2014 Conference Speaker Bios

Keynote Speaker 


Valisia LeKae
Valisia LeKae has been blessed to grace the Broadway stage numerous times in the productions of “The Threepenny Opera,” “110 in the Shade,” “Ragtime,” and “The Book of Mormon.” She recently starred as Diana Ross in “Motown the Musical,” for which she garnered a Grammy Nomination, Tony Nomination, Theatre World Award, Drama League Nomination, and an Outer Critics Circle Nomination. 

In 2010, Valisia won the Joseph Jefferson Award for her portrayal of Sarah in “Ragtime.” She was also nominated for a Black Theatre Alliance Award for the same role. Off-Broadway, Valisia could be seen in the John Denver musical, “Almost Heaven.” Some of her regional credits include “Caroline, or Change,” in which she played Emmie; “Dreamgirls,” in which she played Deena Jones; “Godspell,” in which she played Joanne; “Big River,” in which she played Alice’s daughter; and “Little Shop of Horrors,” in which she played Chiffon, and for which she received a nomination for a Kevin Kline Award, and many others. Valisia was also part of the Live at the Lincoln Center production of “Camelot.” She has toured with the USO, and the National touring companies of “All Shook Up,” in which she played Lorraine, and “Mamma Mia,” in which she played Lisa. Valisia has also been part of numerous workshops and readings in the New York City area.

Valisia is committed to forging the frontier in the fight against ovarian cancer, and in 2014 has become the National Spokesperson for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. 

Speaker Bios


Jenny Allen

Jenny Allen is best known for her skill as a writer. Her essays and articles have appeared in numerous magazines, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post. Jenny is also the author of a book of fables for grown-ups. In addition to her writing, Jenny performs stand-up comedy, and has earned high acclaims from Associated Press and others. 

Jenny is also well known for her one-woman show that infuses the subject matter from her real-life journey that began with her diagnosis with ovarian cancer. “I Got Sick Then I Got Better” has been praised as an honest, witty, warm, and bittersweet experience, in which Jenny shares her personal battle with cancer. Using truth and humor, she inspires, informs, and beautifully touches all who view her performance (The New York Times; The Chicago-Sun Times).



Katya Lezin
Katya Lezin is a writer living in
Charlotte, North Carolina, who uses her own life as inspiration. Katya has authored both fiction and non-fiction books and writes a weekly column for The Charlotte ObserverHer most personal manuscript to date is But I Just Grew Out My Bangs! A Cancer Tale, in which Katya chronicles her battle with ovarian cancer. She was first diagnosed with the disease in May 2011, and is currently battling a recurrence. Despite the fact that her cancer journey has included six surgeries and months of chemotherapy, Katya believes that having the disease has brought more good than bad into her life. When she is not on the tennis court or competing in a Scrabble tournament, Katya enjoys cooking, exercising, and spending time with her family.


Cheryl Saenz, MD  
Dr. Cheryl Saenz is Clinical Professor in the Department of Reproductive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. Dr. Saenz, who is Board-certified in both Gynecologic Oncology and Obstetrics/Gynecology, has been at the UC San Diego Health System for more than 12 years. She specializes in the preventive, educational, and treatment aspects of gynecologic cancer care. 

Dr. Saenz completed her fellowship in Gynecologic Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Center in New York, and her residency in Reproductive Medicine at UC San Diego. She earned her medical degree at the UC Irvine School of Medicine, and her Bachelor of Arts in Biopsychology at Cornell University, a member of the Ivy League. She is featured as a “Top Doctor” in San Diego Magazine’s annual “Physicians of Exceptional Excellence” survey by the San Diego County Medical Society. Dr. Saenz is a recipient of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Award, a member of the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG), and Chair of the Education Committee for the Foundation for Women’s Cancer.


Sharyn N. Lewin, MD 

Dr. Sharyn Lewin is Assistant Clinical Professor in Gynecologic Oncology at Columbia University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Lewin is highly skilled in radical surgical cytoreductive operations for ovarian cancer, including upper abdominal and extended pelvic resections, and is considered an expert in Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (HBOCS). Dr. Lewin was instrumental in developing and leading the Woman to Woman Program at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, which provides psychosocial support for women with gynecologic cancers.



David Alberts, MD

Dr. David Alberts is the Director of the University of Arizona’s Cancer Center, where he helps to coordinate Phase I and II clinical trials and pharmacokinetic drug studies for molecularly-targeted chemopreventive agents and anticancer drugs. In addition, Dr. Alberts leads the LIvES research initiative at the University of Arizona Cancer Center, which is a randomized controlled trial to test hypotheses relating to dietary intake and physical activity to improve progression-free survival and quality of life among women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.



 John H. Farley, MD, COL (ret), FACOG, FACS

Dr. John Farley is a Board-certified gynecologic oncologist in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. He holds dual appointments as Professor at Creighton University School of Medicine, Phoenix Regional Campus and the University of Arizona Cancer Center, Phoenix Branch. After receiving his undergraduate degree from the United States Military Academy, he earned his medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, where he later served as Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Farley completed both his residency in Obstetrics/Gynecology and his fellowship in Gynecologic Oncology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He has been a highly decorated Colonel in the U.S. Army, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal in 2005 and Meritorious Service Medal in 2006. Dr. Farley’s expertise includes clinical trial design, new drug development, and treatment of gynecologic complexities.


