New York: Columbia University Medical Center

Dr. Mary Beth Terry, Principal Investigator

Dr. Terry received her PhD in Epidemiology from Columbia University in 1999, after receiving her MA in Economics from the University of Washington in 1990. Dr. Terry is funded through the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as Principal Investigator of a study investigating the role of early life exposures in breast cancer and of the New York Breast Cancer Family Registry.

Dr. Terry focuses her research on breast cancer and on the molecular epidemiology and lifecourse methods of the disease, in particular she is investigating how adult health and diseases such as breast cancer may be influenced by prenatal and early life exposures. She recently reported that prenatal exposures affect the timing of menarche, adult body size, and epigenetic changes - all indicators of future cancer risk. Dr. Terry teaches introductory and advanced epidemiologic methods at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.


Dr. Wendy Chung, Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Chung received her PhD in genetics from the Rockefeller University in 1996 and her MD from Cornell University in 1998. She completed her residency in Pediatrics at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center as well as a fellowship in both Clinical Genetics and Molecular Genetics.

Dr. Chung focuses her research on the genetic basis of human diseases including obesity, diabetes, cancer, congenital heart disease, congenital diaphragmatic hernias, cardiomyopathies, and spinal muscular atrophy. She is the Director of the Pediatric Neuromuscular Network Molecular Core, the New York Obesity Center Molecular Genetics Core and the Diabetes and Endocrine Research Center Molecular Genetics Core. She is also the Director of the Clinical Genetics Program, Clinical Cancer Genetics program, and Director of the fellowship program in Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics, and supervises medical education in human genetics for Columbia University Medical School.


Dr. Regina Santella, Co-Investigator

Dr. Santella received her PhD in 1976 from the City University of New York in 1976. She is currently a Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and the Director of Columbia’s NIEHS Center for Environmental Health in Northern Manhattan. She also directs the Biomarkers Shared Resource of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Santella's research involves the development of laboratory methods for the detection of human exposure to environmental and occupational carcinogens and their use in molecular epidemiology studies to identify causative factors, susceptible populations, and preventive interventions. Her work has allowed the determination of exposure to carcinogens by the measurement of their binding to DNA with highly specific and sensitive immunoassays using monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies that her laboratory has developed. These studies have demonstrated higher levels of DNA damage in those with environmental or occupational exposures and in subjects with breast, lung, and liver cancer compared to controls. In addition, the interaction between environmental exposures and genetic susceptibility on cancer risk is being investigated using high throughput genotyping to determine polymorphisms in carcinogen metabolism, oxidative stress, and DNA repair genes.


Dr. Jasmine McDonald, Co-Investigator

Dr. McDonald received her PhD in Biological Sciences in Public Health in 2009 from Harvard University. Prior to her doctoral program, she received her B.S. in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (2003), where she was a Meyerhoff Scholar. She is currently an Associate Research Scientist at Columbia Unviersity.

Dr. McDonald has postdoctoral training in examining modifiable factors for breast cancer prevention in high breast cancer risk populations. Upon completion of her doctoral degree, Dr. McDonald joined the University of Pennsylvania where she examined sociobehavioral issues related to genomic medicine among populations at high cancer risk. As a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia, Dr. McDonald's work focused on modifiable behaviors for breast cancer prevention in high risk populations with a focus on epidemiological methodology. Her research to date examines the role of modifiable factors (i.e., alcohol) on mammographic breast density, an intermediate marker of breast cancer. Dr. McDonald has had the privilege of working with the LEGACY Girls Study since 2011. She lives in New York with her cat and enjoys dancing, making soup, and being with family.


Dr. Lauren Houghton, Co-Investigator

Dr. Houghton received her PhD in Anthropology in 2013 from Durham University (United Kingdom) and has trained in Epidemiology for the last 7 years. She is currently an Associate Research Scientist at Columbia University.

Dr. Houghton has worked internationally to better understand both the biological and cultural experience of adolescence in populations with different breast cancer risk.  She is also interested in migration and has extensively worked with migrant studies to better understand how lifestyles change when women move from low to high risk geographic areas. While conducting fieldwork in England and Bangladesh, she closely engaged with Bangladeshi migrant girls through afterschool clubs to study growing up from the girls’ perspectives.  Upon completion of her doctoral degree, Dr. Houghton was a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute where she investigated lifestyle and hormonal factors driving international differences in breast cancer incidence.   Dr. Houghton is excited to now work with the talented team and wonderful families of the LEGACY Girls Study. She lives in New York with her chef husband and enjoys eating his delicious food, then dancing off the calories.


Melissa White, MSSW, Project Coordinator

Melissa received her Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University in 2002, with a focus on policy analysis, in addition to clinical training. Working in public health and social science research since 2001, she has coordinated studies of domestic violence risk assessment, sexual assault revictimization, and the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS, and she served as scientific coordinator of the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Prior to engaging in research, Melissa worked in organizations and programs serving women, people of color, immigrants and refugees, youth, adoptees, cancer survivors, people living with HIV/AIDS, survivors of violence, and bereaved individuals. She is currently Project Coordinator of the LEGACY Girls Study and is also a staff therapist at a psychotherapy institute in Manhattan.

Melissa’s professional and research interests include health and mental health, trauma and resilience, the psychosocial impacts of breast cancer on women and families, and cancer disclosure in families. She is also interested in social justice, individual and collective agency, identity, narrative, and community. She has two cats and enjoys taking classes, hiking, traveling, and attending music and dance performances.




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