Elliott Vichinsky, MD:
Medical Director, Hematology/Oncology
Dr. Vichinsky is the Director of Hematology/Oncology at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, an Adjunct Professor at University of California San Francisco, as well as the Director of the Northern California Sickle Cell and Thalassemia Centers. He established the hemoglobinopathy center over 30 years ago at Children's Hospital Oakland to provide primary through tertiary care to pediatric and adult patients. He is a board-certified pediatric hematologist/oncologist whose major interest is in understanding and improving the care of patients with hemoglobinopathies. His career has focused on translational research in hemoglobinopathies to answer therapeutic questions in hematologic and iron overload disorders. He has been a federally-funded research investigator for over 30 years and been national principal investigator for many successful trials -- including transfusion therapy and chelation therapy in hemoglobinopathies. He has been principal investigator or co-investigator on many of the key translational studies, including understanding the mechanism and treatment of neurologic injury in sickle cell disease; iron trafficking and iron overload in hemoglobinopathies, and new therapies to change the pathophysiology of sickle cell biology. He has served as Editor-in-Chief of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology; Chairman of the Thalassemia Clinical Research Network, and Director of the Cooley’s Medical Board. Dr. Vichinsky has published over 300 articles and several books, and has received lifetime achievement awards from the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation and the National Sickle Cell Disease Association.
Ashutosh Lal, MD:
Director, Thalassemia Clinical Program
Dr. Lal organizes the day-to-day management of patients attending our Comprehensive Thalassemia Center, and supervises the clinical program. The Center's major focus is health maintenance of transfusion-dependent patients by rigorous monitoring of clinical indicators, such as iron burden, cardiac function, endocrine testing, growth and nutrition. In order to improve coordination of care for our patients living outside California, we are designing innovative methods to communicate with their providers. Dr. Lal's research areas are the natural history of hemoglobin H disease, developing intensive iron chelation regimens, and nutritional deficiencies in thalassemia. Simultaneously, in the laboratory he and his team are trying to define whether iron-induced injury to mitochondria can help to explain organ damage in thalassemia.
Mark C. Walters, MD:
Director, Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant Program
Dr. Walters is the Jordan Family Director of the Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program at Children's Hospital & Research Center, Oakland and Associate Adjunct Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. Dr. Walters received his A.B. with honors in Genetics from the University of California, Berkeley and his MD from the University of California, San Diego. He completed pediatric residency training at the University of Washington and hematology/oncology fellowship training at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. He was a junior faculty member in Seattle before matriculating to Oakland in 1999. He has been active in cooperative clinical transplantation trials and has led several NIH-supported investigations of hematopoietic cell transplantation for sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. He has authored or co-authored many publications with a focus on hematopoietic cell transplantation for hemoglobin disorders, and he has a research interest in the application of umbilical cord blood transplantation and other novel cellular therapies for hereditary hematological disorders.
Sylvia Titi Singer, MD:
Over the past decade, Dr. Singer has been primarily involved in the clinical care of thalassemia patients and has conducted thalassemia-related research. Beyond the opportunity to care for these special patients, the involvement in their treatment has also stimulated her interest in clinical and translational research. She has been involved in research investigating drug stimulation of fetal hemoglobin with hydroxyurea, butyrate and erythropoietin, in attempts to increase the hemoglobin in non-transfused patients. She developed a study aimed at understanding the risk factors and causes for pulmonary hypertension in thalassemia. More recently, her study centers on investigating the progress, laboratory assessment and potential prevention of reduced fertility in adolescents and adult regularly-transfused thalassemia patients.
Carolyn Hoppe, MD:
Director, Hemoglobinopathy Diagnostic Lab
Dr. Hoppe is a hematologist/oncologist at CHO and a clinical scientist at CHORI with a focus in translational research in sickle cell disease. Her interest in studying genetic modifiers of sickle cell disease began early in her fellowship, while working in the laboratory of Dr. Elizabeth Trachtenberg at CHORI. A recipient of the American Society of Hematology Fellow Scholar Award, she performed her initial studies investigating HLA associations with stroke risk in children with sickle cell anemia. Dr. Hoppe has been a team member of the Northern California Comprehensive Sickle Cell Program for the past 10 years. As the medical director of the CHORI Hemoglobinopathy Laboratory and the California State Newborn Screening for Hemoglobinopathies Follow-up Program, Dr. Hoppe has expanded the services provided by this program to include molecular diagnostics.
