Research Team

Top row from left: Timothy Daskivich, MD, Kathy Oka, Mechauna Thierry, Jennifer Soares, Carine Khalil, Welmoed K. Van Deen MD, PhD, Rebecca Gale, Samuel Eberlein. Front row from left: Brennan Spiegel, MD, Kyung-Sang Yu, Taylor Dupuy, Brandon Birckhead, MD, Xiaoyu Liu, Genie Alvarez, Christopher Almario, MD.


Brennan M. Spiegel, MD

Christopher V. Almario, MD
Timothy J. Daskivich, MD
Welmoed K. van Deen MD, PhD
Administration Team

Kathy Oka, BS
Research Administrative Coordinator

Kathy Oka is CORE's administrative coordinator. She received bachelor's degrees from University of Southern California and University of Puget Sound. Oka brings with her extensive experience from her years of working at UCLA in health science departments, including Dean's Office, School of Medicine; Radiation Oncology; Orthopaedic Surgery and Medicine. Her most recent position as the GI fellowship coordinator at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA makes her an integral part of the CS-CORE team as she lends her knowledge of management as well as four years working with the team's director, Brennan Spiegel, MD.

Mechauna Thierry, MBA
Research Administrative Coordinator

Mechauna Thierry completed her undergraduate degree in arts and letters at Portland State University and her MBA with a concentration in project management at Keller Graduate School. Thierry's research interests include examining the functionality of various systems and the relationship between people, computers and their environment. Thierry has been working for Cedars-Sinai for more than seven years. During the time, Mechauna has held various positions including head surgical coordinator for Pediatrics Craniofacial and Plastic Surgery within the Department of Pediatrics. Thierry joined the Cedars-Sinai Center for Outcomes Research and Education team as a Management Assistant II in 2018. She assists in all areas of research such as data collection and calendar management, as well as handling administrative tasks.

Research Staff

Genie Alvarez, BS
Clinical Research Coordinator I

Genie Alvarez completed her undergraduate degrees in public health sciences and sociology at the University of California, Irvine. She joined CS‐CORE as a Research Coordinator in 2019. Her research interests focus on seeking ways virtual reality (VR) and digital health technologies can advance healthcare delivery. Previously, she was an associate at the Cedars‐Sinai Accelerator, where she supported program operations and assisted early‐stage healthcare startups with innovation projects. Prior to this role, she helped facilitate accreditation/licensing surveys and survey‐readiness activities at Adventist Health Glendale. She has extensive experience in hospital administration, performance improvement, and project management.

Brandon Birckhead, MD
Project Scientist

Brandon Birckhead, MD, is a project scientist working on virtual reality (VR) clinical trials at Cedars-Sinai. He is also on the planning committee for the annual Virtual Medicine conference. Brandon received his medical degree from Mayo Medical School and is currently enrolled in the master’s Degree in Health Delivery Science at Cedars-Sinai. His current research focuses on the use of immersive VR for pain reduction. He is interested in exploring several topics within the field including personalization of VR content, VR clinical trial design, and long-term outcomes of VR therapy. He began his work with therapeutic virtual reality by helping providers in head restricted clinical settings use the technology for pain and anxiety relief. He then created a pilot research study at Mayo Clinic to examine the effect of VR on pain using the cold pressor test. He is also working with Dr. Brennan Spiegel and a cohort of international therapeutic VR experts, to create guidelines for future clinical trials within the field. This committee of researchers is called the VR-CORE (Virtual Reality – Clinical Outcomes Research Experts).

Taylor Dupuy, BS
Clinical Research Data Specialist I

Taylor Dupuy has been working with Cedars-Sinai Center for Outcomes Research and Education (CS-CORE) for more than four years. During this time, Taylor has worked on many different research projects with a focus on digital health. Taylor has assisted in VR for pain reduction clinical trials as well as helping to coordinate the digital health conference Virtual Medicine. Taylor enjoys conducting research on digital health technologies because it is something that can make a huge difference in the life of a patient and can be extremely beneficial. Before coming to Cedars‐Sinai, Taylor worked as a research assistant at the UCLA Addictions Lab. Taylor graduated with a bachelor's in psychology from UCLA and currently lives in the valley with his two cats.

