Penn Memory Center Leadership
Dr. Jason Karlawish is a professor of medicine, medical ethics and health policy, and neurology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. He is board-certified in geriatric medicine.
Dr. Karlawish is a Senior Fellow of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, Senior Fellow of the Penn Center for Public Health Initiatives, fellow of the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute on Aging, director of the Penn Neurodegenerative Disease Ethics and Policy Program, Associate director of the Clinical Core and Co-Associate Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center, and co-director of the Penn Memory Center. He is also director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s Outreach, Recruitment and Education Core. In addition, he directs the Penn Prevention Research Center’s Healthy Brain Research Center, a member of the CDC-supported Healthy Brain Research Network dedicated to surveillance, education, awareness, and empowerment that promotes brain health.
He is the project leader of makingsenseofalzheimers.org, a creative space for understanding the past, present and future of Alzheimer’s disease. Produced by the Penn Neurodegenerative Disease Ethics and Policy Program and the Outreach, Recruitment and Education Core of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of Pennsylvania; and made possible by a startup grant from MetLife Foundation, the website launched in September 2014. Making Sense of Alzheimer’s is an evolving forum for conversation about the disease. Its collection of ideas captures the many dimensions of Alzheimer’s, through the perspective of caregivers, patients, artists, researchers and clinicians. Utilizing multi-media formats such as slideshows, video, and audio clips, along with written stories, the site explores the changing understanding of what Alzheimer’s is and how it affects our ethics and ideas of personhood.
His research focuses on neuroethics and policy. He has investigated issues in dementia drug development, informed consent, quality of life, research and treatment decision-making, and voting by persons with dementia. To learn more about his research and scholarship, visit www.jasonkarlawish.com. Dr. Karlawish also writes a recurring column for Forbes that can be found at www.forbes.com/sites/jasonkarlawish/.
Dr. Karlawish is accepting new patient appointments through the Penn Memory Center. To schedule an appointment, call 215-662-7810.
Dr. David Wolk is an associate professor of neurology in the Cognitive Neurology Division of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. He is board-certified in Neurology.
Dr. Wolk is the director of the Clinical Core and co-associate director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center and is co-director of the Penn Memory Center. He completed his medical training at Johns Hopkins University, a neurology residency at the University of Pennsylvania, and clinical fellowship training in cognitive and behavioral neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. He also completed a post-doctoral research fellowship studying memory in Alzheimer’s disease there. Prior to his return to Penn, he was an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh and their Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.
Dr. Wolk’s research has focused on memory measures and other markers that allow for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. One of the major challenges in the diagnosis of very early Alzheimer’s disease is differentiating the memory failures associated with the normal aging process from those reflecting early Alzheimer’s disease pathology. As such, his research currently focuses on memory changes in healthy aging, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease using Event-Related Potentials (a form of EEG), MRI (including structural and functional measures), and novel psychometric testing. It is hoped that these methods will contribute to early detection and intervention with emerging treatment modalities.
Dr. Wolk is accepting new patient appointments through the Penn Memory Center. To schedule an appointment, call 215-662-7810.
Felicia Greenfield is the executive director of the Penn Memory Center. She earned a master’s in social work from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008 and completed her clinical training from the University of Pennsylvania’s Section of Geriatric Psychiatry in 2011. Greenfield joined PMC in 2006 and previously served as the director of clinical research operations and care programs. She oversees clinical research operations at the Center. She supervises master’s level social work interns from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice and provides counseling and education about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias to patients and their families.
Dr. Roy H. Hamilton is an associate professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. He is board certified in neurology.
He graduated from Harvard University Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with degrees in medicine and health sciences technology. He completed residency in neurology and a fellowship in cognitive and behavioral neurology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
In addition to evaluation and care he provides patients through the Penn Memory Center, Dr. Hamilton is actively engaged in neurology research. The central aim of his research is to define the mechanisms and limits of functional plasticity in the intact and injured adult human brain. As the director of the Laboratory for Cognition and Neural Stimulation at Penn, Dr. Hamilton uses a combination of behavioral measures and noninvasive brain stimulation techniques, including transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), to elucidate structure-function relationships related to normal cognition and to promote therapeutic reorganization of neural representations of cognitive functions in individuals who have suffered from stroke.
Outside of his research, Dr. Hamilton teaches medical students and neurology residents in multiple venues and is the associate director of Penn’s Clinical Neurosciences Training Program. Dr. Hamilton is also deeply involved in issues related to diversity in medicine, inclusion, and health equity. He is one of the Assistant Deans for Diversity and Inclusion at the Perelman School of Medicine and the inaugural Vice Chair for Diversity and Inclusion in the Department of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Sara Manning Peskin received her undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Harvard University, where she graduated magna cum laude prior to moving to Philadelphia. She received her doctor of medicine, along with a master’s degree in cellular and molecular biology, from the University of Pennsylvania. She went on to complete residency and fellowship in neurology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where she now works both in the Penn Memory Center and the Penn Frontotemporal Dementia Center. She’s particularly interested in narrative medicine and teaching the lay public about neurologic afflictions. She has published work in The New York Times and The Boston Globe Magazine and is working on a book about molecules that hijack the brain.
Dr. Sanjeev Vaishnavi is an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine. He is board certified in neurology, and has fellowship training in cognitive neurology with an emphasis on Alzheimer’s disease and related diseases.
Dr. Vaishnavi graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s of science in applied biology and then studied medicine (doctor of medicine) and completed doctoral training (doctor of philosophy in neuroscience) at Washington University in St. Louis as part of the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). He then came to the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine to train in neurology, including a UCNS-certified fellowship in cognitive and behavioral neurology.
