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Celebrating 21 Years of the CURE Program Recognition Ceremony Honorees

During the Celebrating 21 Years of the CURE Program Recognition Ceremony on June 27, 2017, CRCHD recognized six categories of honorees — ChampionsEmerging ScholarsPacesettersMentorshipService to the Profession, and Lifetime Achievement.

Honorees included CURE scholars who represent the continuum of research careers, mentors who commit to ensuring the next generation of researchers is prepared for research career independence, and champions who enhance the reach of the CURE program.

CURE Champions

Champions have a long-standing record of supporting, promoting, and enhancing the reach of the CURE program and serving as role models for program trainees.

CURE Champions (L to R): Dr. Elsie Stines, Dr. Robin T. Saunders, Dr. Dedra S. Buchwald, and Dr. Victoria L. Seewaldt

Dedra S. Buchwald, MD 

Dedra S. Buchwald, MD, is a strong champion of the CURE goal of training the next generation of researchers. She has served as the Director of the National Institute on Aging-funded Native Investigator Development Program, with primary responsibility for engaging and training American Indian and Alaska Native junior faculty toward research independence. She also directs other career training programs and has received accolades and awards for her mentorship activities. Her experience and passion in guiding the career development of American Indian and Alaska Native students and scientists have greatly benefited candidates for National Cancer Institute (NCI) Research Supplements to Promote Diversity (diversity supplements).

Dr. Buchwald is a Professor of Medicine in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University where she is Director of the institutionally funded Initiative for Research and Education to Advance Community Health Partnerships. She is also the founding Director of the Partnerships for Native Health, one of the largest research programs on American Indian and Alaska Native health in the nation. This program works with over 160 tribal partners and 35 scientists in diverse disciplines.

Dr. Buchwald has a broad background in public health and primary care, with special emphases on culturally competent care and the health of American Indians and Alaska Native peoples. Her work considers health at the level of the individual, the community, and the health system, using an array of quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Dr. Buchwald has been principal investigator (PI) or Co-PI of more than 30 projects funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other major organizations, including two cycles of support for Native People for Cancer Control (Community Networks Program) and R01s on cancer prevention.

Dr. Buchwald received her MD and her BA in neurobiology from the University of California, San Diego. She was an intern in the North Carolina Memorial Hospital and Resident at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC. Dr. Buchwald was a Henry J. Kaiser Fellow in General Internal Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston before becoming a long-time faculty member at the University of Washington.

Robin T. Saunders, EdD, MS 

Robin T. Saunders, EdD, MS, leads the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) CURE Scholars Program, one of more than 40 supplements to the P30 Cancer Center Support Grants within the CRCHD CURE program that engage young students in cancer research experiences. Dr. Saunders spearheads the P30 supplement that educates the youngest scientists in the CURE program — middle school students from West Baltimore. Her dedication and innovation in shaping the UMB program help the CURE program to increase the young talent pool. 

Dr. Saunders is Executive Director of the UMB CURE Scholars Program. She began serving in this capacity in April 2015, bringing with her more than 25 years of experience in program development, admissions recruitment, classroom instruction, community engagement, and educational consulting. 

Dr. Saunders’ professional interests include effectively educating vulnerable student populations, training teachers in multicultural contexts of education, enhancing parental involvement, effective online teaching methods, equity in education, and community service. She enjoys learning about cultures and languages as well as effective methods of teaching underserved populations. Dr. Saunders has earned numerous awards for her work in community outreach, leadership development, culturally proficient teaching, and life coaching. In 2016, she was named Baltimore Corps Visionary Cause Leader for her work developing the UMB CURE Scholars Program. She is a highly sought-after speaker on topics such as Building a Culturally Proficient Pedagogy and Historical and Contemporary Contexts of Black Education: Implications for Research and Practice. 

Dr. Saunders earned her undergraduate degree in social science from The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. She earned both her master’s and doctorate degrees from Johns Hopkins University in educational leadership and teacher leadership development. 

Victoria L. Seewaldt, MD 

Victoria L. Seewaldt, MD, has mentored numerous candidates for NCI diversity supplements and nurtured their career development toward research independence. She has an innate understanding of CURE as a program that builds futures for aspiring scientists. Dr. Seewaldt is a strong supporter of the CURE program and ably uses it as a roadmap to guide her trainees. 

Dr. Seewaldt is the Ruth Ziegler Professor and Chair of the Department of Population Science at City of Hope and Associate Cancer Center Director. She leads a prevention and early detection program at City of Hope and is building a program focusing on the health sciences of disparities. One of her most important missions at City of Hope is to provide mentorship to young scholars and connect their career development to issues that are of vital importance to their communities. 

Dr. Seewaldt’s current focus is on the role of diabetes in promoting epigenetic damage and breast cancer risk, particularly in Latina- and African-American women. Biomarkers identified in the laboratory are tested as predictors of short-term breast cancer risk in the high-risk women who participate in Dr. Seewaldt’s clinical trials. Previously, she led a multidisciplinary bench-to-community research effort investigating the origins of triple-negative breast cancer at Duke University with a goal of using research findings to improve the lives of women of color in the Durham and Triangle Community. 

