Program Mentors

Michael Alvarado, MD

Michael Alvarado, M.D. is an Associate Professor of Surgery and member of the breast care and melanoma programs. Dr. Alvarado received his undergraduate degree from Arizona State University, his master's degree in chemistry from the University of Arizona and his medical degree from Dartmouth Medical School. Dr. Alvarado plays an integral role in the world-renowned multidisciplinary breast care team at the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center in the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is also Director of the Breast Surgical Oncology Fellowship Program and is intimately involved in the training of breast cancer surgeons of the future. Highly respected by his peers, Dr. Alvarado was named to the list of U.S. News "Top Doctors," which denotes the top 10% of physicians within a region practicing a given specialty. Dr. Alvarado is certified by the American Board of Surgery, member of the Society of Surgical Oncology and member of the American College of Surgeons.

 

Amrita Basu, PhD

Amrita Basu, PhD received her doctoral training in computational biology under Dr. David Allis at the Rockefeller University and Dr. Paul Clemons at the Broad Institute during her postdoctoral studies. Prior to coming to UCSF, she was a White House Innovation Fellow. She is currently a faculty member in the Department of Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. Her research involves developing novel techniques and predictive methods to analyze high dimensional biological and imaging data in the I-SPY 2 TRIAL and WISDOM studies.  

 

Jeff Belkora, PhD

Jeff Belkora, PhD, is the Director of the Patient Support Corps. Jeff is an Associate Adjunct Professor of Surgery and Health Policy at UCSF. He designs, implements, and evaluates strategies to promote patient participation in health care decisions. In his capacity as Director of the Patient Support Corps, Jeff designs the program and trains and supervises its personnel.

 

Mike Campbell, Ph.D.

Michael Campbell, PhD, is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Surgery at UCSF.  His work over the years in the field of cancer immunology and immunotherapy have taken him from preclinical animal studies examining breast cancer vaccine strategies, to clinical studies examining immune dysfunction in women with early stage breast cancer.  His current interests are in understanding the role of immune networks in the etiology and progression of breast cancer and studying the interplay between the host’s microbiome and immune system.   

 

Laura Esserman, MD, MBA

Dr. Esserman is a surgeon and breast cancer oncology specialist, and is the Director of the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). In 1996, she started the Center of Excellence for Breast Cancer Care to integrate clinical care and research, automate tools for the capture of patient and clinical data, and develop systems to tailor care to biology, patient preference, and performance. Dr. Esserman is nationally and internationally known as a leader in the field of breast cancer as well as the problems of overdiagnosis and overtreatment as a consequence of screening, calling attention to, as well as developing solutions to address these problems. As a thought leader, she has published over 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals, has been interviewed dozens of times, including by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Health Magazine, and her media appearances include the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, the NBC Nightly News, and NPR’s Science Friday. She is the Principal Investigator of the I-SPY TRIAL program, a multi-site neoadjuvant clinical trial that has evolved into a model for translational research and innovation in clinical trial design. Dr. Esserman has recently launched a University of California-wide breast cancer initiative called the Athena Breast Health Network, a project designed to follow 150,000 women from screening through treatment and outcomes, incorporating the latest in molecular testing and web-based tools into the course of care. She has received numerous awards including the Weizmann Institute of Science, Women in Science Award, was an American Cancer Society Soiree Honoree in 2013, and was named by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the Bay Area's People to Watch in 2014.

 

 

Ella Jones, MD

Dr. Ella Jones is a breast imaging specialist in the Breast Imaging Research Program in Radiology. She has spent the past two decades studying breast cancer biology and developing targeted imaging techniques to enable the visualization and treatment of breast cancer with high precision.

She is interested in translating the latest imaging technology to patient care at UCSF. Dr. Jones' research projects focus on studying patients' breast images from positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), their molecular/genomic and outcome data. Using machine learning, she aims to establish correlations between imaging features and breast tumor biology, with the ultimate goal of developing a "digital biopsy" method to guide treatment intervention.

 

Michelle Melisko, MD

Dr. Michelle E. Melisko is a cancer specialist with expertise in breast cancer treatment and research. She is interested in testing new chemotherapy combinations, biological therapies and immunotherapies for breast cancer, with a particular focus on treatment of cancer that has spread to the brain. She also hopes to educate patients and encourage their participation in clinical trials to make more rapid advances in breast cancer treatment. Melisko earned a medical degree at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and completed a residency in internal medicine at Stanford Hospital and Clinics and a fellowship in hematology and oncology at UCSF Medical Center.

 

Rita Mukhtar, MD

Rita Mukhtar, M.D. is an assistant professor of surgery and is an acute care general surgeon and breast oncologic surgeon at UCSF. Dr. Mukhtar completed her undergraduate education at UC Berkeley, where she studied music and molecular biology. She then attended medical school at UCSF, during which time she received a Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellowship and pursued research in the inflammatory response in sepsis, winning a research award. She remained at UCSF for General Surgery residency, and completed a two year post-doctoral research fellowship focusing on the role of inflammatory cells in breast cancer outcomes, funded by the California Breast Cancer Research Program.

