Today, the President’s Commission on White House Fellows announces the appointment of the 2019-2020 class of White House Fellows. The highly regarded White House Fellowship provides professionals from diverse backgrounds an opportunity to engage in public service for one year by serving in various roles in the Federal Government.
Created in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the White House Fellows Program was designed “to give the Fellows first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the Federal Government and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs.” The Fellowship was created as a non-partisan program and has maintained this tradition throughout both Republican and Democratic administrations. The mission of the White House Fellows Program is to encourage active citizenship and service to the Nation. Throughout the year, Fellows actively participate in an education program that expands their knowledge of leadership, policy-making, and contemporary issues. Community service plays a vital role in the program, and Fellows take part in service projects throughout the year.
The highly competitive selection process to become a White House Fellow is based on a record of professional accomplishment, evidence of leadership skills, the potential for further growth, and a commitment to service. Selected individuals spend a year working as a full-time, paid fellow to senior White House Staff, Cabinet Secretaries, and other top-ranking government officials. Applications for the 2020-2021 Fellowship year will be accepted from November 1, 2019 – January 8, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. ET. The application link and additional information is available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/participate/fellows.
2019-2020 Class of White House Fellows:
Rita Avila is from Charleston, South Carolina, and is placed at the Department of Veterans Affairs. After graduating from The Citadel with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, she joined the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office in 2003 and was assigned to the Patrol Division. She became a detective in 2007, specializing in crimes against children, vulnerable adults, and sexual assaults. She provided training to community agencies and law enforcement personnel in child abuse and sexual assault investigations. In 2011, Rita was promoted to sergeant. During the next two years, she supervised the Special Victims Unit and the Metro Narcotics Unit and served in the Office of Professional Standards. In 2014, she was promoted to lieutenant and assigned to the Patrol Division as the shift commander. The next year, she was transferred to the Community Affairs Office. Her duties include organizing community outreach programs to ensure a strong relationship between the Sheriff’s Office and the community. She is also tasked with leading the Recruiting and School Resource Officer divisions. Rita is the assistant public information officer, handling media contacts and requests for agency information. She is the team commander of Crisis Negotiation Team, a crisis intervention instructor, and a member of the Peer Support Team. Rita is a graduate of the Carolina Command College and is a Furman University Riley Institute Fellow.
Jermon Bafaty is from Margate, Florida, and is placed at the Department of Energy. Jermon is a senior technology services executive who most recently was the Federal Health Growth Leader for General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT). In this role, he led the strategy, development, and pipeline execution teams for the company’s billion-dollar health sector. Previously at Lockheed Martin, Jermon served in senior engineering and operational leadership roles for business lines that provided mission and technology support to the Defense and Intelligence Communities. He is passionate about creating safe and healthy learning environments for children and is the immediate past board president for the Boys and Girls Club of Alexandria, Virginia. Jermon received a Bachelor of Science in business from the University of Central Florida and a Master of Science in management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Mark Bicket is from Edmond, Oklahoma, and is placed at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Mark is a board-certified physician, investigator, and educator specializing in pain medicine and focusing on the opioid crisis. He previously directed the nationally recognized Pain Medicine Fellowship Program and Pain Medicine Quality and Safety at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he trained and mentored fellows, residents, and medical students while treating patients in East Baltimore. His research led to the growing appreciation that surgical prescribing contributes to the broader opioid crisis, work that shaped clinical practice and influenced policy makers. He recently led Johns Hopkins in creating a new system-wide pain management policy, impacting millions of patients receiving care there every year. Mark has served on committees for the National Academy of Medicine, the Delaware Division of Public Health, and numerous professional organizations. Mark received a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, summa cum laude, from the University of Oklahoma and an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Clinical Investigation from the Johns Hopkins University. He completed anesthesiology residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he served as Chief Resident and pain medicine fellowship training at the Massachusetts General Hospital.
Marshall Boyd is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is placed at the White House Office of Management and Budget. Marshall is a Commander in the United States Navy and a Navy SEAL. Throughout his 15 year career, he has led in various levels of combat and managed organizations that conducted counter insurgency, counter terrorism, and other Special Operations spanning 5 continents. Most recently, he served in a principal leadership role for a SEAL Team as an Executive Officer. In this capacity, he managed the training, operations, and deployment task organization of more than 100 SEALs and combat support technicians to sustain Department of Defense mission requirements for the National Security Strategy. He has conducted multiple overseas deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Eastern Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula, receiving an array of valorous awards and commendations. He received his Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the United States Naval Academy where he competed as a Division-1 athlete on the men’s swim team, serving as captain his senior year. He also earned a Master of Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, where he was a member of the men’s rugby team.
