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Get ready for an exciting announcement for the melanoma community

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About Us

Staff

Kyleigh LiPira, MBA

Chief Executive Officer

Kyleigh LiPira is the Melanoma Research Foundation’s (MRF) Chief Executive Officer, a position she has held since January 2017. In her previous role of Chief Development Officer, she led the Foundation’s development program and worked with donors and their families to make charitable donations to significantly impact melanoma research, education and advocacy. Kyleigh has extensive fundraising experience, coming to the MRF from Johns Hopkins Medicine where for four and half years she raised funds for melanoma and other cancers at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. Later, she became the Director of Development for the Johns Hopkins Department of Dermatology. During her five-year tenure with the Department of Dermatology she raised significant funds for melanoma clinical trials, expanded the residency program through additional donor-directed funding, engaged former trainees and grateful patients in philanthropy and launched the industry-funded Ethnic Skin Fellowship.

Kyleigh graduated from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada with a degree in Mass Communication and English. She obtained her MBA from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. Kyleigh resides in Maryland with her husband and two adorable daughters Luci and Sophia.

Jess Allison

Director of Corporate Relations

Jess Allison joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in September 2022. Jess works with our corporate partners to fund every collaboration opportunity offered by the MRF. She is also working with the melanoma community to identify new, strategic partnerships to maximize the impact from the corporate realm. Prior to joining the MRF, Jess worked as a Campaign Development Director for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night campaign.

Jess is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara and was raised in the central Sierra Nevada mountains of California. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, cooking, trying new restaurants, listening to true crime and comedy podcasts, and exploring Washington DC’s neighborhoods on foot. She is the proud step-mom to Abi, who is a freshman at Texas Tech in the School of Architecture. Jess and her husband, Chaz, live on Capitol Hill with their two elderly, cranky cats, Clementine and Madeline, and their cuddly pit-bull/cattle dog mix, Poppy.

Whitney Baylor, MSN, RN, AONN-CG

MRF Nurse

Whitney Baylor, MSN, RN, AONN-CG, joined the Melanoma Research Foundation team in December 2022 to help support the clinical inquires received at the MRF. She graduated from The University of Colorado with a Master’s in Science of Nursing and has worked directly with melanoma patients for essentially her entire nursing career. Prior to joining the MRF, Whitney was the Nurse Navigator in the Melanoma Department at UCHealth at Anschutz. She recently switched gears and went to work as a school RN in order to be able to spend more time with her family. Whitney’s passion for educating newly diagnosed melanoma patients along with being a point person for the additional support often needed during melanoma treatment has allowed her to provide a positive experience for hundreds of melanoma patients in Colorado and the surrounding states for over ten years.

In her spare time Whitney enjoys spending time with her husband, two young sons as well as their families and friends. She also loves playing tennis, baking, traveling and the Broncos!

Arnice Brooks, MA

Senior Programmatic Social Media & Marketing Coordinator

Arnice joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in February 2022 as the Programmatic Social Media and Marketing Coordinator. In this role, she supports the communications and program teams by developing and distributing marketing materials for different programs and campaigns related to research/science, education, awareness and advocacy.

Arnice received her Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations from Elizabeth City State University and her Master’s degree in Strategic Communications and Public Relations from Trinity Washington University. She is a fifth generation Washingtonian and loves exploring the museums and art galleries in the city. She loves to play video games, bake treats with her niece and watch anime with her husband.

Robyn Burns, PhD

Program Manager, MRFBC; Science Officer, MRF

Dr. Robyn Burns, who was recruited to be Program Manager of the MRFBC in 2011, brings strong skills and teamwork to the MRF’s consortium management. Since 2006, she has been Program Manager for a sister consortium, the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC), in which 9 of the 19 academic member institutions are members of the MRFBC. She has also managed the NCI’s Melanoma Intergroup, a national network of NCI-funded melanoma physician investigators, a role in which she worked with Alison Martin and Randy Lomax. Dr. Burns also began managing the MRF’s research grant program in 2015.

After receiving a degree in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania, Robyn transitioned into clinical trial management where she felt she could have the most patient impact. Robyn’s personal interest in melanoma began over 20 years ago when her then 22 year old sister, a former high school lifeguard, was diagnosed with Stage II melanoma. Robyn believes that clinical trial consortia can truly make a difference in patients’ lives and is honored to be actively involved with the MRF.

