Seattle Vaccine Trials Unit Team

Who We Are

We are the staff and researchers at the Vaccine Trials Unit (VTU), a program at Fred Hutch. Our research is conducted by expert scientists at Fred Hutch, University of Washington and other academic institutions. Our team works with study volunteers to ensure the best science is conducted to help prevent HIV.

Our medical team is led by Dr. Julie McElrath, Senior Vice President and Director of the Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Division at Fred Hutch.

David Berger, RN

David Berger, RN (he/him)

VTU Clinic Coordinator, Research Clinician

David joined the VTU in February 1990.  He is a research nurse and clinic coordinator.  His role is to screen, enroll and follow volunteers through their study protocols. David also coordinates the starting and implementation of new COVID-19 and HIV vaccine studies to ensure that all staff are prepared to screen new volunteers, the lab is ready for samples to arrive for that specific protocol and verifies staff are familiar with any study-related changes throughout the study.

"I am most relaxed when I am riding my bike or hanging in our hammock chairs under the cedar tree in my back yard with an ice cold beer and my dog Jack in my lap," David said. "My heroes are everyday people that do extraordinary things with limited resources."

Gina Braun

Gina Braun (she/her)

Regulatory Affairs Manager

Gina joined the VTU in 2003.  Her role is to prepare and manage all of the site’s submissions and communications with regulatory bodies, such as the Fred Hutch’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). She is responsible for ensuring the unit’s compliance with institutional, state and federal regulations. Gina writes and edits all of the study materials for participants including consent forms, letters and instruction sheets. She also assists with protocol development and implementation for the unit’s cohort projects.

"My motto is plan ahead," Gina said. "My greatest greatest extravagance is my daily dose of Starbucks!"

Devoy Colley, MA-P, MA-R

Devoy Colley, MA-P, MA-R (he/him/his)

Clinical Medical Assistant

Devoy started with the VTU in March 2019 as an Outreach Specialist, and rejoined the team September 2020 as a Clinical Assistant, following the VTU’s expansion towards Covid-19 prevention. Devoy’s position with the VTU is fluid, providing clinical and administrative assistance to the VTU research clinicians, as well as the unit as a whole.

Devoy moved to Seattle in 2017 from his hometown of Vero Beach, Florida. On his free time, he enjoys learning languages, watching educational YouTube videos, exploring Seattle and the surrounding areas, and playing video games with friends. 

Julie Czartoski, ARNP

Julie Czartoski, ARNP (she/her)

Research Clinician

Julie started at VTU in 2004.  She manages our HIV Cohort Studies which follows the HIV long-term non-progressor and HIV elite controller study, mucosal study, and the lab control study. In February 2020, she started the COVID-Cohort study [link to covidstudies page], testing and following people who are at risk for COVID and people who are newly infected. 

"I can’t imagine a more perfect occupation than what I do now," Julie said. "I value in my friends their ability to laugh (usually with me, occasionally at me) and mutual trust.”

Nila Griffin

Nila Griffin (she/her)

Clinical Assistant

I am joining the team as a Clinical Assistant! I will support the team as a line of communication between clinicians and participants. Likewise, I will assist with administrative duties and recruitment coordination.

When I grow up, I aspire to be a public advocate for black women within the healthcare system with an emphasis on mental and maternal health. According to the ancient Indian proverb "Certain things catch you eye but pursue only those that capture your heart." I love to serve and support my community and I am thrilled to support the VTU team again.

Melinda Houdak

Melinda Houdak (she/her)

Regulatory Support Specialist

Melinda joined the VTU in April 2013. She assists in the preparation and drafting of regulatory documents to be submitted to the local Institutional Review Board (IRB). Melinda also assists with implementation of study documents in clinic, once approved.

"The greatest loves of my life are my husband, Abe, and our children, Javin and Hailey," Melinda said. " My motto is go into the world and do well, but more importantly, go into the world and do good.”

Jackie Jourjy

Jackie Jourjy (she/her)

Pharmacist

Jackie joined the VTU team in 2020. She is a clinical and research pharmacist with advanced training in infectious diseases. Most of her past experiences have been in pharmacy academia. Jackie thrives in collaborative, interdisciplinary settings where she works to improve the lives of those in her community, both locally and globally. She is very excited to get to work with such a wonderful and diverse team at the VTU!

Jackie loves to travel the world and experience new people, cultures, music, food, and ways of life. Meaningful conversations with friends and family are life-giving to her. 

Nick Kendall, M.S.

Nick Kendall, M.S. (he/him)

Data Coordinator Lead

Nick joined the VTU in September 2020 coming to Seattle via Iowa. His primary responsibilities are coordinating clinical research data collection processes and data quality management in support of the VTU. He is responsible for assuring adherence to protocol-required data collection ongoing data quality control, as well as overall data quality assurance and control. 

“If you can’t find me at work I am either at a local brewery sampling their latest IPA, out on a trial getting lost in nature, or at home watching my beloved Denver Broncos or Iowa Hawkeyes with my wife, Natalie, cat, Queso, and dog Summit,” Nick said. 

Anne Konchan, ARNP

Anne Konchan, ARNP (she/her)

Research Clinician

Anne joined the VTU in the winter of 2014. She works directly with volunteers to screen, enroll and follow them through various clinical trials in progress at the clinic, including vaccine and mucosal studies, as well as the malaria and rhinovirus trials.

