Our Staff

Leadership Team

Whitney Gustin Connor
Executive Director

Ms. Gustin Connor joined Kids First in April 2019. Previously, Ms. Gustin Connor served as a Senior Program Officer in Health at the Rose Community Foundation. In this role, Ms. Gustin Connor directed grant-making efforts for nonprofit organizations working to improve Colorado’s health care system. Prior to serving at the Rose Community Foundation, Ms. Gustin Connor worked as a consultant with Cape Cod Healthcare’s school-based health center program in Massachusetts. In addition, she has experience as a nonpartisan policy analyst with the Colorado General Assembly and a planning/grants specialist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. She has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado.

Dena Ross, MD
Interim Medical Director

Dr. Ross joined Kids First as the Interim Medical Director in June 2020. Dr. Ross graduated from the University of Rochester with an undergraduate degree in psychology and her teaching certification. After two years of teaching high school chemistry, she decided to return to the University of Rochester for medical school. She completed her residency at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA and spent several years working in a variety of settings as a general pediatrician – inpatient, outpatient, and even making house calls. She served as the Medical Director for Pediatric Medical Homes at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland, OR. She recently earned a Healthcare MBA through a joint program at Oregon Health & Science University and Portland State University. A board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Ross brings a variety of pediatric health care experiences and an innovative approach to Kids First.  She lives with her husband, three teenage children, three cats, and giant continental rabbit named Spike.

Jonathan Lurie
Director of Administration and Finance

Mr. Lurie joined Kids First Health Care in February 2020. Mr. Lurie leads all internal, nonclinical operations at Kids First and manages the agency’s finances. Prior to joining Kids First, Mr. Lurie served as the Director of Finance and Planning at Mile High Youth Corps, where he developed effective systems for managing financial and administrative processes. Mr. Lurie has many years of experience in financial analytics and operations management, including 10 years at the University of Colorado.


Maria Zubia
Director of Community Outreach

Ms. Zubia has been an integral member of Kids First Health Care team since 2001. She is responsible for providing community engagement and outreach activities. She also provides community resource and referral information to families and staff as needed in addition to a myriad of other projects that help Kids First Health Care reach out to potential patients and partners. Ms. Zubia is passionate about community health. She has over 30 years of experience in community navigation and management.  She has a certificate as a Community Health Worker from the Community College of Denver and has had coursework at CSU in Education.

Cammy Manning
Director of School Nursing Services
Adams County School District 14

Ms. Manning has worked for Kids First Health Care in Commerce City since 2001. She is a Licensed Registered Nurse and currently serves as the Director of School Nursing Services for Adams 14 School District. She oversees the nursing team which serves all students in Adams 14 schools, including preschool and transition programs. Ms. Manning also serves as a Child Care Health Consultant for Little Giants Learning Center and the Commerce City Recreation Center.  She truly enjoys working with the children, students and families in Commerce City.

Mary Rae Pacheco, RN, BSN, MHS, NCSN
Director of School Nursing Services
Westminster Public Schools

Ms. Pacheco is a Colorado native and graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Regis University and a master’s degree in health sciences from Nova SE University.  She just celebrated her 20th anniversary with Kid’s First Health Care.  Ms. Pacheco has worked as a school nurse consultant for Kids First contracting to Adams County School District 14 (1998-2005) and Westminster Public Schools (2005-present).  She has been the Director of School Nursing Services since 2003.  Ms. Pacheco became a National Certified School Nurse in 2011.


Kayla Ortiz
Manager of Quality, Compliance, and Revenue

Ms. Ortiz joined Kids First Health Care in January 2019. Ms. Ortiz’s work is focused on analyzing data and processes to maximize revenue and increase financial stability. She also monitors and ensures compliance with national and state regulations and commercial contracts. She has more than 10 years of experience in the health care industry, with a varied background in hospitals, facilities, primary care, specialties, non-profits, health care insurance, waiver services, and case management.

Vickie Ta-Hernandez
Administrative Assistant

Ms. Ta-Hernandez joined Kids First Health Care in July 2016. She has over 25 years of experience as an Administrative Assistant with the State of Colorado and other non-profit organizations. She graduated from Mansfield Business School in 1989.  In addition to her regular administrative duties, she is also currently responsible for HR and payroll.  When she is not working, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren.

 

Merrill Schmidt
Development and Communications Coordinator

Ms. Schmidt joined the Kids First Health Care team in April 2017. In her current role, Ms. Schmidt is responsible for coordinating fundraising efforts, writing grants, developing communications materials, and managing the agency’s web presence and social media. Previously, as the Community Outreach Project Manager, she helped coordinate the planning process and community engagement efforts for Kids First’s newest sites in Thornton High School and Brighton High School. In May 2017, Ms. Schmidt earned a Master of Public Service degree from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service in her hometown, Little Rock, AR.