Select Page


Webinar: Faith, Community & Government – Health Collaboration to Address Health Disparities During the COVID19 Pandemic

July 15, 2020; 1:00-2:30 pm ET


Click Here to Register!

Live Well Erie focuses on the social determinants of health – access to education, job opportunities, food security, and housing stability. Racial equity analysis is a guiding principle of Live Well Erie as social determinants of health often result in serious health disparities among people of color. Live Well Erie is working with the Health Department to tackle COVID-19 health disparities in 2020. During this webinar, you will hear how faith-based, community, government and healthcare leaders came together to mobilize resources in Buffalo, NY to respond quickly and effectively to the disproportionate impact of the COVID19 pandemic on the African American community with a dramatic impact on reduced mortality rate for African Americans. Comments and Moderated Q&A will follow the presentation.


  • Maria Whyte, Deputy County Executive, Erie County
  • Rev. George Nicholas, Pastor, Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church
  • Raul Vazquez, M.D., F.A.A.F.P., CEO, Greater Buffalo United Accountable Healthcare Network Health Home CEO, Greater Buffalo United Independent Practice Association Physician, Urban Family Practice, P.C.

Commenter: Gary Gunderson, Wake Forest Baptist Health

Moderator: Meg Guerin-Calvert, FTI Consulting


Maria Whyte is currently the Deputy County Executive (DCE) in Erie County, NY and has served in this post since January 2015, and the first female in a generation to hold the title.  As DCE she advances the County’s most significant economic development projects and provides strategic operational support for the County’s many departments.  From January 2012 to January 2015, Maria served Erie County as the Commissioner of the Department of Environment and Planning (DEP).  Prior to becoming DEP Commissioner, Maria served six years as the 6th District Erie County Legislator, representing Buffalo’s Westside, Black Rock, and Riverside. She served as the Democratic Majority Leader during her entire tenure on the Legislature and is the first freshman Legislator to be elected Majority Leader.  Maria graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in International Relations with Honors from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.  She was named one of Buffalo’s “10 MOST POWERFUL WOMEN” by the Buffalo Spree magazine in 2006; featured in Business First’s list of “40 under 40” in 2016, and  named one of the “Power 125 Women” by Business First in 2019. Maria is originally from Kansas City but moved to Buffalo in October 1999 and currently lives with her husband and two children on Buffalo’s west side.

Pastor George Nicholas, MDiv is the Senior Pastor of Lincoln Memorial United Methodist, Buffalo, NY. He has been recognized by the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist for his work on urban ministries. Pastor Nicholas is an advocate for social justice and community revitalization. He is one of the founding members of the Concerned Clergy Coalition of Western New York. He is also the convener of the African-American Health Equity Task Force and a member of the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Task force where he chairs the Black Males and Boys of Color Task Force. He is also a member of the Board of Population Health Collaborative of WNY.

Dr. Raul Vazquez, M.D., F.A.A.F.P. is a recognized leader in healthcare innovation and delivery.  A graduate of the University at Buffalo, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences as well as Fordam University, Dr. Vazquez has been invited to speak at some of the most prestigious universities and conferences in the nation.   International pharmaceutical brands such as Novartis, Searle/ Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Roche have sought the clinical expertise of Dr. Vazquez for topics ranging from hypertension to diabetic neuropathy.  However, he is best known for founding Urban Family Practice and G-Health Enterprises with his wife Mrs. Toni Vazquez. G- Health Enterprises, has created a paradigm shift affecting real change in Western New York.  Three (3) of his organizations, Urban Family Practice,  Greater Buffalo United Accountable Healthcare Network (GBUAHN) and Greater Buffalo United Accountable Care Organization (GBUACO) all received high praise, and national accreditation, from the coveted NCQA review Board. Dr. Vazquez has been honored by a host of organizations statewide and Dr.Vazquez resides in Williamsville, NY with his beautiful wife of nearly 30 years Toni.

Gary Gunderson, M.Div., D.Min., D.Div., is the Vice President for Faith and Health, Professor of Public Health Sciences and, Professor of Religion and the Health of the Public, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre and Wake Forest University School of Divinity. His degrees, which hide as much as they illuminate, are an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University in History, a Masters of Divinity at Emory University and a Doctor of Ministry from the Interdenominational Theology Centre in Atlanta. However, his real qualifications are some 40 years of life in incredibly rich webs of relationships with people working seriously in the areas of hunger/poverty and community development, public health and more recently health care, all of which in the boundary zone between people moving out of their exclusive faith identities. It has been a curious life path, but has lead through about 8 years at the Carter Centre where many of these ideas were developed, and the school of public health at Emory, then 7 years as a senior executive at Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare (a $1.5 billion faith based hospital system in Memphis, one of the poorest cities in the U.S.). His current work focuses on helping this large system align its full institutional and human assets with its professed goal of advancing the health of the region.

The Action Collaborative on Business Engagement in Building Healthy Communities is an ad hoc activity associated with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Roundtable on Population Health Improvement. The Collaborative is a flexible and action-oriented group that welcome all interested organizations and individuals. Any activities and products associated with the collaborative do not necessarily represent the views of any one organization, the Roundtable, or the National Academies and have not been subjected to the review procedures of, nor are they reports, products, or activities of the National Academies.


Learn more about the collaborative HERE.

Questions? Please contact Alina Baciu,