Our Vision

Counter Tools knows that place has a profound impact on the health of individuals. The spaces where we live, work, learn, and play — our homes, schools, neighborhoods, and nearby stores — determine our access to healthful living.

We envision a nation where healthy living is equitable across communities and every person has access to healthful choices. In undertaking this important work, we convene thought leaders and experts, guide policy change, synthesize evidence, and tell impactful stories.

Vision photo
Holding hands in a circle

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Equity, diversity, and inclusion are important to Counter Tools and are core values in the work we do. We empower and equip communities with the resources, knowledge, and understanding necessary to combat racism, health disparities, and inequality. Change starts from within, and we are holding ourselves accountable to improve as an organization by applying an equity, diversity, and inclusion lens to both our internal operations and externally with our partners and clients.

Read our full stance on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

Our Story

Counter Tools began with University of North Carolina-based doctors Allison Myers and Kurt Ribisl. Concerned with big tobacco’s focus on keeping tobacco products cheap and visible in retail environments, Myers and Ribisl envisioned a website that would be a free, one-stop-shop for all things related to point-of-sale tobacco control. In 2011, they created CounterTobacco.org, a CDC-funded resource focused on tobacco point-of-sale history, impact, and policy solutions.

While some localities were able to fully utilize the resources provided on CounterTobacco.org, other communities needed more assistance. Counter Tools was born when Myers, Ribisl, and their team created two software tools, the Store Audit Center and the Store Mapper, enabling states and localities to collect, manage, visualize, and analyze tobacco retailer data that could show decision makers the need for change.

In June 2012, Counter Tools became a 501(c)(3), and what began as a North Carolina-based pilot expanded to include a broader geographical reach and more robust service offerings. While we maintain both CounterTobacco.org and our expertise in tobacco at the point of sale, we also focus on the impact the retail environment has on the health of the community as a whole, from assessing availability of healthy foods to enabling enforcement and compliance efforts. Our team has grown to include public health experts, policy makers, and data visionaries, all with the common vision of advancing place-based public health, starting with the retail environment.

Our Team

With backgrounds that include health behavior, economic development, health policy, education, technology processes, marketing, and software operation, the Counter Tools team has a wealth of experience that informs what we do and how we do it.

We’re a dedicated team of public health nerds, policy wonks, data enthusiasts, visionaries, and storytellers on a mission to leverage our expertise for productivity and positive social change.

To learn more about working at Counter Tools, please visit our Careers page.


Maria Julian, MPA

Executive Director

Maria Julian began her public health career at the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County, Ohio in 2006. From startups to local governments in the U.S. and abroad, Maria has led teams through the implementation of behavior change strategies to improve health outcomes. Maria earned her Master of Public Administration from Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. She enjoys sending snail mail and being outside with her partner, son and dog.


Justin Bailey, MPH

Director of Product & Technology

Justin Bailey studied sociology at Brown University, then worked in HIV/AIDS prevention research in San Francisco. He became interested in tobacco control policy while obtaining his Master of Public Health at the University of North Carolina for his Master of Public Health and became a member of the Counter Tools founding team. Justin enjoys being the tech guru in a public health setting. At home, he enjoys being silly with his son, dabbling in music and photography, and making the occasional casserole-with-Velveeta recipe in homage to his roots in southern Ohio.


Jackie Boards

Project Director and Help Desk Manager

Jackie Boards earned a Bachelor of Arts in Global Health with a focus in Psychology from Mercer University. Her work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as in university and court settings, has taught her the importance of community health and inspired her passion for improving health and wellness within the communities where she lives and works. A Georgia peach, born and raised, Jackie loves binge-watching TV shows and movies, volunteering, being active, and eating healthful, delicious food.


Elizabeth Gerndt, MPH

Project Director

Elizabeth completed her undergraduate degree at Clemson University and earned her Master of Public Health at Emory University. Before coming to Counter Tools, she managed food and built environment initiatives for a SNAP-Education program. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys cooking new recipes, spending time outdoors, and cheering on the Clemson Tigers!


Mollie Mayfield, MPH

Senior Project Director and Managing Editor, CounterTobacco.org

Mollie Mayfield received her Master of Public Health in Health Behavior from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her BA in Psychology with a concentration in Community and Global Health from Macalester College. Her work with Counter Tools aligns with her interest in fostering healthy lifestyles through health-supportive environments, creating equitable communities, and making change through policy. When she’s not working, Mollie enjoys trail running, reading, cooking, eating, and spending time outside.

Varun Patel

Varun Patel, MPH

Data Analyst

Varun earned a Master of Public Health from the University of Pittsburgh, specializing in Environmental and Occupational Health with a Risk Assessment Certification. As a research fellow at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Varun developed tools to collect data using various local and federal resources to describe health disparities, environmental justice and geographic information for study populations. Varun is proficient with advanced programming and statistical modeling to analyze and interpret large datasets, and uses geo-spatial data to create maps using ArcGIS and QGIS software. When Varun is not working, he likes to go on long runs, biking, cooking, and visiting museums.


