President and Leadership Team

Leading a community of scholars and healthcare professionals toward a future of service and excellence. 

SMU's leadership team, led by Dr. Ching-Hua Wang, is deeply committed to providing first-rate academic programs in health sciences to students and graduate students to become skilled and compassionate healthcare providers motivated to improve health equity in diverse communities.


Ching-Hua Wang

Dr. Ching-Hua Wang is the second president in the history of Samuel Merritt University. She works with the President's Cabinet to fulfill the University’s mission and values, with a commitment to improve health outcomes by educating future healthcare professionals who are highly skilled and reflect the communities they will serve.

Dr. Wang previously served as the provost and vice president for academic affairs at California State University, Sacramento. Before joining Sacramento State, she served as dean of the School of Health and Natural Sciences at Dominican University of California, where she was also a professor of immunology and microbiology. There, she initiated and developed several academic programs, including a master of science in physician assistant studies program and internationally educated nurses program.

She was one of the original 13 faculty members recruited to start California State University, Channel Islands. She served as director of the Bridges to Stem Cell Research initiative, director of the school’s Master of Science in Biotech and Bioinformatics program, was special assistant to the provost, and chair of several health science programs.

She received her medical degree from Beijing Medical College, a master of science degree in immunology from Beijing University, and a PhD in immunology from Cornell University. She has authored of over 50 peer-reviewed publications and has obtained over $11.3 million in funds from private sources and corporations and $15 million in grants. 

Dr. Wang and the President's Cabinet provide stewardship of institutional resources in consultation with the Board of Regents and the University's parent company Sutter Health.

President’s Cabinet

The President’s Cabinet develops and implements strategies to advance the mission, vision, and values of the University by enhancing educational instruction, ensuring student success, and creating a culture that is diverse and inclusive. 

Fred Baldini, Provost and Vice President, Academic Affairs
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Fred Baldini earned a doctorate in exercise science (exercise physiology) from Arizona State University, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in physical education from California State University, Sacramento. He has decades of teaching and administrative experience in health sciences education. 

Beginning in 2010, he served as dean of the College of Health and Human Services at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS), where he oversaw eight departments, over 25 degree programs—15 of which are externally accredited, including nursing and physical therapy—345 faculty and staff, and had an enrollment of 7,200 students. He was a faculty member in CSUS’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Science for 31 years. Fred also chaired the university budget committee, making recommendations to the president’s cabinet about the annual budget. Fred led CSUS’s efforts to develop and construct state-of-the-art teaching, research, and clinical facilities. He was also active in new program development, including the addition of two doctoral programs (physical therapy, audiology), a master’s in public health, and a bachelor’s in health services. Prior to his appointment as dean, Fred served as the interim associate dean and, for nine years, as the chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Health Science. He received the Outstanding Teaching and the Outstanding Service awards for the college. 

In 2006, he completed the Management Development Program at Harvard University. In 2018, he returned to Harvard University and completed the Institute for Management and Leadership program. 

Timothy Cranford, Vice President, Student Affairs
Timothy Cranford, VP of Student Affairs

Timothy Cranford has extensive professional experience, having worked in various leadership roles in student affairs for 23 years. He has served as dean of admission at SMU since 2013. Previously, he served as director of admission and registrar at Savannah State University, a historically Black college and university (2011-12), director of financial aid at Savannah Technical College (2004-10), director of student services at Georgia Southern University (2002-04), and assistant director of admission at State University of New York at Fredonia (1997-2001). Timothy obtained his bachelor’s in sociology and his master’s in student personnel administration from State University of New York College at Buffalo, earning both degrees after his years of service in the Marine Corps.

Al Frisone, Vice President, Advancement and Communications
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Al Frisone has worked as an educational fundraising professional for over 25 years, with the majority of his work focused in higher education. Al served as the vice president of advancement at Sacramento State University and facilitated the three largest gift commitments in the history of the university ($6 million, $9 million, and $12 million). Al also led a $200 million capital campaign spearheaded by the largest single year fundraising total ($24.6 million) in school history in 2018.

