Hosting Virtual Events [HRA Members Meeting, Virtual, Spring 2021]

As we all have experienced, 2020 was the year of hosting virtual events. Have you spent hours researching the how-to’s of managing virtual meetings? This session will discuss the nuts and bolts of organizing and facilitating online events and will showcase studies of best practices in hosting your event. Dr. Arne Bakker will highlight what has worked well, how to encourage a culture of open communication and meaningful participation with your audience, and how to select the most appropriate platform for your event. In addition to Dr. Bakker, a panel of HRA members will share stories of how they have incorporated virtual tools into other areas of grantmaking such as conducting virtual board meetings, site visits, as well as connecting with grantees, and advisors.

Shandra Koler
Senior Program Officer | The Sontag Foundation

Shandra Koler joined the Sontag Foundation in 2014. The Sontag Foundation is one of the largest funders of brain cancer related research in North America. The Foundation was established in 2002 by Frederick and Susan Sontag following Susan’s successful battle with a normally lethal form of brain cancer. To date the Foundation has granted $38 million to 55 scientists at 39 major academic medical and research centers in the United States and Canada. Shandra oversees and manages the Foundation’s grant portfolio. Shandra joined the Foundation with 16+ years of public service focusing on creating strategic community alliances, operations administration, project implementation and oversight. Her career started in municipal government in Cleveland, Ohio, initiating and sustaining collaborative partnerships and designing and implementing safety-net programs for animal care services. She received several service awards, including the Mayor’s Outstanding Community Member Award. Shandra expanded her civil service work by serving as program director for a neighborhood leadership development program, an initiative of the Mandel Foundation and as a community development specialist for a federal economic recovery initiative.

Jessica Biddinger
Senior Manager, Pre-Award and Operational Guidelines Oversight | American Heart Association

Jessica is a Senior Manager in Research Operations at the American Heart Association. In this role, she manages the applications and peer review teams and supports both AHA’s foundational and strategic research programs. Prior to joining the AHA, Jessica worked at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and School of Nursing with core responsibilities including program development, grant submission, pre- and post-award activities, tracking and reporting, evaluation, and business development. She also has prior non-profit experience working with the American Urological Association. Jessica earned a BS in Chemistry from the University of Vermont and an MS in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University.

Arne Bakker, PhD
Director, Meetings and Community for Science  | The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Arne Bakker is the Director of Meetings and Community for Science at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. He has a PhD in tumor immunology from the Netherlands Cancer Institute and did his postdoctoral research at UC Berkeley. Before joining the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Arne was Assistant Dean of Career Education for PhDs and Postdocs at Stanford University where he helped graduate students and postdocs find meaningful work. Throughout his career, Arne has always been actively bringing scientists together: he ran a Science Festival in Amsterdam, co-organized PhD career conferences at UC Berkeley and Stanford, and hosted several events at the Bay Area Science Festival. Now at CZI, Arne leads the team that organizes 15-20 scientific meetings a year for the researchers and communities that CZI funds and supports. In addition, he partners with the various CZI program teams to build and support collaborative communities, using the lessons he has learned during his multifaceted career.

Member Speakers
Jenni Danai, MPH
Senior Director of Programs  | Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina

Jenni Danai is the Senior Director of Programs for the Lung Cancer Initiative where she oversees and provides direction on survivorship, education, research and access programs.  Jenni has been instrumental in developing and growing these programs since she started with LCI in 2013.  She assembled lung cancer research experts in North Carolina for LCI’s first internal Scientific Advisory Committee.  From there, she established review committees including an external committee made up of experts from across the country. Jenni constructed LCI’s research funding mechanisms starting with the Research Fellows program in 2015, then the Vicky Amidon Innovation Grant in Lung Cancer Research in 2018 and most recent the Career Development award in 2019.  Through her leadership the research program and other LCI’s programs have grown and evolved impacting the lives of more lung cancer patients every year.  Before working at LCI, Jenni was the Health Initiatives Manager for the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians where she managed grant-funded projects for several public health issues including health disparities, childhood obesity and tobacco.  In her role, she collaborated directly with primary care providers to provide education and resources for them to better meet the needs of their patients.  She continues many of these collaborations at LCI with a new focus of education and awareness around lung cancer.  Jenni serves on the Duke Cancer Institute’s Community Advisory Council and the Early Detection Subcommittee for the North Carolina Advisory Committee on Cancer Coordination and Control.  Jenni received her Master’s in Public Health Education from UNC-Greensboro, her Bachelors of Community Health at the University of Illinois and she completed a Health Disparities Fellowship with the Duke Global Health Institute.

Nicole Burpo, MS
Research Operations Manager | American Heart Association

Nicole Burpo is Operations Manager in Strategic Research at the American Heart Association, where she oversees several of the largest awards offered by AHA. The awards her team manages represent more than $200M in research funding, focusing on specific areas of cardiovascular disease research, such as atrial fibrillation, brain health and cognition, nicotine and vaping addiction, and COVID-19.

Prior to joining AHA, Nicole held a variety of roles, including monitoring legacy nuclear waste, examining reclaimed coal mine sites, and researching biofilm formations.

Nicole’s love of the biological world coupled with her degree in genetics enabled her to study the flora and fauna in remarkable places such as the Texas desert, rainforests of Mexico, and cave systems in Borneo. She is passionate about healthcare equity and nutrition security and is currently wrapping up her MPH at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Christina (Leah) Kline, PhD
Assistant Director, Scientific Reviews and Grants Administration | AACR

C. Leah Kline joined the American Association for Cancer Research in 2017. The AACR has awarded more than $480 million in grants to more than 800 scientists for research projects that aim to advance the understanding and treatment of cancer. In her current role, as part of the Scientific Review and Grants Administration department at AACR, she is focused on managing many of the grants that are funded by Stand Up To Cancer; the AACR is the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer. Leah has 25+ years of professional experience ranging from laboratory research to grants administration/management, not only in cancer but also in microbiology and diabetic retinopathy. She received her PhD at Pennsylvania State University, and pursued postdoctoral training under the mentorship of physician-scientist Wafik El-Deiry, MD, PhD at Penn State Cancer Institute, and subsequently, Fox Chase Cancer Center.