Dr. Vaishnavi specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of older adults with cognitive impairment and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions, and training medical students, neurology residents, and fellows to be the next generation of leaders. His research has focused on using advanced imaging techniques including functional connectivity MRI and PET to understand learning and aging related changes in the resting human brain, and at the Penn Memory Center, he does clinical research to discover better ways to diagnose and treat neurodegenerative diseases, with an emphasis on early diagnosis and prevention.
Dr. Vaishnavi is accepting new patient appointments through the Penn Memory Center. To schedule an appointment, call 215-662-7810.
Research Physician Assistant
Sharon Best joined Penn Memory Center in 2018 as a research physician assistant. Her primary duty is to assist the team of neurologists, geriatricians, neuropsychologists, and social workers to develop innovative approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Best’s role is also to assist the Penn Memory Center physicians in the care of their patients, in the PMC clinic at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine.
Best graduated with a master’s degree from the physician assistant program at Drexel University in 2003. She has served as academic director and full-time faculty in physician assistant programs both in Pennsylvania and Florida. She trained in the specialty of neurology with Abington Neurological Associates, and she assisted in the development of a novel Inpatient Teleneurology Program with faculty and the senior director of neuroscience at Thomas Jefferson University.
Dr. Kyra S. O’Brien grew up in Northern Virginia and received her bachelor’s of science in biology from Yale University. She received her medical degree from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and stayed to complete her internal medicine internship and neurology residency training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focus during medical school and residency aimed to characterize the clinical syndrome of primary age-related tauopathy and identify its potential genetic risk factors. As a clinical fellow at the Penn Memory Center, she hopes to focus her research on improving access to and quality of care within community practices for patients with Alzheimer’s dementia. She is excited to gain more experience with clinical trials and looks forward to working with the staff, patients and caregivers at the Penn Memory Center.
Dr. Merlyn Abraham is a Penn Geriatrics Fellow from Chicago Medical School. Originally from Gerogia by way of Long Island, NY, Dr. Abraham landed in Philadelphia for her family medicine residency at Drexel University after graduating from medical school. She has served as a resident leader for an inner-city refugee clinic in Center City that has been full of incredible experiences. She is interested in geriatric homelessness and is involved in ongoing community service projects for underserved populations. Dr. Abraham hopes her time at Penn will grow her skillset in to provide the best possible care for the elderly and grow in areas of advocacy and philanthropy to protect the aged vulnerable persons in our society. After her time at Penn she plans to work in a variety of settings to meet the diverse and complex needs of my geriatric patients. Eventually, she wants to open a free clinic for elderly patients who are facing homelessness.
Dr. Fontini Debonera is a Penn Geriatrics fellow from Greece. She originally came to the U.S. from Greece as a PhD student. She attended the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, spending some of her residency training in the UK before completing her training in Philadelphia. Dr. Fontini is interested in the research of aging biopaths, as it seeks to understand the genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms that make aging a major risk factor and driver of common chronic conditions and diseases of older adults. She is also interested in interventions via immunomodulators that can change the frailty trajectory. She looks forward to working with inspiring mentors, in a milieu of laboratories and faculty that can support her publication activity and opportunities to teach students and residents. For the future, Dr. Fontini aspires to follow a path in geriatrics that will combine clinical work as well as basic or clinical research preferably in a robust academic setting conducive to innovation and commitment to academic excellence.
Dr. Daniel J. Kim was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. He received both his undergraduate and medical school degree at University of Michigan. After completing his internal medicine-primary care training at Penn, Dr. Kim completed a Clinical Ultrasound Fellowship at Penn where he developed and implemented a point-of-care ultrasound curriculum for the geriatric fellowship. He is passionate about bringing point-of-care ultrasound into the homes of elderly patients and is excited to continue his training here as a geriatric fellow. He hopes to become a home-based geriatrician in the future.
Dr. Mariam Mati completed her residency at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and Darlington Memorial Hospital, NHS, UK. She attended the College of Medicine, Al-Mustansiriya University in Iraq.
Dr. Jenny Rodriguez, a board certified Geriatric and adult psychiatrist, is an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She did her residency and fellowship training at the University of Miami, where she was involved in geriatric clinical care at the Center on Aging. Dr. Rodriguez worked as medical director of the geriatric psychiatry unit at McNeal Hospital in Berwyn, Illinois, and was the Clinical Director of the acute inpatient psychiatry unit at Hartgrove Behavioral Health Hospital in Chicago.
Her practice has been dedicated to the care of older adults, with multiple age-related mental health disorders such as delirium, dementias, depression, mood disorders of later life, anxiety disorders, psychosis, alcohol and substance abuse, personality disorders, and bio-psycho-social problems. She has provided psychotherapy to aging adults and their families, as well as long-term psychiatric care and consultation liaison services.
Dr. Rodriguez currently works at the Outpatient Psychiatry Center where she specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in older adults, and in patients with cognitive impairment and dementia, including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, late-onset schizophrenia, and certain other medical conditions. She also trains psychiatry residents and geriatric fellows.
Dr. Rodriguez is accepting new patient appointments through the Outpatient Psychiatry center. To schedule an appointment, call 215-746-6702.
Christopher M. Clark Scholars
Dr. Emily Largent is an assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the Perelman School of Medicine and a Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. Dr. Largent studies the ethics of human subjects research. Her current research focuses on the ethics of paying research participants for their contributions to clinical research and on the ethical and regulatory implications of integrating clinical research with clinical care. Her work — which combines normative, empirical, and legal methods — has been published in the Hastings Center Report, the American Journal of Bioethics, and the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics, among other journals. She co-authored Clinical Research Ethics Consultation: A Casebook (Oxford University Press).
