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Core Faculty

The Center’s Core Faculty work with the Director and Deputy Director to oversee and carry out the Center’s work. Its members are researchers with training in psychiatry, neurology, psychology, genetics, pediatrics, bioethics, public policy, epidemiology, law and genetic counseling.

Roy Alcalay, MD, MS
Roy Alcalay is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Taub Institute and the program director of the Movement Disorders Fellowship at the Columbia University Medical Center. His primary research work involves the genetics and the epidemiology of Parkinson’s disease.
He is a Brookdale Leadership in Aging fellow, and his research is supported by the NIH (K02 K02NS080915), the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, the Smart Foundation and the Michael J Fox Foundation.

Frances Champagne, PhD
Dr. Frances A. Champagne is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Columbia University. Her research program is focused on the impact of social experiences within and across generations, and the molecular mechanisms that mediate these effects using a variety of rodent models. In particular, her research explores the epigenetic pathways linking early life experiences to long-term changes in neurobiology and behavior. Dr. Champagne’s research is funded by NIMH, NIEHS, and EPA. Dr. Champagne is also an instructor of a variety of courses at Columbia University, including: “The Developing Brain”, “Inheritance, “Neurobiology of Reproductive Behavior”, and “Ethics, Genetics and the Brain”.

Angela Christiano, PhD
Dr. Angela Christiano is the Rhodebeck Professor of Dermatology and Professor of Genetics & Development and Director of the Center for Human Genetics, at Columbia University Medical Center. The major focus of her research is the study of inherited skin and hair disorders in humans and mice, through a classical genetic approach including identification and phenotyping of disease families, genetic linkage, gene discovery and mutation analysis, and functional studies relating these findings to basic questions in epidermal biology.

Wendy Chung, MD, PhD
Wendy Chung is a clinical and molecular geneticist who will be coordinating the follow up studies of the babies born in the Wapner CNV study. She has extensive experience clinically characterizing children with CNVs and is the PI of the multicenter Simons VIP study characterizing participants with 16 p11.2 and 1q21 deletions and duplications. She also has extensive experience in recruitment, retention, and longitudinal characterization in genetic studies including NIH funded studies of congenital diaphragmatic hernia (R01 HD057036), congenital heart disease (U01 HL098163), and breast cancer (R01 CA159868). She has led many complex multicenter studies and currently chairs the NCI-funded Breast Cancer Family Registry and the NHLBI- funded Pediatric Cardiac Genomic Consortium. As an experienced prenatal and pediatric clinical geneticist and ELSI researcher, she is also highly experienced in working with parents of children with genetic variations, caring for the children as they grow up, and appreciating many of the common issues that arise for patients with genetic conditions.

Elizabeth Gross Cohn, RN, PhD
Elizabeth Gross Cohn is a faculty member in Columbia’s School of Nursing, and a Robert Wood Johnson Nurse Faculty Scholar in the effects of ELSI issues on health disparities in minority populations. She has published extensively on the inclusion of vulnerable minority populations in gene transfer and HIV vaccine trials. Her current work focuses on minority participation in genetic and epigenetic research. She is a founding member of the Communities of Harlem Health Revival, collaborates with Abyssinian Baptist Church on minority health, and is Associate Director of Research for the Hip Hop Public Education Center at Harlem Hospital.

Abby Fyer, MD
Dr. Abby Fyer is a Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia Medical School. She is additionally the Director of the Anxiety Genetics Unit for the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Jill Goldman, MS, MPhil, CGC
Jill S Goldman is a genetic counselorat the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center. She counsels and does research on hereditary dementias, movement disorders, and other adult neurogenetic conditions. Her particular areas of interest are atypical dementias, especially frontotemporal dementia, and the ethical aspects of genetic testing and genetic research. In addition to her clinical work, Goldman is very interested in improving the quality of life for families living with dementia. Goldman leads several support groups in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association: a group for Early-stage dementia patients meeting at the Metropolitan Museum and a group for frontotemporal dementia caregivers. She also directs a program entitled “A Friend for Rachel” which pairs people with early cognitive problems with Columbia University students. Before coming to Columbia in the fall of 2006, she worked as a genetic counselor for the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco; before that she was a health education specialist and science teacher.

Nancy Green, MD
Nancy Green is Associate Dean of Clinical Research Operations at the Columbia University Medical Center, Associate Director of Columbia’s NCRR-funded Clinical Translational Science Award (CTSA), and Professor in the division of Pediatric Hematology. She received her medical degree at Columbia University, and is a Columbia-trained Pediatric Hematologist-Oncologist. Dr. Green served as the Medical Director of the national March of Dimes, where she oversaw the scientific priorities, policies and educational efforts of the Foundation, with emphasis on genetics, newborn screening (NBS), adverse birth outcomes, biomedical ethics and perinatal epidemiology. Her research focuses on two areas: translational, clinical and social aspects of treatment for sickle cell disease, and the genetic screening of newborns and children, the latter related to her service to the federal HHS Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders and Genetic Diseases in Newborns and Children.

