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AMAAD Institute announces return of Gerald Garth as new Executive Director among expanded leadership

Los Angeles, California

March 1, 2023

The AMAAD Institute, Arming Minorities Against Addiction and Disease, announces Gerald Garth as AMAAD’s new executive director; this announcement with Cynthia Ruffin as Chief Programs Officer and Kiwan Cato-Fox as Chief People & Culture Officer.

Founder and President of the Board of Directors, Dr. Carl Highshaw shares, “Our Board leadership has spent a great deal of time strategizing and putting in place a plan to shore up AMAAD’s organization’s leadership structure. We are beyond thrilled to have Gerald Garth return to the agency in this senior leadership role as he will work closely with both Cynthia and Cato. Without question, these leadership decisions are centered around AMAAD’s succession planning. As a Board, we are clear-eyed about the future and these changes are intended to help us prepare for a shift in my role as Founder.”

Garth brings over ten years of non-profit leadership experience, having served in such roles as Manager of Prevention and Care with the Black AIDS Institute and founding co-chair of the Black Caucus of the Los Angeles Commission on HIV. Most recently, Garth served as the first Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the world’s largest LGBTQ health organization. In his time at the Center, Garth shaped and led key initiatives prioritizing racial and gender equity through building new programs and informing policy change.

Garth returns to the AMAAD Institute after having joined in 2017 as the organization’s first program manager before assuming the roles of Director of Programs and Operations and eventually Chief Operations Officer, the organization’s first. Garth holds a master’s degree in business administration from California Intercontinental University.

“AMAAD has become a pillar in through Los Angeles. I thank Carl, the board, staff, and community for trusting my leadership and innovation as executive director. I’m excited and confident to grow, strengthen, and expand the great work of AMAAD even further.”

AMAAD has also expanded its executive leadership, naming Kiwan Cato-Fox as Chief People and Culture Officer and Cynthia Ruffin as Chief Program Officer.

Cynthia comes to AMAAD with 30 years of experience in the social justice field. Her work has focused on creating dialogue spaces, including through performing arts. Before joining the team at AMAAD, she served as the director of COLORS LGBTQ Youth Counseling Services at Antioch University Los Angeles where she grew the program’s capacity to provide mental health services to LGBTQ youth and the transgender community. Cynthia is an active board member of the Los Angeles Community Action Network and holds degrees from the American Conservatory Theatre in Drama and Antioch University in Liberal Arts and Non-Profit Management.

“I believe strongly that we are so much more powerful together than we are apart and I’m proud to be working at an organization that also values collaboration over competition.” Ruffin shared. “I’m excited for the growth of AMAAD in the years to come.”

To the new role of Chief People and Culture Officer, Cato brings over 20 years of organizational development. Before pursuing an M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, he began his career as a high school English teacher and then served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia. Upon his return to the United States, Cato held several programmatic roles that aimed to build human capacity to change and achieve greater effectiveness. These experiences have led to Cato’s conviction about the ability and responsibility of organizations to create identities and strategies that develop, strengthen, and grow their teams and the communities they serve.

“I believe true leadership stems from individuality. AMAAD’s value of people -- a focus on authenticity over perfection-- is its competitive advantage.” Cato said.

The expanded executive team of the AMAAD Institute have assumed their respective positions February 13, 2023.

“We’ve seen too many important community institutions dissolve because of the lack of leadership planning,” said Highshaw. “We recognize that the future of AMAAD is beyond any one leader, and I have great assurance in the organization’s expanded leadership.”

About AMAAD:

AMAAD facilitates personalized individual access to programs and services that foster safe and supportive healthy environments for people to live, learn, and develop to their fullest potential.


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