Elizabeth Daitz Lombardo is from East Rockaway, New York, and is placed at the Office of the Chief of Staff at The White House. Elizabeth is the New York City Police Department (NYPD)’s inaugural Executive Director, Civil Litigation. Elizabeth leads an NYPD command designed to ensure just results in civil litigation challenging police action, and improve the quality of police service to the community. During her tenure with the NYPD, new lawsuits challenging police action have declined by 50 percent, contributing to almost $100 million in taxpayer savings in the last fiscal year. Elizabeth began her legal career as a litigator at the Office of the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, where she handled multiple high profile Federal civil rights cases in the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. Elizabeth is a 2005 graduate of St. John’s University School of Law, and a 2002 graduate of the Honors College at Adelphi University.
Brandon Dues is from Owensboro, Kentucky, and is placed at the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Brandon is a Major in the United States Air Force and most recently served as the Senior Military Assistant to the Deputy Chairman of the Military Committee, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s highest military authority. While at NATO, he provided politically informed military advice in defense of the 1 billion citizens in the 29-nation Alliance. Primarily a Special Operations pilot on the U-28 aircraft, Brandon served with various units executing counterterrorism and counter-insurgency missions to support Presidential tasks. While supporting multiple combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa, Brandon flew 299 Special Operations combat missions and helped lead a $20 million flying program producing 15,000 combat flying hours in a year – the most at the Air Force’s most deployed Wing. He received a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the United States Air Force Academy, where he was the top graduate of all United States Air Force commissioning programs. Brandon earned his M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Public Policy Analysis from the Pardee RAND Graduate School.
Max Ferguson is from New Rochelle, New York, and is placed at the Department of State. As an Infantry Officer in the United States Army, Max has deployed numerous times to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Western Africa in both conventional and Special Operations units. He led Soldiers in Baghdad, Iraq, and deployed three times to Afghanistan, leading Soldiers in Kandahar Province and later as a commander in the 75th Ranger Regiment. As a Task Force commander in Northern Cameroon in 2017, Max worked closely with the United States Ambassador, host nation military and regional government leaders, as well as United States and foreign agencies in support of regional security and stabilization initiatives. Max most recently served as a Special Assistant to the 39th Chief of Staff of the United States Army. Max holds a Bachelor of Science from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a master’s degree from United States Naval War College.
Jeffrey Howard is from Harlan County, Kentucky, and is placed at the Office of the Vice President of the United States. Jeff, a proud native of Appalachia, was appointed as the Commissioner for Public Health and Chief Medical Officer of the Commonwealth of Kentucky by Governor Matt Bevin in 2017. To serve in this role, he took a sabbatical from his position as a senior surgical resident at the University of Louisville, where he focused on a broad spectrum of surgical ailments as well as healthcare policy issues. During his tenure as Commissioner, his primary focus was the opioid crisis, adverse childhood events, and leading a transformation project that will bring financial solvency to the system and emphasize locally determined health priorities. His recent awards include Louisville Business First’s 20 young leaders, de Beaumont Foundation’s 40 leaders under 40, and Kentucky Public Health Association award for meritorious service. He also has more than 10 peer-reviewed publications including a textbook chapter on the surgeon’s role in the opioid crisis. Jeff received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Union College, where he was an academic all-conference athlete, a Bonner Scholar, and AmeriCorps member. He earned his medical degree at the University of Louisville, where he graduated with distinction. He also holds a Master of Business Administration from Northern Kentucky University and a Master of Public Health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Heidi Overton is from Gallup, New Mexico, and is placed at The White House Office of American Innovation. Heidi is a general surgery resident at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a Ph.D. candidate in Clinical Investigation at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. She studies the appropriateness of medical care through the innovative Improving Wisely program, where she leads quality metric development. Her dissertation work on post-operative opioid prescribing has demonstrated national impact. Heidi is also a physician advocate for price and quality transparency in healthcare through Restoring Medicine. She holds national leadership positions as the Resident Liaison Representative to the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and the resident member of the Surgical Outcomes Club Board of Directors. During medical school, Heidi was appointed by Governor Susana Martinez to serve on the University of New Mexico (UNM) Board of Regents. This two-year term encompassed fiduciary and full-voting responsibilities for all business and clinical operations of the university and health system. Heidi graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Health, Medicine, and Human Values from UNM’s Combined BA/MD Program and received her medical degree from the UNM School of Medicine.
Alberto Ramos is from Las Vegas, Nevada, and is placed at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Lieutenant Alberto Ramos is a submarine warfare officer in the United States Navy Reserve. He completed multiple deployments aboard the fast attack boat USS CITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI (SSN-705) and qualified as a Department of Energy Nuclear Engineer. During this time, Alberto was responsible for the successful planning and execution of several missions vital to national security, complex multilateral naval exercises, and transits through some of the most challenging straits in the world. He most recently served as the flag aide and speechwriter to Vice Admiral Ted Carter, Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy. Alberto earned a Master of Public Policy from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor of Science with Distinction in Political Science from the United States Naval Academy. He was selected as a 2018 Next Generation National Security Fellow with the Center for a New American Security. He is also a lifetime member of the Naval Submarine League and was the youngest member appointed to its Advisory Council. Among various personal and unit decorations, Alberto was awarded the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal and continues to serve underprivileged communities today.