Prior to his service at Sacramento State, Al served in multiple capacities over a 17-year tenure at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While at Marquette, Al successfully led a $60 million athletics capital campaign, which was part of a broader $170 million university-wide campaign. He also founded and led Marquette’s regional, major gift, and principal gift fundraising programs, facilitating transformational gifts of $7 million, $12 million, $27 million, and $51 million in support of multiple campaign initiatives. He graduated from the University of Rochester with a bachelor’s degree in English and earned his master’s degree in sports administration from Temple University.

Emily Prieto-Tseregounis, Chief of Staff, Vice President for University Initiatives
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Emily Prieto-Tseregounis has over 20 years of experience in higher education, including academic leadership, organizational and strategic planning, oversight of more than $400 million in budget, the development and management of student programs and campus facilities, executive support, governmental and board relations, and the creation of partnerships with students, faculty, staff, and community. From 2013-19, Emily served as chief of staff to the vice chancellor of student affairs as well as an assistant vice chancellor at the University of California, Davis. 

Emily earned a bachelor of science degree in community rhetoric and her master’s and doctorate in education from the University of California, Davis. She is a graduate of the Executive Leadership Academy at the University of California, Berkeley.

In addition to her experience in U.S. higher education, Emily has been involved with international teaching and research—with a focus on public health—in Nigeria and Japan under the auspices of the U.S. Fulbright program and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. Further, in collaboration with the Mexico Consulate in Sacramento, she was involved in U.S.-Mexico student programs specifically developed for UC Davis. 

Board of Regents

The Board of Regents guides the University efforts to sustain its excellence in clinical education and secure financial resources to meet its needs. Board members bring a variety of executive experiences in educational leadership, healthcare, and business development in their effort to oversee improvements to SMU’s facilities and academic programs development that will meet the healthcare needs of all communities.

Enitan Adesanya, MBA, is president and CEO of Desade Corporation, providing strategic consulting services to health care organizations and land development companies. He brings vast experience managing enterprise business risks and launching strategic, operational, and regulatory risk management services that support organizational goals and objectives. Prior to joining Desade, Mr. Adesanya spent 25 years at Kaiser Permanente, most recently as vice president and risk executive, responsible for operations of Kaiser’s $14 billion shared services of facilities, clinical technology, procurement, security, and medical device data privacy. Mr. Adesanya is a California certified public accountant and a chartered global management accountant. He is certified in ISO 31000 risk management and Lean Six Sigma performance improvement methods.

Mr. Adesanya earned his bachelor’s degree in business finance from Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria and his master of business administration degree from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. He also earned an executive leadership certificate from Harvard Business School.

Neptaly "Taty" Aguilera, BA, serves on the UC Davis Health Medical School Community Advisory Committee, the board of directors for the UC Davis Cal Aggie Alumni Association, and is co-chair of the University of California Statewide Chicanx Latinx Alumni Association. He currently serves on the executive board of directors for the Coalition of Civil Rights Organizations in state government and has also served on the Sacramento County Grand Jury and is a member of the California Grand Jurors’ Association. 

Mr. Aguilera is retired from the California Department of Health Care Services, after 40 years of public service in various leadership positions in health-related programs. He oversaw the statewide Medi-Cal field offices responsible for the review of Treatment Authorization Requests for medical services. In addition, he was chief of the Primary Health Care Program and responsible for overseeing funding for 350 community and primary care clinics serving populations including Asian, Black, Filipino, farmworkers, Latino, Native American, veterans, women, LGBTQ, disabled and seniors in designated medically underserved areas in California. 

Mr. Aguilera earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from UC Davis and has certificates of achievement in human resources, labor relations, budgets, finance and contracts, and equal employment opportunity, from the State of California. 

Brad Barber, JD, is a retired attorney and assistant vice president emeritus for Institutional Advancement at the University of California (UC) Office of the President. Mr. Barber has extensive experience in managing nonprofits, and in planning and implementing fundraising campaigns. In addition to his work with all UC campuses and their foundations, Mr. Barber previously served as senior vice president and chief development officer of Children’s Hospital & Research Center in Oakland (now part of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital). He is currently involved with UC Berkeley as a member of four advisory boards, a visiting scholar at the Center for Studies in Higher Education (since 2013), and chair of the Friends of the Bancroft Library. Mr. Barber serves on the Earth and Life Studies advisory committee for the National Academy of Sciences.

