Our Staff

Lori Dorfman, DrPH, Director, was BMSG's first associate director in 1993 and became director in 1998. She earned her doctorate in 1994 from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, where she studied how television news frames health issues. Dorfman oversees BMSG's research, media advocacy training, strategic consultation, and education for journalists and consults with programs across the U.S. on a variety of public health issues, helping them apply the principles of media advocacy. Her research examines media portrayals of public health issues, including children's health, food and beverage marketing, nutrition, breastfeeding, violence, and alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. She co-authored the major texts on media advocacy: Media Advocacy and Public Health: Power for Prevention and News for a Change: An Advocate's Guide to Working with the Media; she edited Reporting on Violence: A Handbook for Journalists, which encourages journalists to include a public health perspective in violence reporting and led an interdisciplinary team that conducted workshops on violence reporting for newspapers and local TV news stations. She teaches a course on mass communication at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health. Dorfman co-chairs the Food Marketing Workgroup, a national coalition dedicated to eliminating harmful food marketing.

Angela Burke, Deputy Director, provides oversight and internal management for BMSG. She has been working in the non-profit sector for over a decade with a focus on organizational and financial management. She joined BMSG in 2011 from another program of the Public Health Institute, Partnership for the Public's Health, where she held the position of Finance, Operations and Grants Manager and served on PPH's management team. Before joining PHI in 2008, she was the Program Coordinator for the China Program with Holt International Children's Services, working to serve children in China through foster care and HIV family preservation programs, vocational programs, nutrition programs, financial and medical assistance. She has a B.A. from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and a certificate in non-profit management from San Jose State University.

Research team

Pamela Mejia, MPH, MS, Senior Media Researcher, leads qualitative and quantitative analyses of how the media portrays public health and social justice issues, including sexual and family violence, teen dating violence, childhood trauma, community violence prevention, food marketing to children, sugary drink regulation, and tobacco control. Her research on these and other issues has appeared in the American Journal of Public Health, Critical Public Health, and the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse. She is a member of the Leadership Action Team for the California Essentials for Childhood Initiative, and in 2015 was elected to the Board of Directors of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. She holds a bachelor's degree in human nutrition from Washington State University, as well as master's degrees in biochemistry and public health from the University of California at Berkeley.

Laura Nixon, MPH, Media Researcher, analyzes media coverage of public health issues and industry marketing practices for BMSG. She graduated from Pomona College with a bachelor's degree in sociology. Her undergraduate thesis explored the framing of the "obesity epidemic" as a public health issue. She worked in public health in Ecuador for several years, where she was involved in qualitative research about a number of topics including sexual and reproductive health activism, young women and abortion, and public health capacity to prevent infectious disease. She returned to the U.S. to earn her master's in public health at U.C. Berkeley. During her time at Berkeley, she worked with the California Department of Public Health's STD Control Branch and U.C. Berkeley's Labor Occupational Health program, conducting qualitative research and media analysis.

Lillian Seklir, Research Associate, works on media advocacy, news monitoring and content analysis at BMSG. She has a bachelor's degree in public policy from Mills College, where she focused her studies on economics, education and law. Her thesis was a multimedia project that focused on community solutions to development without displacement in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood. She is particularly interested in issues of equity, structural inequalities, and LGBTQ rights and health. She is eager to examine how law and economics intersect and affect health outcomes.

Training team

Michael Bakal, M.Ed, MPH, Strategic Communications Specialist, is passionate about helping BMSG partners use the tools of media advocacy to achieve their social change and health promotion objectives. Prior to joining the BMSG team, Michael completed a Fulbright scholarship in Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala, where he worked as a science teacher and researcher studying youth empowerment. Before that, Michael received his master's degree in public health from U.C. Berkeley's Maternal and Child Health program. A fluent Spanish speaker and certified bilingual science teacher, Michael has taught high school and middle school in Los Angeles, Berkeley and rural Guatemala, where he has also developed culturally responsive science and leadership curricula. Michael is co-founder of Voces y Manos, a nonprofit organization that facilitates youth-led advocacy and sustainable development projects in rural Guatemala.

