local Health Authority (LHA). Prior to joining HCPH, Dr. Brown worked most recently as the Program Manager for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), where she oversaw the Public Health and Safety/COVID-19 Response for the department.  She was also responsible for developing and facilitating efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Texas’ largest county jail.

Before joining HCSO, Dr. Brown served as Chief Operating Officer at Harris Health System, one of the largest public health systems on the country. She previously served as the CEO of Ben Taub Hospital – Level One Trauma Center and is the former CEO of Ambulatory Services and its 41 primary care and specialty clinics.

Dr. Brown has served on numerous boards, including America’s Essential Hospitals Institute Board of Directors, Avenue 360 Federally Qualified Health Center Board of Directors, and America’s Essential Hospitals Essential Women’s Leadership Mentor program. She was awarded the Texas Executive Women’s Woman on the Move Award in 2018, and most recently joined the board of Boys & Girls Club of Greater Houston.

She holds an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Temple University, a medical degree from Rush Medical College, an MBA from Texas Women’s University, and is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives.