For general inquiries:
Cancer Information Nurse Line for general inquiries: or 612-624-7552

Inquiries on programs and events:

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

Kiara is the Masonic Cancer Center’s Community Outreach and Engagement Director. She completed her Bachelor’s in Family Social Science and a Master’s in Social Work: Community Practice at the University of Minnesota. She held previous positions coordinating grants at the University and at HealthPartners, focused on creating support services that lessen the burden of cancer and diabetes on diverse populations. 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.

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

Dr. Poynter serves as the Associate Director of Community Outreach and Engagement. Dr. Poynter is trained as an epidemiologist and has focused her career on understanding why children and adults develop cancer. 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.

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

Dr. Pennell serves as the Masonic Cancer Center’s faculty education liaison. His long-standing research interest is to harness the immune system to treat cancer. 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.

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 (she/her)
Senior Event and Project Coordinator

Lissa has a background in event planning and logistics in health charities. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Recreation and Tourism from Winona State University. She is also a Certified Meeting Professional with expertise in event coordination. Her professional experience includes working on public awareness and professional education events across the upper Midwest with a passion for reducing the burden of cancer.

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. She completed her Master’s degree in Global Public Health from St. Catherine University. Her professional experience includes program evaluation, health systems change, and program design and implementation. She is passionate about reducing the burden of cancer in Minnesota’s underserved communities.

Abdifatah Ahmed, MS (he/him)
Community Engagement and Education Coordinator

Abdi joins the Masonic Cancer Center with previous community engagement experience working with diverse communities in the Twin Cities and San Diego. He is passionate about new and innovative opportunities to engage and educate our communities. He is responsible for coordinating student research internship opportunities and developing ongoing programs to engage communities in Minnesota.

Amna Hussein (she/her)
Community Engagement Coordinator

Amna completed her Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Society, and Environment with a minor in Political Science, from the University of Minnesota. She is continuing her education at the U, pursuing a Master’s degree in Biological Sciences with a focus in immunology and cancer biology. Through various opportunities, Amna's professional experiences have centered around tackling inequities in education and healthcare. Her passions lie in addressing social determinants of health to reduce cancer health disparities in underserved communities.

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

Susannah has worked in community outreach, cultural equity, and education in neighborhoods, colleges, and nonprofits. Her 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).

Bethany Hiltbrand (she/her)
Event and Administrative Support Student Worker

Bethany is a senior majoring in Psychology and Strategic Communications at the University of Minnesota and has worked with the team since 2019.

Katie Hanson (she/her)
Event and Administrative Support Student Worker

Katie is majoring in Biology, Society, and Environment. She plans to either continue her education by going to medical school or working within the healthcare field. She is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, and loves to travel, she even studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain last year.