Network Spotlight

The network aims to collaborate with the broader scientific community through conducting clinical studies, publications, conference presentations and sharing data in a central repository (DASH). We want to maximize the value of the data these women graciously provide to us to learn more and find the best treatments.

University of California at San Diego

Meet some of the team at the University of California at San Diego!
UCSD OB/GYN Faculty

UC San Diego has been a member of the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network (PFDN) since 2006. The Division of Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery at UCSD seeks to be an international leader in clinical care, research, and education. Our division members are committed to our mission and actively participate in basic science research, clinical outcomes research evaluating interventions for pelvic floor dysfunction, and bladder health promotion. We consider it an honor and a privilege to work with top investigators in the field who are collectively improving healthcare for women everywhere.

Laura Aughinbaugh DNP, WHNP, CNM has been with PFDN as a co-investigator for 8 years! She currently is involved with ESTEEM, ROSETTA, NOTABLE, ASPIRe, E-SUPeR, MUSA, and TULIP.

Laura is a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner and a Certified Nurse Midwife at UC San Diego Health. She has cared for women and for the childbearing family in these roles for 19 years. She currently spends her clinical time serving women in Urogynecology at UC San Diego Health. Laura’s introduction to PFDN started when she joined the UC San Diego Health team of healthcare providers and researchers. The most rewarding part of her participation in PFDN is knowing that the care and healing she offers women within the clinic, can go beyond her day-to-day encounters. She loves that her efforts today, will help improve the lives of women for future generations. There are only so many hours in a day and only so much she can do with her own two hands - PFDN enables her to reach more women through thoughtful investigation and evaluation. Laura is very grateful for the efforts of the PFDN.

Laura, Joseline, and Dulce
Cecile Ferrando

Dr. Cecile Ferrando recently joined UCSD, taking over as Fellowship & Research Director of the Urogynecology & Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery Division and Co-Director of the URPS Clinic. While new to UCSD, Dr. Ferrando has been part of the PFDN for many years, having worked as an investigator during her FPMRS fellowship and subsequent faculty position at Cleveland Clinic since 2015. One of her biggest passions is graduate medical and surgical education. In Cleveland, she served as the Program Director of two fellowships and was the Vice Chair of Education for the Department of OBGYN. As a scientific investigator she has published over 100 original research papers. Her research interests include clinical outcomes of pelvic reconstructive surgery as well as gender affirmation surgery. She has been a long-standing advocate for the transgender community. Dr. Ferrando founded the Cleveland Clinic’s Transgender Surgery & Medicine Program in 2015 and has performed over 400 gender-affirmation surgeries. She brings a unique skillset to UCSD and is excited to be an active contributor to their research program, as well as the PFDN.

Dulce Rodriguez-Ponciano is one of our Clinical Research Coordinators and has been part of our team for 7 years. She started with us as a Research Assistant in 2017 while completing her undergraduate degree. She has been involved with numerous PFDN trials and currently manages eSUPeR and eASPIRe. She is also a member of the PFDN’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Dulce says the most rewarding part of working with the PFDN is establishing meaningful connections with participants and making them feel supported and truly valued.

Dulce grew up in Tijuana, México and currently resides in San Diego. She is passionate about contributing to services that benefit marginalized populations. She has volunteered with various cross-border health organizations since 2017. In her free time, Dulce enjoys roller skating and spending time at the beach.

Dulce Rodriguez-Ponciano
Joseline Sanchez

Joseline Sanchez is a Clinical Research Coordinator who started with PFDN back in November 2023.

Right before graduating with her B.A in Public Health from UC Berkeley, Joseline began her clinical research journey at UCSF within the Division of General Pediatrics and Health Policy Studies. Born and raised in San Diego, California, Joseline knew she wanted to return home and continue her passion for Public Health and Medicine, assisting the community she grew up in. It was then that she found herself at UCSD Health.

Her interest in Women’s Health peaked while she assisted in Cervical Cancer research. She appreciates being part of research focused on improving women's health and is passionate about diversifying medical research. She enjoys engaging with women in both English and Spanish and being able to facilitate recruitment efforts.

In her free time Joseline loves to go to the beach, try new cuisines and is always on the hunt for a new Boba spot.

Previous Spotlights

Meet some of the team at Brown/Women & Infants Hospital!

At Brown/WIH (Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island) we have been proud members of the Pelvic Floor Disorder Network (PFDN) since 2011. Our site has grown and changed over the years, and we are happy to feature 3 very important members of our team.

