Genetics and Family History Advisory Council
The Genetics and Family History Advisory Council is dedicated in the honor of Dennis Ahnen, MD, a Medical Advisory Board member and legend in the field of colorectal cancer prevention and control.
Continuing the Fight in Dr. Ahnen’s Honor
Dennis Ahnen made an immeasurable impact through his curiosity and passion for helping patients and families with a zest for life. In his honor, Fight CRC and the medical experts serving on this advisory council will help advise on patient education materials and research, in addition to practicing approaches to help identify high-risk patients and families with genetic syndromes for earlier screening. The Genetics and Family History Advisory Council will also advise the Early Age Onset Workgroup to advance their work in reducing cancer in young adults through better identification of family history and advancing the research and policy agenda.
Genetics and Family History Advisory Council Members
Heather Hampel, MS, LGC
“Dennis was one of the kindest humans I have ever met. I met him through the Collaborative Group of the Americas for Inherited Colorectal Cancer and really got to know him when I joined the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable and began working with him on the Family History and Early-Onset CRC workgroup. He was completely devoted to improving the identification of individuals at high risk for colorectal cancer so they could benefit from earlier and more frequent colon screening. He thought about the important questions from every angle and inspired me to the same. He asked me questions about my research that made me look at it in a different light and understand the not-so-obvious implications of my findings. He invited collaboration and input from everyone at the table. He had a smile that was contagious and such a positive outlook on life. He was one-of-a-kind and he will be missed.”
Heather Hampel completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Genetics at the Ohio State University in 1993. She attained her Master’s degree in Human Genetics from Sarah Lawrence College in 1995. She received certification from the American Board of Genetic Counseling in 1996. She worked as a cancer genetic counselor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center before moving to The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC) in 1997.
Currently, Heather is a Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine and Associate Director of the Division of Human Genetics. She is also the Associate Director of Biospecimen Research for the OSUCCC. She was the study coordinator for the Columbus area Lynch syndrome study which determined the frequency of Lynch syndrome among newly diagnosed patients with these cancers. This study culminated in first author publications in the New England Journal of Medicine in May of 2005, Cancer Research in August of 2006, and the Journal of Clinical Oncology in December of 2008. She is now the PI of the Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative which is screening colorectal cancer patients from 50 hospitals throughout the state for hereditary cancer syndromes. The first major publication from that study showing that 16% of early onset colorectal cancers are hereditary was published in 2017 in JAMA Oncology. Heather Hampel was the Region IV Representative on the Board of Directors of the National Society of Genetic Counselors in 2003-4. She was on the Board of Directors for the American Board of Genetic Counseling from 2006 – 2011, serving as President in 2009 and 2010. She was elected to the Steering Committee member of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable in 2016. She has been on the Council of the Collaborative Group of the Americas on Inherited Colorectal Cancer since 2016 and served as President in 2018.
Swati G. Patel, MD, MS
“I am the physician, researcher, teacher and human I am today because of Dr. Dennis Ahnen. As a mentor, Dr. Ahnen selflessly elevated me by ushering me into his professional world. I have never met a more kind or generous person. He opened his heart and his family to everyone around him and has given me a vision of where I aspire to be. He had a unique ability to make everyone around him feel valued and important, and brought out the best in everyone around him. He approached every situation with optimism and brightness, somehow without ever compromising his critical thinking and scholarly acumen.”
Dr. Patel completed a Masters in Health Systems Administration from Union University and attended Albany Medical College for her medical degree. She completed her InternalMedicine Residency and Gastroenterology fellowship at the University of Colorado. She is board certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology. She was on faculty at the University of Michigan from 2013 to 2015 and joined the University of Colorado in2015. Dr. Patel has an appointment of Associate Professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She is the Director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Risk and Prevention Center at the Anschutz Medical Center where she cares for patients at high risk for cancer based on their family history and genetics. Dr. Patel is also a Staff Physician at the Rocky Mountain Regional Veterans Affairs Hospital. Her clinical and research interests are in colorectal cancer prevention, identification and management of patients at high-risk for colorectal cancer and colonoscopy quality & training.
Peter P. Stanich, MD
“Dr. Ahnen is a great role model. I will always remember the first time I met him when I had just started my career – despite all of his work and his stature in this field, he introduced himself to me at one of our large GI conferences and discussed the research I was presenting like we were equals. This made a huge impression on me and was so welcoming for someone just starting in this field. In the years since, I realized how everyone that had worked or collaborated with him had similar feelings about him. He will be missed.”
Peter Stanich MD is a gastroenterologist and associate professor at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. His clinical focus is on the diagnosis and longitudinal care of patients with hereditary colon cancer syndromes and is part of a multi-disciplinary specialty clinic in conjunction with genetic counselors. His research interests include PTEN hamartoma tumor syndrome, polyposis syndromes and Lynch syndrome. He completed his internal medicine residency at the Mayo Clinic and his gastroenterology fellowship at Ohio State.
Jennifer M. Weiss, MD, MS
“I first met Dennis at the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable annual meeting. I was a junior faculty and had just started the University of Wisconsin Gastrointestinal Genetics Clinic. Dennis gave me much needed and appreciated advice on how to get this clinic up and running and made me feel like I was the right person to do it. Today, we have two genetic counselors, added another faculty physician, and expanded to create a multi-disciplinary pancreas cancer prevention clinic. I will greatly miss the chance to have meaningful and inspiring conversations with Dennis at all of our national meetings.”
Dr. Weiss is an Associate Professor in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (UWSMPH) and Director of the UW Gastrointestinal Genetics Clinic. She has a Master’s degree in Population Health Sciences from UWSMPH and completed post-doctoral training in health services research and healthcare quality improvement. Her clinical and research program focuses on improving colorectal cancer screening for both average-risk and high-risk populations. She has received funding from the American Cancer Society and NIH to evaluate healthcare system interventions to increase colorectal cancer screening and is currently funded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program to identify successful screening strategies in both rural and urban settings. At the state-level, Dr. Weiss has served as the physician lead for the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality Colorectal Cancer Screening Improvement Team for the past eight years with the goal of screening 80% of eligible individuals across Wisconsin. Nationally, she is the UW Health liaison to the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, serves on multiple guideline committees for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (Vice Chair of the Genetic/Familial High-Risk Assessment: Colorectal Guideline Committee, Member of the Colorectal Cancer Screening Guideline Committee), and the American Gastroenterological Association. She is excited to support any work on improving colorectal cancer screening for average-risk and high-risk individuals.
Jennifer Kolb, MD, MS
“Dennis approached everything with passion and curiosity. He had a way of taking an ordinary conversation, a basic idea, or a routine conference and elevating it to an awesomely fun and memorable experience. Dennis was the quintessential mentor who always went out of his way to gift me professional opportunities, but more importantly he cared to know me on a personal level and to understand what motivated my clinical and research interests. His zest for living and learning are what I will cherish most.”
Jennifer Kolb completed her Gastroenterology fellowship training at the University of Colorado Hospital and she is continuing her training at UC Irvine in advanced endoscopy and GI oncology. She is particularly interested in developing and implementing strategies for early detection and improved recognition of gastrointestinal neoplasia as well as expanding techniques in endoscopic oncology. Her research focuses on familial risk associated with colorectal cancer and advanced polyps as well as strategies to improve communication between patients, family members, and physicians surrounding cancer risk.