Skip to content

Meet Our Staff

Interim CEO/Deputy Director

Melissa Buffalo, MS

Han mitakuyepi! Melissa is an enrolled member of the Meskwaki Nation in Iowa and Dakota from the Crow Creek and Lower Brule Sioux Tribes. She grew up in South Dakota and comes from a large extended family. Melissa received an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and earned an MS in Human Development from South Dakota State University. As the Deputy Director, Melissa is committed to working with and for our tribal communities, both urban and rural as we support our loved ones with opportunities to heal, emotionally, historically, spiritually, and physically from the burdens of cancer. She does this work because of the lasting impacts of cancer on her immediate and extended family. We know many cancers are preventable, and our people deserve access to those preventative resources that keep them healthy for themselves, their families, and communities.

Read Bio

Operations Director

Alyssa Terleski, MBA

White Earth, Turtle Mountain

Alyssa’s passion for giving back to the community has led to her role as Operations Director at AICAF. Alyssa has discovered that while her mind processes things in terms of business, she has a nonprofit heart.

Alyssa’s family hails from White Earth and Turtle Mountain, and both sides have been affected by cancer. Alyssa’s background in operations and nonprofit management has prepared her for the opportunity to support AICAF in shifting the needle on public health outcomes for our people. As Operations Director, Alyssa’s works to develop, implement, and support strategic objectives, manage human resource functions, daily operations, and play a lead role in our annual Powwow for Hope.

Read Bio

Kim is an enrolled member of the White Earth Nation in Northwestern Minnesota. She chose to work at AICAF because of its mission and values. As a person who works behind the scenes of an organization, as many financial people do, Kim feels it is important to feel passionate about the organization, and she feels excited, motivated, and inspired to be a part of the AICAF team with so many talented individuals. Kim brings several years of nonprofit and financial experience to her role.

Read Bio

Prevention & Policy Manager

Chris Johnson, MA

Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota

Hau mitakuyepi! Chris chose to work at the American Indian Cancer Foundation because of the impact cancer has had on his family. Working at AICAF allows Chris the opportunity to help end the cancer disparities that disproportionately affect our communities. In his role as the Prevention and Policy Manager, Chris works across AICAF initiatives with expertise in policy and system and environmental (PSE) change solutions. He also takes the lead on project coordination of partners, resources development, facilitation, training, and technical assistance with an emphasis on culturally-relevant PSE changes that promote health equity, health promotion, and healthy norms.

Read Bio

Hello! Aniin! Lindsey is the Cancer Programs Manager and has a Masters Degree in Nursing Education. Lindsey previously worked for the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in their clinic in various roles. One of her main focuses while working at Bad River was to reduce the cancer burden in the community. She thoroughly enjoyed her work and after having a son and taking some time off, Lindsey felt a pull to return to the good work of reducing cancer burdens in Indian Country. This pull brought Lindsey to AICAF. She chose to work for AICAF because they strive to eliminate cancer burden in Indian Country on a national level. Lindsey feels privileged to work with antalented team of professionals, and within the Indian Community as a whole. Chi Miigwech!

Read Bio

Research Manager

Wyatt Pickner, MPH

Hunkpati Dakota

Bio coming soon.

Read Bio

Research Assistant

Madison Anderson, MPH

Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe

Boozhoo! Madison works with the American Indian Cancer Foundation (AICAF) because she believes that we need more data about the health inequities within our communities.

As a Research Assistant at AICAF, Madison assists with study design and collecting, analyzing, and disseminating research about the behavioral risk factors of cancer in American Indians. Madison has an MPH in Community Oriented Primary Care, and she is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. Madison is dedicated to serving and advocating for Indigenous communities within the health research sector.

Read Bio

Samantha is the Office Administrator with the American Indian Cancer Foundation. Growing up, many of her friends and family had in some way been affected by cancer. With it being a large presence in Samantha’s life, it led her to work in the healthcare field. While working alongside individuals every day, many who were in the dark about what was happening, it gave Samantha the drive to find a career where she could help them. When the opportunity presented itself to join the AICAF team, it felt like a calling. Though most of her work is behind the scenes, Samantha’s past experiences give her the drive and motivation to support our staff so they can further provide American Indian and Alaskan Native people with access to resources and information they need about prevention, early detection, and treatment.

Read Bio

Senior Program Specialist

Daanis Chosa, BS

Bois Forte

Boozhoo. Daanis is from the Keweenaw Bay Chippewa Indian Community in Michigan and is a member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa in Minnesota. Daanis holds an AS in Community Development and a BS in Sociology – Policy Analysis at the University of Minnesota. She chose to work at the American Indian Cancer Foundation because she is an advocate for health equity in Native communities and reclaiming our identity and culture as Indigenous people. Daanis’s family have been impacted by cancer and she has lost loved ones to this disease. It is her goal to help change this story by promoting healthy living and prevention strategies in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. In her role as the Prevention and Policy Coordinator, Daanis supports strategies that improve health outcomes in Native communities with a focus on policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change.