Dr. Largent received her doctor of philosophy in health policy from Harvard University and her juris doctor degree from Harvard Law School. Prior to that, she received her bachelor’s of science in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and completed a fellowship in the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Karolina Lempert joined the Penn Memory Center in 2016 as a Penn Memory Center postdoctoral scholar. She received her bachelor’s degree in neurobiology at Harvard and her doctor of philosophy in psychology at NYU. Dr. Lempert is working on studies looking at how changes in episodic memory with aging might lead to changes in economic decision-making. Her doctoral dissertation was about the role emotion plays in economic decisions. Dr. Lempert is looking forward to applying what she learned in her higher education to the geriatric population in order to learn more about the neuroscience of decision-making.
Xueying Lyu is a bioengineering Ph.D. student at Penn co-advised by Dr. Dave Wolk and Dr. Paul Yushkevich. She received her bachelor’s degree from Franklin & Marshall College with a major in chemistry. As an undergraduate, she conducted inorganic chemistry research on the structure of carbonate apatite. After graduating from college, she joined the Yale PET Center working with Dr. Jason Cai to study SV2A PET imaging of stroke rat models for a year and determined to further study biomarkers of brain imaging. During her Ph.D. career, Lyu is looking forward to exploring the relationships of biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease using data-driven and engineering methods.
Lasya Sreepada is a Bioengineering Ph.D. student at Penn under Dr. Christos Davatzikos, in the Artificial Intelligence in Biomedical Imaging Lab. She is interested in exploring human neuroscience through interdisciplinary research and clinical practice. Her research leverages artificial intelligence to analyze patterns in medical imaging, clinical & neuropsychiatric data to elucidate underlying pathologies and biochemical mechanisms across a range of neurodegenerative diseases.
For her doctoral work, Sreepada applies machine learning and statistical modeling to large multivariate datasets to build informative imaging signatures of Alzheimer’s disease. This could aid early diagnosis, prognosis and targeted treatment efforts in a precision medicine framework.
As an undergraduate, Sreepada worked with Dr. Alexander Lin at the Center for Clinical Spectroscopy, Harvard Medical School, to identify biomarkers of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in professional athletes, traumatic brain injury in military veterans, and neurotrauma from hypoxic-ischemic injury. She received her bachelor’s of science in neuroscience (computational track) from Yale University in 2019, where she was nominated for the Yale College Nakanishi Prize for exemplary leadership in enhancing race or ethnic relations.
Sreepada also develops software for processing structural MRI and MR Spectroscopy. She is a leader in diversity and inclusion committees at PMC and in SEAS.
Dr. Shana D. Stites is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine. She is also a clinical psychologist and a researcher with the Penn Program on Precision Medicine for the Brain (P3MB).
Dr. Stites’s research focuses on advancing diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease dementia. The goal is to understand ways to promote quality of life and psychological wellbeing. This includes understanding the impacts of the disease on individuals who may be directly affected by pathology as well as their family members. It includes both personal experiences as well as population-level interactions. Her work aims to better understand how aspects of identity, such as age, gender, and race, operate as determinants in the disease experience. Understanding these features of the disease experience may offer insights into disease-mechanisms and into development of interventions that help limit burdens of the disease.
Dr. Stites earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from Chestnut Hill College and master’s of arts in sociology from Lehigh University. She completed her internship at Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center. Her clinical concentration was in psychological assessment with a special focus on the role of multicultural diversity in clinical practice and representation in research.
Anna Kozlowska is a master of social service intern through the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research in Bryn Mawr. She graduated from Hofstra University in 2013 with master’s of science in gerontology. Kozlowska has been working with a diverse population of older adults providing care management and social services in the community, as well as in a senior center, assisted living, and adult day center. She also had an honor of assisting veterans experiencing homelessness access and maintain permanent housing. Kozlowska is especially interested in the links between experiencing PTSD and developing Alzheimer’s disease, as well as in exploring the effects of creative engagement on the quality of life of adults with dementia.
Alison Lynn is a licensed clinical social worker and the associate director of social work at the Penn Memory Center. Lynn has been at the PMC since 2015 providing support, education, and psychotherapy to patients and families affected by a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Lynn also plans and runs PMC programming such as its monthly Memory café, twice-yearly Caregiver Class, and monthly caregiver support groups; and supervises master’s level social work interns from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice. Lynn holds a bachelor’s of arts in sociology from Kenyon College and a master’s in social work from the University of Pennsylvania, and completed her social work training at the Penn Memory Center and the Penn Division of Geriatric Psychiatry. Prior to her work in Philadelphia, Alison worked in admissions at a continuing care retirement community for military officers in Washington, DC.
Kelli Sloan is a second-year, clinical, master’s of social work intern from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice. Sloan graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with her bachelor’s of arts in biology in 2011. After graduation, Sloan worked as a senior group leader at The Discovery School of Virginia, a therapeutic, wilderness, boarding school for teenage boys.
Since starting her graduate work, Kelli has expanded her interests to include medical social work and assisting older adults. She plans to obtain her social work license upon graduation from the School of Social Policy and Practice in May 2021 and find a career in the healthcare profession.