Dr. Seewaldt was recently appointed to the NIH/NCI Board of Scientific Advisors. She received her undergraduate degree in chemistry from Cornell University, attended medical school at University of California, Davis, and completed her residency and fellowship training at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 

Elsie Stines, DNP, CRNP 

Elsie Stines, DNP, CRNP, has been part of the leadership team for the UMB CURE Scholars Program since its inception. She contributed significantly to its vision and nurtured that vision to reality. Dr. Stines is dedicated to the CURE program goal of increasing well-prepared underrepresented scientists in the health care field and works tirelessly with the UMB team to nurture a cohort of young students ready to move forward in the CRCHD CURE program in cancer research. 

Dr. Stines has a joint appointment with the University of Maryland Medical Center and the UMB as a pediatric nurse practitioner and as Assistant Vice President of Special Projects and Initiatives to UMB President Dr. Jay A. Perman. 

As an advanced practice nurse, Dr. Stines works in collaboration with physicians — and independently — to care for children with a variety of gastrointestinal and nutritional disorders. As Assistant Vice President, she is responsible for community initiatives focused on health and education. Dr. Stines oversees all aspects of the President’s Clinic, a weekly interprofessional clinical experience in which students from all six UMB professional schools join President Perman in caring for pediatric patients. She chairs the UMB President’s Diversity Advisory Council and works with President Perman and School of Nursing Dean Jane Kirschling to expand interprofessional teaching opportunities within the broader community. 

Dr. Stines received her BSN from The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC. She earned both her MS in advanced practice nursing and DNP in nursing practice degrees from the University of Maryland School of Nursing. 

CURE Emerging Scholars

Emerging Scholars are scholars who are early in the CURE pipeline and have demonstrated exceptional potential for achieving cancer research independence.

CURE Emerging Scholars (L to R): Dr. Jessie Villanueva, Mr. Benjamin Strekha, Ms. Danielle Twum, and Mr. Davian S. Thompson

Benjamin Strekha, BA 

Benjamin Strekha, BA, credits his 2013 Research Supplement to Promote Diversity (diversity supplement) with providing him the opportunity to experience what it is like to work in a science lab and to realize that “it is possible to have a career doing science….” He has since joined research groups where he shares and transfers knowledge gained through the CURE program. Mr. Strekha continues to interact with his fellow Immersion Science Program (ISP) students and now provides them with advice on college applications and how to begin their training for careers in science. 

Mr. Strekha is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he completed his undergraduate studies as a physics major. 

Mr. Streka became a CURE scholar and was introduced to research through the Fox Chase Cancer Center’s inaugural ISP for high school students. He worked in the laboratory of Dr. Glenn Rall on a project aimed at understanding viral transmission in neurons. He continued his training in the Young Scholars Program and then, as a research assistant in the laboratory of Dr. Charlie Johnson at the University of Pennsylvania, where he helped develop biosensors for detection of cancer antigens. 

In Fall 2017, Mr. Strekha will continue his training as a doctoral student in theoretical physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His mentors anticipate that he will be the ISP’s first CURE scholar to pursue an academic faculty position. 

Davian S. Thompson 

Davian S. Thompson received a “once in a lifetime opportunity” through his CURE diversity supplement. As a CURE scholar, he learned the importance of taking pride in his research and research integrity. He now has a bolder passion for using research to help improve the health of Native Americans. 

Mr. Thompson is from the Fání Lákná community on the Choctaw reservation in Choctaw, MS, and a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. An undergraduate student at the University of New Mexico, he is majoring in psychology and public health. 

Mr. Thompson’s drive to conduct research relevant to improving the health and wellbeing of Native Americans was a key factor in his selection as a CURE program scholar in Summer 2016. During the program, he worked under the mentorship of Dr. Linda Cook to design a project to identify epidemiologic correlations between hepatitis C virus infection and hepatocellular carcinoma. 

In addition to his CURE experience, Mr. Thompson has completed three internships addressing health among Native Americans within the southwestern United States, including a substance abuse research internship at the University of Florida National Institute on Drug Abuse. He aims to continue his dedication to Native American health by becoming a substance abuse counselor for Native American juveniles.

Danielle Twum, BA 

Danielle Twum, BA, received a CURE diversity supplement that “paved [her] way into cancer research.” She is grateful for having the opportunity to explore her passion of combining benchwork with scientific outreach. 

Ms. Twum is a student in the cancer sciences doctoral program at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY. 

In 2011, Ms. Twum was a CURE scholar in the Roswell Park Summer Program and received training in oncology and immunology in the laboratory of Dr. Thomas Schwaab. She is now working under the mentorship of Dr. Scott Abrams to study the role of transcription factors in immune regulation of myeloid cell function and how they affect breast cancer progression. 

Ms. Twum received her BA in biology from Vassar College, where she studied the effect of climate change on corals. After completing her doctoral studies, Ms. Twum hopes to help the general public understand science by developing more exciting ways to explain complex scientific concepts to laypersons. 

Jessie Villanueva, PhD

Jessie Villanueva, PhD, received a 2007 diversity supplement and Mentored Research Scientist Career Development (K01) Award to Promote Diversity that provided the foundation for her 2016 R01 award. Dr. Villanueva recognizes that “the CURE program’s support has been instrumental to [establishing her] independent research program and the success of [her] scientific career.” 

