Plenary Panel Speakers

Photo of Ashley BrandAshley Brand, MA, MPH, CPH

Ashley Brand is the Director of Community and Homeless Health for Dignity Health focusing on the new California homeless health initiative which focuses on transforming health and our communities by strengthening the continuum of care for those experiencing housing insecurities through innovation, partnership and lasting impact. Prior to this, Ashley served as the Director of Community and Outreach for Dignity Health's Greater Sacramento Service Area hospitals. As director, Ashley was responsible for developing, implementing, managing, reporting and evaluating community health and community benefit strategies that respond to priority health issues identified through assessments, support hospital business/clinical objectives, and involve collaboration with safety net partners for greater effectiveness and region-wide impact on health improvement.

Ashley has over 10 years of experience implementing and managing programs that target the underserved and uninsured populations in both Northern and Southern California and overseas in East Africa. Prior to Dignity Health, she was responsible for overseeing various programs, grant development and implementation, as well as community relations, with a focus on public and nonprofit safety net agencies. Ashley developed the California Endowment-funded Community Health Navigator Program under their state-wide Building Healthy Communities Initiative; she implemented and managed the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in Auburn, CA and in Long Beach, CA; and provided direct case management services for the Skid Row Families Demonstration Project which removed families from Skid Row in Los Angeles and placed them into housing under the Housing First model. Ashley currently serves on the Sacramento Covered and CARES Foundation Board of Directors.


Maurita J. Bryant 

Maurita J. Bryant, was appointed as Assistant Superintendent of the Allegheny County Police Department in June of 2016, where she currently oversees the Uniform Division. Bryant began her law enforcement career in 1977 and has spent over 25 years in a supervisory capacity.

She retired from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in May of 2016, where she served as the Assistant Chief of the Investigations Branch. She is a 1970 graduate of George Westinghouse High School and a 2004 graduate of the FBI National Academy. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree and Master's Degree in Criminal Justice at Point Park University. She is affiliated with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and the FBI National Academy of Western Pennsylvania. She is very active in the community and serves on numerous non-profit executive boards. 

Chief Bryant is a resident of the Homewood Brushton community, and a member of Mt. Ararat Baptist Church. She has two daughters, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Photo of Carlos CarterCarlos T. Carter

Carlos T. Carter, is a native Pittsburgher and Executive Director for Homeless Children's Education Fund (HCEF) and Motivational Speaker. His compelling life story and ability to overcome challenges to achieve success and fulfillment in both personal and professional spheres, puts him in a great position, to lead, motivate and inspire others. Prior to joining HCEF, he was a consultant for Holy Family institute/Holy Family Academy and held various Vice President roles in the banking Industry for more than 16 years. He has a passion to empower people and organizations to realize their potential.

A well-recognized leader, Mr. Carter's numerous accolades include the Pittsburgh Magazine 40 under 40 Award, National Diversity Multicultural Leadership Award, New Pittsburgh Courier Man of Excellence Award and prestigious 2019 Lead Now Pittsburgh Fellowship. He earned his MBA from Robert Morris University, a B.S. in Business Administration from University of Pittsburgh, an A.S. from Community College of Allegheny County, and completed Leadership Pittsburgh LDI XV. In his spare time, he enjoys singing, reading, and working out, line dancing, and watching his sons' sporting activities. He has three sons: Elijah, Daylon, and Isaiah and has been married to his beautiful wife Marcia for over 20 years. When he can find a break from all of the above, he can be found working on his first book or writing an article or post to inspire others.


Marlon Ferguson

Marlon Ferguson is the Executive Director of Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard, a Pittsburgh non-profit whose mission is to combat Veteran homelessness.A Persian Gulf War Veteran, Marlon served for seven years in the United States Navy where he was deployed throughout the Western Pacific theatre. Marlon, a proud graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, earned a full-scholarship for basketball.Prior to joining Veterans Place, Marlon was the Director of Administration at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and President of the Penn Hills Community Development Corporation (PHCDC). Marlon has a diverse background of corporate, non-profit and higher education experience; notably working at Point Park University, Duquesne University and University of Pittsburgh.Marlon is passionately involved in his community where he serves on the Veterans Research Foundation Board of Directors, WQED Community Advisory Board and the United States Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) Pennsylvania State Advisory Board. He served on the Penn Hills School District Board of Directors and is a graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh Class XXXIII (33). Mr. Ferguson recently graduated from the Carnegie Mellon University Tepper Graduate School's Advanced Leadership Academy.

