Created as a tobacco control policy organization in 2000, the Public Health Law Center is now helping public health advocates prevent chronic disease and advance health equity with its extensive work in both tobacco control policy, and healthy eating and active living policy. New program directors Julie Ralston Aoki and Joelle Lester have recently hired a number of attorneys and policy analysts for both policy teams, which marks a new chapter in the organization’s development and capacity. 

“These changes are a major milestone in the growth of the Public Health Law Center,” said Doug Blanke, Executive Director. “Julie and Joelle are dynamic leaders committed to taking us in exciting new directions, deepening our commitment to health equity, and ensuring that, in all our work, health and justice go hand in hand.”

“Collectively, the new members of our team bring a wealth of professional and life experience, training, skills, and diverse perspectives that will add immeasurably to our impact on the nation’s health. It’s not an exaggeration to say that, with these changes, the Public Health Law Center is entering a new era.”

On the healthy eating active living team, the Center has hired Ayah Helmy and Amanda Karls as Staff Attorneys, and Ryan Lee as a Policy Analyst.

  • Ayah Helmy has worked as an attorney supervisor at the Washington D.C. Department of Forensics, and has been a law clerk for a district court judge in Hennepin County, Minnesota. She also has owned and operated her own private practice, where she dealt with employment, contract, and regulatory issues.
  • Amanda Karls has worked in private practice where she handled a variety of civil matters and represented clients in district and appellate court proceedings. She also provided federal and state-level legal analysis, commentary and educational outreach as a staff attorney for an international corporation. Amanda has worked in food systems, has volunteered with various organizations to advance good food access, and is involved in community planning.
  • Ryan Lee has a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. As a graduate student, he worked at the Center for a Livable Future on several research projects related to food security and nutrition, including a food retail intervention and an evaluation of a SNAP-based incentive program at farmers’ markets in Baltimore, Maryland.

On the tobacco control team, we’ve hired Rachel Callanan as a Senior Staff Attorney, and Natalie Hemmerich as a Staff Attorney.

  • Rachel Callanan comes to the Center from the American Heart Association, where she was the Regional Vice President of Advocacy for Minnesota and Wisconsin for the past seven years. She has also done policy work for a number of nonprofit organizations in Minnesota focused on ending homelessness, affordable housing, sustainability, and fair pay for women.
  • Natalie Hemmerich was a Policy Post-Doctoral Fellow at The Ohio State University, Center for Excellence in Tobacco Regulatory Science Columbus, for the past three years. She provided legal and policy support for on-going research projects, including large cohort studies of tobacco use in Ohio. She also recently completed her Master of Public Health (MPH).

The Public Health Law Center helps create communities where everyone can be healthy. We empower our partners to transform their environments by eliminating commercial tobacco, promoting healthy food, and encouraging active lifestyles. We do that by providing legal and strategic support to local and state health departments, health advocacy organizations, attorneys working on public health issues, and community coalitions around the country.



October 24, 2017