California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine Staff
Meet current and former staff, and past advisors.
Julianne McCall serves as Co-Director of the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine. In that role, she oversees cross-sector health policy working groups and projects, research grantmaking, and state government interagency efforts, which include serving on Governor Newsom's COVID-19 Testing Task Force and as a co-author of the first CA Surgeon General's Report on Adverse Childhood Experiences. Previously, Dr. McCall worked on public health and research policy in the California Senate Office of Research and as a Science and Technology Policy Fellow of the California Council on Science and Technology. Prior to her career in policy, she spent sixteen years in neuroscience research labs, including the Salk Institute, Stanford University, the Cleveland Clinic, and the National Center for Microscopy Imaging Research. She conducted medical research as a Fulbright Fellow in Sweden and as a neuroscientist at the Neuroregeneration Laboratory of Heidelberg University in Germany.
In the community, Dr. McCall co-teaches the UC Riverside Science to Policy Graduate Certificate Course, serves on the Editorial Board of the California Journal of Politics and Policy, occasionally directs the International "Brain Bee" Neuroscience Olympiad for high school students across fifty countries, and is the co-founder of TEDxFulbright, the Sacramento Brain Bee, and a chapter of the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network for racial justice. She earned a PhD in Neuroscience from Heidelberg University in Germany, a Master's degree in Biomedical Sciences from UC San Diego, and a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from Denison University.
Shannon Muir is a Co-Director of the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine. Dr. Muir previously served as the Director of Research Proposal Development Services and a Strategic Research Opportunities Analyst for UC San Diego, as well as a Senior Program Associate and Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the Senate Health Committee, for the California Council on Science and Technology. She received a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from UC San Diego, a Master's degree in Pharmacology from Tulane University, and a Bachelor's degree in Psychobiology from UCLA.
Saga Barberis joins CIAPM as its new Project Administrator, focusing primarily on the new Representative Research Collaborative, a cross-sector project in partnership with the National Institutes of Health. Equipped with a JD, Ms. Barberis brings a collection of rich experiences in policy, including at the U.S. House of Representatives, the California Legislature, the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office, and the Bar Association of San Francisco. She additionally serves as Board Secretary of KCBP Radio, Modesto Peace/Life Center. Ms. Barberis is an alumnus of UCLA, University of Nevada, Reno, and UC College of the Law, San Francisco (formerly known as UC Hastings, College of the Law).
Yuki is a PhD Candidate at UCLA in Molecular Biology, with a focus on Gene Regulation, Epigenomics and Transcriptomics. She received a BA and MA in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from Wesleyan University, conducting research into genetic mechanisms. In addition to her work in the lab, Yuki serves as President of the Science Policy Group at UCLA and co-founded and directs the Neuroscience Communication Seminars at the UCLA Brain Research Institute. Beyond academia, she is also engaged in scientific publishing as an Editor of Knowing Neurons, science communication as a published author of policy memos in the Journal of Science Policy & Governance, and public outreach as a volunteer with numerous community organizations. At CIAPM, she will support the Impact Assessment project, among others.
Megan is a Public Health Administration student at Sacramento State University and is excited to be joining the OPR team as Summer Intern 2022. She looks forward to making an impact in the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine alongside her small and mighty team. Her experience in a clinical healthcare setting as a Certified Nursing Assistant, ignited a passion in her to make an impact in healthcare prevention and devote her career to a more sound and harmonious form of healing to the world.
Bridgette is a doctoral candidate in the Epidemiology Graduate Program at University of California, Davis. Her research aims to increase health equity through exploring the distribution of health outcomes in relation to the social and built environment to inform institutional policy. Additionally, she works with Dr. Alice Popejoy on race, ethnicity, and ancestry, and their relationship to health outcomes. She received her master’s degree in Public health from UC Davis and her bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from UC Merced. Ultimately, Bridgette is dedicated to community-engagement efforts, and hopes that through her work she amplifies the voices of historically vulnerable communities and ensures that research is equitable and representative of the public health challenges and its population.
Max is a Managerial Economics student at UC Davis and looks forward to joining the OPR team as a Communications and Administration Intern. Through his experience as an Intern at the Stanford Health Care - ValleyCare Hospital, he has become interested in improving our health care system. He is excited to contribute to the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine and fulfill a career at the intersection of business and science.
