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Clinical Trials
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Pamela Costner, RN, BSN, CDE
Research Nurse/Study Coordinator

Ingelise Gordon, RN
Research Nurse/Study Coordinator

Cynthia Starr Hendel, CRNP
Nurse Practitioner

LaSonji Holman, RN, MSN, FNP
Nurse Practitioner

Sarah Hubka, RN, MSN, NP
Senior Nurse Practitioner

Diane Johnson, MPH
Community Outreach and Recruitment Sr. Specialist

Sara Jones, MS
Community Outreach and Recruitment Specialist

Brenda D. Larkin, RN, BSN, CCRC
Clinical Manager, VRC Clinic, Clinical Trials Core

Julie Martin, D.O.
Deputy Chief/Principal Investigator

Laura Novik, RN, BSN, MA
Research Nurse/Study Coordinator

Sandra Sitar, MSc
Community Outreach and Recruitment Specialist

Pamela Costner
Pam Costner, RN, BSN, CDE joined the VRC team as a Research Nurse/Study Coordinator in 2006. She has served as a nurse, in one capacity or another, since 1987. She was an HIV counselor/educator in the late 1980s in Florida and for most of her career has operated in the public health system. Her work with the HIV positive population in a large public hospital in Seattle, Washington was what led to Mrs. Costner's initial position at NIH in 2001 with the kidney transplant nursing unit. "They were starting a protocol to perform kidney transplants in people who were HIV infected." From there she earned her certification in diabetes education and served as a protocol coordinator for two years with the National Institute Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Disease (NIDDK).

When asked why she enjoys working at the VRC she stated "I feel like all the work we do here at the VRC contributes to the general welfare of the world - the entire world. I want to teach my daughter to be a world citizen and community member and help make it a healthier and safer place for her and her generation. This is a place I can make a difference."
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Ingelise Gordon
Ingelise Gordon, RN, has joined the VRC as a Research Nurse/Study Coordinator. Mrs. Gordon has been at the National Institutes of Health since 1991. She has supported NIAID in many capacities and has worked in many of their patient care units (inpatient, outpatient and Day Hospital nursing units). As a Case Manager for HIV protocols in two different HIV clinics within the NIAID, Ingelise demonstrated her well-known skill in combination with her compassionate, thorough approach to patient care.

Mrs. Gordon worked in a dual role as both the Clinic Coordinator for NIAID's Outpatient 11 clinic, while also serving as a Case Manager for NIAID's HIV primary care clinic. Mrs. Gordon had a caseload of HIV-infected, uninsured patients who lived within 50 miles of the NIH campus, and displayed her deep satisfaction in working with these individuals while showing great empathy to her patients. The problems wrought by HIV are abundantly familiar to her.

When asked why she chose to join the VRC, Ms. Gordon stated, "Something needs to be done soon to prevent HIV altogether. Every second someone becomes infected with HIV, and it does certainly not discriminate. I think I am fortunate to be a part of an organization that will be instrumental in finding effective prevention against HIV. I want to give something to my daughter, and the other children of the world for that matter, so that they have good things to look forward to. I want to be able to say to my grandchildren, 'Once a upon a time, a very, very long time ago, there was a deadly disease called AIDS.' "
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Cynthia Starr Hendel
Cynthia Starr Hendel, CRNP serves as Nurse Practitioner for the Vaccine Research Center clinic. Ms. Hendel joined the VRC after working in Phase I/II clinical trials with HIV preventive vaccines for more than five years at the Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland, Baltimore. In her tenure with the Institute of Human Virology, Ms. Hendel served as nurse practitioner and clinic coordinator for the onsite HIV Vaccine Trials Network unit.