"I value an open mind and a good sense of humor in my friends," Anne said. "My happiest day was in Chicago, the day my husband proposed.”

Ji Eun Lee, Pharm.D., BCPS

Ji Eun Lee, Pharm.D., BCPS (she/her)

Pharmacist

Ji is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy and a Clinical Pharmacist at the Madison Clinic, Harborview Medical Center. She graduated from University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy.  She has worked at Madison Clinic since 2005 and joined the VTU in  2017.

James Lilly

James Lilly (he/him)

Community Outreach Specialist

James joined the VTU in 2010. His role involves contacting potential volunteers and updating them on current research studies and projects.  He also coordinates various community events to engage folks on VTU progress, and inspire their help in finding an HIV vaccine.

“My mother is the greatest love of my life," James said. "She’s the person who continues to inspire me to be thoughtful and caring to myself and others.”

Kim Louis

Kim Louis (she/her)

Outreach Manager, Mucosal Procedure Assistant

Kim joined the clinic in 2003.  She is responsible for creatively introducing the VTU research to the local community and ensuring people join the studies with the full knowledge of what it means to participate.

"To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks a real advance in science." — Albert Einstein

Janine Maenza, MD

Janine Maenza, MD (she/her)

VTU Clinic Director

Janine started as a clinician, screening for vaccine studies in 2004.  She is also  a clinical associate professor at the University of Washington. She has worked in HIV clinical research since 1993.  Janine enjoys seeing volunteers in VTU vaccine studies, and participants in observational studies at Primary Infection Clinic and AIDS Clinical Trials Unit.

"My idea of perfect happiness is an early morning cup of coffee and a good book," Janine said. "My favorite book is A.S. Byatt's Possession."

Julie McElrath, MD, PhD

Julie McElrath, MD, PhD

Principal Investigator

Dr. McElrath is senior vice president and director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at Fred Hutch, and a Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington. As a principal investigator and director of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network’s Laboratory Center, she works to develop an effective vaccine and plays a key role in the HVTN, the largest international program for testing such vaccines. Dr. McElrath also oversees a number of COVID-19 projects at Fred Hutch and is focused on studying protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2, as well as vaccine development through the Vaccine Trials Unit.

Meredith Potochnic, PharmD

Meredith Potochnic, PharmD

Pharmacist

Meredith has been with our clinic since 1997, after moving to Seattle from Baltimore where she worked on AIDS clinical trials at Johns Hopkins University. She works half time with the VTU and the other half as an HIV/AIDS-specialty pharmacist at Madison Clinic and other research clinics.

Adrienne Shapiro, M.D.

Adrienne Shapiro, M.D. (she/her)

VTU Investigator

Adrienne joined the VTU in 2020 as a vaccine investigator and research clinician. She enjoys seeing volunteers in VTU vaccine studies, as well as leading studies in the US and South Africa to understand, treat, and prevent HIV, TB, COVID-19, and other infectious diseases. Adrienne is also a Acting Assistant Professor at the Univeristy of Washington and a clinician at the Madison Clinic at Harborview Medical Center. 

Patrick Tschumper, RN

Patrick Tschumper, RN

Research Nurse

After years of work experience extending from the Hawaiian Islands to the Chesapeake Bay Patrick pursued additional education and obtained credentials to become a registered nurse.  He returned to Seattle and joined the Vaccine Trials Unit to resume his life’s work focusing on wellness, sexual health, HIV education, prevention and research.

“The opportunity to work as an RN with the VTU has allowed me to pursue my passions for serving others and supporting them in their journeys, while contributing to scientific efforts that investigate new strategies to promote health and protect life.  Our study volunteers and the dedicated people working in this field teach me something new every day.  I am very proud to be a part of this team!”

Lynn Wang

Lynn Wang (she/her)

Regulatory Coordinator

Lynn joined the VTU in 2018. She supports the program by ensuring regulatory compliance for the research studies being conducted at Seattle VTU and Immunology Vaccine Development at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research

I often reflect on the quote by Edward Abbey, “What is the purpose of the giant sequoia tree? The purpose of the giant sequoia tree is to provide shade for the tiny titmouse.” During my life I have found  myself in the roles of both the giant sequoia, as well as the tiny titmouse. I am so grateful to be part of a team that works  towards providing shelter and shade.

Noel Williams

Noel Williams (she/her)

Clinic Assistant

Noel joined the VTU in July 2004.  She started out packaging and shipping diagnostic specimens, plus working as a receptionist and doing data entry. Soon after, she was screening potential volunteers after getting to know all the studies. Noel also schedules extra sample requests for our assays, and assist clinicians with various sample collections which support our vaccine research.

"My most treasured possession is a 1909 Conn C-melody saxophone," Noel said. "I value most compassion in my friends."

Ro Yoon

Ro Yoon (she/her)

Community Educator

Ro rejoined the VTU in July 2018 after a couple years away in San Francisco. She is an activist that engages with diverse communities throughout Seattle to ensure that HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention research are relevant and inclusive to all.

In addition to educational sessions with volunteers and being a liaison for VTU Community Advisory Board, Yoon coordinates community events and training that address wellness issues that intersect with HIV/AIDS.

"The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion." [Albert Camus] Ro believes her most marked characteristic is nerves of steel.

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