Ritu Salani, MD, MBA
Dr. Ritu Salani is Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Ohio State University Medical Center, with expertise in the full range of women’s cancer care services. Dr. Salani completed her fellowship in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, Maryland. She believes strongly in taking a holistic approach to patient care, creating a partnership between the patient, her family, the physician, and the extended care services delivery personnel throughout the process of decision-making, treatment, and recovery. Dr. Salani’s research interests include surgery for advanced ovarian cancer, survivorship issues, and healthcare quality and outcomes analysis.


Heidi J. Gray, MD 
Dr. Heidi Gray is Associate Professor in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Dr. Gray obtained her undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of California, San Diego, and her degree in Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, graduating Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA). She completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Washington, and went on to compete her fellowship in Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. 

Dr. Gray has been on faculty at the University of Washington since 2004, and is an Associate Affiliate of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Dr. Gray is a member on the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) Cervix Committee and is co-Principal Investigator on a multi-institutional Radiation Therapy Oncology Group/GOG trial in cervical cancer. She serves as co-Chair of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology Government Relations Committee. Her research interests are in innovative clinical trials for gynecologic malignancies, immunotherapy for ovarian cancer, and improvement in quality of life for women with gynecologic cancer. 


 Susan Bratton, MBA, Chief Executive Officer
Susan founded Meals to Heal in 2011 after a career on Wall Street where she represented and focused exclusively on early- and growth-stage healthcare services and insurance companies.  Susan brings to Meals to Heal over 25 years of industry experience in healthcare and business, as well as expertise in strategy, finance, and management.  Susan was a member of the healthcare groups at firms including Donaldson; Lufkin & Jenrette; Robertson, Stephens, and Wasserstein; and Perella & Company. 

Susan earned a B.A. from Duke University and an MBA from the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business.  She is actively involved in a number of industry associations including Women Business Leaders in Healthcare, and the Healthcare Business Women’s Association.  She also serves on the Advisory Board of HCap, the national leading venue for healthcare providers and capital to meet.  In addition to her professional responsibilities, Susan volunteers for the Pediatric Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and is a marathon runner representing MSKCC on Fred’s Team to raise money for cancer research.


Carolyn Muller, MD
Dr. Carolyn Muller is Professor and Chief of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of New Mexico. She is a trained physician-scientist who is both active clinically and in collaborative research with an emphasis on clinical-translational trials.   Dr. Muller’s research focus is in the surgical and medical management of ovarian cancer, and she has special expertise in intraperitoneal cancer treatment. Dr. Muller is nationally recognized for her scientific contributions in gynecologic oncology. With over 20 years of experience, Dr. Muller serves as a scientific reviewer for several National Institute of Health and Department of Defense Committees. She continues to practice comprehensive contemporary management of all issues facing women with gynecologic cancer.


 Anne Weber  
Anne Weber lives in Tampa, Florida. A Survivor and inspirational speaker, Anne has Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (HBOCS), also known as the BRCA mutation. She was diagnosed with both ovarian and breast cancers by the time she was 30 years old. Anne credits her status as a two-time Survivor to the fact that she was proactive in her health, and sought out physicians who could provide her with the information she needed to make some very personal medical decisions. In her role as a Patient-Speaker, Anne encourages all women to thoroughly understand their cancer family history and to bring it to the attention of their doctors. Anne is a newlywed; she and her husband David enjoy spending time with their dogs, and look forward to starting a family in the near future.



Mitchell P. Rosen, MD

Dr. Mitchell Rosen has spearheaded the University of California, San Francisco Fertility Preservation Program. The Program provides outstanding clinical care, conducts translational research, and educates providers as well as the public. Dr. Rosen’s clinical and research focus is on the preservation of fertility in cancer patients and optimizing ovarian stimulation protocols. A graduate of the St. Louis University School of Medicine, Dr. Rosen was an Obstetrics and Gynecology resident at the University of Texas, and a fellow in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at UC San Francisco. Dr. Rosen is Board-certified in both Obstetrics/Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.




Dr. Darlene Gibbon is Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Chief of Gynecologic Oncology at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers. Dr. Gibbon is Board Certified in Gynecologic Oncology and Obstetrics/Gynecology. She is one of a few gynecologic oncologists in the country who is board certified in Hospice and Palliative Care Medicine. In addition to maintaining a busy clinical practice that incorporates participation in clinical trials, with the surgical and medical care of women diagnosed with a gynecologic malignancy, Dr. Gibbon incorporates palliative techniques to improve the quality of life of her patients. Dr. Gibbon has been recognized for her commitment to patient care, receiving numerous awards, including the Cancer Institutes “Leadership in Patient Care Award” in 2009, 2013 Union County Women of Excellence in Medicine, and the Morris Glass, MD ’25 Master Teacher Award in Gynecologic Oncology, awarded by the Alumni Association of the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center. On several occasions, Dr. Gibbon was also named “Top Doctor in New Jersey” by New Jersey Magazine. Her research interests have focused on clinical research, in particular Phase I clinical trial development, and translational research endeavors for women diagnosed with a gynecologic malignancy, with a focus on ovarian cancer.


©2015 National Ovarian Cancer Coalition