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Meet the Staff

City of Hope National Medical Center Team

 

James V. Lacey, PhD

The City of Hope team is led by James Lacey, PhD. In 2009, Dr. Lacey moved west to Los Angeles to join City of Hope and the California Teachers Study (CTS) Team. Working alongside the rest of the CTS Team, Dr. Lacey is continuing to investigate how hormones influence the risk of developing breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, and other chronic diseases among women.

Jennifer Benbow

Jennifer Benbow began working with the California Teachers Study at City of Hope as the Study Administrator for the CTS New Biospecimens Project in February 2013. Previously, she coordinated the biorepository efforts for the California Childhood Leukemia Study at UC Berkeley and served as a Project Assistant for the Family Registry for Breast Cancer and the Equality in Breast Cancer Care studies at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC). Prior to her foray into the field of public health, she worked in bilingual education, having earned her B.A. in Spanish from USC. She taught elementary students in a literacy intervention program in South Los Angeles and later managed the teaching staff and training program for a technology-focused, non-profit organization partnered with LAUSD—experiences which have given her great enthusiasm for working on health issues that affect California teachers.

 

Jennifer lives with her cat, Phil, and when she’s not at her desk, she can be found gallivanting around the globe (though probably still working) pursuing one of her favorite hobbies: skiing, scuba diving, and eating.

Kristen Savage, MPH

Kristen Savage joined the California Teachers Study team in December 2015. Kristen earned a Master's Degree in Public Health (MPH) from the University of Washington with a focus on community-oriented public health and has a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in International Development Studies from UCLA. Her passion for community outreach has led her to manage public health projects in Los Angeles, India, and Ethiopia. As a Study Administrator at City of Hope, she manages the Biospecimens for the Future Project and focuses on creating new, sustainable ways for CTS researchers and CTS participants to communicate with one another.

 

When she's not working, Kristen can be found globetrotting with her husband Michael or (somewhat unsuccessfully) trying to teach their dog Moose new tricks.

Martha Scott

Martha Scott was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. After graduating from St. Paul High School, in Santa Fe Springs, she became a Medical Assistant and worked for the American Red Cross in Blood Services for the next 10 years. During this time, she also worked for the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail, as a Certified Phlebotomist, where she met her husband, Kevin, now a retired Sheriff’s Deputy. Settling in the beautiful city of San Marino and deciding to stay home to raise their children was a blessing. With the support of her husband, she continued her education to earn her Associates Science Degree from Pasadena City College. While raising their three children, Martha also ran two successful businesses from home. In 2012, Martha renewed her Phlebotomist Certification and is very excited to be part of City of Hope and work specifically with the California Teachers Study.

In her free time, she loves spending it with family and friends, going to the beach, reading, and taking peaceful walks in the evening.

Michelle Morales

Michelle Morales is a Certified Phlebotomist with the State of California and is honored to be working with City of Hope and the California Teachers Study. Before joining the CTS, she was a Mobile Phlebotomist and also worked for 12 years with the Hacienda-La Puente Unified School District, specializing in Braille for the Visually Impaired in the Special Education Department. As a 6 year breast cancer survivor, she knows personally the devastation of being diagnosed with cancer. She is very passionate about being a part of the CTS team in helping to learn more about why California Teachers have a higher incidence of cancer than the average California woman. 

In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, listening to music, and traveling. She looks at her cancer experience in a positive way, knowing how precious life is and living each day to the fullest.

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Cancer Prevention Institute of California Team

 

Tina Clarke, PhD

Dr. Clarke leads the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) team. Dr. Tina Clarke is passionate about her work to understand what causes cancer (especially lymphoma, melanoma, and breast cancer) so as to help stop it from ever devastating lives and families. Some of her recent work seeks to understand the effects of hormone replacement therapy and aspirin on population trends in cancer occurrence. She has been working with the California Teachers Study since 2006 and now co-lead the CTS biobank effort, which will store away thousands of teachers blood samples in the hopes of finding new blood biomarkers for early cancer detection.

