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About Us

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors, working in partnership with the Chief Executive Officer and Staff, defines the vision, mission and values for the organization and establishes plans and policies.

Each member of the Board of Directors has a vested interest in melanoma, either as a physician or researcher involved in the treatment or research of the disease, or as a patient, family member or friend of a melanoma patient.

Stan Adler (New York)

Stan is the founder and creative director for Stan Adler Associates, a full-service marketing communications firm, based in New York City, established in 1979. After being successfully treated for Stage IV metastatic melanoma with high dose IL-2 in 2005, he discovered the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) and became an active participant on the bulletin board and in the chat room to try and help melanoma patients make informed decisions about their treatment. As a patient advocate, Stan speaks frequently around the country to groups of doctors, nurses, patients and caregivers about his experiences battling metastatic melanoma. Stan and his wife Aviva live in New Rochelle, NY and have three married children and three grandchildren.

Michael B. Atkins, MD (Washington, DC)

Michael B. Atkins, MD, is Deputy Director of the Georgetown-Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C. and Professor of Oncology and Medicine (Hematology/Oncology) at Georgetown University School of Medicine. Prior to his move to Georgetown, Dr. Atkins was Deputy Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology, Director of the Cancer Clinical Trials Office, Director of the Cutaneous Oncology Program, and Director of the Biologic Therapy Program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). In addition, he was the leader of the Kidney Cancer Program at the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center and Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School. He served as Director of the DF/HCC Kidney Cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant and co–principal investigator of the DF/HCC Skin Cancer SPORE since their inceptions in 2003 and 2001, respectively.

Dr. Atkins completed his medical education at Tufts University School of Medicine, and postgraduate training at Tufts New England Medical Center Hospital. Dr. Atkins’ major research interests are cancer immunotherapy, treatment of melanoma and renal cell carcinoma, predictive markers for response to biologic therapy, and antiangiogenic and targeted therapies. His research work has been funded by the National Cancer Institute, various foundations, and several pharmaceutical companies.

Elise A. Barish (Colorado)

Elise has proudly supported the Melanoma Research Foundation since 2009 when her brother received a Courage Award at the MRF Gala in New York. She initiated the Denver Gala in 2012 and has been an active committee member since. While Elise appreciates Denver’s 300-plus days of sunshine and participates in many outdoor activities, she is generally a shade seeker. She enjoys her pale girl status and is passionate about educating others on trying to prevent melanoma through reduced UV exposure and regular skin checks.

In addition to working with the MRF, Elise is actively involved in the Denver community. Prior to leaving the workforce to raise her four children, she worked as an Equity Analyst in Denver and New York. Elise earned her bachelor’s degree from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and her MBA from Columbia University.

Kristina Baum (Washington, DC)

Kristina Baum is a senior vice president at Vision 360 Partners in public affairs and litigation communications, working on a number of accounts for corporate clients. Kristina has spent the last decade in senior communications roles in both the private sector and the highest branches of government including serving as a lead communications strategist at the White House, in both houses of Congress, and as the chief spokesperson for Chevron Phillips Chemical Company. Kristina most recently served as vice president at Qorvis communications where she helped manage clients ranging from publicly traded companies in consumer goods to non-profits and from privately held companies in supply chain to foreign governments. Previously, Kristina was communications director for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). In addition to serving as the chief on-the-record spokesperson for the OSTP, Kristina developed communications plans and messaging strategies for over 90 policy streams and played an active role in managing communications in the COVID19 response.

Kristina’s Hill experience includes being communications director for both the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and press secretary for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. She also previously served as external communications supervisor for Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, following a stint as a reporter in the financial and energy industries. Kristina has also worked on matters of national security in previous roles and has a current Top Secret/SCI clearance which also makes her an asset to Federal clients requiring adjudicated security clearances from both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Defense.

As a three-time cancer survivor, Baum is an inspiration outside the office too. She advocates for those battling melanoma through her work to raise awareness, fund research and find a cure. She is a regular contributor to national media on cancer research and a fundraiser for multiple charities and advocacy groups for melanoma patients and survivors. She has also advocated before the FDA on clinical trial design and medical countermeasures to brain metastases. Kristina graduated from William Woods University with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, and graduated from Liberty University with a Masters of Arts in Human Services with a certificate in marriage and family therapy.

