Staff & Board


Jonny Vasic – Executive Director

Jonny Vasic

Jonny Vasic has over ten years of experience working with non-profit organizations in various roles including International Director and Director of Media. He has lobbied in Sacramento and Washington D.C. with the Humane Society of the United States and was the International Director at Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, where he was part of the team that created the critically acclaimed hit show Whale Wars for Animal Planet. He is on the Board of Directors for Surfers for Cetaceans and he is the producer of the award-winning documentary film Minds in the Water. Before Jonny’s non-profit work, he was an Executive in Charge of Production at a Los Angeles based TV production company. He was founder and president of Evergreen Oasis Entertainment, which specialized in communication with a conscience. Jonny grew up in Salt Lake City and has a keen interest living in an environment with clean air, water, and soil. His life long passion for the outdoors, a healthy environment and his love of animals combined with his experience in multi-media, has led him to work with groups that are making a real difference in people’s lives.

Brandi O’Brien – Development Associate

Brandi first became interested in Utah environmental issues during a year-long internship in the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance’s Washington D.C. office. Here, she lobbied for the protection of Utah’s wild places and engaged with passionate activists from across the country. During this time, Brandi was also enrolled in George Mason University, where she went on to obtain a degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Being particularly interested in the environment and its effect on people, she focused this major to revolve around environmental justice issues. With this focus she was able to research topics such as: water rights, air quality, and the success of various pieces of environmental protection legislation. Still passionate about Utah public lands, Brandi moved to Cedar City in 2019 to do field work for the Utah Conservation Corps. She was ecstatic at the opportunity to conduct this field work in one of her favorite parts of Utah- Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. She has since worked on other public lands improvement projects throughout the West- partnering with both nonprofits, and land management agencies. Brandi is thrilled at the opportunity to continue her work for the health of the environment and people of Utah through her role with UPHE.

Born and raised in Upstate NY, Brandi spends much of her free time exploring the breathtaking camping and hiking that Utah has to offer. 

Elli Lavon – Lead Safe Outreach Specialist

Elli spent her first year living in Utah as an AmeriCorps VISTA working with the Women’s Business Center of Utah to strengthen women owned businesses. With a degree in Communications and two minors in Political Science and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, education and outreach has become her main career goal. Her interest in community development and outreach sparked while working for the Voinovich School of Environmental Affairs as a research assistant to their Social Enterprise Ecosystem Program grant. Her research projects ranged from environmental topics such as land labs, to helping a local herbalist reinvent her social media presence. The inside look she was given to her small college town community piqued her interest in the array of impactful opportunities one may have working with the community. Leading her to UPHE, she is incredibly excited and interested to work in public health as it will not only improve the lives of Utah residents, but the environment as well. 

Outside of work Elli is an avid reader, cooking enthusiast, and is constantly looking for new ways to explore the world around her. She feels most at peace in the mountains, and will continue to lead her life in a way that is conscious of the environment and its inhabitants.

Ermiya Fanaeian – Lead Safe Assistant Outreach Specialist

Ermiya is a trans youth activist who has worked closely with the ACLU of Utah, Equality Utah, and the Utah Pride Center. She has also lobbied State government officials against conversion therapy. She has worked on many electoral political campaigns to help elect candidates, including Congressman Ben McAdams’ Congressional campaign and Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential Campaign. She served as Director of Diversity for the student body at the University of Utah and a delegate for the World Prosperity Organization. Ermiya is the recipient of the Gandhi Peace Award, awarded to her by the Gandhi Alliance for Peace, and of the Mayor of Salt Lake County Local Hero Award because of her political organizing work.

Jake Jensen- Lead Safe Housing Intern

Jake Jensen is a senior at the University of Utah majoring in environmental and sustainability studies with a geography minor. After spending his childhood skiing and getting outside in the Wasatch, his love for the outdoors transitioned into a genuine care and concern for the environment. Through college Jake has spent time getting involved with the environmental community in Salt Lake City and volunteering with environmental nonprofits. He hopes to continue his involvement in working to create a healthier environment before attending law school to pursue environmental law.

