TCAD Speakers Bureau

The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability's Speakers Bureau is made up of TCAD staff with years—in some cases, decades—of experience in aging, health care, Medicare, and law. Our speakers put their experience to work for the agency daily, doing the jobs for which they were hired. Outside the office, they can also help educate you, your coworkers, your staff, or your community about aging issues, some of which are unique to our state and others with a broader audience. It's another way in which TCAD is working to make Tennessee a great home for people of all ages and all abilities.

Laura Brown

Laura currently serves as Counsel and State Legal Assistance Developer for the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability.  Prior to her current role at the Commission, she worked as the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman and advocated for Tennessee residents in long-term care settings. She holds a Juris Doctor from the University Of Tennessee College Of Law, a Master of Arts in civic leadership from Lipscomb University, and a Bachelor of Science in English education from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Laura has both professional and personal experience dealing with the needs and rights of elders and vulnerable adults. She is a trained mediator and seasoned educator and has extensive experience in healthcare-related litigation.

Laura's speaking topics include:

  • Elder Abuse: Physical and Financial
  • Financial Fraud and Scams
  • How to Advocate on Senior Issues
  • The Legal Assistance Program
  • Living Wills and Revoking Living Trusts
  • Preparing for the Cost of Funerals
  • Protecting Savings from Taxes (Giving to Your Children)

To request a presentation from Laura, call 615-253-4392 or email

Jackie Bruce

Jackie has over 25 years’ experience in substance abuse prevention and treatment and has spent the past 12 years working at the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability. She has a Master of Arts in sociology with a focus on communications. Her experience includes the development and delivery of a variety of training events including, “Catch the Spark: Finding Your Creative Spirit,” and  “Caring for the Family Caregiver."

Prior to coming to the Commission on Aging and Disability, Jackie had experience as a family caregiver and caregiver helper. She has worked as a planner and program monitor with the Commission and now reaches out to agencies, faith-based groups, senior centers, and community groups to provide information and resources available in Tennessee.

Jackie's speaking topics include:

  • Caring for the  Family Caregiver
  • Understanding and Managing Dementia Behaviors
  • Building Dementia Capable Agencies and Communities
  • Who We Are and What We Do: An Introduction to the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability
  • Respite training for Respite Volunteers
  • The Value of Person-Centered Service for Care Recipients and Caregivers

To request a presentation from Jackie, call 615-253-4421 or email

Anna Lea Cothron

Anna Lea has served as the Aging Commission Liaison for the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability since 2015. Prior to TCAD, she worked as Program Coordinator at the Meharry Consortium Geriatric Education Center (MCGEC), providing geriatric training for the healthcare workforce. Anna Lea is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Therapist (CTRS) with 7+ years working as an activity therapist in both assisted living and psychiatric hospital settings. She holds a bachelor's degree in therapeutic recreation with a minor in aging studies from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and is currently working toward a geriatric certification.

Anna Lea's speaking topics include:

  • Brain Health & Wellness
  • Promoting Livability Across TN
  • Volunteer Transportation Programs for Older Adults

To request a presentation from Anna Lea, call 615-770-3901 or email

Ryan J. Ellis

Ryan has served in various roles with TCAD for the past 15 years and is currently both the Communications Director and Legislative Director for the agency. In the latter role, he leads the agency’s legislative advocacy initiatives, works to advance the agency's legislative priorities, and helps develop its annual budget. Ryan also manages the agency's major communications initiatives, including press releases and educational and marketing campaigns.

Ryan holds a BS in public administration and organizational leadership as well as an MBA with an emphasis in healthcare administration.    

Ryan's speaking topics include:

  • Legislative Advocacy on Aging Issues
  • LGBT Aging Issues
  • How to Frame Your Communications
  • Aging Services Overview
  • Aging Legislative Update

To request a presentation from Ryan, call 615-253-4083 or email

James R. Holmes

James was selected to serve as State Public Guardian Coordinator for the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability in May 2017. Prior to his current selection, he served with the Metro Davidson County Juvenile Clerk’s office as Records Supervisor and Deputy Clerk for the Honorable Judge Sheila Calloway. He also served as Budget Coordinator for the Tennessee Human Rights Commission. 

James has completed the Fundamentals of Guardianship through the National Guardianship Association and is versed in its standards of practice and ethics. He is also a member of the Conservatorship Association of Tennessee. James is a graduate of Samford University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management. He is in pursuit of a Master of Business Administration in Technology Management. 

James's speaking topics include:

  • Public Guardianship
  • Public Conservatorship
  • Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability Public Guardian for the Elderly Program

To request a presentation from James Holmes, call 615-253-3967 or email

Shannon Jones

Shannon has worked in health care for 25 years, primarily with a focus on aging.  For the past 10 years, Shannon has been the Director of Tennessee's State Health Insurance Assistance Program (TN SHIP), housed within the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability. Shannon’s introduction to aging issues was through a church mission program called “Girls in Action,” for which each month the girls visited with residents of a local nursing home. It was this experience that led Shannon to work  in various capacities with older adults.

Prior to coming to work for the Commission, Shannon was the Health Educator at Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Care Center in Nashville. She left that position to become the administrator of a long-term care facility in Clarksville, Tennessee.

