Board and Staff

UPHE Staff

Jonny Vasic – Executive Director

Jonny Vasic has over ten years experience working with non-profit organizations in various roles including International Director and Director of Media. He has lobbied in Sacramento and Washington D.C. with the Humane Society of the United States and was the International Director at Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, where he was part of the team that created the critically acclaimed hit show Whale Wars for Animal Planet. He is on the Board of Directors for Surfers for Cetaceans and he is the producer of the award winning documentary film Minds in the Water. Before Jonny’s non-profit work, he was an Executive in Charge of Production at a Los Angeles based TV production company. He was founder and president of Evergreen Oasis Entertainment, which specialized in communication with a conscience. Jonny grew up in Salt Lake City and has a keen interest living in an environment with clean air, water and soil. His life long passion for the outdoors, a healthy environment and his love of animals combined with his experience in multi-media, has led him to work with groups that are making a real difference in people’s lives. As Executive Director for Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment he is excited to continue that pursuit.  

Aaron Samudio – Partnership and Development Associate

Bio Pic OceanAaron Samudio was born and raised in Utah. He graduated summa cum laude from Utah Valley University with an integrated studies degree, emphases biology and social science and a minor in Chinese Studies. Aaron has been working in the outdoor and health fields for over a decade as an outdoor wilderness guide and most recently as an emergency room technician. These experiences have made him passionate about both the uniquely beautiful environment of Utah and the wonderful people who act as its steward. Advocating for a healthy environment in Utah, especially as it relates to human health, is the ideal union of Aaron’s interests and education. By helping build a community of concerned citizens and supporting thoughtful policies, he hopes to leave this beautiful state even better than how he found it.  



UPHE Board of Directors

Brian Moench, M.D., Board President

  Head shot 11:15Dr. Moench is a former faculty member of the University of Utah Honors Program, teaching public health and the environment. He was the former chairman, Dept. of Anesthesia, Holy Cross Hospital and has been in private practice anesthesia at Holy Cross Hospital, LDS Hospital, and Intermountain Medical Center since 1981.Over the last eight years he has given hundreds of community and academic lectures and power point presentations, written about 90 Op Eds for newspapers throughout the country, and has helped communities in Utah, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Alaska, Nevada and British Columbia organize opposition to polluting industries.  He has been an expert witness and written court briefs for pollution lawsuits, has met with top EPA officials, and was nominated by the Obama Administration at a Washington, DC conference as one of 50 finalists to receive the award “Champion of Change” for his work on global warming.[Education] [Certifications/Memberships] [Contact]

Park W. Willis IV, MD, FACP, Board Vice-President


Dr. Willis is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan Medical School, he was first appointed to the full-time faculty of the Department of Medicine, at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, in July 1980. A member of the Division of Cardiology, he served as Associate Division Chief (1995-2005) and Vice Chief for Academic Affairs (2005-2016) before retiring in April 2016.As Director of the Training Program in Cardiovascular Disease at UNC Hospitals for the past 33 years, Dr. Willis was primarily responsible for the post-graduate medical education of 160 academic and clinical cardiologists. Also actively involved in medical student education throughout his career, Dr. Willis received numerous teaching awards, including the Hyman L. Battle Distinguished Excellence in Teaching Award in the Basic Sciences, and was named a Teaching Scholar in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Pursuing his long-standing interests in congenital heart disease and diagnostic cardiac ultrasound, Dr. Willis initiated new clinical services, and expanded access to care, for adolescent and young adult North Carolinians with both post-operative and unoperated heritable cardiac conditions. He also authored 51 original manuscripts and book chapters principally related to the diagnosis and management of this particular patient population.

Throughout much of his academic career, Dr. Willis served as a volunteer physician with the South Orange Rescue Squad. Working both in the field and through institutional committee leadership roles, he was instrumental in developing advanced life support protocols and improved emergency medical services for the community of Chapel Hill and surrounding areas. Since moving to Salt Lake City in November 2015, and joining UPHE, Dr. Willis has become actively involved in environmental health advocacy and community education. He is particularly interested in the adverse cardiovascular effects of air pollution along the Wasatch Front.

Scott Pynes, Board Treasurer

Bio1Scott Pynes started his career at Arthur Anderson in 1981. In 1986 he founded a business application software company – Interactive Systems, Inc. which was later renamed to Assist Cornerstone Technologies. The company grew to employ nearly 200 people before it was sold in 2000 to a New York Stock Exchange company. In 2002 he purchased Cactus & Tropicals from its founder – Lorraine Miller. Since then he has expanded the business significantly by opening a second retail location and growing the commercial side of the business. Cactus & Tropicals currently employs over 100 people. He has served on the boards of the Vest Pocket Business Coalition where he was president in 2014 and Local First Utah.

Janice Evans, Board Member

JaniceJanice Evans has an extensive career as a media and communications executive and is an expert in all aspects of public relations. She has worked locally and on national and international news and media platforms. Janice served as producer for CBS News, managing technical and editorial crews primarily in the US, but also in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Subjects included: the Reagan White House, US Congress and international economic summits.  She also served in Utah as producer at KUTV and KSL-TV News. Janice claims she joined the UPHE Board in 2014 due to her admiration for her high school student body president, Dr. Brian Moench. However, she is also passionate about helping elevate environmental issues to front page news and cleaning up our air.