Stephanie Vogelman is an advanced standing master of social work student from the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated from Neumann University with a bachelor’s in social work in 2019 and gained clinical experience working with children and adults with intellectual disabilities and their families at Melmark, a residential facility for those with intellectual disabilities. The following year she participated in a year-long post-grad volunteer program where she worked with the at-risk for homelessness population in Syracuse, New York. For the next year, she will be a social work intern for the Penn Memory Center where she will be assisting in providing services to caregivers and their families. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in medical social work, particularly in geriatric and hospice social work settings.
Gabrielle “Gabi” Weisfeld is a student intern for the Penn Memory Center and a second-year student attending the Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work. She is an accomplished director for a senior center based out of Havertown, PA. She enjoys using her skills to contribute to the exciting advances in social policy and to help individuals who are marginalized. She graduated from Elizabethtown College in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in communications.
Katherine Hackett is a doctoral student in clinical psychology with a focus in neuropsychology at Temple University. She is currently completing a practicum placement at the Penn Memory Center, performing clinical and research neuropsychological assessments. Her research interests include the use of novel technology platforms to improve upon traditional methods of neuropsychological assessment and intervention. Prior to graduate school, she worked at the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine, and she received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Georgetown University.
Erin Liebenberg is a research intern at the Penn Memory Center. She is from Johannesburg, South Africa and is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in neuroscience. Liebenberg is particularly interested in neurodegenerative diseases and clinical interventions to improve cognitive health. She is very excited to be working under Dr. Mechanic-Hamilton, learning more about these fields.
Blair Scribner-Weiss is a pre-doctoral neuropsychology intern at the Penn Memory Center. She is a clinical psychology doctoral student at Widener University, with a concentration in neuropsychology and biofeedback. At the PMC, she will be involved in neuropsychological assessments with clinical and research patients. Her research interests include the use of psychoeducation in severe traumatic brain injury and sex differences in aging and memory. Scribner-Weiss received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Northeastern University.
Dr. Dawn Mechanic-Hamilton joined the Penn Memory Center in 2012. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurology and director of Cognitive Fitness Programs and Neuropsychological Services at the Penn Memory Center. She earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology with a concentration in neuropsychology from Drexel University. She completed her internship at Brown University and postdoctoral fellowship in clinical neuropsychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Mechanic-Hamilton’s research and clinical work focuses on neuropsychological assessment and cognitive and behavioral intervention in patients with cognitive impairment. She is involved in ongoing clinical trials at the Penn Memory Center, is a collaborator on multidisciplinary research projects, and supervises trainees from clinical psychology doctoral programs in the Philadelphia region.
Perri Wein joined the Penn Memory Center in 2020 as a clinical research coordinator. She administers neuropsychological assessments for various research protocols. Prior to joining the PMC, Wein was an intramural research training award fellow at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). At NINDS, she was involved in research studying the neurological effects of HIV. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and Jewish studies at Gratz College, WITS campus in 2019.
Hannah McCoubrey has been a psychometrist at the Penn Memory Center since 2004. She administers cognitive testing to patients and other research participants at the PMC, and conducts testing at outreach sites such as the Ann’s Choice Retirement Community in Warminster, PA. McCoubrey also coordinates the Stress, Cognition, and Resilience Study. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in history and philosophy.
Maramawit Abera joined the Penn Memory Center in December 2018 as a research coordinator for Dr. Karlawish. She is a graduate student in the master’s of public health program at the University of Pennsylvania, with an expected graduation date of December 2019. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in health and societies and a minor in Africana studies from the University of Pennsylvania in May 2018. After earning her master’s of public health, she plans to attend law school.
Martha Combs joined the Penn Memory Center in 2010 after working at Sanofi Aventis as a clinical project assistant and elsewhere as a research coordinator on psychiatric studies. Currently, as a senior research coordinator, she works with patients and families completing several studies including IGIV, LFAN and GE005. She also guides the efforts of her assigned research coordinators, and manages interaction between the PMC and the Penn Institutional Review Board (IRB), the body which regulates protocol and conduct of university research studies. Combs has a bachelor’s of science from Boston College and a master’s of science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) – Hartford Graduate Center campus.
Jacky Chan joined the Penn Memory Center as a clinical research coordinator in August 2020. As a member of P3MB, she will be assisting in qualitative and mixed methods research focusing on Alzheimer’s disease. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. Chan plans to attend graduate school in the next few years.
Michael DiCalogero joined the Penn Memory Center in 2020 as clinical research coordinator for the MTL study. Before PMC, DiCalogero worked as lab manager for the Nee Lab for Cognitive Neuroscience at Florida State University, where he collected data for fMRI studies investigating working memory. He earned his bachelor’s of arts in psychology in 2018 from Saint Anselm College.
Melissa Johnston Esparza joined the Penn Memory Center in 2018 as the clinical research coordinator for the REVEAL-SCAN study. As REVEAL-SCAN wraps up its final participants, Johnston Esparza serves as the coordinator for the AHEAD (A3-45) and TRC-PAD studies. Additionally, she is a member of the Penn program on Precision Medicine for the Brain (P3MB). Before starting at the PMC, Johnston Esparza worked at Rutgers University on several studies in the field of addiction while also serving as a volunteer coordinator. Johnston Esparza earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in cognitive science from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015 with further graduate work in social work and higher education administration. Presently, she is studying to become a gerontologist.
Matthew Ferrara joined Penn Memory Center in 2018 as a clinical research coordinator working on the NACC study. Before coming to PMC, he was a clinical research assistant at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Nicotine Addiction. Ferrara earned a bachelor’s of science in neuropsychology from Penn State University in 2016. He is pursuing a master’s degree in counseling and mental health services at Penn and hopes someday to earn a Ph.D. in clinical neuropsychology to continue working in the field of neurodegenerative disease as well as traumatic brain injury.
