Advisory Board

Suzanne Afflalo, MD

Dr. Afflalo is a Family Physician who was born in Kingston, Jamaica WI, worked at Kaiser Permanente (SCPMG) for 23 years, retired in 2015 and is now the Medical Director for the Alliance Health Clinic serving the refugee community. Dr. Afflalo currently serves as the Vice Chair of San Diego’s Health Services Advisory Board, is a board member of The UCSD Chancellor’s Community Advisory Board, The Multicultural Health Foundation Board, The Scripps Hub Academic Research Core Advisory Board and the COVID-19 Equity Task Force just to name a few. In 2014, Dr. Afflalo created “A Healthier Me” (AHM), a healthy lifestyle program which provides education and support to African-Americans and other minorities with cardiovascular issues. Over the past 25 years, Dr. Afflalo has been a dedicated healthcare advocate, focusing on outreach and education in the Black community, spending most of her free time lecturing on breast cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and other health related issues. She has organized several health fairs and have done health screening at several barbershops, churches and community events.  She is passionate about working specifically with minority and underserved communities, educating, encouraging and empowering people to obtain the best health possible.


Dr. Robert Gillespie, born and raised in Gary Indiana, received his undergraduate degree from UCLA and his medical degree from the University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine. He is board-certified in internal medicine, cardiology, nuclear cardiology, echocardiography and cardiac computed tomography.  He is the director of the Nuclear Imaging Department at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group.  He has been with the group for 24 years.  Dr. Gillespie has lectured frequently to his colleagues both on a local and national level on a variety of topics including congestive heart failure and multiple topics related to cardiac imaging. He most recently has been lecturing on heart failure in multiple cities across the United States. He is a member of several professional societies including the American College of Cardiology, National Medical Association, American Society of Echocardiography, American Society of Nuclear Cardiology and he is Chairman of the Board for the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC).  He is past co-chair of the heart failure and acute coronary syndrome committees at Sharp Memorial Hospital, as well as a number of other hospital committees. Dr. Gillespie remains very active in clinical research.  His primary research interests have been related to imaging the heart with echocardiography, nuclear and CT.  He has published in a number of journals such as American Journal of Cardiology, and Heart. Dr. Gillespie remains active in his community.  He frequently provides educational programs for local organizations and churches on topics ranging from patient empowerment to hypertension.  His most recent emphasis has been to train members in the community on cardiovascular disease so that they can be empowered to share their knowledge with others to decrease the devastating risk factors that plague the African American community.  He was recently awarded a Community Pillar Award by Sharp Healthcare for a project that trained 45 members in the community to be health advocates. He was also recently honored by the American Heart Association receiving the Lifesavers distinction for his work in the San Diego community focusing on reducing cardiovascular diseases.

Marlene Ruiz RN, BSN, MA Ed

Retired from 50 years at Kaiser Permanente as Director of Education and Research, Marlene is still active with the San Diego Nursing and Allied Health Consortium. Their current issues are related to clinical experience for all the nursing and health care students in San Diego County. Marlene is also active with several community-based councils and boards including the Assn. CA Nurse Leaders, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, SD Co Community Action Board, and League of Women Voters. Marlene remains in contact with several students/graduates she has mentored over the years. Finally, Marlene supports several scholarship activities for students in nursing and advanced education programs.

Reverend Clarice Christian (RN)

Rev. Clarice Christian is Senior Pastor of Immanuel Chapel Christian Church. Born in Fort Smith Arkansas where she met and married her husband of 35 years, Pastor Christian holds a Master’s Degree in Divinity with a Major in Pastoral Ministry. She is currently working on her Doctorate in Theology and is the owner of CChrist Bookstore in Lemon Grove, California. Retired from Kaiser Permanent after 26 years where she worked as a Registered Nurse and Nursing Administrator, she is a member of the San Diego Black Nurses Association. 


Ana M. Navarro, Ph. D.

Doctor Navarro is a current professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).  For over 30 years, her work has focused on health equity through cutting-edge community-based participatory interventions that improve health status and access to health care in under-served communities.  Dr. Navarro’s commitment to ramp up health equity permeates her long-standing community service, and her community-centered research, education, mentoring, and training initiatives.

Pastor Robert L. Pope, MBA, MACM

Born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and raised in Washington D.C., Robert Pope was drafted into the Army in 1970 where he served for two years. He moved to San Diego in 1980 and united with the Encanto Southern Baptist Church where he has served in various capacities since 1981, first as Sunday school teacher, then Deacon, Deacon Chairman, Associate Minister, Assistant Pastor, Co-Pastor and now as Senior Pastor. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in both business and management; an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a MACM degree from Southern California Seminary.  He retired from the Federal Government in 2015 after 44 years of service. Additional accomplishments and acknowledgments during his career, to name a few, include Completion of the Naval Operations Corporate Management Development Program, Certified Time Study and Motion Engineer by the University of North Carolina, Certificate in Total Quality Management, from the University of San Diego, and San Diego State University, Certificate of Excellence Leadership Award from President William Jefferson Clinton, Team Excellence Award from San Diego State University, and the highest awarded Civilian award, the Department of the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award.