ABOUT US.

This is us. Our team is enthusiastic and interdisciplinary by design. That’s how we’ve become national thought leaders in health literacy and experts in health communications, journalism, social marketing, public health, policy, social work, and counseling. Take a look around and see who we are.

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President and CEO

Catina O'Leary, PhD, LMSW

Catina oversees all core activities and works to set the strategic vision for the organization.

Catina O'Leary, PhD, LMSW

President and CEO


Catina has long been motivated by the concept of changing health behaviors to improve quality of life. For more than a decade, she led research on how making connections with people at risk for certain problems, such as HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, can help improve health behaviors. This field research led to Catina’s current role as HLM’s guiding star. She has steered the organization onto the course of becoming a true partner to health care organizations throughout the country that want to empower people with health information they can actually use. Her energy and leadership earned her a place on the St. Louis Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” list, as well as a seat on the Institute of Medicine Roundtable on Health Literacy.

In an effort to stay connected to her social work roots, Catina is an active community volunteer and currently serves as vice president of the board for Magdalene Saint Louis, a nonprofit that helps women who’ve survived sexual abuse, violence, and trafficking rebuild their lives.

In her free time, Catina can often be spotted enjoying downtown St. Louis with her two young sons. And like many other HLMers, Catina is an active reader, typically working her way through well over 100 books a year.

Health literacy inspiration:
People should be able to understand their health care and make a choice. You can’t make a choice if you don’t understand the information.

Words to live by:
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

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Director, Canyon Ranch Institute and Global Health Literacy Research

Andrew Pleasant, PhD

Andrew is the Director of the Canyon Ranch Institute.

Andrew Pleasant, PhD

Director of the Canyon Ranch Institute


Andrew Pleasant’s interest in communication, literacy, and social change started while working on his parents’ small-town weekly newspapers. That early inspiration underpins his ongoing professional practice and research in health literacy; science, risk, and environmental communication; and social marketing.

Andrew has led and participated in hundreds of presentations and trainings in the United States and around the world, primarily on the topics of health literacy, and science, risk, and environmental communication. He has taught at Cornell University, Brown University, and Rutgers University.

Andrew has published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and technical reports, and is co-author of the book Advancing Health Literacy: A Framework for Understanding and Action (2006).

During Andrew’s earlier career as a journalist, he received numerous awards for his photojournalism and reporting on national and international topics. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Arizona State University; a master’s degree in environmental studies from Brown University; and a doctorate in communication from Cornell University.

Health literacy inspiration:
Health literacy is one of the most powerful tools to create informed behavior change.

 Words to live by:
"Moderation in all things, including moderation."

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Creative Director

Michelle Roberts, M.Ed, MSJ, PLPC, NCC

Michelle leads our communications and marketing strategy at the state and national level.

Michelle Roberts, MEd, MSJ, PLPC, NCC

Creative Director


Michelle once wrestled an army sergeant to the ground for trying to steal her notes on his shady recruitment tactics. Every day Michelle goes to equal lengths to defend people’s rights to clear health information and better mental health care. Her reporting for The Oregonian shined a light on the mishandled treatment of mental health problems in the state and helped lead to the closing of the decrepit Oregon State Hospital (the setting of the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). This Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist has since swapped her reporter’s notebook for a therapist’s pad and textbooks in her pursuit of a PhD in counseling.

Here at HLM, Michelle holds the title of First Employee Ever Hired. Since that day in 2009, Michelle’s strategic communications know-how has shaped our current positioning in the health literacy market and led to an improved digital presence. She also knows her way around a video, having written and directed several award-winning pieces, including a documentary that won a Silver Telly award and an Emmy nomination.

Outside of work, Michelle enjoys planning her next travel adventures, writing nonfiction, trying out for the local roller derby team (don’t mess with Michelleter Skelter), and fine-tuning her mid-mod-styled home. Her two high schoolers keep her calendar packed, her heart full, and her copy of Atomic Cocktails well loved.

