Speaker bios

2018 NWCPHP Pop-Up Institute in Oregon


Uba Backonja, RN, Ph.D.

Uba Backonja is an Assistant Professor in Nursing and Healthcare Leadership at the University of Washington (UW) Tacoma and Adjunct Assistant Professor in Biomedical Informatics and Medical Education at the UW School of Medicine. She currently works at the intersection of health informatics and health disparities to understand how data visualization can better support the needs of individuals and communities. She is Co-Director for SHARE-NW: Solutions in Health Analytics for Rural Equity across the Northwest, which includes Oregon, to develop a data use and visualization capacity for public health practitioners to support their work understand and address health disparities in rural communities.


Betty Bekemeier, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN

Prior to becoming NWCPHP Director, Betty served as faculty, leading training activities, serving as content reviewer for the center’s nursing trainings and writing for Northwest Public Health, among other duties.

She is the Kirby & Ellery Cramer Endowed Professor at the University of Washington School of Nursing and Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Health. In addition to teaching, she is a leader in public health systems research, studying the practices of state and local health departments in an effort to improve effectiveness and reduce health disparities. Betty is the primary investigator on the Public Health Activities and Services Tracking study, among others.

Betty has served in local public health practice in a variety of positions as manager, evaluator, epidemiologist and front-line public health nurse. She takes part in a number of public health and nursing associations and workgroups and has served in leadership positions within the American Public Health Association and the Washington State Public Health Association.

Betty is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar and an active member and founding member of the Washington State Public Health Practice-Based Research Network and its Executive Committee. She is also a committee member on the Public Health Accreditation Board of Directors Research Advisory Council.

Her education includes: PhD from the University of Washington, and MPH and MSN from Johns Hopkins.


Marion Ceraso, MHS, MA

Marion is Associate Professor of Practice in the School of Biological and Population Health Sciences in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University.  Marion’s research, teaching and program interests focus on the impact of public policies on health and health equity, as well as the use of journalistic tools in the investigation and communication of public health issues.  

Prior to joining Oregon State, Marion served as program director for the Wisconsin Population Health Service Fellowship and the Healthy Wisconsin Leadership Institute at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. In both roles, she provided collaborative leadership to Fellows and Wisconsin communities as they mobilized to advance local agendas to improve population health and health equity.

Marion’s additional prior professional experience is wide-ranging and includes serving as the Assistant Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Global Tobacco Control; teaching in academic and community settings; contributing to international research projects related to capacity building in tobacco control; translating cancer-related research information for the public at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and working as a community organizer in Newark, New Jersey.

Marion was trained in Behavioral Sciences and Health Promotion at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health and holds a Master of Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


David G. Farrer, Ph.D.

David Farrer is a Public Health Toxicologist at the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). He received his doctorate in toxicology from the University of Rochester in 2006 and was a postdoctoral fellow at Oregon State University from 2006-2007. In 2007, David joined OHA where he develops guidance, policy, legislative testimony, and public communications on a wide range of environmental toxicants and exposure pathways. He has participated in the establishment of health-based guideline values for environmental toxicants in recreational and drinking water, ambient air and fish tissue. He is currently participating in rule writing with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to establish a health risk-based regulatory program for industrially released toxic air contaminants.


Liana Winett, DrPH, MPH, MCHES

Liana Winett is Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Community Engagement in the Oregon Health & Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health. She is interested in how we, as communities and as a society, discuss the many complex and controversial social issues that affect the public’s health.  In particular, she explores how we can support broad participation in these important debates while also in a shifting communication landscape that often seems to resist deep consideration of complexity or controversy.  

Liana approaches her work from two perspectives. First, she studies the ways persuasive values-based arguments about health and social policy are constructed, and what those different constructions suggest about the overall debate and the public’s engagement in it. She has explored framing of debates over federal school foods policy; early childhood development; land use legislation; residential lead poisoning; interpersonal violence; incarceration; maternal/child health and the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD); childhood obesity; breast, cervical and prostate cancers; and the public health response to bioterrorism, among other topics.  

Second, she works with public interest professionals to develop the tools and techniques of message framing and media advocacy. Her major focus in this work is how we can best “make the invisible, visible” through strategic communication.  This is important because the “behind the scenes” nature of the many systems that protect communities’ health, safety and well-being can also lead to a sense of disconnect between the people served and the systems that protect them. The challenge, then, is how to tell the story of, and fully engage communities in discussions about, our shared roles in ensuring these systems continue.

Liana teaches graduate level courses in media advocacy and mass communication (social marketing, public relations, and risk/crisis communication). She earned a doctorate in in Public Health from UC Berkeley where she focused on the roles of message framing and media advocacy in advancing public health and policy. She also earned a Master of Public Health with emphasis in Behavioral Science and Health Education from UCLA. Prior to joining PSU, she was Research Coordinator for the Berkeley Media Studies Group, where she developed and honed skills in distilling the ways that arguments can best be framed for broad public dialogue.