Faculty & Staff

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Ernest R. Katz, PhD
Co-Director, HOPE Program

Dr. Katz trained at Children's Hospital Los Angeles as a pediatric psychologist, beginning in 1975 when he and his mentor, Dr. Jonathan Kellerman, established one of the first psychology treatment programs in a pediatric cancer center in the nation.  Dr. Katz pioneered school intervention research and services for children and adolescents with cancer which are now accepted as national clinical standards of care.

He received his PhD in psychology from USC in 1980, publishing his dissertation research on pain behavior and neurochemistry in children with cancer. He is active in program development, research, publishing, teaching, and mentoring graduate and postgraduate students in psychology and health communication.

Dr. Katz is currently conducting research on maternal adjustment to cancer in their children, patient quality of life, health communication technology in pediatric cancer, adherence in adolescents with leukemia, cognitive remediation, and health promotion in adolescent survivors. Dr. Katz and Ms. Ruccione established the HOPE Program in 1999 to help coordinate all psychosocial support and research activities within the Center.

Dr. Katz has assumed a major role in helping develop community support for the HOPE Program, including the further expansion of the annual Celebrate Life with HOPE event and various other fund raising opportunities.

Kathleen Ruccione, MPH, RN, FAAN
Co-Director, HOPE Program
Center Nursing Administrator, Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases

Kathleen Ruccione first came to Children's Hospital Los Angeles as a student nurse and received her nursing diploma from the Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing. She is a national leader in pediatric oncology nursing and a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.

She completed her graduate training in public health from California State University, Northridge, with a focus on wellness. She founded the LIFE Program and has co-edited/co-authored two landmark books on childhood cancer survivorship. Ms. Ruccione pioneered programs for education to empower patients and families coping with cancer, culminating in the development of our HOPE Resource Center and the incorporation of health educators as members of the multidisciplinary health care team.

She is active in program development, research, publishing, teaching, and mentoring graduate and postgraduate students in nursing, health education, and health communication.

Her current research is focused on family centered care, health literacy, health communication and cancer survivorship. She is a doctoral student in health behavior research at the University of Southern California.

Susan Gantan, MPH
Health Education Services Coordinator, HOPE Program; HOPE Resource Center Coordinator

Susan Gantan received her master’s degree in Public Health, Community Health Studies from San Jose State University in 1998 after earning her bachelor’s degree in Biology from UCLA. Prior to her work at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Ms. Gantan has served in several public health settings predominantly focusing on maternal and child health issues, program evaluation and materials development throughout California.

Ms. Gantan currently serves as the program coordinator for the HOPE Resource Center, managing its daily operations and facilitating its use by patients, parents, other family members, members of the healthcare team, and the community.

Ms. Gantan also coordinates the Health and Wellness Fair component of our hospital’s annual Celebrate Life with HOPE event, honoring and celebrating childhood cancer survivors, their families and their community. Ms. Gantan has been at Children's Hospital Los Angeles since 2002.

Jacqueline Gilberto, MPH
Health Education Services Coordinator, HOPE Program

Jacqueline Gilberto completed her graduate training in public health at the University of Southern California after earning a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Cal State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

As a health educator, Ms. Gilberto provides health education services to patients with cancer and blood diseases and their families at Children's Hospital Los Angeles as well as at Los Angeles County, USC Medical Center, Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Ms. Gilberto works collaboratively with inpatient and outpatient staff, and with representatives from community agencies to provide patients and families with educational activities related to childhood cancer and blood diseases, their treatment, and general health education.

Betty Gonzalez-Morkos, PsyD
Clinical Coordinator, Teen Impact and School Transition and Re-Entry Programs

>Dr. Betty Gonzalez-Morkos received her doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University in 2005. Prior to becoming staff at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Dr. Gonzalez-Morkos worked in several community mental health settings providing therapy for mostly low-income, Spanish-speaking families and for adolescents with chronic illnesses.

As Clinical Coordinator of Programs, Dr. Gonzalez-Morkos provides both group and individual interventions to patients with cancer and blood diseases, mentors future psychologists and social workers, and conducts research that will lead to improved services.

Kathleen Ingman, PhD
Clinical Director, Behavioral Sciences and the HOPE Program; Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine  

>Dr. Kathleen Ingman earned her doctoral degree in psychology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2000 and came to Children's Hospital Los Angeles in 2001.

As Clinical Director of the HOPE program, she oversees all clinical programs and ensures the delivery of state-of-the-art psychosocial services to all children and families in need. Dr. Ingman also directs the Psychology Consultation Service, where she provides psychological services to patients and their families.

Dr. Ingman’s particular areas of interest include anxiety in children, coping with illness, pain management, and end of life issues. She is actively involved with training and mentoring psychology graduate students.

