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Congratulations to the 2023 MPN Heroes!

It is a great honor to present the 2023 MPN Heroes. They have each demonstrated a strong commitment to making a difference in the lives of people living with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs). Check out their personal stories and get ready to be inspired!



Senior Clinical Studies Coordinator


Nichole Ard is an MPN Hero for her extraordinary leadership and strong patient focus while coordinating myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) clinical trials at MD Anderson Cancer Center. As an excellent protocol manager, her ability to identify MPN-specific issues has had a profound positive impact by streamlining MPN clinical studies and advancing patient care.

Nichole’s dedication inspires respect from colleagues and patients alike. She was nationally recognized as a primary reason for the success of one key clinical trial, as she was the first person at any research location to observe injection site reactions on patients’ skin early in the trial. Her astute observations led her to propose solutions that helped the team quickly refine trial management techniques and benefit patients.

At the clinic, patients and staff appreciate her passion, energy, and advocacy for the unique needs of her patients. Nichole also knows how it feels to be on the other side of the caring spectrum. In 2009, her mother was treated at MD Anderson for a serious illness. Nichole’s early hospital experiences give her deep empathy and compassion as a committed patient advocate. She spends endless hours with patients throughout―and beyond―the clinical phase of their MPN journey. As an MPN Hero who works on the cutting edge of research, Nichole finds it extremely satisfying that her efforts may one day contribute to a better life for all people affected by MPNs.





Ed Bartholemy is an MPN Hero for his compassionate dedication to his wife, Nancy, in her 40-year journey with myelofibrosis (MF). Along the way, he became a committed advocate for driving meaningful change for patients in the MPN community.

Ed’s path to becoming an MPN Hero started in 1981 when Nancy was diagnosed with MF. But the most intense period of their story began in 2021. That’s when Nancy had a stem cell transplant at the City of Hope in Duarte, California. In the space of a challenging two years, Nancy recovered, relapsed, and reached remission. In between endless commutes from home to the hospital, Ed posted detailed, heartfelt updates on CaringBridge, a health journey website. His posts raised awareness of myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) like MF by enabling more than 10,000 people to connect, empathize, and draw inspiration from reading about Nancy’s trials and triumphs.

With Nancy in remission since May 2023, Ed continues his strong commitment to the MPN community. He has served for many years on the MPN Research Foundation Board of Directors, where he is instrumental in supporting and funding the foundation's research projects as a member of the Executive Committee. As an MPN Hero in the Caregiver category, Ed is thrilled to consider himself a former caregiver. Both he and Nancy look forward to their future together. “It’s a new world for us!”





Patrick Buxton, RN, is an MPN Hero for his outstanding, dedicated care and advocacy for people living with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs). A clinical nurse manager at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, Patrick provides an empathetic and caring ambiance to the busy MPN clinic.

When he is not managing the complexities of working on insurance authorizations, answering patient requests for information, reviewing lab results, fulfilling administrative duties, or conferring with doctors, Patrick can be found offering compassion and support to patients who may be anxious about their MPN diagnosis.

Patrick works tirelessly to ensure the best possible care of patients visiting the outpatient clinic, sometimes advocating on behalf of a single individual for weeks at a time. He is an astute RN who listens for issues his patients may be experiencing and remains ready to help with appropriate supportive care or referrals, or by collaborating with other Healthcare Professionals on his patients’ behalf. Patrick is a constant presence and source of support for each and every one of his patients as they navigate their MPN journey.



Patient Advocate


Marilyn Kay Edwards is an MPN Hero for her long-term, inspiring outreach as an MPN Peer with the Voices of MPN CHAMPN Program. The initiative provides an opportunity to connect with a peer who may share a similar experience with a myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN). Over the years, Marilyn has empowered many people living with MPNs by connecting one-on-one via phone and sharing her own unique story.

Marilyn’s MPN journey started when she was diagnosed with essential thrombocythemia (ET) in 1986.

By 2017, a bone marrow procedure revealed that her ET had transformed into myelofibrosis (MF), another classic type of MPN. Marilyn is well aware of how isolating an MPN diagnosis can be. That’s why she shares her challenges and experiences openly and honestly. The peers with whom she talks are grateful to connect with another person who may know what they’re going through.

