Advocates in Science Steering Committee
The members of the 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, locally and nationally, 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.
“It is important to me to advocate for greater participation in clinical trials for all potential patients, but specifically for African American patients because of underrepresentation in these trials. I believe that the patient’s perspective in a trial is an essential key to the successful design and execution of a study. Additionally, I strive to be an educator of breast cancer and clinical trials to my community.”
Komen Scholar Since 2022
Advocates in Science since 2020
Thelma Brown, an Advocate in Science from Birmingham, Alabama. Thelma formerly
worked as a Safety Analysis Engineer in the nuclear power industry and was initially
diagnosed with ER+ breast cancer in 2008. Prompted by her family history of the
disease, Thelma became involved with Susan G. Komen even before her diagnosis,
concentrating her efforts into outreach and education as well as research advocacy.
She has served as an advocate with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the
Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium, and has collaborated with
researchers from various institutions. In addition to being keenly interested in cutting
edge research that will lead to more effective, less toxic treatments, she is passionate
about research and clinical trials being inclusive, ensuring of all that will benefit from
“As a triple negative breast cancer thriver, I leverage my experiences with breast cancer to help others navigate this disease.”
Komen Scholar Since 2021
Advocates in Science Since 2018
King of Prussia, PA
Tomika Bryant departed the pharmaceutical industry as a biochemist in 2000 to pursue life outside of the lab. Becoming a social media influencer and a trained scientist provided an enormous opportunity to speak on behalf of patients once she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in 2013. The experience as a scientist and communicator created a unique scenario where it was easier to accept and digest treatment. Refusing to allow cancer to create limitations, Tomika has become a strong advocate for women diagnosed with cancer. She is striving to increase cancer awareness among support groups, organizations, patients, caregivers and the general public. Tomika wants to reduce the stigma and fear of cancer in specific socioeconomic groups, with a long-term goal of encouraging community volunteers and patient groups all throughout the state and country. She remains focused on helping reduce cancer incidences, mortality and improve quality of life through better medication selections. This in turn enables patients to advocate for themselves. Self-advocacy being a precursor for some clinical trials is important along with maintaining a good quality of life. Tomika serves as a consumer reviewer for the Department of Defense’s Breast Cancer Research Program, Pennsylvania Research Grant Peer Review, Komen Advocacy Advisory Taskforce, Advocates in Science Communications Committee, Pennsylvania Public Policy & Advocacy Committee and is a Project Lead graduate. Continuing to work with clinical trial researchers to secure grant applications focused on the improvement of women’s lives with breast cancer, especially in grants related to health disparities and health equity is paramount. Tomika is the founder of Black Women’s Cancer Collaborative and is currently collaborating as an advocate on several breast cancer research projects.
“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
Advocates 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 past-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 patient research advocate, I bring a sense of urgency to research and the expertise gained only from living 24/7 with breast cancer”
Scientific Advisory Board 2012-2017
Komen Scholar 2010-2012
Advocates in Science Since 2008
Kansas City, MO
Cheryl L. Jernigan, CPA, F.A.C.H.E., is a 27-year breast cancer “thriver” and cancer research advocate. 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. Cheryl was previously CEO of the Kansas City Area Hospital Association with over 18 years of experience in health policy, advocacy and community/national leadership on behalf of hospitals. Currently, she is the Lead Advocate for Patient & Investigator Voices Organizing Together (PIVOT), a unique University of Kansas Cancer Center initiative; the Frontiers Clinical Science Translation Award; the Kansas Institute for Precision Medicine; and the Greater Plains Collaborative (a Clinical Data Research Network in the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Initiative (PCORI)) PCORnet grant. Nationally, Cheryl was a founding member and currently serves as the Chair on the Communications committee of Susan G. Komen’s Advocates in Science program. She has served as a Komen Scholar from 2010 to 2017, and April 2019 started a new term. She has been actively involved in Komen’s BD4BC (Big Data for Breast Cancer) initiative, including the development of their advocate training program (BD4P) and inaugural breast cancer Hackathon. She also served as a member of Komen’s Scientific Advisory Board from 2012-2017. An active research advocate, Ms. Jernigan is a member of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey External Advisory Board; Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center External Advisory Board; Patient-Centered Outcomes Research (Clinical Research Data) Network (PCORnet) Engagement Core Leadership Team, Engagement Committee, and Front Door Workstream Tea; and the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative’s Steering Committee. She serves as an Advocate Member on the Cancer Prevention & Epidemiology Committee and as a member on the Patient Advocate Committee of SWOG for Cancer Research, which is part of the National Cancer Institute’s National Clinical Trials Network. Cheryl is a past member of NCI’s Central Institutional Review Board for Late Phase Adult Clinical Trials and Director’s Consumer Liaison Group (DCLG); and has served as an advocate reviewer for Komen’s Research Program, the V Foundation, the U.S. Congressionally-Directed Breast Cancer Research Program, and the LiveStrong Foundation.
