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Vital Talks

Turning the Tide on the US Overdose Crisis

Overdose has become one of the most pressing health issues in the United States today, climbing to become the leading killer of people under the age of fifty. Our distinguished speakers will discuss the current crisis and how a public health approach is needed to turn the tide on the U.S. drug overdose epidemic.

Speaker Bios

Daliah Heller, Moderator
Vital Strategies’ Director of Drug Use Initiatives

Daliah Heller works in public policy and practice at the intersection of public health and criminal justice, with particular expertise on drugs and drug use. Over more than two decades, she has served in leadership and advisory positions in both the government and nonprofit sectors. As assistant commissioner at the New York City health department, she established the Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Use Prevention, Care, and Treatment, pursuing a robust research, policy, and program agenda that included harm reduction services integration and drug use epidemiology. Previously, as a nonprofit executive director, she grew a nationally recognized, Bronx-based harm reduction organization serving homeless and formerly incarcerated people involved with drug use. Heller holds a Ph.D. in Social Welfare from CUNY Graduate Center, MPH from Columbia University, and BA from 
McGill University.

Tracie M. Gardner
Legal Action Center 
Vice President of Policy Advocacy

At Legal Action Center, Tracie Gardner spearheads major initiatives and fosters strategic partnerships that support the center’s mission. From 2015 to 2017, she served as the Assistant Secretary of Health for New York State, where she oversaw the state’s addiction, mental health and developmental disabilities agencies. Gardner has worked almost 30 years in the health and social services policy arena as a policy advocate, trainer and lobbyist. She received a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College.

Dr. Chinazo Cunningham
Professor of Medicine and Associate Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System

Chinazo Cunningham has spent over 20 years providing care, developing programs, and conducting research with people who use drugs with or at-risk for HIV. Her research has focused on improving access to care, utilization of health care services and health outcomes, particularly around opioid use disorder and medical cannabis. Cunningham has authored over 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts and has been the principal investigator on numerous grants funded by the NIH, CDC, HRSA, foundations, and local and state departments of health. She has mentored scores of trainees, and has been recognized by local and national mentoring awards. Dr. Cunningham has also served on numerous grant-review study sections, guideline committees, and local and national advisory committees.