Dr. Villanueva is an Assistant Professor in the Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program at The Wistar Institute. 

Her laboratory investigates molecular pathways that are deregulated in melanoma. She and her team hope to identify novel therapeutic targets by focusing on two main areas: dissecting the role of oncogenic NRAS in melanoma and investigating the molecular mechanisms of drug resistance. Her long-term goal is to develop effective therapies for melanoma that can be translated into durable responses and improve the lives of melanoma patients. 

Dr. Villanueva earned a BS in biology at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru, and a PhD in molecular cell and developmental biology from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.  

CURE Pacesetters

Pacesetters are mid-career CURE scholars who have demonstrated remarkable innovation and vision in their work.

CURE Pacesetters (L to R): Dr. Lewis R. Roberts, Dr. Laura Fejerman, Dr. Tonya J. Webb, Dr. Laundette P. Jones, and Dr. Joseph R. Osborne

Laura Fejerman, PhD 

Laura Fejerman, PhD, obtained a Mentored Research Scientist Career Development (K01) Award to Promote Diversity in 2011, a Workforce Diversity Award (R21) in 2016, and an R01 from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 2016. Dr. Fejerman is a prominent cancer disparities researcher who led the first genome-wide association study of breast cancer in Latinas that successfully identified a genetic variant of Indigenous American ancestry, which decreases the probability of developing breast cancer. Her groundbreaking work in this area has begun to bring insight into risk factors involved in breast cancer disparities. 

Dr. Fejerman is an Associate Professor in Residence in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Her research focuses on the discovery of genetic and non-genetic factors that contribute to breast cancer risk and prognosis in Latinas, including recent work exploring disparities in breast cancer prognosis by genetic ancestry in Latinas and its potential causes. Dr. Fejerman’s past work established a relationship between genetic ancestry and breast cancer risk, where higher European ancestry in U.S. and Mexican Latinas was associated with an increased risk. Her subsequent research built upon this observation. She has explored risk through the exploration of genetic variants, admixture mapping, and genome-wide association approaches and through the investigation of environmental and lifestyle-related factors along with ancestry-gene interactions. 

Dr. Fejerman earned her PhD in biological anthropology and MSc in human biology at the University of Oxford, England. She completed her undergraduate degree in social anthropology at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

Laundette P. Jones, PhD 

Laundette P. Jones, PhD, received an R01 from the NCI in 2011 and a Workforce Diversity Award (R21) in 2012 that focused on understanding how breast cancer develops. Through her research, Dr. Jones made significant contributions toward understanding how the combination of genetic and environmental risk factors impacts the evolution of breast cancer. This includes understanding novel gene-environment paradigm of breast cancer etiology, namely whether BReast CAncer gene 1 (BRCA1) deficiency is associated with an increased sensitivity to the prevalent environmental estrogen, Bisphenol A (BPA). Today, as an established transdisciplinary scientist, Dr. Jones continues to pioneer advancement in our understanding of the complex interplay between environmental and genetic factors contributing to cancer health disparities. 

Dr. Jones is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Epidemiology & Public Health and Pharmacology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Dr. Jones’ research investigates how changes in endogenous and exogenous hormonal/environmental factors contribute to breast tumorigenesis. She collaborates with transdisciplinary research teams and communities to understand how the interplay between biological, environmental, social, and behavioral factors leads to cancer health disparities. 

Dr. Jones received a BS in chemistry from Morgan State University and a PhD in environmental health sciences from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She completed two postdoctoral fellowships: in the NCI Laboratory of Experimental Carcinogenesis, she investigated DNA-damaging effects of chemicals in cooked meats on the mammary gland, and in the Tumor Biology program at Georgetown University, she utilized genetically engineered mouse models for preclinical breast cancer to understand mechanisms of BRCA1 tumorigenesis.­­ 

Joseph R. Osborne, MD, PhD 

Joseph R. Osborne, MD, PhD, acknowledges that his current appointments were built on the support of the CURE pipeline: a postdoctoral Research Supplement to Promote Diversity (diversity supplement) at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center in 2001; a Workforce Diversity Award (R21) in 2008 as a faculty member at Weill Cornell Medical College; and an R01 from the NCI in 2016. He embodies the merit of the CURE program and is a physician scientist who has also ingrained the model as a mentor and role model to preserve the CURE program’s robust pipeline. 

Dr. Osborne holds the posts of Associate Attending Physician, Associate Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Radiology, and Medical Director of the Osborne Lab for Cancer Health Equity at MSK. Dr. Osborne’s enduring interest focuses on the genetic and socioeconomic causes of the uneven burden of cancer-related mortality. His goals include the translation of investigational compounds and genomic biomarkers into tangible benefits for communities most at-risk. Accordingly, his long-term goal is to promote health equity by way of molecular imaging probe development and applied genomics research, asking provocative questions, enhancing diversity in clinical trial participation, and advancing technological developments. 

Dr. Osborne received a BS in neuroscience from Brown University and an MD and PhD from the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in molecular imaging at the MSK Cancer Center. 

