Nature Culture & Human Health Symposium

October 15, 2018
Chicago Botanic Garden
Regenstein Center

8:30 – 9:30 a.m. Registration. Pullman Room
9:30 – 9:45 a.m. Introductory Remarks. Alsdorf Auditorium

Part 1: Research. Alsdorf Auditorium

9:50 – 10:20 a.m. Framing the Conversation: Understanding Nature’s Effects on Chronic Stress through Evidence – Based Practice. Dr. Martha Twaddle, MD.
10:25 – 10:55 a.m. Young Adults and Cancer: Connecting with Oneself and Others through Nature. Dr. David Victorson, PhD.
11:00 – 11:30 a.m. Nature in Cities: Exploring Both Positive and Negative Visual Exposures Dr. Amber Pearson, PhD.

11:35 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Lunch (Box lunch provided for registered participants. Nichols Hall)

Part 2: Putting it into Practice. Alsdorf Auditorium

12:35 – 1:05 p.m. Corporate Wellness Programs: Gaining Acceptance for Nature-based Programs.
Tracy Katz, MSN, MS, APRN, FNP. Clinical Project Manager, Interactive Health

12:35 – 1:50 p.m.  “In a Nutshell” Presentations–One presenter per organization, one slide per presenter, 2 minutes.

  1. Mike Levin
  2. Lena Hatchett, PhD
  3. Jon Ashworth, MDiv, MA, LPC, I/ECMH-C.
  4. Geeta Maker-Clark, MD, ABIOM
  5. Fawn E. Pochel (First Nations Oji-Cree)
  6. Franklin N. Cosey Gay, MPH
  7. Jan Roehll, BS.
  8. Amos Clifford, BS, MA.
  9. Colleen Fairbanks, Clinical Psychologist
  10. Elizabeth LaCombe, Recreational Therapist
  11. M.J. Hodgins, Director of Community Development, Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation

2 – 2:30 p.m. Round table discussion #1. Burnstein Hall
(Opportunity to transition)
Round Table Discussion #2.

3:05 – 3:45 p.m. Table leader reports out 1-3 “Take-a-ways” from discussions

3:45 – 4 p.m. Final remarks and next steps


Dr. Martha Twaddle, MD. Medical Director: Palliative Medicine & Supportive Care, Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital. Dr. Twaddle combines nearly thirty years of experience in the care of seriously ill people and their families in a variety of areas of service. Her academic work includes developing curriculum guidelines to facilitate the training of healthcare professionals to provide home-based primary care through the Home Centered Care Institute’s national Centers of Excellence. In addition, at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, she works with teams that are evaluating the impact of communication skills on healthcare culture and creating and testing systems of care for seriously ill people and their families across settings of care. She was most recently appointed as Co-Chair for the National Consensus Project for Community-based Palliative Care, representing the American Academy of Hospice & Palliative Medicine. She is particularly interested in the role that nature may play in improving the quality of life for those who care for the seriously ill.

Dr. David Victorson, PhD. Associate Professor of Medical Social Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, and Director of Integrative Oncology at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center's Survivorship Institute. Dr. Victorson is also a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of Illinois. He directs the Consciousness in Health Research Lab ( His research interests include advancing the evidence base of contemplative awareness practices (mindfulness, yoga), resilience and emotion regulation in cancer patient populations and other chronic illness, as well as medical students and healthcare providers. He is also the Executive Director of True North Treks ( a 501©3 non-profit that helps teens & young adults with cancer find direction through connection after the very dis-connecting experience cancer can bring. True North Treks helps people find their connection on trips to remote and mind-blowingly beautiful wilderness destinations where they can connect with others in the peace and beauty of nature.

Dr. Amber Pearson, PhD. Dept. of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences, Michigan State University Dr. Pearson is a health geographer, with a focus on health inequalities and the benefits of visual exposure to natural spaces. Specifically, her research relates to aspects of the built, physical and social environment that bolster health in the face of adversity. She uses geospatial and epidemiological methods to understand how where we live, play, study, and work affects our health.

Tracy Katz, MSN, MS, APRN, FNP. Ms Katz is the Clinical Project Manager at Interactive Health, which provides workplace health programs for businesses and other organizations. She oversees development, implementation and management of the clinical rules that drive member communications, client analytics, and health related workflows. Ms Katz is a certified Family Nurse Practitioner and brings over 20 years of cross industry health care experience to Interactive Health including inpatient and outpatient care, healthcare sector analytics, as well as medical device and large pharma management. She believes that facilitating the integration of evidence based practice into comprehensive wellness strategy will maximize positive health outcomes across large populations.

In A Nutshell Presenters and Round Table Discussion Leaders

Mike Levin, Principal, Total Insurance Services
Mike Levin is current Principal of Total Insurance Services, which focuses on commercial insurance and corporate benefits. His expertise revolves around their Employee Benefits Division. He currently serves on the membership boards of Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods and the Illinois Restaurant Association as well on the Agency advisory boards for Blue Cross, Aetna, Humana and United Healthcare. Mike has had many personal experiences working as a volunteer alongside his children as a chaperone on several national and international service trips. These experiences have allowed him to witness the therapeutic power of interacting with nature as a way to heal past traumas and promote future personal growth.

Lena Hatchett, PhD, Associate Professor, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and Executive Lead Proviso Partners for Health. Proviso Partners for Health is cross-sector coalition to promote food justice through health and economic opportunity. Lena will lead discussions on sustainable community partnerships between government, schools, businesses and community residents affected by injustice and inequities. Lena will share practical tools and resources to take action locally, regionally, and nationally.

