Ensuring the patient voice is heard

Advocates in Science Steering Committee

The members of our Advocates In Science (AIS) steering committee are experienced research advocates who’ve demonstrated their dedication and leadership in breast cancer advocacy. The steering committee works closely with Komen staff to develop the strategy for the AIS program, expand its community of members and leverage the benefits and outcomes of effective breast cancer research advocacy. They are also active members of either the Komen Scholars or the Scientific Advisory Board and dedicated to making sure the patient voice in heard. Read their stories below.


“No other organization has impacted breast cancer advocacy and research more than Susan G. Komen. World renowned researchers and volunteers support Komen because Komen cares about the future and honors the past. Komen is the pink ribbon that binds us together.”

Scientific Advisory Board since 2018
Komen Scholar 2010-2018
Advocate in Science Since 2008
Costa Mesa, CA

Sandra Finestone, Psy.D., is a 30-year breast cancer survivor and research advocate, who has been a volunteer for Susan G. Komen for over 25 years. Dr. Finestone is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She is passionate about educating breast cancer patients about their disease and the importance of breast cancer research. Dr. Finestone opened the Hope Wellness Center to meet the needs of breast cancer survivors. As Executive Director, she facilitates support groups, meets individually with patients and their families and has created a peer support system where breast cancer mentors help newly diagnosed women with their journey. Sandy helped start the Orange County Komen Affiliate and has been president three times, as well as the Race chair. She is a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Ambassador and the President of the Inland Empire Komen Affiliate. In 2009, she went to Jordan to facilitate a meeting that taught healthcare providers about support groups for women with breast cancer, and later that year, trained women in Kuwait and Egypt about support groups. A Project Lead graduate, Dr. Finestone is an experienced grant reviewer for multiple organizations, including Komen. A member of the Advocates in Science Steering Committee, she currently serves as the patient advocate representative on Komen’s Scientific Advisory Board.


“Only through research can we discover more effective ways to prevent, diagnose, treat and cure breast cancer. As a research advocate, I’m continually learning more about this disease. I can bring a sense of urgency to the process and assure patients’ perspectives are an integral part of research decisions.”

Scientific Advisory Board 2012-2017
Komen Scholar 2010-2012
Advocate in Science Since 2008
Kansas City, MO

Cheryl L. Jernigan, CPA, F.A.C.H.E., is a 20+ year breast cancer “thriver” and cancer research advocate. She was previously CEO of the Kansas City Area Hospital Association and has over 20 years of experience in health policy, advocacy and community/national leadership on behalf of hospitals. She is Chair of the Breast Cancer Prevention Center’s Advocate Advisory Board for The University of Kansas Medical Center and The University of Kansas Hospital. Over the past four years, she has served as the Lead Advocate of Patient & Investigator Voices Organizing Together (PIVOT), a new University of Kansas Cancer Center initiative. Ms. Jernigan was a founding and past board member and Chair of the Strategic Mission Committee of the Greater Kansas City Komen Affiliate.

An active research advocate, Ms. Jernigan is a member of many clinical trial initiatives, including the National Cancer Institute’s Central Institutional Review Board for Adult Late Phase Clinical Trials and the Patient Advocate Committee of SWOG Cancer Research Network. Ms. Jernigan was a prior chair of Komen’s Advocate Research Mentor (ARM) Taskforce. She is also one of the experts involved with Komen’s big data initiative. Her passion is seeking ways to change research to better serve patients. She strives to inform and empower patients to be effective partners, working with researchers and clinicians to enhance and focus research on what matters to patients.


“I’ve been so impressed by the role that survivors have played in advancing Komen’s mission. These individuals, in particular those who are lay, are some of the most courageous and knowledgeable, always seeking to learn more, individuals that I’ve ever worked with.”

Komen Scholar Since 2018
Advocate in Science Since 2010
Durham, NC

Marian Johnson-Thompson, Ph.D., is Professor Emerita of Biology and Environmental Sciences, University of the District of Columbia (UDC), where she worked for 23 years and Adjunct Professor, Maternal and Child Health, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A cancer researcher, microbiologist and educator, Dr. Johnson-Thompson began her career at UDC and later joined the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), an institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where she retired after 16 years as Director of Education and Biomedical Research Development. A long-time advocate for health equity, she is frequently invited to address issues of science equity, health disparities and environmental justice, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and mentoring issues and human subjects protection – Dr. Johnson-Thompson was NIEHS IRB Chair for 8 years. Avid Komen supporter, she has participated in many Komen national and local programs and events, and she has been part of the Komen’s Advocate Advisory Task Force since 2014.

