About the Cristian Rivera Foundation
Mark M. Souweidane, MD
picture of Mark M. Souweidane, MD

Mark M. Souweidane, MD has dedicated his career to the surgical treatment of children with brain and spinal disorders. His talents as a surgeon are paralleled by a caring attitude and time commitment to patients and their families. That the Weill Cornell Medical College is a recognized leader in Pediatric Neurosurgery is a direct result of his recruitment in 1995 and his ongoing devotion to contemporary surgical techniques and investigative endeavors. Specialized surgical skills have gained him international reputation for specific procedures, including removal of intraventricular brain tumors, management of pineal region tumors, treatment of congenital cysts, and surgery for Chiari malformation. In addition to the development of a world-class Pediatric Neurosurgery service, he has championed minimal access neurosurgery. His publications, clinical case volume, and practical courses continue to draw patients and practitioners that benefit from his endoscopic talents. His commitment to the education of future pediatric neurosurgeons is reflected in his participation on the Committee of Admissions for the medical college, his lectures to medical school students, his role as resident advisor, and resident mentoring at one of the country's premier training programs. Surgical areas of expertise include:

>> Removal of intraventricular brain tumors
>> Endoscopic intracranial surgery
>> Tumors (colloid cyst, benign astrocytoma)
>> Hydrocephalus (endoscopic third ventriculostomy)
>> Congenital cysts (endoscopic fenestration)
>> Treatment for Chiari malformations and syringomyelia
>> Management of pineal region tumors
>> Removal of intramedullary spinal cord tumors
>> Correction of craniofacial disorders
>> Multidisciplinary treatment of pediatric vascular abnormalities (arteriovenous malformations, Moyamoya disease, and cavernous malformations)

Dr. Souweidane currently serves as the Vice Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery and the Director of Pediatric Neurological Surgery at the Weill Cornell Medical College and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He is an associate professor in Neurological Surgery and Pediatrics.

Dr. Mark M. Souweidane completed his undergraduate training at the University of Michigan where he graduated with distinction in Microbiology. He attended Wayne State University Medical School as a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. His general surgery internship was completed at University of Michigan Hospitals and he subsequently did his neurosurgery residency at New York University under the direction of Drs. Joseph Ransohoff and Fred Epstein. He served as the chief clinical fellow for pediatric neurosurgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto during Harold Hoffman's tenure as chairman.

He has gained international acclaim in minimally invasive endoscopic neurosurgery for the treatment of hydrocephalus, intraventricular brain tumors, colloid cysts, and congenital cysts. His other areas of expertise include brain and spinal cord tumors of childhood, Chiari malformations, congenital spinal disorders, arachnoid cysts, and pediatric vascular disorders. His commitment to advanced surgical therapy for children with brain tumors is exemplified by his appointment as Chairman of the Neurosurgery Committee of the Children's Oncology Group. He is a member of the Professional Advisory Board of the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation. He has published 60 peer reviewed articles, authored 6 book chapters, and serves on the editorial board of the journal Neurosurgery. He is the principal investigator of a laboratory that is partly funded by the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. His laboratory focuses on improving the outcome of children with brain tumors by studying experimental local delivery and brain tumor modeling.

Click here for more information: http://www.weillcornell.org/mmsouweidane/index.html

Oren J. Becher, MD
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Oren J. Becher, MD

Dr. Oren J. Becher is a pediatric neuro-oncologist who has dedicated his career to improving therapies for children with brain tumors with a particular focus on identifying effective therapies for children with DIPG.    He is both a physician and a scientist, spending his time caring for children with brain and spinal tumors and leading a research laboratory.   Dr. Becher is a faculty member at the Lurie Children’s Hospital and the Lurie Cancer center and currently studies DIPG at Northwestern University where he is an associate professor in the department of Pediatrics.  He has received numerous awards including being named a St. Baldrick’s scholar, a Forbeck scholar, a Rory David Deutsch scholar, a Stewart scholar, and a Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator.  He is currently receiving research support from the National Institutes of Health, and the American Cancer Society.  In addition, Dr. Becher is on the advisory board for several foundations including the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, the Cristian Rivera Foundation, the Fly the Kite Foundation, and the Joshua’s Wish foundation.

Dr. Oren J. Becher completed his undergraduate training at the University of Pennsylvania where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a double major in biochemistry and economics. He subsequently attended the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.  It was during his years at Johns Hopkins that Dr. Becher realized his passion to care for children with cancer.  He then went on to complete a pediatric residency at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC.  This is where he began research on pediatric brain tumors, working in the laboratory of Dr. Tobey MacDonald.  Dr. Becher moved to NY to pursue a fellowship in Pediatric Hematology-Oncology at Cornell/Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.   During his fellowship in NY, Dr. Becher realized that there is a desperate need for an improved understanding of the biology of pediatric brain tumors.  Therefore, he joined the laboratory of Eric Holland at MSKCC in 2004 and spent six years applying genetic mouse models of brain tumors as tools to improve our understanding of pediatric brain tumors.   Dr. Becher made several important discoveries while in Dr. Holland’s laboratory including the development of the first genetically engineered mouse model for DIPG. While at MSKCC he also initiated two clinical trials for children with recurrent solid tumors (perifosine alone and perifosine + temsirolimus).  In September 2010, he moved with his family to North Carolina to establish an independent laboratory at Duke that focuses on DIPG. At Duke, Dr. Becher’s lab made important discoveries regarding the biology of DIPG including the co-discovery of ACVR1 mutations in 25% of children with DIPG and developing additional DIPG genetic mouse models that incorporate novel drivers such as the histone 3 (H3) K27M mutations and the ACVR1 mutations.  In December 2016, Dr. Becher moved to Northwestern University and Lurie Children’s Hospital to continue his efforts to find a cure for DIPG.  His laboratory is focused on identifying promising systemic therapies to translate into clinical trials for children with DIPG.

I am honored to join the Medical advisory Board for the Cristian Rivera Foundation, a foundation founded in memory of Cristian Rivera.  Cristian and other children with DIPG inspire me to work tirelessly in the lab to find a cure for DIPG.  I look forward to working together with other members of the Medical Advisory Board to develop effective therapies for children with DIPG.

Loice Swisher, MD
picture of Doctor Loice Swisher

Loice entered the world of medicine when starting at Temple University Medical School in 1985 subsequently pursing residency in Emergency Medicine. This was followed by a fellowship in Medical Education followed by an academic career with teaching and research focused on doctor-patient communication. The academic track came to an abrupt end when her then 5 year old daughter was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma brain tumor in 1999. The surgery neurologically devastated her coming out blind, mute and paralyzed. Despite having to relearn everything, radiation and chemotherapy were needed to save her life. At the end of treatment, Loice decided to combined her medical education as a professional and a parent to try to help other families struggling with pediatric brain tumors. Her passion has been to provide greater information to parents and to create internet communities. Over that time, Loice has worked with many different foundations and groups. Although DIPG is not 'her tumor', it is one that has touched her heart deeply having watched several friends lose their children to this terrible disease. In 2007, she started to focus almost all her time on creating a DIPG internet community through a DIPG Yahoo Group and working with different DIPG specific organizations. Through these correspondences Loice met Cristian Rivera. When John Rivera started the Cristian Rivera Foundation she was quite interested in development and was pleased to accept a position as a scientfic advisor.