Arkansas Cancer Coalition

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Our Team

These are the people that keep the Arkansas Cancer Coalition running. Their hard work and dedication allows us to continue to connect people across Arkansas to fight cancer together.

Arkansas Cancer Coalition Staff

Trena Mitchell, MA, CNP
Executive Director

Office: (501) 404-2351

Miriam Karanja, MBA
Director of Programs

Office: (501) 404-4875

Rachael Moore, AAS, AA
Operations Manager

Office: (501) 404-2307

Nikki Butler, BS
Grants Manager

Office: (501) 408-3867

Nicole Blanks, BA
Community Outreach Coordinator

Office: (501) 404-2343

Board Members

Marian Evans, DrPH, MPH

Dr. Marian Evans is the Coordinator for the Minority Initiative Sub-Recipient Grant Office (MISRGO) and the Interim Director for the Minority Research Center on Tobacco & Addictions at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff™ (UAPB). Her background consists of approximately 22 years of experience in program planning and development, capacity building, grant writing, and program evaluation. Dr. Evans completed a Master of Public Health degree from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, and a Doctor of Public Health degree in Public Health Leadership from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist, a Certified Grant Evaluator, and a member of the American Evaluation Association.

Dr. Evans has served on the Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Jefferson County and the Arkansas Coalition for Excellence (now the Arkansas Non-Profit Alliance). She has also served on two start-up non-profit boards, Involve, Inc. and REFORM, Inc. Involve, Inc. addresses the health and wellness issues that underrepresented communities face. REFORM, Inc.’s purpose is to empower transitional independent aged youth and young adults from 14-24 to become leaders.

Kenya Eddings, MPH, CWWS, CRS

Kenya L. Eddings, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas received her undergraduate degree from Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama and her graduate degree from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana. She currently serves as Workplace Wellness Manager for the Arkansas Department of Health. Previously, Kenya worked as a Research Scientist for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Her research interests included behavioral weight loss and maintenance in African American women and access to healthy food and food deserts.

Ever the servant-leader, she is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Junior League of Little Rock, Leadership Greater Little Rock Class XXIII, Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society and serves on various boards including the Arkansas Arts Center, Quapaw Quarter Association, and the Beverly Divers-White Foundation. In addition, Kenya serves on the steering committees of Philander Smith College’s Social Justice Institute, Women’s Foundation of Arkansas and is the co-founder of Kuumba Arts Collective, an art appreciation group partnered with Hearne Fine Art.

Chris Collier

A native Arkansan raised in Hot Springs, Chris Collier earned his Bachelor of Arts in political science from Hendrix College in Conway. He was recently hired as the new Executive Director of the Arkansas Prostate Cancer Foundation (APCF), bringing over thirty (30) years of experience in business, education, and non-profit leadership to the position. He is a Founder/Managing Partner in Top Level Tournaments, LLC, and has served as a financial advisor and manager. Chris has been a high school business teacher, department head, and coach. He has also served on and chaired many non-profit boards throughout central Arkansas. Professionally he most recently served as the Director of Organizational Development for Arkansas Teacher Corps, a non-profit arm of the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

With his extensive background and successes in a broad array of ventures, Collier has the experience and perspective to guide APCF as the organization continues to expand its depth and breadth across the state of Arkansas. He is a frequent speaker and presenter and leads various organizational and educational outreach activities. He provides daily leadership for his staff, drives relationship building statewide and beyond with patients, supporters, and stakeholders. In addition, he oversees strategic planning initiatives in support of the continued growth and development of the Arkansas Prostate Cancer Foundation.

A longtime resident of central Arkansas, Mr. Collier has two sons as well as two grandsons and is engaged to Ms. Brenda Thompson of Conway. “Cancer, as a disease, is something very personal with me. I have lost friends and relatives to various forms of cancer, including prostate cancer, and I also have a number of good friends who are prostate cancer survivors. Education, through early detection, is so vitally important.”

Krista Kirksey Thomas

For 16 years, Krista Kirksey Thomas has served the cancer community of Arkansas at the American Cancer Society. Currently, Krista is the Cancer Control Strategic Partnerships Manager for the state of Arkansas. When she’s not calling the hogs for her beloved Razorbacks, she’s partnering with the state, hospital systems and federally qualified health systems to make an impact on cancer prevention and early detection and quality of life for cancer patients and caregivers. Krista lives in Little Rock with her husband, Keri, daughters, Addy and Emmy, and dog, Marley.

Gwendolyn Bryant-Smith, M.D.

Gwendolyn Bryant-Smith, M.D. is a native of Arkansas. She is the Chief of Breast Imaging and the Breast Imaging Fellowship Director in the Department of Radiology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). A graduate of the UAMS College of Medicine, Bryant-Smith completed her internship at UAMS, followed by a residency in diagnostic radiology and fellowship training in the UAMS Breast Imaging Fellowship program. She is board certified in Diagnostic Radiology.
Bryant-Smith joined the UAMS Department of Radiology in 2006. She served as Director of Breast Imaging in the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System (CAVHS) Department of Radiology from July 1, 2008 to February 29, 2016. She was named Chief of Breast Imaging at UAMS in the Department of Radiology March 1, 2016.