She is thrilled to be at the VRC where preventive and therapeutic HIV vaccines as well as other emerging disease vaccines are being developed. Her career in nursing has always emphasized health promotion and disease prevention, and her role at the VRC brings together all of her favorite aspects of nursing, health education, and clinical research. Personal health care philosophy? "The best therapy is prevention of the problem."
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LaSonji Holman
LaSonji Holman, RN, MSN, FNP, is a Nurse Practitioner for the VRC. Mrs. Holman developed a passion for preventive medicine early in her career. She is now devoted to the quest to eliminate the rampant spread of HIV and the devastating consequences of AIDS. Most recently, she worked as the senior Nurse Practitioner for Children's Hospital's Employee Health Clinic in Washington, D.C. where she diligently provided health education, risk reduction, and primary health screening for the hospital's employees and volunteers. Formerly, Mrs. Holman worked for Johns Hopkins University, Center for Immunization Research as a practitioner for phase I, II, & III HIV vaccine clinical trials.

Upon joining the VRC, LaSonji expressed, "Prevention is the key to eradicating HIV, and I am proud to be a part of it."
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Sarah Hubka
Sarah Hubka, RN, MSN, NP is a senior nurse practitioner who has joined the VRC from Boston. Ms. Hubka managed Phase II, III and IV HIV clinical research trials for the Community Research Initiative of New England, a small, non-profit research organization. While there, she successfully facilitated the testing a new class of investigational, injectable HIV medications known as fusion inhibitors. For the past three years, Sarah has worked exclusively in nursing research, and has been responsible for all levels of conducting complex HIV clinical trials. This focused experience is sure to enhance the work of the Clinical Trials Core of the VRC.

Ms. Hubka has cared for long-term, infected HIV-positive adults, and so, has seen the devastation wrought by HIV and AIDS. Recognizing this experience as what drives her VRC colleagues, Ms. Hubka is thrilled to be working with a team of people who she identifies as committed toward prevention, and ultimately, the eradication of HIV. When asked about her decision to join the VRC, Ms. Hubka states "I feel like I have found my niche in this phenomenally dedicated group. I am proud to be part of an endeavor likely to provide the world with the hope of a tangible solution to effectively prevent HIV. I look forward to the challenges ahead of us."
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Diane Johnson, MPH
Diane Johnson, MPH joined the Vaccine Research Center in 2006 as a Sr. Specialist for Community Outreach and Recruitment. In this role, Ms. Johnson is responsible for coordinating, managing and implementing activities to recruit individuals for VRC vaccine trials. Ms. Johnson interfaces with community-based organizations including universities, schools, and religious institutions and works to enhance the social marketing capacity for the Vaccine Research Center.

Ms. Johnson is a W. K. Kellogg Fellow for Emerging Leaders in Public Health. She has previously worked in global health with the Association of Public Health Laboratories where she focused on providing support to over 6 PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) countries and $4 million in funding. Ms. Johnson has also worked with the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. She has written topical health articles for commissioned web sites, CD-ROMs, and continuing education credits. Ms. Johnson is a graduate of Brown University and received her MPH from the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health.
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Sara Jones, MS
Sara Jones, MS joined the VRC team in March of 2006. Sara serves as an outreach and recruitment specialist for the Vaccine Research Center where she does the preliminary screening for potential volunteers and community education about the importance of participating in clinical vaccine research trials.

Ms. Jones has experience as a bench scientist with cell, animal, and human research. She completed her Master's degree in Medical Sciences (Bio Medical Research) at the University of Kentucky where she also worked as a senior technician in a function Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) laboratory. Prior to her tenure with U of Kentucky, Ms. Jones spent time at Wright State University performing basic research on familial diabetes insipidus.

On her role as an outreach and recruitment specialist for the VRC Ms. Jones reflects, "I get to do what I love and help make a global impact; what could be better."
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Brenda D. Larkin
Brenda Larkin, RN, BSN, CCRC joined the Vaccine Research Center, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in February of 2002. Ms. Larkin manages the clinical team of research nurses and recruiters for the Vaccine Research Center's clinical trials for preventive HIV vaccines and vaccines for emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. Brenda's previous experience was with the Johns Hopkins University, Center for Immunization Research, where she coordinated Phase I, II and III preventive HIV Vaccine Trials since 1997. Brenda was instrumental in developing the infrastructure upon which the VaxGen study of AIDSVAXTM was conducted, receiving accolades due to its premier status among sites worldwide.