Robert Paine III, M.D., Board Member

Robert Paine PortraitDr. Paine is Professor of Internal Medicine and Chief of the Division of Respiratory, Critical Care and Occupational Pulmonary Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine.  He received his MD degree from Washington University and his residency training in Internal Medicine at Yale-New Haven Hospital.  He then completed fellowship training in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the Pulmonary Center at Boston University before joining the faculty at the University of Michigan Medical School.  He came to the University of Utah in 2007.  Dr. Paine is an active clinician, educator and researcher.  He has had major roles in medical education and has been involved in postgraduate medical education throughout his career.  His research laboratory has addressed questions concerning the role of alveolar epithelial cells in lung injury and the innate immune response in the lung.  He has carried out clinical research addressing key questions concerning defense of the lung in patients with the acute respiratory distress syndrome and mechanisms determining the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  He has had federal funding for his research for over 25 years.  He directs the University of Utah Multidisciplinary Training Grant in Pulmonary and Critical Care Research. The impact of air quality on human health has been an important focus of Dr. Paine’s activities since he arrived in Salt Lake City.  He was a member of the State Air Quality Board from 2009 until 2017, playing an active role in educating physicians and state leaders about the important impact of air quality on health.  He is vice chair of the board for UCAIR, a public-private partnership supporting voluntary efforts to improve air quality in Utah.  He is the founding Director of the University of Utah Program for Air Quality, Health and Society, a multidisciplinary research program that brings together investigators from across the University to understand and address the consequences of air pollution for human health and welfare.

Kirtly Parker Jones, M.D., Board Member

KPJ imageDr. Jones is Professor Emerita in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology where she has had an academic appointment for the past 33 years. Her undergraduate degree was in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology from the University of Colorado, where she also attended Medical School. Her residency in obstetrics and gynecology and her fellowship in reproductive endocrinology were completed at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Her clinical and research interests include contraception and family planning, advanced reproductive technology, and menopause. She has been a member of the National Medical Committee for Planned Parenthood and is past Chair of the Association of Reproductive Professionals. She has taught Ethics in Reproductive Medicine in the Honors Program at the University of Utah, as well as teaching reproductive medicine to medical students, residents and physicians. She was awarded the Linda K Amos Award for Distinguished Service to Women by the University of Utah, and the Jarcho Distinguished Teaching Award by the University of Utah School of Medicine. In 2013 she was awarded the Calvin and Jeneal Hatch Prize in Teaching by the University of Utah. She has been involved in the administration of her department, medical school, and university and has a certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution from the University of Utah. She is a past President of the Academic Senate at the University of Utah. Dr. Jones shares her life and interests in the environment and the health of the planet with her husband and partner of 40 years, Chris Jones MD, PhD.  

Richard Kanner, M.D., Board Member

  Richard_KannerDr. Kanner has been a UPHE board member since it was founded in 2007. He has represented UPHE by testifying before numerous Utah legislative committees. He also contributes to UPHE by writing letters to the editor and op-eds to the Salt Lake City Tribune and Deseret News.He is currently a Professor of Medicine at the University of Utah. As a Pulmonologist, Dr. Kanner has research interests in the area of chronic lung disease and health effects of air pollution. Dr. Kanner also served on the Utah Department of Air Quality Board from 1988 to 1997, the latter two years for which he served as Chair.[Education] [Certifications/Memberships] [Contact]

Daniel Mendoza, PhD, Board Member

  UPHE is pleased to welcome Daniel Mendoza, PhD to our Board of Directors. Dr. Mendoza is a postdoctoral fellow with the Division of Pulmonary in the School of Medicine and a research associate at the Program for Air Quality, Health, and Society at the University of Utah. He previously worked in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, also at the University of Utah. He received his PhD in May 2012 from Purdue University where he studied CO2 emissions from the urban sector. He pursued postdoctoral training in Environmental and Occupational Health in the College of Public Health at the University of South Florida before joining the University of Utah in June 2014. Daniel’s research interests include quantifying and characterizing urban greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emissions for use in human exposure estimation. Daniel also examines health effects of acute pollutant exposure, particularly in vulnerable populations.

Denni Cawley, MPA, Board Member

Denni Cawley, MPA is Director of Professional Education at Utah Valley University and the former Executive Director of UPHE from 2016 – 2018. Denni cultivated partnerships and managed programs over the last 15 years for U.S. and international organizations in the areas of environmental policy, good governance, human rights, health and education.  Inspired by the mission of UPHE, she is committed in doing her part in building a healthy future not only for her family but for the larger community in Utah, which is now her home. Prior to becoming UPHE’s Executive Director, Denni was Assistant Director for Strategic Initiatives at the Clinical and Translational Science Institute of the University of California, San Francisco.  She also worked for both the Center for International Environmental Law and the World Resources Institute in Washington, DC.  Overseas, she led the rapid expansion of an executive education program at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore that provided training to Asian leaders and decision-makers. She was also a member of the Board of the Irish Chamber of Commerce of Singapore.  Denni began her career deeply involved in community engagement and advocacy in the Philippines.

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