About DKMS

Meet our executive board in the US

Smart, passionate, innovative, enthusiastic, collaborative, caring, tireless, just a few of the superlatives that describe our leadership team and their approach to guiding our organization as it grows to serve more donors and save more patients.

Last updated: 02/18/2021

Executive Chairwoman of DKMS US: Katharina Harf

For Katharina Harf, DKMS and the fight against blood cancer have been her life’s passion since the age of 14. After losing her mother to leukemia, Katharina put her focus into education, ultimately moving to the United States and graduating from Harvard cum laude. With her degree in hand, Katharina returned to DKMS, the company her father founded in the wake of her mother’s death, with a desire to expand the reach and impact of their life-saving work.

“This has been and always will be personal for me. The memory of my mother will remain with me forever and will continue to fuel my effort to bring hope to families like mine, because at the end of the day that’s what this is about. Our 10 million donors are more than just some large, abstract number. They are 10 million reasons for hope. For one family out there, searching for a lifesaving match for their loved one, our donors represent one simple thing; the possibility that there is one person that could make all the difference.”

After helping her father found the first international branch of DKMS in New York City, Katharina took on a number of positions to help get the fledgling office on its feet. From managing the organizations PR and Marketing departments to acting as CEO, Katharina’s passion for the well-being of patients and their families and her dedication to increasing awareness around the cause helped DKMS quickly grow, with over one million registered donors in the US. Katharina is currently the Executive Chairwoman of DKMS in the US and the Vice-Chairwoman of the Foundation Board of DKMS, acting as the public face of the organization. In addition to the current scope of her global duties, Katharina is also acting as the Interim Managing Director for DKMS US, overseeing operations and strategy for the country’s offices.

Executive Vice-Chairwoman of DKMS US: Elke Neujahr

In 2018, Elke Neujahr rejoined a cause that had long been close to her heart by becoming Global CEO of the DKMS Group. She also serves as Executive Vice-Chairwoman of the Board of Directors in the US and Chairwoman of the board in Poland, United Kingdom and South Africa. With a doctorate in communication sciences, Elke served national and international executives as an expert in all questions of corporate reputation, crisis, and change management. Initially holding a variety of positions in the industry, Elke ultimately switched to the consulting side of the corporate communications business. She has been Partner and CEO of a leading European PR Consultancy before she successfully ran her own company for 15 years. With her 40 years of expertise in general management she drives the development of the DKMS Group.

“Every year, tens of thousands of donor searches are initiated across the globe. At DKMS, we are working to ensure that every patient in need finds a matching donor. Our mission is driven by the countless employees, for whom this is a matter close to the heart, and the millions of compassionate individuals across the world who we are proud to call our donors. We go out of our way to increase awareness and encourage people internationally to register as a blood stem cell donor. Aware of the need for a multifaceted approach, we will continue to extend our mission and are currently investing in providing access to transplantation. The only effective way to address blood cancer and other life-threatening blood diseases is with a macro perspective that ensures no patient is left behind, regardless of their geographic location or socio-economic status.”

As the Global CEO, Elke oversees all DKMS operations and the organization’s continued international expansion. In addition to these duties, Elke is also acting in tandem with Katharina Harf as the Interim Managing Director for DKMS US.

VP of Finance and Administration: Ajay Saini

Ajay Saini has an extensive career in the nonprofit sector. He brings a wealth of knowledge from a background of financial leadership in manufacturing and non-profit industries. He joined DKMS in 2019 as Directory of Finance. Ajay quickly advanced to Vice President of Finance and Administration. He currently oversees the Finance, Data Management, Logistics, and the IT teams.

Prior to joining DKMS, Ajay served as Director of Finance & Administration at Equality Now. In this role, he managed all aspects of Finance and HR for both the organization’s domestic and international locations.

Ajay worked as Director of Finance at Worldwide Orphans Foundation. He holds a B.S. in Accounting from D.A.V. College in Chandigarh, India. His favorite quote is by Robert Tew: “The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow. Don’t give up.”

