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CAHEC is comprised of a small, but mighty team of professionals who are passionate about our mission. Together and in collaboration with our various partners, we help build a pipeline of future healthcare leaders, provide educational opportunities to clinicians and healthcare educators, and connect citizens and practitioners to health resources to promote better health outcomes for all.

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Melissa Jensen, Executive Director

Melissa Jensen is a native of Northern Colorado who has dedicated her career to nonprofit marketing and management. She earned her Business/Marketing degree at the University of Northern Colorado and started her nonprofit career as the marketing coordinator for President Reagan's National Commission Against Drunk Driving. Her marketing management career continued with the Union Colony Civic Center and College Credit Union. She landed her first executive director position at the High Plains Library District Foundation where she implemented several new fundraising initiatives and secured a federal grant to install library substations in the rural towns of Weld County where library services were limited. Most recently she was the Executive Director of the Community Grief Center where she quadrupled the organization's assets in just 2 1/2 years before taking a hiatus from her career to take care of her husband who had ALS. 

Melissa follows Ben Franklin's philosophy that "A right heart exceeds all".

You may contact Melissa at

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Erika Greenberg MSN, RN, Health Educator, Regional Health Connector

Erika has been a registered nurse for over 20 years and earned both her Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Nursing from the University of Northern Colorado. Erika has worked directly with patients in various settings including trauma/cardiac ICU, bone marrow transplant, and outpatient surgery. She has always had a passion for education and spent many years working as a nurse educator teaching nursing students to become extraordinary professional nurses. Erika is now using her nursing experience to promote health education in our rural communities to both current health focused students and professionals. Erika can be reached at


Shauna Richardson, Regional Health Connector - Region 5


Shauna Richardson is dedicated to rural healthcare with 29 years of experience within the Medical-Surgical and Administrative setting at KCCHSD. She is often credited for the successful surgery program she built within the organization and has held numerous managerial roles. She restructured the facilities purchasing program, was involved in improving healthcare and health outcomes through community engagement and education, and took part in a restructure of overall facility operations. Richardson is highly certified with: AORN's Surgery Administrator Certificate, CRCST, Advanced Gastroenterology Technician Specialist, and Seton Hall GRaduate in Health and Hospital Law. She is a loyal leader with unwavering commitment to providing quality care and preventive medicine advocacy for rural healthcare.


Samantha Vernon, Programs Director

Samantha graduated with a Masters of Public Health in Community Health Education from the University of Northern Colorado in 2023. She has worked in a variety of roles within Medicare, special education, and assisted living where she developed her passion for health education. She is excited to support and expand the many great programs that CAHEC offers in her new role as Programs Director. She loves teaching and working with students to explore health careers and building community connections and health literacy. Samantha can be reached at


Wendy Abbott, Compassionate Care Training Specialist

After enjoying a long career in non-profit fundraising and marketing, Wendy made a conscious decision to travel a new path advocating for those experiencing Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Her mother lived with Alzheimer’s disease for more than a decade. Wendy has spent years learning about effective caregiving both through personal experience, and through formal training and education.


Prior to her role with Centennial AHEC, she spent nearly two years as a group facilitator delivering an educational program to older adults to promote healthy aging. This research project, funded by the National Institute on Aging through the Colorado State University, ADAPT Lab, led her to pursue a graduate certificate in gerontology. Her studies have provided insight on aging and approaches for better care and support for those contending with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.


Wendy is an Alzheimer’s Association volunteer community educator presenting topical information to an array of audiences. She hosts a monthly support group for caregivers in the sandwich generation and is part of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Additionally, she volunteers with residential care facilities assisting residents with dementia and providing music enrichment along with her daughters. She also co-facilitates a monthly memory café for people with dementia and their care partners.


By 2025, an estimated 92,000 Coloradans will be living with Alzheimer’s disease. Ensuring health professionals are well-equipped to successfully care for this population, as well as promote prevention and early diagnosis is critical. Wendy is thrilled to be part of the progress in this area through her work with Centennial AHEC. Wendy can be reached at


Nicole Heil, Housing Coordinator

Nicole Heil brings a wealth of experience and a passion for serving others to our team. A proud graduate of Mesa State College with a Bachelor's in Mass Communication, Nicole embarked on her nonprofit journey at Rocky Mountain Health Management Corporation. 

For the last decade Nicole has been instrumental as the Health Professions Student Housing Coordinator at Western CO AHEC. In the fall of 2020, she expanded her impact by joining the Centennial AHEC team, extending the same high level of housing support to health professions students in the CAHEC region. Nicole's journey in nonprofit work is marked by her unwavering dedication to creating an immersive community experience for medical students during their rotations.

Nicole leverages her robust communication skills, extensive experience in the nonprofit sector, and a personal mission of altruism to play a pivotal role in supporting the housing needs of health professions students. 

Nicole can be reached at

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