Sara Campbell

Administrative Assistant

Sara joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in September 2022 as the Administrative Assistant, assisting with office operations, administrative tasks, and supporting the CEO and board relations. She recently graduated from American University in northwest DC with two Bachelor degrees in journalism and political science with a specialization in public policy. After graduating, Sara decided to permanently stay in the DC area.

Prior to joining the MRF, Sara worked in Communications at the Washington Spirit professional women’s soccer club. In her spare time, you can find Sara rewatching Friends for the hundredth time, eating at various DC restaurants, following politics, listening to true crime or sports podcasts, and laughing with friends.

Cyrus Chansler

Database Manager

Cyrus Chansler joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in December 2021 as the Database Manager, ensuring consistent and accurate entry and documentation across all platforms. He has five years of experience working in non-profit donor database systems. Prior to joining the MRF, Cyrus worked at a refugee advocacy organization in Washington, DC. He is a stage III colorectal cancer survivor and is excited to join the MRF.

Cyrus is a graduate of American University in Washington, DC with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and has lived in the city for 10 years. In his free time, Cyrus can be found going to baseball games, comedy shows, and reading historical non-fiction.

Debbie Churgai, MA

Education Program Manager

Debbie joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in January of 2024 as the Education Program Manager. In this role, Debbie helps to develop and support the educational programs at MRF that enable patients, caregivers, providers, and the general public access to the information they need to make informed decisions.

Prior to joining MRF, Debbie held the position of Executive Director at Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical cannabis patient advocacy organization that helped patients across the country by creating education and policies that improved access to medical cannabis. Debbie is also an adjunct faculty member with the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy MS in Cannabis Science and Therapeutics program and has taught courses in cannabis advocacy, policy, and research. Prior to that she worked in the Behavioral and Public Health fields working on projects in tobacco regulation and substance abuse prevention and treatment and holds a Master’s degree in Psychology. Debbie lives in Annapolis Maryland with her husband, two daughters Sophia and Chloe, and dog Kona who is always by her side.

Sara Conklin

Development Officer

Sara joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in February 2022 as a Development Officer. Prior to joining the MRF, she held similar roles at non-profits throughout Washington, DC and Pennsylvania.

She graduated with a Bachelor’s in Business from Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. In her free time, she enjoys reading, taking Orangetheory classes and binging reality TV.

Jonelle Daley

Senior Programmatic Logistics Coordinator

Jonelle Daley joined the MRF in October 2021 as the Programmatic Logistics Coordinator for the Advocacy, Education, and Research programs. She graduated from The George Washington University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Sports, Event & Hospitality Management. Sticking close to her tourism/travel roots she ventured to South Korea as an English teacher for four years, including escapades to surrounding countries.

Her background experience in academia, event management and logistics combined with a passion for the Korean language led her to a fulfilling career as department manager at Georgetown University with the East Asian Languages & Cultures department. Although still not fluent, she has not given up on her quest to be able to watch Korean dramas without being glued to subtitles.

Jonelle received her Master’s degree in Global Hospitality Leadership from Georgetown University, School of Continuing Studies. In her spare time, you can find Jonelle studying Korean, listening to podcasts about pop culture, attending DC comedy shows, supporting the dolls at local drag shows and arguing with her (not unlucky) black cat, Sirius.

Ryann Daniels, MSSA, LISW

Education Program Coordinator, Rare Melanoma Subtypes

Ryann joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in February 2024. In this role, Ryann supports the development of programs and engagement with patients and caregivers related to the rarer subtypes of melanoma. This would include ocular, mucosal, acral, pediatric and adolescent and young adults. Ryann’s passion for raising awareness and advocacy for melanoma came when she was diagnosed with stage 1 cutaneous melanoma in 2023.

Ryann is a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) and received her Master of Science in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Before joining the Melanoma Research Foundation, Ryann worked many years in child-welfare at the county level and in a nationally ranked children’s hospital where she advocated for children and families. In those roles, Ryann completed assessments and interventions, collaborated with other professionals in a multi-disciplinary approach, and conducted psycho education groups with families. In her free time, she enjoys watching reality tv specifically on Bravo, working out at Cyclebar, running races, and hanging out with her fluffy grey cat, Tilly!

