SIskin Children's Institute
PRESIDENT AND CEO
Derek Bullard has a passion for serving children and families with mental illness and special needs and has been dedicated to this cause for over 20 years, serving in several roles—CEO, board member, therapeutic foster parent, and as a community advocate. He believes in forming strategic relationships to improve the lives of children and families.
As the founder and former CEO of Access Family Services, a multi-state behavioral health provider, Derek was responsible for leading the organization from inception to an organization with 11 offices throughout North and South Carolina. Under his leadership as CEO, Derek helped guide the organization to become one of the first agencies in North Carolina to achieve certification as a critical access behavioral healthcare agency. The organization also achieved the highest national accreditation with The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitative Facilities (CARF) for nine consecutive years.
As a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Derek has founded and been involved with multiple entrepreneurial ventures and served as both a volunteer and board member for local non-profits including Mecklenburg County Communities in Schools, YBM Leadership Alliance, Youth Homes and Illuminations Youth Empowerment.
CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER
Jeaninne Houck directs all financial affairs for the Institute as well as human resources and facilities. She began her career in 1993 as an accountant with a local CPA firm and in 1998 became the finance director for the Hamilton County Community Services Agency, serving on various committees for the Department of Children's Services and working with grantors and private foundations in children's programs. Houck is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University.
CINDY CHESTARO, M.D., FAAPCHIEF MedicAL OFFICER
Dr. Chestaro specializes in the diagnostic evaluation, medical management, and family support for children with motor, communicative, sensory, developmental, genetic, neurological, learning, and behavioral disorders – including Autism Spectrum Disorder, complex ADHD, learning disorders, speech and language disorders, intellectual disability, developmental delays and behavioral disorders.
Dr. Chestaro earned her medical degree from the Universidad Iberoamericana UNIBE School of Medicine in the Dominican Republic. She completed her residency at John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County in Chicago followed by a fellowship in Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics at the University of Chicago and a fellowship in Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a member of the Society of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry as well as a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She has been involved in many community projects, lead several seminars on disability related topics, and shared her expertise through lectures and serving as a clinical teaching preceptor.
Human Resources Director
Rebekah joins our team with an extensive background in human resources and has served in a variety of roles from benefit planning, recruiting/retention and strategic development. Throughout her career, Rebekah has been recognized for her ability to develop and implement programs which promote continual growth and development. Her extensive experience and knowledge is influential in accomplishing the initiatives of our organization as we continue to grow our footprint across the regions and increase access to care for the children and families we serve.
EARLY LEARNING CENTER Director
Julie serves as director of the Early Learning Center. Julie has more than 20 years of experience in the field of early childhood education, early intervention and special education. A 14-year veteran of the Institute, she provided outreach services to the community through professional and student training on early childhood special education. Recently she has taken the consulting lead with several Tennessee public school systems seeking to bring children with disabilities into an inclusive environment.
Additionally, Julie has presented at numerous conferences both locally and nationally on inclusive practices. She began her career as a preschool special education teacher in Georgia. She has a bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology and a master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
MELISSA L. GONZALEZ, PH.D., BCBA-D
Clinical Therapy Director
Melissa L. Gonzalez, Ph.D., BCBA-D joined Siskin Children’s Institute as the Clinical Therapy Director in September of 2019. In this role, Dr. Gonzalez oversees the center-based and in-home outpatient therapy within the Center for Developmental Pediatrics. These services include speech language, occupational and physical therapies and applied behavior analysis (ABA). Prior to her move to Chattanooga, Dr. Gonzalez was faculty at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Gonzalez has experience training externs, pre-doctoral interns and post-doctoral fellows in psychology and applied behavior analysis, as well as precepting medical residents. She is a clinical psychologist and board-certified behavior analyst with specialized experience in working with individuals with intellectual impairments, autism spectrum disorders and pediatric feeding disorders.
Dr. Gonzalez has presented and published research on topics related to the behavioral assessment and treatment of skill deficits and behavioral excesses in individuals with feeding concerns, autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities. Dr. Gonzalez is excited to serve Tennessee families through supervision and development of clinical programs and continuing education of community professionals at Siskin Children’s Institute nursing students and graduate nurse practitioner and physician assistant students for several local programs.
Steffanie Altman is the Director of Development for Central Tennessee, where she oversees the growth of our campaign in Nashville and the surrounding communities. Steffanie started her career in community building and outreach in Santa Barbara, CA. She moved to Tanzania to oversee volunteers and community relations for an organization bringing clean water to rural communities, which is what inspired her to return to the US and transition her career to fundraising.
After fundraising across California, Steffanie moved to Tennessee while supervising a national division of young leadership. She is a graduate of Drexel University.
healthcare administration Director
Stephanie Cooper-Wilkes joined Siskin Center for Developmental Pediatrics as the Business Manager in April 2012. Stephanie currently has over 12 years in medical practice management experience. Prior to joining Siskin, Stephanie was a Regional Practice Manager for Erlanger Health Systems, where she managed several physician practices. While employed as the Practice Manager for Erlanger, Stephanie led several offices through start-up, survival, turnaround and growth modes. From 2005 through 2009, Stephanie was a Billing Office Manager for a Plastic Surgery Group located in Atlanta, GA. Stephanie managed the daily operations of billing in excess of several million/yr.
Stephanie’s goals as the Practice Manager for Siskin Developmental Pediatrics office are first, adhering to the Siskin mission, along with prioritizing the support of high-quality patient care and satisfaction.
HOME & COMMUNITY-BASED EARLY INTERVENTION Director
Deidra Love earned her master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from UTC, as well as undergraduate degrees in Education and English from Carson Newman University. She brings more than 18 years of experience in the early intervention field, as a teacher, home visitor, and behavior specialist/consultant. Deidra has focused additional study and professional work in the fields of autism, challenging behavior, and inclusion, providing training and workshops for preschool teachers and early intervention professionals across the state. Additionally, she is the mother of four children, and she is passionate about supporting the developmental therapists on her team, who in turn, help families and caregivers build their skills and confidence as capable teachers of their own children.
“I am very grateful and excited to join this team as director of the Home and Community-based Early Intervention Program here at Siskin Children’s Institute. I believe the work of home visitors is so important, as we strive to increase children’s progress and growth by building on the strengths and supporting the needs of their families. I look forward to investing in and leading our dedicated and skilled group of home visitors here at Siskin, as well as expanding our program to reach more children and families in the Chattanooga community and surrounding counties.”