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.

Ivis Alfaro

Chief of Staff

Ivis Alfaro joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in May 2014. Ivis works across multiple departments to implement project management processes and procedures, supports the work of the Board of Directors and CEO, and facilitates the collaboration efforts of melanoma organizations and patient advocates around the world to support the work of the Global Coalition for Melanoma Patient Advocacy.

Ivis grew up in the DC area and is a graduate of Frostburg State University in Maryland. In her free time, she enjoys maintaining a very social life, taking a variety of workout and dance classes, as well as making functional pottery.

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.

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.

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.

Brianna Day

Development Assistant

Brianna joined the MRF in May 2021 as the Development Assistant, supporting the development staff and events. Prior to the MRF, she worked for several arts nonprofits in South Carolina and Florida in administrative and customer service capacities.

She graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Theatre. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her husband and their two dogs, Hank and Cash.

Jordi Lee

Development and Marketing Coordinator

Jordi Lee joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in October of 2020 in the role of Development and Marketing Coordinator. In this role she works closely with the development and communications teams to help develop and distribute marketing materials for different events, campaigns and projects.

She graduated from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia with a Bachelor of Science and Communication Studies degree. Prior to joining the MRF staff, she served as the Events and Development Intern. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, traveling and spending time with friends and family.

Amy Marbaugh, RN, BSN, MS

Education Officer

Amy joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in January 2021 as the Education Officer. Amy’s background will enhance the MRF’s Education Institute to provide ongoing melanoma education training, resources, programming, and furthering the MRF’s educational goals of prevention and awareness.

Amy brings unique experience to this role. A nurse by training, she began her nursing career as an inpatient cardiac nurse before transitioning to oncology. She started as an outpatient oncology infusion nurse, and later became a nurse navigator and nursing supervisor, gaining oncology knowledge while working at academic and community cancer centers. Wanting to move into the cancer non-profit space, Amy joined the Association of Community Cancer Centers, providing clinical expertise while leading multiple education projects for oncology professionals. Most recently, Amy worked at the American Cancer Society on global oncology issues, primarily working with oncologists across Sub-Saharan Africa to develop coordinated cancer treatment guidelines for the region.

Amy received her Master’s degree in Global Health from George Mason University, and her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the University of Toledo. A native Ohioan, she cheers on Cleveland baseball; she also enjoys quoting fan-favorite TV shows, learning yoga and meditation, and being an unwilling squirrel-chaser with her miniature schnauzer, Lucy.

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.

Liz Reilly

Development Officer

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 its gala program. Liz brings passion, understanding and a strong bond with the melanoma community because of her diagnosis.

Liz lives in Denver, Colorado 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 Denver Nuggets during basketball season.

Samuel Roberts

Database Coordinator

Sam joined the MRF in October 2019 as the Database Coordinator ensuring consistent and accurate entry and documentation across all platforms. He has background experience in non-profit development work, private event planning and logistics, along with sales.

A bit of a nomad prior, Sam has been in the DC area for 10+ years and graduated from American University with a degree in International Relations and a specialization in Peace and Conflict Resolution. When he is not off on another adventure or at a festival supporting his favorite DJs, he can be seen always listening to music, trying as many new food spots as possible or re-watching Lord of the Rings in preparation for his mecca to New Zealand.

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.

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.

Susan Vogel

Chief Development Officer

Susan joined the Melanoma Research Foundation in October 2020 as the Chief Development Officer. Prior to joining the MRF, she was the executive director of the Charles Regional Medical Center Foundation, the philanthropic arm for Charles County’s only hospital. In this role, Susan led a 25-member board of directors to strategically build awareness, provide resources to enhance the 100-bed medical center, host several annual fundraising events and generate funds through annual, memorial and planned giving contributions.

Previously, she was director of development at the Anne Arundel Medical Center Foundation and also worked as an events director for the Maryland chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

A native of Charles County, MD, Susan attended St. Mary’s Ryken High School and Loyola College in Baltimore. She has served on the board of directors for several organizations including the Charles County Chamber of Commerce, the Zonta Club of Charles County and the Arc Southern Maryland. A 2009 graduate of Leadership Southern Maryland, Susan is a past board chairman of that organization.

In her spare time, Susan enjoys traveling to the Delaware shore, reading, music, and keeping up with family and friends. She has been married to her husband Keith for 28 years and they have two children.