Sharon Prochazka, MS

Senior Data Product Manager

Sharon Prochazka earned a Master of Science in Environmental Toxicology with a minor in Geographical Information Systems from North Carolina State University. Her interest in data integrity, visualization, standardization, and documentation is the cumulative result of working with some of the brightest Intel and GE engineers for four years. Her skilled background in both technology and science allows her to fill a unique niche at Counter Tools. When Sharon’s not at work, you might find her cooking, cycling with her family, or headed to the Ocracoke Island, her favorite North Carolina beach.


Peter Rubenacker

Director of Special Initiatives

Peter Rubenacker earned his Bachelor of Science in Accounting from SUNY Albany, where he met his partner Ingrid, also a New York native. Peter and Ingrid raised their family in San Diego where they were sponsors of donor-advised programs at Rady Children’s Hospital. Peter spent three decades in wireless technology industries and has held executive positions in finance, IT, and operations. After relocating to Chapel Hill, Peter pursued a passion for teaching at local universities, and discovered Counter Tools while coaching its founders in an emerging entrepreneurs program at the University of North Carolina. He is an automotive fanatic and has caught the travel bug.


Kate Speed

Senior Operations and Marketing Manager

Kate Speed is a New York native who earned her art degree at the University at Buffalo and followed with years of experience in e-commerce marketing. Kate has always been intrigued by the intersection of storytelling and technology and loves working on projects that use both creative and technical skills. She also has a knack for seeking out opportunities to streamline processes. Outside of work, Kate practices yoga under the supervision of her cats.


Beth Turner

Business Manager

Beth Turner holds a BA in French from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and first entered the nonprofit sector when she was hired as the volunteer coordinator for the HIV/AIDS Council of Chatham County. A founding member of the Triangle-based nonprofit Girls Rock NC, Beth held several leadership roles throughout her tenure with the organization from 2004-2014. Beth is currently pursuing a professional MBA through North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management, serves on the Town of Pittsboro’s ABC board, and was elected to serve as a commissioner on the Pittsboro Town Board from 2011-2015. She is a cat whisperer and bass player.

Board of Directors

Megan Jacobs

Megan Jacobs, MPH

Board Chair

Megan Jacobs is the managing director of product for the Innovations center at Truth Initiative. Over the past 8 years at Truth Initiative, she has worked in product development, evaluation, and dissemination of digital programs to help tobacco users quit. Most recently, Megan designed the quit-vaping program This is Quitting (TIQ) for teens and young adults. Megan has a long history of architecting products to inspire healthy behavior change. Megan earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree in public health communication and marketing from George Washington University and certificates in product management and design thinking. She teaches mHealth product development at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, where she holds leadership roles on several alumni groups.

Dwana “Dee” Calhoun, MS

Dwana “Dee” Calhoun is the National Network Director of SelfMade Health Network, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention organization seeking to eliminate cancer and tobacco-related disparities among the nation’s most vulnerable populations. Calhoun has fifteen years of senior management experience in healthcare quality improvement, chronic disease management, and public health and has worked closely with the American Diabetes Association and several other advocacy organizations. She has presented at several national and state meetings, including the National Conference on Tobacco or Health and the American Association for Cancer Research. Calhoun holds a BS in Pre-Medicine, Biology/Chemistry from the University of Louisiana (Lafayette) and an MS in Community Health from Old Dominion University.

Karen Girard, MPA

Board Vice Chair

Karen Girard is the manager Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention at the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division. She has been at the Health Division since 1995, working to change policy, systems, and environments to improve public health through tobacco and alcohol control, physical activity and nutrition, and early detection and self-management. Girard received her Masters in Public Administration from Portland State University and a degree in International Studies from Willamette University in International Studies.

Wael Kanj

Wael Kanj is a data specialist with experience using innovative analytics to drive social change. After honing his skills in the financial services industry, he wanted to take his talents to organizations committed to improving people’s lives. Throughout his career, Wael has helped raise millions of dollars online for institutions like the Special Olympics, Prostate Cancer Foundation, Howard University, and Habitat for Humanity. He is currently the Associate Director of Data Analytics & Insights at the Rutgers University Foundation. He is an active member of his local Sierra Club, and has advocated for environmental causes in his home state of New Jersey. He believes that local food is good food, and likes to spend his spare time growing vegetables and making pizza.

Sarah O'Leary

Sarah O’Leary, MPH

Board Secretary

Sarah O’Leary worked for over thirteen years (2005-2018) at the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including almost six years in management in the Office on Smoking and Health (OSH), Program Services Branch. She retired from CDC December 2018 and has been pursuing opportunities in her community to improve health and work with the homeless. O’Leary worked with the Atlanta Smokefree Coalition in 2019 to support passage of the recent smoke free law that includes all restaurants and bars in Atlanta and the Hartsfield Jackson Airport. She has prior board experience with the not for profit, Rape Victim Advocates, serving as committee chairs and board president over a six year period. O’Leary has a Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina and a Masters from the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration.

