People to Watch 3

Carlos Meltzer, Dan Novoa, and Hana Michelle Pinard

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Carlos Meltzer

Carlos Meltzer (photo by Yvonne Feece)

Armed with a business degree, but looking for a job that “wasn’t soul sucking,” Carlos Meltzer found his way to Whole Foods Market, where he spent three years as marketing director and fell in love with sustainable, healthy, good food.

“The whole concept was just so great,” Meltzer says. “I developed a passion for food.” He also found his way to Recipe for Success, a local nonprofit that is dedicated to fighting childhood obesity and teaching long-term healthy eating in the schools. Now the 26-year-old is coordinator for media and community relations for the group.

“I do really cool work with the kids, teaching them about their food and where it comes from,” he says. “The first class is always like ‘Ewwww,’ but we teach them to say exactly what they don’t like about food and why. Then we have celebrity chefs like Monica Pope come in, and they learn to cook. This year they have their own gardens. When they grow their own food, they get ravenous about eating their veggies!”

The Recipe for Success projects that Meltzer is currently working on include plans for a culinary center and home for the organization in the historic Sunset Coffee Building at Allen’s Landing as well as a locally produced kids’ cooking show for PBS. Meltzer is also developing an urban market catering to downtown residents stocked with prepared foods and produce from area farmers. And he is involved in a concept that will combine real Texas barbecue with a bar featuring cocktails infused with local ingredients. In his free time, this single foodie haunts farmers’ markets, enjoys his dog Bella (the “greatest dog in the world”), and, of course, cooks up a storm for his friends. —Marene Gustin • Photo by Yvonne Feece

Dan Novoa

Dan Novoa (photo by Danid Lewis)

As a therapist, Danilo “Dan” Novoa has extensive expertise in mental health, substance-abuse counseling, and harm reduction. After moving to Houston in 2003, Novoa (a native of Nicaragua) decided to focus his clinical practice on the needs of the GLBT individuals.

Novoa is primarily interested in harm reduction as it relates to substance abuse and risky sexual behavior. He is a proponent of a unique, non-judgmental approach.

“While attending a national conference on harm reduction, I was introduced to Pat Dennin, a clinician who focuses on motivational interviewing,” Novoa says. “This technique stresses a therapist’s comprehensive understanding of their patient.”

The technique highlights patient behaviors and contrasts them with what patients wish to accomplish through therapy. However, this comparison is made deftly and with a great deal of understanding and warmth, rather than from a judgmental, pejorative perspective.   

Labeled Harm Reduction Psychotherapy, this paradigm used by Novoa is based on the belief that behaviors develop as a result of complex interactions and that the understanding of these components is crucial. “This is a specific technique therapists use to, in essence, be with their patients,” Novoa says. “Used originally with substance abusers, this methodology can also be utilized to address unsafe sexual behaviors, specifically unprotected intercourse.”

Rather than view unprotected sex as a one-dimensional problem, Novoa seeks deeper comprehension. He continually asks, “What are the root causes of people having unprotected sex?” He explains, “A higher level of understanding regarding my client’s actions is the mechanism that opens the door to the exploration of future harm reduction.”   

Having utilized this approach for five years, Novoa attests to its effectiveness. “This counseling technique does reduce harm. Incremental changes are important. Even if a person makes the decision not to ejaculate inside their sex partner, that’s a huge shift in behavior.” —Rich Arenschieldt • Photo by David Lewis

Hana Michelle Pinard

Hana Michelle Pinard (photo by Mark Hiebert)

Under P for “passion”: In the dictionary, that’s where you might expect to find information on Hana Michelle Pinard. Her never-a-dull-moment life as a transgender woman is the definition of boundless enthusiasm. She will tell you, with all sincerity, “I consider myself an ordinary person who can sometimes accomplish extraordinary things.” Glance at a list of her activities, and you sense she is being modest.

From her successful competition in several sports (except for golf, which she laughs “was one dismal failure for me”) to championing the rights of GLBT people both here and around the globe, Pinard has never shied away from being in the thick of things.

A near-Olympic-caliber luge athlete in her younger years, Pinard’s current sports goals are the World Outgames in Copenhagen 2009, and the Gay Games in Cologne 2010. She has already earned medals in speed skating, cycling (gold and silver in the 2006 Gay Games and Outgames, respectively), volleyball, triathlon relays, tennis, and handball.

In addition to rearing two sons and running her own financial-planning firm, Pinard has devoted her energy most recently as the coordinator for Amnesty International’s OUTfront organization, the first such group in Houston. As a program of its international human-rights parent group, OUTfront acts as a watchdog over government persecution of GLBT people around the world. Her current interest is not such a far cry from her work 20 years ago to smuggle religious literature to persecuted contacts behind the Iron Curtain.

The constant thread that runs through Pinard’s life is passion. She parallels the lessons of sports with every other arena.   “Winning teaches you some things, but losing teaches you even more,” she says. “I just hope that I can inspire others about what is possible when one has big dreams and aspirations.”

—Tracy Morris • Photo by Mark Hiebert

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