Photo of Melissa Ferraro

Melissa Ferraro, MAOL

Melissa Ferraro grew up in the Carrick neighborhood of Pittsburgh, spent some time living in Mt. Oliver, and currently resides in Jefferson Hills with her husband, two children and two quirky rescue dogs. She was motivated by personal experiences to get involved in social justice efforts and has worked in this sector for almost 20 years. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Behavioral Science and her Master of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership at Point Park University. She is currently the Executive Director at Sisters Place, a supportive housing community committed to assisting families who are experiencing homelessness in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Sisters Place provides housing and wrap-around comprehensive services to help families bridge the gap form homelessness to independent living. Melissa has also worked with the Lupus Foundation of Pennsylvania and the Center for Victims. She is passionate about social justice, mental health awareness and animal welfare. Melissa is an active member of the Women's Interactive Network - Pittsburgh South. She is also a past founding Board Member of the Matt Arch Foundation and past Board Member of Clairton Cares, Inc. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, bible study, gardening, thrift store shopping, and spending time with family and friends.

Photo of Pamela GoldenPamela Golden
For the past six years, Pamela Golden has served as Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation (PCGF), a private, non-profit grantmaking organization that focuses on the needs of families with children in Allegheny County. Since 2014, the Area of Emphasis for the Foundation has been to mitigate the circumstances of families with children experiencing homelessness through direct grants; research to develop a greater understanding of this complex issue; and by partnering with other organizations to enhance PCGF's impact.

Concurrently, she works as a consultant for regional and national organizations on long-range planning, communications, marketing, media relations and board governance initiatives.

Pamela is an active member of the community. Currently, she serves on the Boards of The Children's Institute and Allegheny County Library Association and the Advisory Board of the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD) and works as a volunteer at a hospice care facility, and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and is a member of The Aurora Reading Club of Pittsburgh.

Golden holds a Master's of Public Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University's H. John Heinz School of Public Policy and an undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

Golden has won numerous regional and national awards for her work in the marketing and communications field and for her community service.

Plenary Panelist Mary HerbertMary Herbert, MS, MPH 

Mary is the current Clinical Director for the Program for Health Care to Underserved Populations, which operates the Birmingham Free Clinic in the South Side of Pittsburgh. She holds a Master of Science degree in Biology from Indiana University of PA and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Pittsburgh. 

She began her time at the Program for Health Care to Underserved Populations as an AmeriCorps National Service member in 1998, after a career in biomedical research.  She was hired as the program's first Clinical Coordinator and was transitioned to the Clinical Director for the Program in 2006. Mary oversees day-to-day operation and coordination of the Program's Birmingham Free Clinic and the Women's Center Clinic, including case management efforts, development of policies, and expansion of services, service learning initiatives, specialty services and outcomes.  She also oversees Program fundraising and strategic planning.     

She has presented posters and given talks at the Pennsylvania Public Health Association, American Public Health Association, Pennsylvania Free Clinic Association and the Health Care for the Homeless National Conferences related to patient care, service learning, pharmaceutical access, safety-net clinical services, the Affordable Care Act, health policy and health outcomes.   

In 2012, she received the Inaugural 'Excellence in Leadership Award' from the Pittsburgh Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, is an an honorary member of the Beta Delta chapter of the Phi Lambda Sigma Pharmacy Leadership Society, and in 2014, received the Margaret F. Gloninger Service Award as part of the Graduate School of Public Health's Distinguished Alumni Awards program.

One of the highlights of Mary's work with the Program for Health Care to Underserved has always been collaborating with, mentoring and learning from the dedicated health professionals and students that choose to devote their time and energy to helping our region's medically underserved.      