Tariq Ahmad, MD:
Born to a Pakistani physician and a Filipino nurse, Dr. Ahmad grew up in Portland, Oregon. He went to Cornell University for undergraduate training, New York Medical College for medical school, and did his pediatric residency at the Children’s Hospital at Cleveland Clinic. Tired of the northeast snow, Dr. Ahmad returned to the west coast to complete a pediatric endocrinology fellowship at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and has been on staff at Children’s Hospital & Research Center at Oakland since 2006, in the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology. Dr. Ahmad, and the entire endocrine division, share many of their patients with the Comprehensive Thalassemia clinic at Children’s Hospital & Research Center at Oakland, and provide services such as optimizing growth, managing diabetes, and treating various forms of endocrinopathy that can be associated with transfusion dependent thalassemia. Dr. Ahmad has published multiple articles on the topic of optic nerve hypoplasia, hypopituitarism, and growth disorders, and has presented research at the 70th American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions regarding socio-economic barriers associated with poor glycemic control and elevated BMI in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus. For over a decade, Dr. Ahmad has been working with children at diabetes camps, including Camp Ho Mita Koda outside of Cleveland, Ohio, Camp Conrad-Chinook, Painted Turtle, both in southern California, and for the past 6 years at Camp de Los Ninos in the Santa Cruz mountains at Boulder Creek. More recently, he has been working as part of the medical staff at DASH (Diabetes and Sports Health) Camp which takes place at various sites around the Bay area.
Paul Harmatz, MD:
Dr. Harmatz is an Associate in Gastroenterology and Nutrition and Associate Program Director of the Pediatric Clinical Research Center at the Children’s Hospital & Research Center in Oakland, CA, USA. He received his MD from Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, NH, USA and completed his internship and residency in Pediatrics at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, CA, USA. Following a research fellowship in Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition at Massachusetts General Hospital, he remained in Boston until 1992 as faculty in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA. He has written over 200 original scientific articles, book chapters, and abstracts on gastrointestinal immunophysiology, burn injury, iron overload, sickle cell disease, beta thalassemia, and lysosomal storage diseases.
Gregory H.T. Kurio, MD, FAAP:
Dr. Kurio is board-certified in Pediatric Cardiology. He attended medical school at the University of Hawaii. He completed his pediatric residency at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, with fellowships in pediatric cardiology at Children's Hospital & Health Center in San Diego, and Children's Hospital Los Angeles. He has been treating the cardiac problems of thalassemia patients at Children's Hospital Oakland since 2006.
Howard M. Rosenfeld, MD:
Dr. Rosenfeld has been evaluating and treating children with heart disease at our hospital for more than 14 years. He is an expert in the use of ultrasound for non-invasive imaging of the heart for children of all ages. He provides invaluable information to the cardiac surgeons through intra-operative ultrasound imaging of the heart and directs the cardiac fetal program where prenatal diagnoses and treatment are provided. Dr. Rosenfeld evaluates and treats children who are born with heart problems (congenital cardiac disease) as well as children who develop heart problems later in life due to infections, abnormal heart rhythms, trauma, or inflammation. Dr. Rosenfeld is board-certified in Pediatric Cardiology. He attended medical school at Harvard University. He completed his pediatric residency and cardiology fellowship at Children's Hospital Boston.
Ellen B. Fung, PhD, RD, CCD:
Nutritional Scientist, Director Bone Density Clinic
Dr. Fung is an Associate Research Scientist at CHORI with advanced training in nutrition and a long-standing interest on the impact of nutrition in children with chronic disease. She received her B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Nutritional Science at the University of California, Berkeley, is a registered dietitian and Certified Clinical Densitometrist. She came to CHRCO in 2000 and is the Director of the Bone Density Clinic at CHRCO. Ellen has an adjunct appointment at the University of California, Davis, Nutrition Department as well as an active research program focused on bone health and trace mineral metabolism (zinc, iron) in patients with thalassemia. She has published over 60 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and is an Editor of the first textbook related to the assessment of pediatric bone health, Bone Densitometry in Growing Patients: Guidelines for Clinical Practice (Humana Press).
Marcela Weyhmiller, PhD:
Marcela Weyhmiller received her BSc from UC Berkeley and PhD from the University of Washington in Materials Science Engineering where her thesis focused on the magnetic properties of iron oxide nanoparticles. Her expertise in iron and magnetism brought her to Children’s Hospital Oakland in 2009 where her work focuses on iron overload. As the Coordinator for the SQUID-Ferritometer Program she measures liver iron concentration (LIC) using the SQUID. SQUID is a safe, painless, quick and non-invasive technique that utilizes a superconducting magnetic sensor to measure “how magnetic” the liver is. LIC is used as an indicator of total body iron stores and this information helps the Thalassemia team manage the transfusion and chelation care for our patients. In addition Marcela works on the Multi-Center Study of Iron Overload - an international collaboration to study the underlaying mechanisms controlling iron deposition and overload in Thalassemia, Sickle Cell Anemia and Diamond Blackfan Anemia.
