I have been a consumer peer reviewer since 2006 for Department of Defense panels and Susan G. Komen for the Cure for breast cancer research grants. I am a National Breast Cancer Coalition [NBCC] 2001 Project LEAD graduate, as well as Project LEAD Quality Care, and Clinical Trials graduate and have participated as a consumer advocate and navigator on City of Hope’s Center of Community Alliance for Research & Education and the Department of Population Sciences breast cancer research grant projects. I am a 24-year Stage III breast cancer survivor. I have also been on the board of directors for the Women of Color Breast Cancer Survivor’s Project, the National Breast Cancer Coalition and a Scientific Advisor Committee member to the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. I am interested in participating in the Community Leadersip Committee to find ways to communicate information on the environment based on current evidence-based research.
Sandra (Sandy) Finestone, Psy.D., is a 30+ year breast cancer survivor and research advocate. Sandy serves as the advocate representative of the Susan G. Komen Scientific Advisory board and is on the Advocates in Science Steering Committee. Dr. Finestone founded the Orange County Breast Cancer Coalition and opened the Hope Wellness Center to meet the needs of breast cancer survivors. Her advocacy knows no borders; in 2009, Dr. Finestone went to Jordan to facilitate a meeting that taught healthcare providers about support groups and later that year, returned to the middle-east to train women in Kuwait and Egypt. Dr. Finestone reviews research grants for Komen as well as the Department of Defense, Cochrane, Avon, PCORI and the states of New York and California. She is an Ambassador for PCORI and a member of the Orange County Mental Health Board. She also sits on an advisory committee for Medicare.
Florence Lin, M.Ed.
I completed my B.S. in child development and home economics education at Oregon State University and became a teacher. I went on to complete a master's degree in education, married and raised two beautiful children. I have been with the Asian Youth Center for the last 10 years. I was hired in as the office manager in 2006 and became a program manager in 2008. Most recently, I served as the community relations manager.
I am currently the breast health project director at Herald Cancer Association (HCA) in San Gabriel, California. HCA is a nonprofit community organization that provides cancer information, resources and support to the local Chinese-American community. After my personal encounter with breast cancer, I began to volunteer at HCA and, after, joined the staff team. My current work includes planning and implementation of a variety of breast health and breast cancer programs, events and research projects. In early 2016, I became a member of the Community Leadership Committee for the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program because I believe it’s very important to disseminate scientific research outcomes in ways that the general public can understand and put into practice. Originally from Taiwan, I immigrated to the U.S. with family in the early '70s. Outside of work, I enjoy hiking, traveling and spending time with family.
Ghecemy Lopez, M.Ed.
Despite my prior experience in higher education, government and community relations; cancer research, bilingual grassroots education and patient navigation became my professional priorities soon after surviving cancer. Hand-in-hand with my wonderful husband, I am now enjoying this second chance in life by combining work and my doctoral studies at USC. Cancer reminded me that we should always do what we enjoy the most, and as a member of the Community Leadership Committee at City of Hope, I get to do that. I bring the cultural and linguistic diversity perspective of Latin-American immigrants to the same table that we share with scientists and other fellow advocates from different backgrounds. As a Mexican immigrant and a member of several committed organizations and groups like “Las Comadres Para Las Americas,” I appreciate collaborating in projects that focus on the link between breast cancer and the environment. We owe such answers to our community.
Nicole Laurita, M.S.
I’ve dedicated my professional life to translational and clinical research. Over the last eight years, my research projects focused on understanding diseases on the molecular level, analyzing the effects of novel interventions, and evaluating innovative treatments in a clinical setting. I completed my undergraduate degree at UMBC, followed by a graduate degree in Molecular Medicine from the University of Maryland. As a graduate researcher, I investigated novel approaches to cancer treatments – looking at widespread questions in cancer and finding early-stage solutions. I moved across the country to pursue a research position with Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. As a member of the research team, I manage the Army of Women® program, a research initiative that connects researchers with participants internationally, and the Health of Women (HOW) Study®, a high-profile epidemiology study which aims to identify factors which may influence one’s risk of developing breast cancer.
