Graduates of the JWCI Surgical Oncology Fellowship Program revolutionizing cancer treatment worldwide

Leading national research programs

The JWCI Surgical Oncology Fellowship program is one of the largest in the country and trains the surgeons of tomorrow in the latest techniques and technologies for treating and researching cancer. Fellows graduate and go on to leadership roles at cancer centers and academic institutions across the country. The John Wayne Cancer Foundation continues to support a network of over 150 alumni fellows who are revolutionizing cancer treatment worldwide.

Our global impact

In 2016, the John Wayne Cancer Foundation announced our John Wayne Presenting Fellows grant program for the World Cancer congress, held Oct. 31 - Nov. 3 in Paris, FR. The World Cancer Congress (WCC) is being organized by the Union for International Cancer Control. The purpose of the John Wayne Presenting Fellows grant is to enable Alumni Fellows to go beyond the lab, beyond their practice, and outside of their geographic area; to have the global conversations needed to advance the best cancer research around the world, and to help us find a cure.

Continuing his legacy

The John Wayne Alumni Fellows Grant Program will provide John Wayne Alumni Fellows with funding to further clinical research efforts in surgical oncology. The John Wayne Cancer Foundation is pleased to announce funding for 4 John Wayne Alumni Fellows to continue cancer research and treatment in specific areas noted below.

  1. Dr. Lucci - Professor, Breast Surgical Oncology at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
    • Proposal - Developing Liquid Biopsy Profiles for Melanoma Patients Receiving PD-1 Therapies
  2. Dr. Shen - Professor of Surgery, Director of Liver and Pancreas Program at Wake Forest University Health Science
    • Proposal - Ex-vivo Theranostic Nanodelivery System in Pancreas Cancer
  3. Dr. Kim - Associate Director University of Kentucky Research Foundation
    • Proposal - Feasibility of Endoscopic Gastric Cancer Organoids to Optimize Neoadjuvent Chemotherapy
  4. Dr. Yao - Chief, Division of Surgical Oncology at NorthShore University HealthSystem
    • Proposal - Patient Values in Surgical Decision Making for Breast Cancer Surgery

New Partnership between John Wayne Cancer Institute and UC Irvine

2nd year Fellows will have the opportunity to rotate down to Orange County, and work alongside Dr. Pigazzi and faculty.


"UCI is delighted to partner with the John Wayne Cancer Institute on this important educational initiative," states Dr. Pigazzi, Chief of the Surgical Oncology Division and Program Director, UC Irvine Medical Center. "As the only academic Medical Center in Orange County we are honored to be able to lend the expertise of our faculty to such a talented group of young surgeons."


2nd Year Fellows


Dr. Trang Nguyen obtained her medical degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (Baltimore) where she also spent a year on a Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellowship working on a neoadjuvent pancreatic cancer vaccine trial. She then completed surgical internship and residency training at the Cleveland Clinic. At Cleveland Clinic, she served as administrative chief resident overseeing over 60 surgical residents and was on the Housestaff Association executive committee which represents over 1,300 trainees. Dr. Nguyen has also spent two years on a T32 grant at the University of Pittsburgh investigating dendritic cell based cancer immunotherapy. She has presented her clinical and translational work at the American College of Surgeons, Society of Surgical Oncology, Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association and Translational Research Cancer Centers Consortium meetings.


Dr. Annabelle Teng obtained her medical degree from New York Medical College and then completed surgical internship and residency training at Mount Sinai St. Luke's Roosevelt (New York). Prior to medical school, she spent six weeks on an archeological dig in the Jordanian desert and wrote her thesis based on ancient DNA collected from excavated teeth. She then spent three years in Japan researching for a vaccine against Japanese cedar pollen allergy at RIKEN Research Center for Allergy and Immunology. During general surgery residency training, Dr. Teng found she had a particular affinity for surgical oncology and decided to pursue further training in the field.


