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TEAM
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Pia Pannaraj, MD, MPH
~ Director & Principal Investigator

Dr. Pannaraj is an Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California and Infectious Disease Specialist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). She also serves as the Director of the CHLA Pediatric Global Health Residency Track and Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program.

 

Dr. Pannaraj serves on the Board of Directors for the California Immunization Coalition and has been appointed to an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) expert panel for a Global Immunizations Initiative. She is invited to lecture nationally and internationally on vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases, maternal vaccinations, neonatal health and the microbiome.

Dr. Pannaraj completed her Infectious Diseases fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine and Master of Public Health at the University of Texas Health Science Center. She finished medical school and residency training in pediatrics at University of California, San Diego. She received her undergraduate degree in Economics and Biology from the University of Chicago.

Outside of work, she and her husband raise 3 very active children. They enjoy soccer, outdoor nature activities, and traveling adventures. 

https://www.chla.org/profile/pia-pannaraj-md-mph

PEOPLE

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Yesun Lee, Ph.D.
~ Lab Project Manager

Yesun obtained her Ph.D from Oregon State University with a focus on clinical studies, nutritional science, and biochemistry.  She began working with PiaLab in 2019.  Yesun designs and optimizes wet bench research protocols, trains laboratory staff, and manages the laboratory.  Yesun fights against viruses in the lab, but  also fights tennis balls on the court in her free time. 

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Lauren Turner, M.S.
~ Research Specialist

Lauren was born and raised in So Cal. She obtained her B.S. in Applied Health from Azusa Pacific University and a Masters in Global Medicine from the University of Southern California. She joined the PiaLab as a Research Assistant and is now a Research Specialist. Lauren plays different roles including coordinating studies as well as helping with the collecting and processing of samples. Aside from her love of science and medicine, Lauren’s passion also lies within coaching swimming and continuing her competitive swimming career.  

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Jaycee Jumarang, MD
~ Research Specialist

 Jaycee recently joined the PiaLab as a Research Specialist.  He received his Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry from the University of Santo Tomas. Jaycee also received his Doctor or Medicine degree from De La Salle University- Health Sciences Institute in the Philippines. He is a skilled professional with scientific, research, clinical, and medical experience dedicated in the pursuit of research development. In his free time, Jaycee loves hiking and being with nature once in a while. His friends would describe him as funny and easy going.

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Jocelyn Navarro, MBA
~ Research Coordinator

Jocelyn has an MBA from the Universidad Politecnica de Catalunya, Barcelona and a Masters in Project Management from George Washington University. She has collaborated with the PiaLab as a research coordinator in Panama since 2017. Jocelyn is in charge

 of the execution, recruitment, monitoring, and data management of the Rotavirus Vaccine and Microbiome Study in Panama. She has more than 5 years of experience in project management, previously managing telemedicine projects, for CHLA as well. In her free time she enjoys fitness, including Pilates. 

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Carolyn Jennifer M. Ruiz, MD
~ Research Coordinator

 Jennifer recieved her Medical Degree in Zacatecas, Mexico. She joined the PiaLab at CHLA as a Clinical Research Coordinator. She is very passionate about medicine and helping others. Jennifer is described by others as friendly, resilient, and a strong communicator. She loves to spread kindness. Her hobbies include reading, playing football, and yoga.

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Wesley Cheng, B.S.
~ Research Specialist

Wesley is a Southern California native and obtained his B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley in Chemical Biology. After several years in cancer immunotherapeutics translational research, Wesley joined the PiaLab in 2020 as a Research Specialist to support ongoing clinical research at CHLA. When he is not in a lab coat, you can usually find Wesley looking for something to climb.

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Zion Congrave-Wilson, M.S.
~ Research Assistant

Zion grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and received his B.S. in Microbiology from the University of California, Davis. He then traveled to Imperial College London where he completed his Master's degree in Immunology. Zion is joining the Pannaraj Lab as a Research Assistant to explore pediatric vaccination research and pursue his goal of being a physician-scientist. In his free time, Zion enjoys playing bass guitar, reading and writing, and being surrounded by trees. 

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Shirley Mendieta M.S.
~Research Coordinator

Shirley obtained her Bachelor of Science in Biology and minor in Leadership studies at Azusa Pacific University. She later went on to complete her Master of Science in Global Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She has a passion for research, medicine, and serving communities as a global health leader. Her previous roles include Research Coordinator at the University of Southern California and Hometown Medical Mission Intern at Mending Kids. She joins Pia lab as a Clinical Research Coordinator, playing a key role in coordination of studies. Shirley loves spending time outdoors, traveling and going on hikes.

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Jennifer Del Valle B.S.
~ Research Assistant

Jennifer was born and raised in Southern California. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology from the University of California Santa Cruz. She joins the Pannaraj lab as a research assistant and is planning on pursuing her MS in Microbiology & Immunology with the aspiration of becoming a Clinical Microbiologist. Jennifer enjoys collecting and reading books, gardening and going to concerts.

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Adam Skura B.S.
~ Research Coordinator

Adam was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, but chose to travel across the country for his education. Here on the west coast, he recently graduated in May of 2021 with a B.S. in Human Biology from the University of Southern California. After working as a research assistant in the CHLA Spina Bifida Clinic during his undergraduate years, Adam is excited to join the CHLA family and PiaLab full-time as a Clinical Research Coordinator. Outside of the clinical world, one can usually find Adam exploring the outdoors one hike at a time.

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Harvey Peralta B.S.
~ Research Coordinator

Harvey was raised in Los Angeles and received his Bachelor's degree in International Development from UCLA. His previous role includes coordinating a clinical research study on Latina women with Type II diabetes at AltaMed. Harvey joined the Pannaraj Lab in hopes of bridging the research gap for underserved communities and pursuing his goal of being a physician-scientist. Outside of the clinical world, you can find Harvey doing a one-two step in a dance class, traveling, listening to music, or doing an outdoor activity.

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Yea Ji Sea M.S.
~ Research Coordinator

Yea-Ji grew up in Los Angeles and obtained her B.S. in Spanish and M.S. in Biotechnology. Yea-Ji joins Dr.Pannaraj's lab as a Research Coordinator. Yea-Ji's passion lies in improving the quality of health in different communities. When Yea-Ji is not at the lab, you can find her checking out local coffee shops or hanging out with her two awesome nephews.

Student Trainees
 

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Diego Luna Centeno
~ USC Keck School of Medicine

Career Goals: Emergency Medicine or Surgery. Masters in Public Health.

Hobbies: snowboarding, soccer, surfing, drawing/sketching, and cooking.

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Daniel Hakimi
~ USC B.S. Human Biology

Career Goals: Pediatric Dentistry.

Hobbies: Playing violin in university's orchestra.

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Kennis-Grace Mrotek
~ USC B.S. Global Health

Career Goals: Medical School

Hobbies: US National Team in Aesthetic Group Gymnastics, travel, and spending time with friends.

Former Team Members
Where are they now?
 

Stephanie Perez BS
Quality Control Analyst
GenVivo, Inc

Gen

Melissa L Tanaka-MD
Pediatric Resident
New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital 

Chiara Cerini-MD
Pediatric Resident
Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Thomas Tarro-MD
Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics
University of California, San Francisco

Adrianna Sainz- BS
Medical Student
American University of Antigua

Ariana Peralta-BS
IVF Coordinator
HRC Fertility

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