I’m the Executive Director for Promoters for Better Health, a nonprofit organization that empowers community residents to live healthier, happier lives by engaging with communities, removing health barriers, and serving as a bridge to needed resources and health education. I have a BA in Children Pedagogy of the School Normal Profesor Serafín Peña from Montemorelos, Mexico. Currently I am working on my Associate’s Degree in Health and Nutrition in Migrants (Diplomado en Salud y Nutrición del Migrante) from the Autonomous University of Zacatecas, Mexico and the University of California, Berkeley. As a certified Diabetes Prevention Program Lifestyle Coach, I have more than 20 years of experience working at a community level.. My interests and passion are to connect community members to opportunities to improve their well-being by understanding not only the language barriers that migrant communities face, but also the trauma and stress that they face.
Rhonda M. Smith, M.B.A.
I am a 10-year breast cancer survivor and the founderand chief executive officer of Breast Cancer Partner, a consultancy with expertise in managing community-based strategic health disparities initiatives. I have previously served as the consultant/statewide project director for the Susan G. Komen Circle of Promise California Initiative. I am currently the project director for phase II of Circle of Promise in Northern California and project director for the LiveHealthy OC Initiative. I earned my M.B.A. in marketing and operations management from Colgate Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia and my B.S. in civil engineering from Virginia Tech. I am on the Community Leadership Committee because I am passionate about ensuring that women of color and those who live in underserved communities are breast health literate. I believe that understanding risk factors that we can control to minimize breast cancer risk is key to breast health self-care.
I am a volunteer at the cancer support center We Spark where I refer patients to the center and encourage them to attend the conferences that are available for cancer patients. In addition, I volunteer at Komen LA Affiliate Metastatic Breast Cancer steering committee where I advocate for the group and makes sure translation services are available.
I was 37 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It wasn’t a surprise, as premenopausal breast cancer had been diagnosed in my mother and grandmother. I became involved In breast cancer advocacy soon after my recovery, and I’m a longtime board member of Breast Cancer Care & Research Fund. I’ve mentored other advocates in the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s Project LEAD breast cancer science training program. I lobby yearly for breast cancer legislation and research funding, and I have worked with breast cancer researchers. It’s important to me to be a part of the Breast Cancer and the Environment Reseach Program Community Leadership Committee because I feel that the study will have wide-ranging impact, and we will be instrumental in educating the community on its findings.
I am a founding member of SET for LIFE/Families, a Monrovia, California-based grassroots nonprofit established in 2004. Our mission is to decrease health disparities and encourage African-Americans to lead healthier lives through education, resources and partnership building. The vision was inspired by Bishop Wm. LaRue Dillard, parish shepherd of Second Baptist Church Monrovia, where I am a member. My primary reason for participating in the Community Leadership Committee is very personal. My cousin passed away from breast cancer in her early 30s. I want to increase women’s knowledge and understanding about the environmental risk of breast cancer, learn how to reduce their risk and share the information they learn with other women. I am a member of the Community Benefit Committee of City of Hope and City of Pasadena Tobacco Control Council. I co-own OnWeb Television with my husband of 31 years, James Tucker. We provide video production and audio podcast recording services to nonprofit organizations, businesses and government agencies. I spent 25 years working to increase affordable housing options for low income families. I am privileged to have received numerous awards for my advocacy work and as a business owner.
I work at City of Hope in the early therapeutics and phase I disease team. I am very dedicated to my work and my priority is finding a cure for metastatic disease, improving quality of life and, above all, understanding why cancer strikes and how to prevent the disease. I am very grateful for the opportunity to work in such a progressive organization, surrounded by knowledgeable and caring colleagues. I enjoy yoga and learning about Eastern philosophies in my free time, and see an ever-increasing role for many healing modalities in comprehensive cancer care. I am the alternate representative for the Breast Cancer Care and Research Fund on the Community Leadership Committee. The committee’s focus on the role of environment in the development of cancer is dear to my heart and I enjoy collaborating with other advocates and City of Hope scientists to develop evidence-based knowledge in this area and getting the public actively involved.