Marilyn credits her MPN mentor, David Denny, with encouraging her to share her MPN story and pay it forward to others who are looking for reassurance and support after an MPN diagnosis. “I want to do whatever I can to help mentor other people.” As a true MPN Hero dedicated to educating others through her own real-life MPN experiences, Marilyn goes to extraordinary lengths to help others living with MPNs find understanding, strength, and hope.





Marina Kremyanskaya, MD, PhD, is an MPN Hero because of her extraordinary impact as an educator, physician, and leader in myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) research. She’s an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. With masterful technique, she trains future physicians and leads weekly nurse mentoring sessions, explaining details of what her team needs to know about MPNs.

As the medical director for the inpatient oncology unit at The Mount Sinai Hospital, Dr. Kremyanskaya is renowned for her exceptional patient care. Her MPN expertise, kindness, and gentle demeanor―combined with her empathy and respect for others―enables her to focus on each patient, meeting them wherever they are on their MPN journey. Deeply committed to her patients, she works tirelessly to help them navigate the healthcare system and get the care they need.

Dr. Kremyanskaya also demonstrates her commitment to the MPN community through her transformational clinical research. She has served as a principal investigator and global lead on numerous clinical trials. She publishes regularly, sharing groundbreaking results and increasing international awareness of MPNs. For her compassion and contributions to improving the lives of people living with MPNs, it’s no wonder that Dr. Kremyanskaya is recognized as the heart of the Mt. Sinai MPN program—and an MPN Hero.





Shamim Salman, MD, is an MPN Hero for dedicating her years of hematology/oncology healthcare expertise to improving the lives of people affected by myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs). Dr. Salman’s remarkable caring and empathetic disposition brings compassionate support to the patients she meets at Richmond University Medical Center.

She makes an extraordinary effort to educate her patients and their families, as well as the interns she mentors, about specific MPN symptoms and the impact they may have on patients. The leadership Dr. Salman provides has helped her patients and their loved ones improve their outlook and regain a sense of optimism on their MPN journeys.

Dr. Salman’s commitment to helping patients affected by MPNs is apparent through her frequent check-ins, where she listens carefully to patient comments and is attentive to their feedback. She provides further patient support by connecting her patients with appropriate medical teams, clinical trial specialists, and online support groups. The depth of knowledge Dr. Salman shares with her patients has been described as “… the most informative advisement we had ever received.” As a true MPN Hero, Dr. Salman is recognized as an exceptional physician for making a difference in the lives of her patients living with MPNs.





Andrew Schafer, MD, is a longtime contributor to myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) research and treatment. Dr. Schafer is the Director of the Richard T. Silver, MD Myeloproliferative Neoplasm Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and is a member of the Board of Directors of the MPN Research Foundation.

Prior to joining the Board of Directors of the MPN Research Foundation, Dr. Schafer was chair of an annual grant program founded by the Scientific Advisory Board. During his tenure as chair, Dr. Schafer added a personal touch to each grant cycle as he guided and reviewed application requests. He assembled panels of expert reviewers to evaluate each proposal in detail, guide peer-review sessions, and help the foundation to fund proposals with the highest potential for success. Under his informed, level-headed, and respected leadership, the foundation has awarded more than $18M in research funding to date.

Throughout his storied career, Dr. Schafer has supported the betterment of the MPN community as a researcher and leader in multiple roles in top research organizations. He has always reserved time to continue seeing patients. He believes that one of the most valuable parts of practicing and researching MPNs is the ability to discover what is unique about an individual patient's experiences.



Patient Advocate


Thomas Silver exemplifies the belief that everyone can play a role in advancing research and care for people living with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs). For 12 years, Thomas has served on the Board of the Cancer Research and Treatment Fund (CRTF). He spearheads the organization's mission of funding laboratory and clinical research focused on the cause, prevention, treatment, and cure of MPNs.

