Seattle Vaccine Trials Unit Team

Who We Are

We are the staff and researchers at the Seattle 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 Seattle 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, director of Vaccine and Infectious Diseases at Fred Hutch.

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.”

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 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."

Elfen McIntyre (they/them/theirs)

Outreach Specialist

Elfen joined the VTU in the summer of 2010.  They are a licensed aesthetician/makeup artist and a singer/songwriter.

“I go out to community spaces like bars, bathhouses, and community events to educate community members about vaccine trials that are currently happening,” Elfen said. “Wolf Creek Radical Faerie Sanctuary. I am most happy when I'm absolutely free from working, and can do the things, and see the people I like.”

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!"

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.”

Janine Maenza, MD (she/her)

VTU Clinic Director
UW Clinical Associate Professor
Clinician at Primary Infection Clinic & AIDS Clinical Trials Unit

Janine started as a clinician, screening for vaccine studies in 2004.  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."

Janis Chin

Data Manager

Janis joined the clinic in 1999.  Her primary responsibilities are troubleshooting case report forms submission issues, resolving data queries, communicating data trends with clinicians, entering data and setting up screening packets for new studies.

"My motto is to be a blessing to others while enjoying life fully, fearlessly…with kindness (I try) and with no regrets," Janis said.  "As Mark Twain once wrote, Keep away from people who belittle you. Small people do that, but the ones who are truly great, believe that, you too, can be GREAT."  " I overuse the phrase "what’s for lunch' 'I need coffee' and 'I LOOOOOVE dogs."

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.

Julie Czartoski, ARNP (she/her)

Research Clinician

Julie started at VTU in 2004.  She manages our Cohort Studies which follows the long-term non-progressor and elite controller study, mucosal study, and the lab control study.

"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.”

Julie McElrath, MD, PhD

Principal Investigator

Fred Hutch member and UW Professor of Medicine has a wealth of experience providing the overall leadership of the Seattle VTU. Director of Laboratory Programs with the HVTN and also has many of her own research projects that support the HIV vaccine effort.

Kim Louis (she/her)

Outreach Manager, Mucosal Procedure Assistant

Kim joined the clinic in 2003.  She is responsible for creatively introducing the Vaccine Trials Unit 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

Liya, Outreach Specialist

Liya Rubio (she/her)

Outreach Specialist

Liya joined the VTU in the spring of 2019. She was born in Ethiopia and grew up in Port Townsend Washington. Her other interests and work included, Americorps, advocating for adoptees, education, international work, and Ethiopian traditional dancing.

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.

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.”

Niall Morin (he/him)

Program Assistant

Niall joined the VTU in 2015.  His favorite writers are Thomas Pynchon and Cormac McCarthy. "My most overused words are adverbs, including ostensibly and terribly," Niall said.

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 Seattle VTU and the other half as an HIV/AIDS-specialty pharmacist at Madison Clinic and other research clinics.

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!”

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 (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.

Shane De Leuw (he/him/his)

Outreach Specialist

Shane joined the Outreach team in the summer of 2018. He goes out into the community to educate people about our HIV vaccine research and gather interest in taking part in our clinical trials to support the health of HIV vulnerable populations locally and around the world.

"Many small people who in many small places do many small things to alter the face of the world." — Unknown, taken from Berlin Wall eastside gallery

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