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Phyllis F. Cantor Center Staff Profiles

  • Meghan Underhill-Blazey, PhD, RN, AOCNS

    Nurse Scientist and Interim Director of the Cantor Center
    Nurse Practitioner, Cancer Genetics and Prevention     

    Meghan Underhill, PhD, RN

    Dr. Underhill-Blazey has dedicated her research to understanding and intervening with some of our most vulnerable individuals, those at high risk for cancer and notably, the underserved at risk. She has combined her passion for advancing oncology nursing research with her background as a Family Nurse Practitioner practicing in cancer genetics. Her research has always focused where she has seen the greatest clinical need — promoting health and wellness in the context of cancer care. Upon completing doctoral training focused on the needs of women with inherited breast cancer risk in 2011 from SUNY Buffalo, she was offered an NCI U54 funded 2-year research intensive post-doctoral fellowship in Cancer and Health Disparities through the University of Massachusetts Boston and Dana-Farber Harvard Cancer Center. During this time her work expanded to the community through a partnership with the Cancer Resource Foundation to understand needs and preferences of high risk underserved communities. Her team published both patient-reported outcomes in this setting and an analysis of a database of underserved individuals receiving financial support for testing.

    During post-doctoral training, her research expanded to individuals living with a novel form of inherited risk, pancreatic cancer. In this research, patients described witnessing and caring for loved ones dying of pancreatic cancer and then being told of their own risk for the same disease. In 2014, Dr. Underhill-Blazey was awarded a KL2 C-Merit training award through Harvard Catalyst. During this time she applied the qualitative findings to measure psychosocial and behavior outcomes in 128 individuals from multiple sites with hereditary or familial pancreatic cancer risk, funded by the Mittleman Family Fund. Significant relationships were found between being a caregiver for a seriously ill loved one and pancreatic cancer specific distress and risk perception which is now being translated into the development of a supportive care intervention. With funding by Friends of DFCI, her team has now expanded to understand patient experiences and improve the process of multigene panel testing both at DFCI and in the community. Additionally, Dr. Underhill-Blazey now focuses her work on other populations in cancer care impacted by high risk for cancer, specifically Hodgkin Disease survivors. She has led the development of a web-based intervention to educate survivors about the long-term and late effects from their treatment. She is currently funded by the Oncology-Nursing Society Foundation, and further developing and testing this website with patients and providers.

    Additionally, Dr. Underhill-Blazey continues to partner with direct care nurses across the Institute within the Science and Practice Aligned within Nursing initiative focused on improving patient outcomes through evidence based practice and research initiatives.

    Donna L. Berry, PhD, RN, AOCN®, FAAN

    Nurse Scientist     

    Donna L. Berry, PhD, RN, AOCN®, FAAN, Director

    Dr. Berry completed her undergraduate education at Baylor University and holds graduate degrees from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston and the University of Washington. Her commitment to improving care of the person with cancer has spanned over three decades, beginning with her work as an oncology staff nurse and continuing with her mentorship activities and current leadership in designing, implementing, evaluating, and teaching patient-centered oncology practices. Her scholarship has been presented locally, nationally, and internationally and published in nursing, medical, and interdisciplinary journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Berry is often asked to speak and contribute in international venues, notably Australia, Switzerland, Korea, China, and Japan.

    Continuously funded by NIH since 1998, Dr. Berry has pioneered in two important areas: patient-centered oncology care and nursing leadership within oncology research. To implement her patient-centered care paradigm, Dr. Berry formulated an interdisciplinary team and then led that team to successfully design and implement an accessible, computerized system to assess symptom experiences and quality of life variables. The Electronic Self Report Assessment-Cancer (ESRA-C) has been found to increase patient-provider discussions of symptom and quality of life issues plus decrease symptom distress. She has led another large, multi-disciplinary team to develop, produce, and test the first and only Internet intervention based on personal factors to support treatment decision-making by men with localized prostate cancer. The Personal Patient Profile-Prostate (P3P) has been shown to significantly reduce decisional conflict in men. Recognized by nomination and election to Fellowship in the American Academy of Nursing, she has assumed increasing leadership and responsibility for transforming health care. In 2011, the Oncology Nursing Society honored Dr. Berry with the Annual Distinguished Researcher Award. The Association of Community Cancer Centers named her as the 2012 recipient of their Annual Clinical Researcher Award. Dr. Berry led the Phyllis F. Cantor Center from 2008-2018, implemented new infrastructure, and oversaw a substantial growth period. Now, as a senior nurse scientist, she continues to mentor and advise early-stage investigators.