Lewis R. Roberts, MB, ChB, PhD 

Lewis R. Roberts, MB, ChB, PhD, was the recipient of a Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development (K08) Award to Promote Diversity in 1998. This was the beginning of the CURE program’s contribution to Dr. Roberts' research success, helping to provide the foundation for him to compete successfully for additional awards from NCI, including an R21 in 2009 and two R01s in 2004 and 2015. Dr. Roberts was selected to present the inaugural lecture for the CURE Distinguished Scholars Seminar series. Subsequently, he has provided training opportunities for young underrepresented scholars through the receipt of diversity supplements. Dr. Roberts’ transformative research today spans basic, clinical, and translational sciences. His work focuses on understanding the mechanisms of liver and biliary carcinogenesis and biomarkers to improve diagnosis, as well as on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of hepatitis and liver cancer in immigrant African and U.S. communities. 

Dr. Roberts is the Peter and Frances Georgeson Professor in Gastroenterology Cancer Research, Director of the Hepatobiliary Neoplasia Clinic, and Associate Director of Pre-Doctoral Programs in the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences at the Mayo Clinic. He is also Director for Research at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine. 

Dr. Roberts’ research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the American Gastroenterological Association Research Foundation, and the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation. The author of over 200 publications, he is Deputy Editor of Hepatology and serves on the editorial boards of Liver Cancer and Hepatic Oncology. Dr. Roberts is President of Africa Partners Medical, a nonprofit organization focused on improving health care delivery in Africa through medical education, practical skills training, and provision of medical equipment and supplies.

Dr. Roberts earned a medical degree from the University of Ghana Medical School and a PhD in physiology and biophysics from the University of Iowa. He completed postgraduate training in internal medicine, gastroenterology, hepatology, and cancer genetics at the Mayo Clinic. 

Tonya J. Webb, PhD 

Tonya J. Webb, PhD, received several CURE training and research awards including a Mentored Research Scientist Career Development (K01) Award to Promote Diversity in 2008 and multiple Workforce Diversity Awards (R21) in 2011 and 2015. Through her research, Dr. Webb was one of the first to demonstrate that tumor-associated ascites inhibits CD1d mediated antigen presentation in a dose-dependent manner. Her innovative research has further identified the inhibitory factor as the ganglioside GD3 from clinical specimens, demonstrating the high binding affinity of GD3 for CD1d and the ability of GD3 to inhibit Natural killer T (NKT) cell activation in vivo. Dr. Webb’s research suggests that ovarian and other cancers may develop immune evasion mechanisms specifically targeting the CD1/NKT cell system. 

Dr. Webb is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a member of the Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy group at the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

Her current research focuses on NKT cells in cancer immunotherapy, including understanding why cancer patients have fewer NKT cells. Dr. Webb’s research is pivotal, as she is working to develop NKT cell-based cancer immunotherapy using natural and artificial platforms to restore NKT cell number and function in cancer patients. She seeks to elucidate a better understanding of the role that NKT cells play in the patient’s immune system to regulate the anti-tumor response. 

Dr. Webb earned a BS in biology from Prairie View A&M University and a PhD from Indiana University in microbiology and immunology. As a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of David Wilkes, MD, she worked on mechanisms regulating immune tolerance. Her second postdoctoral fellowship focused on cancer immunology at Johns Hopkins University. 

CURE Mentorship Honorees

Mentorship honorees have demonstrated long-standing commitment to mentoring and training new scholars.

CURE Mentorship Honorees (L to R): Dr. Jennie Williams, Dr. Gregory Carey, Dr. Sarki A. Abdulkadir, Dr. Carlos S. Moreno, Dr. Marcia Cruz-Correa, and Dr. Elva M. Arredondo

Sarki A. Abdulkadir, MD, PhD 

Sarki A. Abdulkadir, MD, PhD, was supported by a Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development (K08) Award to Promote Diversity and credits the CURE program for his successful transition into an independent cancer research career. The mentoring, guidance, and motivation he received through the CURE program and its program staff were instrumental in providing a foundation for him to secure his first R01 application upon first submission. In turn, Dr. Abdulkadir has consistently supported and mentored other students and trainees over the years. 

Dr. Abdulkadir is Grayhack Chair of Urological Research and Professor of Urology and Pathology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. He also serves as Co-Director of Cancer Global Health at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and head of the Leadership Program of the Chicago Prostate Specialized Programs of Research Excellence. 

Dr. Abdulkadir studies molecular mechanisms underlying prostate cancer development and recurrence and uses this knowledge to devise targeted therapies. His work has been continuously funded by several grants from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) since 2002. He serves on several NCI and NIH review committees and is an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation. 

Dr. Abdulkadir obtained combined undergraduate and medical degrees from Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria and a PhD in immunology from Johns Hopkins University. He completed a combined clinical pathology residency and postdoctoral research training program at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis. 

Elva M. Arredondo, PhD 

Elva M. Arredondo, PhD, received a Predoctoral Fellowship to Promote Diversity (F31), which supported her studies as a doctoral student leading to her PhD in clinical psychology from Duke University. Since establishing her independent research career, she has supported and mentored numerous students and other trainees through CURE Research Supplements to Promote Diversity (diversity supplements) and predoctoral fellowship mechanisms. She credits the CURE program for her success as a cancer researcher and mentor as well as for the various leadership positions she currently holds. 

