Monday's Speakers

Sam Quinones, Journalist, Author, Photographer

Sam Quinones is a journalist, storyteller, former LA Times reporter, and author of three acclaimed books of narrative nonfiction.

His most recent book is The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth, released in 2021. The book follows his 2015 release,  Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Bloomsbury Press.

Both books are critically acclaimed. In January 2022, The Least of Us was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) award for Best Nonfiction Book of 2021.

Dreamland won a National Book Critics Circle award for the Best Nonfiction Book of 2015. It was also selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by Amazon.com, the Daily Beast, Buzzfeed, Seattle Times, Boston Globe, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Entertainment Weekly, Audible, and in the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Business by Nobel economics laureate, Prof. Angus Deaton, of Princeton University. In 2019, Dreamland was selected as one the Best 10 True-Crime Books of all time based on lists, surveys, and ratings of more than 90 million Goodread.com readers. Also in 2019, Slate.com selected Dreamland as one of the 50 best nonfiction books of the last 25 years. In 2021, GQ Magazine selected Dreamland as one of the “50 Best Books of Literary Journalism of the 21st Century.”

Quinones’ career as a journalist has spanned 35 years. He lived for 10 years as a freelance writer in Mexico, where he wrote his first two books. In 2004, he returned to the United States to work for the L.A. Times, covering immigration, drug trafficking, neighborhood stories, and gangs.

Ben Nemtin, Inspirational Speaker

Ben Nemtin is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of What Do You Want to Do Before You Die? and a star of MTV’s highest rated show on iTunes and Amazon called The Buried Life. As the co-founder of The Buried Life movement, Ben’s message of radical possibility has been featured on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, FOX, and NBC News. President Obama called Ben and The Buried Life “inspiration for a new generation” and Oprah declared their mission “truly inspiring.”

An acclaimed keynote speaker, Ben has headlined business conferences and Fortune 100 leadership teams around the world, garnering standing ovations from AIG, Anthem, Amazon, FedEx, Harvard, Microsoft, Verizon, and more. Ben is recognized as one of the World’s Top Organizational Culture Thought Leaders and was ranked 3rd Best Motivational Speaker in the world by Global Gurus in 2022.

In his first year of university, Ben was unexpectedly hit with a depression that forced him to drop out. In an attempt to feel more alive, he created the world’s greatest bucket list with his three best friends. They borrowed a rickety old RV and crisscrossed North America, achieving the unthinkable. And most importantly, every time they accomplished a dream, they helped a complete stranger cross something off their bucket list.

From playing basketball with President Obama to having a beer with Prince Harry, from reuniting a father and son after seventeen years to surprising a young girl with a much-needed bionic arm—Ben’s bucket list quest has inspired millions to thrive personally and professionally.

Tuesday's Speakers

Xavier Becerra, J.D., Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Xavier Becerra, J.D. is the 25th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the first Latino to hold the office in the history of the United States.
Previously Secretary Becerra was California’s attorney general and before that served for 12 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he was the first Latino to serve as a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. He also served as chairman of his party’s caucus and as the ranking member of both the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health and Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security.

Secretary Becerra will discuss the Biden administration’s comprehensive strategy to address America’s mental health crisis, which includes promoting the well-being of the nation’s frontline healthcare workforce, piloting new approaches to training behavioral health paraprofessionals, strengthening the country’s crisis care and suicide prevention infrastructure, integrating mental health and substance use treatment into primary care, expanding and strengthening parity, and more.

Born in Sacramento, Secretary Becerra earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford University and his law degree from Stanford Law School.

Rahul Gupta, MD, MPH, MBA, FACP, Director of National Drug Control Policy at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)

Rahul Gupta, MD, MPH, MBA, FACP, is the first medical doctor to serve as the Director of National Drug Control Policy and lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a component of the Executive Office of the President. ONDCP coordinates the nation’s $40 billion drug budget and federal policies, including prevention, harm reduction, treatment, recovery support, and supply reduction.

Through his work as a physician, a state and local leader, an educator, and a senior leader of a national nonprofit organization, Dr. Gupta has dedicated his career to improving public health and public safety.

Dr. Gupta is a national and global thought leader and a driver of innovative public policies who practices what he preaches. He is a buprenorphine-waivered practitioner, providing medication-assisted treatment for people with opioid use disorder.

The son of an Indian diplomat, Rahul was born in India and grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. At age 21, he completed medical school at the University of Delhi followed by subspecialty training in pulmonary medicine. He earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of Alabama-Birmingham and a global master’s of business administration degree from the London School of Business and Finance.

