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Meet the CHS Team


Rachel Buckwalter Rachel Buckwalter, (she/her) RN, BSN
Director, Community Health Services

Rachel is a senior community health nurse at the Tompkins County Health Department. She has worked at TCHD for a total of 9 years, the last 2 in a management role. She leads the communicable disease team and the immunization team. She has 20 years of experience as a nurse, including pediatrics, community health, home care, hospice, maternal child health and public health. She is interested in building healthy communities. She lives in Ithaca with her family and can be found hiking, reading or cooking when not at work.

Matt Philips Matt Phillips, (he/him)
Systems Administrator and Billing Coordinator

Matt has been a part of our Community Health Services team for the last year and a half, where he oversees our electronic health record, and billing team. He prides himself on helping the CHS team navigate new technology so they can work more effectively for our community. In his free time, he enjoys taking his 2 dogs for walks, cheering on the Yankees and Syracuse basketball team, and going on hikes with his fiancé.

Deidre Gallow Deidre Gallow, BS
Administrative Assistant 

Deidre grew up locally in Groton, NY. She graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in Applied Statistics. She joined the Health Department in 2014 and has worked in Environmental Health, Community Health Services, Children with Special Care Needs, and Health Promotion. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she was pulled into COVID response full time for 2 years. Currently, she is working in Health Promotion and Community Health Services focusing on the Community Health Assessment and monitoring/evaluation of the newly re-opened Moms PLUS+ program. Deidre is excited to help support our team as we move forward with these new projects! 

Dorota Kossowska Dorota Kossowska (she/her)
NYS Public Health Fellow

Dorota was born and raised right here in Ithaca, NY. She graduated from Cornell University in 2020 with a bachelors in Global and Public Health Sciences right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. She worked as a project assistant for a few months doing case monitoring before starting as NYS Public Health Corp Fellow. She has been working primarily within Community Health Services focusing on maternal and child health. She is excited to promote the Moms PLUS + program so that more people take advantage of this wonderful program. She is thrilled to be serving Tompkins County in this new role as a public health fellow. In her free time, Dorota enjoys taking walks in nature and fostering kittens for the SPCA.

Photo Coming Soon Sagarika Vemprala, BDS, MPH
NYS Public Health Graduate Fellow

Sagarika is a graduate of Cornell University with a strong passion for public health. She holds a Master of Public Health degree with a primary focus on infectious diseases epidemiology. She is also a licensed dentist with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree from India. She is currently working with the Community Health Services team on projects related to communicable disease investigation and dental health assessment in Tompkins County. She is passionate about serving communities and improving their oral health outcomes by leveraging her clinical expertise and public health knowledge. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, painting, and hiking.

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Moms PLUS+


Celeste Rakovich. Photo: Celeste Rakovich, (she/her) BSN, RN, CLC,
Senior Community Health Nurse

Celeste oversees the Moms PLUS+, Rabies, and Lead poisoning prevention as well as the anonymous HIV testing.   She brings years of pediatric, maternal child health and home care experience to her position. She is passionate about education, empowerment and inclusivity.   She enthusiastic about different cultures, languages and backgrounds and eager to engage with groups who are underserved in the community.  Celeste is a mother of four children and two fur babies.  She enjoys gardening and live entertainment.

Jessica Clark-Manderville. Photo: Jessica Clark-Manderville (she/her), RN, BSN
Senior Community Health Nurse

Jessica has over a decade worth of experience as a Registered Nurse specializing in Maternal-Child Health and Pediatric care.  She joined the MOMS team in 2021 and strives to meet the needs of families and babies in Tompkins County.  She is currently working towards becoming a Certified Lactation Counselor to help further assist lactating parents and babies.  Jessica enjoys spending time with her friends and family, being outdoors and reading.

Deb Axtell. Photo: Deb Axtell, (she/her) BSN, RN, CLC
Community Health Nurse

Deb came to the MOMS program in 1990, after working in various hospitals in New York State in Pediatrics, Maternity, Special Care Nursery, and Labor and Delivery. Deb enjoys Public Health Nursing because she gets to share knowledge and skills learned from the hospital setting, with moms in the more relaxed home setting. She especially enjoys answering questions about breastfeeding and how beneficial it is to mom and baby. Deb finds the variety of cultures in Tompkins County most interesting. She knows that motherhood can be uncharted territory in any culture.

Gail Birnbaum. Photo: Gail Birnbaum (she/her), BSN, BM, RN, CLC
Community Health Nurse

Gail has decades of experience in Maternal-Child Health in a variety of clinical and home settings. She joined the MOMS/MOMS Plus team in 2006 and is happy to have found such a fulfilling place to serve families and their babies in Tompkins County. She enjoys providing antepartum and postpartum care, as well as teaching lactation and parenting skills. Gail loves the outdoors, traveling with her husband, and having adventures with her family.

Caryl Silberman. Photo: Caryl Silberman (she/her/hers), BS, RN
Community Health Nurse

Caryl is a Registered Nurse with decades of experience working in a variety of settings.  She strives to support her clients’ knowledge of health and wellness across their life span.  She is thrilled to be working in Maternal Child Health as well as in Communicable Diseases.  Caryl loves the outdoors, enjoys cooking, reading, traveling, and hiking and kayaking with her partner and rescue poodle.

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