I am a 13-year triple-negative breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed at Stage IIIC and, at the time, that meant my risk for reoccurrence in 10 years was 89 percent. Everyone in my family, my sister, aunts, cousins, etc. except for one had died from breast cancer so I felt like I needed to do something to encourage women to not be like me and be “too busy” to go get a mammogram. I pretty much went every year for my mammogram but this one year I was “too busy”. Well I went from “OK” to Stage IIIC. There wasn’t much else for a triple-negative that you could do after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation but wait. Well, I decided my life had to mean something so I speak every chance I get to women about their health.
I was born and raised in the U.S., but my parents emigrated from Mexico so, for me in my heart, I love both countries. I am a full-time wife, mom of two beautiful kids, student and health professional who has worked as case manager at several hospitals and clinics in the most underserved areas in L.A. I never thought of myself as an advocate, until I was made aware of the fact that I was one. This is what made me join City of Hope’s Community Leadership Committee as an alternate member. I am happy to be part of this committee because many times people in my community don’t speak up, or they are afraid to talk to the scientists, yet, they talk about their cancer fears or environmental concerns among themselves; many times information is spread, even if it’s lacking any evidence-based research to support it. I want to be part of that change.
Shirley Woo, R.N.
Shirley Woo has a lifetime of experience in providing healthcare services. Shirley is currently retired after spending over 30 years as a Registered Nurse at the Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center (LAC+USC Medical Center). She most recently served in the Trauma Registrar to improve trauma patient care through detailed and extensive analysis, data collection, and implementation of quality improvement programs through peer review and research projects. LAC+USC Medical Center is one of the nation's largest trauma centers and enters over 4,000 trauma patients into the registry annually, constituting approximately 25% of the total volume of trauma patients in Los Angeles County. Prior to the Trauma Registrar, Shirley provided patient care in neurosurgery, general surgery/medicine, and oncology nursing through LAC+USC Medical Center, National Taiwan University Hospital, and home care. Shirley’s youngest sister is a breast cancer survivor, and having seen firsthand the trials and challenges of those with breast cancer, she has devoted much of her volunteer efforts to supporting others.
Thank you to our past members
I grew up in Philadelphia. I have always had a love for science and exploring our world. I attended Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and graduated in 2000 with a B.A. in Asian studies. After graduating, I pursued postgraduate studies in Mandarin and Taiwanese at the International Chinese Language Program at National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan. Afterward, I worked in Taiwan as a translator, author and English teacher. I currently reside in Pasadena, California, with my family. My family joined the Pasasdena Jewish Temple and Center in 2015. It is a wonderful community which has given my family amazing support, especially through my cancer treatments. In 2014, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Seeing how life-altering the diagnosis and treatments can be, I decided to get involved in the Community Leadership Committee with the hope of helping educate people on cancer prevention.
Lisa Donley-Lanyi, M.F.T
It has been my privilege to work with breast cancer patients in community oncology for almost 30 years. In that time, medicine has changed a lot. Sadly, however, challenges in accessing care, as well as developing care models that are sensitive to the needs of the very diverse patient populations that we serve, have not made the same progress. This is particularly true in clinical research. The work of the Community Leadership Committee here at City of Hope is uniquely focused on making research understandable and accessible to patients from the initial stage of research question conceptualization to facilitating knowledge of research participation opportunities in our communities. I am humbled to serve on this committee led by scientists next to community activists, nonprofit leaders and free clinic care providers. The thoughtfulness of each member is a powerful reminder of what it means for researchers, physicians and patients to collaborate in service of better patient outcomes.
Reyna Raya, M.D., Pharm.D.
My family and I immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1960s. After completing two Associate of Arts degrees at Cerritos College, I transferred to California State University Long Beach, where I received her Bachelor of Science degree in biology with a minor in chemistry. I then earned a Doctor of Pharmacy degree at the USC School of Pharmacy. As a third-year intern pharmacist, I joined the Walgreens family in serving the South Central Los Angeles Area and continue to work for the company at their Inglewood, California, location as a pharmacy manager.
Shiou-Bih Yang, R.N., M.S.N.
I graduated from National Taipei College of Nursing in Taiwan. I worked as a staff nurse at Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital and taught at Yuin in vocational nursing school until moving to the United States in 1981. Since then, I have served as a registered nurse for more than 25 years. I am a clinical supervisor at the Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Center and I volunteer at the Tzu Chi International Medical Association. I work with the Every Woman Counts Program, which is aimed at ensuring that women have access to breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services.