As Board President, Thomas works tirelessly to ensure the organization's ability to support innovative MPN research. So far, the CRTF has directed millions of dollars to promising MPN clinical trials. The CRTF continues to provide financial support for the Richard T. Silver, MD Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPNs) Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Thomas’ continuous commitment to the MPN community was exemplified at a CRTF Cancer Survivor Hall of Fame fundraiser. His good friend and fraternity brother, Nick, was diagnosed with myelofibrosis (MF) and underwent a successful bone marrow transplant. Thomas brought Nick to the event along with his bone marrow donor and transplant doctor. He also invited 35 of their fraternity brothers, who provided emotional and financial support as Nick shared his heartfelt story. Months of Thomas' personal time went into the evening to provide a stage for Nick to share his MPN journey. Thomas’ dedication not only raised $430K for MPN research, but it led to additional people enrolling for the bone marrow transplant registry.

2023 Judging Panel

An independent judging panel reviewed the nominations and selected the recipients for recognition. The panel consisted of:

Image of Stephanie Covington Armstrong


Patient Advocate

Stephanie Covington Armstrong, who was diagnosed with polycythemia vera (PV) over 30 years ago, is a passionate advocate for the MPN community. She has a long-term relationship with her oncologist and hematologist.

Stephanie is a writer, advocate, speaker, and parent. She has written for magazines, theater, film, television, and books. Stephanie’s memoir, “Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat,” led to her becoming an international speaker and advocate for people with eating disorders, delivering keynotes, lectures, and workshops. Her work on the board of, the eating disorders nonprofit, gives her the opportunity to help others and change awareness around childhood trauma.

PV motivates Stephanie to stay positive, to live life to the fullest, and to help as many people as possible living with MPNs.

Image of Aaron Gerds



Dr. Gerds is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Deputy Director for Clinical Research at the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Institute. He serves as the Medical Director of the Clinical Research Office for the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the American Society of Hematology Clinical News and the Chair of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network MPN Treatment Guidelines panel.

He completed his MD from Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, followed by a residency at Loyola University Medical Center. Dr. Gerds completed his hematology/oncology fellowship at the University of Washington Medical Center.

Dr. Gerds’ clinical and research interests focus on optimizing current treatments and developing new therapies for patients with myeloproliferative disorders and other myeloid neoplasia.

Image of Jessica Kuhns—Patient Advocate


Patient Advocate

Jessica Kuhns, a dedicated mother, was diagnosed with an unspecified MPN in 2016. Since her diagnosis, Jessica has joined online support groups and has participated in multiple fundraisers for MPN research and patient support. Jessica shares her own MPN experiences openly on social media because she wants to raise awareness of what it means to live day-to-day with an MPN. She regularly counsels people dealing with the difficulties created by living with a chronic illness. Speaking from her own experience, Jessica believes that she has had an important impact on the world if she has helped even one person feel less alone on their MPN journey.

In 2022, Jessica was honored as an MPN Hero, while her son and care partner, Jaden, was honored in 2018.

Image of Raajit Rampal—MD, PhD



Dr. Rampal is an Associate Member at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Clinical Director of the Leukemia service. He is a Physician-Scientist and leads an active laboratory program and the clinical MPN program at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Dr. Rampal completed his MD and PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology at Stony Brook University, followed by an internship and residency at the University of Chicago. He completed his hematology/oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering and completed post-doctoral training in the lab of Ross Levine.

The focus of Dr. Rampal’s research is to utilize genetic insights from primary patient samples to elucidate the mechanism of pathogenesis in acute myeloid leukemia and Philadelphia-chromosome negative myeloproliferative neoplasms and to develop novel therapeutic strategies for these diseases.

Image of Pankit Vachhani



Dr. Pankit Vachhani is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and Associate Scientist of Experimental Therapeutics.

He graduated from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar in 2012 and went on to complete his internal medicine residency at Virginia Commonwealth University, followed by a fellowship in hematology/oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, NY.

At UAB, he is involved in various clinical trials as a principal investigator. He leads the leukemia/blood marrow transplant working group and serves as the Medical Director of the Clinical Research Unit. His primary research interest is in hematological malignancies, particularly myeloproliferative neoplasms and acute myeloid leukemia (AML), where he focuses on experimental therapeutics. He also serves as a panelist helping to create the AML and MPN Treatment Guidelines for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.