Sarashwathy (Sara) Veera, BS is our Senior Research Assistant and has been involved in numerous PFDN trials including NOTABLe, SUPeR/eSUPeR, ASPIRe/eASPIRe, and MUSA/PROMISe. In addition to recruiting, tracking, and knowing our research participants, she also oversees our IRB submissions. Importantly, she is also active in our team’s community engagement work and is a member of our institution’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.

Leah McKay, BS, MS is a Research Assistant on our team. For PFDN, she conducts follow-up visits and data entry for our eSUPeR, eASPIRe and MUSA participants. She is a quick study and has a knack for developing great relationships with our research participants and making them feel at ease. We look forward to her involvement in our upcoming PFDN trials.

Julia Shinnick, MD became a faculty member in our division this past summer. We had the privilege of working with Julia on many research projects when she was a Fellow on our team. Her knowledge and attention to detail is so appreciated and we look forward to many years of her involvement in the PFDN.

Leah McKay with Smudge
Leah McKay, (she/her)

Leah started with us one year ago and has done a wonderful job focusing on eSUPeR, eASPIRe, and MUSA follow-up within PFDN.

Leah obtained her BA from Penn State. Following graduation, she traveled and lived in Ohio, Texas, and Alaska. Pursuit of her MA in Biology brought her to New England, specifically Massachusetts. After graduation, she worked in a job that didn’t suit her research interests. Urogynecology appealed to her because a family member was having pelvic floor issues and had been treated at one of our fellow PFDN sites!

Leah feels fortunate to work directly with patients in her role within PFDN. Many patients say their experiences are life changing. Leah appreciates how women are constantly learning about their issues and most are satisfied and happy. They know they are in good hands.

When thinking about the PFDN in the next 10 years, Leah anticipates we will continue creating awareness/acceptance and de-stigmatize women’s experiences.

Leah really enjoys science/research. She feels the need to be in a setting where she continues to learn and grow so she can push the boundaries of her current knowledge.

In her spare time Leah participates in indoor rock climbing, which she highly recommends to anyone who might be thinking about it. She is very active and spends time working out at the gym, hiking, and enjoying nature. Leah’s best friend is a 100-pound Doberman named Drax who she describes as the “sweetest boy”. He keeps Leah on her toes!

Meet Smudge – our dinosaur mascot. He has been with the division for several months now and does wonderful work.

Julia Shinnick

 

Julia Shinnick is a Urogynecologist at Brown/Women & Infants Hospital. After graduating from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, she came to Brown for her Ob/Gyn residency training in 2016. She stayed at Brown for Urogynecology fellowship in 2020 and joined as faculty in 2023.

Dr. Shinnick has interests in clinical research, community outreach, and social determinants of health. She was initially inspired to pursue a career in Urogynecology through a summer clinical research internship as an undergraduate.

The most rewarding part of working with the PFDN is being able to contribute to studies that help shape the care for patients across the country.

In the coming years, Julia believes the PFDN will have a positive impact through centering patients in the ways that we ask and answer questions.

 

Julia Shinnick
Sara Veera
Sarashwathy “Sara” Veera, (she/they)

Sara started with us as a Student Intern in May,2018. She decided to join our team as a Research Assistant the following year and has since been promoted to Senior Research Assistant.

Sara came to us as a pre-med undergrad looking for clinical work opportunities. She was drawn to areas of medicine that are stigmatized and unique. Sara had a friend who connected her to us. She feels there is an opportunity here for community related health and outreach which is exciting to Sara as this movement in its developmental stages. Sara appreciates how close our research team is with the rest of our department and that we are not alone in our journey.

The most rewarding part of working with the PFDN for Sara is the protocol development process. It is never a “one size fits all” and Sara appreciates the collaboration where we address local issues specific to each site. “It is cool to get perspective all across America”.

When thinking about PFDN in the next 10 years, Sara envisions breaking away from the standard. An example would be the creation of new validated questionnaires and using better informed data collection methods using input from community members.

Sara started out as pre-med but as she has had more exposure, she may re-direct. She is curious about public health and may focus on more experiential learning. Her future position may not fit a template.

In her spare time, Sara is busy! She does a lot of volunteering, is involved with community networks within the area, teaches kizomba and tarraxo dancing, is learning how to forage for mushrooms, crochets, paints, and is a birder. Sara is also a great cook, focusing on South Indian dishes to get in touch with her culture.

