Our Team

Wendi Wills El-Amin, MD, is the Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. She is also on faculty in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and  provides care at the Center for Family Medicine in Springfield. Dr. El-Amin is dually appointed to the SIU’s Department of Medical Education.

El-Amin served as assistant dean of medical education at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville (2007-10). She also served as director of outreach at the Center on Health Disparities and director of the UVA Cancer Center Health Disparity Initiative (2006-10) and as an assistant professor of family medicine and public health (2005-10), all at the University of Virginia. El-Amin was in private practice at Wills Diagnostic Clinic in Houston, TX. (2001-03).

She completed her residency in family practice and community medicine as chief resident at the University of Texas-Houston (2001). She earned her medical degree at Georgetown Medical School (1998) and a bachelor’s degree in biology at Hampton University in Virginia (1993).

Dr. El-Amin is board certified in family medicine and is a member of the National Medical Association, where she chaired the Women’s Health Section (2008 – 2019). She has been a community health advocate and activist. She is the mother to three little girls, who she calls her earth, wind, and fire.

Dr. Wendi’s passion for equity and dismantling the systems that underpin health disparities is unparalleled in our community. She has won numerous awards and accolades for her teaching, and she brings a heart for service, justice and healing to everything she does. Dr. Wendi serves on the boards of the Central Illinois Boys and Girls Club, Springfield YMCA, and the Community Foundation of the Land of Lincoln and is a member of the ELAM 2020 class of fellows.


Lesley Barfield-Robinson is the Program Director for the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.  She is also the Assistant Equal Employment Officer for the Office of Human Resources and an Advisory Member to the Office of Correctional Medicine.

In performing these roles, Lesley has a very broad scope of responsibilities that involve advising medical students, community engagement, recruitment of students and staff, and programmatic collaborations.  As a Springfield native, Lesley provides a unique local outlook perspective for the work of Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Lesley is a dynamic and engaging Diversity and Inclusion professional with years of hands on experience encouraging, promoting and supporting organizational cultural diversity. She has exceptional interpersonal skills and the ability to work with and reach individuals from all walks of life. Lesley is a proven leader and influencer with an expansive network. She is dedicated both personally and professionally to advancing and integrating equity, diversity and inclusion practices in anything she does.


Malisa A. de la Cruz is the Office Support Specialist for the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at SIU School of Medicine. In this role, she embraces a variety of responsibilities that serve the antiracist mission of the office while continuing her lifelong commitment to mentorship importance of belongingness.

Malisa has years of experience in mentorship through a program called 20 Women. Through the program she was recognized for her efforts to educate and mentor girls between 9th and 12th grades.

She possesses many years of experience working in the medical field. While training the nursing staff and physicians in data information input at Crossing Healthcare in Decatur, Illinois, she was instrumental in increasing the clinic’s profile, standing, for state funding.


Kelly Hurst is a clinical educator and the Equity and Inclusion Strategist for Southern Illinois University’s School of Medicine. There she acts as an education liaison for the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as well as a developer of curricular experiences for medical students, resident physicians, and attending physicians around anti-racism and anti-racism strategies.

Previously, she’s been an educator in K12 schools as well as a school administrator which is the knowledge she brings with her to the Department of Medical Humanities. Her most recent work has been with Crossroads Antiracism Organizing & Training where she continues to be a facilitator and organizer for digital workshops. In Springfield, Kelly is also a program coordinator for the Springfield Coalition on Dismantling Racism, a group who first introduced her to the antiracism movement.

Kelly founded an advocacy organization called Being Black at School, a national nonprofit dedicated to moving equity conversations into action, making schools a safer place for Black students. Her understanding of antiracism is informed by theoretical frameworks introduced to her by Crossroads leadership.

In her educational career Kelly spent 23 years in the following roles: classroom teacher, professional development coordinator, literacy coach, guidance dean, and assistant principal. It is with all those lenses that she brings her expertise to the School of Medicine. A proud south side Chicago native, she has lived in Springfield for 27 years and resides there with her spouse. They have six adult children and enjoy five grandchildren.


Wesley G. Robinson-McNeese, MD, is the SIU System Executive Director for Diversity Initiatives and works on special projects for the SIUSOM Department of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.  He is certified for Healthcare Executive Diversity and Inclusion training by the Association of American Medical Colleges and Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.  A member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honorary Medical Society, McNeese is a retired Emergency Physician, and first ever Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at the SIU School of Medicine. In 2019, Dr. McNeese received the SIU School of Medicine’s inaugural Equity Award. 

Dr. McNeese is married and the father of eight children.  His wife is LaVern Ollie, formerly of Pine Bluff, AR.

A native of East St. Louis, IL, McNeese served as an Air Force Morse Intercept Operator in Vietnam and achieved the rank of Technical Sergeant before becoming a military paramedic.  He was Editor of The Crusader, a weekly newspaper in his hometown before college.

His undergraduate education was at Anderson University, IN, Illinois State University-Normal and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.  His medical training was at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine (’86), and then a Residency at McGaw Medical Center, Northwestern Medical School, Chicago, IL (’90).


Kemia Sarraf, MD, MPH, joined Southern Illinois University’s School of Medicine as Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in 2020. Her work centers on mitigating the multivariate pain points that exist at the intersection of racism and trauma, in facilitating what she refers to as “intratraumatic growth,” and in creating trauma-aware containers and culture for the work being done to advance SIU’s stated mission to become an anti-racist institution.

Dr. Sarraf is an internist, educator and physician and leadership coach whose subspecialty paradigm focuses on coaching in and beyond severe burnout, toxic stress and the trauma of these times. Her experiential-style facilitation is deliberately constructed to advance co-creation of 360° universal trauma precautions in groups, organizations, and institutions.

In addition to her work at the school of medicine, Dr. Sarraf is the Founder and CEO of Lodestar, a consulting and coaching company that works with private clients and institutions across the country and internationally. Dr. Sarraf received her Medical Degree and Master of Public Health at the University of Utah School of Medicine and completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine.

Kemia and her physician-husband (Jeff) have been married for more than two decades and live on a small, working farm in Central Illinois where they are raising four sons and too many farm critters to count.


Christopher Smyre, MD, is a family medicine physician at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine with a dual appointment to the Department of Clinical Family and Community Medicine and the Department of Medical Humanities. In the Office of Equity Diversity and Inclusion, he serves as the Director of Research and Innovation.

Dr. Smyre works with students to provide opportunities for engaging in research that is meaningful to them. Dr. Smyre is also co-chairing the metrics and benchmarks subcommittee of the Antiracism Taskforce and collaborates with other faculty across the institution to determine how to measure, track, and assess the various initiatives that departments are engaging in to promote equity, diversity and inclusion.

Dr. Smyre is passionate about educating and equipping medical students and residents to become excellent clinicians who are patient centered, culturally responsive, and evidenced based in their approach to the care they provide.

He completed his residency training at one of the original Teaching Health Centers, McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University Family Medicine Residency Program-Humboldt Park. Dr. Smyre has a master’s from the University of Chicago Divinity School focused on theological ethics and does research on healthcare disparities, medical ethics, and medical education. Dr. Smyre has published articles on the physicians’ role in addressing spiritual suffering and providing spiritual care at the end of life, and wrote a book chapter on how chaplains are able to assist in negotiating cultural and religious differences that arise in the medical decision making process.