Miriam Pomerantz Kadosh, MSW, LCSW

Director of Patient Engagement and Education

Miriam Kadosh joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in April 2023. Miriam supports all education efforts including curating MRF educational materials, creating meaningful patient webinars, collaborating with cancer centers nationwide to bring symposia to their cities and leading prevention efforts through multiple committees. Miriam specializes in connecting with patients and their families and caregivers through any stage of their journey to support them in all ways possible.

Miriam is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and received her Master of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania. Before joining the MRF, Miriam worked at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in the Cancer Support and Welcome Center. During her tenure there, she developed programming for the cancer center, conducted needs assessments and evaluations of supportive, wellness and educational programs to develop meaningful resources for participants, coordinated with interdisciplinary teams to support patients and caregivers and co-authored nearly a dozen articles on oncology support services. Miriam and her husband live in the neighborhood of Canton in Baltimore with their rescue pup, Georgie.

Jacqueline Kraska, MA

CURE OM Research and Data Officer

Jacqueline Kraska joined the MRF team in 2016 focusing on the CURE OM (Community United for Research and Education in Ocular Melanoma) patient-centered research initiative VISION. She was awarded her MA at University College London and started her career at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. With over twenty years of international experience working across the research continuum in various sectors she brings formidable knowledge to the organization with an especial appreciation for the patient voice in research and driving innovation.

James Merrick, MPA

Chief Communications and Marketing Officer

James joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in December 2021 as the Chief Communications and Marketing Officer. Prior to joining the MRF, James had a long career in science communications. He served as the Director of Communications at Optica (formerly The Optical Society), where he led the development of Optica’s digital and external media communications strategies. Previously, he was Program Manager at the American Institute of Physics.

In his current role, James supports the MRF’s strategic priorities through designing and implementing key communication efforts to effectively advance the MRF’s mission and vision. He also develops annual campaigns to help educate and advocate around melanoma.

James received his Master’s degree in Public Administration with a concentration in non-profit marketing from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. A native of Maryland, James is an avid Baltimore Ravens fan. In his free time, he likes exploring new recipes and restaurants in the greater DC area, visiting museums and enjoys all the shows on the Bravo network!

Nicole Nishanian

Development Officer

Nicole Nishanian joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in November of 2019 in the role of Development Associate. She supported all CommUNITY Fundraisers, cause marketing partners, the direct mail program and worked with and recruited new volunteers. Currently, she is the Development Officer for the Miles for Melanoma nationwide 5K program.

Nicole graduated from Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia with a Bachelor of Science and Business Administration degree in Marketing from the Luter School of Business. She has experience in event planning, hospitality, sales, account management and non-profit work. She currently resides in Northern Virginia and is an alumna of Alpha Delta Pi sorority and a current undergraduate advisor. In her free time, you can find her cheering and supporting DC United soccer team, the Washington Nationals and NHL Washington Capitals.

Nicole Papathanassiou

Development Associate

Nicole Papathanassiou joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in September 2022 as the Development Assistant. She is a recent graduate of George Mason University, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing. Nicole currently resides in Northern Virginia and is an alumna of the Chi Omega Fraternity. In her free time, you can find her hiking, baking something sweet or hanging out with friends and family.

Jocelyn Perkins, CMA, CPA

Finance Director

Jocelyn joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in January of 2024 as Finance Director.  She brings over a decade of experience in nonprofit accounting and wealth management and holds Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credentials.  Jocelyn is committed to helping the MRF make a positive impact by driving financial strategies that align with the MRF’s mission and values.

Beyond the numbers, Jocelyn enjoys spending time with her son and two fluffy cats as well as weekly guitar practices and trivia nights with friends.

Liz Reilly

Senior Development Officer – Endowment and Planned Giving

Liz Reilly joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in June of 2016 as the Development Officer overseeing the MRF’s national gala program until 2018. Liz left the organization for a year and returned to the MRF in July of 2019. Prior to joining the MRF, Liz had a long and successful career in corporate event planning. When she was diagnosed with ocular melanoma in 2015, she knew she needed to do more to find new treatment options for patients like herself. After her initial treatment, Liz was honored with a Courage Award at the Denver Gala and fell in love with the organization and its gala program. Liz brings passion, understanding and a strong bond with the melanoma community because of her diagnosis.