Amy Walter, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter and On-Air Political Analyst, The PBS NewsHour 

For more than 20 years, Amy Walter has built a reputation as an accurate, objective, and insightful political analyst with unparalleled access to campaign insiders and decision-makers. Known as one of the best political journalists covering Washington, she is the publisher and editor-in-chief of the non-partisan Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, where she provides analysis of the issues, trends, and events that shape the political environment. A contributor to the PBS NewsHour, she provides weekly political analysis for the popular “Politics Monday” segment. She is also a regular Sunday panelist on NBC’s Meet the Press and CNN’s Inside Politics, and appears frequently on Special Report with Bret Baier on Fox News Channel. From 2017 until early 2021, Walter was the host of the weekly nationally syndicated program “Politics with Amy Walter” on The Takeaway from WNYC and PRX. She’s also the former political director of ABC News.

In her presentations, Walter expertly breaks down the electoral process, congressional culture, and the Washington political scene. Her astuteness, wit, and range of expertise creates an engaging, compelling presentation, and her reliable and accurate analysis has earned her numerous accolades. Exclusively represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau, Amy Walter takes audiences on an insider’s tour of Washington through the eyes of the woman with her finger on the pulse of politics.

Megan Baird, Deputy Administrator, Office of Apprenticeship (OA), U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA)

Megan Baird serves as the deputy administrator in the Office of Apprenticeship (OA) at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA), where she is responsible for oversight and activities related to OA’s partnership, data, and investment activities. This includes providing leadership for OA’s engagement with industry, employers, and the education and workforce system, partnership efforts that expand youth apprenticeship and equity in apprenticeship, and leadership for more than $1 billion in investments to support apprenticeship expansion.

Prior to serving in this role, Megan was the program manager for H-1B grant programs in ETA’s Office of Workforce Investments. Before Megan joined ETA in 2008, she worked for a private consulting firm, TATC Consulting, supporting projects for DOL on workforce development. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in government and Russian civilization from Smith College.

Malissa Lewis, LL.M, Chief, Loan Repayment Branch, Division of National Health Service Corps, Bureau of Health Workforce (BHW), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)

Malissa Lewis serves as the Branch Chief of the Loan Repayment Branch in HRSA’s Bureau of Health Workforce (BHW), Division of National Health Service Corps (DNHSC), where she works to strengthen the healthcare workforce and build healthy communities by managing several workforce loan repayment programs.

Prior to joining the Loan Repayment Branch, she served as a section chief in the Division’s Scholarship Branch. Malissa has over 11 years of experience working on public health programs that aim to strengthen the health workforce and connect skilled professionals to communities in needs.

Most recently, she oversaw the planning and implementation of the Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery Loan Repayment Program (STAR LRP), a new loan repayment program designed to further support efforts to combat the nation’s opioid crisis.

Malissa strongly believes that Public health means equity and equality where all people should have access to affordable healthcare regardless of economics, race, or other issues.

Dave Long, Chief Talent Officer, Pinnacle Treatment Centers

Dave Long is a Human Resources executive with more than 20 years of experience in Fortune 200, private equity, non-profit and international businesses across a wide range of healthcare organizations. His strong operational background has created a passion for closely aligning human capital efforts around the needs of an organization. In addition to a focus on individual and team development, Dave has helped to successfully build strong company cultures that help to attract and retain some of the best talent across industries.

Dave holds a master’s degree in healthcare administration from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. He also is a Co-Active certified coach through the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and credentialed with the International Coach Federation (ICF).

John Palmieri, M.D., M.H.A., Senior Medical Advisor and Acting Director for the 988 and Behavioral Health Crisis Coordinating Office (SAMHSA)

Dr. Palmieri was the Division Chief for Behavioral Healthcare at the Arlington County, Virginia, Department of Human Services. Dr. Palmieri is a licensed physician in the Commonwealth of Virginia and is Board Certified in Adult Psychiatry. He graduated from Brown University Medical School and completed his Adult Psychiatry Residency at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Wednesday's Speakers

Meiram Bendat, M.D., J.D., Founder and President, Psych Appeal

An attorney with a background in mental health, Meiram Bendat offers clients a comprehensive set of skills and knowledge unique in the field of health law. After representing children and families in the Los Angeles child welfare system and treating patients, he founded Psych-Appeal, the country’s first private mental health insurance law firm in 2011. Since then, Dr. Bendat has helped patients and providers successfully challenge denials of mental health treatment through administrative appeals and impact litigation, recovering millions of dollars in wrongly withheld benefits.