About Clinical Trials Core
MEET OUR STAFF
Costner, RN, BSN, CDE
Research Nurse/Study Coordinator
Research Nurse/Study Coordinator
Starr Hendel, CRNP
Holman, RN, MSN, FNP
Hubka, RN, MSN, NP
Senior Nurse Practitioner
Community Outreach and Recruitment Sr. Specialist
Community Outreach and Recruitment Specialist
D. Larkin, RN, BSN, CCRC
Clinical Manager, VRC Clinic, Clinical Trials Core
Deputy Chief/Principal Investigator
Novik, RN, BSN, MA
Research Nurse/Study Coordinator
Community Outreach and Recruitment Specialist
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."
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.' "
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."
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
Upon joining the VRC, LaSonji expressed, "Prevention
is the key to eradicating HIV, and I am proud to be a part
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."
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.
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
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."
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
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
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.
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
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.