Jessica Thomas, MA, LCSW

Research Project Coordinator

Jessica Thomas graduated from Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Arts in French and from the University of Chicago with a Master of Arts in Social Service Administration (equivalent to Master of Social Work). Prior to discovering the world of research, Jessica worked primarily with children and adolescents in community and school settings. She initially came to Northwestern University to work on a study involving a technology-based intervention for men with advanced prostate cancer. During this study, Jessica learned that she enjoys group work with older adults, and that the psychosocial aspects of living with cancer are often just as challenging as the physical aspects, if not more so.  Jessica has also contributed to the adaptation and development of a similar intervention for gay and bisexual men and trans women living with both HIV and cancer, as well as other cancer-focused translational research work. Most recently, Jessica has started working with a neuroscience lab, using her clinical skills to administer cognitive function and memory screening tasks. Jessica has not yet worked with couples going through the diagnostic process for cancer, so the Couples Cope study will be an exciting learning opportunity for her. She also oversees the pilot randomized controlled trial with women living with metastatic breast cancer. When not at work, Jessica enjoys traveling, taking long walks, listening to music and podcasts, and spending time with her family (in particular, FaceTiming with her adorable nieces and nephews).

Prophecy Agyare is a fourth year undergraduate student at Northwestern University. She is majoring in Neuroscience with a pre-med focus. She plans to begin medical school in 2021 and is excited to gain more clinical experience. After volunteering at a hospital and shadowing at an outpatient clinic, Prophecy's interest in patient recovery and transition post-diagnosis peaked. As a research assistant in the Moreno Lab, Prophecy will be working on the Couples Cope study to see how stressful situations affect couples’ interactions and determine whether patients can reach a level of post-traumatic growth after being scheduled for a diagnostic biopsy for cancer. Prophecy will also be working on Dr. Moreno’s Acceptance and Commitment Therapy pilot project to see what types of interventions might best help women during the stressful experience of living with metastatic breast cancer. In her free time, Prophecy loves to cook, go for long walks on the beach, and have a good time with friends.

Prophecy Agyare

Research Assistant

Victoria Escalante is an undergraduate at Princeton University where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and on the pre-medical track. As someone who is very interested in psychosocial interventions and medicine, Victoria joined Dr. Moreno’s lab. Through the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) project, she hopes to gain more knowledge on female physicians’ experiences with fertility and family planning, while also learning about the toll a cancer diagnosis can take on dyads through the Couples Cope study. Additionally, reading narratives of cancer patients has given Victoria insight into how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Stress Management may be an effective interventions for improving cancer survivors’ quality of life post diagnosis. Victoria hopes to continue research in this field as she finds it crucial to have a more holistic understanding of the needs of patients. During her free time, Victoria loves spending time with her dog, baking new desserts, and playing softball.

Victoria Escalante

Research Assistant

Esther Kwon graduated from Northern Marianas College with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. She got her Master of Arts in Educational Ministries from Trinity International University, where she also studying a PhD in Educational Studies. Her dissertation focuses on critical thinking development in first generation college students. During her graduate studies, a family member’s health crisis kindled Esther’s interest in medicine. In June 2019, Esther enrolled in Northwestern University’s postbacc pre-medicine program in order to pursue medicine after her doctoral studies. Her involvement in Dr. Moreno's studies (Couples Cope, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Head and Neck Cancer) within the Department of Medical Social Sciences has been an indispensable opportunity for her on her path to becoming an empathetic physician. Listening to the narratives of cancer patients enrolled in these studies, and observing and taking part in the team’s thoughtful communications with the patients, Esther has been learning how to approach medicine from the patients’ perspective. She enjoys these studies’ integration of social science and medicine as well. In her free time, Esther loves to cook Korean food, take walks, and watch documentaries on health, architecture, and education.

Esther Kwon

Research Assistant


Ashley Maras is a first year medical student at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine. She recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. Throughout her undergraduate career, she was involved in health disparities research focused on developing and implementing a culturally tailored childhood obesity intervention in the Latinx community. In medical school, Ashley is pursuing research in health disparities focusing on the cultural aspects that affect quality of life for Latinx cancer survivors. As the daughter of a Honduran immigrant and a cancer survivor herself, this research hits close to home for Ashley. It is a great opportunity for her to explore potential solutions for the barriers faced by minorities within the healthcare system. In her free time, Ashley loves to go to the movies, explore new places in Chicago with friends, and watch TV.

