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Our Leadership Team

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Rebecca A. Rosales, MBA, CRA 

Rebecca Rosales joined NCIRE in January 2017. She brings extensive experience in finance, business administration, compliance and research administration.  Rebecca has held leadership positions at UCSF, Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and the Public Health Institute.  Rebecca has a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and a Master of Business Administration, Executive Program from St. Mary’s College of California.  As NCIRE’s CEO/Executive Director, she leads an administrative staff dedicated to supporting over 200 SFVAHCS physician/researchers who investigate and treat the wide range of diseases and disabilities suffered by millions of Veterans.   

Rebecca is a member of the several community health focused boards and has past experience as Chair of the Finance Committee Thalassemia Clinical Research Network (TCRN), National Institute of Health.  She is a member of the Clinical Trials Committee for National Association for Veterans Research & Education (NAVREF).

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Joanna Zhao, MBA
Secretary and Treasurer, NCIRE Board of Directors

Joanna Zhao joined NCIRE as an Accountant in 1998 and advanced to her current position as CFO from Controller, overseeing Payroll and Accounting Department. She received a Bachelor of Science, Accounting, from Golden Gate University, and a Master of Business Administration, Finance, from San Francisco State University. Her areas of professional expertise include financial reporting, budgeting and analyses, and not-for-profit accounting.  She was appointed in June 2018 to serve as Secretary and Treasurer for the NCIRE Board of Directors.

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Jian pu

Jian Pu joined NCIRE as an Accounting Specialist in 2006, and was promoted to the position of Accounting Manager in 2019. She was promoted to Controller on April 1, 2024. Jian has a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Management Engineering from Southeast University in China. Jian has nearly 30 years of accounting and finance experience in both for-profit and not-for-profit sectors.

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azarah wong, cra
Associate Director, Sponsored Research

Azarah Wong first joined NCIRE as the Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the NCIRE Board of Directors.  Concurrently, she supported three Principal Investigators and assisted with grant application preparations.  She was later introduced to the world of research grants administration; and in 2006, joined NCIRE’s Office of Sponsored Research (OSR)—formerly Contracts & Grants Department—as a Contracts & Grants Specialist where she advanced to her current position as Associate Director, Sponsored Research.  Azarah holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles and is an active Certified Research Administrator (CRA) since 2006.  Along with the OSR team, she provides SFVAHCS PIs with pre- and post-award research grants management.

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Newton ong
Associate Director, Contracts and Compliance             

Newton Ong has been with NCIRE for over 25 years and brings extensive research experience.  He has been promoted into various positions including:  Clinical Trials Specialist, Clinical Research Center Administrator, Contracts and Grants Manager, Compliance and Contracts Manager, and his current position as Associate Director, Contracts and Compliance within NCIRE’s Office of Sponsored Research (OSR), which he co-manages.  Newton received his Bachelor of Science, Business Management from San Francisco State University.  His areas of professional expertise include business administration, research administration, compliance, contract negotiations and management (CTA and CRADA), clinical trial site administration and finances, and assists with facilitating research with the SFVA Research and Development Department. He is also Clinical Research Contract Professional (CRCP) certified by MAGI.

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Jessica Schmidt, CRA
Manager, Federal Grants

Jessica Schmidt joined NCIRE in 2021 as a Contracts & Grants Specialist with over a decade of experience in research administration in academic, non-profit, and clinical settings.  Jessica was promoted to Manager of Federal Grants in 2022 and supports pre- and post-award management in the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR).  Her areas of expertise in include federal regulations and NIH grants policy. Jessica received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Boston University and is an active Certified Research Administrator (CRA).

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Lydia Blednyh
human resources director

Lydia Blednyh joined NCIRE in 2004. She has more than 22 years of Human Resources experience within the medical and research fields. During her tenure at NCIRE, she's partnered with researchers from across the SFVAHCS and UCSF to deliver complex and varied human resources services. She currently leads the NCIRE Human Resources group as Human Resources Director.


Prior to joining NCIRE, Lydia worked at Stanford Medical Center in Human Resources. She also became a California State certified mediator and a volunteer at the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center (PCRC).  At PCRC, she worked on community and small claims court mediations for the County of San Mateo.


Lydia earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication with double minors in English and Cultural Diversity from the College of Notre Dame in Belmont, California. She holds the two highest credentials within the human resources profession: the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and the Society for Human Resources Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM -SCP) certifications. Her areas of expertise include employee relations, organizational compliance, conflict resolution, performance management, and total rewards.

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Keith Chan
Information technology director

Keith Chan joined NCIRE as Information System Specialist in 2005 and has been in his current position as IT Director since 2016. He oversees the NCIRE IT department and business applications. Keith received a Bachelor of Science in Management Information System from Portland State University and a Master of Business Administration from University of Portland. His experience includes desktop support, server support, financial system administration, database management, and BI development.

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shannon ellis
Senior Manager, Procurement and Logistics

Shannon Ellis joined NCIRE as a Buyer II in 2006. She was promoted to Senior Buyer, then Purchasing Manager, and has advanced to her current position as Senior Manager, Procurement and Logistics. In her current role, Shannon focuses on implementing processes and policies to improve compliance, improve customer service, and leverage our buying networks. Her areas of professional expertise include extensive experience with sourcing, project management, operations, inventory management, contracting, asset management, forecasting, domestic and international logistics, process improvement, compliance, and database development.

Prior to joining NCIRE Shannon spent over 15 years in the private sector handling commercial, wholesale, and international procurement, contracting and design of turnkey high purity water treatment systems and solutions.

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Michael Shlipak, MD, MPH
Chair, NCIRE Board of Directors

Dr. Michael Shlipak is Associate Chief of Medicine for Research Development at SFVAHCS, Scientific Director, Kidney Health Research Collaborative at UCSF, and Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology & Biostatistics at UCSF. He graduated from Harvard Medical School and obtained his MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health. He completed internal medicine residency and a General Internal Medicine fellowship at UCSF.

His research activities involve the detection and the determinants of kidney disease, and its association with adverse outcomes, including cardiovascular disease. He has particularly been a pioneer on the use of cystatin C as a novel indicator of kidney function and its potential to improve understanding of kidney disease epidemiology and clinical care. For that body of work, Dr. Shlipak was awarded the John Blair Barnwell Award in 2018 from VA Clinical Science Research and Development Service. He is the author of over 500 peer-reviewed manuscripts and has been an author of multiple national and international guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease. Dr. Shlipak’s research has been continuously funded by NIH grants for the past 22 years, in addition to research grants from VA Health Services Research and Development, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the American Heart Association, and the American Federation for Aging Research.

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