Members of the Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women
CHAIR: Cristina M. Checka, MD
Dr. Cristina M. Checka is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Breast Surgical Oncology, Division of Surgery at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. She works within a community-based practice that is uniquely positioned in the longitudinal care of young women. Dr. Checka’s day-to-day work involves breast cancer risk assessment and reduction, survivorship, and the surgical treatment of breast cancer. Her clinical interests include management of women with an increased risk of and with breast cancer. Dr. Checka has worked closely with young, underserved breast cancer patients in urban settings, as well as rural patients with the unique burden of travel time and costs. Dr. Checka earned her medical degree from Michigan State University, completed her residency in general surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School, and her breast surgical oncology fellowship in 2008 at New York University.
Heather Caro, MBA-HM, BSN
Ms. Heather Caro is an Alliance Manager with Caris Life Sciences. She is a registered nurse with experience in intensive care, cardiology research, and the pharmaceutical industry and is also a freelance writer. However, despite more than 15 years of experience as a nurse, her most valuable resource has been as a patient, having been diagnosed with Invasive Breast Cancer in 2012 at age 32. Since completing her own treatment, she has dedicated herself to helping others through advocacy. She currently serves as Idaho State Lead for the Young Survival Coalition and as a consumer reviewer with the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.
Ashley Dedmon, MPH, CHES®
Ms. Ashley Dedmon is a native Houstonian. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health from Prairie View A&M University. She also earned a Master of Public Health from Florida A&M University. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist and holds a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. Ashley has a diverse and multisectoral career background ranging from non-profit, education, healthcare, policy, and government. Her experience has positioned her with unique business acumen. Ashley is a BRCA2+ previvor and was a teen caregiver of two parents with cancer. During her journey, she authored “The Big Discovery.” A children’s book that facilitates and guides families through a breast cancer diagnosis. Ashley has enthusiastically as a research advocate with Houston Methodist Research Institute. She is a member of the National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Health Physical Sciences-Oncology Advocacy Network, and the Penn Medicine: Basser Center for BRCA Young Leadership Council. She actively volunteers with The Tigerlily Foundation on various health equity initiatives, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) as a peer navigator and Angles Surviving Cancer. Ashley serves on a myriad of related workgroups and committees and has presented at institutions such as MD Anderson Cancer Center, Yale University, Houston Methodist Research Institute, and CURE® Education, to name a few. Her greatest accomplishment is being a wife to her husband and a mother to their two children. When she is not working, she loves to spend time with family and workout and spin.
Ms. Jana Halaby is the Senior Director of Corporate Strategy at Illumina. She has over 15 years of strategy, marketing, and brand building experience across an array of industries, giving her a unique perspective on various issues. Her experience across the health care system includes optimizing operations in major health systems, advancing disease self-management through education, and developing and interpreting research to design oncology support programs. Ms. Halaby is also a breast cancer survivor who has a passion for self-advocacy. Her approach to informing herself and others is rooted in a combination of data, evidence, and compassion.
Arin Ahlum Hanson, MPH
Ms. Arin Ahlum Hanson, MPH directs Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s strategy for engagement and outreach to under-resourced and special populations, healthcare providers, and volunteers. As LBBC’s Director of Outreach, she manages LBBC’s Young Women’s Initiative, which provides educational programs, resources, and support services to women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 45 and educational offerings to healthcare providers who serve this unique patient population. Arin is an experienced non-profit program director with 17 years of experience developing, implementing and evaluating public health programming for under-resourced populations. Arin has worked at Living Beyond Breast Cancer since 2009. She lives a dual city and country life by living in West Philadelphia and rural Maryland, with her husband and son.
Samantha Lynn Heller, PhD, MD, FSBI
Dr. Samantha L. Heller is an Associate Professor of Radiology in the Breast Imaging section at New York University Grossman School of Medicine. She is committed to improving screening outcomes and utilization as well as breast imaging specificity. Dr. Heller is currently the Associate Section Chief of Breast Imaging, and a Director for Radiology Quality and Safety at NYU Langone Health. Dr. Heller was graduated from Harvard College and received her PhD in English literature at Columbia University. She obtained her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical School followed by an internship at Memorial Sloan Kettering and radiology residency and fellowship training at NYU. After fellowship, she worked as a breast radiologist in the United Kingdom in the National Health South West London Breast Cancer Screening Service before joining the faculty of NYU School of Medicine.
Michael Howard, MD
Dr. Michael Howard is the Clinical Associate Professor of Surgery in the Division of Plastic Surgery at Northwestern Medicine. He is a Board-Certified plastic surgeon whose practice focuses on reconstructive and aesthetic breast surgery. Dr. Howard’s innovative techniques and experience with reconstruction following nipple-sparing mastectomy led to an invitation to co-lead a recurring instructional course for plastic surgeons on this topic at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons annual meeting. Dr. Howard devotes significant time to education and clinical research. Outside of his medical practice, in keeping with his family’s own experience with breast cancer and the breast cancer (BRCA) gene, Dr. Howard serves on the Medical Expert Panel at Bright Pink, an organization focused on young women at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
Ms. Leigh Hurst is the founder and Executive Director of the Feel Your Boobies Foundation.® She is a recognized leader in breast cancer advocacy and a noted social entrepreneur. She is a breast cancer survivor, having been diagnosed at the age of 33. Her organization, Feel Your Boobies, founded in 2004, was the first to focus on the innovative use of technology and social media to promote proactive breast health in young women. Ms. Hurst is a seasoned professional with over 25 years of design experience and a deep expertise in eLearning, business, and management consulting. She has a unique pedagogical understanding of both cognitive and behavioral learning sciences and their application to technology solutions that create behavior change.