Affad Shaikh was a Graduate Student Intern for CIAPM. He is a business-oriented Data Scientist who holds dual master's degrees in Business Administration and Information Systems and Technology from Claremont Graduate University. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of California, San Diego in International Studies. He looks for solutions and uncovers stories that inform strategy and decision making, and he combines design thinking with a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach. His motivation is to be of service, and he is the Board Secretary for the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, a California non-profit dedicated to serving marginalized communities at the intersection of immigration detention and criminal justice. He also completed a Data Fellowship at The Data Incubator. Prior to his graduate studies, Affad built up the Civil Rights department in the Greater Los Angeles office of the Council on American and Islamic Relations, a national non-profit.
Aiyana Cortez is a computational biologist and PhD candidate in Biophysics at the University of California, Davis. Her research aims to identify the molecular interactions that determine cardiotoxicity of medicinal drugs. During her graduate studies, she has dedicated her time to advocating for student needs and promoting equity in STEM. Before graduate school, Cortez served for over two years in the United States Peace Corps as a Math and Science Teacher Trainer in The Gambia, West Africa where she advocated for volunteer needs and rights and successfully inspired organization-wide policy reform. She earned a Bachelor’s degree from California State University, Long Beach in Microbiology and Cell and Molecular Biology, with minors in Chemistry and Applied Mathematics, and completed her single-subject teaching credential in Biology.
Alexa Blundell was a Graduate Student Intern for CIAPM. She uses her training in science, design, and communication to make biomedical data and information more accessible. Blundell is passionate about working with migrant communities in California and works at a local clinic that serves uninsured and undocumented patients. She recently completed an ambassadorship with the UC Global Health Institute, where her final project focused on the health impact of pesticides on agricultural workers in California.
She earned her Bachelor's degree in Animal Science at UC Davis, and holds a Master's degree in Biomedical Sciences from Charles R. Drew University, where she completed a research thesis on transcriptomic changes in adipose tissue after e-cigarette exposure. In addition to her internship in the Governor's Office of Planning and Research, Blundell is preparing for a new role with Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, where she will partner with the CDC for a campaign on infectious disease control and health protections for protein processing workers.
Alexandra Colón-Rodríguez is a Science and Technology Policy Fellow with the California Council on Science and Technology. During her one-year fellowship in the Governor's Office of Planning and Research, she will serve as CIAPM's Science Officer, overseeing its portfolio of Adverse Childhood Experiences research projects. Previously, Dr. Colón-Rodríguez was a postdoctoral research fellow in neuroscience, and a science communication program director at the University of California, Davis.
Over the last decade, Dr. Colón-Rodríguez has served as a mentor and educator, and has mentored more than 30 scholars in neuroscience research, and many more in science in general. Her teaching and community outreach efforts include neuroscience, science communication, and policy. Additionally, she founded the STEAM100X35 initiative, which is focused on amplifying the work of Puerto Rican women in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), and encouraging the next generation through outreach activities.
Dr. Colón-Rodríguez obtained a dual major PhD in Neuroscience and Environmental Toxicology from Michigan State University, and a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from Universidad Ana G. Méndez-Recinto de Carolina. Through her work and outreach efforts she hopes to effect change and inspire the next generation of scholars in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
April Booth was a Policy Fellow for the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine. She is a neuroscientist and PhD student of Physiology at the University of California, Davis. She is studying the effects of stress on the brain during parenting. Booth earned a Master’s degree in Physiology from UC Davis, a Master’s degree in Biology from California State University, Fresno, and double majored in Biology and Chemistry as an undergraduate at CSU Fresno.
Atul Butte served as the Principal Investigator for CIAPM at UCSF, from 2015-2018. He is the Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg Distinguished Professor and inaugural Director of the Bakar Computational Health Sciences Institute at UCSF. Dr. Butte is also the Chief Data Scientist for the University of California Health System.
Dr. Butte was elected into the National Academy of Medicine in 2015, and in 2013, he was recognized by the Obama Administration as a White House Champion of Change in Open Science for promoting science through publicly available data.
Dr. Butte trained in Computer Science at Brown University, worked as a software engineer at Apple and Microsoft, received his MD at Brown University, trained in Pediatrics and Pediatric Endocrinology at Children's Hospital Boston, then received his PhD from Harvard Medical School and MIT.
Ben Rubin served as a Science Officer for CIAPM at UCSF from 2018-2019, where he oversaw the selection, execution, and evaluation of demonstration projects, and provided strategy and support to CIAPM and its research and governmental partners. Before joining CIAPM, Rubin directed efforts at Children Now to leverage the science of resilience, toxic stress, and childhood trauma to support multi-sector public policy efforts. Before that, he served in the California State Senate Health Committee as a Science & Technology Policy Fellow.
Ben was a postdoctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology and Brandeis University, earned his PhD in Neurobiology from Duke University, and graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Biology and Psychology from Cornell University.