Director of Strategic Planning, Performance, and Partnerships: Whitney Gaeta

Whitney is an accomplished healthcare industry leader with over 10 years’ experience in the medical field. She brings extensive knowledge from the public healthcare sector including physician, hospital, and health system account management, strategic development and planning, as well as medical sales. Her professional experience includes driving multimillion dollar profit growth at a biopharmaceutical start-up company through development and expansion of a physician referral network on a national level, as well as national strategic account management with a medical industry leader.

At DKMS, Whitney currently leads Patient Engagement Strategy, Partnerships, Strategic Planning, Transplant and Collection Center Management, and Quality Assurance. Whitney unifies these areas through her innovation and solution oriented thinking. Prior to this role, she represented DKMS in the US bone marrow transplant community by managing medical partnerships as the Transplant and Collection Center Liaison.

Her passion for leading others is matched by her passion for helping others. Whitney has a personal connection to blood cancer and is honored to support DKMS’ mission of providing hope for patients and their families.

Whitney graduated with honors from Kennesaw State University where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a concentration in genetics.

Head of Department for Confirmatory Typing and Follow Up: Nicole Henningsen

Nicole has over 20 years in the medical field. After years of working in hospital operating rooms, she transitioned to Organ/Tissue Donation. She brings widespread knowledge of the donation industry. After losing her father to leukemia, working at DKMS and supporting its mission is personal and has brought her career in donation full circle.

At DKMS, she is the Interim Head of Department for Confirmatory Typing and Follow Up. The Confirmatory Typing team is responsible for initial outreach to donors who have been identified a preliminary match for specific patients in need of a bone marrow transplant. The Follow Up team is responsible for overseeing donor recovery, coordinating post-donation medical care, ensuring donor and patient confidentiality, and managing donor-patient contact following transplant.

Nicole graduated with Associates Degree in Nursing from Cambridge College. She also has received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Healthcare Management from Western Governors University.

Head of Workup and Clinical Data, Donor Management: Hannah De Simone

Hannah has over 15 years of nonprofit experience dedicated to healthcare, specifically in the community building, planning and development processes. Hannah’s relationship with DKMS sparked in March 2013 as a Workup coordinator. With exposure to the entire bone marrow donation process, Hannah continues to be inspired by the kindness and generosity of donors every day. Currently, Hannah manages the Workup and Clinical Data teams.

Hannah, alongside her teams, work with daily with donors who have been identified as a best match for patients in need of a bone marrow transplant, supervising all aspects of the donation process. The team educates and coordinates the entire process for donors. They harmonize all donation logistics to ensure safety for both the patient and the donor. The Clinical Data team tracks all donation forms and ensures compliance throughout the process.

Hannah graduated from Clark University with a BA in Government and International Relations and received a Master of Social Work from Hunter College.

Director of Fundraising US Global Special Events: Heather Lynn

Heather is a seasoned special events and fundraising professional with more than 12 years of diverse experience in the nonprofit sector. She continues to be inspired by the lifesaving mission of DKMS, which has provided her with exciting opportunities to engage with both financial and bone marrow donors over the past five years.

Having been employed by notable organizations like Carnegie Hall, New York City Ballet, and National Dance Institute, Heather is known for her excellent leadership, relationship-building, and communication skills. A solid multi-tasker and problem solver, she has built events and fundraising programs from the ground up and/or enhanced the systems for programs already in place. She thrives on serving as a mentor to members of the Global Special Events team and other DKMS staff across all international entities.

To quote Heather, “I lost a cousin to blood cancer many years ago, and that tore our family apart. Through my work with DKMS, I am able to provide healing and hope to other families affected by cancer and related blood disorders. It is this purpose that drives everything I do and always encourages me to reach higher and farther…thankfully, the learning process never truly stops.”

Heather originally hails from St. Louis, Missouri, but she feels like she can call herself a real New Yorker now. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance in 2004, and she received a Master of Arts degree in Arts Administration from Indiana University-Bloomington in 2007 at the top of her class. Heather is also a 200-hour registered yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance. Namaste!

More ways to help

You can support the DKMS in many ways and thus give new hope for life to many blood cancer patients.
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