Meet some of the team at Kaiser Permanente San Diego!
Group Photo

Kaiser Permanente San Diego has been a member of the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network (PFDN) since 2005. Throughout the years we’ve had the privilege of working with an amazing and talented group of investigators and have had the opportunity of contributing to innovative trials’ growth and success. Kaiser Permanente’s goal has been to improve and provide effective health care to women with pelvic floor disorders.

 

Gisselle Zazueta-Damian, RA IV, is our Senior Research Associate and Project Manager, who has been a dedicated teammate and has supervised numerous PFDN trials including ABC, ESTEEM, CAPABLe, NOTABLe, SUPeR/eSUPeR, ASPIRe/eASPIRe, and MUSA/PRoMISe. In addition to her supervision in our trials, she is also our lead regulatory personnel for IRB communication and protocol submissions.

 

Linda Mackinnon, MPH, RA II, is our Lead Research Associate and has been part of our team for 13 years. Linda has also been involved with numerous PFDN trials and she currently directs our eSUPeR, eASPIRe and MUSA trials. Linda takes pride in her work and continues to ensure that our team carries out our PFDN study commitments.

Gisselle and Linda
OUT WITH THE OLD AND IN WITH THE NEW
Diana Banales

Diana Banales, RA IV, recently relocated to our department to assist with our growing portfolio. She started in the fall of 2023 and has already made a huge impact at our clinic. Diana started her clinical research experience 6 years ago in the Rheumatology Department as an unblinded pharmacist. This is where she was exposed to clinical trials. Diana found them intriguing, which in turn lead to the beginning of her research career. Diana has been a Project Manager for multiple clinical trials within Kaiser Permanente, which include trials with Gastroenterology, Endocrinology, Cardiovascular and Infectious Diseases (COVID-19).

Diana considers herself a newbie to PFDN but has already taken the initiative of leading one of the networks upcoming trials, TULIP. Not being exposed to pelvic floor disorders prior to joining our team, she finds it fascinating learning about pelvic floor disorders and listening to all the ongoing studies, but most of all looks forward to contributing to new and upcoming studies.

Diana is amazed on how all investigators within the network work so closely and diligently to develop new clinical trials. She expects the contributions made by all involved to be successful, impacting women substantially, and envisions herself being part of PFDN for many years to come.

In her spare time, Diana loves to travel and enjoy the beach. Some of her favorite vacationing locations are the Caribbean Islands. Her most recent vacationing island, Jamaica! One Love!!

 

Vanessa DeLoera, RA II, also recently joined our department to assist with our growing portfolio this past fall. Vanessa began her career as a Medical Assistant and then furthered her education to obtain her phlebotomy license. She was provided the opportunity to join Kaiser’s Department of Research and Evaluation and assisted on a multi-center study for the Epidemiology Department and soon thereafter transitioned to Clinical Trials. This March will mark 10 years since she began her journey in Clinical Trials at Kaiser Permanente San Diego.

Vanessa has been exposed to a vast number of clinical trials - from OBGYN, Gastroenterology, Infectious Diseases, Endocrinology, Cardiovascular, and now Urogynecology. Her experience has motivated her to continue her education and thus she will be starting a vocational nursing program this spring. She is eager to begin contributing in the PFDN and finds it rewarding to be able to work beside a talented group of investigators.

Vanessa’s life revolves around her family – husband, two teenage children, and two small but mighty yorkies, Jordi and Lola. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and dancing. She particularly enjoys dancing bachata and takes dance classes in various SD downtown venues. Oh La La!!

Vanessa DeLoera

In addition to our Division Director, Shawn Menefee, our division includes numerous other co-investigators that drive our recruitment including Drs. Gouri Diwadkar, Jasmine Tan-Kim, Kimberly Ferrante, Quinn Lippman, & Tatiana Catanzarite and APP's Christine Doan, Lisa Mager, and Gloria Haley. We would like to highlight our new addition:

Heidi Brown, MD

Heidi W. Brown, MD, became a member of our Urogynecology division and a scientist of dissemination and implementation for our Department of Research and Evaluation this past summer. As a former Fellow of our team, she has already contributed to many trials within the department.

Dr. Brown’s research focuses on improving access to effective solutions for pelvic floor disorders such as bladder and bowel incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. She uses community engagement, user-centered design, and iterative testing to inform development, adaptation, implementation, and maintenance of interventions that improve quality of life.

