Sarah Kobrin, Ph.D., M.P.H., Branch chief for the Health Systems and Interventions Research Branch, Healthcare Delivery Research Program (HDRP), Division of Cancer Control & Population Sciences (DCCPS)
The Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program recently announced its 2023 Merit Award Winners, recognizing the exceptional contributions of Drs. Kate Elfer, Alexandra Harris, Jennifer McGee-Avila, and Esmeralda Ramirez-Peña. The winners were honored at the Annual Potluck, a celebration marking the culmination of a year and the welcoming of a new cohort of fellows.
Dr. Kate Elfer, a recipient of the program's Merit Award, has made significant strides in various areas of cancer research. Their expertise spans digital pathology, medical devices, regulatory aspects of diagnostic devices, artificial intelligence/machine learning, image perception, and the integration of sex and gender in research. Dr. Elfer's contributions have been supported by research funds from prestigious organizations such as the NCI-FDA Interagency Oncology Task Force and the Food and Drug Administration, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, FDA/CDRH Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories. They have developed continuing medical education courses and been recognized for their involvement in esteemed events, including the STEM Representation Matters Series at Brown University and the Biomedical Engineering Departmental Seminars at UMass Lowell. Dr. Elfer's commitment extends to serving as a co-chair in working groups such as the FDA DigiPath and AI/Machine Learning Working Groups. Additionally, they actively mentors aspiring researchers through programs like the CPFP Peer Mentoring Program and FDA PRIDE Mentoring Committee. Their exceptional contributions to the Peer Mentoring Program have earned her the prestigious NCI Director's Champion Award in 2023. Dr. Elfer also takes an active role in service within the CPFP, they served as former co -chair of the Fellows Advisory Board CDSS committee, and organizes the CPFP Book Club.
Dr. Alexandra Harris, another recipient of the 2023 Merit Award, has made remarkable strides in cancer research. Her dedication to bringing the worlds of laboratory science and molecular epidemiology to study the breast tumor microenvironment, molecular underpinnings of epidemiologic risk factors, and breast cancer disparities in women of African descent has garnered widespread recognition and support. Dr. Harris has been honored with prestigious accolades such as the CPFP Transdisciplinary Fellowship Research Award, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG )Intramural Research Award, and, together with her mentors, the Center for Cancer Research (CCR) Health Disparities Flex Award. Her commitment to science communication, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) , and outreach is evident through her leadership roles in significant initiatives like the CPFP Grants and Scientific Writing Committee and active participation in the DCEG Cancer Health Disparities Fellows Interest Group, DCEG Inclusivity Minute Project, and NCI Cancer Community Partnership. Dr. Harris's passion for mentorship is exemplified through her involvement in programs like the CPFP Peer Mentoring Program for which she earned an NCI Director's Champion Award, and STEM for Her, where she empowers aspiring researchers and promotes diversity in STEM.
Dr. Jennifer McGee-Avila has also been honored with a merit award for her notable contributions to cancer prevention research. Her achievements span a wide range of areas, including cancer prevention in people with HIV, cervical cancer, HPV-associated cancers, cancer inequities, and public health policy. Dr. McGee-Avila's active participation in influential initiatives such as the NIH Federal Cervical Cancer Collaborative, focusing on cervical cancer elimination, and the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) Evidence-Based Cancer Control Policy Research Working Group, and the DCEG Cancer Health Disparities Fellows Interest Group, showcases her dedication to the field. She has been recognized with prestigious awards, including the NCI Director's Champion Award and the Sallie Rosen Kaplan Fellowship. Dr. McGee-Avila's involvement in various working groups, councils, and committees highlights her commitment to addressing cancer health disparities. As a mentor, she actively contributes to programs like the CPFP Peer Mentoring Program and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Health Policy Research Scholars Program.
Dr. Esmeralda Ramirez-Peña, a distinguished recipient of this Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program's prestigious award, has made exceptional contributions to cancer prevention research. Her expertise in real-world and clinical trial data analysis, chemoprevention, and cancer recurrence measurements has led to her work being presented at renowned events. Esteemed institutions have recognized Dr. Esmeralda Ramirez-Peña's work, reflecting the quality and impact of her research. With a commitment to collaboration, she actively engages with national and international partners, participating in working groups focused on addressing cancer recurrence and systemic racism. Dr. Ramirez-Peña's notable accolades include the NCI Director's Emerging Leaders Award and the NCI Director's Champion Award, further underscoring her contributions to the field. As a mentor in the CPFP Peer Mentoring Program, she plays a pivotal role in empowering aspiring researchers and cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment in STEM. Her dedication to fostering equity and promoting underrepresented groups' involvement in research is evident.
The Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program's 2023 Merit Award winners, Drs. Kate Elfer, Alexandra Harris, Jennifer McGee-Avila, and Esmeralda Ramirez-Peña, represent the program's commitment to recognizing excellence in cancer prevention research. Their diverse expertise, significant contributions, and dedication to mentorship underscore the program's mission of advancing the field and reducing the burden of cancer. These accomplished researchers serve as inspirations for the future generation of cancer prevention scientists.