2023 Women United Bruncheon
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United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

2023 Women United Bruncheon

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Women United hosted the 21st annual Women United Bruncheon on Wednesday, May 31, 2023 at The Phister Hotel. This powerful network of women strengthens our community through an investment of talent, compassion, and philanthropy. Hear about United Way’s latest initiative, Empowering Minds, with a focus on youth mental health.

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Keynote Speaker

Maria Elena Perez headshotMaria Elena Perez, PhD
Vice President of Behavioral Health, Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers

Maria Elena Perez, PhD is a licensed psychologist and Vice President of Behavioral Health at Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers in Milwaukee. 

Maria has practiced in mental health services in both inpatient and outpatient settings and helped launch the Behavioral Health Department at the Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers in the late 90s. Additionally, she has taught courses at Marquette University, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Waukesha County Technical College, and Lakeland University. She also performs psychological evaluations for the Disability Determination Bureau and has been on the Governor-appointed Milwaukee County Mental Health Board since its inception. She is currently the Chairwoman of the Mental Health Board. 

She is published in the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences and the Journal of Counseling Psychology and has an accomplished career in public speaking on a variety of topics in mental health. She has been featured on Telemundo's "Que Pasa Wisconsin," the magazine “Enteraté,” Facebook Live, TEMPO Talks, and WUWM "Lake Effect" public radio. She has been a member of the American Psychological Association for over two decades. 

Maria earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Northern Illinois University, her master’s degree in educational psychology from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and her doctorate in psychology from Marquette University.



2023 Linda T. Mellowes Woman Leader of the Year

Cristy Garcia-Thomas headshotCristy Garcia-Thomas
President, Advocate National Center for Health Equity
Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Advocate Health

A leader at Advocate Health since 2011, she has more than 25 years of industry experience including leadership roles as the president and CEO of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF). Before joining UPAF, she was publisher and vice president of the Specialty Media Division of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and worked for The Wichita Eagle in Kansas.

Cristy is a member of the National Forum for Latino Healthcare Executives and TEMPO Milwaukee. She currently serves on the board of directors for Delta Dental, WEC Energy Group, Chicago United, Greater Milwaukee Committee, the United Community Center, the Hispanic Collaborative, and United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. She served as co-chair for the 2018 United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County campaign, has served on the boards of Aurora Health Care and Girl Scouts, and is a past board chair of TEMPO Milwaukee.

She has received numerous awards and recognition, including Chicago United’s 2021 Business Leaders of Color, Milwaukee BizTimes’ Notable Minority Executive award, TEMPO Milwaukee’s Mentor award, the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Women of Influence and 40 under 40 awards, and the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee’s Hispanic Professional of the Year award.

Cristy holds a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University and has completed executive-level programs at Northwestern University and Harvard Business School.



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