Anna Kudrav 

As a 34 year veteran Pittsburgh Bureau of Police officer, I served as patrol officer, sergeant, lieutenant, commander and now as the Assistant Chief of the Operations Branch under Chief Scott Schubert and Deputy Chief Thomas Stangrecki. Our Operations Branch includes all uniform patrol, specially units, community outreach and youth programing. 

Born, raised, and educated in Pittsburgh, I have a Master's of Public Policy and Management in the University Of Pittsburgh Graduate School Of International Affairs. 

Committed to ongoing career development, I am grateful to have attended FBI National Academy #255, Police Executive Leadership Institute V, Anti-Defamation League Counter Terrorism Training in Israel, and the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security Executive Leaders Program over the past 8 years. 

Learning that the world grows more complex every day and Public Safety First Responders have to be equipped and adaptable to meet less predictable challenges in service to our communities. I most recently developed a Centralized Community Outreach Office inside the Police Bureau with a dedicated supervisor to raise outreach activities as a priority to balance and clearly express the Bureau of Police Mission and passion for all of our community member's wellbeing.


Plenary Speaker Christy PietrygaChristy Pietryga

Christy Pietryga, a Pittsburgh native, is the Chief Operating Officer at Veterans Leadership Program (VLP). VLP provides services to over 3,000 Veterans each year throughout 20 counties in Western and Central Pennsylvania. VLP's services include housing assistance, employment services, Veterans groups, benefits assistance, and an array of supportive services. Christy attended Oakland Catholic High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Sociology with a concentration in Human Services and Nonprofit Organizations from Bucknell University. Christy joined the VLP team as a Housing Case Manager in 2014 and has worked alongside Veterans experiencing housing instability to locate and move into permanent housing. 

Christy is a graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh Inc's Leadership Development Initiative, included in the 2018 class of WHIRL Magazine's "20 In Their 20's", and the 2019 class of Pittsburgh Business Times "30 Under 30". On a daily basis, Christy and her team provide essential services to local Veterans.



Mary Frances Pilarski, DNP, MSN, RN

Mary Frances Pilarski has been the Coordinator for the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program (HCHV) at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System for over twenty years of her 36 years at the VA, next month. It is her mission to serve homeless Veterans and assist them to achieve and maintain the highest levels of health, social well-being and independent functioning with permanent housing goals in the community. HCHV provides outreach into the community, healthcare along with VA primary care, behavioral health and other specialties, case management in housing programs and Veterans Justice Outreach with Veterans Court, magistrate courts and re-entry from incarceration. She also serves as a nurse manager for VA programs including the HCHV Program, the Mental Health Intensive Case Management Program and the Community Nursing Home Program. In addition, she is an Adjunct Professor for Duquesne University School of Nursing. She considers it a great privilege to work with Veterans at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and she is committed to serving our Nation's Heroes. She values and credits the efforts and work of her excellent team of dedicated clinicians in the HCHV Program, and she is thankful for the many community provider collaborations. Throughout the years and together with all the team she has seen the growth in services for assisting homeless Veterans and their family. Mary Frances has been the recipient of the VA Secretary's Award, the Cameos of Caring Award, the Veterans Leadership Program Tribute Nominee, the VA Hands and Heart Award, the American Legion Housing for Homeless Veterans Corporation Award, the Federal Executive Board Federal Woman of the Year Award. She considers herself very blessed with her family, the calling to her profession and work, our country, faith.


Plenary Speaker Susan RauscherSusan Rauscher

Susan serves as the executive director for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. In this position she finds that she has a job that allows her to be of service to others while overseeing an exceptional staff that makes remarkable things happen every day.   

At a time when the needs of our community are so great, she is pleased to help Catholic Charities take the next steps to advance its mission of outreach by providing help, creating hope, and serving all. There is no such thing as a typical day in the role as executive director, which has proven to be a blessing as Catholic Charities implements its strategic vision to provide quality service that empowers individuals, strengthens families, and builds better communities. At the heart of every Catholic Charities' program is the commitment to serve all, regardless of religious affiliation, through skilled direct service, effective community collaboration, and compassionate outreach. The overall vision for every client who comes to Catholic Charities is that they are in some way stronger and more stable after working with us to address their challenges, problems, difficulties and concerns.