Meet The Team
The Avoca Group is comprised of industry veterans, quality experts, and leaders in their field.
Patricia LeuchtenFounder and CEO
Patricia Leuchten is Founder and CEO of The Avoca Group. She has more than 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry and is a leading authority on global clinical outsourcing and strategic alliances.
In 1999, she founded The Avoca Group, a consulting and research firm specializing in clinical outsourcing, alliance management and quality management in outsourced clinical trials. The Avoca Group has played an important role in the industry as the first consulting firm to track trends in clinical outsourcing and to measure the health of relationships between sponsors and CROs.
In 2011, Patricia launched the Avoca Quality Consortium® a member-based pre-competitive collaborative comprised of clinical operations, quality, and outsourcing professionals from pharma, biotech, CROs, and clinical service providers. Since its inception, the rapidly growing Avoca Quality Consortium is transforming clinical trial execution by driving efficiency, improving quality, and mitigating risk in outsourced clinical trials.
Most recently, in 2017, Patricia launched the Diligent® Qualification Platform, an innovative technology initiative designed to increase efficiency and shorten timelines for clinical trial execution by centralizing vendor qualification activities.
Patricia is a frequent speaker and writer on topics surrounding clinical outsourcing, strategic alliances, quality management and relationship management in the pharmaceutical industry.
Janice Hutt, MBAVice President, Strategy and Sales
Janice Hutt has been part of The Avoca Group’s leadership team for over 18 years. In her current role, she works closely with the Avoca Quality Consortium’s (AQC) Members to understand their needs, align on vision, and ensure continued engagement. Janice’s expertise enables sponsors and service providers to foster environments of mutual understanding, enhanced collaboration, and increased commitment to quality, resulting in improved program outcomes.
Janice brings over thirty years of experience in the pharmaceutical and pharmaceutical services industries. Prior to joining Avoca, Janice spent eight years working for various CROs, and before then, spent several years in clinical research at Merck.
Janice holds a master’s degree in education from Acadia University and a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from Rider University.
Crissy MacDonald, PhDVice President, Client Delivery
As the leader of The Avoca Group’s integrated consulting solutions and overseer of the Avoca Quality Consortium® workstreams, Crissy MacDonald provides consulting services to top pharmaceutical, biotech, and contract research organizations, and oversees client deliverables, systems, and processes across The Avoca Group.
Crissy has over 12 years of pharmaceutical industry experience with expertise in clinical research, process development, and strategic management. Her previous professional roles have touched every stage of the clinical trials process, from pre-clinical research through late-stage clinical development.
Crissy earned a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Drexel University and a bachelor’s degree from Lafayette College.
Christine Albano, MBAChief Administrative Officer
Christine Albano has over 20 years of finance, strategy, and alliance management experience, including 10 years within the pharmaceutical industry. She directs The Avoca Group’s company processes and activities for Finance, Contracts, and Human Resources, and provides client consulting in the area of vendor oversight and relationship management.
Prior to joining The Avoca Group, Christine participated in large pharmacy integrations, giving her a deep understanding of change management. She worked for both a large sponsor organization and a small CRO where she was responsible for alliance management, project finance management for clinical trials, contract negotiations, and general business administration operations. She also held an executive position in a manufacturing company during the housing market decline. She led critical finance activities through company divestitures, factory shut downs, acquisitions, restructurings, and fund raising as the Corporate Controller and Assistant Secretary of American Standard Brands.
Christine earned a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and an MBA in Finance from Rider University, where she assisted in the development of the university’s Healthcare Management curriculum.
LeRoy JonesPresident and Chief Technology Officer of Diligent
LeRoy Jones is President and Chief Technology Officer of Diligent. Lee leads all aspects of operations, software development, and commercialization.
Lee has over 20 years of experience in Healthcare IT, having specialized in creating software solutions for population health management that break down data silos and enable collaboration. As the founder and CEO of GSI Health (acquired by Medecision in 2019), he led a team in developing a SaaS tool that united care providers on a centralized technology platform. Lee is widely recognized as a thought leader in his field; he has contributed to several state and federal initiatives to develop operational models and establish standards for healthcare IT. He also served as senior advisor to the President-appointed National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, whereby he was responsible for managing the strategic technical directions for the national healthcare agenda.
Lee holds an MS in Engineering in the Management of Technology from the University of Pennsylvania and a BS in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon.
Dawn R. AuerbachExecutive Director, Client Development
Dawn Auerbach is the Executive Director of Avoca’s Client Development team. She is responsible for The Avoca Group’s sales processes and for driving new business within the organization. Dawn leads activities to develop proposals and deliver presentations. She is also actively engaged in contract assessment and developing new services based on discovered market opportunities in order to meet the needs of our prospective clients. Dawn and her team partner with other Avoca team members to build strong relationships with existing Avoca Quality Consortium Members and Avoca clients.