 

Dr. Clarke received her Ph.D in Epidemiology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1999, her MPH in Epidemiology from Tulane University in 1996, and her BS in Biology from Duke University in 1995. She is a Research Scientist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California in Fremont, CA, Consulting Associate Professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine (Department of Health Research and Policy), and co-leader of the Pathology and Survival working group of the International Consortium for Lymphoma Epidemiology (Interlymph).

 

In her free time, Tina enjoys skiing, sports spectating (Duke Blue Devils basketball, Denver Broncos football, and her son’s elementary school lacrosse team), and her golden retriever Lucky.

Chris Duffy, MPH

Christine (Chris) Duffy has worked as a Senior Program Manager at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) and as study manager on the California Teachers Study (CTS) since 1999. As part of her work with the CTS, she has managed the collection of biospecimens, the validation of nutritional data and the innovation of better ways to improve the data collection experience for study participants. Chris has worked with Drs. Clarke, Horn-Ross and other investigators on several cancer research projects addressing lifestyle and environmental risk factors for cancers of the breast, endometrium and thyroid, which she hopes will lead to better ways to prevent them.

 

Chris’ inspiration for her work in cancer and chronic disease prevention research stems from her family history of chronic illness, cancer included, that could have been prevented if healthier lifestyle choices were made (e.g. smoking, eating healthy, exercising regularly). Chris loves the work she does at CPIC and within the CTS as she knows she is working with dedicated researchers and other like-minded people who share her same motives and passions to making a difference in preventing disease and minimizing the burden of disease before it happens.

 

Chris received her Master’s Degree in Public Health Nutrition (MPH) from the University of California, Berkeley in 1998 and her Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and Community Health Science from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1994. She is also an experienced licensed phlebotomist. 

 

In her free time, Chris stays very busy with her husband, their five children (11 years through college-age) and their new black lab/mastiff puppy, Brody. She is an avid San Francisco Giants and 49ers fan.  She is a committed runner,  managing to squeeze in a daily early morning run, and has run several 10K races. She hopes to run a half marathon this year. Her latest passion is to create budget gourmet meals that are nutritious, kid-friendly and still good for the environment.

Katie Barens

Katie has a deep commitment to understanding and meeting the needs of cancer patients. At the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC), she has been working on multiple research studies to find the causes and reduce the burden of cancer. She has been working with the California Teachers Study (CTS) since 2011 and helps to coordinate the CTS biobank effort, which will store away thousands of teachers' blood samples in the hopes of finding new blood biomarkers for early cancer detection. She has also been involved with other projects at CPIC which look at the emotional and physical quality of life for people recently diagnosed with cancer.

 

Katie received her Associate’s Degree in Anthropology from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She is currently working on completing her Bachelor's Degree at San Jose State University. She is the Project Coordinator for this CTS biobank.


Away from work, Katie enjoys running, hiking and staying fit. She loves sports and the outdoors. Katie loves to travel and as a result, photography has emerged as a passion. 

Breanna Koenig

Breanna Koenig is a trained phlebotomist (California License #56809) with four years of experience.  She is very thankful that she can play a part in the advancement of this valuable research effort and has a dedication to help future generations prevent and fight diseases for improved women’s health.


Breanna earned her Bachelor’s in Psychology with a concentration in Neuroscience from the California State University in Long Beach. As she was working towards her Bachelor’s degree, she helped out with research projects and quickly learned the high value in studying and improving our understanding of diseases and how they are caused. The field of research and expanding the global knowledge of disorders and diseases has always been of high importance in her life. In her free time she loves to hike, play beach volleyball, explore new places, read and spend time with friends and family all while laughing as much as possible.

Elyse Yrigoyen

Elyse Yrigoyen is a trained phlebotomist (California License #36777) with a strong commitment to women’s health research. Elyse says, “With a number of family members stricken with cancer, two of which are breast cancer survivors, I find my work with the California Teachers Study (CTS) very rewarding. I enjoy the women I interact with and the places I see while traveling throughout Sacramento and other areas within Northern California. I feel fortunate to play a vital role in cancer research.”