In his spare time, you will find Jake skiing, running, reading or planning his next outdoor excursion.

Board of Directors

Brian Moench, M.D. – Board President

Dr. Moench is a former faculty member of the University of Utah Honors Program, teaching public health and the environment. He was the former chairman, Dept. of Anesthesia, Holy Cross Hospital and has been in private practice anesthesia at Holy Cross Hospital, LDS Hospital, and Intermountain Medical Center since 1981.Over the last eight years he has given hundreds of community and academic lectures and power point presentations, written about 90 Op Eds for newspapers throughout the country, and has helped communities in Utah, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Alaska, Nevada and British Columbia organize opposition to polluting industries.  He has been an expert witness and written court briefs for pollution lawsuits, has met with top EPA officials, and was nominated by the Obama Administration at a Washington, DC conference as one of 50 finalists to receive the award “Champion of Change” for his work on global warming.

Kirtly Parker Jones, M.D. – Board Vice President

Dr. Jones is Professor Emerita in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology where she has had an academic appointment for the past 33 years. Her undergraduate degree was in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology from the University of Colorado, where she also attended Medical School. Her residency in obstetrics and gynecology and her fellowship in reproductive endocrinology were completed at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Her clinical and research interests include contraception and family planning, advanced reproductive technology, and menopause. She has been a member of the National Medical Committee for Planned Parenthood and is past Chair of the Association of Reproductive Professionals. She has taught Ethics in Reproductive Medicine in the Honors Program at the University of Utah, as well as teaching reproductive medicine to medical students, residents and physicians. She was awarded the Linda K Amos Award for Distinguished Service to Women by the University of Utah, and the Jarcho Distinguished Teaching Award by the University of Utah School of Medicine. In 2013 she was awarded the Calvin and Jeneal Hatch Prize in Teaching by the University of Utah. She has been involved in the administration of her department, medical school, and university and has a certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution from the University of Utah. She is a past President of the Academic Senate at the University of Utah. Dr. Jones shares her life and interests in the environment and the health of the planet with her husband and partner of 40 years, Chris Jones MD, PhD.

Scott Pynes – Board Treasurer

Scott Pynes started his career at Arthur Anderson in 1981. In 1986 he founded a business application software company – Interactive Systems, Inc. which was later renamed to Assist Cornerstone Technologies. The company grew to employ nearly 200 people before it was sold in 2000 to a New York Stock Exchange company. In 2002 he purchased Cactus & Tropicals from its founder – Lorraine Miller. Since then he has expanded the business significantly by opening a second retail location and growing the commercial side of the business. Cactus & Tropicals currently employs over 100 people. He has served on the boards of the Vest Pocket Business Coalition where he was president in 2014 and Local First Utah.

Janice Evans – Board Member

Janice Evans has an extensive career as a media and communications executive and is an expert in all aspects of public relations. She has worked locally and on national and international news and media platforms. Janice served as producer for CBS News, managing technical and editorial crews primarily in the US, but also in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Subjects included: the Reagan White House, US Congress and international economic summits.  She also served in Utah as producer at KUTV and KSL-TV News. Janice claims she joined the UPHE Board in 2014 due to her admiration for her high school student body president, Dr. Brian Moench. However, she is also passionate about helping elevate environmental issues to front page news and cleaning up our air.

John MacFarlane, M.D. – Board Member

Dr. Macfarlane is a neurosurgeon currently practicing at Intermountain Medical Center and acting as an adjunct Neurosurgery Faculty Member, Department of Neurosurgery, at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

A graduate of the University of Utah School of Medicine, Dr. Macfarlane completed his neurological surgery residency at the University of Utah School of Medicine in 1996 where he had become the chief neurosurgery resident. He earned his board certification in Neurological Surgery from the American Board of Neurological Surgery in 2002.