Dr. Johnson-Thompson’s role as a mentor has been recognized by many awards. In 2009, she even received the Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award from Howard and is featured as a Science History Maker, an online repository of outstanding African American contributors, housed at the Library of Congress. This year, she was the subject of an entire chapter in “Women in Microbiology,” where the author wrote that Dr. Johnson-Thompson’s “life’s work has directly and indirectly led to the production of female scientists in academia, industry, and government, and her contribution to the pipeline continues to grow exponentially.”


“I thank Susan G Komen for making me a better person, for inspiring me to continue to support the research science to find cures for every type of breast cancer, and to empower me to educate the public of the necessity to pursue these efforts.”

Komen Scholar Since 2017
Advocate in Science Since 2010
Houston, TX

Anne M. Meyn, M.Ed., was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in 1989 and throughout 1990. While in treatment, the Komen Houston Affiliate was founded, offering knowledge, support and long-lasting friendships. Ms. Meyn was compelled to be involved in an organization whose goal it was to eradicate breast cancer. She has served on the Komen Houston Affiliate Board of Directors since 2011, and she co-chairs the Komen Houston Medical Advisory Council Adjunct committee. Selected as M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s patient advocate on the Komen-funded Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC), she became the TBCRC Patient Advocate Working Group Co-Chair in 2016. As an AIS member, Ms. Meyn received scholarships to Komen-funded advocate programs at ASCO Breast Cancer Symposium. She was also introduced to the Komen Tissue Bank while she participated in Komen Promise Grant-funded advocate workshop at Indiana University, and she was instrumental in having Komen Houston host a tissue collection event in the most diverse city in the country. An experienced research grants reviewer, she is passionate about research, as she knows new treatments and cures will be the ultimate result.


“After a life changing experience of a breast cancer diagnosis in 2003, and having to go through a year of treatments, I knew I had to be a voice for many patients suffering from this disease.”

Komen Scholar Since 2017
Advocate in Science Since 2016
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Bárbara Segarra-Vázquez, D.H.Sc., has been a faculty at the University of Puerto Rico for 30 years, and is the Dean of the School of Health Professions and one of the Principal Investigators of the Hispanic Clinical and Translational Research Education and Career Development (HCTRECD) program (R25MD007607) funded by NIH. Dr. Segarra-Vázquez was diagnosed with breast cancer Stage IIB on December 2003 and was in remission for 13 years. On January 2017, she had a recurrence of metastatic breast cancer to the skin. A volunteer for Komen Puerto Rico since 2006, she was Board President for four years, during which they received the “Promise Award 2013” for their commitment to innovation and forward thinking in reducing overall breast cancer mortality She is a member of the Puerto Rico Cancer Control Coalition, currently serving as the leader of the survivorship committee. She has served several times as a consumer reviewer for the Breast Cancer Research Program of the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs and traveled to Komen Global Initiative to meet with different groups that provided services to breast cancer patients and participate in a public activity of breast. She is the founder and co-investigator of HIDEAS (Hispanics Increasing Diversity to Enhance Advocacy in Science) cancer awareness. Dr. Segarra-Vázquez is a medical technologist and she received her D.H.Sc. from Nova Southeastern University.


“I am a three-time breast cancer survivor who has experienced the advances in treatment (many due to the efforts of Komen) over the last 30 years. The AIS program has done so much to prepare me to be a strong voice for patients and provided an important role in determining how limited research funding can be best deployed to fulfill Komen’s mission – a world without breast cancer.”

Komen Scholar Since 2018
Advocate in Science Since 2013
Landenburg, PA

Meryl Weinreb, M.A., is a retired pharmaceutical marketing executive with extensive experience in oncology – both from an industry and personal perspective. As a 3-time breast cancer survivor, she was uniquely equipped to successfully lead consumer marketing strategy and execution for AstraZeneca’s US oncology portfolio. She was responsible for a number of awarding-winning patient education and support programs for breast, prostate and lung cancer therapies. She led innovative adherence programs and worked with company researchers to create patient-friendly PI’s and clinical protocols. For 7 years, Ms. Weinreb served on the Executive Board of the Philadelphia affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. She continues to serve as the affiliate’s Education Chair and leads public policy initiatives for Komen’s Advocacy Alliance in Pennsylvania and Delaware. She has also served as a member of Komen’s Advocacy Advisory Taskforce. In 2013, she was invited to join Komen’s Advocates in Science Program, and in 2018 became a member of its steering committee and a Komen Scholar. She currently chairs the AIS Committee on Peer Review and is Vice Chair of the AIS Education and Training Committee. She has served as a consumer reviewer for the Department of Defense’s Breast Cancer Research Program, Komen’s Postdoctoral Fellowship and Career Catalyst awards, and The Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas. She assists researchers – locally, across the country and sometimes abroad – with their grant applications and currently is collaborating as an advocate on several breast cancer research projects.

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