Wendy Hyde Murphy, LCSW:
Wendy is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who joined the Thalassemia Team in August 2012 after spending six years in the Oncology & Neuro-Oncology Department at Children’s Hospital. She earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan. After completing her MSW, she worked for two years in a foster care agency and then spent the next 12 years at Seneca Center in their residential and day treatment programs for emotionally challenged children. She was involved in direct counseling, intake coordination and supervising therapists.
Mahin Azimi, BS, CLS:
Medical Technologist, Hemoglobinopathy Diagnostic Lab
Mahin Azimi is a Senior Clinical Laboratory Research Scientist and Supervisor of the CHRCO Hemoglobinopathy Reference Laboratory. Mahin holds three Bachelor’s degrees: one in Social Sciences from the University of California, Berkeley, one in Medical Laboratory Sciences from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a specialty in Clinical Laboratory Science from the California State University, Hayward. She currently holds 3 licenses in the State of California: CLS, ASCP, NCA. She came to the laboratory at CHRCO in 1994 and has played an integral role in building the laboratory into a nationally recognized resource for diagnosis and interpretation of hemoglobinopathies.
Connie Schroepfer, MS, RD, CSR:
Connie (officially Concetta) Schroepfer received her BS in Nutrition & Dietetics from UC Davis and attended Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland for graduate studies. Her pediatric nutrition experience has been at Boston Children’s hospital, Case Rainbow Babies and Children’s University Hospital, and many years at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. Adult nutrition practice has been at SF Bay Area hospitals, with extensive experience in Nephrology at University of California and San Francisco General Hospital Renal Centers. At Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland she is part of the Rehab, Nephrology, and Thalessemia care teams and consults with adult Sickle Cell clients. In outpatient Nutrition Clinic she works with families of children with poor weight gain and feeding difficulties. She has special interest in Vitamin D and Vitamin K and has presented at conferences on these vitamins as well as on Urea Kinetics and nutritional assessment of renal patients at national and international nutrition meetings.
Shannon Gaine, FNP:
Thalassemia Nurse Practitioner
Shannon Gaine is a licensed Family Nurse Practitioner who joined the thalassemia team in May 2016. She earned her Master’s Degree as Family Nurse Practitioner at Georgetown University. After completing her Masters she worked at Columbia Presbyterian, New York City in the Pediatrics emergency room. Upon moving to California, Shannon worked in a small clinic in Mountain View before coming to to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. She has an interest in working with the community to bring more awareness and education about thalassemia.
Interview with Shannon, December 2016.
Jennifer Ferguson graduated from UCSF School of Nursing with a Master's in Nursing and Family Nurse Practitioner degree in 2003. In the past she worked with vulnerable populations in women's health and with teens in the juvenile justice system. She joined our research team in 2014 and coordinates clinical trials in thalassemia, brain iron accumulation, Niemann-Pick, and Sickle Cell Disease.
Interview with Jennifer, December 2017
Viktoriia Kolotovska, MS:
Study Coordinator, SQUID
Viktorria Kolotovska was born in Kiev, Ukraine and moved to the U.S. in 2011. She graduated from the National Technical University of Ukraine with a dual Master’s degree in Material Science and Computer Science. She started her research journey in Material Science by developing point-of-care diagnostic biochips, and had the opportunity to immerse in the world of biotechnology and learn about its medical applications.
Viktorria joined the growing Iron Overload Program team at Benioff Children’s Hospital in September 2017. She was enticed by the hospital’s and the team’s culture and their interdisciplinary perspective approach to care for patients with high risk iron overload. As a Study Coordinator, she performs SQUID measurements and assists with the program’s projects. She is excited to be a part of the thalassemia community because the field offers endless opportunities to learn and grow.
In her free time, Viktorria enjoys being active. Her favorite activities are climbing, running and exploring the California outdoors.
Meghan graduated with a degree in public health from Brown University. She worked with the thalassemia clinic in Summer 2017 to conduct research on medication adherence in young adults with thalassemia. She currently works to promote thalassemia awareness among at-risk communities and their providers. She is also interested in developing avenues for patient advocacy and peer support in the thalassemia program.
Anne Rishon, PNP,
Thalassemia Nurse Practitioner
Before Anne Rishon became the nurse practitioner at the thalassemia clinic, most of her work had been with vulnerable populations in women’s and community clinics in the Bay Area. Most notably, Anne’s love of working with adolescents led her to work for 10 years as a nurse practitioner in the Alameda County Juvenile Hall.