Kristin Harkins joined the Penn Memory Center in 2007. As research program manager, Harkins oversees the research and administrative activities of the Penn Program on Precision Medicine for the Brain (P3MB). She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s master’s of public health program in 2017. She earned her undergraduate degree in psychology at Truman State University.
Meg Kalafsky is the program coordinator for the Time Out program, which is being run between Penn Memory Center and Temple’s Intergenerational Center. Kalafsky earned her bachelor’s of psychology and sociology from Duquesne University in 2011. Time Out is an intergenerational respite program providing college students the opportunity to serve older adults with companionship level care needs.
Melissa Kelley joined the Penn Memory Center in 2019 as a Clinical Research Coordinator for the ABC MRI study. Prior to working at Penn she was an aide for occupational therapists at the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute. As an undergraduate research assistant, she worked on research involving transcranial magnetic stimulation as an intervention for stroke patients. She earned her bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a minor in psychology from the University of Delaware in 2016.
Jackie Lane joined the Penn Memory Center in 2017 as a research specialist for Dr. David Wolk. Lane is a research coordinator for the NACC-TPI (the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center) and NACC-API studies, which are comprehensive research efforts collecting ongoing individual data from participants in order to research Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, and life-long brain health. Lane attended Swarthmore College for her undergraduate studies, receiving dual degrees in biology and cognitive science. Lane is looking forward to building her research experience at the Penn Memory Center. In the future, Lane also hopes to pursue a master’s degree in public health.
Sean Lydon is a clinical research coordinator for the Goal-Directed Behavior (GDB) app study, a collaborative project under Dr. Dawn Mechanic-Hamilton and Dr. Lauren Massimo of the Frontotemporal Degeneration Center. He joined Neurology Department in 2018. Previously, Lydon worked in the Department of Psychiatry on continuum of care for individuals addicted to alcohol. He earned a bachelor’s of science in psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and is currently enrolled in a post-bacc program here at the University of Pennsylvania. Lydon will pursue a PhD to study neurodegenerative diseases and a career in research.
Clarissa Martin joined the Penn Memory Center in 2020 as a research coordinator. She was previously a research manager for orthopedic studies in the United Kingdom, and prior to this she coordinated neurological and psychiatric clinical trials. She is enrolled in the pre-medical post-baccalaureate program at the University of Pennsylvania and plans to attend medical school for geriatric psychiatry. Martin has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from SUNY Geneseo.
Nicole Oliveira is from San Diego, California and joined the Penn Memory Center in December 2020 as a clinical research coordinator for the ABC study. She has previously worked in clinical and behavioral research at the Navy Marine Mammal Program and San Diego Zoo. Oliveira graduated from the University of California, Davis in June 2020 with a bachelor’s in neurobiology, physiology & behavior and a minor in psychology. She is excited to begin her career in the field of neurological diseases and disorders and plans on receiving her master’s degree in the next few years.
Laura Schankel joined the Penn Memory Center in 2018 as a clinical research coordinator and is currently working on the LEADS study. Before coming to PMC, Schankel worked at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where she focused her research on exploring approaches to optimize treatment for individuals with comorbid mental illness and HIV/AIDS. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and anthropology from Lehigh University and has a master’s degree in psychology from Southern New Hampshire University.
Julia Starikovsky joined the Penn Memory Center in October of 2020 as a clinical research coordinator working on the LEADS study. Prior to coming to PMC, Starikovsky worked at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a Clinical Research Assistant in the neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative unit. Julia received her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in neuroscience from the University of Maryland in 2019.
Grace Stockbower is a clinical research project manager at the Penn Memory Center. She joined PMC in 2013 as a research specialist for Dr. David Wolk. Now, Stockbower is involved in the project management and study coordination of the Biogen, Pegasus, and LEADS trials. She received a bachelor’s of science in psychology with a minor in neuroscience from Haverford College in 2013 and earned her master’s in public health from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017.
Loren Terrell joined the Penn Memory Center in 2015 as a clinical research assistant. She has worked in various clinical research positions for more than 10 years. Terrell has her medical assistant certificate and an associate of science in culinary arts, and she is studying medical billing and coding.
Terrence Casey is the communications and marketing manager for the Penn Memory Center, the Penn Program on Precision Medicine for the Brain, the Healthy Brain Research Center, and the Neurodegenerative Disease Ethics and Policy Program.
He is the editor of InSight newsmagazine and the weekly InSight newsletter. He designed and manages the Penn Memory Center website; Making Sense of Alzheimer’s, a creative space for understanding the past, present, and future of Alzheimer’s disease; My Typical Day, allowing older adults living with mild cognitive impairment to document their lives as they address their condition; Whealthcare, which describes a paradigm of merging the banking and financial sector with healthcare; and the new website for the Philadelphia Financial Exploitation Prevention Task Force. Additionally, he plans and executes the annual Research Partner Thank You Luncheon for PMC research participants, as well as other study information sessions throughout the year. Terrence oversees a team of editorial assistants and freelance contributors to produce these projects.
Casey graduated from Penn State University with a B.A. in journalism and worked as a journalist and editor before joining PMC in 2015.
Varshini Chellapilla is a staff writer at the Penn Memory Center with a focus on digital and print media. She comes to the center with journalism, communications, and publishing experience. Chellapilla earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Pennsylvania State University in 2020. Her writing has been published by PublicSource, Centre Daily Times and Penn State News.
