About Us


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!

John Bergin

Event Logistics Coordinator

John Bergin joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in August 2021 as the Events Logistics Coordinator, assisting the Development and Programs teams in planning and implementing their event portfolios. He graduated from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!) with a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality & Tourism Management from the Pamplin College of Business. Prior to joining the MRF he worked at a local brewery planning craft beer festivals in the DC area. In his free time John enjoys reading, rowing, playing guitar poorly, and spending time with his wife and their cat, Scarlet.

Arnice Brooks, MA

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.

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

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.

Erik Krause, MPH, CHES

Education Associate

Erik Krause joined the MRF in July 2022 as the Education Associate. As a Certified Health Education Specialist, Erik assists in advancing the educational goals of the MRF. Erik is a recent graduate of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, where he received his Master of Public Health from the Department of Sociomedical Sciences with a certificate in Health Promotion Research and Practice. In addition, he received his B.S. in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences from Florida State University.

In his free time, Erik enjoys socializing with friends, staying active, and binge-watching TV shows on Bravo!

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 supports all CommUNITY Fundraisers, cause marketing partners, and works with and recruits new volunteers. She 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 at the gym, at a hockey game cheering on the NHL Washington Capitals or hanging out with her yellow lab named Hunter.

Nicole Papathanassiou

Development Assistant

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.

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.

Amanda Sisco

Partnerships and Clinical Engagement Manager

Amanda Sisco joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in March 2022 as the Partnerships and Clinical Engagement Manager. In this role Amanda will develop meaningful connections to key opinion leaders in the melanoma community. Prior to joining the MRF she worked as the oncology supervisor for Colorado Retina ocular melanoma clinic in Denver, CO and was an active advocate for melanoma patients. Amanda is also an active steering committee member for the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network.

Amanda received a Bachelors of Science degree from Colorado State University System in Healthcare Administration and Management. In her free time Amanda enjoys card games, anything Harry Potter, and hanging out with her husband, daughter, and two pups Atlas and Layla.

Adam Smartt

Communications Officer

Adam joined the MRF in 2015 as the Online Community Coordinator. In this role he curated the online presence of the MRF across various social channels and community forums to encourage conversations that benefit the entire melanoma community. As the Communications Officer, he develops digital and print campaigns for the MRF and coordinates all external communications. Prior to joining the MRF, Adam served in communications and program coordination roles in the outdoor recreation and educational youth leadership industries.

Adam is a graduate of American University in Washington, DC though his sports allegiance will forever be as a Tennessee Volunteer. A voracious reader, he owns many leather-bound books on American history and other academically rigorous disciplines, though he cherishes his Kindle for discreetly reading less impressive paperback mysteries and graphic novels. In his free time, Adam can be found at the ballpark cheering on the World Champion Washington Nationals and spending time with his canine sidekick, Bucky.

Kim Watkins, MPH

Advocacy Officer

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 Clerk. 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.