“Don’t look at me as just a person with MBC but look at me as a woman with lots of love and motivation to join others as a cohesive group to END breast cancer.”
Komen Scholar Since 2021
Advocates in Science Since 2019
Sheila Johnson is a passionate advocate for clinical trials and breast cancer research. She is an 13-year metastatic breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed in December 2009. Since her diagnosis, she decided she would speak loudly and openly for not only MBC patients but for black patients. Sheila has participated in many breast cancer review boards as a consumer reviewer which include Komen Missouri, Patient Centered Outcome Research Institute (PCORI), DOD Breast Cancer Research Program and METAvivor. As a consumer reviewer, having a seat at the table with researchers allows her to share her story and also be a part of the grant approval/disapproval process. Her platform and the reason why she became an advocate is to raise awareness about the racial disparities black women face. It’s very important for researchers to include black women in the recruitment of clinical trials because black women will use these therapies if approved. Black women have a higher mortality rate than any other race and this has contributed to many different factors (racial disparities, misconceptions about black women and socio-economics). We as a breast community need to understand why these disparities exist and continue to push to help reduce these devastating statistics.
“I am passionate about helping others and believe research is the way to give breast cancer patients hope, answers, and long, full lives”
Komen Scholar Since 2022
Advocates in Science Since 2019
Michelle McGree is a 11-year, two-time breast cancer survivor and advocate,
diagnosed at age 28. She lives in Helena Montana and is a fish habitat biologist with a
M.S. degree in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. She is passionate about
research advocacy and helping to make scientific studies impactful to breast cancer
patients. She also enjoys helping others through breast cancer diagnoses, treatments,
and the new normal. Michelle has been a consumer reviewer and mentor for the
Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program since 2014. She is also an
alumnus of the Living Beyond Breast Cancer Young Advocate Program and has been
a member of Komen’s Advocates in Science Program since 2019. She enjoys
participating in scientific breast cancer meetings and has shared her experiences and
perspective through blogs and podcasting. Michelle is also passionate about the role of fitness in the risk of breast cancer and recurrence and has fundraised for cancer research and support of young breast cancer survivors by biking many miles in the Fred Hutch Obliteride and the Young Survival Coalition Tour de Pink. Michelle started working with Susan G. Komen as a Race for the Cure volunteer, organizer, and honorary survivor. She participates in various efforts as an Advocates in Science.
“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
Advocates in Science Since 2016
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Bárbara Segarra-Vázquez, MT, D.H.Sc., has been a faculty at the University of Puerto Rico for 34 years, and is 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 served 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 a member of SWOG Patient Advocates Committee and Cancer Care Delivery Committee, the ASCO CancerLinQ Patient Advisory Committee and the External Advisory Panel of the Participant Engagement-Cancer Genome Sequencing (PE-CGS) Network. She served as the Chair of Komen’s Advocates in Science Steering Committee for two years. 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 benefited from advances in treatment over the last 35 years. Komen’s AIS program has equipped me to serve as a strong voice for patients and help determine how limited research dollars are best deployed to fulfill Komen’s mission”
Komen Scholar Since 2018
Advocates in Science Since 2013
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. Ms. Weinreb served on the Executive Board of the Philadelphia affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation for 7 years. She then continued to serve as the affiliate’s Education and Public Policy Chair. She is currently a Komen Advocacy Ambassador, working to increase government funding for breast cancer research and enacting legislation that will remove barriers to care. 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 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.
Learn more about AIS, join the program, and find valuable AIS Resources.