Health literacy inspiration:
As an empathy researcher, I believe the ability to understand your patients’ emotions is the most essential ingredient in good health communication. Empathy leads to more accurate diagnoses and more caring treatment. It also builds trust, which increases patient satisfaction and makes it more likely they will follow treatment plans. Research shows that when people believe that they connect on common ground with their health care professional, they have better recovery rates. I love that.

 Words to live by:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”—Mary Oliver

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Director of Program Development

Megan Rooney, MSW, M.Ed

Megan leads our health literacy programs, including plain language and trainings.

Megan Rooney, M.Ed, MSW

Director of Program Development


Megan has a soft spot for guinea pigs, hot yoga, and plain language. She was HLM’s first plain language professional. During that time, she reviewed hundreds of documents and educated clients about how to create easy-to-read materials on their own. Nowadays she spearheads our PL team. Megan also performs keyboards and vocals in the musical group Spectator, which she started with her fiancé.

Health literacy inspiration:
I’m inspired by my work with refugees and immigrants. They deserve the same quality of care we get, especially mental health care, but their levels of health literacy are so different due to their unique cultural perspectives on health care and the language barriers they face. The challenge — and opportunity — is to find ways to improve the health literacy of refugees and immigrants, many of whom have been through so much and may be overwhelmed at adjusting to life in a new country.

Words to live by:
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”—Rumi

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Director of Partnerships and Initiatives

Allen Todd

Allen leads HLM’s business development and relationship-building efforts through the establishment of successful partnerships, programs, and initiatives.

Allen Todd

Director of Partnerships and Initiatives


Like many young college graduates, Allen had a dream: to make a difference in the lives of others. This dream inspired him to pursue political and advocacy opportunities in his home state of Missouri and in Washington, D.C.

In the nation’s capital, Allen lent his relationship-building and advocacy skills to a nonprofit that created an innovative technology to help fight childhood obesity. These efforts scored the organization an invitation to an exclusive White House event and the attention of the First Lady.

Here at HLM, Allen spends his days making connections with people who have their own dreams of making a difference in the lives of others. Through these conversations, he builds partnerships between HLM and health care organizations in Missouri and beyond. Although his role takes him out of the office a lot, we make sure to always schedule staff potlucks for when Allen’s in town thanks to his legendary smoked ribs. (Our advice? Work these into a partnership agreement. They’re that good!)

Health literacy inspiration:
I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at the age of 4. As a parent now, I can only imagine how hard it was for my parents to decipher the information about my diabetes and quickly learn how to manage my condition amidst their concerns for my health. Anyone can have low health literacy at a time like that, which is why clear communication and materials are so critical.

Words to live by:
“If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships — the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world, at peace.”—Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Business & Office Manager

Derek Collins

Derek manages HLM's administrative, operational, and financial systems.

Derek Collins

Business Center Manager


Officially, Derek manages the operational and financial aspects of HLM. Unofficially, he’s our resident old soul, comical straight man, and voiceover go-to guy. He’s an equal-opportunity food lover who enjoys broadening his dinner companions’ taste buds by ordering things they wouldn’t try on their own. Derek also enjoys meeting people wherever he goes. He’s forged lasting friendships with strangers on flights and has mentored youth in the St. Louis area for more than half his life.

Health literacy inspiration:
I grew up seeing how intimidated my loved ones were by the health care system. They became so unsure and afraid of the system that they didn’t get health problems looked at when they could be easily managed. Health literacy can break down these information barriers to help improve people’s ability to navigate our complex health care system with confidence.

Words to live by:
“The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don’t listen to it, you will never know what justice is.”—Anonymous

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Executive Administrative Assistant

Heather Jaconis, MPA

Heather provides overall administrative support to our HLM staff.