She has served as chair of the National Veterans Affairs Mammography Advisory Committee and as a subject matter expert on the Upper Midwest Consolidated Services Center (UMCSC) Biopsy Instruments and Needles Committee with Mayo Clinic. She is a clinical image reviewer for the Arkansas Mammography Accreditation Program, a member of the UAMS Radiology Residency Program Evaluation Committee, a member of the UAMS Mammography Workgroup, and an Envoy Board member of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.

Bryant-Smith has a strong interest in patient advocacy and health policy. She testified before the 2017 Arkansas General Assembly House and Senate Insurance and Commerce Committees in a successful effort to gain insurance coverage for Digital Breast Tomosynthesis and Whole Breast Ultrasound for women in the state of Arkansas. Bryant-Smith is a member of the American College of Radiology, Arkansas Radiological Society, Radiological Society of North America, and the Society of Breast Imaging.

Cecil McDonald

Cecil McDonald is an experienced Senior Executive with a demonstrated history of working in the hospitality industry, legislative relations, skilled in nonprofit organizations, entrepreneurship, volunteer management, and public speaking.

Mr. McDonald is serving his 2nd term as Justice of the Peace, for District 6, Mississippi County, in Blytheville, Arkansas.  He won this election by 80% of the votes (March 2020).  Mr. McDonald has been active in politics since the age of 15.

He is the Vice President at McDonald-Horne Funeral Home a family owned business that has been around for over four decades, in Blytheville, Arkansas. 

 Mr. McDonald earned the distinguished honor to work as a Presidential Appointee during the President William Jefferson Clinton Administration, in Washington, DC.  He worked tirelessly and gained further knowledge and skills in the following agencies and offices: US Department of Commerce, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Confidential to the Assistant Secretary. US Department of Agriculture, Office of Community Economic Development, Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities Initiative a Presidential Initiative Program

 In addition, Mr. McDonald works for Mississippi County Economic Opportunity Commission, Inc. in the Mississippi County Cancer Council, Fatherhood Initiative, Early Head Start and Head Start program. Mississippi County, Arkansas, Economic Opportunity Commission promotes stability and economic security to families and children living in Mississippi County, Arkansas.  He is the past  President of Arkansas Statewide Fatherhood Initiative based in Little Rock, Arkansas. 

When Mr. McDonald is not working, he is riding his bicycle with the Major Taylor Cycling Club of Little Rock, Arkansas, “The Rock City Riders”.

He is a graduate of Hampton University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Government.  He has a love for University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Arkansas which he attended also.

Valandra German, DrPH, MPH

Valandra German, DrPH, MPH is an Associate Professor, Office of Heath Initiatives and Disparities Research, Department of Surgery, College of Medicine, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Dr. German has extensive experience in leadership, management of community-based programs, community capacity building, and conducting tobacco prevention and education programs, research, and translation. Dr. German previously served Associate Professor and Director of the Minority Research Center on Tobacco and Addictions at the University of AR at Pine Bluff. Dr. German was responsible for spearheading, directing, and overseeing all research projects from research design to implementation, analysis and product development. Dr. German has been involved in several research projects at the University of Texas Prevention Research Center. Dr. German contributed to the evaluation of health promotion and disease prevention research projects that were funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The research projects included a breadth of topics including interventions to address health disparities in prostate cancer among African American men, tobacco cessation, and adolescent health. Dr. German was also a Senior Research Coordinator & a Behavioral Science Research Manager at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in the Department of Health Disparities Research. As Senior Research Coordinator/Behavioral Science Research Manager, Dr. German had the opportunity gain experience in all aspects of project management including helping to design and implement community based research studies, navigate the myriad regulatory compliance and human subjects’ issues with Institutional Review Boards, management of grant portfolios and participant databases, assist in the development of study protocols and materials, oversee the participant screening process, conduct study visits including biochemical samples, administer questionnaires, supervise research staff, assist with data management, and perform quality control on multiple large scale interventions.

Dr. German earned her doctorate in Public Health/Community Health Education from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, her master’s degree in Public Health/Community Health Education from the Des Moines University of Osteopathic Medicine, and her bachelor’s degree in Community Health Education from Dillard University. Her research interests are health disparities with a particular focus on understanding the influence of spirituality and psycho-social mechanisms important to maintaining predisposing risk behaviors among underserved and vulnerable populations, in particular, related to tobacco use, cancer screening adherence, and community-based participatory research.

Connie Hill, DNP, MBA, FACHE

Hill is a registered nurse practitioner who also holds a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from Vanderbilt University and an MBA from the University of Colorado at Denver. Before joining St. Bernards, she served as chief executive officer of Cardiology Associates (now St. Bernards Heart and Vascular). She was recently honored as a finalist for Nurse of the Year in the Healthcare Heroes program sponsored by Arkansas Business.

Hill and her husband, Dr. Roger Hill, have three grown children: Drew Hill, Maggie Faughn and Lauren H. Ball.