Shannon has a Bachelor of Science in public health with a concentration in community health, as well as a Master of Public Health with a concentration in health administration, both from the University of TN, Knoxville. She enjoys working with the TN SHIP coordinators in eight Areas on Aging and Disability and Family and Children’s Services to provide accurate and unbiased counseling and information for people with Medicare.

Shannon's speaking topics include:

  • The ABCs of Medicare
  • Employer Health Care Coverage and Medicare
  • Protecting Yourself Against Medicare Fraud and Abuse

To request a presentation from Shannon, call 615-741-7703 or email

Emily Long

Emily has served as the Research and Policy Analyst for the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability since 2016. Prior to TCAD, she worked in clinical and translational research at the Vanderbilt Center for Quality Aging. During that period as a research analyst, she also served as coauthor on seven publications focused on quality indicators in long-term care.

Emily began her career while still in college, working with older adults as a certified nursing assistant in a local long-term care facility. It was this experience that lead to a passion to improve the lives of older Tennesseans. After completing her undergraduate degrees in biology and psychology at the University of Tennessee, Emily went on to Emory University to study public health with a concentration in epidemiology.

Emily's speaking topics include:

  • Tennessee’s Aging Population : A Brief Overview of Demographics, Trends, and Implications for the Future
  • Demographic Profile of Tennessee’s Older Adults
  • What is “Ageism”? Why Does it Matter?
  • Talking with Your Doctor: Taking an Active Role in Your Health Care

To request a presentation from Emily, call 615-741-1428 or email

Laverdia McCullough

LaVerdia  is Emergency Management  Coordinator for TCAD and is responsible for voicing the needs of seniors at the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.  She also provides information and assistance to TCAD callers and coordinates and provides assistance and training to the 126 state-funded senior centers.

Laverdia has passed all required TEMA and FEMA courses and holds two national certifications from The Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS). Her degree is from the University of Tennessee at Martin.

Laverdia's speaking topics include:

  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Information and Assistance
  • Senior Centers

To request a presentation from Laverdia, call 615-253-4307 or email

Lacey Russell

Lacey is the Nutrition Director for the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, having  moved into that role in February 2017 following a few years as Program Development and Outreach Coordinator for TN SHIP. She has over 15 years of experience working with Medicare and private health insurance and has been counseling seniors and people with disabilities on their Medicare benefits and options since 2006, when Part D was first introduced. Her presentations frequently focus on educating clients about their preventive health benefits, the steps to take when considering retirement, and finding the right Medicare plan.

Lacey's speaking topics include:

  • The ABCs of Medicare
  • Brain Health
  • Employer Health Care Coverage and Medicare
  • Protecting Yourself Against Medicare Fraud and Abuse

To request a presentation from Lacey, call 615-253-4161 or email

Sidney Schuttrow

Sidney has worked with the Tennessee State Health Insurance Assistance Program (TN SHIP), both at the state and regional levels, for more than 6 years. She has a Master of Public Administration with a focus on public administration and nonprofit management, is a Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP), and has an additional certification from the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS). The latter certification is for Information and Referral (I&R) specialists who work directly with clients and caregivers with aging- and disability-related needs.

As Statewide Volunteer Program Coordinator, she focuses on Medicare information and benefits to help train over 400 volunteers across the state. These volunteers counsel clients and attend events in their local communities. Sidney's presentations help people understand how to navigate the complicated Medicare program and can be catered to specific topics as requested.

Sidney's speaking topics include:

  • The ABCs of Medicare 
  • Employer Health Care Coverage and Medicare 
  • Protecting Yourself Against Medicare Fraud and Abuse 

To request a presentation from Sidney, call 615-741-1585 or email

Ondria Stevenson

Ondria works as a program consultant for the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability. Prior to TCAD, she worked with the Tennessee Department of Health.

Ondria began her career working with older adults in the dietary department in a long-term care facility. She went on to graduate with a degree in Family and Consumer Sciences with an emphasis in dietetics. Following her undergraduate work, Ondria graduated with a master’s degree in community health and health services management.

After graduation, Ondria worked as a senior center director overseeing five congregate meal sites, home-delivered meals, and Information and Assistance (I&A) staff. Ondria’s next role with seniors was to work in a wellness office in a large assisted living facility.   

Ondria's speaking topics include:

  • Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability Programs and Services
  • Healthy Eating as You Age

To request a presentation from Ondria, call 615-253-4549 or email

Kathy Zamata

Kathy serves as the Deputy Director for the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability and was previously the Program Director for the agency. She started with the agency in 2004 as the Quality Assurance Supervisor. Her duties include oversight of the programs funded by the Administration on Aging under the Administration for Community Living. She also oversees the state-funded Home and Community Based Services and Public Guardianship for the Elderly programs.

During her time with the Commission, Kathy has helped secure funding for various discretionary grants dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, Care Transitions, Lifespan Respite, Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC), Veterans Directed Home and Community Based Services (VD-HCBS), and Chronic Disease Self-Management (CDSMP). She oversees the development and implementation of the State Plan on Aging.

Kathy holds a master's degree in gerontology from Fisk University. Prior to working at the Commission, she directed programs for homeless families, as well as alcohol and drug prevention and treatment programs.

Kathy's topics include:

  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Caregiver Support
  • Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability Programs and Services

To request a presentation from Kathy, call 615-253-4315 or email