Read Bio

Cancer Equity Coordinator

Justin Jones, MS

Tlingit & Haida

Justin is Yanyeidí, Eagle/Wolf Tlingit (as well as Haida, Tsiminshian, Nisga’a, Scottish, and Irish). His Tlingit name is X’at Kweíx and he was born and raised in Juneau, Alaska. Growing up in such a beautiful area sparked Justin’s interest in fishing, running, hiking, and enjoyment of the great outdoors. Justin received a BS in Engineering Physics from Whitworth University and an MS in kinesiology from The Pennsylvania State University. With these areas of study, Justin now focuses on health education and physical activity promotion in Indigenous communities. He looks forward to progressing this work as a Cancer Programs Coordinator at AICAF. Keijín dakee!

Read Bio

Prevention & Policy Coordinator

Alyssa Diaz, BA

Mabuhay! As a Prevention and Policy Coordinator, Alyssa provides technical assistance in policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change solutions to promote chronic disease prevention and health equity. Prior to this role, Alyssa served as AICAF’s AmeriCorps VISTA developing AICAF’s survivorship program. She is passionate about health equity, social justice, and decolonizing public health. As a first-generation Filipina-American, Alyssa understands the importance of allyship with Indigenous communities and carries this understanding through her work. Outside of work, Alyssa enjoys cooking Filipino food, rock climbing, and in the winter, she teaches cross country skiing.

Read Bio

Cancer Equity Coordinator

Misha Loeffler, BA

Bay Mills Ojibwe

Misha Loeffler is the Cancer Equity Coordinator for the American Indian Cancer Foundation. At the heart of what she and so many people in our communities believe is that we are all related, and our health is tied to one another. With this in mind, Misha joined AICAF to address cancer burdens affecting our Indigenous relatives. This role gives Misha the honor of working with cancer survivors, caregivers, and many community members on initiatives across the cancer continuum, including prevention, screening, early detection, survivorship, and health equity. Misha feels grateful to work alongside survivors, coworkers, and other relatives who are committed to protecting the health of our community members and generations from systemic problems that impact our healthcare access and overall quality of life. Misha dedicates her work at AICAF to her grandmother, who was a colorectal cancer survivor, and all of our relatives who are affected by cancer.

Read Bio

Greetings! Ashley came to work at the American Indian Cancer Foundation in September 2017 as an Evaluation Coordinator. She chose to work with American Indian and Alaska Native populations because of the wisdom and strong sense of community that resounds in Indian Country. This is a quality of life Ashley admires and wishes to see in every community across the nation. Now as a Senior Program Specialist, Ashley hopes to promote cancer awareness and increase early detection in communities and clinics through culturally-specific best practices. American Indian and Alaska native communities hold the inherit knowledge and wisdom, and it is the American Indian Cancer Foundation’s passion to highlight those solutions.

Read Bio

Mike Yang is a graphic designer with nearly a decade of combined professional experience in digital and multimedia work. He is a graduate of Augsburg College with a major in political science and a communications minor. He started his career as a multimedia professional working for Spectrum-Interactive Media, a branding and web development firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There, he worked with a talented team to develop branding, marketing strategies, websites, and printed materials for businesses across the country. Since then he has gone on to work for artists, elected officials, churches, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. Outside of work, Yang enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and fitness. He’s a fan of locally crafted beers, good food, better company, some fresh air, a lot of sunshine, and everything about the great outdoors.

Read Bio

As a Prevention and Policy Coordinator, Sana supports sustainable strategies that strengthen Native community systems and improve health outcomes. Sana earned a BA in Physiology and an MPH in Public Health Administration and Policy, both from the University of Minnesota. As a first generation Pakistani-American, Sana aims to ally herself with Indigenous communities so she can support and follow their leadership. She is passionate about systems change work and healing justice work involving reviving and reclaiming ancestral healing and collective practices that address generational trauma and oppression. In her off-time, Sana enjoys painting, reading and writing poetry, and nature walks.

Read Bio

Arundhathi has a passion for health equity through meaningful community engagement, and this is what brought her to AICAF. Arundhathi earned an MPH in Public Health Administration and Policy from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and minored in American Indian Public Health. Her academic focus combined with previous public health experiences in health systems and small nonprofits helped Arundhathi realize the need for a thoughtful public health model for underrepresented communities. Working as a Research Coordinator at AICAF will allow Arundhathi the opportunity to collaborate with community partners and better understand the Native relationship with cancer risk factors and pave the way for equitable outcomes. Arundhathi aspires to engage with Tribal communities, utilize culturally respectful research methods, and bring meaningful outcomes for the Indigenous population.

Read Bio

Communications Coordinator

Cheryl Bird

Oglala Lakota

Cheryl Bird is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. With nearly ten years of experience in Indigenous communications, Cheryl is passionate about helping tribal communities. Cheryl previously worked for national and local Native organizations, and is dedicated to helping raise awareness of cancer in Indian Country.

Read Bio

Matta was raised in Maryland by immigrant parents from Sierra Leone. After completing her undergraduate studies in Life Science & Sociology at the Pennsylvania State University she went on to receive a Master of Science degree in Public Health from the University of Miami, allowing her to further exercise her passion for health equity and social justice.

Affiliated through the Centers for Disease Control Public Health Associate Program, her objective at AICAF is allyship with American Indian and Alaskan Native communities. Her primary focus is commercial tobacco and supporting cessation efforts that address the disproportionate impact it has on Native communities.


Read Bio