Episcopal Health Foundation selects two accomplished health equity leaders as VPs and makes other staff announcements 

EHF senior program officer Zahyrah Blakeney becomes VP for Community Engagement and Michael T. Walsh, Jr. joins EHF as VP for Grants.

Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF) is proud to announce the selection of two community health experts with proven records of success in improving health equity to fill critical leadership positions. Zahyrah Blakeney will now serve as Vice President for Community Engagement and Michael T. Walsh, Jr. joins the foundation as its next Vice President for Grants. 

“Zahyrah and Michael join EHF’s leadership team with much different career paths, but they have each been instrumental in developing community-based strategies and policies to reduce health disparities,” says Dr. Ann Barnes, EHF’s President and CEO. “As we move into the next chapter of our work, this marks a significant step in EHF’s ongoing commitment to develop strategic community partnerships and make bold investments to improve the health of all Texans.” 

Other key staff announcements:
Shao-Chee Sim becomes Executive Vice President for Health Policy, Research & Strategic Partnerships
C.J. Eisenbarth Hager - Assistant Vice President for Innovation & Integration
C.J. Eisenbarth Hager joins EHF's leadership team in her new role as Assistant Vice President for Innovation and Integration
Tanweer Kaleemullah becomes Director of Policy and Resarch
Jennifer Mineo, DrPH, LMSW
Jennifer Mineo becomes Director of Evaluation
Melodee Toles
Melodee Toles is promoted to Congregational Engagement Officer and Equity Co-Lead
Kirstie Valverde
Kirstie Valverde is promoted to Research Coodinator

About the New Vice Presidents 

Blakeney is an experienced community health leader with a 22-year track record of grantmaking, management, and strategic expertise across philanthropic, government, nonprofit, and faith-based sectors. 

She joined EHF’s grants division in 2020 and has served as a senior program officer overseeing a $14 million portfolio of more than 60 grants. Blakeney managed many of EHF’s investments in community-based organizations across Texas that work with underserved populations to advocate for health and adopt new ways of solving health-related problems.  

“Zahyrah has been a vocal leader in our view that to build healthy communities those who are most affected must be included and engaged in working toward positive change,” Barnes said. 

Before EHF, Blakeney spent 14 years at the Houston Health Department as a division and administrative manager overseeing health clinics, community involvement, and public health initiatives. She also worked as a community outreach director at the Community Doula Program and a youth program director for the Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston/Houston.  

Blakeney is a proud graduate of the University of Houston. She begins her new role leading EHF’s community and congregation engagement teams on January 2. 


Walsh joins EHF after spending the past six years as Executive Director of the Cancer Prevention & Control Platform at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Much of his work focused on developing community-led solutions for cancer prevention and health equity in under-resourced neighborhoods across Greater Houston.

Walsh co-founded and led MD Anderson’s Be Well Communities program – a placed-based approach tailored to meet the specific needs of communities with a focus on improving health outcomes and addressing risk factors for cancer by investing in programs that impact healthy eating, active living, and other community conditions.  

“Michael brings a wealth of diverse experience in going beyond clinical settings to combat cancer and other chronic conditions at their roots,” Barnes said. “His important work leveraging research and community partnerships will be invaluable as we work to develop grantmaking strategies that impact Texans who face the most barriers to good health.” 

Previously, he worked for 11 years in various leadership positions at Texas Children’s Hospital and was the founding director of Texas Children’s Global Health Initiative. Walsh also founded 25 Strategies, a consulting firm focused on impact strategy for foundations, health systems, and nonprofits. 

Walsh earned a Master’s degree in health administration from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame.