The Team

Lina Buffington, PhDExecutive Director 

Lina (she/her) is a “maker” with a love for clay and textile arts; this creative spirit informs her social entrepreneurship, which spans the non-profit and for-profit sectors. She believes that we must take a holistic and creative approach to our work if we hope to close the persistent equity gaps plaguing humanity. Lina is an experienced Program Officer, Executive Director, and Entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience developing and leading mission-centered organizations. While her diverse experience spans multiple sectors, they are all aligned within an unwavering passion for social justice and equity. In addition to her leadership experience, Lina has over 13 years of experience developing curriculum and teaching in institutions of higher education. Before coming to NSRH she co-founded the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative. Lina earned her BA in Philosophy from Spelman College and a PhD in Philosophy from Emory University. She is based in Berkeley, CA.

Cassandra BelsonDirector of Advocacy and Engagement 

Cassandra Belson (she/her) is the Engagement and Advocacy Director for NSRH, and has over 10 years of grassroots organizing experience in racial, gender, sexual, and economic justice. She first started organizing as a student at Arizona State University where she co-founded a transnational feminist Fair Trade initiative working with a Zapatista-identified cooperative in Juárez, Mexico. She then joined the statewide fight against Arizona’s SB1070, also known as the racial profiling law. Cassandra earned her MS in Community Development from the University of California, Davis for work documenting social justice activism in the Arizona Borderlands. Previously, she worked at Not In Our Town, a national organization that has worked for over 20 years to promote local organizing against hate and bullying via film, social media, and online tools. She is based in Phoenix, Arizona.

Annie ParrishOperations Manager 

Annie Parrish (she/her) is currently the Operations Manager at NSRH, responsible for a variety of program support, communications, technology, financial and HR tasks. Prior to joining NSRH in 2016, she worked at an organization that helps homeless people re/enter the workforce, two mental health nonprofits, and a public radio station. She also volunteered at the Minnesota AIDS Project for several years. Annie believes in the common good and that healthcare is a human right. She insists the 'healthcare umbrella' must cover sexual and reproductive healthcare, including abortion care, as well as humane mental healthcare services. She's known to quote her hero Paul Wellstone: "We all do better when we all do better." Annie earned a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics with a minor in English from the University of Minnesota. She is based in our home office in Saint Paul, MN.

Makina TableDirector of Professional Development 

Makina (she/her) is a public health advocate, educator and childbirth doula with more than 8 years of experience in sexual and reproductive health programming, policy and promotion. Originally from Memphis and raised in Atlanta, Makina is committed to centering reproductive justice, intersectionality, and ensuring health equity in all communities. Prior to joining NSRH, Makina managed non-patient stakeholder engagement strategies for the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) and delivered capacity building programs to HIV/AIDS treatment providers with the American Psychological Association. Most recently, she spent more than two years as an Organizational Development Specialist in rural Mozambique, working and serving alongside nurses and traditional midwives in maternal healthcare, malaria and HIV/AIDS prevention. Makina earned a bachelor’s degree in African-American Studies and Chemistry from Howard University and a Master’s degree in Public Health from George Washington University. She is based in Atlanta, GA and is an independent collaborating member of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance.

Ariela SchnyerResearch Assistant

Ariela (she/her) is currently a student in UCSF’s Nurse Midwifery and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner program, she is passionate about developing clinical providers and practices that are queer and trans affirming, social justice focused and evidence based. Prior to this program, she worked as a clinical research coordinator in sexual and reproductive health, helping to manage research projects around contraception, menstrual cups and abortion care. She believes in the power of research to inform care and also the importance of prioritizing self-identified community needs to reduce health disparities. Originally from Texas, she has lived in Massachusetts and Oregon and is familiar with the wide span of national experiences with sexual and reproductive health. She received her BA in Neuroscience and Behavior from Mount Holyoke College. She is currently based out of Oakland, California. 

 Sulianie MertusResearch Assistant

 Sulianie (she/her) is currently an Evaluation Analyst at the District of Columbia Public Schools. As an analyst, Sulianie is responsible for the planning, development, and coordination of the school-based HIV/STI prevention program’s evaluation and performance management plan. Sulianie has eight years of experience in applying social and behavioral science and public health practice to program development, research, and evaluation – with a more recent focus on school-based and adolescent sexual health. Sulianie earned a bachelor’s degree in Biobehavioral Health and a minor in Health Policy and Administration from The Pennsylvania State University. She also holds a master’s degree in Public Health from La Salle University and is a certified health education specialist. Dedicated to leading research and practice that address disparities limiting access to sexual health education and services in urban communities, Sulianie continues her educational pursuit as a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. 

Lily Acton, Digital Communications Intern

Lily Acton (she/her) is currently a senior studying public health at Davidson College and she is excited to join the NSRH team as the Communications Intern! Lily, who is originally from Massachusetts, is passionate about spreading accurate, evidence-based information about sexual and reproductive health to all people and believes effective and engaging health communications are vital to doing so. Throughout her college experience, Lily has served as a peer health educator and is in the final stages of evaluating her college’s sex education programs for their effects on contraceptive knowledge and behavior. She has also worked with a number of non-profit organizations to advocate on the local, state, and national levels for the elimination of barriers to abortion access. In the fall, Lily will begin her studies at Boston University where she will be pursuing a Master’s of Public Health with a focus in maternal and child health.