Dr. Arredondo is a Professor in the Graduate School of Public Health, Co-Director of the University of California, San Diego/San Diego State University (UCSD/SDSU) Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health (Health Behavior track), and Senior Core Investigator in the Institute for Behavioral and Community Health at SDSU. 

Dr. Arredondo has over 18 years of research experience in developing, implementing, and evaluating community-based programs that improve the health of ethnic minority and socially/economically disadvantaged communities. Her research focuses on developing evidence-based multi-level interventions to reduce chronic diseases among Latino and other underserved communities. She has served as principal investigator (PI)/Co-PI of several grants funded by the NIH, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others. Her research has resulted in over 100 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters, and scientific entries. 

Gregory Carey, PhD 

Gregory Carey, PhD, was the recipient of a Mentored Research Scientist Career Development (K01) Award to Promote Diversity, which supported his postdoctoral training from 1998 through 2001. Dr. Carey is a committed mentor and supporter of training the next generation of underrepresented cancer investigators. He currently serves on the leadership team for the University of Maryland, Baltimore CURE middle school mentoring program and leads and directs several funded student research mentoring programs. Dr. Carey has mentored 14 trainees ranging from high school students to postdoctoral fellows, most of whom are from groups underrepresented in science and medicine. He credits CURE and its positive, powerful culture — built on hard work and teamwork that nurtures and celebrates giving, collaboration, engagement, and excellence — with his successes and expresses great delight in passing this same culture on through his many activities. 

Dr. Carey is an Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology in the University of Maryland School of Medicine Center for Vascular and Inflammatory Diseases and a member of the Greenebaum Cancer Center. Director of Student Summer Research and Community Outreach in the Office of Student Research at the School of Medicine, he teaches both basic and specialized graduate courses in immunology and oncology. He also directs the Program for Research Initiated by Students and Mentors and the MPower-supported undergraduate pipeline program, UM Scholars. 

Dr. Carey’s lymphoma research investigates signals that drive lymphoma proliferation, growth, and survival. Over the past 16 years, he has been funded on eight NIH grants as PI and Co-PI (three from NCI CRCHD) and has published over 28 peer-reviewed articles. He is a member of two NIH review panels. 

Dr. Carey received a BSc in biology from Virginia Commonwealth University and a PhD in biochemistry from the Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University. 

Marcia Cruz-Correa, MD, PhD 

Marcia Cruz-Correa, MD, PhD, received an NCI Transition Career Development (K22) Award to Promote Diversity in 2007 and has been supported by the CURE program through mentoring, networking opportunities, and career guidance. In turn, she has supported and mentored students and other trainees from diverse backgrounds at various levels since establishing her independent research career. Dr. Cruz-Correa credits the CURE’s structured program — with its infrastructure, step-wise progression, and inspiration — with helping advance careers of people like her. 

Dr. Cruz-Correa is Professor of Medicine at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, and Adjunct Professor of Surgical Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. She is Director of the Division of Cancer Biology at the UPR Comprehensive Cancer Center, leads the Hereditary Cancer Prevention Program, and is Director of the Center for Research Compliance & Development at the UPR Medical Sciences Campus. Dr. Cruz-Correa also leads several institutional NIH grants including the Center for Translational Science Award and the Partnerships for Excellence in Cancer Research. 

Dr. Cruz-Correa is a physician-scientist with a strong focus in chemoprevention, hereditary cancer, and health disparities. She has been funded continuously by the NIH for over 15 years. She has over 50 peer-reviewed publications and is actively involved as a chair or committee member in several national professional societies including the American Gastroenterology Association (board member), Council of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Minorities in Cancer Research (past member), Council of the AACR Women in Cancer Research, and the NCI National Cancer Advisory Board (immediate past member). 

Dr. Cruz-Correa completed her BS in biology, a medical degree, and a residency in internal medicine at the UPR. She completed a fellowship in gastroenterology and hepatology at the Johns Hopkins University and a doctorate degree in clinical investigation and genetic epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

Carlos S. Moreno, PhD 

Carlos S. Moreno, PhD, was supported by an NIH F31 as a student, a diversity supplement as a postdoctoral fellow, and an NCI Transition Career Development (K22) Award to Promote Diversity as an Assistant Professor. The continuous support of CURE provided the foundation for his R01 grant as well as tenure and promotion at Emory University. Dr. Moreno is strongly committed to teaching and mentoring underrepresented investigators. He has taught bioinformatics and computational biology for ten years and mentored five predoctoral trainees, nine postdoctoral trainees, and dozens of undergraduate students and underrepresented minority trainees at every education and career level. 

Dr. Moreno is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and Biomedical Informatics at Emory University and a member of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. Dr. Moreno is project leader for informatics for the Emory Molecular Interaction Center for Functional Genomics (MicFG) as part of the Cancer Target Discovery and Development (CTD²) Network that analyzes TCGA data for protein-protein interaction networks. 

Dr. Moreno specializes in cancer bioinformatics, systems biology, and whole genome expression profiling. His research has focused on the dissection of the perturbed transcriptional networks in prostate, brain, breast, and ovarian cancers using DNA microarrays and next-generation sequencing. A leader in SOX4 biology, he has identified its oncogenic role in prostate cancer, the epithelial to mesenchymal transition, its downstream targets, and its protein-protein interaction partners. Dr. Moreno is also developing biomarkers of aggressive prostate cancer based on RNAseq analysis of prostate surgical, biopsy, and urine specimens as part of the Early Detection Research Network. His RNAseq studies have identified exciting new targets for prevention of castration-resistant prostate cancer. He has authored over 78 peer-reviewed publications, the majority of which focus on cancer genomics. 