Mr. Barber earned a bachelor’s degree in history from UC Berkeley and a doctor of jurisprudence degree from the Boalt School of Law.

Melanie Bell-Mayeda, MBA, is a partner and managing director in IDEO’s San Francisco office, helping lead the Design for Change studio.  Her passion lies in helping organizations reinvent themselves in order to connect with customers in new and meaningful ways. Recently, she led an initiative called “The Powerful Now,” a global project that explored ways to bring creativity and design thinking to the topic of aging. Since joining IDEO in 2007, she has engaged in strategic design projects spanning industries from financial services to manufacturing to consumer services. Ms. Bell-Mayeda has extensive experience in strategy and business development, and in creating high-value partnerships. Prior to joining IDEO, she led LeapFrog’s global licensing business and worked at Virgin Entertainment Group, Booz-Allen & Hamilton, and Morgan Stanley, where she sharpened her skill in applying strategic thinking and financial analysis to the business decision-making process.

Ms. Bell-Mayeda earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Harvard University and a master of business administration degree from Harvard Business School.

Jonathan Brown, DPA, became president emeritus of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities in 2011, after serving 20 years as president and 16 years as vice president. In 2012, Mr. Brown founded a consulting firm specializing in university and nonprofit issues. An expert in higher education finance, Mr. Brown has held leadership positions in several educational organizations including as chair of the National Association of State College and University State Executives.

Mr. Brown earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of the Pacific; completed graduate study at George Washington University (International Relations), Catholic University (Urban Education) and Harvard University (Institute for Educational Management); and holds a doctor of public administration degree from the University of Southern California, where he is currently an adjunct professor.

Leon Clark, MA, vice president at Sutter Health, is an accomplished health care executive with over 30 years of professional experience in public accounting, financial services, and health care operations. As Sutter’s chief research and health equity officer, Mr. Clark provides oversight and management of research strategy and operations across the enterprise. In addition to his research responsibilities, he provides support to Samuel Merritt University and works to strengthen and advance Sutter’s health equity initiatives. Prior to joining Sutter Health, Mr. Clark spent more than 20 years at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. For the past decade, he served as chairman of Mayo’s research administration department where he was instrumental in the re-imagination of research and educational activities to advance patient care. Mr. Clark has a strong commitment to community service and has served on numerous non-profit boards. 

He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in entrepreneurship from DePaul University in Chicago. He is a certified Quality Fellow by the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. 

Elizabeth Chaney, BA, is account executive and regional director for JLL, a global commercial real estate investment and services firm. Her 30 years of experience includes overseeing Kaiser Permanente’s real estate portfolio transactions and Stanford University Medical Center’s growth. She assists institutional and private sector owners to advance complicated development programs with multiple stakeholders. She has also handled significant programs for the federal government, state of California, Fortune 100 corporations, and leading academic and health care institutions. A recognized leader in health care development, she also participates in teaching at institutions such as Yale University and Stanford University.

Ms. Chaney earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, and is a licensed architect in the state of California.

Sam Davis, FAIA, is professor emeritus of architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, where he taught from 1971 until 2009. Other roles he has held at UC Berkeley include interim dean of the School of Social Welfare, interim dean of the College of Environmental Design, chair of the Department of Architecture, and associate dean of the College of Environmental Design. His professional work, as principal of Sam Davis Architecture, has focused on affordable housing, housing for those with special needs, and facilities for the homeless. His projects for Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco include the nation's first housing specifically for homeless youth with HIV and AIDS. Mr. Davis has received design awards from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Progressive Architecture magazine and has won several housing competitions. He also received the UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award and the Excellence in Education Award from the AIA California Council. His books include The Form of Housing, The Architecture of Affordable Housing, and Designing for the Homeless: Architecture that Works.

An AIA fellow, Mr. Davis earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture at UC Berkeley and a master of environmental design degree from Yale University.