Cait is a content manager at the Penn Memory Center. She assists in managing the content of PMC’s website and email communication. Prior to working at PMC, Cait earned a B.S in psychology from Allegheny College and completed a post-baccalaureate year in communication science and disorders at the University of Pittsburgh. She is currently enrolled in a master’s of English in professional writing program at Northern Arizona University. Kearney plans to pursue a career in health communications.
Alyssa LaMont is a first-year communications and social media marketing intern at the Penn Memory Center. Alyssa graduated from Saint Joseph’s University with her bachelor of arts in English with a focus on communications in 2019. Alyssa now attends Rosemont College for her master’s of fine arts in creative writing.
LaMont has worked with a variety of Philadelphia’s industry leaders, holding positions in public relations, communications, marketing, advertising, content creation, web design, and social media management. She plans to use her experience to create her own business and find a career in traveling and exploring what the world has to offer.
Lauren Bennett joined the Penn Memory Center in 2018 as a patient services associate. Prior to joining the PMC team, she worked for a prominent law firm, helping disabled citizens fight to get their social security benefits. She is currently studying nursing, with plans to become a neonatal intensive care unit nurse.
Courtney Coulter joined the Penn Memory Center in 2016 as a new patient care coordinator for the Penn Memory Center. With a background in customer service, Coulter has spent more than four years overseeing medical records, managing physician credentialing, and interacting with patients on a daily basis at a nursing and rehabilitation center. She earned her associate degree in business administration in 2013 and a B.S. in health administration in 2015, both from Gwynedd Mercy University. Courtney hopes to pursue a master’s degree in health administration.
Cameo Hazlewood joined the Penn Memory Center as a P3MB Intern in May 2020. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in May 2019 where she received a bachelor of arts in cognitive science with a minor in consumer psychology. She continued to pursue her interest in human behavior by completing her masters in behavior and decision sciences with a concentration in health behavior at the University of Pennsylvania. Her capstone research focused on the intersection of technology, behavioral health, and dementia. Through her work at the Penn Memory Center, she hopes to better support dementia caregivers using behavioral science. Hazlewood will begin a pre-medical post-baccalaureate program at Thomas Jefferson University in the fall of 2020. She plans to attend medical school upon completion of the program.
Rani Plotkin is currently a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is pursuing her master’s of public health with a focus on global health. Interested in behavior change and lifestyle choices in geriatric populations, Plotkin joins the Penn Memory Center to conduct research for her master’s capstone project on public health messaging evaluation. She has a professional background in marketing and communications, and received her bachelor’s degree in biology and anthropology from Union College in Schenectady, New York.
Kate Dildy is an ethics research assistant for Dr. Emily Largent at the Penn Memory Center. She contributes to work on the legal and ethical considerations in end-of-life care for people with dementia, with a focus on policy that improves individual autonomy and family wellbeing. Previously, she has contributed to economics and ethics research by synthesizing theories from bioethics to support arguments about the ethics of vulnerability in a commercial context, coordinating a behavioral health economics study comparing behavioral interventions aimed at improving medication adherence, and managing a year-long thinktank project studying and measuring the scope of the global sharing economy.
Dildy is studying philosophy with a minor in statistics at the University of Pennsylvania, with a focus on ethics and theories of justice. At PMC, she hopes both to develop a deeper understanding of how legal and ethical considerations of vulnerable populations can drive ethics as a whole and to develop capacities to center aging on conversations about life values.
Rachel Fromer is a research intern at the Penn Memory Center. She is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in sociology with a concentration in health and medicine, minoring in statistics. Through her work at the Penn Memory Center, she hopes to gain an understanding of stigmas related to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and is particularly interested in the health outcomes and experiences of family caregivers. She plans to attend medical school after graduation.
Leah Zuroff is a PGY-1 Neurology Resident at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. She completed her medical school education here at the Perelman School of Medicine, where she concurrently received a Master of Science in Translational Research. Her research at the Penn Memory Center focuses on the relationship between subjective memory complaints, objective impairment, and risk of cognitive decline in the aging population.
Project Management & Strategic Support
Dr. Kathryn Jedrziewski, Deputy Director of Penn’s Institute on Aging (IOA) since 2001, also serves as Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center (ADCC) Administrator. In that role, she is active in a nationwide network of fellow Center administrators on issues relating to the administration of NIH/NIA funds.
Dr. Jedrziewski received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991. She has worked in gerontology and geriatrics for the past thirty years.
Business & Administrative Support
Maria joined Penn in 2007 as an administrative assistant in the Department of Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry Section and took on support for Penn Memory Center administrative matters in 2008 under former director Dr. Steven Arnold. In May 2015, Maria took over as administrative coordinator to co-directors Dr. Jason Karlawish and Dr. David Wolk. She handles all administrative issues and assists in project management, event coordination, and financial activities for the PMC. She has an AS degree in Business Administration from Peirce College.
Information Technology & Database Management
Yanping Xiong recently joined the Data Management and Statistical Core within the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) and the U19 Center as a senior data manager. She is the main contact person for database requests related to the ADRC.
Xiong received her master’s in computer science from Marquette University and started her career at a clinical trial software company where she mainly focused on web and database development. She then spent over five years in the Bioinformatics Facility within the Penn Wistar Institute. Her main work there included web application development, database development, and scientific programming. She also worked in an IT department at a financial services company before joining our Data Management and Statistics Core.
Chris Ernst joined the Penn Memory Center as Data Manager in 2016. He is also the Senior Database Developer for the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research.
Ernst received his undergrad degree at the University of South Carolina in 2011. He studied information management and systems. Chris is hoping to earn his master’s degree in the future.
Ernst is looking forward to streamlining and updating the Integrated Neurodegenerative Disease Database (INDD) as well as planning new software and hardware systems to assist CNDR, PMC and other associated centers and projects in their research goals.