Dr. Moreno obtained his BS and MS in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration before earning his PhD in genetics and molecular biology from Emory University in 1998. 

Jennie Williams, PhD 

Jennie Williams, PhD, was supported by a Mentored Research Scientist Career Development (K01) Award to Promote Diversity as an early stage investigator, and she attributes much of her success as a cancer researcher to CURE funding and participation in the CURE Professional Development Workshop and Mock Review. She also credits her success, in part, to continued interactions with the program CRCHD staff who provided much-needed support to enter a research area that supports increased diversity in the workforce and in research. Dr. Williams, in turn, is playing a similar role in her position at Stony Brook University and is committed to helping build the next generation of underrepresented cancer and cancer health disparities researchers through her mentorship and training efforts. 

Dr. Williams is an Associate Professor at Stony Brook University with a primary appointment in the Department of Family, Population, and Preventive Medicine and a secondary appointment in the Department of Medicine. She is Assistant Dean for Student Diversity where she serves as the primary liaison between Stony Brook Medicine and Stony Brook University, acting to encourage diverse undergraduate and graduate students to seek out and succeed in careers in the health sciences. Dr. Williams is also an affiliate faculty member in the Institute for STEM Education where she works with underrepresented community college students who are interested in biomedical careers. 

Dr. Williams has investigated the use of gene therapy in the prevention of AIDS and done extensive work on the effectiveness of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), NO-releasing-NSAIDs (NO-NSAIDS), and other pharmacological agents on stemming the progression of cancer. In this capacity, she is defining the mechanistic role of NF-kB and other transcriptional factors in colon cancer prevention in response to novel chemo-therapeutic/-preventive agents. Currently, she is addressing the underlying genetic/regulatory causes associated with cancer racial health disparity. As such, Dr. Williams’ group is assessing the dysregulation of miRNAs and aberrant DNA methylation as factors influencing racial health disparity in the incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer. 

Dr. Williams earned her BS from Savannah State University, an MS from Tuskegee University, and a PhD in molecular biology at Purdue University. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in infectious diseases at Harvard University and conducted postdoctoral work at the New England Regional Primate Research Center’s Department of Immunology and the American Health Foundation. Dr. Williams then joined Harvard University as a research scientist and was later recruited to Stony Brook as a Research Assistant Professor, being promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2013. 

CURE Service to the Profession Honorees

Service to the Profession honorees have demonstrated outstanding leadership and service to cancer and cancer health disparities research and workforce diversity.

CURE Service to the Profession Honorees: Dr. Elena Martinez (left) and Dr. John O. Ojeifo (right)

Elena Martinez, PhD 

Elena Martinez, PhD, has demonstrated strong leadership in service to cancer and cancer health disparities sciences, training the new generation of underrepresented investigators, and community involvement. She has served on a number of influential national boards, including the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Board of Scientific Counselors and the Blue Ribbon Panel that informed the scientific direction of former Vice President Joe Biden’s national Cancer MoonshotSM Initiative. She is chair of the American Association for Cancer Research Minorities in Cancer Research Council and Senior Editor of the Cancer Disparities section for Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Her broad-reaching service to the science of cancer and cancer health disparities has benefited many researchers, students, and trainees. Early in her career, Dr. Martinez was supported by a Research Supplement to Promote Diversity and later by a Mentored Research Scientist Career Development (K01) Award to Promote Diversity that served as a foundation for her to successfully compete for R01 and U01 grants. 

Dr. Martinez is a Professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, and holds the Sam M. Walton Endowed Chair for Cancer Research. She co-leads the Reducing Cancer Disparities Program at the Moores Cancer Center and was recently appointed Associate Director of the Population Sciences Division. Previously, Dr. Martinez was Professor of Epidemiology and the Richard H. Hollen Professor of Cancer Prevention at the Arizona Cancer Center. 

Dr. Martinez’s research focuses on breast cancer in Hispanic women, and she has a prominent leadership role in the Ella Binational Breast Cancer Study. She is a co-principal investigator of an NCI-funded U01 grant assessing epidemiologic and epigenetic features of breast tumors occurring in the postpartum period in Hispanic women. Earlier in her career, Dr. Martinez’s research focus included colorectal cancer prevention. She was a key team member of a Gates Foundation-funded consortium in six Latin American countries focusing on Helicobacter pylori eradication and gastric cancer prevention. Dr. Martinez has published extensively in the areas of epidemiology, molecular epidemiology, and cancer prevention, and she has established herself as a strong national leader in cancer health disparities. 

Dr. Martinez received a BS in nutrition from the University of Illinois in Chicago. She holds a master’s degree in public health and a PhD in epidemiology from the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. 