Dakota Roberson is from Shelley, Idaho, and is placed at the Department of Defense. Dakota is an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Idaho, where he is an Associate of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies. Dakota leads an interdisciplinary research team studying electrical grid stability and security and is an appointed Nuclear Engineering Affiliate Faculty. He has collaborated with numerous national laboratories, electric utilities, private stakeholders, and universities to mitigate 21st century energy system threats. Likewise, his engineering courses are structured to prepare students for careers in this area. Before joining the University of Idaho, he was with Sandia National Laboratories. To better serve his region, Dakota promotes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education through secondary school outreach and public speaking engagements to spark the curiosity of young scientists. As a Wyoming native, he volunteers at a tech start up and as an advisor to regional energy infrastructure programs. Dakota earned a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering with a Graduate Minor in Statistics at the University of Wyoming, where he won the Fisher Innovation Challenge for contributions to energy storage control. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Minor Mathematics, from the same institution.
Amit Sachdev is from New York, New York, and is placed at the Department of Health and Human Services. Amit is an interventional gastroenterologist and board certified internist who completed his training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He is focused on developing novel approaches to fight obesity, transforming healthcare delivery, and is passionate about healthcare innovation. Amit has led large-scale social media campaigns, and he has won numerous awards for his community outreach initiatives and research. His work has been published in peer-reviewed literature and presented both nationally and internationally. Amit has worked in large, diverse clinical settings, including Bellevue, Kings County, and Los Angeles County hospitals. In addition, his clinical experience at leading academic centers including the New York University, Columbia University-New York Presbyterian, Harvard University, and several veterans’ hospitals has informed his unique perspective of the health system. At the Rockefeller University, Amit had the privilege of studying cell signaling with Dr. Gunter Blobel, winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine. He is committed to serving the underserved and has volunteered in many international settings, including missions in Tanzania and India. Amit has also provided strategic direction to several healthcare start-ups. A Presidential Honors Scholar, Amit earned his bachelor’s degree with Honors in Economics as well as his medical degree from New York University.
Adam Scher is from Staten Island, New York, and is placed at the White House Office of Management and Budget. Adam is a Major in the United States Army and most recently served as the Aide-de-Camp to the commander of all North Atlantic Treaty Organization and United States Forces in Afghanistan. As an Infantry Officer, he led soldiers in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, serving in the 101st Airborne Division, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the 2d Stryker Cavalry Regiment while stationed in Germany. Adam previously served as an Assistant Professor and Debate Coach in the Department of Social Sciences at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he taught courses on American politics and participated in debates with the Bard Prison Initiative. He continues to volunteer with the New York City Fire Department, where he interned as a member of its Center for Counterterrorism and Disaster Preparedness and guest lectured at an annual seminar on crisis leadership and the dangers of terrorism in megacities. Adam is a Council on Foreign Relations Term Member and an Advisory Board Member to the American Democracy Month Council. He received a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a concentration in American Government from West Point in 2004, and a Master of Public Administration with a specialization in International Security Policy from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in 2013.
Ryan Tauriainen is from Grants Pass, Oregon, and is placed at the Department of Education. Most recently, Ryan directed charter school Early Childhood Strategy in Washington, D.C. In that role, he created and led programming that produced the highest performing early childhood classrooms in the district. Ryan’s efforts helped multiple local education agencies meet Federal requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Ryan began his career in Hawaii, with Teach For America, where his classroom outperformed all others in the State. After his two-year commitment, he moved to Washington, D.C., to pursue a career in school leadership. In 2012, Ryan became one of the youngest principals in the United States at the age of 26. His Title I school would push proficiency scores to over 90 percent in math and literacy, essentially closing the gap for his economically disadvantaged students. Ryan was twice named “Most Outstanding Principal” by the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools and was The Washington Post’s “Principal of the Year.” As a leader in education, Ryan has won national awards from Leading For Children, the Council for Exceptional Children, and the National Council of Teachers of English. He is the author of five children’s books. Ryan received a Bachelor of Arts from Middlebury College on a National Merit Scholarship and received a Master of Education from Chaminade University of Honolulu.
Donald Williams Jr. is from Cleveland, Ohio, and is placed at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Donald is a Major in the United States Air Force. As an Air Battle Manager, he has planned and deployed in combat missions in Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as multinational counterdrug operations in South America. During Donald’s most recent assignment in Japan, he directed a $22 million annual bilateral operations program for the largest combat wing in the Air Force, and commanded air defense missions in the senior United States Command and Control agency in Japan. Donald served as an Executive Officer, responsible for strategic-level coordination for 26 organizations, with $3 billion in military assets, serving over 26,000 joint military personnel and families in Okinawa, Japan. Donald has completed community-building events in over 10 countries and has led more than 4,000 volunteers in 10 years. He created an orphanage volunteer partnership in the Netherlands Antilles, taught math and English in a rural community in Ghana, led global disaster relief efforts, and directed an outreach organization in Japan. Donald earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, a Master of Science in Engineering and Technology Management from Oklahoma State University, and received his Ph.D. in Global Leadership at the Indiana Institute of Technology.