Being on the preventive end of HIV is important to Ms. Larkin after years of witnessing the ravages of HIV/AIDS while caring for adults, especially pregnant women, in an economically depressed area 40 miles north of Boston, Massachusetts. In a community health center in Lawrence, Massachusetts, Ms. Larkin was responsible for the medical care of HIV + men, women and women during pregnancy. She was also the nurse coordinator for the Massachusetts Care and Advocacy Program (MassCap) in the Northeast region. The MassCap Program was initiated after the 076 study showed the benefits of AZT in pregnancy. In her role as the MassCap Nurse for the Northeastern part of Massachusetts, she was responsible for HIV training and education of providers in the area. Brenda is a Certified Clinical Research Coordinator through the Association of Clinical Research Professionals.

Knowing the great success vaccines have had in decreasing morbidity and mortality from other deadly diseases, Ms. Larkin is hopeful that, within the Vaccine Research Center in collaboration with concerned communities, we will together find a way to stop the disproportionate destruction caused by HIV/AIDS."
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Julie Martin
Julie Martin, DO is the Deputy Chief, Clinical Trials Core of the Vaccine Research Center (VRC). She is the Principal Investigator for Phase I protocols to study the safety and immunogenicity of vaccines for biodefense and emerging infectious diseases and an Associate Investigator for Phase I HIV vaccine clinical trials at the VRC.

Dr. Martin joined the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 2002 as a clinical fellow in allergy and immunology. In 2003, while completing her fellowship, she began working with Dr. Barney Graham in the Viral Pathogenisis Laboratory and Clinical Trials Core at the Vaccine Research Center. There, she conducted basic research studying a mouse model of antigen presentation while assisting with vaccine clinical trials design, implementation, and data analysis. In 2006 she began in her current role as a Staff Physician and Principal Investigator in the CTC.

Dr. Martin is Board Certified in Allergy and Immunology by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology and Board Certified in Internal Medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She graduated from Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1998 and she completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore in 2002.
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Laura Novik
Laura Novik, RN, BSN, MA has joined the VRC as a Research Nurse/Study Coordinator. Ms. Novik began working as a Research Nurse at the National Institutes of Health in 2000 at the National Cancer Institute/ National Naval Medical Center, where she coordinated Phase II prostate cancer vaccine trials. Prior to that, she spent 18 years in nephrology nursing working in varying roles as a primary care nurse, quality management coordinator, and administrator. Beginning in the early 1980's, Ms. Novik was involved with HIV and AIDS in the clinical setting and after experiencing an HIV-related, personal loss, felt a growing need to contribute in a more meaningful way.

Upon arrival to the VRC in January of 2003, Laura stated: "I feel privileged to be a part of this amazing group of dedicated staff and volunteers. I realize that a great deal of time and effort is needed to produce a serious vaccine, but I am confident that it will happen, and that it will happen here." Ms. Novik's clinical trials management experience enhances the skills of the VRC Clinical Trials Core.
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Sandra Sitar
Sandra Sitar, MSc joined the Vaccine Research Center as a Community Outreach and Recruitment Specialist in February 2005. In this capacity, Ms. Sitar coordinates the development, implementation and evaluation of volunteer recruitment strategies and outreach efforts to increase awareness of the VRC clinical research program and participation in its clinical trials. Ms. Sitar also identifies opportunities for collaboration with local groups and manages partnerships with area universities, faith-based organizations, and other healthcare affiliates.

Ms. Sitar's prior experience involves developing marketing strategy for international development initiatives, producing public health education and intervention campaigns, grant and proposal writing for both community based and international organizations, as well as lesson plan design and implementation for high school and university level courses. Ms. Sitar holds an MSc from the London School of Economics and a B.A. from the University of California Berkeley.
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