Pathways to Hope: Our Speakers

Our Speakers

Daniel GillisonDaniel Gillison, Jr.

Dan Gillison brings expertise in non-profit leadership and a passion for advocating for people with mental illness to NAMI. Before coming to NAMI, Dan led the American Psychiatric Association Foundation (APAF), where he was responsible for strategic planning, personnel management, board communications, oversight of APAF's public education programs and outreach, and formulating strategic alliances and partnerships to further APAF's mission. Prior to APAF, Gillison led County Solutions and Innovation for the National Association of Counties (NACo) where he was instrumental in repositioning the organization's programs to provide expertise in health and human services, justice and public safety. Dan has over 30 years of experience and has previously held leadership positions at Xerox, Nextel, and Sprint. Dan holds a B.A. from Southern University and A&M College.

Dan spearheaded the creation of the CEO Alliance for Mental Health in 2020, which represents some of the most vulnerable and diverse populations affected by disparities in the mental health care system. The leadership collective has collaborated to identify and amplify their priorities for creating a future of quality mental health care for all who need it.


Dr. Shirley Holoway, Ph.D.Shirley Holoway, Ph.D.

Dr. Shirley Holloway has been a leader in Alaska education for more than 50 years, with a career spanning role as a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing, speech pathologist, principal, superintendent, college professor and college president, as well as the Commissioner of Education and Early Development for the state of Alaska. She has served as a member of the Alaska State Board of Education, Regent of Charter College, the President of Sheldon Jackson College Board of Trustees, and as a member of the Blood Bank of Alaska, the Special Olympics, the CIRI Foundation, the Ilisagvik Foundation, NAMI Alaska and the immediate past president of the NAMI National Board of Directors. Shirley provides consulting services through her business, Leadership for Excellence. Her areas of expertise include developing and improving relationships, processes and policies or both governing boards and their executive leadership. Shirley is also known as “Quvian” the Inupiat name given to her by the people of Utqiagvik (previously known as Barrow) which means “person of joy.”


Thomas Insel, MDThomas Insel, MD

Thomas lnsel, MD, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, has been a national leader in mental health research, policy, and technology. From 2002-2015, Dr. Insel served as Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). More recently, he led the Mental Health Team at Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences); co-founded Mindstrong Health, a digital mental health company for people with serious mental illness; and launched Humanest Care, a therapeutic online community for recovery. Since May of 2019, Dr. Insel has been a special advisor to California Governor Gavin Newsom and Chair of the Board of the Steinberg Institute in Sacramento, California. Dr. Insel is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and has received numerous national and international awards including honorary degrees in the U.S. and Europe.


Les Femmes FatalesLes Femmes Fatales

Singers Nikita and Sakai comprise this dynamic talented duo, which is a powerful combination of music, glamour, and style. They are songwriters, recording artists, and fierce live performers with vocal styles that combine R/B, Soul, and Gospel. Nikita and Sakai are also members of the Grammy award winning band Train. Individually they have respective solo recording careers and collectively they are known as “Les Femmes Fatales.” They share their powerful and uplifting brand of music and their perspective on the arts and culture. At the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, they joined forces with their writing partner, Darkside, to write and produce the song “Is That Enough?” to channel their fears and exasperations regarding the state of the world


Rev Jason Reynolds Emmanuel Baptist ChurchRev. Jason Reynolds (Emmanuel Baptist Church)

Pastor Jason C. Reynolds is the Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in San Jose, CA. He has led Emmanuel in innovative projects designed to meet both the spiritual and physical needs of the community. During the COVID pandemic, Emmanuel partnered with Santa Clara County for 18 months to provide space for 92,000 residents to be tested and 68,000 residents to be vaccinated. Currently, Pastor Jason is a Board Member of Momentum for Health, the largest non-profit mental health provider in Santa Clara County (helping to guide the organization’s future and increase diversity). In 2014, he became a founding member of “Claiming the Beloved Community”—an interfaith group of clergy and laypeople—to improve the relationships and accountability of local law enforcement. Pastor Jason is also a community trainer for the San Jose Police Department on procedural justice and an Adjunct Philosophy Professor at Evergreen Valley College. In recognition of his community service, Pastor Jason has been the recipient of numerous awards and commendations.