 

Elyse earned her Bachelor’s degree in Child Development/Psychology at California State University at Chico. After holding positions in office administration and allied health, she returned to healthcare and is so happy to be applying her 22 years of phlebotomy experience as an Interviewer/ Phlebotomist with the CTS team and at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California.  Elyse has been a part of the CTS team since December 2012.

 

To balance out the work that she does with the CTS team and at CPIC, Elyse makes great efforts to stay fit with regular work outs at the pool, takes time to relax by a lake or the ocean and enjoys wine tasting with her husband and friends.

Karyn Taylor

Karyn Taylor is a trained phlebotomist (California license #46880) who has been working with the California Teachers Study (CTS) and the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) since April 2011. She loves being able to make a contribution in the fight against breast cancer and enjoys meeting and spending time with the CTS participants all over the San Francisco Bay area. She holds these women in high esteem and is inspired by their grace and willingness to help others.

 

Karyn received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from California State University at Northridge. After a year of graduate school, she earned her Medical Technologist license and spent many years working in the clinical laboratories of large hospitals. Her main areas of focus were immunohematology, tissue typing for organ transplantation and paternity testing. She also spent some time teaching Chinese cooking classes.

 

Away from work, Karyn enjoys spending time with her 26-year old identical twin daughters. She is an accomplished cook, loves ballet and theatre, grows roses and herbs and has an extensive collection of R&B and hip hop music. 

Paula Mellion

Paula Mellion is a trained phlebotomist (California License #65239) who joined the California Teachers Study team in December 2013. Paula is excited to bring to the study her skills and extensive experience in healthcare as a paramedic, phlebotomist, researcher and a patient. She has been surrounded with many friends and family members who became victims of cancer and she is committed to the work at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC). She is excited that she is going to be a part of this CTS biobank and the research that will result from the biological samples she helps to collect, as she sees it as an expression of her admiration for all women dealing in their fight against cancer.

 

Paula earned her Bachelor's Degree in Emergency Medicine in 2007 at the Medical University of Warsaw, Poland, which allowed her to work as a paramedic in ambulances, emergency rooms and intensive care units. Since moving to the Bay Area, Paula has worked as a medical research assistant on a clinical trial at the California Pacific Medical Center.  She also volunteered in the emergency room and urgent care departments at St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco. Last year, she earned an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) license and California Phlebotomist Technician (CPT) license.  She has over 10 years of experience drawing blood samples from patients and research participants.

 

In her free time Paula loves to cook, bike, hike with her husband, work in her garden and on her car, and hone her archery skills. Paula recognizes four major holidays: Christmas, Thanksgiving, The Superbowl, and The World Series (and please don't judge her for loving the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Yankees). Paula cherishes her wonderful, small circle of friends and her few animals to whom she has given her heart - her cat, Andy, and dogs, Angel and Rigby.

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University of California, Irvine Team

Hoda Anton-Culver, PhD

Dr. Anton-Culver's research is in the broad scientific areas of cancer epidemiology and cancer genetics. Her research focuses on cancer epidemiology with special emphasis on etiology, molecular genetic characterization, evaluation of genetic-phenotype correlation, and genotype-environment interaction using large populations of cancer patients, their relatives, and unaffected controls. Dr Anton-Culver’s research theme takes advantage of population genetics, to predict the proportion of cancers that can be attributed to genetic variation and exposure to environmental risk factors in the population. She developed and has been successful in implementing this research theme in the understanding of several cancers, particularly breast, colorectal, ovarian, and prostate cancers. Gene-environment interactions are important components in several cancers in human populations and the knowledge generated from this research will help in planning of cancer prevention and control.

Hannah Lui Park

Hannah Lui Park, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the UC Irvine School of Medicine. Dr. Park earned her undergraduate degree in Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley and Master's degree in Cell Biology at the USC Keck School of Medicine. She then completed her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences at Stanford University and pursued a postdoctoral fellowship in translational cancer epigenetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Epigenetics is the study of non-sequence based heritable changes in the DNA that occur during normal development and disease processes.

In the CTS, Dr. Park's research focuses on the effects of genetic variations on breast cancer risk. She is also interested in how lifestyle and environmental factors influence risk for diseases and the discovery of genetic and epigenetic markers for disease risk and early detection.

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