Dawn brings to Avoca over 25 years of experience in product development, relationship management, contract negotiations, strategic positioning, and clinical market research. She earned her Master of Public Administration in Healthcare and Finance from New York University and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the State University College at Oneonta.
Kristen Jonathan BennettDirector, Client Delivery
A member of the Avoca Group’s integrated consulting and Avoca Quality Consortium® workstreams, Kristen Bennett provides consulting services to top pharmaceutical, biotech, and contract research organizations, and oversees client deliverables, systems, and processes across The Avoca Group.
Kristen has 12 years of clinical trial experience with expertise in clinical trial execution, process development, and strategic management. Her previous professional roles include project, data, and site management.
Kristen’s clinical research career began as a clinical research coordinator at a large academic oncology institution where she was responsible for the recruitment, intervention, data collection, laboratory, and data analysis for studies across multiple therapeutic areas. Kristen transitioned into a research supervisory role with the primary responsibility of developing and providing education, orientation, and continuing education programs relative to conducting research protocols. Kristen has also co-authored several scientific abstracts/poster presentations.
As project manager at various CROs, Kristen ensured operational excellence within the project management group across a portfolio of studies. She participated on the Steering Committee of each study to analyze trial progress and mitigate newly identified trial risks. She also developed and evaluated study performance metrics against agreed-upon budget deliverables and timelines. Additionally, Kristen managed and coordinated the efforts of cross-functional project teams to support milestone achievement while implementing continuous improvement activities for internal and external risk mitigation.
Kristen holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.
Michael CruzExecutive Director, Technology & Business Administration
Michael has played a pivotal role implementing technologies and establishing processes and policies to enable Avoca’s growth since 2006. He oversees Avoca’s technology infrastructure, ensures organizational efficiency and security, and contributes to contract and administration processes across business areas. He has an integral role in technical execution and planning for Avoca Summits and was a key contributor to the Diligent® Vendor Qualification Platform.
Michael has over 35 years of experience as an IT professional in the Telecommunications, Biotech, and Consulting industries.
Caryn Laermer, MBAHead, Member Engagement
Caryn Laermer is Head of Member Engagement for The Avoca Group. She oversees strategies, initiatives, and communications; manages member engagement and recruitment; and plays an integral role in organizing Avoca Summits and AQC Member meetings.
Prior to joining Avoca in 2006, Caryn served as Vice President, Derivatives Group at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (now Credit Suisse), where she specialized in the sales and trading of stock options, foreign currency derivatives, and futures.
Ms. Laermer graduated from Tufts University with a BA in Economics. She is a member of Omicron Delta Epsilon, Economics Honor Society and holds an MBA in Finance from New York University.
Ann LinderSales Manager
Ann Linder is a Sales Manager on Avoca’s Client Development team. Ann provides leadership and support in maintaining healthy client relationships with AQC Members and consulting clients.
Ann’s previous experience includes providing life science consulting services and managing inside sales teams. She received her BA in Communication Arts from Washburn University.
Beth Listhaus, PhDSenior Manager, Client Development
Beth Listhaus is responsible for maintaining healthy client relationships and cultivating new business opportunities at The Avoca Group. She also conducts client research. Prior to joining The Avoca Group, Beth served as Associate Professor of Psychology at Dominican College where she chaired the Psychology Department.
Beth holds a PhD from Fordham University and a Bachelor’s degree from State University of NY at StonyBrook.
Jenn LoaizaSenior Manager, Marketing
Jenn Loaiza joined The Avoca Group in 2005 and is responsible for coordinating communications and engagement with The Avoca Group’s clients and Avoca Quality Consortium® Members. Jenn also assists with client deliverables related to the company’s Research and Consulting services.
She is currently working toward an MBA from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a BSBA with a dual major in Marketing and Management, and holds an Associate’s degree in Visual Communications from Lehigh Valley College.
Lisa McKay, MBAHead, Member Services
Lisa McKay is Head of Member Services for The Avoca Group. She oversees the Survey Research project management team and works with AQC Members in a Client Engagement role.
Before joining The Avoca Group, Lisa held executive level roles in Marketing and Business Planning both as an employee of entrepreneurial companies and as an independent consultant and mentor to early stage technology companies.
Lisa earned a BS in Biology from Bowling Green State University and holds an MBA from the University of Connecticut.