Dr. Abhineet Uppal obtained his medical degree from University of North Carolina School of Medicine and completed a surgical residency at the University of Chicago. At University of Chicago he was awarded the Academic Achievement Award and served as a chief resident. During a research fellowship at the Ludwig Center for Metastasis Research, he investigated the biologic determinants of oligo-metastatic cancer. Dr. Uppal's work includes the development of animal and computer models of metastatic spread, and understanding the regulation of metastases by micro-RNAs (Oncotarget, Br. J. Cancer). These investigations were presented at the American Surgical Congress and the Society of Surgical Oncology.

1st Year Fellows

Dr. Anthony Scholer obtained his medical degree and master's in biomedical science from Rutgers University-New Jersey Medical School. He then completed his general surgery residency training at Rutgers University-New Jersey Medical School. While at Rutgers University, he was the inaugural global surgery fellow where he spent time delivering surgical care in Ghana and Peru. Dr. Scholer's first-author citations include global surgery and health disparity research.


Dr. Mary Kledzik obtained her medical degree at Florida International University College of Medicine (Miami) where she was a member of the inaugural class. She then completed surgical internship and residency training at Wake Forest School of Medicine (North Carolina). At Wake Forest she was involved in the resident council and led resident education. Dr. Kledzik's first-author citations include analyzing frailty tools among surgical oncology patients, which was presented at the Southeastern Surgical Congress. She is also interested in identifying the optimal patient population for the cytoreductive surgery with heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy. Her research has been presented at the Society of Surgical Oncology Annual Cancer Symposium.


Dr. Juan Santamaria, a Panamanian native, obtained his medical degree from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, and then completed general surgery residency training at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center (Houston). At UT Houston, he served as chief resident in general surgery. He completed research fellowships at Massachusetts General Hospital and Memorial Sloan Kettering, where he gained broad clinical and basic experience in both clinical and basic science research. Dr. Santamaria's publications include both clinical and basic science studies published in Annals of Surgical Oncology, Annals of Surgery, Cancer Research, and JAMA Oncology, among other. He authored a thorough characterization of Merkel cell carcinoma at MGH, which he presented as an oral presentation at the Society of Surgical Oncology Symposium when he was a intern in surgery (Santamaria-Barria, Ann Surg Oncol 2013 Apr;20(4):1365-73).


Dr. Adam Khader obtained his medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar and then completed surgical internship and residency training at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell (New York), where he served as chief resident and as clinical instructor in general surgery. Dr. Khader focused his research on the effects of modulating energy metabolism in Ischemia-Reperfusion injury, the results of which has earned him a PhD from the Elmezzi Graduate School of Molecular Medicine. He has had multiple peer reviewed publications in Critical Care Medicine, Transplantation, Surgery, Shock, and Journal of Surgical Research. He has presented his work at several national meetings including the American College of Surgeons, the Society of Surgical Oncology, and the Academic Surgical Congress.


In 2015, the John Wayne Cancer Foundation fulfilled a $500,000, 3-year gift to the JWCI Surgical Oncology Fellowship Training Program.

2016 Presenting Fellows Grant Recipients

John Wayne Alumni Fellows Giving Oral Presentations at World Cancer Congress 2016
Dr. Preya Ananthakrishnan, White Plains Hospital, White Plains, NY
Dr. Melanie Goldfarb, JWCI, St. John's Medical Center, Santa Monica, CA
Dr. Anna Leung, Kaiser Permanente, Los Angeles, CA
Dr. Jennifer Lin, Kaiser Permanente, Los Angeles, CA
Dr. Anthony Lucci, MD Anderson, Houston, TX
Dr. Partha Ray, University of Illinois, Urbana, Carle Cancer Center

Our Community

Features on the 2016-2017 1st-year Fellows
Andrew Conger, MD (Neurosurgery)

Following a brief career as a high school science teacher, Dr. Conger completed his MD, general surgery internship, and neurosurgical residency at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, LA.  In his final year of residency, he served as chief resident during which he designed and implemented a new didactic curriculum and revised the existing program for ABNS primary exam preparation.  Dr. Conger's first-author citations include technical reviews of endoscopic endonasal resection of craniopharyngiomas (Neurosurg Focus 2014) and multimodal treatment of arteriovenous malformations (Surg Neurol Int 2015).  His review of a conservative approach to radiation therapy following resection of cerebral metastases was recently presented at the annual meeting of the European Association of Neurosurgical Societies.

