Open Arms Healthcare Center Staff

My Brother’s  Keeper, Inc.
Executive Staff

Dr. June Gipson, PhD.
Dr. Gipson serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of My Brother’s Keeper, Inc. (MBK). Dr. Gipson also serves as MBK’s Director of Community-Based Programs where she provides unparalleled prevention and programmatic opportunities to underserved, underinsured and underrepresented population, especially African American who have sex with other men, heterosexual African American women and others who are disproportionately impacted by HIV and other health disparities. As the PI for six of MBK’s HIV prevention and training projects, Dr. Gipson is charged with ensuring that the needs of the target populations are met and documented – this includes the education and awareness of public health agencies and organizations on a state and national scale. Finally, Dr. Gipson has directed and will oversee the function of the Open Arms Healthcare Center.

Dr. DeMarc Hickson, PhD.

Chief Operating Officer
Dr. Hickson serves as the Chief Operating Officer and Director of the Center for Research, Evaluation and Environmental & Policy Change of My Brother’s Keeper, Inc. Dr. Hickson’s experience and interests includes socio-cultural, lifecourse and environmental epidemiology, cardiovascular disease and HIV/AIDS research,  health behavior/promotion, and environmental justice research. Dr. Hickson serves as the PI of a Minority HIV/AIDS Research Initiative (MARI) and a statewide Community Transformation Grant funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a childhood obesity environmental and systems policy change childhood obesity initiative funded by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, Healthy Kids Healthy Communities Initiative. Dr. Hickson will oversee the overall operations of the Open Arms Healthcare Center.

Tonya F. Adams, MBA.

Chief Financial Officer
Mrs. Adams serves as the Chief Financial Officer of My Brother’s Keeper, Inc and has nearly two decades of fiscal management experience where her career includes non-profit and corporate fiscal management. Mrs. Adams has monitored federal and state-level funds, including grants and cooperative agreements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Mississippi State Department of Health and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, among others. These fiscal management activities include, but are not limited to, the distribution of monetary funds, ensuring compliance with federal regulations, submitting financial reports and submitting other financial documents. Currently, Mrs. Adams is responsible for managing an organizational budget of nearly $3 million, overseeing payroll for nearly 40 employees, managing cash disbursements to approximately 20 Sub-Recipients, and submitting financial reports to fiscal funders.


Leandro Mena, MD.
Medical Director
Dr. Mena is a physician with specialty training in infectious diseases. Dr. Mena has more than 10 years of experience in clinical and epidemiological research in the area of sexually transmitted infections (including HIV), with special interest in the dynamics of transmission and the role that social determinants of health play in perpetuating these epidemics in gender and ethnic minority populations. Dr. Mena also serves as the Medical Director of the Mississippi Department of Health Crossroads Clinic (STD/HIV clinic in Jackson, Mississippi), the only publicly funded exclusive STD/HIV clinic in the state with estimated patient volume of over 15,000 tests per year, and supervises a research team with 10 members dedicated to clinical and epidemiologic research.

 Arti Barnes, MD.
Infectious Disease Specialist
Dr. Barnes is a physician with board certification in infectious diseases and internal medicine. Dr. Barnes completed her residency at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and a fellowship at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center where she focused on HIV and STDs among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. Dr. Barnes nearly 10 years of experience in epidemiological research that focuses on HIV/AIDS and anal cancer.

Monica Smith
Certified Nursing Assistant
Ms. Smith serves as a Certified Nursing Assistant of the Open Arms Healthcare Center. In addition, Ms. Smith as a HIV Prevention Counselor and Tester for My Brother’s Keeper, Inc. Ms. Smith has over 15 years of nursing experience and has numerous clinical experiences including phlebotomy, ascertaining vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, anthropometrics) and conducting HIV, STD, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cholesterol screenings. Ms. Smith also assists with community health fairs and educational seminars and HIV outreach activities.


Charlotte Norwood, BS.
Prevention Coordinator
Mrs. Norwood serves as the Prevention Coordinator of the Open Arms Healthcare Center. Some of her duties include conducting HIV, Syphilis, Hypertension, Diabetes, Cholesterol and pregnancy screenings, counseling, developing risk reduction plans for high-risk persons and community education and outreach programs. Mrs. Norwood is recognized throughout the Jackson area as the “AIDS Lady” because of her desire to achieve an AIDS-free Mississippi and to reduce new HIV infections among the most disparate and underserved populations in Mississippi. Over Mrs. Norwood’s 13 year quest to reduce HIV in Mississippi, people have come to know her for her big smiles and bigger hugs. People know that she laughs; cries and even fusses when they are not taking care of themselves or their business. Her mission is to work with the homeless, incarcerated women, abuse women and children, men and teens so that leaves no one out. There are three keys that she believes in when it comes to addressing HIV/AIDS/STDs, and other health disparities: God, knowledge, and empowerment.  

Ancillary Services

Shemeka Hamlin-Palmer, PhD.
Clinical Quality Assurance Manager
Dr. Palmer serves as the Clinical Quality Assurance Manager of the Open Arms Healthcare Center. Dr. Palmer also serves as the Project Coordinator of the Best Friends Forever (BFF) Project, a peer-led, social-skills training (SiHLE) intervention aimed at reducing HIV sexual risk behavior among sexually active African American girls ages 14 to 19 years. Dr. Palmer is also a strong influence in the lives of many adolescents and young adults as she is life mentor for many of the young girls that participate in the BFF project. Dr. Palmer believes that there is a strong need for increased health education, promotion and outreach among the numerous underserved, underinsured and underrepresented population in Mississippi and plans to work tirelessly to address and reduce the health disparities that we face here in Mississippi.

Mark Vortice
Intake Coordinator
Mr. Vortice serves as the Intake Coordinator of the Open Arms Healthcare Center as well as a HIV Prevention Counselor and Tester and Outreach Specialist. Mr. Vortice has over 18 years in providing clinical healthcare services where he has served as a counselor and case manager. In addition to serving as the Intake Coordinator, Mr. Vortice also assists clients with HOPWA (Housing for people living with AIDS) and medical assistance (ADAP) applications, participates in community health fairs and educational seminars and conducts other health prevention, counseling and education. His mission is to help those who are living with HIV and other health conditions and give them the love and support they need.


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