Heather Jaconis, MPA

Executive Administrative Assistant


As the youngest of seven, Heather has learned a thing or two about creating structure out of chaos and winning verbal battles with sarcastic zingers. We rely on Heather and her love of finding efficiencies and crossing off checklists to keep our accounting on track. Also of note? Heather was a fan of dystopian fiction before Katniss ever fired an arrow. (Maybe that explains her inspiration to take up boxing and start an herb garden. . . .) When she’s not working or reading about post-apocalyptic worlds, Heather’s snuggling with her two dogs: Jasmine and Chalie, and two cats: Brownie and Jill

Health literacy inspiration:
Health literacy has shaped my professional path, long before I even realized what health literacy was. While serving as a receptionist at the student health center in college, I realized how difficult it is to understand health information when you don’t feel well. Later, during an internship at an addiction clinic, I discovered how navigating health systems and managing your health is so much harder when you have a chronic issue, especially regarding mental health. Then as a paralegal for a local personal injury law firm, I saw how hard it was for people with injuries to navigate the health insurance system. So throughout my professional life, I’ve witnessed how the interplay of the health system, provider communication, and patient skills can create problems when these three things don’t all align. It’s why I’m proud to be part of HLM’s efforts to improve health literacy in Missouri and beyond.

Words to live by:
“The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.”—Bill Clinton

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Health Literacy Projects Manager

Lizz Callahan, MA

Lizz develops and translates health content into plain language.

Lizz Callahan, MA

Health Literacy Program Manager


Lizz started her career as a high school English teacher, seeking to broaden minds and open hearts through literature, but her experiences with low-literacy students opened her eyes to a greater need. She hauled her family across state lines to get a Masters in rhetoric from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where she designed and taught a class on what it means to live in poverty and write about poverty in the United States. She believes her students taught her as much as she taught them. Here at HLM, she edits and revises health documents so that everyone can access the information they need to make informed health decisions. When she goes home, she chases around three amazing children, quilts and sews clothes with semi-straight lines, and reads the news obsessively.

Health Literacy Inspiration:
My passion is helping low-income and low-literacy communities access the information they need to live full, happy, healthy lives.

Words to Live By:
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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Health Literacy Projects Manager

Clayton Clark, MFA

Clayton manages the development and evaluation of health literacy programs and contributes to communications.

Clayton Clark, MFA

Health Literacy Projects Manager


A self-proclaimed Oxford comma enthusiast, Clayton has spent much of the last decade writing and educating diverse groups of learners about how to communicate better. When he's not busy managing the development and evaluation of HLM's health literacy programs, Clayton strives to perfect his first poetry collection for publication, boost his Fitbit step count with runs in Tower Grove Park, and track down the best craft beers in St. Louis.

Health literacy inspiration:
I’ve always had a passion for writing and literature as well as this enduring interest in public health. And as a professional, I’ve focused my efforts on teaching and health communications. But it wasn’t until I stumbled upon health literacy that I found a way to meld all of these interests and skills together.

Words to live by:
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”—Ernest Hemingway

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Research Summary Manager

Deb Collyar

Deb manages HLM's Plain Language Research Summaries program.

Deb Collyar

Research Summary Manager


Deb became a patient advocate soon after her first cancer diagnosis at age 32. She quickly became frustrated by the glacial pace of cancer research and the lack of public information on how the disease develops and grows. Never one to accept the status quo, Deb launched an international communications network from her living room to encourage medical researchers to collaborate and share data. Today, she is one of only a handful of experts worldwide in writing plain language research study summaries for clinical trials. When she needed help to manage her booming business communicating complicated science to non-scientists, she came to HLM. We’re so glad she did.

Deb is a Midwesterner by birth, and a California dreamer by heart. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband, son, and Nuit, a forgetful black cat named after the Egyptian sky goddess. When she isn’t wrangling her team of plain language writers, Deb can be found blogging and handcrafting her own line of jewelry – from sterling silver infinity rings to cursive name necklaces. It’s not only for the bling – the proceeds go to foster kids and cancer research.

Health Literacy Inspiration:
“Health research hasn’t made as much progress as it should have. I’m tired of being too nice. It’s time to be direct and clear about what patients need and expect. We can’t let research off the hook until it produces real outcomes that matter to patients.”

Words to Live By:
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” –Mae West

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Health Literacy Program Manager

Diane Webb, MPH, CHES

Diane develops health literacy programs and specializes in health insurance literacy.

Diane Webb, MPH, CHES

Health Literacy Program Manager


Diane is a project manager, efficiency expert, presenter, and ray of sunshine all rolled into one. She’s the primary point of contact for HLM’s health insurance literacy efforts — and has racked up the rental car miles to prove it. Even outside of work, Diane is always on the move, going for runs in Forest Park and traveling to exotic destinations. If you ask her why she loves Ted Drewes Frozen Custard so much, be prepared for the sweetest (ha!) story you’ll ever hear (Spoiler alert: That’s where she met her hubby).

Health literacy inspiration:
Prior to working at HLM, I interned with the American Diabetes Association and saw firsthand what lack of information can do to a patient. Patients shouldn’t be scared of their health problem; they should be informed. Improving health literacy is the key to helping patients be more informed.

Words to live by:
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”—Walt Disney

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Health Literacy Education Manager

Christina Goalby, MSW

Christina develops health literacy education programs.

Christina Goalby, MSW

Health Literacy Education Manager


Christina is always on the move -- dropping her daughters off at soccer practice, sweating it out at CrossFit, and jetting here and there to deliver kidney transplant education seminars. She isn’t too picky about most things, but don’t ask her to eat at a chain restaurant. This foodie prefers local eateries only! When she isn't traveling for her work at HLM, Christina is in the office cultivating new education programs. She specializes in helping kidney dialysis patients and their loved ones achieve the health literacy skills needed to make the best choices about transplant and donation. She likes to joke: “There may not be enough kidneys to go around, but there is and always should be enough education to go around!” (Ok, so she may not be a comedienne, but if you or someone you love needs a kidney transplant, you definitely want Christina in your corner).

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Plain Language Writer

Lisa Cary

Lisa develops and translates health content into plain language.

Lisa Cary

Plain Language Writer


Lisa’s background in marketing communications and design has made her an expert at clarifying complex language, especially health insurance jargon. A self-described army brat, Lisa had finally chosen to settle down in Chicago — until her college sweetheart whisked her away to St. Louis. Sometimes she still longs for deep-dish pizza but admits that toasted ravioli isn’t a bad substitute. A jazz and funk fan, Lisa travels to the New Orleans Jazz Fest almost every year and has been known to crank up Steely Dan and Tito Puente while doing her plain language reviews.

Health literacy inspiration:
Medicine labels can easily trip up people who just want to take medicine without having to spend 15 minutes deciphering the instructions. It’s amazing how much medicine labels can be improved just by applying a few plain language design principles. 

Words to live by:
“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”— Neil Gaiman

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Health Literacy Program Associate

Jenna Eichelberger, CHES

Jenna assists in the development and evaluation of health literacy projects.

Jenna Eichelberger, CHES

Health Literacy Program Associate


Let’s get this straight: Jenna’s first love is the St. Louis Cardinals. But public health is a close second. In fact, Jenna is so passionate about public health that she’s pursuing a master’s degree in the subject. She puts her knowledge to work at HLM by helping develop and evaluate health literacy projects. When not working or studying, Jenna spends time with loved ones, reads, and searches for a pet cat so she can make funny cat videos and become a YouTube sensation. Did we mention Jenna is also a jokester? 

Health literacy inspiration:
Health literacy affects everyone in society whether you’re educated or not. I like knowing that what I’m doing every day is making a difference to someone, somewhere.