Liz lives in Huntington Beach, California with her husband, a stage 1 melanoma survivor, and teenage son who attends the MRF’s Hill Day as an advocate each year. Liz enjoys traveling, the outdoors and cheering on her favorite NBA Champions, the Denver Nuggets, during basketball season.

Sara Selig, MD, MPH

Director of CURE OM

Dr. Sara Selig joined the MRF team in the fall of 2011. She is Co-Founder and Director of the MRF’s initiative focused specifically on ocular melanoma—CURE OM (Community United for Research and Education in Ocular Melanoma). Sara initially became involved with the ocular melanoma (OM) community when her husband, Gregg, was diagnosed with the disease in 2006, at the age of 34, when Sara was a fourth year medical student. At the time of Gregg’s diagnosis, Gregg and Sara became fierce advocates for Gregg’s care and the entire OM community as well. Sara continues to be a passionate advocate for the ocular melanoma field—working to accelerate research, promote collaboration, and support patients and caregivers through her leadership of the CURE OM initiative.

Sara received her MD from the University of Colorado School of Medicine and her MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health. She completed the Doris and Howard Hiatt Residency in Global Health Equity and Internal Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She is currently Associate Physician in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Sara cherishes time with family and friends, and, in particular, with her and Gregg’s young daughter.

Virginia Snider

Development Marketing Coordinator

Virginia joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in July 2023 as the Development Marketing Coordinator. In this role, she supports the Development team by creating marketing materials for MRF events and various one-off development projects, developing and managing a robust social media schedule for the Miles for Melanoma series, Gala events and other development initiatives, and providing customer service for MRF constituents.

Virginia graduated from James Madison University with a degree in Hospitality Management, go Dukes! In her free time, you can find her exploring new cities, reading, visiting sporting events and trying new DC restaurants.

Victoria Tinsley, MSHRM

Human Resources Generalist

Victoria Tinsley joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in March 2024 as the Human Resources Generalist. In her role, she will partner with executive leadership to align HR strategies and initiatives with organization’s mission and goals, driving forward our efforts to advance melanoma research, education, and advocacy. She understands that the strength of a powerful organization is contingent upon its people, and is committed to attracting exceptional talent, nurturing professional development, and promoting a culture of teamwork and innovation.

Victoria is a graduate of Strayer University with a Master of Science degree in Human Resource Management. With over ten years of experience in HR, she brings a dynamic blend of expertise along with a diverse industry background, while displaying her dedication to fostering an inclusive work environment where every employee feels valued and empowered. Outside of the office, Victoria enjoys spending time with her husband and son, along with her two precious cats, Vicky and Secret, professional makeup artistry, and painting acrylic canvases.

Kim Watkins, MPH

Director of Advocacy

Kim Watkins joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in July of 2022 as the Advocacy Officer. Kim most recently served as the Policy and Advocacy Manager at the American Urological Association, harnessing the power of patients and physicians advocating together on behalf of urologic conditions such as prostate, kidney, and bladder cancers. In addition, Kim has been a strong advocate for children’s health through her work with the South Carolina Immunization Coalition, the Bradshaw Institute for Community Child Health and Advocacy, and as the founder of the parent-to-parent peer-led education group South Carolina Parents for Vaccines. Kim’s innovative approach to vaccine education and policy change attracted the attention of NPR, Kaiser Health News, and the CDC. In 2019, she was awarded the Childhood Immunization Champion Award and selected as the CDC’s national award spokesperson.

Kim has been featured on BBC One, NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and Kaiser Health News. She received a BA in French from Wofford College and her MPH from the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina with a concentration in health services policy and management.  Kim lives in Maryland with her two daughters, Brett and Nora, rescue hound, Balto, and feline foster fails, Ichabod and Toulouse. When she’s not rescuing wayward animals, Kim enjoys hiking, cooking, and trying really hard to keep her container garden plants alive.

Sha-Shawnna Wrenn

Accounting and Benefits Manager

Sha-Shawnna Wrenn joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in January 2022 as the Accounting and Benefits Manager. Prior to the MRF, Sha-Shawnna worked with various non-profit and for-profit organizations around the Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia area.

Sha-Shawnna graduated from the University of Phoenix with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and a master’s degree in Business Administration. In her free time, she finds joy and peace spending time with family and friends, taking long nature walks/hikes and cycling.