Community Impact

The mission of the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center’s Community Engagement and Education Program is to reduce the burden of cancer in Minnesota by engaging MN communities and providing them access to knowledge and information about cancer prevention, treatment, survivorship, and clinical research opportunities.

Community Outreach

Members of Team Judy Fund for Metastatic Breast Cancer Research

Team Judy Fund for Metastatic Breast Cancer visit MCC

Dr.Reuben Harris explains his breast cancer research to Team Judy members

Dr. Harris explains his research

high school students visit cancer research lab

Highland Park High School students visit lab

Masonic Cancer Center at STEM Expo


Photo of Albany High School women students with MCC researchers

Albany High School Women in Stem committee tours MCC


Christopher Pennell, Ph.D.Christopher Pennell, PhD

Associate Director
Education and Community Engagement

Dr. Pennell serves as the center’s faculty-community liaison. His long-standing research interest is to harness the immune system to treat cancer. His role in the center is to help ensure the Cancer Center meets the needs of Minnesotans, and to encourage students to pursue careers in cancer care and research.

Kiara EllisKiara Ellis, MSW

Education and Community Engagement

Kiara Ellis is the center's Education and Community Engagement Manager. She completed her Bachelor's degree in Family Social Science and a Masters in Social Work: Community Practice at the University of Minnesota. She held previous positions coordinating grants at the University of Minnesota and HealthPartners focused on creating support services that lessen the burden of cancer and diabetes on diverse populations. Her passions lie in serving as a change agent for the community and impacting systemic change that will further cancer health equity in the state.

Patty BeckmannPatty Beckman, RN

Oncology Patient Access Nurse

Patty Beckmann, RN, served as a Research Nurse for 22 years here at the University of Minnesota working on a variety of NCI-funded cancer clinical research studies as well as a major Parkinson's disease study. Her professional experience and passion for helping patients navigate clinical research make her great fit to educate and provide resources to our patients and community members through our Cancer Information Line.

Lissa HuebnerLissa Martinez Huebner

Event and Administrative Coordinator

Lissa comes to the Masonic Cancer Center with a background in events and logistics in health charities. She received her bachelor's degree in Recreation and Tourism from Winona State University. Her professional experience includes working on awareness and fundraising events across the upper Midwest. She is passionate about creating top-notch events to educate and engage the community.

SylvetteSylvette Lopez-Ruth, MBA

Community and Engagement Coordinator

Sylvette's previous work experience includes working for The James- The Ohio State University-Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she was tasked with Informing the community in central Ohio about the OSUCCC-James as well as developing relationships, creating education programs (prevention, detection, and treatment), educating health care providers about clinical research, increasing minority enrollment in clinical trials and research studies. Her passion lies in making a difference regarding health awareness in all communities.


VickiVicki Schmeling

Education Coordinator

Vicki has over 25 years’ experience working with educators in the medical, higher education, and financial fields coordinating training for nonprofit and corporate students. She has diversity awareness, orientation, training, and onboarding experience with Allina Health Systems, Prime Therapeutics, Ernst & Young, the University of St. Thomas and Trans World Airlines. Her role as Education Coordinator is to provide learning opportunities for trainees and Postdocs to support their successful career as researchers.