Chris Wang is the manager at the UC Davis Center for Precision Medicine and Data Sciences, and served as the Financial Officer for the CIAPM. He has a strong career record of research administration management and support, along with program management.
David served as a Science Officer for CIAPM at UCSF from 2018-2019, where he oversaw demonstration projects, coordinated the initiative's communication efforts, and provided support and insight to CIAPM and its partners. As a student at UCSF, he was a member of the leadership team for the Science Policy Group. He was responsible for event advertising, creating the website, and was part of the team that helped coordinate a student advocacy day in Washington DC.
David received his PhD in Biophysics from UCSF where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. He graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Elizabeth Baca served as a Deputy Director in the Governor's Office of Planning and Research, providing vision, leadership and oversight of CIAPM. Her portfolio involves working across agencies and departments in California as well as with many foundations, non-profit and for-profit groups, and entrepreneurs.
Previously, Baca served on the General Pediatric Faculty at Stanford Medical School and directed the Community Pediatric and Child Advocacy Rotation. In addition to teaching medical students and residents about the social, economic, and environmental factors that affect health, she was the lead faculty mentor on several projects to increase access to healthy foods, reduce environmental triggers of asthma, increase physical activity opportunities, and improve the built environment.
Baca studied health policy at Universidad Simon Bolivar in Venezuela. She completed her Master's in Public Administration at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and her medical degree at Harvard Medical School. Baca completed her pediatric residency in the Pediatric Leadership for the Underserved (PLUS) program at UC San Francisco.
Esther is a doctoral candidate in the Environmental Toxicology Graduate Program at UC Riverside. Her doctoral research investigates emerging tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes and their potential effects on human health using analytical and in vitro approaches. She received her master's degree in Biotechnology and Bioinformatics from the California State University Channel Islands while studying counterfeit electronic cigarette products. In 2016 she was a California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Bridges intern, where she trained in tissue culture and moderate throughput toxicity testing under the mentorship of UC Riverside professor Dr. Prue Talbot. Esther hopes her research contributes scientific evidence for regulating constituents in emerging tobacco products, limiting potential harm to consumers, and supporting tobacco control policies.
Hyunsoo Gloria Kim was a Policy Fellow for the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine, currently finishing a PhD in Microbiology at the University of California, Davis. They hold bachelor's degrees in Molecular & Cellular Biology and Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Their current and previous research projects span the fields of synthetic biology, metabolic regulation, tissue engineering, cancer epidemiology, cognitive neuroscience, and science education. Gloria is passionate about exploring the intersections between science and equity, policy, education, and public engagement.
Hannah Chu is a third-year graduate student at the University of California, Riverside, with specializations in genetics, development, entomology, science communication, and graphic design. Her four-month internship will focus on the development of infographics illustrating CIAPM’s ongoing research projects, among other projects in support of the program’s mission.
India Hook-Barnard helped launch the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine, and served as its Executive Director from 2015-2018. Hook-Barnard was a postdoctoral research fellow at the National Institutes of Health. She earned a PhD in Microbiology-Medicine from the University of Missouri.
Jessica Lumian was a Graduate Student Intern and Policy Fellow at CIAPM. She earned a PhD in Microbiology at the University of California, Davis in the Earth and Planetary Sciences department. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Michigan State University. Her thesis research focused on environmental tolerance mechanisms of Antarctic cyanobacteria using a variety of bioinformatics techniques. She enjoys promoting data availability and reproducibility in scientific research and has served as a prior instructor for The Carpentries, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching fundamental computational skills and fostering an inclusive data science community. She also assists with the organization of science outreach events through STEM for Girls at UC Davis and is interested in increasing science literacy for all ages. In addition to her graduate work, Jessica studied the accessibility of dialysis treatment centers in California using geographical and statistical analyses. She is enthusiastic about contributing to work promoting equity and accessibility in healthcare.
Kate Gordon was the Director of the Governor's Office of Planning and Research and a Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom on Climate. She is a nationally recognized expert on the intersection of climate change, energy, and economic development. She has authored or co-authored numerous publications, including the Fourth National Climate Assessment's chapter on "Reducing Risks Through Adaptation Actions." Prior to being appointed OPR Director, Gordon was a Senior Advisor at the Henry M. Paulson Institute, where she oversaw the "Risky Business Project," focused on quantifying the economic impacts of climate change to the U.S. economy, and also provided strategic support to the Institute's U.S.- China CEO Council for Sustainable Urbanization. She was also a nonresident Fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.