Doug BeachDoug Beach

Doug Beach is the parent of an adult son living with a mental health diagnosis.  He is the Board President of NAMI San Antonio, a NAMI Family to Family Instructor and leads a Family Support Group for families impacted by a mental illness.  In 2016, Doug helped launch Pathways to Hope, a conference for mental health professionals, social workers, educators, law enforcement, family members and people living with a mental health diagnosis.  Doug has helped chair the Steering Committee for the Bridges to Care San Antonio initiative in conjunction with the COSA Dept. of Human Services.

Doug is the past Chairperson and current Member of the Behavioral Health Advisory Committee (BHAC) of the Texas Dept. of Health and Human Services, the Chair of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) of the local LMHA, the Center For Health Care Service, the Co-Chair of the Bexar County Task Force on Mental Health and Criminal Justice; and serves as the Chairperson of NAMI FaithNet, an advisory group to NAMI national to assist NAMI affiliates in outreach to faith communities.  Doug is also a member of the twelve person CEO Work Group for the NAMI National CEO.


Dawn BrownDawn Brown

Dawn Brown is the Director of Cross-Cultural Innovation and Engagement for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Dawn leads a team focused on expanding mental health education and suicide prevention into underrepresented, underserved, and faith communities; and the implementation of JEDI-CLAS principles and practices across the agency and their 650 chapters. She is a mental health advocate, a DEI trainer and an international speaker on a mission to eradicate disparities and create mental health friendly, stigma free places of work, worship, and community. In addition to her role with NAMI, she is the vice president of DBSA’s State Board of Directors, a member of Kaiser Permanente’s National Suicide Prevention Learning Collaborative, and member of the Suicide Prevention Task Force for the City of Milpitas.


Erika KendrickErika Kendrick

Erika J. Kendrick is a bestselling author, a national speaker, and a mental fitness expert. After battling her brain pain, Erika founded Mental Fitness For Life where she launched her latest Mental Fitness book tour, “Who Moved My Happy?” with its accompanying workbook by the same title. Erika also works tirelessly for social and racial justice in mental health, lobbying at state capitals with the National Alliance on Mental Illness annually and speaking out on disparities and inequities on podcasts and television segments. She spends a great deal of time working with police departments, sheriff departments, and first responders by working to decriminalize the mentally ill. Erika has toured with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and is a speaker with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) where she has been inducted into their Hall of Fame.


Nakita FoxNakita Fox

Nakita is a retired Army veteran of 23 years, where she served as a transporter and a vocalist. She’s earned a Master’s Degree in Organizational Development and Leadership from the University of the Incarnate Word.  She is also an active member in her community and church. Nakita is currently employed by AACOG (Alamo Area Council of Governments) as a Care Specialist. Her most recent accomplishment is the completion of her Mental Health Peer Support Certification through VIA Hope, located in Austin Texas. She is planning to pursue a second master’s degree in Social Work in pursuit of an LCSW and launch an endeavor as an entrepreneur, using her creative skills and talents to bring awareness to the effects of trauma on children and their mental health and wellness. Nakita is a native of Newport News, Virginia but now resides in San Antonio Texas.


Andy GrayAndy Gray

Dr. Andy is an Educator, Pastor, Clinical Pastoral Counselor, and Lead Therapist with Rapha Cohort. Dr. Andy is a graduate of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and earned his PhD from Royal Priesthood Academy. Dr. Andy has advanced certifications in Crisis and Abuse Therapy and Integrated Marriage & Family Therapy Through the National Association of Christian Counselors. Dr. Andy was a Texas Licensed Paramedic for 20+ years and as a result is sensitive to the plight of First Responders and has worked with first responders in crisis since 2013. Dr. Andy is a Bridges-to-Care Wellness Champion and Mental Health Coach. Dr. Andy is a member of the National Association of Christian Counselors and the American Association of Christian Counselors. Dr. Andy and his wife Jennifer have 3 children and live in San Antonio, Texas.