John O. Ojeifo, MD, PhD, MBA 

John O. Ojeifo, MD, PhD, MBA, has an exemplary record of service to cancer research, including contributions in enhancing understanding of tumor angiogenesis and cancer therapy and in mentoring high school and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. As a Program Director at the NCI Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities, Dr. Ojeifo has contributed substantially to the development of early-stage scientists from underrepresented populations through his management and expansion of the Career Development Awards to Promote Diversity. His service further extends into the community, where he is an active participant in community prevention education as well as multiple cancer-related activities benefiting young students. His early research career was supported by a Supplement to the Cancer Center Support Grant (P30), which provided the job stability needed to develop further studies and formed the basis for his Mentored Research Scientist Career Development (K01) Award to Promote Diversity. He later successfully obtained an R01 grant, providing him a platform to secure a tenured-track faculty appointment and research independence. 

Dr. Ojeifo has been a Program Director in the Diversity Training Branch of the NCI CRCHD since 2009. Prior to joining NCI, Dr. Ojeifo was an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC. 

Dr. Ojeifo’s research interests include endothelial cell biology, stem cell biology, tumor angiogenesis, genetics, experimental therapeutics, tumor immunology and immunotherapy, cancer health disparities, and holistic medicine. His broad expertise extends to biomedical research, public health, medical education, training, career development, mentoring early-career scientists, science communication, and health care management. 

Dr. Ojeifo received his MBBS degree (MD equivalent) from the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos, Nigeria, and his PhD in human anatomy and cell biology from Georgetown University. He also holds an MBA in health care management from the University of Phoenix. 

CURE Lifetime Achievement Honorees

Lifetime Achievement honorees are former CURE scholars who have successfully navigated the CURE pipeline. They are leaders in their fields and have made significant contributions to cancer research and workforce diversity.

CURE Lifetime Achievement Honorees (L to R): Dr. Miguel A. Villalona-Calero, Dr. Robert A. Winn, Dr. Annette R. Khaled, Dr. Manuel L. Penichet, and Dr. Eduardo M. Sotomayor

Annette R. Khaled, PhD 

Annette R. Khaled, PhD, was the recipient of a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Transition Career Development (K22) Award to Promote Diversity in 2002. Dr. Khaled credits the CURE program with helping her realize her dream of leading an independent lab. Her K22 provided funding for protected research time and facilitated mentorship that helped offset many of the challenges she encountered in building her program and was key to a rapid receipt of two R01 grants while still a K22 grantee. Today, Dr. Khaled’s research is strengthening development of new precision medicine treatments and the use of cutting-edge nanotechnology and immunotherapy for treating metastatic cancers in breast and prostate. 

Dr. Khaled is a Professor at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine where she heads the Division of Cancer Research. Dr. Khaled and her lab staff are developing new treatments aimed at treating metastasis and overcoming drug resistance in life-threatening cancers such as triple negative breast cancer. 

Dr. Khaled is the recipient of multiple R01 grants and was recognized for her achievements with continued funding from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. With over 90 scientific publications, her achievements also include four U.S. patents in cancer therapeutics, including patents licensed for commercialization by Seva Therapeutics, Inc. 

Dr. Khaled obtained a master’s degree in microbiology from California State University, Long Beach, and a doctorate in molecular genetics and microbiology from University of Florida. She completed postdoctoral training at NCI in Frederick, MD. 

Manuel L. Penichet, MD, PhD 

Manuel L. Penichet, MD, PhD, is one of CURE’s first awardees. In 2001, Dr. Penichet successfully secured a Mentored Reseach Scientist Career Development (K01) Award to Promote Diversity that provided the job stability critical for career and laboratory development. The protected time guaranteed within the K01 award further enabled him to pursue additional grant opportunities, which resulted in his receipt of grants from the American Association for Cancer Research and the International Myeloma Foundation as well as his first R01 in 2004. Dr. Penichet credits skills gained from CURE’s professional development and mock review workshops with helping him obtain a successful tenure track position and subsequent accelerated promotion to full professor in 2012. Today, he is mentoring numerous other students and fellows, developing the next generation of underrepresented researchers in cancer and cancer health disparities research. 

Dr. Penichet is a tenured Professor of Surgery, Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he has worked since 1996 in the fields of immunology, immunotherapy, antibody engineering, and nanotechnology, with a focus on cancer. 

Dr. Penichet’s research includes a basic science component with translational potential and covers cancer health disparities. He has received more than 20 grants, including four NIH/NCI R01s as principal investigator (PI). The lead inventor of four UCLA patents, Dr. Penichet also has worked extensively as a consultant or reviewer of research projects for the biotech sector and for state and federal agencies in the United States and abroad. 

Dr. Penichet has been deeply involved in teaching and training undergraduate, graduate, and medical students, including those underrepresented in biomedical research, for which he has received numerous teaching awards. Dr. Penichet is author or co-author of more than 90 publications including original papers, reviews, book chapters, and a book, with many of his senior-authored articles appearing in prestigious journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of SciencesJournal of Immunology, Leukemia, and Blood. He has presented, frequently as a keynote speaker, at 70 conferences and invited international meetings and seminars in 11 countries. 

Dr. Penichet earned an MD and a PhD in biochemistry from the Havana Advanced Institute of Medical Sciences in Cuba. While in Cuba, he worked on the development of a recombinant vaccine against parasites that has been used internationally. 

