mac

Main Site "Silo"

Ali Zahir

Research Coordinator

Ali Zahir is a research coordinator working with Dr. Winston Chiong on decision-making and how it is affected by aging and neurodegenerative disease. He attended University of California, Berkeley, where he received a degree in nutritional sciences and toxicology.

Outside of work, Ali volunteers at the Berkeley Free Clinic as a community health worker, and in his spare time, he enjoys training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, hiking, and telling jokes with friends.

Karen Dorsman

Research Coordinator

Karen was born and raised in Nicaragua, where her interest in neuropsychology and community health began. Her passion for travel took her to Uruguay, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. While working on her honors thesis, she trained in clinical neuropsychology with mentors Sergio Dansilio, MD; Luis Fontan, MD; and Jorge Lorenzo, MD. During that time, she developed a strong interest toward healthy aging.

Since moving to the US, she served as a volunteer research assistant in the Life-Span Development Lab and the Psychophysiology Lab at Stanford University. Karen also worked as Program Coordinator at There With Care, a non-profit that supports families with critically ill children, as well as a Caregiver Resource Specialist at Family Caregiver Alliance. Karen is interested in working with underserved populations and joined the Memory and Aging Center in 2016 to coordinate and assess Latino participants who join MAC studies. In order to increase diversity in the MAC research programs, she also does community outreach.

Her research interests include healthy aging and underrepresented populations, particularly how culture and coping strategies influence the way we embrace changes as we become older adults. She also has a passion for clinical neuropsychology and in the next few years, she plans to pursue a graduate degree in neuroscience or clinical psychology.

In her spare time, Karen enjoys cooking, trying new culinary spots, and reading. She also loves volunteering and supports her local library and businesses.

Mariella Lauriola

Visiting Scholar

Mariella Lauriola is a PhD degree candidate in Neuroscience, Imaging and Clinical Sciences at the University “G. d’Annunzio” of Chieti-Pescara (Italy). She got her bachelor degree in biological psychology at the University of Padova (Italy) and her Master of Science degree in Psychology (curriculum of Neuroscience) at the University of Trento (Italy). Her main research interests during the last years have been normal and pathological aging, sleep, neuroimaging and cognition. As a part of her PhD clinical and research training, she is now visiting at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, where she is actively involved in data collection and neuropsychological evaluation of research participants, working closely with both Dr. Gil Rabinovici and Dr. Joel Kramer. In addition to her work, Mariella loves sports, nature and animals.

Ariane Welch

Clinical Research Coordinator

Ariane is a speech language pathologist from Australia. She graduated from the University of Sydney, Australia with a bachelor of arts degree (Hons) in English, Linguistics and Semiotics and has a masters degree in speech language pathology, also from the University of Sydney. During her undergraduate degree, she researched multi-modal discourse analysis, creating a system network for the illustration of facial affect in children’s literature and completing a research project on embodied semiosis in political photography. She will be working with Drs. Maria Luisa Gorno Tempini on primary progressive aphasia, Zachary Miller on dyslexia and Kevin Shapiro on pediatric stroke.

Fanny Elahi, MD, PhD

Behavioral Neurology Fellow

Dr. Elahi is a clinical fellow in behavioral neurology.

Joanne Taylor, MS, LCGC

Genetic Counselor

Joanne Taylor received her bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and her master’s degree in genetic counseling from UC Berkeley. She worked at Stanford University for more than 20 years in a prenatal clinic advising patients about inherited diseases and testing options.

Joanne joined the Memory and Aging Center at UCSF in 2016 as part of the genetic counseling team. She helps families understand the genetic component of neurodegenerative diseases.

Lena Driscoll, MSN

Nurse

Lena is a full-time nurse in the Memory and Aging Center Clinic. She completed her master’s degree in nursing at UCSF School of Nursing. Prior to being a nurse, Lena worked for biotechnology companies doing research in skeletal and neurological diseases. In her free time she can be found gardening or hiking around San Francisco.

Cathy Wang, ASW, MSW

Clinical Social Worker

Cathy earned a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University in New York. She has worked with adults and seniors in hospitals, patients’ homes, and clinics. She is also a consultant who trains and supports social workers in long-term care facilities to maintain state licensure and accreditation. Before joining UCSF, she was a social work discharge planner, ensuring that patients had services in place upon leaving the hospital. She is an advocate for patients, families and caregivers through supportive education and linking them to appropriate resources to meet their needs.

Jeff Choi

Clinical Research Coordinator

Jeff graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a degree in human biology. During his time at UC Berkeley, Jeff was active in volunteering abroad in mobile clinics in the Dominican Republic and South Africa. He also worked as a Cantonese health interpreter for different hospitals and clinics.

During his college career, Jeff was involved in the Golden Bear Sleep and Mood Clinic to conduct clinical trials for patients with insomnia and other sleep disturbances. In 2013, he started working as a research intern in the Seeley Lab, where he mainly assisted with brain banking and brain blocking procedures to generate histology information.

Jeff joined the Memory and Aging Center in September 2015 as a Clinical Research Coordinator for the Care Ecosystem study. The study aims to learn more about the needs of both patients with dementia and their family, while improving the care of these patients and reducing health care costs in the future.

In his spare time, Jeff enjoys traveling to interesting countries, camping, running and exploring new spots in the city.

Peter A. Ljubenkov, MD

Behavioral Neurology Fellow

Dr. Ljubenkov received his medical degree from Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. During his training he took part in the Medical Student Training in Aging Research (MSTAR) program at University of California, Los Angeles, where he investigated midbrain and basal ganglia pathology in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. He went on to complete his internship in internal medicine at University of California, Irvine, and his residency in neurology at University of California, San Diego. In 2015 he became a clinical fellow in behavioral neurology at the Memory and Aging Center at University of California, San Francisco. He currently evaluates and manages patients with a variety of adult-onset neurodegenerative cognitive disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia spectrum disease, Lewy body disease and Huntington’s disease, within clinical, observational research, therapeutic clinical trial settings. Dr. Ljubenkov’s current research focus involves validation of novel markers of frontotemporal dementia disease progression, particularly in the context of clinical trials.

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