Dr. Brown’s primary research focuses on how to support women to adopt these behavior changes and pursue additional treatments when necessary. She is also interested in developing and testing streamlined implementation strategies to build and maintain productive connections between primary care, specialty care, and community resources.

In her spare time, Dr. Brown enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 sons, dancing, hiking, music, and the beach! Surf's up!

Meet some of the team at Duke University Hospital!
Duke Group Photo

Duke University Hospital has had the privilege of being part of the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network since 2007. We have led several prominent studies within the network with an incredible group of passionate and talented investigators, providers, researchers, and staff. We are so excited to contribute to the innovative and groundbreaking clinical trials that can only be accomplished by the kind of collaboration allowed by multisite network studies!

Dr. Anthony Visco is our Division Chief for Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery. He received his MD from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and completed his residency in OB/Gyn at the University of Rochester. One of the longest standing members of the PFDN, he has been a clinical site PI of the network for 21 years. His involvement in the PFDN since 2001, just out of fellowship, has been one of the most influential academic experiences of his career. He fondly recalls his first meeting, sitting around the table surrounded by “giants” in the field. Their mentorship about recruitment, trial design, and research techniques laid the foundation for his own contributions. With their encouragement, he was able to confidently challenge conventional practice and the status quo.

During one Steering Committee meeting in his early days, there was a lively discussion regarding whether Botox bladder injections should be reserved for refractory overactive bladder or whether drug naïve patients should be included in a randomized trial they were designing. By respectfully challenging “conventional wisdom”, while also balancing patient safety and autonomy, they were able to design a bold and meaningful randomized trial.

Dr. Anthony Visco

Dr. Visco says the most rewarding part of his involvement in the PFDN is completing studies that many people thought were too difficult or even impossible to accomplish. He feels fortunate to have contributed to the design and recruitment of so many landmark studies in the field and worked with such amazing partners at Duke for more than two decades, including surgeons, research coordinators, and most importantly, the committed patients and research participants. He considers his PFDN partners to be both colleagues and friends.

Dr. Visco remains excited about the future of the PFDN and its positive impact on women’s health. The PFDN’s commitment to innovative clinical and translational research ensures that women’s health continues to benefit from evidence-based advancements. His continued involvement in the PFDN continues to inspire him.

Stephanie Yu

Stephanie Yu is our lead Clinical Research Coordinator for the PFDN. She joined Duke in 2022 and manages eSUPeR, eASPIRe, and MUSA for the site. She is a competitive powerlifter and Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioner who became interested in urogynecology due to the prevalence of pelvic floor disorders among female strength athletes. She is passionate about women’s health and diversity in medical research and has met with members of Congress to advocate for policies supporting reproductive rights and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She is excited to be a part of the network and hopes to contribute to positive advances in women’s health.

Dr. Nazema Siddiqui came to Duke in 2007, which is the same year Duke became a site within the PFDN. Her training and clinical practice have been enormously influenced by the PFDN. PFDN trials have always been the way that we test new surgeries, new treatments, and new innovations for women, while also ensuring that our patients are safely cared for under close monitoring.

Her first direct involvement in the PFDN was in 2008 through a writing group led by Dr. Linda Brubaker. She was the most junior person in this group and was quite intimidated! Yet, Dr. Brubaker and others were interested in whatever promoted the best science, and she soon found her voice. In 2022 she was thrilled to step into the role of site PI and continue the tradition of Duke’s involvement with the PFDN and commitment to high-quality clinical trials.

At many levels, we see that conditions that affect women are not prioritized in large-scale research. Yet, the PFDN has been one of the few bright spots and has shown us successful ways to do large-scale, impactful work that helps the lives of women. Over the last two decades PFDN studies have helped us optimize pelvic surgeries, understand the role of physical therapy, and learn more about how the microbiome may be implicated in pelvic health disorders.

Today, Dr. Siddiqui serves as Duke Urogynecology’s Associate Professor and Director of Research, Division of Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery. She looks forward to expanding the reach into new scientific areas, broader populations of women, and cultivating the next group of surgeon-scientists who will carry the torch and conduct innovative research that helps the lives of women.