Gloria Harmon, MS, is a retired hospital administrator. She worked for Sutter Health's Alta Bates Summit Medical Center for 33 years in various capacities, most recently as administrative director for rehabilitation, orthopedic, and skilled nursing services. Ms. Harmon has extensive experience in business development, physician recruitment and contracting, strategic planning, systems development, and fiscal oversight. She led the development of the Alta Bates Summit Regional Stroke Center, which received several specialty recognitions and awards. Ms. Harmon has served on several boards and advisory committees for health care and community organizations including the American Hospital Association, Rehabilitation and Long Term Care Section; California Hospital Association, Center for Medical Rehabilitation Services; Western Alliance of Rehabilitation; and the Ethnic Health Institute.

Ms. Harmon earned bachelor's degrees in speech pathology and audiology from Hampton University and a master’s degree from San Diego State University.

Anna Kiger, DNP, became an SMU Regent in 2016 after joining Sutter Health as its chief nurse officer. With more than 30 years of clinical and health care executive leadership experience, Ms. Kiger leads Sutter Health’s efforts to advance the safe, high-value and high-quality care provided by nurses, professional and technical staff for the network's 3 million patients. She serves on the editorial boards for the Journal of Nursing Administration and the Journal of Healthcare Risk Management.

Ms. Kiger completed her undergraduate nursing degree at West Virginia University, received master's degrees in business and nursing administration, and earned her doctor of nursing practice from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, School of Nursing, and a second doctorate in public health and health services research from Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Lloyd Leanse, BA, is chief operating officer and a founding partner of Prager & Co., LLC, with extensive experience in investment banking, financial management, and business development. He has structured more than $1.5 billion of public and private securities offerings, acquisitions, software licenses and real estate transactions for colleges, universities and technology companies. Mr. Leanse played a key role in structuring and deploying the first service to offer students transparent comparisons in the $6 billion per year private student loan market. He was a member of the board of directors of Tuition Plan Consortium, LLC, a nonprofit company that offers the only nationwide pre-paid 529 college savings plan, and volunteers frequently for arts and other organizations.

Mr. Leanse earned a bachelor’s degree in human biology from Stanford University.

Amber Luther, BA, specializes in higher education planning in the San Francisco office of Populous, an international architecture and design firm. Her background includes planning for high-end residential, education, workplace, health care, and mixed-use collegiate and professional sports projects in the U.S., Middle East, and Canada. As one of Populous’ thought leaders within the national design community, she speaks at conferences, conducts research on new technologies that support innovative design processes, and publishes papers on innovation in design. Since 2017, she has led Populous’ Campus 2050 initiative studying campus design trends and themes with a consortium of universities including CalTech, Carnegie Mellon, NYU, DePaul, Northwestern, Purdue, and Stonybrook. Her recent work includes the University Mary Hardin Baylor Master Plan, SUNY University at Buffalo UB 2020 Plan, Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences Campus Relocation, Bloomsburg Campus Master Plan, the Philadelphia VA Medical Center Master Plan, and a variety of projects with Thomas Jefferson University.

Alvin McLean Jr., PhD, is a professor of clinical psychology, co-director of clinical training, and associate dean in the College of Psychology at John F. Kennedy University. He is also co-owner of a medical specialty home health agency that manages chronic medical conditions in patients’ homes. Mr. McLean joined the University of Washington’s Department of Rehabilitation Medicine faculty after completing a post-doctoral fellowship in neuropsychology. His research, publications, and presentations focused on the neuropsychological and psychosocial sequelae of traumatic brain injury, neuro-pharmacology, and care management strategies to improve daily functioning after brain and spinal cord injuries. In addition to his academic work, Mr. McLean has an extensive business background, including developing residential, outpatient and home-based rehabilitation programs for persons with brain and spinal cord injuries. He was senior vice president for Paradigm Health Corporation for over 20 years. Mr. McLean serves on the boards of San Francisco Theological Seminary and the Bay Area Albert Schweitzer Fellows Program. He is also on the board of Man2Man-Urban Youth Advocates, which provides mentoring, coaching and mental health support to help African American young men from disenfranchised, underserved communities achieve their optimal potential. Mr. McLean is also a musician and has directed the men’s chorus at Allen Temple Baptist Church for 25 years. 

Mr. McLean received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Kansas University. He earned his doctorate in clinical psychology and psychophysiology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Gary Morrison, JD, is deputy general counsel emeritus of the Regents of the University of California. He retired in 2002 after 29 years with the UC system. Mr. Morrison served as deputy general counsel and represented UC in the landmark Bakke case, which allowed consideration of race and ethnicity in college and university admissions. He also worked on UC’s response to Proposition 209, which nullified affirmative action in admissions in California.