Frances K. Barg is a professor of family medicine and community health at the Perelman School of Medicine. Her focus is in medical anthropology, and she is currently looking at community concerns related to asbestos exposure, contextual factors affecting the uptake of mental health services, and implementation science. Dr. Barg earned her B.A. in international affairs from George Washington University, her M.Ed. in rehabilitation counseling from University of Pittsburgh, and her PhD in medical anthropology from University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Amy Bleakley is a professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Delaware. Her research focuses on creating and testing theory-based health messaging. Dr. Bleakley has worked on messaging projects about sugary drink consumption, sun protection, and encouraging health care visits to support cognitive health. She also studies youth and media, specifically investigating media effects on adolescent health risk behaviors as well as general media use among youth and entertainment media content. Risk behaviors of interest include sexual behavior, alcohol use, STD/HIV prevention, and obesity-related behaviors. Dr. Bleakley has methodological and statistical expertise in survey research and structural equation modeling, and is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Children and Media and the Journal of Sex Research. Dr. Bleakley’s research has been published in numerous academic journals, including American Journal of Public Health, Pediatrics, JAMA Pediatrics (formerly Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine), Journal of Sex Research, Journal of Health Communication, and the Journal of Adolescent Health. She received her master’s of public health and PhD in sociomedical sciences from Columbia University.
Justin Clapp is assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care at the Perelman School of Medicine and associated faculty in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Clapp is a linguistic/medical anthropologist who uses qualitative methods along with anthropological theory to examine issues in healthcare communication, medical decision making, and empirical bioethics. Much of his recent work has focused on better understanding how providers and patients decide on preference-sensitive, elective treatment options in perioperative contexts (surgery, anesthesia, intensive care). The goal of this work is to develop models of decision making better tailored to the intricacies of provider-patient interaction.
He is also currently researching the communication of pain in clinical settings, the intersection of medicine and social determinants of health, the norms and practices of research ethics review, and several topics in medical education. Dr. Clapp teaches courses in the Anthropology Department and the MPH program, and he collaborates with investigators across the Perelman School of Medicine on qualitative projects. He received his PhD in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania and his MPH from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
Christos Davatzikos, PhD is the Wallace T. Miller, Sr. professor of radiology and electrical and systems engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and in the Perelman School of Medicine. As director of the Section of Biomedical Image Analysis, Dr. Davatzikos is interested in many areas related to medical image analysis and computing, including image segmentation and registration, multiparametric image analysis, as well as the use of machine learning and pattern recognition in medical imaging. His group is affiliated with many clinical studies employing imaging as a biomarker of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, diabetes, and cancer. Dr. Davatzikos earned his B.S. in electrical engineering and computer science from the National Technical University of Athens and a PhD in electrical and computer engineering from Johns Hopkins University.
John A. Detre is professor of neurology and radiology at the Perelman School of Medicine where he is founding director of the Center for Functional Neuroimaging in the Department of Radiology and serves as vice chair for research in Neurology. He received his bachelor’s and medical degrees from Yale, completed fellowships in biophysics at both Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pennsylvania, and completed neurology residency at Penn, where he has been on the faculty since 1993. Dr. Detre is also among the core faculty of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, currently serving as interim co-director of this Center.
Dr. Detre has been continuously funded by NIH since 1993 and is the author of over 250 original manuscripts. Drawing upon his interdisciplinary training, collaborations, and leadership skills, Dr. Detre has provided core support for neuroimaging research on the Penn Campus through an NIH funded P30 Center Core in Neuroscience Neuroimaging that is now in its eleventh year and through the Center for Magnetic Resonance and Optical Imaging, where he leads a core on imaging brain structure and function. Dr. Detre has also been extremely active in mentoring of trainees from both biophysical and biomedical backgrounds. He has been the recipient of a Mid-career Award in Patient Oriented Research and Mentoring and an NIH training grant in neuroscience neuroimaging. He currently serves as principal investigator of an NIH training grant targeting the career development of academically oriented neurology residents and fellows, and he serves as a mentor for several trainees and junior faculty at Penn and neighboring institutions pursuing careers in biomedical neuroimaging.
Karen Glanz is George A. Weiss University Professor, professor of epidemiology in the Perelman School of Medicine, professor of nursing in the School of Nursing, and director of the University of Pennsylvania Prevention Research Center. She is a Senior Fellow of the Leonard Davis Institute on Health Economics, the Center for Public Health Initiatives, and the Penn Institute for Urban Research, and a Distinguished Fellow of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. She was previously at Emory University (2004-2009), the University of Hawaii (1993 to 2004), and Temple University.
Allison Hoffman, an expert on health care law and policy, examines some of the most important legal and social issues of our time, including health insurance regulation, the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and retiree healthcare expenses, and long-term care. Her research aims to bring greater descriptive and analytical clarity to the purposes of health regulation and to deepen our understanding of how health insurance design and regulation both reflects and shapes social consciousness around risk. Hoffman co-edited the Oxford Handbook of U.S. Health Law with I.Glenn Cohen and William M. Sage, which offers the most comprehensive review of U.S. health law in the post-ACA era. Hoffman was awarded the Robert A. Gorman Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2018-19. Her current work examines the legality and ethics of the adoption of Medicaid work requirements, considers the future of long-term care and end of life care policies and regulation, and critiques how economic theory has overly shaped the development of health law and policy.
Joe Kable, PhD is the Baird Term Associate Professor of Psychology at Penn. Research in his lab is concerned with how people make choices, and the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying decision-making. This work combines approaches from experimental economics, the psychology of judgment and decision-making, and social and cognitive neuroscience.
