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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.

Family Advisory Council

To promote ideal family and patient-centered care in dementia, the UCSF Memory and Aging Center has created a Family Advisory Council that provides family caregiver input regarding the delivery of clinical care services.

To promote ideal family and patient-centered care in dementia, the UCSF Memory and Aging Center has created a Family Advisory Council that provides family caregiver input regarding the delivery of clinical care services. Topics may include feedback regarding the existing services as well as ideas regarding new innovative programs under development or raising awareness regarding the priorities or unmet needs of families and patients at the MAC. The council is comprised of family caregivers who care, or have cared, for persons with dementia.

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.

Sara Dunlop

Staff Research Associate

Sara received a bachelor's degree in physiology from San Francisco State University in 2013. As an undergraduate, Sara worked as a lab assistant in the university’s human anatomy lab, assisting in curriculum development and developing a standard protocol for rehydrating embalmed specimens in order to preserve dissections for future teaching.

Sara joined the Grinberg Lab in 2013 with a passion to pursue neurodegenerative research. Her work investigates the susceptibility of specific brainstem nuclei affected in Alzheimer's disease using a combination of immunohistochemistry, histology and unbiased stereological techniques. She plans to pursue a medical career with a focus in neuropathology.

Maryana Alegro, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Alegro joined the Grinberg Lab in 2015, aiming to research and develop advanced image processing techniques to improve the understanding of neurodegenerative diseases. She received her master of science degree in electrical engineering from the University of São Paulo Polytechnic School in 2009, where she focused on MRI brain tumor segmentation using machine learning. In 2014, she completed her doctorate degree at the University of São Paulo Polytechnic School, where her research focused on MRI and histology image registration. Dr. Alegro's research interests include color representation, for better segmentation and registration, and the use of advanced machine learning for image analysis.

Maria Mejia, HT (ASCP)

Staff Research Associate

Maria’s histology professional career illustrates a panorama of various neurology research experiences. Prior to joining UCSF, Maria obtained her bachelor's degree from Saint Mary's College (Kansas) and then worked for 18 years at a private institute performing a wide range of histology techniques on the visual system of the brain and the retina to increase the understanding of normal vision and eye disorders.

In 2006, Maria was recruited as the histology supervisor to work with Dr. Krystof Bankiewicz at UCSF to support the translational efforts of the laboratory. Maria’s part played an important role in performing the work necessary to initiate the clinical trials for Parkinson’s disease (PD). She came to the Grinberg Lab in 2013 where she manages the lab's histology protocols.

Natasha Z. Rabinowitz Steele, MPH

Program Manager

Natasha Rabinowitz Steele joined the MAC team in 2014 as the program manager of the Dementia Care Pathway program, led by Dr. Bruce Miller and Dr. Kate Rankin. This Quest Diagnostics-supported initiative translates best practices in screening, evaluating, and managing dementia and neurodegenerative disease into tools for primary care practitioners and their patients. As program manager, Natasha coordinates and integrates the ongoing diagnostic tool development and research of many different investigator led teams, including neuroimaging, neurobehavioral screening, genetics, economics, and rapidly progressive dementia.

Natasha earned her bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College in Biology and a Master of Public Health degree in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from the George Washington University. She’s particularly interested in working with patients and exploring how medicine and translational research can act synergistically to improve clinical outcomes, particularly in low-resource settings.

Outside of her academic interests, Natasha spends her free time painting or exploring the mountain ranges of the West Coast.

Kristi Lui

Clinical Research Coordinator

Kristi graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in biological sciences. During her time at Northwestern, Kristi volunteered at a local nursing home, Symphony of Evanston, with a focus on providing long term care in specialized memory care units.

After working with numerous patients in memory loss and dementia care, Kristi shifted her studies to a concentration of neurobiology and pursued research in the Laboratory of Human Neuroscience at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine. Her research focused on the long term neurological effects in acute ischemic stroke patients from Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

As of September 2015, Kristi joined the Memory and Aging Center as a 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 her spare time, Kristi enjoys playing basketball, finding remote coffee shop corners in the Bay Area and hiking.

Kelly Gola

Lab Specialist

Kelly joined Dr. Rankin’s lab in 2014. She is completing her doctorate degree in developmental psychology at UC Santa Cruz where she has studied dyadic personality dynamics and the cognitive, socio-emotional, and neural underpinnings of everyday storytelling. While working with Dr. Rankin, she has examined intrinsic connectivity networks involvement in social cognition, emotional self-expression in neurodegenerative disease, and neuropsychiatric symptoms in neurodegenerative disease. Her current work aims to understand cerebellar involvement in social functioning and neuropsychiatric symptoms in neurodegenerative disease populations.

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