Emily Ho, MD (Breast)

Dr. Emily Ho obtained her medical degree from Wayne State University School of Medicine (Detroit).  While there she was president of the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association.  Additionally, she was nominated to the Gold Humanism Honor Society.  She then completed her surgical residency at the Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC, New York).  At NUMC she served as chief resident and Graduate Medical Education representative.  Dr. Ho’s research includes a third place poster at the regional annual conference for lung herniation in trauma.  Additional research includes studies on hip fractures in the elderly at a public safety net hospital. 

Amanda Graff-Baker, MD (Surg Onc)

Dr. Graff-Baker obtained her medical degree from Yale University in 2010 and completed her surgical internship and general surgery residency at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, OR, where she was recognized as the St. Vincent’s Hospital Chief Resident of the Year in 2016.  She pursued year-long research fellowships during both medical school and residency.  Dr. Graff-Baker’s first author publications include “Primary Thyroid Lymphoma: Demographic, Clinical and Pathologic Predictors of Survival in 1408 Cases” (Surgery, 2009) and “Expanded Criteria for Carcinoid Liver Debulking: Maintaining Survival and Increasing the Number of Eligible Patients” (Surgery, 2014).  She gave a podium presentation at the 2014 American Association of Endocrine Surgeons Annual Meeting in Boston, MA and was a finalist for the 2015 OHSU Resident Paper of the Year for her research focusing on the outcomes of patients who undergo liver resection for metastatic carcinoid tumors. 

Ahmed Dehal, MD (Surg Onc)

Dr. Dehal obtained his medical degree from University of Baghdad in Iraq; he was then awarded a Fulbright scholarship to Georgia Southern University where he completed a Master’s degree in Public health and clinical research. As part of his MPH degree, he worked as a research assistant at Georgia Cancer Registry. He then joined the cancer research program at the American Cancer Society where he published several papers on colorectal cancer in the journal of clinical oncology. Dr. Dehal completed his surgical internship and residency training at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center/Kaiser (Fontana) program where he served as chief resident.  An evidence-based review of cytoreductive surgery and HIPEC conducted during his elective rotation at MSKCC was recently published in the journal of gastrointestinal oncology. Dr.Dehal also co-authored a chapter on colectomy in a surgical oncology textbook that is currently in press. His research on robotic colorectal surgery was recently presented at the Southern California Chapter of the American College of Surgeons meeting Santa Barbara.

Daniel W. Nelson, DO (Surg Onc)

Dr. Nelson is currently an active duty Major in the United States Army. After graduating with honors from Des Moines University College of Medicine (Des Moines, Iowa), he went on to complete general surgery internship and residency training at Madigan Army Medical Center (Fort Lewis, Washington). While at MAMC, Dr. Nelson served as administrative chief resident and was a clinical instructor in general surgery through the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (Bethesda, Maryland).  After completing residency, Dr. Nelson was stationed overseas for 1 year, where served as the Chief of General Surgery at the 121st Combat Support Hospital (Seoul, South Korea). Dr. Nelson has authored more than 25 peer-reviewed journal articles and has received awards at both regional and National meetings for his research.

Brooke Vuong, MD ( Surg Onc)

Dr. Brooke Vuong obtained her medical degree from the University of California, Davis School of Medicine and then completed surgical internship and residency training at Kaiser Permanente, Los Angeles.   Dr. Vuong’s general surgery research has included a thorough examination of bile duct injuries during cholecystectomy in a large managed health care organization, the effect of an appendectomy on the nosocomial Clostridium difficile infection, and the relationship between pediatric obesity and perforated appendicitis, all presented at regional, national, and international meetings.  She has been involved in oncologic research projects focused on outcome of robotic hepatectomies, the extent of lymph node dissections in thyroid cancer, and the significance of porcelain gallbladder.  She is currently enrolling patients in a clinical trial studying the benefit of prophylactic pre-operative pancreatic duct stenting on reducing the rate of post-operative pancreatic fistulas in distal pancreatectomies. 

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