Denise Calaprice, PhDSenior Consultant
After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Harvard University and her MS and PhD from Princeton, Dr. Denise Calaprice entered the world of clinical research as an NIH fellow at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1994. Over the subsequent decades, she acquired extensive experience in directing clinical research programs and in creating innovative development and operational strategies in a variety of settings, including academia, government, a CRO, a large global pharmaceutical company, and a small biotechnology company.
In her 14 years with The Avoca Group, Denise has provided support to pharmaceutical companies, clinical service providers, university investigators, industry consortia, and government agencies engaged in clinical research, with a focus on partnering strategies, relationship management, metric development, protocol quality, patient engagement, risk management, “lean” development strategies, and business data analysis. Among her many accomplishments, Denise has developed a novel quality metrics taxonomy that has been adopted by top pharma organizations, and led development of the Avoca Patient Engagement Playbook.
Janis Hall, MBASenior Consultant
Janis Hall has over 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry with leadership roles in pharmaceutical, biotechnology, CRO, and medical diagnostic companies. While at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development (J&JPRD), she was responsible for R&D sourcing, contracting, and supplier alliance management.
As Senior Consultant with The Avoca Group, Janis developed many of the quality oversight tools within the Avoca Quality Consortium® Knowledge Center. She is the mastermind behind the Oversight Capability and Maturity Model® (OCMM) and Provider Qualification work streams, and a key contributor to Avoca’s Diligent® Vendor Qualification Platform.
Janis has been a chair, invited speaker, and panelist at numerous conferences. She holds an MBA from the University of Delaware and a BS in Chemistry from Towson University.
Theresa MasonSenior Consultant
Theresa Mason retired from Eli Lilly and Company in March 2015, following a 32-year career with the company. During that time, she played a key role in establishing an outsourcing group to support Lilly’s Product Development organization. She received Lilly’s “Top 100 Innovators” award in 2015 in recognition of her work in developing and implementing outsourcing business processes and IT tools.
Prior to her role in outsourcing, Theresa led Lilly’s R&D Portfolio Management and Decision Analysis organization for six years. She and her team provided R&D project selection recommendations and decision consulting for senior management. Theresa also held strategy roles in both R&D and Manufacturing, as well as leadership roles in Engineering and Manufacturing (Antibiotic API).
Theresa has been a speaker and panelist at several conferences. She holds a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Dayton and has additional training in Decision Analysis, Systems Management, and Six Sigma.
Irene Catherine Michas, BA, MSc, PhDSenior Consultant
Dr. Irene Michas acts as a subject matter expert for the Avoca Quality Consortium® and as a consultant on pharmaceutical quality. With a background in the pharmaceutical, biotech, and CRO industries, she brings extensive experience to diverse pharmaceutical development activities, including regulated business process development, business process and systems training, audits and regulatory inspections, product licensing agreements, clinical research and development, data management, personnel and contractor recruitment and onboarding, and the management and implementation of global projects and initiatives. Until March 2017, Irene was a senior leader within Pfizer’s pharmacovigilance organization, where she held the role of Regional Safety Lead.
Irene holds a PhD in Psychology and an MSc in Research Methods in Psychology from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, as well as a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
Jay A. TurpenSenior Consultant
Jay Turpen is a Senior Consultant with The Avoca Group. He has been in the pharmaceutical industry for 29 years and has held various leadership roles. Jay has a wealth of experience in GMP, GLP, and GCP environments with significant real-life experience in developing numerous new drug candidates.
His pharma experience started in GMP of small molecule and large molecule (biologic) active pharmaceutical ingredients (API). Jay has been involved in leading multiple clinical teams responsible for the clinical development and NDA preparation for multiple molecules in osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular, neuroscience, and immunology. Jay also led a transformation effort for his company’s CLO organization that effected processes, systems, job definitions/descriptions, and organizational leadership to meet both GLP and GCP requirements.
Most recently, Jay was Senior Director for Clinical Project Management (CPM) where he was responsible for the clinical development for Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune diseases, men’s health, pain, and other neuroscience indications. This CPM organization, under Jay’s leadership, successfully completed multiple NDA submissions, regulatory agency inspections, and received regulatory approvals for small molecule and biologic products demonstrating thorough GCP compliance. Jay retired from Eli Lilly & Co. at the end of 2017 where he was Sr. Director, Clinical Project Management – Biomedicines.
Steven WhittakerSenior Consultant; Executive Director, the Avoca Quality Consortium, 2011-2018
Steve Whittaker is a Senior Consultant with The Avoca Group and former Executive Director of the Avoca Quality Consortium®. He is also a lead consultant for the pharmaceutical, biotech, and CRO industries providing expertise in project management, pharmaceutical development, clinical development, outsourcing strategies, and execution plans. His experience through years of drug development leadership roles, combined with his established professional network across these industries, provides unique and valuable insights for organizational leaders.