Samuel Eberlein, MS
Research Associate I

Sam Eberlein joined the team at Cedars-Sinai Center for Outcomes Research and Education (CS-CORE) as a clinical research coordinator after graduating from Cedars‐Sinai’s Master's Degree in Health Delivery Science program in the summer of 2019. He received his BS in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University in 2017. Sam's previous experiences includes working alongside orthopaedic surgeons in the Metzger Lab at Cedars‐Sinai between 2017‐2019 and interning at the Andrews Institute for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Gulf Breeze, Florida, during the summer of 2016. His research interests include the evaluation of therapies and visualizations of data sets to identify trends and key areas of opportunity.

Garth Fuller, MS
Research Biostatistician III

Garth Fuller received his bachelor of science in domestic animal biology from Cornell University. After earning a master of science in life sciences from the University of Maryland, he began work at CS-CORE. Having received a grant for doctoral training through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the RAND Corp., Fuller is pursuing his PhD in the Health Policy and Management program at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Fuller serves as a "utility man" at CS-CORE, lending his knowledge of statistics, SAS programming and qualitative research analysis to a wide range of projects.

Rebecca Gale, MPH
Clinical Research Data Specialist II

Becca Gale is a clinical research data specialist at the Cedars-Sinai Center for Outcomes Research and Education (CS-CORE). In 2016, Becca graduated from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine with her masters of public health in epidemiology. Her past work has included fieldwork in infectious disease epidemiology in South Africa and Uganda, as well as serving as a research data analyst for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health where she managed clinical trial data and study sites for HIV studies across India. More recently, she gained experience in human-centered design and business development as it pertains to digital health solutions. Her passions are at the intersection of using human-centered design and digital technologies to advance health outcomes locally and globally.

Carine Khalil, PhD
Project Scientist

Carine Khalil is a health services researcher at the Cedars-Sinai Center for Outcomes Research and Education (CS-CORE) and an associate professor in management and information systems at Paris Descartes University. She earned her PhD in management and information systems at Telecom ParisTech in France. Her research interests include human‐centered design, information and communication technologies and social media analysis in healthcare. She is specialized in qualitative research including ethnography, ethnomethodology and grounded theory.

Xiaoyu Liu, MPH
Clinical Research Data Specialist I

Xiaoyu Liu, MPH, is a clinical research data specialist at CS-CORE and recent graduate of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, where he received his master's degree of public health from the Department of Health Policy and Management. He also received his bachelor of science degree in management from Wuhan University in China. Liu came to CS-CORE as a health services research intern, during which he collaborated on a virtual reality (VR) project to develop a standardized methodology for clinical trial of VR in healthcare and assess the methodological quality of previously published clinical therapeutic VR studies. Liu is currently working on a project funded by PCORI (Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute) to compare the effectiveness of different patient-provider communication strategies in the management of chronic pain. His broad research interests include patient-provider communication, chronic pain care, cost-effectiveness, digital health, and mental health.

Jennifer Soares, MSPH
Research Program Administrator

Jennifer Soares completed her undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She received her master of science degree in public health with honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She moved to the West Coast upon completing her degree to pursue a career in health services research. Soares joined CS-CORE as a research coordinator in 2003 and has been involved in the development of patient reported outcome measurement instruments in a variety of GI conditions for eventual use in clinical trials. Since she became the center's deputy director, much of Soares' work relates to the contracting, budgeting and management of the center's staff members, fellows and affiliates.

Kyung-Sang Yu, MD, PhD
Visiting Faculty Scientist

Kyung‐Sang Yu is a visiting research scientist at the Cedars-Sinai Center for Outcomes Research and Education (CS-CORE). Dr. Yu is a professor of biomedical sciences at the College of Medicine, Seoul National University (SNU), and is affiliated to the Clinical Trials Center of Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH), Seoul, South Korea. After graduating from SNU College of Medicine, he completed an internship at SNUH and went on to be trained in the clinical pharmacology residency program at SNU/SNUH. He received his PhD from SNU in 2000 and has been involved in many clinical research projects since. He is interested in various topics including health services research, health delivery science, cost‐effectiveness analysis, clinical trials, digital medicine and therapeutics, and patient outcomes related to utilization of VR.

Have Questions or Need Help?

Contact us if you have questions, or wish to learn more about the Center for Outcomes Research and Education at Cedars-Sinai.

Cedars-Sinai Center for Outcomes Research and Education
Pacific Theaters Building, Suite 800
116 N. Robertson Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Kathy Oka, Research Administrative Coordinator
Mechauna Thierry BS, Management Assistant II