Doug Brodman, Chair (Florida)

Doug is an accomplished senior executive with 35 years of experience in leading international businesses in the beverage industry. Working with Miller Brewing Company and SABMiller for the past 17 years, he led commercial sales, strategy and marketing efforts in multiple business units across the United States, Europe and Latin America. He is an effective role model, leader and mentor with a reputation for enhancing team effectiveness, developing senior talent, and affecting organizational change.

In his most recent position as Vice President, Strategy for Latin America, Doug led strategy development for SABMiller’s largest and most profitable region. Previously, Doug spent 5 years in Europe where he was Commercial Director, Europe, developing commercial sales and marketing strategy across 10 independent business units. Prior to this, Doug served as Chief Executive and Chairman of the Board of Plzensky Prazdroj, the largest brewer in the Czech Republic.

A stage 4 melanoma survivor, having been successfully treated with immunotherapy in a clinical trial, Doug became actively involved with the Melanoma Research Foundation leading to his current role as Board member.

Doug is also currently serving on the Board of a start-up company in the healthcare technology sector, VitalVio, located in Troy, NY and is a Board member of Revibe Technologies, located in Raleigh, NC. Doug earned a Bachelor of Science in Management from St. John’s University and has an MBA from Hofstra University.  He lives in Bonita Springs, Florida, with his wife Terry.

Laura Ferris, MD, PhD (Pennsylvania)

Laura Korb Ferris, MD, PhD received her PhD in immunology from The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and her MD from The University of Maryland. She completed her residency in dermatology and fellowship in cutaneous oncology at the University of Pittsburgh. Currently, she is Professor of Dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh / UPMC Department of Dermatology where she directs the departmental clinical trials unit as well as both the psoriasis and pigmented skin lesions clinics. She has been a principal investigator on over 100 clinical trials of therapies and diagnostic tools in dermatology. She is also part of the University of Pittsburgh Hillman Cancer Center melanoma program. Her research is focused on strategies to improve melanoma early detection both through screening and the use of novel technologies. She has helped to develop a primary care-based skin cancer screening program at UPMC with the goal of helping to improve early melanoma detection and reducing melanoma mortality across western Pennsylvania and to design a model that can be applied to health systems nationally.

Kyleigh LiPira (Washington, DC)

Kyleigh M. LiPira, MBA joined the MRF in July 2015 and assumed the role of CEO in January 2018. Prior to her tenure at the MRF Kyleigh led fundraising programs at Johns Hopkins Medicine for close to 10 years. First working in the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center to drive research dollars to support initiatives in head and neck cancer, brain cancer and melanoma. Later, she was recruited to start and lead the Department of Dermatology development program. Increasing its residency program by 75%, developing endowment fellowship and lectureship programs and working with industry partners to support faculty positions. Kyleigh has her MBA from Johns Hopkins University and her BA from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

Giulia Newton, MBA (California)

Giulia Newton recently retired after a 30 year career in the medical device industry with multinational healthcare corporations. She was Vice-President of Global Marketing for 10 years for Abbott Medical Optics. Subsequently as Head of Johnson and Johnson’s Surgical Vision division for Canada and Latin America, she led the organization through a period of accelerated growth by optimizing go-to-market strategies and portfolios, and by expanding the organization’s resources and capabilities.

Prior to joining the corporate world, Giulia trained as an RN at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, UK. Later she earned her MBA at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. She speaks Italian and French and over the course of her career has lived in the UK, France, Italy, Japan, and since 1999, in California.

In 2022 Giulia was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma. She is immensely thankful to have been treated successfully with immunotherapy and surgery. This led her to become actively involved with the Melanoma Research Foundation. She has served as a consumer reviewer for both the MRF and CDMRP for melanoma grants. She is a peer mentor to melanoma patients and volunteers with the Suicide Crisis Line.

Giulia enjoys the performing arts and serves on the Board of Trustees for the South Coast Repertory Theater in Orange County. She lives in Irvine, California, with her husband Schalon.

Ashani Weeraratna, PhD (Maryland)

Dr. Ashani Weeraratna is the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Cancer Biology, E.V. McCollum Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, as well as the Associate Director for Laboratory Research at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She is a Past President of the Society for Melanoma Research, and was recently appointed by President Biden as a member of the National Cancer Advisory Board. Prior to joining Johns Hopkins, she was the Ira Brind Professor and Co-Program Leader, Immunology, Microenvironment & Metastasis Program Member at the Wistar Institute. Born in Sri Lanka and raised in Lesotho in Southern Africa, Weeraratna first came to the United States in 1988 to study biology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She earned a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Oncology at the Department of Pharmacology of George Washington University Medical Center. From 1998 to 2000, she was a post-doctoral fellow at The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, before joining the National Human Genome Research Institute as a staff scientist. In 2003, she moved to the National Institute on Aging, where she started her own research program, before joining the Wistar Institute from 2011-2019.