Josephine Johnston, LLB, MBHL
Josephine Johnston is Director of Research and a Research Scholar at The Hastings Center. She holds degrees in law and bioethics from the University of Otago in Dunedin New Zealand. Since 2001, Ms. Johnston has worked as a bioethics researcher in the U.S. and Canada. She works on a range of ethical, legal, and policy issues in science and medicine, including issues in reproduction and parenting, psychiatry and neuroscience, and the conduct of biomedical research. She has also developed a bioethics research program for high school students.

Robert Klitzman, MD
Robert Klitzman, MD, is a Professor of Clinical Psychiatry in the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Joseph Mailman School of Public Health, and Director of the Masters of Bioethics Program at Columbia University. He has authored or co-authored over 100 articles, and 8 books, examining ethical issues concerning genetics, assisted reproductive technologies, research, HIV, and physician education. His books include “Am I My Genes?”: Confronting Fate and Family Secrets in the Age of Genetic Testing. He has received several awards, including Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, The Russell Sage Foundation, the Aaron Diamond Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund, and the Rockefeller Foundation; and is a member of the Empire State Stem Cell Commission.

Karen Marder, MD
Karen Marder is the Sally Kerlin Professor of Neurology (in the Sergievsky Center, Taub Institute, and Psychiatry) at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is also Chief of the Division of Aging and Dementia in the Department of Neurology. Dr. Karen Marder received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and her medical degree from Weil Cornell Medical College. She completed her residency training in Neurology at the Neurological Institute and fellowship training in Behavioral Neurology with Dr. Richard Mayeux and Neuroepidemiology training with Dr. W. Allan Hauser at Columbia. She joined the faculty as an assistant professor of Neurology in 1989. She has been the Director of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America Center of Excellence since 1991. In September 2001, she was appointed Chief of the division of Aging and Dementia in the Department of Neurology, and was appointed Professor in 2002. In May 2006 she was elected to a 6 year term as Co-Chair of the Parkinson Study group, a consortium of North American investigators at 85 sites who participate in collaborative Parkinson’s Disease (PD) research. In October 2006 she was appointed the director of the Participant Clinical Interactions Resource at Columbia, one of 12 NIH funded Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA).

Erik Parens, PhD
Erik Parens is a Senior Research Scholar at The Hastings Center, the country’s first bioethics research institute. He has led major research projects directly relevant to the one proposed here, which brought together highly diverse stakeholders (including natural scientists, social scientists, humanists, and patients) and produced highly cited publications. Previous projects have focused on the controversies surrounding the interpretation of results from behavioral genetics studies (Parens, 1994; Parens et al., 1994); the disability community critique of prenatal genetic testing (Parens & Asch, 1999; 2000); and controversies surrounding the use of psychotropic medication to treat behavioral and emotional disturbances in children (Parens & Johnston, 2009; 2010; 2011). He also currently serves on the Advisory Board to the nation’s first genetic counseling program at Sarah Lawrence College.

Jo Phelan, PhD
Dr. Phelan’s research interests include social stigma, conceptions of mental illness, the impact of the “genetics revolution” on the stigma of mental illness, attitudes and beliefs relating to social inequality and its legitimation, as well as social inequalities in health and mortality. Her NHGRI-funded work has focused on the impact of the geneticization of psychiatric disorders, and she has expertise in survey, vignette, interview and related methodologies. She has worked closely with post-doctoral fellows in the Psychiatric Epidemiology Training Program.

Sharon Schwartz, PhD
Dr. Schwartz, a sociologist, has been the training coordinator of the Psychiatric Epidemiology Training program for over 20 years. In that capacity she has overseen the training of post-doctoral fellows from a variety of disciplines. Her research focuses on the ways in which different methodological approaches influence conclusions drawn about the etiology (including genetic etiology) and consequences of psychiatric disorders, which is a focus of her teaching as well.

Rachel Yarmolinsky
Rachel Yarmolinsky, Director of Media Relations and Marketing at Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, will oversee all CEER coordination activities. Ms. Yarmolinsky is experienced in event and meeting planning, science writing, graphic design in both electronic and print formats and in external and media relations. A former director of Audiovisual Services in the department, she is experienced in video and teleconferencing, and highly familiar with web-based and social media communication modalities. Ms. Yarmolinsky is currently completing an MS in Bioethics at Columbia University.