Vera Packard, MD: Executive Director
Dr. Vera Packard is originally from Brazil, where she earned her Medical Degree, and specialized in breast disease, particularly in breast cancer at Guys Hospital in London. In her home country, she worked in private practice in addition to the University Hospital for 20 years. Vera has a deep commitment to women’s health issues which inspired her to found a non-profit organization devoted to breast cancer awareness in 1997 in Brazil.
Dr. Packard has been the Executive Director for the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation for the last 9 years, where she led a talented, dedicated staff on a mission to improve the lives of breast cancer survivors in the Bay Area. She also opened 2 new program stores for the organization and tripled the budget, while increasing their services from an average of 700 clients a year to well over 1,500.
Vera believes in communities coming together helping each other. She was inspired by her experience as an exchange student in Washington State in 1977. She has served as president of her former Rotary club in Brazil and was a leader in the medical community in Natal, Brazil. She is currently a board member of Wardrobe for Opportunity, an organization that helps man and women find a job, keep a job and build a career. Vera has been awarded one of the 100 Women of Influence by the Silicone Valley Business Journal, Outstanding Business Woman by American Business Women’s Association, Bay Area Council and the Ruby Award by the Soroptimist 24-680 Club from Walnut Creek.
Vera is married to Mark, and has a beautiful family. Their daughter Mac, and son Tiago, with his new wife Georgea are all proud to call Northern California home.
Karen Ambrogi: Communications Manager
Karen Ambrogi joined Lazarex Cancer Foundation in February 2009. Karen manages Lazarex's internet presence and online community development through websites, blogs, newsletters and social media. She has a strong base in relationship building and service – from working with the mentally handicapped to a very long career incorporating technical sales, account management, technical writing and leadership skills training.
A pre midlife career change led her to establish a company that offered education and travel programs designed to encourage more conscious, authentic and creative living by exploring the mind/body/spirit connection. After losing two brothers in law to pancreatic cancer, Karen is grateful to have the opportunity to give her focus and her heart in the service of building a bridge to hope for cancer patients and their families.
Susan Blick: Development Assistant
Susan joined the Lazarex team in July 2015 after graduating from Colgate University with a degree in Environmental Studies and Sociology & Anthropology. She was a member of Colgate’s rowing team and over her four years she gained a passion for fitness and liquid water (it was usually frozen in Upstate New York). After taking a course on medical anthropology, she learned that there is often more than meets the eye when it comes to medical care. She’s excited to be part of an organization that makes cancer care more accessible to people of all backgrounds.
Jenny Grau: Financial Manager
Jenny has had two close family members affected by cancer and is pleased to be serving the patients of Lazarex Cancer Foundation as Financial Coordinator. Her main task is to provide timely and accurate patient reimbursements in order for patients to remain in their clinical trials which potentially could be interrupted by financial difficulties.
Her experience in retail merchandising, sales, marketing and community volunteering brings a variety of skills to the position. She is a graduate of Oregon State University, lives in Pleasanton with her husband and has two grown children.
Tami Keeler: Office And Patient Services Manager
A San Ramon, CA resident, Tami Keeler joined Lazarex Cancer Foundation in 2007 as Office and Patient Services Manager. With over fifteen years of customer service experience under her belt, Tami is well prepared for the most important part of her work - looking after Lazarex’s VIPs (Very Important Patients) by coordinating patient applications, reimbursements, travel logistics and clinical trial assistance. Tami applies her vast array of other skills to the administration, event planning, design, and logistical aspects of the Lazarex organization.
Titles and work functions aside, Tami is a woman of persistence, humor and compassion. These are qualities greatly needed in the daily striving to offer hope, dignity and life to those seeking assistance through Lazarex's program services. She is also an artist, photographer and mom. Her best work of art is her son. Tami is thankful to be able use her talents to help Lazarex fulfill its mission of providing hope and assistance to people with cancer who have been told they have run out of options.
Erin Miller: Development Manager
Erin Miller is a graduate of Florida State University School of Business with a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing and a minor is sales. After graduating, she worked as a Marketing Representative for IBM selling mid-range computer hardware and software. In 1993, she married Michael Miller. The following year they had the first of three children.
In May 2003, Mike was diagnosed with stage IV, non-resectable pancreatic cancer. It was the difficult and painful journey to save Mike's life that led them to a search for a clinical trial while undergoing traditional cancer therapy. Mike’s participation in the clinical trial resulted in 19 months of life instead of the prognosis of five months.
Since then Erin served as the Director of Marketing for a car dealership, and was Owner/Operator of a small retail business until 2016 when she and her family relocated to California. Her involvement with Lazarex Cancer Foundation as a board member, advisor and volunteer has been a blessing to her and her family as a way to help people whose lives have been ravaged by cancer.
In 2017 Erin joined the Lazarex team. As the Program Services Coordinator responsible for community outreach and education, she will use her experiences and passion to improve patient access to cancer clinical trials.
Ryan Noonan: Patient Intake Assistant
Ryan Noonan is administrative assistant in charge of patient calls, inputting patient information into the database, and other inner office logistics. Ryan graduated from Auburn University in Auburn, AL in 2007 with a degree in Communications and also obtained a Master’s degree in Secondary Education from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA. He has a passion for mentoring youth and he is determined to bring that very same passion to Lazarex to help those who are in need.
Ryan feels a special connection to Lazarex that dates back to before its founding. Ryan lost his uncle to pancreatic cancer back in 2003, which now is one of the many reasons he wants to help others and do what he can to contribute to the Lazarex cause.
Ronna Spaan: Bookkeeping Patient Assistant
Ronna was first introduced to Lazarex Cancer Foundation when she attended the foundation's 2012 gala onboard the USS Hornet in Alameda. She and her husband were guests of a friend who is a longtime supporter of Lazarex. In 2014 she attended the “Give Cancer the Boot” fundraiser and knew then that she wanted to be a part of this organization. She loves the mission and offered to volunteer, helping out in the office wherever a hand was needed.
A year later Ronna was hired to do bookkeeping and patient assistance. It is a challenging and fulfilling role that Ronna claims is "the best job ever!"
Paige Wycoff: Patient Navigator
Paige Wycoff joins the Lazarex team as a Patient Navigator of clinical trials. Since hearing about Lazarex and its mission, she was determined to be a part of helping cancer patients improve and extend their lives.
Paige brings valuable experience to Lazarex on the regulatory side of clinical trials, including coordinating and managing Institutional Review Boards (IRB) for the protection of human research subjects while working at University of California, Los Angles, the University of the Pacific Dental School, and California Pacific Medical Center. She holds a certification in clinical trial planning and management from UC Berkeley and a Bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University. She is thrilled to be working with Lazarex and assisting cancer patients in the identification of clinical trial options.
Paige is the mother of four amazing teenagers and an avid snow skier. Her entire family is thrilled every time it rains in the Bay Area because that means it’s snowing in Lake Tahoe!