Eduardo M. Sotomayor, MD 

Eduardo M. Sotomayor, MD, received his first federal grant, a Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development (K08) Award to Promote Diversity, in 1998. This award enabled him to launch an independent academic career first at Johns Hopkins University, followed by 16 very productive years at the Moffitt Cancer Center, and more recently as the inaugural Cancer Center Director at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. Dr. Sotomayor credits the CURE program for believing in “high risk” projects such as his, along with good science and continued support to promoting and fostering increased diversity in the cancer research scientific community. 

Dr. Sotomayor is Director of the George Washington Cancer Center. Previously, he was the Susan and John Sykes Endowed Chair in Hematologic Malignancies at Moffitt Cancer Center and Professor of Oncologic Sciences and of Pathology and Cell Biology at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa. He also served as the Scientific Director of the DeBartolo Personalized Medicine Institute at Moffitt Cancer Center. 

Dr. Sotomayor’s basic/translational research focuses on the immunobiology and immunotherapy of B-cell malignancies. His clinical interest lies particularly with mantle cell lymphoma. 

Dr. Sotomayor has received multiple grants from the Lymphoma Research Foundation and is the recipient of three NIH R01 grants. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board, Lymphoma Research Foundation, and the Executive Committee of the Mantle Cell Lymphoma Consortium, and a standing Member, NCI, Subcommittee A, Cancer Centers. Dr. Sotomayor has published more than 100 manuscripts, including seminal publications in top-tier journals such as Nature MedicineNature Immunology, and Cancer Research

Dr. Sotomayor received his MD from Federico Villarreal National University School of Medicine in Lima, Peru. He completed a residency training in internal medicine at Jackson Memorial Hospital/University of Miami School of Medicine, followed by a fellowship in medical oncology at Johns Hopkins University. 

Miguel A. Villalona-Calero, MD

Miguel A. Villalona-Calero, MD, was the recipient of a Mentored Research Scientist Career Development (K01) Award to Promote Diversity in 1997, which provided a welcome platform that helped launch his academic career. Since then, Dr. Villalona has participated in 20 federal grants, 11 as PI, focused primarily on translating laboratory science to clinical trials in cancer patients, and he has received funding from foundations and industry partners alike. Dr. Villalona is internationally recognized for his work in lung cancer, particularly in the area of developmental therapeutics, designing new and more effective drugs. CURE was — and will continue to be — the foundation of it all. 

Dr. Villalona is Deputy Director and Chief Scientific Officer of the Miami Cancer Institute and Professor in the Departments of Humanities, Health and Society, and Human and Molecular Genetics at Florida International University. Previously, he was the Dorothy M. Davies Chair in Cancer Research tenured Professor, Director of the Division of Medical Oncology, and Associate Director of Translational Research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

Dr. Villalona’s major focus at the Miami Cancer Institute is the development of clinical trials with a strong emphasis on research and treatment of minority patients. He continues to pursue his translational research efforts in his lab at Florida International University. 

Dr. Villalona received his medical degree from Universidad Nacional Pedro Henriquez Urena, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at Kings County Hospital Center, SUNY Health Science Center at Brooklyn. He subsequently completed fellowships in medical oncology at the University of Minnesota Hospitals & Clinics and Roswell Park Cancer Institute; in drug development at the Institute for Drug Development, The University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio; and a National Hispanic Medical Association Health Policy Leadership fellowship at New York University, Robert Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. He has received numerous honors and awards, including the NCI Outstanding Example of Translational Research award. 

Robert A. Winn, MD 

Robert A. Winn, MD, acknowledges that the CURE program has meant everything to him. The mentoring and support he received as recipient of a Workforce Diversity Award (R21) in 2010 was invaluable, providing a foundation for his subsequent R01. Additional federal grants — spanning over a decade — include an NCI Transition Career Development (K22) Award to Promote Diversity and four U awards for a total of nine federally supported grants in pulmonary and critical care medicine, generally utilizing community-based research to support disparities reduction. This work, in turn, has resulted in numerous scientific publications. Having served on multiple academic and faculty committees and NIH grant reviews, Dr. Winn is a firm believer in paying forward. He looks forward to continuing to share the wisdom and benefits he gained from CURE with the next generation of students and investigators working in cancer and cancer health disparities research. 

Dr. Winn is Associate Vice Chancellor for Community-Based Practice and Director of the University of Illinois (UI) Cancer Center at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System. He is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the division of pulmonary, critical care, sleep, and allergy and a PI on the All of Us Precision Medicine grant. 

As Associate Vice Chancellor, Dr. Winn is responsible for managing Mile Square Health Center, UI Health’s multi-site network of federally qualified health centers. As Director of the Cancer Center, Dr. Winn has made great strides in promoting an evidence-based community approach to reducing the burden of cancer by giving urban and rural patients more access to care. Within the first 24 months of his tenure as Director, Dr. Winn secured over $63 million in funding from the NIH, NCI, and foundations to support a “bench to back yard” model of care. 

Dr. Winn has extensive experience in lung cancer research, both as a clinician and a researcher. His work focuses on developing novel in vitro and in vivo models to study lung cancer pathways. He has received numerous awards for excellence in teaching, scholarship, leadership, and diversity service. 

Dr. Winn earned his medical degree from the University of Michigan and completed an internal medicine residency at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago, where he was also a Chief Resident. He completed a fellowship in pulmonary/critical care medicine at the University of Colorado. 

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