Members of the Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women

CHAIR: Christina M. Checka, MD

Dr. Christina 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 and 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. 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 treatment, she has dedicated herself to helping others through advocacy. She serves as Idaho State Lead for the Young Survival Coalition and as a consumer reviewer with the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.

Lisa Astalos Chism, DNP, APRN, NCMP, FAANP

Dr. Lisa Astalos Chism is a Certified Sexuality Counselor and the Clinical Director of the Breast Care Center at Oakland Macomb Obstetrics & Gynecology Associates. She has been a registered nurse for more than 29 years and a certified nurse practitioner for 25 years. Dr. Chism is also a Certified Menopause Practitioner through the North American Menopause Society and a certified sexuality counselor through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. Dr. Chism has established a dedicated menopause and sexual health clinic caring for the menopausal and sexual health needs of women who have a history of breast cancer or are at elevated risk for breast cancer. Dr. Chism also published a text in 4th edition entitled, The Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree: A Guidebook for Role Development and Professional Issues. She serves as adjunct assistant professor at Madonna University School of Nursing and adjunct assistant professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine. She has presented nationally and published on topics related to the DNP degree, menopause, sexual health, and breast health. Dr. Chism is a Fellow of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and was selected as Menopause Practitioner of the Year in 2011. She serves on the Board of Directors at the North American Menopause Society.

Carletta Cunningham

Ms. Carletta Cunningham has been on a mission since being diagnosed and treated for triple-negative breast cancer in 2013. When treatment concluded, she set out to accept and explore her “new normal” by establishing and conquering challenging goals. From sprint triathlons to 130-mile multi-day adventures, she hoped to build awareness while inspiring others to keep moving forward. Carletta received a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from University of Louisville. She enjoys playing tennis and spending time with family and friends. From time to time, she blogs about her wild and crazy adventures.

Jana Halaby

Ms. Jana Halaby is the Director of Corporate Strategy at Illumina. She has more than 15 years of experience in strategy, marketing, and brand building 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.

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.

Leigh Hurst

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 age 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 more than 25 years of design experience and a deep expertise in eLearning and 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.

Kenneth Lin, MD, MPH

Dr. Kenneth Lin is Professor of Clinical Family Medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine and Deputy Editor of American Family Physician, the most widely read journal in primary care. Dr. Lin obtained his MD from New York University School of Medicine and MPH from Johns Hopkins University. He completed a Family Medicine residency at Lancaster General Hospital in Pennsylvania and medical editing and faculty development fellowship at Georgetown University. Dr. Lin chaired the American Academy of Family Physicians’ Subcommittee on Clinical Practice Guidelines from 2015 to 2017 and serves on the AAFP’s Science Advisory Panel. He posts regularly to his personal blog, Common Sense Family Doctor; is an expert video commentator for Medscape Family Medicine, and previously authored U.S. News and World Report’s consumer health blog Healthcare Headaches. Dr. Lin is a nationally recognized speaker on the benefits and harms of cancer screening, medical writing and publication, and the uses of social media in health advocacy and policy.

Rachel M. Mayo, PhD, MA

Dr. Rachel Mayo is a Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at Clemson University. She has worked in cancer control for the past 20 years in South Carolina. Her research interests include cancer prevention and control and health disparities among minority and underserved populations. Her current work is on disparities among the uninsured and cultural competence in provider education. She is a two-year breast cancer survivor, who now has a greater appreciation of issues facing young women with breast cancer.

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.

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 on the Department of Health Breast Imaging Work Group and 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.

Rebecca Seago-Coyle

Ms. Rebecca Seago-Coyle is 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 age 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.

Elissa Thorner, MHS

Ms. Elissa Thorner was a two-time breast cancer survivor by age 25. She has become an advocate for patients living with this disease, appearing in television interviews, newspapers, magazines, podcasts, and on radio speaking out about the barriers and challenges they often face. These barriers include survivorship in early and advanced breast cancer care, long-term side effects, patient-caregiver-provider communication, improvements in quality and outcomes of care, technology as a communication tool, the mind-body connection, and healthy living after breast cancer. Ms. Thorner is involved in several communication and research initiatives including national guideline development, survivorship care planning, health education for patients and providers, caregiver communication, and improvement of health outcomes. She has an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University in Women’s Health and a graduate degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Health Education and Communication. Ms. Thorner oversees breast cancer communication, education, and survivorship at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, manages the Breast Cancer Survivorship Program, and co-directs the Young Women with Breast Cancer Program.

Mylin A. Torres, MD

Dr. Mylin Torres is an Associate Professor in the Emory University School of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology. She specializes in the treatment of breast cancer and  co-leads the Cancer Prevention Control Research Program of Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University. Her research program is dedicated to understanding the biology of underlying treatment-related side effects, including chronic inflammation and cancer-related fatigue in breast cancer patients. Dr. Torres has received highly competitive grants from the National Cancer Institute, Radiation Therapy Oncology Group, Susan G. Komen, Avon Foundation, National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Pfizer Oncology, and Winship Cancer Institute to support her research and efforts to improve disparities among African American patients. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Dr. Torres graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and received her medical degree from Stanford University before completing her training in radiation oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Joyce Tannenbaum Turner MS, CGC

Ms. Joyce Tannenbaum Turner is a board-certified genetic counselor with more than 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 age 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

Page last reviewed: October 28, 2021