A leader among his peers, Dr. Macfarlane was Division Chief of Neurological Surgery at LDS Hospital from (2004-2007) and again at Intermountain Medical Center from (2007-2009), where he continues to serve on the Intermountain Medical Center Neurosurgery Spine Committee Directorship (2007-present). He has served on several other administrative committees including Rocky Mountain Neurosurgical Society executive Committee, Spine Clinical Exception Hardware Committee at Intermountain Healthcare, and the University of Utah Faculty Senate Executive Committee.

Dr. Macfarlane’s vast study of the neurological sciences has informed him of the sensitivity of human neurophysiological health. Since becoming a member of UPHE in 2018 he has been actively concerned with the consequences of poor air quality on human neurophysiology, especially in regards to sensitive populations such as children and the elderly.

Richard Kanner, M.D. – Board Member

Dr. Kanner has been a UPHE board member since it was founded in 2007. He has represented UPHE by testifying before numerous Utah legislative committees. He also contributes to UPHE by writing letters to the editor and op-eds to the Salt Lake City Tribune and Deseret News.He is currently a Professor of Medicine at the University of Utah. As a Pulmonologist, Dr. Kanner has research interests in the area of chronic lung disease and health effects of air pollution. Dr. Kanner also served on the Utah Department of Air Quality Board from 1988 to 1997, the latter two years for which he served as Chair.[Education] [Certifications/Memberships] [Contact]

Sara E. H. Johnson, M.D. – Board Member

Dr. Sara E. H. Johnson grew up in Duluth, Minnesota on the shore of Lake Superior. She completed her undergraduate education in Psychology and Spanish at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks North Dakota. After college she enjoyed a short career in social work working with both adults with developmental delay and traumatic brain injury. In 1994 she moved to Salt Lake City with her husband and in 1997 started her next phase of education completing medical school a Master’s of Public Health and Pediatric Residency at the University of Utah. Dr. Johnson is a board certified Pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Johnson worked in a shared/solo practice downtown Salt Lake for the first nine years after residency then relocated to Comfort Care Pediatrics in the fall of 2014 to enjoy a larger group of practice setting. She is happily taking new patients from birth to late adolescence with a particular interest in wellness and preventative health. When not working Dr. Johnson enjoys free time with her husband and two children running the trials of the foothills skiing yoga travel and friends. While always missing the lake life of Minnesota she has embraced all the beauty of the Wasatch Mountains and fun that Utah has to offer.

Courtney Henley, M.D. – Board Member

Dr. Courtney Henley was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida.  By way of Boston College she spent a few glorious months snowboarding at Snowbird when the prophet’s words moved her, “This is the place.”  She attended medical school at the University of Florida and enthusiastically returned to the University of Utah for residency training in Anesthesiology.  Dr. Henley is a board certified Physician Anesthesiologist in private practice at LDS Hospital and wants to show her gratitude to Utah by remaining active in public service.  She was inspired by Dr. Moench and joined on to UPHE early in its inception, 2006.  This is the year Dr. Henley started her own family and she committed to leaving her children with the same rapturous environment that led Brigham Young to exclaim so many years ago.  Dr. Henley served as the vice-chairperson of the Department of Anesthesiology for 6 years.  She joins the board of UPHE excited to use her English literature  and health sciences education to advocate for the health and well being of all Utahns.  

E. Thomas Nelson, M.D. – Board Member

E. Thomas Nelson was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. He attended the University of Utah where he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Degree in English Literature in 2008. After considering a career in journalism which sent him traveling across the country, he decided to pursue a career in medicine. He attended Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA, graduating in 2015. Dr. Nelson did his residency in Emergency Medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland Oregon, where he was named a Chief Resident in his third year. Upon graduation, he and his wife moved to Salt Lake City where he is an emergency physician. Both he and his wife have a vested interest in Utah’s air quality—Dr. Nelson from the perspective of a medical provider, and his wife given her career in meteorology. When not in the emergency department, he can be found chasing his boy Wilson, or in the Wasatch mountains, either on his mountain bike or skis, depending on the season.