John Wayne Alumni Fellows are working
to revolutionize cancer treatment worldwide.

Leading national research programs

The John Wayne 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 160+ alumni fellows who are revolutionizing cancer treatment worldwide.


John Wayne Clinical Research Lecture

John Wayne Cancer Foundation provides funding for the John Wayne Clinical Research Lecture at the Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO) International Conference. This year’s speaker is Jatin P. Shah, MD. The title of Dr. Shah’s lecture is “New Avenues to Uplift Global Quality of Care in Surgical Oncology” and will take place virtually of Friday, March 19 from 10-10:30 am ET.

SSO has championed leading-edge education, research, and quality impacting the full spectrum of surgical oncology and cancer care. The mission of the Society of Surgical Oncology is to improve multidisciplinary patient care by advancing the science, education and practice of cancer surgery worldwide.

Grant Program

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 three John Wayne Alumni Fellows to continue cancer research and treatment in specific areas noted below.

  1. Katherine A Yao, MD - NorthShore University Health System
    • Proposal - Mindfulness intervention and response to stress and quality of life in patients diagnosed with breast cancer

  2. Anthony Lucci, MD; University of Texas MD Anderson
    • Proposal - Mastectomy, microscopic disease, and immune profiling in metastatic breast cancer

  3. Richard Essner, MD; John Wayne Cancer Institute
    • Proposal - Molecular Gene Profiling of Immune Related Genes in Primary Melanoma


Dr. Peter D. Beitsch

Dr. Beitsch went to medical school at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and finished his general surgery residency at Parkland Hospital in Dallas in 1993. He had a National Cancer Institute fellowship at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center from 1988-1990. He completed his training with a surgical oncology fellowship at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, California, where he trained with the fathers of sentinel lymph node biopsy, Donald Morton, MD and Armando Giuliano, MD. In 1994, he returned to private practice in Dallas where his practice is focused on melanoma and breast cancer.

He's held numerous positions in national surgical societies including at the American Society of Breast Surgeons, were he was the first Chairman of the Membership Committee 2001-2004, Program Director for the 2005 Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, Board of Directors Member from 2006-2009 and 2012-2015 as well as President of the Society 2013-2014.

Current institution: Private Practice, Dallas Surgical Group

Area of focus: Breast cancer and melanoma

Research conducted/conducting: Dr. Beitsch developed a clinical research program within his first year of private practice. He was an investigator on the first multicenter breast sentinel node study with David Krag, MD (NEJM), the Sunbelt Melanoma Trial with Kelly McMasters, MD (ASO), ACOSOG Z11, Armando Giuliano, MD (JAMA) as well as the Multicenter Selective Lymphadenectomy Trial II by Donald Morton, MD (NEJM). Was the Principle Investigator on the American Society of Breast Surgeons' Mammosite Registry which helped bring partial breast irradiation to appropriate women. Recently, he was the PI on the Universal Breast Cancer Genetic Testing Registry (JCO) which led to the American Society of Breast Surgeons changing their genetic testing guidelines.

Dr. Katherine A. Yao

Dr. Yao is a Clinical Professor of Surgery at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, Chief, Division of Surgical Oncology, Vice Chair, Research and Development at NorthShore University HealthSystem, Evanston, Illinois.

Current institution: NorthShore University HealthSystem

Area of focus: Breast Surgery

Research conducted/conducting: Dr. Yao has done work in surgical decision making, quality measures for breast cancer and will be starting a mindfulness trial examining the impact of a mindfulness intervention on patient anxiety. She has also done health services research on breast surgical trends and is examining the impact of breast imaging on patient reported outcomes.

Personal interests: Triathlons, biking, swimming

Favorite quote: “Treat success like a gentleman, disaster like a man”-Winston Churchill

Favorite memory of being a John Wayne Fellow at JWCI: exploring Santa Monica with my co-fellows

Dr. Kelly Hunt

Kelly K. Hunt, MD, is Professor and Chair of the Department of Breast Surgical Oncology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center with joint appointments in Experimental Radiation Oncology and Surgical Oncology. As a physician-scientist, Dr. Hunt has an active clinical practice and laboratory research program focused on cell cycle deregulation in cancer. Dr. Hunt has had several leadership roles in the NCI-funded cooperative groups including Chair of the Breast Committee for the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group (ACOSOG). She also serves as Program Director for the American College of Surgeons Cancer Research Program (ACS CRP).

Cancer Focus: Breast cancer and soft tissue sarcoma

Research Activity: Dr. Hunt’s work focuses on finding less invasive yet more effective surgical procedures for patients with breast cancer and soft-tissue sarcomas. As an international leader in breast cancer research, she has directed major clinical trials whose results have changed the standard of treatment for many patients with breast cancer. Her translational research investigations focus on developing novel treatment strategies involving agents that target cell cycle regulation.

Personal Interests: Traveling, history, food & wine

Favorite Quote: I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - Maya Angelou

Favorite Memory From JWCI: Weekly lab meetings with Dr. Morton

Dr. Daniel Nelson

MAJ(P) Daniel W. Nelson is an active duty US Army surgeon currently stationed at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, TX. He is board certified in complex general surgical oncology and general surgery. Dr. Nelson holds Assistant Professor faculty appointments at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center – El Paso..
Cancer Focus: Benign and malignant diseases of the liver, biliary tract and pancreas as well cancer of the gastrointestinal tract, skin, soft tissues, and breast..
Research Activity: Dr. Nelson’s research is currently focused on examining trends in delivery, receipt and disparities associated with cancer care with a particular interest in solid tumors of the hepato-pancreato-biliary tract..
Personal Interests: Spending time with his family, reading, CrossFit, & Peloton.
Favorite John Wayne Quote: “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway”.
Favorite Memory From JWCI: Being able to meet, learn from and collaborate with JWCI alumni throughout southern California and around the country.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.