Dr. Weeraratna is an expert in melanoma metastasis, Wnt signaling, and aging, and her research focuses heavily on the effects of the tumor microenvironment on metastasis and therapy resistance. She is one of the first to study how the aging microenvironment guides metastasis and therapy resistance in melanoma. For this innovative work, she was selected by Nature to be a part of their “Milestones in Cancer Research” video series and in 2021 the NCI selected her as one of their “Top 5 Cancer Researchers Accelerating Cancer Research Into the Future”. Moreover, the quality and impact of Dr. Weeraratna’s research is further recognized by the award of numerous peer-reviewed grants and awards.

Finally, Dr. Weeraratna has been a champion of increasing diversity for many years, and this is evident in her writings which call for gender and racial equity (e.g., Nature, Nature Medicine, Nature Reviews in Cancer, Cancer Cell and Cancer Discovery). She mentors junior faculty all over the world, and is spearheading efforts to increase the diversity among the Hopkins faculty. In her own department she has successfully implemented strategies to increase diversity both through faculty recruitment, and in her student body. She has written a book for the lay public called “Is Cancer Inevitable?” meant to highlight the progress made in the field, and the importance of diversity in cancer research.  She is also heavily invested in Public Health, with multiple calls for sun protection and awareness through her social media presence, and community outreach.

Tom Westdyk, Secretary (New Jersey)

Tom, his wife Cathie and their three daughters live in Summit, New Jersey.  The Westdyks have been involved with the MRF since 2014, a year after their oldest child Christopher was diagnosed with melanoma at the age of 16. Chris was honored with a Courage Award at the 2017 MRF New York Gala. Cathie was the Chairwomen of the 2018 New York Gala.  Chris lost his six-year battle with melanoma in June of 2019, having fought valiantly and living a very full life in the midst of ongoing treatment and several surgeries.

Tom is a Managing Director and Group Head of First Citizens Bank’s Technology Media and Telecom Group. In this role, he is responsible for the Bank’s leveraged finance origination and advisory efforts for client relationships in the Technology, Entertainment, Media and Communications Infrastructure industries.  He has been with First Citizens and prior owned firms since 1998.

Tom holds a Bachelor of Science degree in finance from Lehigh University and an MBA in international finance from Fordham University.

Jill Wrobel, Treasurer (Illinois)

Jill Wrobel is an Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for Brunswick, the parent company to the world’s largest marine brands for innovation and inspiration on the water. In this role, Jill is responsible for all aspects of the human resource function for Brunswick’s 18,000 global employees. Prior to Brunswick, Jill spent eight years in a variety of executive level human resource positions within Walgreens Boots Alliance, most recently as the Group Vice President, Global HR Business Strategy and HR M&A Integration. During her tenure at Walgreens she played a key role in many of the Company’s global M&A transactions, and was also a senior HR executive to leadership driving digital transformation and the stand up of new innovation businesses. Prior to Walgreens, Jill worked at PwC for 9 years as a HR M&A advisor to both private equity and corporate clients, including two years as a pension consultant. Jill passed all actuarial certification exams and received the Society of Actuaries Fellowship credential in 2009. Jill is a stage IV metastatic ocular melanoma survivor and was granted the MRF Courage Award in 2019. She earned her undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Finance with a minor in Secondary Education from University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Jill lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband Jeff and her two sons.

In Memoriam: C. Randy Lomax, MA, MFT (California)

Randy Lomax served on the MRF Board of Directors for 14 years before his passing July 2016. The Randy Lomax Memorial Research Fund was established in his honor.

Randy was a Stage III melanoma survivor. he served as Chairman of the MRF Board for 10 years. He was also the President and CEO of the Melanoma Research Foundation Breakthrough Consortium (MRFBC), whose mission is to accelerate the research and development of the most promising therapeutics for melanoma in order to deliver curative options to patients. Randy held a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Psychology and was a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He taught and worked in the counceling center of De Anza College for 38 years, retiring in June of 2009. His expertise included Human Sexuality and Drug and Alcohol Abuse. Randy was nationally recognized for his teaching excellence.

Learn more about the MRF’s Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). Meet the MRF Staff.