Mr. Morrison earned his law degree at Stanford University.

Dennis J. O'Connell, BA, spent more than 30 years in the construction, manufacturing, retail and investment businesses, including 10 years with Bechtel Corporation. He has extensive experience as a board member, including with Marin General Hospital Foundation, Marin Community Health, Marin Physician Hospital Organization, and Babcock Foundation. He has chaired the boards of Marin General Hospital and Sutter Health and has been a member of the Sutter West Bay Hospitals and Sutter West Bay Medical Foundation boards. He currently serves on the Sutter Bay board and the board of Bailard, a wealth management and institutional investment firm in Foster City, California.

He earned his undergraduate degree in business administration from California State University, Chico.

Julie Petrini, BSN, MPA/HSA, is president and chief executive officer of Sutter Health Bay Area Hospitals. Previously she served as chief operating officer for Sutter Health’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center. Her extensive background in health care spans more than 30 years, beginning as a nurse caring for patients at the bedside and including expertise in administration, strategic planning, and operations management. Prior to joining Sutter Health, Ms. Petrini served as senior vice president and chief administrative officer for Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California region, responsible for all operations and support functions. She oversaw operations of 11 medical centers and two hospital rebuild projects, as well as serving as chief negotiator for Kaiser’s regional contract with the California Nurses Association. Currently a trustee of the California Hospital Association, Ms. Petrini has served on many community organization boards, including the Women’s Initiative for Self Employment and the George Mark Children’s House. She was named among the “100 Most Influential Women in Business” by the San Francisco Business Times in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Ms. Petrini earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master's in public administration degree with a concentration in health services administration from the University of San Francisco. She is a graduate of the Kenan Flagler Business School Executive Program and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

John Swartzberg, MD, FACP, is chair of Samuel Merritt University's Board of Regents and clinical professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health. Dr. Swartzberg also is the chair of the editorial board of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, where he has directed coverage since 2001. Dr. Swartzberg directed the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program for more than a decade. Before joining UC Berkeley’s faculty full time in 2001, he spent 25 years in clinical practice. He collaborated on the highly successful Wellness Self-Care Handbook in 1998 and the Complete Home Wellness Handbook in 2002. His areas of professional interest are medical education and health-care-associated infections.  

Dr. Swartzberg, a fellow of the American College of Physicians, earned his medical degree at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. He performed his residency training at the University of Colorado and his postdoctoral fellowship in infectious diseases at Stanford University.

Ching-Hua Wang, MD, PhD, (ex-officio) began her tenure as president of Samuel Merritt University on Nov. 26, 2018. Previously, she served as the provost and vice president for academic affairs at California State University (CSU), Sacramento. From 2012 to January 2017, she worked as dean of the School of Health and Natural Sciences at Dominican University of California. Between 2001 to 2012, she served as a founding faculty member, chair, program director, and special assistant to the provost at CSU Channel Islands. From 1990 to 2001, she was an assistant, associate, and full professor in Immunology at CSU, San Bernardino. Since 2001, Dr. Wang has led efforts to develop 16 new academic programs, authored numerous peer-reviewed publications, and raised more than $17.3 million in private and corporate funds and $15 million in grants.

Dr. Wang received her medical degree from Beijing Medical College, a master's degree in immunology from Beijing University, and a doctorate in immunology from Cornell University.

Lisa Zuffi, BA, has been senior vice president and relationship manager in the East Bay Regional Office of Presidio Bank since 2011. She previously worked as head of banking group and senior vice president at One PacificCoast Bank in Oakland and held several positions at Bank of America. In addition to her extensive banking experience, Ms. Zuffi has a background in business and community development, and she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa. She has served on the boards of Oakland’s Lighthouse Community Charter School and the Oakland Business Development Corporation.

Ms. Zuffi earned a bachelor’s degree in English from UC Berkeley.

Ching-Hua Wang graduation handshake

Office of the President

The Office of the President provides administrative, organizational, and strategic support to advance the president's vision, core values, and priorities. 

President Ching-Hua Wang
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