Fernando Quintero, Strategic Communications Specialist, joined BMSG to provide media advocacy training and strategic consultation. Prior to joining BMSG, he worked as a print journalist for several newspapers including the Orlando Sentinel, Rocky Mountain News, San Jose Mercury News and Albuquerque Tribune. He is also the former managing editor of Latino.com, an online content portal. Fernando has covered a variety of beats including health, immigration and demographics. He has served as a communications strategist for the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California's Office of the President as well as several nonprofit organizations and private enterprises. He is also former director of NewsWatch Project, a media watchdog organization based at San Francisco State University that promoted fair and accurate media coverage of the LGBT community and communities of color. Fernando received his B.A. in journalism and public relations from California State University, Fresno, and is a proud alumnus of the Institute for Journalism Education at U.C. Berkeley.


Heather Gehlert, MJ, Senior Manager of Communication and Digital Strategy, is a writer, editor and project manager at BMSG, where she leads the organization's communications strategy and brand management and oversees its online presence. She holds a master's degree in journalism with an emphasis in new media from the University of California, Berkeley, and a bachelor's degree in English and communications from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, where she also taught journalism and advised the school's student newspaper in 2015 and 2016. Before coming to BMSG, Heather was managing editor for AlterNet.org, an online news magazine in San Francisco. She has also served as a multimedia journalism coach for San Francisco State University. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including the Los Angeles Times, the Oakland Tribune and The Boston Globe.

Daphne Marvel, Communications Research Associate, supports BMSG's digital and social strategy, helps conduct daily news monitoring, and analyzes media on a range of public health and social justice issues. Daphne graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor's degree in psychology and Spanish. Prior to joining BMSG, she worked at the London office of Ketchum, a global communications agency. She is particularly interested in exploring issues of reproductive justice, equity, structural inequalities and food justice.


Yvonne Rodriguez, Administrative Manager, supports staff and consultants on BMSG's training team as they deliver strategic consultation and media advocacy trainings. She works as a dedicated team player by coordinating logistical arrangements, developing and producing training materials, conducting background research for tailored trainings, and assisting with other program projects. Prior to joining BMSG, she worked for five years in the marketing and development field producing numerous seminars and focus groups and was instrumental in the success of various marketing events and projects. She earned her B.A. in criminal justice from San Francisco State University.


Lawrence Wallack, DrPH, Senior Fellow, recently stepped down as Dean of the College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland State University after serving for the past nine years. He is also Emeritus Professor of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, where he served on the faculty from 1983 to 2000. In 1993, he was the founding director of BMSG and is one of the architects of media advocacy. He has published extensively and lectures frequently on news media and public health policy issues. Dr. Wallack is the principal author of News for a Change: An Advocate's Guide to Working with the Media, (Sage, 1999) and Media Advocacy and Public Health: Power for Prevention (Sage, 1993). He recently completed his tenure as president of the Board of Trustees of the World Affairs Council of Oregon. In the past, he has served on the Boards of Directors of the Institute for Portland Metropolitan Studies, City Club of Portland, and the national Policy Consensus Initiative. He currently serves on the board of the Praxis Project. He was also a member of the Oregon Health Improvement Plan Committee of the Oregon Health Policy Board and has served as a member on several Institute of Medicine committees. Dr. Wallack has been honored with several awards, including the Innovators Award (2000-05) from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which recognized lifetime achievement and innovation in the area of prevention.

Larry has started a sabbatical as a Senior Public Health Fellow at the Moore Institute for Nutrition and Wellness at Oregon Health and Science University and a Senior Scholar at the Berkeley Media Studies Group. At the Moore Institute, he will work on synthesizing, translating and applying the biological and social science findings on the developmental origins of health and disease at the community, regional and state level. Working with BMSG, he will focus on framing this knowledge to enhance effective communication about the significant policy implications.


Vanessa Palzes, Media Research Intern,joined BMSG to support media analysis projects on a variety of public health issues, such as childhood trauma. She is currently a graduate student at U.C. Berkeley's School of Public Health working toward an MPH degree in epidemiology and biostatistics. She is particularly interested in utilizing data science tools toward research and advocacy in promoting mental health and social justice. Before studying at Berkeley, she earned a B.A. in cognitive neuroscience from Scripps College and spent six years in schizophrenia research in a brain neuroimaging lab at U.C. San Francisco. She is excited to learn more about public health methodology in her program and apply it toward research at BMSG.



Berkeley Media Studies Group Staff



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