Cheers to the New Year recognizes exemplary achievements

On Jan. 12, UF Health Cancer Center faculty and staff gathered at the Cade Museum to celebrate the numerous achievements in 2023 and toast to the opportunities and doubtless successes of the coming year. The annual event also included an awards presentation to highlight several members of the UF Health Cancer Center community for their exemplary accomplishments in the last year.

Dr. Jonathan Licht speaks during the Cheers to the New Year event.
Jonathan D. Licht, M.D., the UF Health Cancer Center’s director, speaks during Cheers to the New Year at the Cade Museum on Jan. 12.

The past year was one of the most momentous in the UF Health Cancer Center’s history as it reached the remarkable milestone of designation from the National Cancer Institute. This achievement exemplifies the Cancer Center’s commitment to teamwork and is a testament to the fact that the center’s work has reached a level of national excellence.

In 2023, the center also expanded its research programs to meet the needs of a growing membership that is now reaching 350 researchers, strengthen the impact of its cancer research and facilitate clinical translation of discoveries. The year also included several key leadership changes to position the center to reach even greater heights.

Awards and Recognitions

UF Health Cancer Center Basic Science Research Staff Member of the Year Award: 

Song Han, Ph.D.

Song Han, Ph.D., Associate Research Scientist, Department of Surgery

“Song has been engaged in a tireless pursuit of new treatments
that can improve outcomes for patients with pancreatic cancer.
Her laboratory efforts have also been critical to developing
PDX models that are far more representative of the patients we
care for.”

UF Health Cancer Center Clinical Research Staff Member of the Year Award: 

Kristina Illigan, M.S.N., M.P.H., R.N.

Kristina Iligan, M.S.N., M.P.H., R.N., Clinical Research Nurse

“As a research assistant, it has been such a huge pleasure to
work under Kristina in our different clinical trials. She is truly
an understanding, compassionate coordinator who works well
with the study sponsors/CROs and clinical staff on 7 West. She
goes above and beyond for her patients, making sure their
concerns are heard and their treatment procedures go as
smooth as possible.”

UF Health Cancer Center Population Sciences Research Staff Member of the Year Award: 

portrait of sara carlton, ccps

Sara Carlton, CCPS Navigator

“Very professional and goes above and beyond,
organizes information on CCPS research accruals,
communicates effectively, has a track record of
assisting members and providing support for
clinical research studies.”

UF Health Cancer Center Community Outreach Award: 

Carolyn Tucker, Ph.D.

Carolyn Tucker, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology

“Dr. Tucker has made excellent contributions to
community engagement with the development of
the Cancer Disparities Research Collaborative.
Researchers will continue to benefit from the
community connections she is building in East

UF Health Cancer Center High Enroller Award:

heat shot of jonathan chatzkel MD
Jonathan Chatzkel, M.D.

Jonathan Chatzkel, M.D., Assistant Professor, Division of Hematology & Oncology

UF Health Cancer Center Principal Investigator Award:

Stephanie Staras, Ph.D.

Stephanie Staras, Ph.D., Co-Leader, Cancer Control and Population Sciences Research Program; Associate Professor, Department of Health Outcomes and Biomedical Informatics

UF Health Cancer Center Top Influencer Award: 

Jatinder Lamba, Ph.D., Co-leader, Cancer Targeting and Therapeutics Research Program; Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education and professor, UF College of Pharmacy

Jatinder Lambda, Ph.D.

“Dr. Lamba’s influence on AML with her powerful research combined with her publications, leadership, kindness, mentoring and professional drive make her an obvious candidate for this award. As co-leader of the Cancer Targeting and Therapeutics program at the UF Health Cancer Center, she is an amazing collaborator with proven skills to build massive programs and centers of excellence within the UF community, but also with researchers throughout the U.S. and the world. It’s an honor to work with her on all levels, including two grant submissions as Co-PI, and I truly value her opinion and professionalism every day.”

UF Health Cancer Center Administration Staff Member of the Year Award: 

Jacob Harmer, M.B.A.

Jacob Harmer, M.B.A., Research Development Manager

“His extensive knowledge and reliability have greatly advanced our mission. Notably, his commitment was evident when he efficiently assumed responsibility for organizing program schedules, tracking metrics and other tasks following an unexpected staff departure. Jacob’s proactive nature and dedication make him an ideal recipient for this award.”

UF Health Cancer Center Rising Star of the Year Awards:

Top: Lakeshia Cousin, Ph.D., APRN, AGPCNP-BC, left, and Sarah Judge, Ph.D. Bottom: Sherise Rogers, M.D.

Lakeshia Cousin, Ph.D., APRN, AGPCNP-BC, Assistant Professor, Family, Community, and Health Systems Science, UF College of Nursing (Rising Star of the Year, CCPS)

Sarah Judge, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Therapy, UF College of Public Health and Health Professions (Rising Star of the Year, CTT)

Sherise Rogers, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Professor, Division of Hematology & Oncology, UF College of Medicine (Rising Star of the Year, IOM)

UF Health Cancer Center Nurse of the Year Award:

headshot of melissa lynn
Melissa Lynn, M.S.N., R.N.

Melissa Lynn, M.S.N., R.N., Oncology Nurse Navigator Coordinator

“In the short time in this position, she has already significantly
impacted patient care favorably by helping to onboard and train four new navigators in our GI, breast, lung and general units, helping to get them operational to benefit our clinical accreditations, disease-based programs and patients in record time (relative to historical onboarding timelines) and is now organizing new policies and processes that will help navigation office efficiencies.”

UF Health Cancer Center Advanced Practice Provider of the Year Award: 

Headshot of lauren staley
Lauren Staley, ARNP

Lauren Staley, ARNP

“As cancer patients live longer, there is a greater focus on
improving quality of life, including reproductive health. Lauren
balances her roles for peds oncology with a busy consult and
educational service for oncofertility. She is a caring, compassionate, team building, multi-skilled provider. She deserves this award due to her commitment and courage to successfully take on a dual-pronged position that is a collaboration between reproductive medicine and peds oncology.”

UF Health Cancer Center Physicians of the Year Award: 

Clockwise from top left: John Hiemenz, M.D., Erin Dean, M.D., Zeina Al-Mansour, M.D., Jack Hsu, M.D.

John Hiemenz, M.D., Professor, Division of Hematology & Oncology, UF College of Medicine

Erin Dean, M.D., Assistant Professor, Division of Hematology & Oncology, UF College of Medicine

Jack Hsu, M.D., Associate Professor, Division of Hematology & Oncology, UF College of Medicine

Zeina Al-Mansour, M.D., Associate Professor, Division of Hematology & Oncology, UF College of Medicine

UF Health Cancer Center Golden Gator Award: 

Jonathan D. Licht, M.D.

Jonathan D. Licht, M.D., Director, UF Health Cancer Center


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