Words to live by:
“It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”—J.K. Rowling

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Health Literacy Program Coordinator

Philip Horn, MPH, MSW, EDAC

Phil contributes to the research, development, and evaluation of health literacy programs.

Philip Horn, MPH, MSW, EDAC

Health Literacy Program Coordinator


Phil is a lover of video games, reading, and music. When he isn’t playing Final Fantasy, devouring the latest Jeanette Walls novel, or singing with his cat Habi, he’s contributing to the research and development of HLM’s health literacy programs. Phil is also our official Fixer of PowerPoints, evaluation guru, and the leader of the office Fitbit challenge. If you see him out on his daily stroll along Washington Avenue, say hi!

Health literacy inspiration:
I’ve worked with diverse communities that didn’t understand the importance of good health care. They felt powerless because they didn’t know the type of help they could be getting for themselves and their families. Sometimes the first step in improving a person’s health literacy is simply taking the time to walk them through their health care options and checking to make sure they really understand what those options are.

Words to live by:
“Love cannot remain by itself — it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service. I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.”—Mother Teresa

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Health Literacy Program Coordinator

Candra Johnson, MPH, CHES, EDAC

Candra contributes to project design and development and leads health environment assessments.

Candra Johnson, MPH, CHES, EDAC

Health Literacy Program Coordinator


Candra drove into the health literacy field at 70 miles per hour. Literally. She spent her first hours at HLM driving across Missouri to do a clinical assessment. Since then, she’s pursued her two passions — graphic design and public health — by creating health insurance literacy pieces, designing clinical assessment reports, and crafting pitch-perfect social media posts. We’d blame her for our office-wide Sauce on the Side addiction if she hadn’t made our headshots look so darn good.

Health literacy inspiration:
Our experience with health environments starts before we ever get to our appointment. Often it starts when we check clinic and medical office websites for hours and addresses. Then we have to figure out how to get our appointment and where we’re going inside the building. When organizations have unclear websites and signage, patients can get confused and frustrated. I believe that taking a health-literate approach to health environments helps patients feel more empowered and less intimidated.

Words to live by:
“Don't be afraid to create. Through creativity the Gospel goes forth. You see, we don't just create because we can, we create because the Gospel is worth celebrating.”—Joshua Jones

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Evaluation Coordinator

Caitlin Maish

Caitlin is Canyon Ranch Institute’s Evaluation Coordinator.

Caitlin Maish

Evaluation Coordinator


Caitlin’s path to public health and health literacy took a slight detour via a pre-med Bachelors in Physiology from the University of Arizona. Growing up, she spent a significant amount of time in hospitals, raised by a nurse for a mother as well as the time Caitlin served as an ER volunteer during undergrad.

This first-hand experience gave Caitlin a taste for the clinical side of medicine, and also imbued her with the drive to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. Caitlin’s love of numbers and attention to detail landed her at the Canyon Ranch Institute, where she has found a passion for public health, crunching numbers, and reporting back the amazing results of CRI’s community programs. When CRI and HLM joined forces, Caitlin stayed on to help continue measuring the worth of our work in lives, not dollars.

Caitlin lives in Tucson, AZ, with Onyx, her beloved Boston terrier. She enjoys strolls in the desert heat, watching for stunning sunsets and soaring hawks, and also loves horses, which Caitlin helps to rehabilitate and train for equine therapy. A lifelong thirst for knowledge pushes Caitlin to mine the internet for information about everything from nutrition to biohacking, the practice of hacking your own biology to help you be your best self.

Health Literacy Inspiration:
“Going to the doctor or getting information about health shouldn’t be scary or feel out of reach. My dream for health literacy is for everyone to learn it and practice it from a young age. I want health literacy to be something everyone can make their own.”

Words to Live By:
“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for [you]. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.” - Eckhart Tolle

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Office Dog

HLM

HLM keeps office morale high, and barks at the sight or sound of confusing language.

Woof!

Want to join our team? Learn more about career, internship, and volunteer opportunities at HLM.