Our Team

Pareesa Charmchi Goodwin, MPH

Executive Director

Pareesa is a dynamic and strategic health advocate and leader.  She comes to the Connecticut Oral Health Initiative (COHI) from Community Catalyst where she served as the State Advocacy Manager for the Children’s Health Initiative.  In that role, Pareesa worked with health advocates in six states, including Connecticut, to improve access to quality health coverage for children. Her experience in the children's health field also includes work with Boston University’s Catalyst Center on research projects related to financing strategies and improving care for children and youth with special health care needs.


Prior to joining Community Catalyst, Pareesa worked for Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh within the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services. Her work in the Mayor’s office increased inter-agency collaboration and streamlined City services to better support people with substance use disorders.


Pareesa sees COHI as ready to further its longstanding strategy of combining collaboration with advocacy to ensure that Connecticut policymakers support access to affordable, high quality oral health care, especially for those most harmed by lack of accessibility and affordability. 


Pareesa holds a Master’s in Public Health from Boston University and a Bachelor’s in Sociology and Music from Chapman University.

Gary Turco, MS

Community Engagement Specialist

Gary brings a wealth of experience to Connecticut Oral Health Initiative (COHI). He has worked tirelessly to improve policies and services to those who need them most, either by influencing government policy changes or helping support organizations providing direct services.

Gary currently serves as a State Representative in the Connecticut General Assembly, to which he was elected in 2018. His primary focus has been on lowering the cost of living for Connecticut's families, expanding access to vital human services, and creating new and more equitable opportunities for prosperity. He is also an adjunct professor in communication and political science. 

Previously, Gary worked as a legislative and policy aide in the Office of the Speaker of the House in the Connecticut General Assembly. He helped staff several committees, including Human Services and Children. He also worked in strategic communications with non-profit clients that focused on improving the health of children and adults and volunteered as an early childhood education teacher in Uganda, Africa.

Gary strongly believes that every resident of Connecticut deserves equal access to quality and affordable oral health care services. By building a coalition of community voices, he feels we can achieve this goal together.


Gary received a bachelor's degree in political science from Sacred Heart University and a master's degree in communication from Central Connecticut State University.  

Sandra Kaye Baker

Office Manager

Sandra brings to COHI a depth of experience in fund development and nonprofit stewardship. She has devoted her career to the private school and social services arenas. Having seen and experienced inequities in oral healthcare at an early age, she is drawn to our mission to advance oral health access and equity. Sandra received her associate's degree from Briarwood College.

Sandra is also passionate about her volunteer work with the Simsbury Second Chance Shop and advocating for people who experience homelessness.