    Mary Cooley, PhD, RN, FAAN

    Nurse Scientist

    Mary Cooley, PhD, APRN, BC, Nurse Scientist

    Dr. Cooley completed her undergraduate education at Thomas Jefferson University and pre- and post-doctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her initial research arose out of her experience as an advanced practice nurse and focused on understanding the patterns of symptom distress after treatment for lung cancer. Since that time, her program of research has evolved and focuses on improving cancer symptom management through clinical decision support and enhancing healthy behaviors through multiple risk reduction interventions, including smoking cessation, increasing physical activity and healthy diet. She has had continuous funding for her research for the past two decades through various sources including the American Cancer Society, Lung Cancer Foundation, National Cancer Institute, and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. She has served as a member of scientific review committees for the National Cancer Institute, National Institute for Nursing Research and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. She was inducted as a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in 2012 in recognition of her contributions to advance nursing science and was selected as a Mixed Methods Research Scholar, funded through the National Office for Behavioral and Social Science Research, to fulfill the national need for researchers with expertise in mixed methods. She was most recently appointed as the Oncology Nursing Society’s first Scholar-in-Residence.

    Terri Jabaley, PhD, RN

    Clinical Inquiry Specialist
    Email: theresa_jabaley

    Dr. Jabaley joined the Cantor Center as a Clinical Information Specialist focusing on improving patient outcomes through evidence-based practice and research within the Science and Practice Aligned within Nursing Model. She received a PhD from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, a MSN from Emory University, and a BSN from the University of Tennessee. While a graduate student, she was awarded several scholarships, including the Promise for Nursing Regional Faculty Fellowship. As an award-winning nurse educator with over 15 years of experience as an Oncology CNS, she has a broad experience in clinical oncology nursing, palliative care, education, and research. She received grant funding from the Pi Epsilon chapter of Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society for Nursing for her doctoral study, and has published her research focusing on decision making in unaffected BRCA mutation carriers and coping at the end of life. She has presented her research locally, nationally, and internationally.

    Olga Ehrlich, PhD, RN, CHPN

    Post-Doctoral Research Fellow     

    Olga Ehrlich joined the Phyllis F. Cantor Center for Research in Nursing and Patient Care Services as a post-doctoral research fellow after completing her doctoral dissertation at the College of Nursing, UMass Amherst. She obtained her BS in nursing from Arizona State University. Dr. Ehrlich has worked as a palliative and hospice home nurse clinician while completing her graduate studies and is board certified in this specialty. Consequently, her research studies have focused on symptom management and clinical outcomes for end-stage cancer patients, their family caregivers, and their hospice nurses. In her graduate research, Dr. Ehrlich conducted a grounded theory study and constructed a theoretical framework outlining social processes that are used for managing cancer pain in the home hospice setting. Also identified in the study was the finding that clinicians lack assessment tools for helping patients set goals for pain management. Dr. Ehrlich is collaborating with Dr. Donna Berry, a nurse scientist at the Cantor Center, along with Dr. Douglas Brandoff and Daniel Gorman, NP-C of the DFCI Palliative Care team to conduct a feasibility study for working with palliative care patients to establish pain goals as the next step in her plan of research. Her fellowship is jointly sponsored by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and UMass Boston College of Nursing U54 Center for Cancer and Health Disparities.

    Robert Knoerl, PhD, RN

    Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

    Robert Knoerl completed his undergraduate and doctoral nursing education at the University of Michigan. During this time, he earned entry into the Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation, a program designed for students to complete their BSN and PhD studies in seven years or less. Dr. Knoerl’s research interests involve the use of integrative therapies for the management of cancer treatment–related symptoms, specifically, chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. He is currently leading a study focused on evaluating the efficacy of a clinican decision support algorithm to improve the assessment and management of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy in practice. Dr. Knoerl’s long-term goal is to become an independent nurse scientist conducting integrative symptom management interventions to improve quality of life and physical functioning in individuals with cancer treatment-related symptoms.

    Barbara Halpenny, MA

    Research Project Director

    Manan Nayak, MA

    Project Director

    Erica Fox, RN

    Senior Clinical Research Coordinator

    Erica Fox received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. There she was awarded the Hebrew SeniorLife scholarship in gerontological nursing, and was elected to Sigma Theta Tau International. While at the University, Erica assisted Dr. Suzanne Leveille with research exploring the efficacy of an experimental device designed to improve medication adherence in elderly patients. Erica also holds a Masters degree from Boston University in Instructional Media and Technology. Prior to joining the Cantor Center staff, Erica worked extensively in both for-profit and non-profit educational settings as a project manager, curriculum designer, and teacher. She has received numerous awards for her programs, including the Distinguished Community Service Award from Boston's Horizons for Homeless Children.

    Taylor Hendel

    Program Administrator