Recently Dr. Kable has used fMRI to show how the subjective value people place on immediate and delayed rewards is represented in a common neural currency. Some broad questions motivating his current research include: How seriously do people’s choices deviate from rational choice theory, and what do the neural value signals in such situations help explain about these deviations? How does decision making differ across individuals, and what are the sources—psychological, genetic, neural—of such individual differences?
Dr. Kable earned his B.S. in chemistry from Emory University and his PhD in neuroscience from University of Pennsylvania.
Kameron is a research specialist working with Dr. Karolina Lempert, assisting in her research on episodic memory and decision making in older adults. He received his bachelor’s degree in 2017 from the University of Michigan, where he studied biopsychology, cognition, & neuroscience. He hopes to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology.
Corey McMillan, PhD is a research assistant professor of neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine and a member of the Neuroscience Graduate Group and Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics. Dr. McMillan holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and cognitive neuroscience from Temple University, a master’s of science in psycholinguistics from the University of Edinburgh, and a PhD in psychology from the University of Edinburgh.
Dr. McMillan’s research focuses on identifying cognitive and biological markers of neurodegenerative diseases like frontotempoeral lobar degeneration, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. His cognitive research focuses on the social and decision-making mechanisms that contribute to language processing deficits associated with neurodegenerative diseases. His biological research uses neuroimaging, genetics, and biofluids in an effort to improve early diagnosis and predict which protein is causing a disease in patients. Dr. McMillan’s biomarker research leverages sophisticated bioinformatic and statistical approaches to integrate multiple data sources in effort to identify precision medicine approaches for treating individual patients. Ultimately, Dr. McMillan intends to integrate cognitive and biological tests to develop powerful methods for identifying patients for entry into clinical trials and for measuring the efficacy of drug treatments in the context of clinical trials.
Dr. Moberg serves as the consulting faculty neuropsychologist for the Penn Memory Center / Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC). He is also consulting neuropsychologist at the Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Center (PADRECC) at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Dr. Moberg is an associate professor of neuropsychology in the Departments of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Otorhinolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He is the director of clinical services for the Brain-Behavior Laboratory (BBL) in the Neuropsychiatry program and is the co-director of the Olfaction and Gustation Laboratory in the BBL.
He earned his PhD in clinical psychology/ neuropsychology from the University of Health Sciences/The Chicago Medical School and completed an internship and postdoctoral fellowship in clinical neuropsychology at the University of Florida. Dr. Moberg is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA), Division 40 (Clinical Neuropsychology) of APA, the Pennsylvania Psychological Association (PPA), and the National Academy of Neuropsychology (NAN). He is board certified in clinical neuropsychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP).
Andrew Peterson, PhD, is an assistant professor of philosophy at George Mason University, a Greenwall Faculty Scholar, and a guest researcher at the National Institutes of Health Department of Bioethics. Previously, he was a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholar in the Rotman Institute of Philosophy and The Brain and Mind Institute at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.
Dr. Peterson’s research centers on bioethics and the philosophy of neuroscience, with specialization in ethical and epistemological issues related to the scientific study of consciousness. He has collaborated with the Penn Memory Center on several publications, including ethical concerns in treating patient with disorders of consciousness and allocating scarce medical resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pamela L. Sankar is an associate professor in the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Sankar has a B.A. from the University of Michigan in history of ideas. She began her graduate training in anthropology and communications at Boston University and completed her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. She pursued post-doctoral training in health services research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine with a fellowship awarded by the Veteran’s Administration. Dr. Sankar’s research interests have included medical privacy and confidentiality, ethical and cultural implications of genetic research, research ethics, and genetics and race. Dr. Sankar’s research and scholarship have been funded by the Ayer Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, the Charles E. Culpeper Foundation, and National Institutes of Health.
Dr. John Trojanowski is the William Maul Measey-Truman G. Schnabel, Jr. MD professor of geriatric medicine and gerontology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine; co-director, Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR); director, Institute on Aging & Director (IOA); director, Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center; and director, Penn Udall Center for Parkinson’s Research
In addition, he co-directs the Marian S. Ware Alzheimer’s Program established in 2004. He is the principal investigator on the Penn Biomarker Core of the NIH/NIA Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a landmark study launched by the National Institute on Aging to find methods for monitoring the progression of AD and improving methods of imaging, and the validation of biomarker data. Dr. Trojanowski is responsible for the neuropathology cores in several studies in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Disease Centers across the nation and Parkinson’s disease research projects.
Dr. Trojanowski’s work is exclusively neuropathology research-related; he does not conduct patient appointments.
Jordan Weiss is completing a joint PhD in demography and sociology and a master’s degree in statistics at Penn. He is interested in studying how life course histories shape trajectories of health with a focus on risk factors for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Jordan graduated from the University of Southern California with a BSc in economics and mathematics in 2012. Before coming to Penn, he worked as a statistician in the Center for Health and Community at the University of California, San Francisco.
Dr. Sharon Xie is a professor of biostatistics in the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Informatics at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Biostatistics Core of Penn’s Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center (ADCC).
Paul Yushkevich, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Radiology and a member of the Bioengineering Graduate Group. His research focuses on developing novel computational methodologies for the analysis of biomedical imaging data.
Dr. Yushkevich is particularly interested in analysis techniques that are tailored to specific anatomical structures. His key work in this area involves automatic segmentation and morphometry of the hippocampal formation (HF) in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The HF plays a central role in memory function and is a site of early neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Yushkevich holds a PhD in computer science from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.