Jon Ashworth, MDiv, MA, LPC, I/ECMH-C. Health Equity Coordinator, Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center (LCHD/CHC). Jon is helping the health department fulfill its mission, which is “Promoting the health and well-being of all who live, work, and play in Lake County.” He also is part of the leadership team of the Live Well Lake County (LWLC) movement. Through LWLC, the LCHD/CHC implements community-driven approaches to outreach, promotion, engagement, and community development and capacity building. He would like to discuss how grass roots community engagement such as GO Lake County and Rx for Health: Walking in Nature,, can be used to get people outdoors.

Geeta Maker-Clark, MD, ABOIM -Integrative Family Physician, North Shore Medical Group, clinical assistant professor, Pritzker School of Medicine of University of Chicago, Co director Culinary Medicine Project. Dr Maker-Clark is a physician board certified in family medicine and Integrative Medicine. She has a NorthShore Medical Group integrative practice in Evanston that focuses on the therapeutic and preventative use of food as medicine. Her integrative practice also utilizes herbs, botanicals, mind-body therapies alongside allopathic medicine. She lectures nationally on plant based diets and integrative health at medical conferences and to the public at farmers markets, festivals, community organizations and schools. Dr Maker-Clark co-directs an innovative Culinary Medicine curriculum that teaches future doctors about clinical nutrition while cooking in a teaching kitchen with a chef. This program has an outreach arm at the Montessori School of Englewood- called Food is Power. Dr Maker-Clark is interested in discussing the role of Vitamin N (nature) as it relates to mental health and screen time for children. She regularly prescribes "forest bathing" and has seen excellent outcomes for teens in particular.

Fawn E. Pochel (First Nations Oji-Cree) is an advocate for social and environmental justice. Her body of work focuses on raising awareness of Native Peoples living in Chicago with the goal of contributing to the personal sovereignty, healing, and educational pursuits of Native Youth. As the Education Coordinator of the American Indian Center-, Fawn works closely with educators across the city to incorporate land-based pedagogies and perspectives into curricula while developing and implementing innovative community programing through an Indigenous lens focused on the preservation of native plants and heritage foods.

Franklin N. Cosey Gay, MPH. Franklin is the project director for the Chicago Center for Youth Violence Prevention (CCYVP), one of the five National Centers of Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention. Franklin’s current work with CCYVP is aimed at supporting Bright Star Community Outreach with the evaluation of the Communities That Care (CTC) a community-level prevention planning system in the Bronzeville community. Franklin’s work has primarily examined prevention efforts through a social ecological model, which seeks to identify risk and protective factors at the individual, relational, community, and societal levels. Franklin’s main asset is his ability to translate academic and scientific prevention strategies to families with the most need for prevention and intervention efforts. He has worked directly in many of Chicago’s most economically and structurally challenged communities. His work has included engaging schools for participation in violence prevention programs through establishing relationships with Chicago Public School administrators, including principals, teachers, school social workers, counselors and most importantly thousands of families over the past twenty years. The aim of Franklin’s discussion is to discuss how to determine if we are reaching our goals of promoting health using nature.

Jan Roehll, BS. DuPage County Program Director, The Conservation Foundation (TCF) TCF is trying to get physicians to recommend forest therapy or nature walks for their patients. Jan will lead discussions on efforts to organize the collaboration of hospitals, public health facilities, forest preserves, park districts and non-profits to promote and encourage residents to get out in nature for health benefits. Jan would like to reach other entities that may be interested in joining the coalition and possibly seek grants to fund the program.

Amos Clifford, BS, MA. Founder and C.E.O. The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs ( Amos founded The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs in 2012, with the mission of integrating Forest Therapy into health care systems. Certified Forest Therapy Guides use a specific framework and methods to maximize the health benefits of time in nature. Amos would like to reach out to other groups to discuss how to encourage health-care providers to incorporate Forest Therapy in their tool-kits. He is also interested in discussing research projects to investigate best-practices in Forest Therapy.

Colleen Fairbanks, Clinical Psychologist Dr. Fairbanks is a licensed clinical psychologist with a specialization in Health Psychology. She received her PhD from a nationally-recognized scientist-practitioner PhD program. She offers a mind-body approach to treatment and believes in the power of understanding how a person’s thoughts shape their physical and emotional health. Dr. Fairbanks’ work is collaborative and supportive with the goal of understanding strengths and finding solutions to assist others in living happier and healthier lives.

Elizabeth LaCombe, Recreational Therapist, Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center. Elizabeth received an undergrad degree in cello performance and went on to get a Masters in Music therapy from the University of Queensland Australia. She has worked in mental health for a decade, and currently wears many hats as the creative arts therapist at the Captain James A Lovell FHCC.  Elizabeth is passionate about creating programs for veterans to have opportunities to express themselves creatively, and connect with one another, the community and themselves through spending time in nature.

M.J. Hodgins, Director of Community Development, Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation. M. J. Hodgins, is a Board Member and Director of Community Development for Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation (LCVFSF). She is the former Project Coordinator for the Lake-McHenry Veterans and Family Services (VFS) five-year SAMHSA grant through the Lake County Health Department (LCHD). After solidifying the bi-county grant program and building the first ever community level coalition to serve the military-veteran-family population, now known as the Veteran Community Partner Network (VCPN), she retired to volunteer in the development of LCVFSF to insure that resources for service members, veterans and their families would continue and grow in Lake County after the grant ended. The VCPN is now the VA’s Community Veteran Engagement Board for the James A Lovell Federal Health Care Center’s catchment area. Her dedication to the success of LCVFSF comes from being a former Vietnam-era Navy wife and the daughter of a WWII Army veteran.