Aura Kuperberg, PhD, LCSW, MS
Director, Teen Impact; Clinical Associate Professor of Social Work, University of Southern California

Dr. Aura Kuperberg obtained her doctoral degree in social work from the University of Southern California in 1994 and has a dual master's degree in social work and gerontology from USC. Dr. Kuperberg founded Teen Impact in 1989 when she saw the need to create a special community for teens battling cancer.

Dr. Kuperberg has since dedicated her life to her unwavering belief that every teen and young adult survivor should have the opportunity to experience peer-support in a group where they are truly understood.

She works tirelessly to raise funds for Teen Impact and develop new and innovative programs, including retreats and adventure therapy.

Kathleen Meeske, PhD
Director, Health Outcomes and Cancer Control Research, HOPE Program; Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine  

Dr. Kathleen Meeske has a MS in nursing, MS in applied biostatistics/epidemiology, and a PhD in epidemiology. She completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at the Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research at University of Southern California.

Dr. Meeske has worked in pediatric oncology for more than 25 years. Her research interest is cancer survivorship. Her research has focused on the physical and psychological late effects associated with cancer therapy and on health promotion among long-term survivors of childhood cancer.

Dr. Meeske is a member of the Long-Term Follow-up Center at the University of Southern California which is developing of a national registry for childhood cancer survivors.

Sharon H. O'Neil, PhD
Director, Neuropsychology; Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine  

Dr. Sharon H. O'Neil earned her doctoral degree in psychology from the University of Southern California in 1999 and came to Children's Hospital in Los Angeles in 2001.

As Director of Neuropsychology, she oversees the provision of clinical and research neuropsychological evaluations for the division.

Dr. O'Neil is actively involved in community outreach and consultation, as well as mentoring doctoral trainees. She is active in clinical research focusing on neuropsychological sequelae of brain cancer diagnoses and treatment.

Brenda Quiñonez-García, MSW
Project Coordinator II, Teen Impact/HOPE Research

Brenda Quiñonez-García previously worked as Clinical Social Worker with the Leukemia & Lymphoma program at Children's Hospital Los Angeles providing patients and families with psychosocial support and referrals.

Ms. Quiñonez-García received her master’s degree in social work from USC after graduating from Loyola Marymount University with bachelor’s degrees in sociology, Spanish, and Chicanostudies. Prior to her work at our hospital, Ms. Quiñonez-García worked in several mental health settings predominantly serving low-income, Spanish-speaking families in the greater Los Angeles area.

Currently, as Project Coordinator II, Ms. Quiñonez-García co-facilitates groups, plans and coordinates activities, serves as community and outreach liaison, trains and supervises students and volunteers, and coordinates psychosocial research projects for Teen Impact and the HOPE program.

Michael Z. Wolkenfeld, PsyD
Licensed Clinical Psychologist, HOPE Program

Dr. Michael Wolkenfeld came to Children's Hospital Los Angeles with a history of extensive training and experience in the field of crisis counseling and trauma related services that were conducted through several governmental agencies.

Dr. Wolkenfeld earned his doctoral degree from American Behavioral Studies Institute in 2001, and completed a post- doctoral fellowship at Children's Institute Inc. before coming on staff with our hospital in 2006.

Dr. Wolkenfeld provides psychological services to Hematology-Oncology patients and their families in both individual and group settings, as well as assists in the supervision and training of psychology graduate students.

Octavio Zavala, BS
Program Coordinator, Teen Impact/HOPE Research

Octavio "Tavo" Zavala was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 12 years old, and while receiving treatment at Children's Hospital Los Angeles he joined the newly founded Teen Impact program.

Mr. Zavala eventually went on to graduate from UCLA and work as a counselor in various health care settings. In 1999, he returned to Teen Impact as Project Coordinator and now co-facilitates groups, plans activities, and coordinates psychosocial research projects.

Mr. Zavala's personal cancer experience combined with skills he has learned along the way help him build strong connections between the Teen Impactprogram and the families it serves.
 

Lisl Schweers, LCSW
Clinical Social Worker – LIFE Survivorship and Transition Program

Lisl Schweers obtained her Master of Science in Social Work degree from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1993 after obtaining a degree in International Studies from Southwestern University.

She joined the social work department at Children's Hospital Los Angeles in 1999 and after working in a variety of medical social work settings, assumed the role of clinical social worker for the LIFE Survivorship and Transition Program in April 2008.

Ms. Schweers’ primary responsibility is to provide direct psychosocial care to childhood cancer survivors and their families. In addition to annual assessments, she provides supportive interventions, resource referrals, and works with hospital and community agencies to develop program linkages relevant to survivors.