About the Center

In February 2009, Meharry Medical College received a grant to establish the Center for Health Policy. The Center exists to provide leadership in health policy education along with research and reform on national, state, and local levels, while continually supporting Meharry Medical College’s historic mission of improving the health and health care of minority and underserved communities.


The Center offers a Certificate in Health Policy and integrates seminars, research activities, networking events and professional development workshops aimed at training the nation’s best and brightest health policy leaders. The mission of the Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College is to increase the diversity of health policy leaders in the social, behavioral, and health sciences who will one day influence health policy at the national level.


The Center accomplishes its mission through four aims:

  • Recruiting and matriculating diverse health and social scientists into the field of Health Policy.
  • Developing a strong, collaborative environment that supports health policy education and scholarly development among faculty, fellows, scholars, and leadership that spans across Meharry Medical College and strategic partners.
  • Creating a national reputation and image for the Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College, as a leading source for health policy, analysis, and research.
  • Maintaining strong relationships with local and national community partners by collaborating on mutually beneficial projects that advance health equity.


Dexter Samuels

A. Dexter Samuels, Ph.D.
Executive Director

A. Dexter Samuels, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College and Senior Vice President for Student and Faculty Affairs at Meharry.


Dr. Samuels comes to Meharry after nine years at Tennessee State University where he served most recently as Vice President for Student Affairs and, prior to that, as the Assistant Dean in the College of Public Service and Urban Affairs. He began his academic career as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Administration and Health Sciences at Tennessee State University. Formerly, Dr. Samuels served as Director of the Title VI Program for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Additionally, Dr. Samuels served as the Program Director of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation in the Division of Mental Health Services.


Dr. Samuels’ academic background includes a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology from Michigan State University, a Master of Science Degree in Health Care Administration from Western Kentucky University, and a Doctorate of Philosophy Degree in Public Administration from Tennessee State University. He is a recipient of the 2007 Kettering Foundation Public Scholars Fellowship. Also, Dr. Samuels is a graduate of the Tennessee Government Executive Institute Class of 1997 as well as Leadership Middle Tennessee Class of 2003.


In his roles as Senior Vice President and Executive Director, Dr. Samuels will be responsible for leading and directing the offices of Admissions, Registrar, Student Life, Faculty Affairs and the Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. He will also serve as a member of Meharry’s Executive Management Team.

Our Staff

Mariah Cole

Mariah Williams, J.D.

Director, Program Management

The Center welcomed Mariah Cole in May 2014 as the Director of Program Management. She will manage the day-to-day activities of the Center for Health Policy in addition to teaching and evaluating health policy courses. She is a graduate of the University of Mississippi where she earned a BA in English. She also earned a JD degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law and is licensed to practice law in Tennessee. Her legal background allowed her the opportunity to complete an internship with the Mississippi Center for Justice, where she worked with a public health law attorney and advocated for the rights of underserved citizens to access free or reduced health care. Dr. Cole spent eight months working for a solo practitioner after completing law school and focused primarily on family law, probate and criminal defense. From there, she transitioned into higher education and worked as the Special Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Arnold head shot sq

Terrica Arnold, M.Ed.

Program Coordinator

Terrica Sampson provides overall staff support, manages the Center’s research, faculty, and community engagement initiatives, and assists with planning events. Ms. Sampson received her undergraduate degree in political science from Fisk University, a master’s degree in educational administration from Tennessee State University, and is currently pursuing an Ed.D. in higher education administration from Tennessee State University. She has dedicated over five years to higher education in the areas of student life, civic engagement and community-based minority health disparity research and programming. She holds membership in the Phi Beta Kappa Society, Middle Tennessee Urban League, and Women in Higher Education in Tennessee.

Virginia L. Debermudez SQ

Virginia L. Debermudez

Program Manager

Virginia L. Debermudez, IMG – M. Psy., joined the Center for Health Policy in July 2019 and is responsible for the Center’s communications and marketing. Dr. Debermudez received her undergraduate and master’s degree in Psychology from The Catholic University Andres Bello. She also earned her International Doctorate Degree in Medicine from The Central Venezuelan University and is black belt lean six sigma certified. She is a published author and the recipient of the “International Leader Award in Research and Health Sciences for the Benefit of Humankind 2018″ awarded by the International Society for Research, Health, Business Development and Technologies – SIISDET in Colombia, South America for her philanthropic work in bringing health awareness and empowerment to Spanish speaking communities worldwide. She is an avid researcher and an expert in the art of communications and marketing. Before accepting the position with the Center, she served 4 years as Internal Communications Manager at Nyrstar in Clarksville, TN and 10 years as Global Lean Communications Leader for Electrolux North America.

National Advisory Board

The National Advisory Board of the Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College consists of experts and leaders in health and health policy from across the nation providing the center’s executive director with advice, guidance, and counsel in the development and implementation of the strategic plan, assistance in identifying opportunities for furthering the center’s development, and promotion of the center’s affiliated fellows and scholars. The National Advisory Board members are:

James Blumstein

James Blumstein, M.A., L.L.B.

University Professor of Law
Vanderbilt Law School
Vanderbilt Health Policy Center
Vanderbilt University

Susan Busch

Susan Busch, Ph.D.

Associate Professor,
Public Health (Health Policy);
Faculty of Arts & Sciences
Chair, Health Policy & Management
Yale University

Rosalyn Carpenter

Ms. Rosalyn Carpenter

Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion
Catholic Health Initiatives
Englewood, Colorado

Lisa Dubay

Lisa Dubay, Ph.D., Sc.M.

Senior Fellow
Urban Institute

Werner, Rachel

Rachel M. Werner, M.D., Ph.D.

Executive Director, Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics
Robert D. Eilers Professor, Health Care Management, Wharton School
Professor, Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine

Darrell Gaskin

Darrell J. Gaskin, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Health Economics
Department of Health Policy & Management
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Ninez A. Ponce

Ninez A. Ponce, MPP, Ph.D.

Director, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research
Professor, Health Policy & Management
UCLA Fielding School of Public Health​
University of California Los Angeles

Thomas A. LaVeist

Thomas A. LaVeist, Ph.D.

William C. and Nancy F. Richardson Professor in Health Policy
Department of Health Policy & Management
Director, Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Rueben C. Warren

Rueben C. Warren, D.D.S., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., M.Div.

National Center for Bioethics in Research & Health Care
Tuskegee University

Steve G. Ullmann

Steven G. Ullmann, Ph.D.

Director, Center for Health Sector Management & Policy
Professor of Economics, School of Business Administration
Professor of Epidemiology, Public Health,
Family Medicine, & Community Health,
School of Medicine
Miami University

Board Emeritus

Bill Frist

William Frist, M.D.

Former U.S. Senator and Majority Leader
Nashville, Tennessee

Ad Hoc Members

A. Dexter Samuels, Ph.D.

Senior Vice President, Student Affairs
Executive Director, Center for Health Policy
Meharry Medical College