Our Team

For general inquiries:
Cancer Information Nurse Line for general inquiries: ccinfo@umn.edu or 612-624-7552

Inquiries on programs and events:

Kiara Ellis 2023
Jen Poynter
Rebekah White Border

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Kiara Ellis, MSW (she/her) Director, Community Outreach and Engagement

Kiara is the Masonic Cancer Center’s Community Outreach and Engagement Director. Her passions lie in serving as a change agent for the community and impacting systemic change that will further cancer health equity in the state. She is the creator of the Cancer Center Community Impact Forum.

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Jen Poynter, MPH, PhD (she/her) Associate Director, Community Outreach and Engagement

Dr. Poynter serves as the Associate Director of Community Outreach and Engagement. Her role in the Masonic Cancer Center is to understand the cancer burden in Minnesota and ensure that the Center is responding to the needs of the population of Minnesota through research and clinical care.

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Rebekah Pratt, PhD (she/her) Associate Co-Director, Community Outreach and Engagement

Dr. Pratt serves as the Associate Co-Director of Community Outreach and Engagement. Dr. Pratt's role with the Masonic Cancer Center is supporting the ongoing efforts to build relationships with communities, enhance community engagement, and bring community voices into her work.

Chris Pennell
Rahel Ghebre
Patty Beckman

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Christopher Pennell, PhD (he/him) Associate Director, Education

Dr. Pennell serves as the Masonic Cancer Center’s faculty education liaison. His role in the center is to help ensure the Masonic Cancer Center meets the needs of Minnesotans and to encourage students to pursue careers in cancer care and research.

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Rahel Ghebre, MD, MPH (she/her) Associate Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Dr. Rahel Ghebre is a Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Minnesota Medical Center. Dr. Ghebre is a practicing gynecologic oncologist at M Health Fairview. She is an expert in the surgical and medical management of women diagnosed with ovarian, endometrial, cervical and vulva/vaginal cancers. Her research is focused on improving cancer care for women with gynecologic cancers in the US and globally by increasing access to quality care and clinical trials.


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Patty Beckmann, RN (she/her) Oncology Patient Access Nurse

Patty Beckmann, RN, is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and has worked for over 25 years on a variety of cancer clinical research trials. Her professional experience and passion for helping patients navigate clinical research make her a great fit to educate and provide resources to our patients and community members through our Cancer Information Line.

Lissa Martinez Huebner
Amna Hussein
Ashley White Border

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Lissa Martinez Huebner (she/her) Event and Administrative Manager

Lissa has a background in event planning and logistics in health charities. She became a Certified Meeting Professional in 2021 and leads the Event Circle, a group of event professionals across the University. Her role is to establish and maintain event logistics and protocols on public engagement events, large scale meetings, and local and national conferences. She is passionate about reducing the burden of cancer through events.

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Amna Hussein, MBS (she/her) Community Outreach and Engagement Manager

Amna completed her Master’s degree in Biological Sciences with a focus on public health, immunology, and cancer biology. Through various opportunities, Amna's professional experiences have centered around tackling inequities in education and healthcare. She is passionate about addressing the social determinants of health to reduce cancer health disparities in communities across the state. 

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Ashley Pohlenz, MPH (she/her) Senior Research and Program Coordinator

Ashley comes to the Masonic Cancer Center with a background in reducing cancer burden in Indigenous communities. Her professional experience includes program evaluation, health systems change, and program design and implementation.

Cathleen Drilling
Elsie Aldrich
Lei Simmons

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Cathleen Drilling, MBS (she/her) Education and Training Manager

Cathleen previously taught high school science in public, private, and international schools with a focus on helping students to develop the knowledge, skills, and habits needed to carry out their own independent investigations. She is passionate about making science research engaging and accessible for diverse learners of all ages. Her role is to support students and rising researchers in their pathways; additionally, she seeks to help connect the local community with the work of the Masonic Cancer Center.

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Elsie Aldrich (she/her) Events Coordinator

Elsie comes to the Masonic Cancer Center from a background in event planning and catering. She has planned and executed over 800 events, and strives to organize meaningful and impactful gatherings for the community & the Masonic Cancer Center network as a whole.

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Lei Simmons (she/her) Executive Office and Administrative Specialist

Lei has supported senior management in both the corporate sector and at various departments within the University of Minnesota for over 25 years. Her passions include encouraging everyone to be proactive with preventative measures for ensuring excellent health. She is also an advocate for empowering and uplifting cancer patients and survivors.
Heidi Eschenbacher
Susannah Bartlow
Emily Kraeske

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Heidi Eschenbacher, PhD (she/her) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Associate

Heidi serves as the Program Associate for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion guided by Dr. Rahel Ghebre's leadership. Heidi's role with the Masonic Cancer Center is to support inclusive excellence to establish MCC as a place where people who are
under-represented in science and medicine (URSM) are recruited and thrive. 

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Susannah Bartlow, PhD (she/her) Community Outreach and Engagement Associate - Minnesota Cancer Clinical Trials Network (MNCCTN)

Susannah's job is to understand barriers to clinical research in diverse community settings and develop engagement programs to overcome these barriers. She is passionate about putting research into practice and bridging the gaps between resources and people. Learn more about the Minnesota Cancer Clinical Trials Network (MNCCTN).

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Emily Kraeske (she/her) Training and Education Inreach Coordinator

Emily has a background in engagement, education, and program coordination at universities and non-profits. Her role is to support trainees to help them access professional development opportunities and establish a sense of community within the Masonic Cancer Center so they are set up for success in advancing their cancer-focused careers. She is passionate about fostering community and supporting accessible pathways for careers in science and health.

Liz Danely
Sandy Chen
Jonathan Aguire

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Liz Danley (she/her) Survivorship Events Coordinator

Liz joins the Masonic Cancer Center with a diverse background in event planning. She has worked on a variety of events from large-scale parties and private soirées to running races and charity events. In her new role, she is excited to bring her knowledge and creativity to the Survivorship program. She is driven by empathy and is grateful for the opportunity to contribute to events that celebrate life and give hope to survivors and their loved ones.

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Sandy Chen (she/her) Event and Administrative Support Student Worker

Sandy is majoring in Biology and plans to further her education by attending a graduate school to become a Physician Assistant. She is from New Ulm, Minnesota and is a part of the Chinese American Student Association (CASA) on campus, along with the College of Biological Sciences Dean's Scholar Program. 

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Jonathan Aguirre Education Outreach Student

Jonathan is a Sociology BS and Healthcare Careers Major and is also Minoring in Public Health. Jonathan plans on pursuing a career in Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Healthcare Field and plans on aiding against racism in the medical field. He is passionate about community and inclusion, making sure people feel safe and comfortable, and loves a place where people are free to share their cultures and are willing to learn from others. Jonathan enjoys working with kids and presenting to them the social justice lens. He work as a peer advisor and sometimes present works shops on different topics like intersectionality. Jonathan also speaks both Spanish and English.