Earlier in her career Gordon served as Vice President for Climate and Energy at the Center for the Next Generation, Vice President of Energy and Environment at the Washington D.C.-based Center for American Progress, and Co-Executive Director at the national Apollo Alliance (now the Blue Green Alliance).
Gordon earned a JD and an masters in city and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University.
Ken McCullough was a Science Policy fellow with the California Council on Science and Technology, placed in the Office of the Surgeon General and the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine. McCullough is a neuroscientist who has studied changes to the brain and body caused by stress and traumatic experiences. McCullough earned his PhD from Emory University, and completed his post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University, McLean Hospital.
Megan Varvais joined the Governor's Office of Planning and Research in May 2019. Prior to that, she was the Social Media Manager at Consumer Federation of California, a non-profit consumer advocacy organization. She also worked as a Campaign Coordinator for the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation, where she built a first-of-its-kind database to match consumers with credit unions and educated the public about community banking and mandatory binding arbitration. Her professional and volunteer experiences include graphic design, event planning, grassroots organizing and outreach, regulatory and consumer law, legislative advocacy, and coalition building.
In the community, Megan serves on the South Land Park Neighborhood Association Board of Directors. In the past, she has been a delegate to the California Democratic Party and the Communications Director for Wellstone Progressive Democrats of Sacramento. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from Arizona State University, with a concentration in nonprofit leadership and management.
Nichole Holm was a Graduate Policy Fellow with CIAPM in 2019. She received a PhD in Genetics and Genomics from the University of California, Davis, where she studied neurodegenerative diseases Fragile X Tremor and Ataxia Syndrome in the Hagerman lab.
Uta Grieshammer was the Program Director for CIAPM in 2015-2018. Prior to that, she worked for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. In 2021 she returned to CIRM as the Senior Science Officer for their Discovery program. Dr. Grieshammer earned her PhD in biochemistry from Boston University, and has research expertise in molecular and cellular mechanisms of embryonic development.
Dr. Fred Meyers has been associate dean for precision medicine at University of California, Davis Health since 2016, where he has served in several leadership positions since 1992, including chairperson of the Department of Internal Medicine and vice dean of the School of Medicine. He was one of the first in the country to develop the concept of simultaneous care, a system of patient-family centered caring that provides both treatment for advanced cancer using investigational clinical trials as well as intensive palliative care. Meyers has been an active medical oncologist at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center since joining the university's faculty in 1982. Meyers earned a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. He is a Master of the American College of Physicians.
As Associate Vice Chancellor for Computational Health Sciences, Dr. Jill Mesirov is responsible for the overarching strategy for data science and research computing for health sciences at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. She is also a professor in the Department of Medicine. Before joining UC San Diego in 2015, Mesirov was Associate Director and Chief Informatics Officer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where she directed the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Program. She previously served as Manager of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics in the Healthcare/Pharmaceutical Solutions Organization, and Director of Research at Thinking Machines Corporation, and has also held positions in the Mathematics Department at the University of California, Berkeley and served as Associate Executive Director of the American Mathematical Society. Mesirov received her BA in Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania and earned her MA and PhD in Mathematics from Brandeis University.
Dr. John Carpten is an internationally recognized expert in genome science and possesses unique training in multiple disciplines, including germline genetics for disease risk and predisposition, somatic cancer genomics, health disparities, cell biology, functional genomics, and precision medicine. His leadership led to the conception of African American Hereditary Prostate Cancer Study Network, and established his role as an early pioneer in understanding the role of biology in disparate cancer incidence and mortality rates seen among underrepresented populations. Carpten earned a PhD from Ohio State University in 1994, with a focus on human genetics. He served as a post-doctoral scholar in Cancer Genetics at the National Institutes of Health National Human Genome Research Institute, where he was later promoted to the tenure track in 2000. In 2003, Carpten accepted a position as Division Director within the Division of Integrated Cancer Genomics, at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix. In 2012, Carpten assumed the role of Deputy Director of Basic Research for TGen. In 2016, he was recruited by the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine to build and chair a new Department and Institute of Translational Genomics.
Dr. Mark Cullen is the Director of the Stanford Center for Population Health Sciences, whose mission is to improve individual and population health by bringing together diverse disciplines and data to understand and address social, environmental, behavioral, and biological factors as they relate to health and disease. He is a Professor of Medicine, Biomedical Data Science, and Health Research and Policy at Stanford. Prior to his recruitment to Stanford as Chief of the Division of General Medical Disciplines in 2009, Cullen was a Professor of Medicine and Public Health and Director of the Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine. He received his BA from Harvard College in 1971 and his MD from Yale University School of Medicine in 1976.