Maryam B. Lustberg, MD, MPH
Dr. Maryam B. Lustberg is a breast medical oncologist. She currently serves as Chief of Breast Oncology and Director of the Breast Center at Yale Cancer Center in New Haven Connecticut. She is the co-chair of Symptom Intervention for Alliance Clinical Trials and is the incoming President of MASCC, an international organization devoted to improving cancer supportive care throughout the globe. Clinically she treats men and women with all stages of breast cancer with a focus on personalizing all aspects of cancer care. Dr. Lustberg received her medical degree from the University of Maryland where she also completed her residency and went on to complete a fellowship in medical oncology and in breast medical oncology at The Ohio State University before joining the faculty in 2010. She earned a Master’s in Public Health from The Ohio State University in 2013.
Rebecca Muñoz, MPH, CHES®
Ms. Rebecca Muñoz is a young adult breast cancer survivor, diagnosed with triple positive breast cancer in 2017. As she approached her treatment, she experienced multiple barriers as she attempted to receive cold capping to preserve her hair- and her identity- during her chemotherapy. In 2018, she founded Chemotherapy Cold Cappers, the first global peer-to-peer network to support individuals and their loved ones utilizing scalp cooling methods while undergoing chemotherapy. Rebecca is passionate about serving the cancer community and her work focuses on patient research and advocacy. Rebecca holds a Master of Public Health from Baylor University and a BA in Organizational and Corporate Communication from the University of Texas at El Paso. In 2021, she participated in the Éxito Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training by the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio. Currently, she is pursuing her EdD in Learning and Organizational Change with a focus on patient education at Baylor University. She also serves on the Livestrong Cancer Institutes’ Young Adult and Community Cancer Advisory Boards.
Heather Ochs-Balcom, PhD
Dr. Heather Ochs-Balcom is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University at Buffalo, School of Public Health and Health Professions. She has an active research program characterizing how genes contribute to disparities in breast cancer risk for African American women. She has also published on her experiences with minority recruitment to cancer epidemiology studies and has been recognized for these efforts. Dr. Ochs-Balcom is committed to the study of cancer health disparities and shedding light on both inherited and behavioral factors as they contribute to breast cancer risk. She is an outstanding independent researcher whose work is centered on the genetic epidemiology of cancer, particularly breast cancer, with a focus on health disparities.
Melissa A. Peters, CPO, MSPO
Missy Peters is a Breast Cancer Survivor, Founder and Executive Director of the 501(c)3 Young Breast Cancer Project. At 34, with no family history of disease, Missy faced a delayed diagnosis of 11 months while pregnant. Her PCP, OBGYN + Radiologist did not express concerns about her breast health. Four days before giving birth, she was diagnosed with Stage IIB IDC and soon learned that she is BRCA1+. While in treatment, she started photographing other young women to raise awareness, “Young Women Get Breast Cancer Too”. Through this work, titled the Breast Cancer Portrait Project, Missy has captured 100 diagnosis stories of AYA breast cancer. Her efforts have evolved into community-based research to quantify why women are slipping through the cracks.
Nicole B. Saphier, MD
Dr. Nicole Saphier is a Diplomat of the American Board of Radiology. She is a fellowship trained, radiologist; expertly skilled in women’s oncologic imaging with a primary focus in breast imaging radiology. In addition to her clinical knowledge, Dr. Saphier is vetted in the realm of health care policy. In her prior position, she was the sole physician champion of the Arizona state breast density legislation. Dr. Saphier is currently on the Department of Health Breast Imaging Work Group as well as on the executive and legislative committees of the Radiological Society of New Jersey and the Morris Township Board of Health. She is an accomplished radiologist who is extremely knowledgeable in other areas of breast oncology.
Ms. Rebecca Seago-Coyle is currently an active advocate for breast cancer research. She began advocating for breast cancer patients and breast cancer research after her own breast cancer diagnosis in 2010 at the age of 35. She has collaborated with talented and motivated research investigators, and her intention is to represent the overall patient perspective. Her professional experience as a project manager, combined with her survivor status, gives her a unique background that naturally lends itself to research and patient advocacy. Her goal is to further her contribution through research as well as the design and implementation that brings the best research to the clinic to benefit patients.
Joyce Tannenbaum Turner MS, CGC
Ms. Turner is a board-certified genetic counselor with over 17 years’ experience. She is also a faculty member within the Division of Genetics and Metabolism at Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC). After being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 35, Ms. Turner transitioned her career from research on rare diseases and high-risk prenatal care to hereditary cancer and launched CNMC’s cancer genetics clinic. Through the clinic, she provides genetic counseling, testing, and screening to families suspected of or known to have a cancer predisposition syndrome, including hereditary forms of breast cancer.
Liaison Representative Organizations
- American Cancer Society
- American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology
- Avon Foundation for Women
- Black Women’s Health Imperative
- Bright Pink
- Living Beyond Breast Cancer
- Patient Advocate Foundation
- Sisters Network, Inc.
- Susan G. Komen for the Cure
- Tigerlily Foundation
- Young Survival Coalition