Department of Translational and Applied Genomics (TAG)

Meet Our Team: Investigators & Research Staff

TAG has an experienced and talented team of people to work on our genomics studies. Each team member brings their own accomplishments and experience that enhance the whole. Team members have expertise in leading research projects, and in conducting studies using a broad range of research methods. They have expertise in recruiting, enrolling, and retaining participants in studies. They have expertise in proper handling of a variety of biospecimens, phlebotomy, and chart abstraction. Team members are well versed in regulatory compliance and experienced in project management. TAG staff members also have expertise in determining whether patients’ genomic test results are actionable, returning test results to patients, and providing genetic counseling.  

  • Jessica Ezzell Hunter, PhD
  • Senior Affiliate Investigator
    Pronouns: she/her/hers
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  • Dr. Jessica Ezzell Hunter is a genetic epidemiologist who focuses on the impact genomic variation has on health and well-being. She has led and collaborated on studies to improve care for hereditary cancer syndromes, genetic intellectual and developmental disability syndromes, and other complex genetic conditions. Hunter is a co-chair of the Actionability Working Group of NIH’s ClinGen project, which generates assessments of clinical actionability associated with genome variation. She is PI of the GRACE study, which seeks to increase genetic testing rates in women with ovarian cancer to provide women and their family members with cancer risk information. She collaborates on the Cancer Health Assessments Reaching Many (CHARM) study, which seeks to increase uptake of genetic services among diverse populations. She is Site PI for a study seeking to guide screening programs for Lynch syndrome (IMPULSS) across diverse health care systems. She also chairs CHR’s Advisory for Biospecimen Committee, which oversees research access to biospecimens stored in the Northwest Biobank and the Northwest Tissue Library. Hunter earned her doctorate in genetics and molecular biology from Emory University and her master’s degree in human genetics from Tulane University. Hunter is an avid traveler and cyclist. She also enjoys knitting and watching classic movies with her husband and dogs.
  • Sheila Weinmann, PhD, MPH
  • Epidemiologist
    Senior Investigator
    Pronouns: she/her/hers
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  • Dr. Sheila Weinmann is an epidemiologist who focuses on cancer, with an emphasis on molecular epidemiology. Weinmann has more than 25 years’ experience leading epidemiologic studies. She recently served as KPNW Site PI for a study that validated a test that stratifies patients with early stage breast cancer into different risk groups to guide treatment decisions. She also helps lead the national Kaiser Permanente Research Bank, a resource that will combine the health records, biospecimens, and health survey data of 500,000 KP members. Weinmann has led epidemiologic studies of molecular factors in relation to cancer screening, progression, recurrence, and mortality. She has also conducted research on varicella, herpes zoster, human papillomavirus (HPV), invasive pneumococcal disease, pertussis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and primary cardiac arrest. Weinmann received her PhD in epidemiology from the University of Washington. She is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine of Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).
  • Mari Gilmore
  • Certified Genetic Counselor, Research Associate II
    Pronouns: she/her/hers
  • Mari Gilmore has been a board-certified genetic counselor for over 10 years, with experience working in a variety of clinical specialties. She has been involved with several genomics studies at the Center for Health Research. Her research interests include the identification of individuals with hereditary cancer syndromes and the clinical actionability of genomic test results. She received her bachelor’s degree at Willamette University and her master’s degree from Boston University.
  • Charisma Jenkins, PSM
  • Project Director
    Pronouns: she/her/hers
  • Charisma Jenkins has worked on complex, multi-site genomic and cancer research studies since 2005. Her research experience includes the management of studies returning genetic test results and studies collecting and processing blood, saliva, urine, and tissue samples. She has worked on several cancer studies, including breast, colorectal, endometrial, and lung cancer studies that utilize the tumor registry data at KPNW. Jenkins has a bachelor of science degree in biology from the University of Washington and a professional science master’s degree in molecular biosciences from Washington State University. She is at her happiest under a canopy of trees or near the ocean breathing in the salty air.
  • Kathleen (Kate) Mittendorf, PhD
  • Research Associate III
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  • Dr. Kate Mittendorf is an interdisciplinary scientist with training in biophysics, computational biology, informatics, and genomic applications in care delivery. Mittendorf joined the Center for Health Research in 2017, where they worked on the CHARM study, leading the development of patient-facing hereditary cancer risk assessment tools and associated data models. Mittendorf now leads a supplemental project to evaluate how well these tools work in the diverse CHARM study population. They are also are a member of the ClinGen team, where they participate in evidence curation and in the development of publicly accessible genomics databases. Mittendorf has a doctorate in biochemistry from Vanderbilt University, where they were a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from DePauw University. 
