For those of us who work at the Canary Foundation, our work is more than a job—it’s a calling. We may come from diverse backgrounds and bring different experiences to the organization, but we all share in our passion for early cancer detection. Yes, we want to change the world—at least the world of cancer, and we’re already on our way.
Read our bios and you’ll discover what brought us to the Canary Foundation. Better yet, reach out to us, take action, and get involved. We’re here and more than happy to connect with you and tell you more about the important work taking place at the Canary Foundation every day.
Don Listwin, Founder, CEO, Co-Chairman
“After 30 years in the technology industry, I launched Canary Foundation in 2004. I was motivated by a personal experience with cancer.
When my mother was misdiagnosed and died from ovarian cancer, I decided to commit my life to advancing early detection diagnostics.” — Don Listwin
When Don Listwin walked away from his high profile technology career to launch Canary Foundation, his motivation was driven by his family’s experience with cancer. His father was a colon cancer survivor and his mother died of ovarian cancer. Her death prompted him to become personally involved in finding a cure — pledging millions of dollars to early detection research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Stanford Medical School, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, and other leading cancer institutions. Today, Don’s personal overall financial commitments to cancer research have surpassed $25 million.
Prior to founding the Canary Foundation, Don was CEO of Sana Security, Openwave, and had been the #2 executive at Cisco Systems. Don serves on the board of directors of several private and public companies including Calix Networks, D-Wave, Plumgrid, Teradici, Violin Memory and is a venture partner at Rally Ventures.
Don is also deeply involved with other cancer-related organizations. He is on the External Advisory Board for the Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNE) at Stanford and is a member of the Stanford Advisory Board for the Canary Center for Cancer Early Detection at Stanford. He also serves as a member of The Melanoma Cancer Center at The Moffitt Cancer Center. In 2009, he was appointed to the National Cancer Institute’s Board of Scientific Advisors.
A native of Canada, Listwin holds a B.S. in electrical engineering and an honorary doctorate of law from the University of Saskatchewan.
“I want to help the Canary Foundation succeed at the challenge of aligning different disciplines toward the common goal of early cancer detection.
My role as manager of scientific programs involves documenting strategic plans, ensuring group connectivity, and tracking and communication of results and progress.“ — Heidi Auman
Before joining the Canary Foundation, Heidi was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at New York University School of Medicine’s Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine in New York City. In the lab of Dr. Deborah Yelon, her research focused on studying the genetics and cell biology of cardiovascular development and disease. During her doctoral studies, she was awarded a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellowship at the National Academies in Washington, D.C. There she worked on issues at the intersection of policymakers, scientists, and the public with the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy. She earned her Ph.D., M.S., and M.Phil. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University.
Renata Barnes, Database Manager
“After 20 years working in database and systems management for clients in the for-profit and non-profit sectors, I was excited to join the Canary Foundation in 2010.
I consider it a wonderful opportunity to advance the goals of the foundation by providing highly personalized service to our staff and supporters. “ — Renata Barnes
Renata has extensive experience developing streamlined systems that allow small organizations to work smarter and better satisfy the needs of their community members.
Although her work at Canary primarily involves tasks such as database creation, integration, conversion and maintenance, she also supports and organizes registration for Canary events, where she enjoys sharing a glass of fine wine with the amazing people who support the mission of Canary Foundation. Renata attended the University of Utah.
Ashley Hurd, Events Manager
“Having known too many people affected by cancer, I’m energized by the chance to help grow early detection research.” — Ashley Hurd
Ashley heads up event planning for the Canary Foundation. Her goal is to create quality, inspiring occasions where people can learn about the Canary Foundation’s critical work and connect to the research through fundraising opportunities. Before coming to Canary, Ashley managed a variety of events at Goodwill of Orange County and other major venues. She holds a certificate in Fundraising from the University of California, Irvine, and a B.A. in Sociology from Vanguard University.
Cordie McGhee, Development Manager
“I joined Canary Foundation to be part of an innovative mission that affirmed my ideals about cancer treatment.
Canary Foundation has positioned itself as a leader in early detection research, and I feel honored to contribute my skill set in development each and every day.”— Cordie McGhee
At Canary Foundation, Cordie manages annual donor programs, current fundraising projects, and the development of new giving programs. Her mission is to create a strong foundation of annual giving and community, with a focus on diverse and compassionate fundraising that directly contributes to the momentum of early detection and significant research milestones of Canary Foundation. Cordie holds a Master’s degree in Social Entrepreneurship and Change Management from Pepperdine University.
Jesse Murillo, Team Manager
“I’m involved with Canary because I believe strongly in the foundation’s mission.
I believe there will be a day when I can look back and say that I helped raise awareness and funds for early cancer detection tests that will be used in the medical field.”— Jesse Murillo
Jesse’s role at the foundation is specifically focused on growing their biggest fundraising event, the Canary Challenge. He’s responsible for recruiting corporate teams, seeking sponsorships and maintaining fundraising pages for participants. His goal is for everyone participating to realize that they are making in a difference in the way cancer is approached. Jesse has a B.A. degree from San Diego State University.
Rohaj Puri, Director – Canary Challenge
“After working in Sales for 15 years in the Bay Area, I was deeply impacted by the loss of my father and mentor. I decided it was time to pursue a career that gave me satisfaction and allowed me to give back to the community.
“Once Canary Challenge came on my radar, I knew it was an organization I had to pursue. I saw a strong opportunity to take my experience in sales, my knowledge of Silicon Valley and my entrepreneurial drive and apply it all to a mission I believe in.” – Rohaj Puri
Rohaj has a strong background in sales and marketing. He has extensive experience building sales programs from the ground up and has focused on scalability for the organization and integrity within his teams. Rohaj’s work with the Canary Foundation will focus on the Canary Challenge; he strives to make the challenge a widespread event, that is easily accessible by all those who wish to participate, and provides a fun, safe environment for families.
Therese Quinlan, Chief Development Officer
“I joined Canary Foundation to match my deep interest and training in high-impact philanthropy with an organization positioned to create a leap in science and technology to create early detection tests to better the lives for all people with cancer.” — Therese Quinlan
At Canary Foundation, Therese manages the major gift program, and routinely has open discussions with donors. She believes the approach to cancer early detection is pragmatic and robust. Therese was inspired early on by donors and professionals when working at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral and the Alzheimer’s Association. A certified fundraising executive (CFRE) since 2002, Therese has led significant fundraising efforts at Canary Foundation, with a focus on transformational giving. She attended Mills College.
Derek Smith, Marketing Specialist
“I joined the Canary Foundation because I was deeply impressed with the incredible achievements in research, development and fundraising that this unique organization has made.
My role is to help bring awareness to our innovative foundation and to clearly communicate our goals and accomplishments in early cancer detection research.” — Derek Smith
Derek blends a background in journalism with years of hands-on marketing experience, giving him an ideal skillset to share the “Canary story” on a wide scale. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Indiana University and a master’s degree in digital media.