Carolyn WhiteCarolyn White

Pastor Carolyn Bailey-White not only ministers within the community of San Antonio, but also abroad. With her husband Pastor Stephen White, they have Foreign Missions Outreach assignments in Central America and Africa. She is founder of the “Daughters of Zelophehad,”a Women’s Fellowship for the disenfranchised women in Kenya and Liberia. In Honduras, Pastor Carolyn and Pastor Stephen have a ministry that provides school uniforms to children, breaking the cycle of poverty through education. Pastor Carolyn has also previously worked with CASA as a Child Advocate for Neglected and Abused Children in the Family Court system in San Antonio. Most recently Pastor Carolyn was Certified as a Mental Health First Responder through NAMI/Bridges to Care. She is currently working on her certification to become a Faith-Based Mental Health Coach. Pastor Carolyn, by profession and education, holds degrees and certifications in Human Resource Management and Clinical Laboratory, was a licensed Health and Life Insurance Agent, and has held several leadership positions in the respective fields. She is also a Military Veteran


Billy LavenderBilly Lavender

Billy Lavender is married to his high school sweetheart Renia Lavender for 33 years and they have 2 awesome children, Brittnee and Brandon. Billy moved to San Antonio from his hometown of Muscle Shoals, AL in September of 1989, with an Associates in Applied Technology. He has served in the US Air Force 4 years & Air National Guard 8 years. He has worked with AT&T 21 years as a Systems Technician with the Digital Electronics Group. Billy was introduced to the Bridges to Care program through the Rapha Cohort and has since completed training/certification as a Mental Health/First Aid Companion, also completed the Mental Health Coach training.The mental health training has been a life changing experience that has given him the opportunity to apply the training in helping family, friends and co-workers and those that he encounters in his day to day. He is grateful for the chance to be a part of such a move of God and looking forward to seeing lives changed.


Sunita PunjabiSunita Punjabi

Dr. Sunita Punjabi, PhD abd, has completed her master’s in counseling from UTSA specializing in neuro and biofeedback. She is continuing her doctoral studies at the University of Chicago Professional School of Psychology. Licensed with the State of Texas as a Professional Antonio, Dr. Sunita Punjabi is known as the “Brain Coach”. She leverages evidence-based programs and assessments (brain mapping- qEEG, psychological assessments, cognitive performance evaluations) to optimize and extend brain performance. The results are increased brain resilience and regeneration for people of all ages and conditions. Dr. Sunita uses computers and brain based coaching programs to stimulate, train and enhance the brain with the goal of improving the quality of life for her clients. For the client, daily activities of life become meaningful and motivating, rather than living a life that is a reaction to circumstances. Dr. Punjabi is currently working for and publishing with the Body Brain Institute. Her recent study has demonstrated a correlational relationship between life purpose, resilience, and life engagement. Sunita was born in Bombay India and raised in America. She leverages her Eastern principles with modern day neuroscience.


In Memoriam

Dr. Gunnar ChristiansenDr. Gunnar Christiansen

Dr. Gunnar Christiansen, a retired board-certified ophthalmologist, was a devoted advocate for improving the lives of people with mental illness. Motivated by his experience in seeking help for his son managing a diagnosis of schizophrenia, Dr. Christiansen founded FaithNet at NAMI Orange County, California in 1993 as a bridge for the community to learn more about mental health. FaithNet expanded to NAMI California in 1996 and to NAMI National in 1997. Today, over 40 NAMI state organizations and affiliates work with the faith community through the FaithNet initiative. Dr. Christiansen’s many important roles include President, NAMI California, Treasurer and Advisory Board member of NAMI Orange County (1993-1996), Regional Representative, Southern California, Presbyterian Serious Mental Illness Network (1996–2004), member of the Pathways to Promise Board of Directors (2000–2008) and the NAMI FaithNet Advisory board (2007-2022). He received multiple awards including the Thomas F. Riley Community Service Award from the Mental Health Association of Orange County (2002), NAMI Orange County Outstanding Volunteer Award (2002), and NAMI California’s Outstanding Clergy Person Award (2011).

Dr. Christiansen received a B.A. in Biology from Stanford University, where he played varsity basketball. He received his M.D. and M.S. from the University of Oregon Medical School. He married his wife Susan in 1956 and served as a Captain in the US Army in the Vietnam war. Dr. Christiansen is survived by his wife, Susan, and their four children. He passed away on March 24, 2022.