Abby Holt, MPH, MLIS

Abby Holt is the Director of the Arkansas Central Cancer Registry at the Arkansas Department of Health. She is responsible for all operations of the cancer registry and coordinates activities according to guidance from the National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR) at the CDC. She develops and monitors the progress of program objectives and enforces rules and regulations pertaining to the collection and dissemination of state cancer data. She coordinates activities of the Arkansas Cancer Registry Advisory Committee and assures all approved outcomes from the committee are addressed. She’s currently involved in a national pilot project, Virtual Pooled Registry – Cancer Linkage System (VPR-CLS), with the National Association of Central Cancer Registries and is a voting member of the organization. She previously worked as the cancer epidemiologist for the registry program and coordinated the publication of the Arkansas Cancer Facts & Figures report.

Sharp Malak, MD, MPH

Dr. Malak is a nationally-recognized expert in the early detection of breast cancer. He serves on the American College of Radiology (ACR) Commission on Breast Imaging and Emerging Technology, is a faculty lecturer for the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) Screening Leadership group, serves on the ACR Breast Imaging Appropriateness Criteria Committee, and is the past president of the Arkansas chapter of the ACR. His research focuses on reducing breast cancer disparities by removing barriers to early detection. Dr. Malak recently co-authored the new Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations from the ACR and the SBI.

Dr. Malak completed his fellowship specialty training in Breast Imaging at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He is a graduate of the UAMS College of Medicine, and completed his 5 year residency training in Diagnostic Radiology at UAMS. Prior to medical school, he earned a masters degree in Public Health from Columbia University in New York and served as an Epidemiologist at Memorial-Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He is a graduate of Hendrix College. 

Dr. Malak practices breast imaging exclusively at St. Bernards Healthcare in Jonesboro, AR performing screening mammography, diagnostic mammography, breast ultrasound, breast MRI, and all forms of image-guided breast biopsies.

Daniela Ochoa, MD

Dr. Daniela Ochoa sees patients in the second-floor clinics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and serves as an instructor of surgery in the Division of Breast Surgical Oncology in the UAMS College of Medicine.

Ochoa’s practice focuses on the surgical treatment of malignant and benign breast disease. Fluent in Spanish, she also plans to help ease the language and cultural barriers Hispanic patients sometimes encounter when facing diseases of the breast.

A graduate of Texas A&M University System Health Science Center College of Medicine, Ochoa recently completed her fellowship training in diseases of the breast at UAMS.

She is a member of numerous professional organizations including the Society of Surgical Oncology and the Association of Women Surgeons.

Elizabeth (Izzy) Montgomery

Elizabeth (Izzy) Montgomery is a Policy Analyst at the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI). She has over a decade of public health experience, which began with an internship with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families in 2010. Since 2012, Montgomery has been part of the ACHI team and has held roles in both project management and policy analysis. During her tenure with ACHI, she has developed countless blogs, explainers, and infographics on key healthcare topics for various stakeholders; provided consulting support to the Arkansas Employee Benefits Division related to plan utilization and program development; and has led internal efforts to identify and pursue external funding opportunities. She also represents ACHI on the Chronic Disease Coordinating Council where she serves as secretary. Montgomery is a graduate of Hendrix College and earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Yara Robertson, MD

Yara V. Robertson, M.D. is fellowship-trained breast surgical oncologist and is board certified in general surgery. Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Dr. Robertson is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and completed her medical school at Quillen College of Medicine (East Tennessee State University). After finishing her general surgery residency at UAMS, she completed a fellowship in Diseases of the Breast at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at UAMS. In 2011, she moved to Atlanta, GA and spent 9 years in a private breast surgical oncology practice. In 2020, she was recruited back to Little Rock, AR and joined CARTI Cancer Center.  

She has served as Vice-Chairman of the Atlanta based organization Sisters by Choice (SBC), a non-profit organization that provides support for women diagnosed with breast cancer, educates on breast health, and provides free breast health screenings to uninsured women. Due to her work with SBC, she has received congressional recognition from Georgia Congressman David Scott. She currently serves as an advisor for Not Putting on a Shirt, which is national non-profit organization that advocates for optimal surgical outcomes for women who choose to go flat after mastectomy. She also serves in an advisory role for the organization Learn Look Locate which provides education and advocacy for the early detection of breast cancer.

As a kidney cancer survivor herself, Dr. Robertson is fully aware of the importance of the patient’s role in shared decision making and advocates for patient centered care.

Katherine Donald

Katherine Donald has served as the Executive Director for the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas for more than twenty (20) years. She has been instrumental in assisting in the passage of several statewide and local tobacco control laws, and numerous voluntary policies that help to protect the public from exposure to secondhand smoke in places where they live, work, learn, worship, and play.

For the past thirty plus years, Katherine has worked professionally for both the private and public sector, in fields affecting adolescent development, family enrichment, public health, and community development. She is a certified trainer and consultant for a national organization that focuses on family enrichment and parental empowerment issues. Katherine has conducted trainings and supervised iterant programs from California to Massachusetts, and much of the Mid-west. Additionally, she has managed and administered a multiplicity of programs at the local level.

Katherine received her first degree from Philander Smith College, in Little Rock, Arkansas, and continued her education through graduate studies in Rehabilitation Education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

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