  • Kristin Muessig, MS
  • Project Manager III
  • Kristin Muessig has over 22 years of research experience in the health care and pharmaceutical industries and more than 13 years of research experience at CHR. She has extensive experience as a project manager, working with diverse and complex research teams and consortia, including as site Operations Lead for the Kaiser Permanente Research Bank, the project manager for the NW Biobank, nine genomics studies with Dr. Goddard, and other studies involving tissue or specimens, working with investigators from CHR and contracting sites. Muessig manages recruitment work and coordinates with the HIPAA compliance and IRB departments to ensure that studies comply with regulations. She holds an MS in nutrition from the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany.
  • Sam Peterson
  • Senior Project Assistant
    Pronouns: he/him/his
  • Sam Peterson has been Administrative Assistant and Senior Project Assistant (SPA) at the KP Center for Health Research (CHR) for over 10 years, supporting numerous studies and projects, including the Western Region on the National Dental Practice-Based Research Network (NDPBRN) and the National Coordinating Center of NDPBRN. His responsibilities as a SPA for the TAG department includes recruitment, biospecimen coordination (including blood, urine, FFPE tissue specimen handling and shipping), manuscript formatting, and other administrative tasks. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree for Virginia Tech. On weekends, you are likely to find him riding his bicycle in and around the Portland metro area.
  • Christine Pak, PhD
  • Research Associate II
    Pronouns: she/her/hers
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  • Dr. Christine Pak is a ClinGen Actionability Curator, working to define the clinical relevance of genes and variants for use in precision medicine and research. Pak has expertise in endocrinology and cardiovascular genetics; she has also worked in a diagnostic lab setting, creating and validating genetic testing assays, interpreting genetic variants, and writing clinical reports. Her role in the TAG department includes literature review and synthesis of reports detailing clinical actionability of genetic conditions, and crowdsourcing efforts to engage people interested in genetics to aid in assessment of clinical actionability. Pak received her PhD in human genetics from Northwestern University.
  • Yolanda Prado
  • Project Manager III
  • Yolanda Prado has over 25 years of experience working in the clinical research field, including over 15 years of experience working in oncology research. Since joining CHR in 2018, she has served as project manager for studies on cancer etiology, prevention, and early detection; genetic risk analysis in ovarian cancer; vaccine safety and effectiveness; herpes infection and diagnosis of dementia; and COVID. Prado earned her BS degree from Eastern Oregon University and studied in the areas of pre-nursing, genetics, and psychology. She is a Certified Clinical Research Professional (CCRP).
  • Ana Reyes
  • Project Manager I
    Pronouns: she/her/hers
  • Ana Reyes is a Clinical Trials Research Assistant with expertise in a wide range of patient-engaging settings. Her previous work includes patient care delivery and client services. Her role as a research assistant includes patient recruitment, data collection, patient chart abstraction, and analysis, in addition to assisting clinical research teams in ensuring the most effective and efficient conduct of clinical research studies by providing administration and project tracking support. She received her bachelor’s degree in health care administration from Concordia University.
  • Sarah Vertrees
  • Project Manager I, Biospecimen Coordinator
  • Sarah Vertrees is a Project Manager and Biospecimen Coordinator with more than 18 years of research experience in both clinical and laboratory settings. Vertrees began working for CHR in 2009 and has worked on clinical trials and in the lab as well as managing a variety of projects.  She also has experience with tissue registries and biorepository tasks. Vertrees graduated from the University of Washington with a BS in biology. She is a certified phlebotomist and is certified in Health Care Project Management. Vertrees enjoys doing anything in the sun—swimming, gardening, or spending time at her family cabin on Hood Canal. She is also learning to quilt.
  • Lisa Waiwaiole, MS
  • Research Program Manager
    Pronouns: she/her/hers
  • Lisa Waiwaiole has been involved in numerous and varied research projects at CHR since 2006. She has experience in large research networks and conducting research in health care delivery systems. Waiwaiole’s primary research areas include smoking cessation, oral health, and oncology. She supports TAG staff as well as other Center investigators in proposal and budgeting work. She has an MS in psychology with an emphasis in statistical analysis and evaluation from Western Washington University.
  • Jamilyn Zepp, MS
  • Certified Genetic Counselor, Research Assoiate II
    Pronouns: she/her/hers
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  • Jamilyn Zepp has been a genetic counselor for 25 years, in a variety of settings and specialties, with special interest in cancer genetics since 1996. Her work at CHR has been in identification of hereditary cancer syndromes, in both cancer patients and at-risk family members. Her interests include Lynch syndrome and Hereditary Breast and Ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome. She received her bachelor's degree at the University of Washington and her master's degree from UC Berkeley.

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