Ashley Maras

Medical Student Researcher


Rebecca Nguyen

Research Assistant

Rebecca Nguyen graduated from University of Richmond in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a concentration in neuroscience. There, she conducted research in cognitive neuroscience and studied individual differences in empathy using event related potential techniques. She also interned at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Systems for four years, doing arts and crafts and providing social visits for pediatric patients. Her interests in positive psychology grew after she observed how patients and their families used gratitude, meaning making, and social support to cope with the physical and psychological challenges of chronic illness.To prepare for a doctoral program in counseling or clinical psychology, Rebecca completed Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies Preclinical Psychology Program in 2019. Rebecca is currently a research assistant at DePaul University, studying community based recovery from substance use disorder. In Dr. Moreno’s lab, she hopes to learn more about positive psychology in the context of coping in dyads, reciprocally supportive partnerships, and women’s health. Additionally, her research interests also include work as a calling, narrative psychology, and forgiveness. In her free time, Rebecca teaches english as a second language, experiments with asian fusion cooking, and overanalyzes The Bachelor/ Bachelorette tv series.


Mustafa Ghafoor is currently a student in Northwestern’s Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medicine program as a prospective medical school applicant. Mustafa earned his B.S. in Honors Accounting and Finance from DePaul University. Upon completing his undergraduate degree, Mustafa began his career in Investment Banking, where he worked on mergers and acquisitions in the healthcare space. Seeking a fresh perspective, Mustafa moved on to Corporate Development and Strategy, working on identifying growth opportunities and executing M&A at a software-enabled services company in Chicago. Throughout his career in Finance, Mustafa remained fascinated with medicine and science, and felt a growing need to have a direct impact on the health and quality of life of others. In 2020, Mustafa decided to follow this calling and began a career change in order to pursue medicine. Mustafa discovered the Moreno Lab and became intrigued with the lab’s study of couples’ coping behavior through an experience as traumatic as a cancer diagnosis. Mustafa hopes the lab’s research will have a positive impact on quality of life of cancer patients in the future and is excited to assist in this effort.

Mustafa Ghafoor

Research Assistant


Vibhusha Kolli is a second-year undergraduate at Northwestern University studying Anthropology with a Human Biology concentration. Volunteering as a patient liaison at a local hospital and interning through a research program at the Medical College of Wisconsin catalyzed Vibhusha’s interest to pursue a career in healthcare. Further social sciences classes at Northwestern developed her interest specifically in the intersection of community and healthcare. Vibhusha is looking forward to learning more about the multifaceted nature of medicine, especially from the patient’s perspective, along with positive psychology and the effects of health disparities. In her free time, you can find her in spending early mornings by the lakefront or late nights in endless baking sessions with friends.  

Vibhusha Kolli

Research Assistant


Julienne E. Bower, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

David Cella, PhD, Northwestern University

Elaine O. Cheung, PhD, Northwestern University

Ann Marie Flores, PT, PhD, Northwestern University

Sarah C. Flury, MD, Northwestern University

Sarah M. Friedewald, MD, Northwestern University

William J. Gradishar, MD, Northwestern University 

James W. Griffith, PhD, Northwestern University

Kimberly S. Kenton, MD Northwestern University

Sheetal M. Kircher, MD, Northwestern University

Shilajit D. Kundu, MD, Northwestern University

Bharat B. Mittal, MD, Northwestern University

Judith T. Moskowitz, PhD, MPH, Northwestern University

Frank J. Penedo, PhD, University of Miami

Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio

Edward M. Schaeffer, MD, PhD, Northwestern University

Melissa A. Simon, MD, MPH, Northwestern University

Annette L. Stanton, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Marcia Tan, PhD, University of Chicago

Joanna (Jodi) Burg Torzewski, PhD, Northwestern University

David Victorson, PhD, Northwestern University

Betina Yanez, PhD, Northwestern University