April 2023 Newsletter
Check out our newsletter and see what we’re up to! In case you missed it – here is our April Newsletter! . . .
Dr. Isakson is the Executive Director of Docs for Tots. She is a pediatrician and public health practitioner with decades of experience with Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) and the New York Zero-to-Three Network (NYZTT). Her passion and support for early childhood systems integration (health, education, family) stems from her exposure to the short- and long-term human outcomes of an under-funded and misaligned system for families with young children.
Dr. Isakson has multiple publications published across the systems of early care and education, health, and family economic security. She teaches advocacy to graduate level students at Mt. Sinai School of Public Health, and is a sought after speaker on issues of community and state systems to support healthy development in early childhood. As executive director of Docs for Tots since 2013, Dr. Isakson has been an active voice in the dissemination of critical knowledge in the field of early childhood at both the community and national academic levels.
She has participated in many local and state cross-systems efforts including:
Dr. Isakson trained in General Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of New York where she served as Chief Resident and received her MD from University of Connecticut Medical School.
Robin Halloran is the Director of Operations for Docs for Tots. She has a BA in International Relations from Brown University and a Master’s in Nonprofit Management from Johnson & Wales University. Robin has a professional background in international education organizations including SACI Florence, NYU, CIEE, and AIFS. She has also volunteered with local nonprofit organizations including the West Side Campaign Against Hunger and the LaGuardia High School Parents Association.
Margaret (Maggie) is the Part Time Program Manager of BRITE for Docs for Tots. Currently, Maggie is pursuing her Doctorate in Public Health from the University of Albany with a focus on Maternal and Child Health Policy, using her experiences at Docs for Tots to help guide her studies and using her schooling to bring a public health lens to the Docs for Tots team. She received her Bachelor of Science from SUNY Geneseo in 2014, where she studied Communicative Disorders and Sciences and her Master of Public Health from Hofstra University in 2018. She was immersed in the Nassau County community through an outreach internship with the Nurse-Family Partnership where she discovered her passion for maternal-child health. This passion further grew through her attendance at the national conference for the American Public Health Association in November 2017. She remains active with APHA as a member of the Community Health, Policy and Program Development, Public Health Nursing, and Young Public Health Professionals sections. After graduating from Hofstra, Maggie returned as an adjunct faculty member for five semesters teaching undergraduates about health promotion, health education, and disease prevention.
Kathryn Tarner is the Program Manager for Quality Improvement Initiatives at Docs for Tots. She received dual Bachelor’s degrees (B.A. and B.S.) from Boston University in 2009 with a focus on communication and language studies. She then went on to complete her Master of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Texas in Austin in 2011. Over the past 10+ years, Kathryn has worked across a variety of health care settings including in-home therapy, acute care and subacute care facilities, daycare and preschool programs as well as private practices. Throughout her years in direct clinical care, Kathryn’s passion for early childhood development and strong family involvement blossomed as she gained invaluable experience working for Philadelphia’s early intervention system from 2014 to 2022. By working with a wide variety of families, each with unique and differing support needs, Kathryn learned that the most lasting progress was achieved when all stakeholders such as parents, medical providers and educators remained involved and invested in a child’s development. She is thrilled to be a part of the Docs for Tots team, working together to help strengthen and expand our network to best serve Long Island’s families and their youngest children.
Family Resource Specialist
(Bilingual – Haitian-Creole)
Fabella Decema joined Docs for Tots in 2018 as a Bilingual Family Resource Specialist for Help Me Grow Long Island of which Docs for Tots is the organizing entity. She handles calls, inquiries, and referrals related to the health, development, behavior and learning of children on Long Island aged 0-5, and supports families by providing information and education on these topics, offering developmental screening/discussing results, researching and making referrals to services, and providing continued support, advocacy and follow-up as needed. Previously, as the Bilingual Family Support/ Assessment Specialist for Healthy Families Jamaica Program at Sheltering Arms NY she was responsible for supporting expectant families and new parents with the changes and needs that often come with the birth of a new child. She also promoted positive parent-child attachment/interaction to achieve the mission of preventing child abuse, neglect, and other adverse childhood outcomes. It was through this experience Fabella became well-versed in understanding the importance of using a strength-based approach to address the particular needs of families in the community.
Rose Marie Azanero joined Docs for Tots in 2019 as a Bilingual Family Resource Specialist for Help Me Grow Long Island. She handles calls, inquiries, and referrals related to the health, development, behavior, and learning of children on Long Island aged 0-5 and supports families by providing information and education on these topics, offering developmental screening/discussing results, researching and making referrals to services, and providing continued support, advocacy and follow-up as needed. Rose received her Bachelor of Science from Queens College in 2017, where she studied Psychology. In her previous position, Rose served the community as a Bilingual Care Manager at Hispanic Counseling Center for over 2 years. She was responsible for assisting developmentally disabled individuals and their families with accessing a variety of resources and services to meet their needs. As a Care Manager, Rose provided advocacy for children in need of speech, physical, occupational, and behavioral therapies at CSE meetings, linking families to local specialists to meet their dental, psychiatric, and psychological needs. Through this role, she was able to observe and understand the necessity of connecting families to local resources in order to enrich the development of children with or without disabilities. During her free time, she enjoys spending her evenings as a mentor for at-risk youth. She also highly enjoys tending to her houseplants.