Dr. Nazema Siddiqui

The University of Chicago is the newest addition to the PFDN but has deep roots to the PFDN. Dr. Kimberly Kenton has participated in the PFDN from its inception in 2001 to 2011. During her tenure with the PFDN she published high impact research which has transformed the Urogynecology landscape, most notably “A Midurethral Sling to Reduce Incontinence after Vaginal Prolapse Repair.” She is thrilled to re-join the network along with her alternate PI Dr. Maggie Mueller, and co-investigators Drs. Christina Lewicky-Gaupp, Sarah Collins, Juro Letko, and Sandy Valaitis. This research powerhouse has diverse research expertise and interest in shared decision making, birth trauma and recovery, genitourinary microbiome, and postoperative activity. In 2024, Dr. Jamie Griffith, a longtime collaborator, joined the team, further diversifying the team’s research portfolio with his expertise in psychometric analysis and patient reported outcome measure development. The team’s diversity in research expertise and interest is paralleled by their diversity in interests outside of work! Our team members enjoy watersports, winter sports, tennis, boating, lake life, rock concerts, biking, hiking, cooking and wrangling the 11 kids and 5 fur-babies they are raising- just to name a few!

University of Chicago Team
Meet our newest team members!
Dr. Jamie Griffith

Dr. Jamie Griffith is a professor in the Department of Ob-Gyn at the University of Chicago with a joint appointment in the Department of Psychiatry. He is a clinical psychologist with interests in clinical assessment, behavioral interventions, and clinical decision-making. He is a member of several research teams with a focus on pelvic health. He gave the keynote address to the PFDN in 2023 entitled “Perspectives on patient-reported outcomes”. He works closely with the urogynecologists at the University of Chicago to lend a holistic perspective to both research and clinical care.

Dr. Griffith’s research includes the relationship between cognition and emotion, autobiographical memory, and mental health comorbidities. More recently, he has grown his research to include the intersection of medicine and mental health in areas including chronic pelvic pain and pelvic floor disorders. A common thread of this work is enhancing clinical assessment, making it more efficient for clinicians and patients. For example, one of his R01s funded by NIDDK is focused on connecting patient-reported outcome data to clinical decision-making. Dr. Griffith is leading several projects examining the intersection between mental health and urogynecology, focusing on pelvic floor disorders, addressing disparities in urinary control symptoms among minority women, and developing new self-management interventions for women with pelvic floor disorders.

Tara Samsel

Tara Samsel is one of our Clinical Research Coordinators for the PFDN. She joined University of Chicago last June when she moved to Chicago. She is an aspiring OBGYN and became interested in Urogynecology after conducting her undergraduate research focused on physiological and microbiome changes in postmenopausal and postpartum women. As a new member of the PFDN, she is excited to be involved in the upcoming BASIS and TULIP PFDN studies.

Tara grew up near St. Paul, Minnesota and finished her bachelor’s degree in Cellular & Molecular Biology at Barnard College of Columbia University. While at Barnard, she worked as a research assistant at Columbia University’s Medical Center and Fertility Clinic. She worked in their embryology lab conducting an independent research project adapting a robotics platform to function as an automated liquid handling system for IVF plating. She also earned her Emergency Medical Technician certification while in her junior year. Prior to starting her career at the University of Chicago she interned for two digital women’s healthcare start-ups, Caraway and Allara, developing her interest in gynecological healthcare.

Rowena Jinxuan Shi

Rowena Jinxuan Shi serves as our Lead Clinical Research Coordinator at the University of Chicago for the Pelvic Floor Disorder Network (PFDN). With just over a year of dedicated involvement, Rowena has embraced her position, aligning herself closely with the network's mission to elevate understanding, treatment, and support for individuals contending with pelvic floor disorders.

Her journey into the realm of pelvic floor disorders began with a passion for research and a deep-seated desire to make a tangible impact in women’s healthcare. After completing her master's degree at the University of Chicago, Rowena naturally gravitated towards opportunities where she could merge her scientific knowledge with genuine empathy for those confronting health challenges. Joining Dr. Kenton’s team and the PFDN provided her with the perfect platform to apply her skills in a field where innovation and empathy intersect. Looking ahead over the next decade, Rowena envisions the PFDN continuing its trajectory of advancement. As she embarks on this journey, she is optimistic that collective efforts will pave the way for a future where pelvic floor health is understood and accessible to all.

In her free time, Rowena loves to travel. Exploring new places allows her to immerse herself in different cultures, try delicious local foods, and marvel at stunning landscapes and architecture. Each trip brings unforgettable experiences and connections, adding colorful chapters to her life story.