During this time she received a scholarship from the UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Institute to complete a certificate in Advanced Training in Clinical Research. After residency, she completed a fellowship in breast oncologic surgery, while serving as a clinical instructor in general surgery. She currently practices acute care general surgery and breast surgery. Her research interest is in genetic causes of breast cancer, prevention, and treatment.

 

 

Merisa Piper, MD

Dr. Merisa Piper is an Assistant Professor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery who specializes in breast reconstruction, microsurgery, and general reconstruction. She graduated college from Claremont McKenna College and medical school from UC Irvine. She then completed an integrated Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery residency at UCSF followed by a fellowship in microsurgery at the University of Pennsylvania. Before medical school she spent two years conducting basic science research studying hypothalamic leptin resistance in mice. While a resident she took one year off to study breast reconstruction outcomes, and continued this research throughout her residency and now as faculty. Since returning to UCSF she has been working on the development of the total skin-sparing mastectomy database. She also started a clinical trial investigating the impact of the gut and breast microbiomes on implant infection following mastectomy. Dr. Piper is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and is a member of the American Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery.

 

Hope Rugo, MD

Dr. Hope Rugo is a medical oncologist and hematologist specializing in breast cancer research and treatment. A Clinical Professor of Medicine, Dr. Rugo joined the Breast Care Center in 1999 after a decade of experience at UCSF in malignant hematology and bone marrow transplantation for a variety of diseases, including breast cancer. She entered the field of breast cancer in order to incorporate novel therapies based on an understanding of the biology of cancer with excellent quality of care into the treatment of women with breast cancer. Dr. Rugo is the Director of the Breast Oncology Clinical Trials Program, and is the principal investigator of multiple clinical trials focusing on combining novel targeted therapeutics with standard treatment to improve the treatment of both early and late stage breast cancer. In addition, Dr. Rugo is working on studies to evaluate cognitive function in women receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer, as well as novel ways to reduce toxicity from therapy.

 

Allison Stover Fiscalini, MPH

Allison Stover Fiscalini, MPH, is Executive Director of the Athena Breast Health Network, a University of California-wide collaboration to accelerate the integration of clinical care and research (athenacarenetwork.org). She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from Santa Clara University and completed her post-graduate work at the University of Washington where she earned a Master of Public Health degree in Health Sciences. Her interest and expertise includes large research programs focused on cancer prevention and long-term follow-up, as well as health policy and health informatics. Prior to joining UCSF, she was at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research where her work focused on long-term follow-up of bone marrow transplant survivors. She has been at UCSF for the past 10 years, and has led the UC-wide Athena Breast Health Network for the past 7 years. She also leads Athena’s largest initiative, the WISDOM Study (wisdomstudy.org), which is a PCORI and NCI-funded pragmatic randomized controlled trial of 100,000 women testing a risk-based approach to breast cancer screening.

 

Catherine Park, MD

Interim Dean Bruce Wintroub, MD, announced the appointment of Catherine Park, MD, as chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology. Dr. Park has outstanding credentials as a physician-scientist and has proven herself a skilled and thoughtful leader and mentor. She was recruited to UCSF in 2000 from the Joint Center for Radiation Therapy, Harvard Medical School. She earned her medical degree at UCLA and completed her internship at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. She was a research fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where she later held a joint position as faculty biologist. Dr. Park has a special interest in the treatment and biology of breast cancer and runs an NIH-funded laboratory investigating the role of integrins, the extracellular matrix and tumor microenvironment in radiation resistance. Dr. Park has contributed substantially to the scientific community, to NIH grant review panels, and as chair of the American Society of Therapeutic Radiology & Oncology (ASTRO) Annual Meeting Education Committee among other notable leadership positions. Being a consummate physician-scientist as well as an educator, she maintains an active clinical practice, which includes teaching residents and fellows. In addition, she has mentored numerous research fellows and medical students.

 

Laura Van't Veer, PhD

Dr. van ’t Veer is a world-renowned molecular biologist, Principal Investigator of the Athena Breast Health Network at UCSF and Leader of the Breast Oncology Program in the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. She is the former Head of Diagnostic Oncology at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, and inventor of MammaPrint. Dr. van ’t Veer’s research focuses on personalized medicine, and aims to advance patient management based on knowledge of the genetic makeup of the tumor as well as the genetic makeup of the patient. This allows physicians to optimally assign systemic therapy for those patients that are in need of such treatment and to ensure the selection of the therapy that is most effective. She is the chair of the Biomolecular Committee of the I-SPY 2 trial ensuring CLIA compliant companion diagnostics. Dr. van ’t Veer’s research shows that molecular diagnostics and microarray genomics technology increasingly impact patient management. Molecular genomics contributes to the knowledge of who is at risk for breast cancer, how external factors may influence this risk, whether breast tumors are likely to metastasize or not, and which subtype of tumors will likely respond to what therapy.

 

Christina Yau, PhD

Christina Yau, PhD received her training in a highly interdisciplinary environment under the mentorship of breast oncologist Dr. Christopher Benz and biostatistician Dr. Alan Hubbard. She is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Her research involves the application of bioinformatics and statistics techniques to analyze high dimensional biological data to address important issues in translational breast cancer research. She has extensive experience with expression-based biomarker research; and participates in multiple highly collaborative projects, such as the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Program, the I-SPY 2 TRIAL and the WISDOM study.