Dalila Jarvis joined Docs for Tots as a full-time Infant Toddler Mental Health Consultant for Docs for Tots BRITE program. She received her Bachelor of Science from SUNY Farmingdale where she studied Science, Technology & Society. In 2020 she obtained her Master of Social Work from Fordham University. Since 2015 Dalila has worked in Early Childhood Education in multiple capacities. For the last 5 years, she has been a Family Service Coordinator for an Early Learn program located in Queens, NY. As Family Service Coordinator she was responsible for connecting families with child care services, providing support services to families, promoting family engagement, and bridging the gap between program stakeholders. Throughout her work, Dalila has been an advocate for early learn families with a strong focus on the importance of social-emotional wellness and parent engagement.
Melisa Vasquez is a full-time Infant Toddler Mental Health Consultant for Docs for Tots BRITE program. She joined Docs for Tots as a part-time Family Resource Specialist for Help Me Grow – Long Island and has transitioned to this new role after obtaining her Master’s in Social Work at Fordham University. Melisa received her bachelor’s from Molloy College in 2020 as a Social Worker. She had the opportunity to work with pre-teens/teenagers and their families as a social work intern at a middle school. During her time as an intern, she worked alongside the guidance counselors and school psychologists to provide counseling to children, also advocating for services such as sitting in IEP meetings, working with community providers to assist families in legal advice, and assisting in the school’s food pantry. She also interned at the New York City Office of Immigration Affairs. Melisa has a passion for helping individuals who do not have a voice. One of her future goals is to one day have a non-profit organization that will help out those in need.
Family Resource Specialist
(Bilingual – Spanish)
Katherine Fuentes joined Docs for Tots in 2022 as a Bilingual Family Resource Specialist for Help Me Grow Long Island. She handles calls, inquiries, and referrals related to the health, development, behavior and learning of children on Long Island aged 0-5, and supports families by providing information and education on these topics, offering developmental screening/discussing results, researching and making referrals to services, and providing continued support, advocacy and follow-up as needed. Katherine received her Associates in Arts from Nassau Community College in 2016, where she studied Liberal Arts. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s at SUNY Empire State College in Healthcare Management. In her previous position, Katherine served the community as a Bilingual Financial Navigator at Stony Brook Hospital Cancer Center for over 2 years. Through this role, Katherine was able to provide patient advocacy, observe and understand the necessity of connecting patients and their families to local resources to provide additional support. During her free time, she enjoys spending her evenings as a mentor for at-risk youth. She also highly enjoys exploring the outdoors.
Pelumi Soyemi has joined Docs for Tots staff as the Implementation Specialist. She received her Bachelor of Arts at SUNY Albany, where she studied psychology and public health. In May 2022 she obtained her Master of Public Health (MPH) from the University at Albany School of Public Health, where her concentration was Epidemiology. She has also received certificates in both Health disparities and Maternal child health. During her time at the School of Public Health, she had the opportunity to work with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to identify terminology that is supportive, inclusive, and better connects with families in need of home visiting services. Pelumi is passionate about health equity and social justice. In the future, she hopes to become a physician to lessen the incidence of chronic ailments and health inequities that plague marginalized and underserved communities.
Family Resource Specialist
(Bilingual – Spanish)
Cesar Bahamonde joined Docs for Tots in 2022 as a Bilingual Family Resource Specialist for Help Me Grow Long Island, of which Docs for Tots is the organizing entity. He handles calls, inquiries, and referrals related to the health, development, behavior, and learning of children on Long Island aged 0-5 and supports families by providing information and education on these topics, offering developmental screening/discussing results, researching and making referrals to services, and providing continued support, advocacy and follow-up as needed. Previously, as the Case Manager for Riseboro Community Partnership in Brooklyn, he was responsible for supporting families and individuals searching for housing or relocation costs. He also assisted low- to moderate-income families, senior citizens, and a host of special needs populations, including formerly homeless families, veterans, physically disabled, and victims of domestic violence, to obtain permanent housing. It was through this experience Cesar has been able to provide patient advocacy and resources, along with becoming well-versed in understanding the importance of using a strength-based approach to address the particular needs of families in the community.
(Bilingual – Spanish)
Christine Martinez’s passion for helping others led her to study special education at Dowling College. During her time there, she learned how to use decision-making & problem-solving based on educational issues, practices, & policies. Moreover, it allowed her to understand how politics, history, and economic factors impact student’s learning. She is a well-rounded person; who seeks to master her skills. She is a visual person who likes to create and organize. For this reason, Christine received her event planning certification from Flower School New York and does event planning. Christine’s well-rounded personality and skills have made her a perfect fit as our Office Assistant at Docs for Tots as she works alongside the Director of Operations.
Investing in quality early learning programs is the most efficient way to affect school and life success and to reduce social expenditures later.