Manalika Ringshia

Manalika Ringshia

Board Treasurer

Manalika Ringshia has a breadth of experience in finance as an Operations Analyst (and briefly alongside a Compliance Analyst role as well) at Barclays Capital, Owl Creek Asset Management, and currently MSD Partners, L.P. She has also served on the board of Rutgers Alumni Association of New York City and was the Rutgers Liaison to the Big Apple Big Ten Alumni Association. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling, cooking, reading, trying new fitness classes, and binging lots and lots of Bravo television. Manalika completed her undergraduate degree at Rutgers Business School, with a BS in Finance and a minor in Political Science.

Sameer Sood

Sameer Sood, DO

Sameer Sood has worked tirelessly to rethink modern healthcare across education, technology, delivery, and power. He has worked with numerous innovative health tech, device, and community startups of all stages. He also was a fellow at Harvard Medical School’s Incite Health program, where he co-founded and was Chief Innovation Officer at Sherbit, a company designed to inform and engage patients and providers in understanding how personal lifestyle, behaviors, and socioeconomic status impact health, until their acquisition in 2018. Since completing his Family Medicine residency at Duke University, Sameer has worked clinically with marginalized populations across the country in tribal and special needs clinics, while building systems to address community wealth, power and upstream social drivers of poor health.

Ben Spoer, PhD

Benjamin Spoer has a deep understanding of data science, analysis, epidemiology, and GIS. He currently manages the data team at the City Health Dashboard, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded data access website. He is also an experienced professor and freelance public health journalist, with writing having appeared in OZY, Buzzfeed, and Al Jazeera America, among others. Dr. Spoer received his Masters in Public Health from Columbia University and a PhD in Public Health from NYU, where he focused on neighborhood health using geospatial and spatiotemporal geographic methods, and examined spatially explicit approaches to health disparities.

Friends of Counter Tools

Monica H. Eischen

Monica H. Eischen retired from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office on Smoking and Health (OSH) in June 2015 after more than twenty-six years of service. As a program consultant, Eischen worked with state and local health departments and tobacco control partner organizations to advance evidence-based tobacco control policies. She provided guidance to tobacco control programs across the nation and worked closely with tobacco control partner organizations, including CounterTobacco.org, to advance the tobacco control policy agenda. Eischen’s pre-CDC experience includes thirteen years in health education with the Iowa Department of Public Health. Eischen also serves on the Washington University School of Public Health Advisory Committee for the Program Sustainability Assessment Tool Project. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Mankato with a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Education.

Joshua Prasad, MPH

Joshua Prasad has worked at the nexus of health, behavior change and design for over a decade and has worked in organizations spanning government, consulting, direct care operations, and digital health. Most relevantly, he was previously the Director of HHS’ national Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative, created the West Virginia Management of Maternal Smoking (MOMS) program, and served as the Board Chair of Counter Tools.

Kurt Ribisl, PhD

Kurt M. Ribisl, co-founder of CounterTobacco.org and Counter Tools, is professor and chair in the Department of Health Behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Program Leader for Cancer Prevention and Control at UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Ribisl’s primary research interest is evaluating and improving the reach of population-level efforts to reduce tobacco use, with an emphasis on policy and information technology. Dr. Ribisl is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for the journal Tobacco Control and is the author of over 185 scientific articles. His research has appeared in journals such as the American Journal of Public Health and Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). He received his doctorate in community psychology from Michigan State University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in cardiovascular disease prevention and epidemiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine Prevention Research Center.

Jeff Willett, PhD

Jeff Willett is Senior Vice President of Health Strategies for the American Heart Association’s Midwest Affiliate. Jeff’s extensive background in directing and evaluating comprehensive tobacco prevention and control programs includes his work with the New York State Department of Health as director of one of the nation’s largest state tobacco control programs. Prior to joining the AHA, Jeff served as a Vice President with Truth Initiative, a Washington-DC based foundation focused on preventing and reducing tobacco use. While at Truth Initiative, Jeff directed a research team with a strong focus on e-cigarettes, including some of the early research regarding youth and adult use of JUUL.

Leslie Zellers, JD

Leslie Zellers is a Public Health Legal & Policy Consultant. As an attorney with more than twenty years of experience in public health law and public policy for government and nonprofit organizations, Leslie works to advance health and wellbeing through ongoing legal and policy advocacy on issues such as tobacco control, cannabis regulation, road safety, and childhood obesity prevention. Current and former clients include the Network for Public Health Law, the Public Health Institute, the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, the World Health Organization, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and the California counties of Alameda, Santa Clara, and Ventura. Previously, Leslie was the Director of Programs at ChangeLab Solutions, a nonprofit organization that seeks healthier communities for all through better laws and policies. Leslie She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, and a graduate of the UC Hastings College of the Law.

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