Meet the Media Team

Executive Director, Communications 

Duke Helfand serves as executive director of Communications at Cedars-Sinai. Prior to joining the health system in 2011, Duke worked as a reporter at the Los Angeles Times for 20 years, covering healthcare, education, religion, City Hall and other beats. He earned his master's degree in journalism from the University of Southern California. 


Editor-in-Chief, Newsroom
Associate Director, Media Relations, Communications

Before joining Cedars-Sinai in 2009, Sally Stewart was a journalist for USA Today. After covering the first O.J. Simpson trial, Sally became a public relations consultant and authored a communications how-to book called Media Training 101: A Guide to Meeting the Press (Wiley). 


Manager, Broadcast News

Soshea Leibler joined the Cedars-Sinai Communications team in 2013. She focuses on Cedars-Sinai’s Community Benefit programs and new technologies at the hospital, including the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator Powered by Techstars and the Women’s Guild Simulation Center for Advanced Clinical Skills. She also covers Pediatrics, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Blood Donor Services and Psychiatry. Formerly, Soshea was a TV news producer at CBS News.


Senior Communications Specialist

Laura Coverson supports the departments of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Medicine (including gastroenterology, pulmonology, rheumatology and endocrinology), Nursing, the Sports Spectacular Diabetes and Obesity Wellness and Research Center. She is an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist and medical news producer who previously worked in the news divisions of ABC and CBS networks and at KCET.


Lead Communications Specialist

Jane Engle covers research, including the Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute. Prior to joining the Communications team in 2016, Jane was a reporter, editor and columnist for the Los Angeles Times and a content management consultant. She earned bachelor's degrees in sociology/anthropology from Oberlin College and in psychology from California State University, Northridge.


Senior Communications Specialist

Marni Usheroff covers innovations related to the quality or value of healthcare, infectious diseases, Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital, the Cedars-Sinai Medical Network, insurance, Geriatric Medicine and Pharmacy Services. Prior to joining the Communications team in 2016, Marni was a reporter at the Los Angeles Business Journal and The Orange County Register. She earned her master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she won the Horgan Prize for science writing.


Senior Communications Specialist

Melissa Vizcarra covers the departments of Orthopaedics, Surgery, Trauma, Nursing and Anesthesiology. Prior to joining the Communications team in 2019, Melissa spent more than a decade in healthcare communications at one of the nation’s premier pediatric hospitals. Vizcarra earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.


Senior Communications Specialist

Diane Wedner covers the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai. Prior to joining the Communications team in 2015, Diane was a longtime reporter at the Los Angeles Times, a science writer for National Geographic and a writer/video reporter at an online magazine dedicated to women’s health news. She earned her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Southern California.


Communications Specialist

Sarah Lichtman covers precision health, the Comprehensive Transplant Center, Blood Donor Services, the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Volunteer Services, Spiritual Care and International Health at Cedars-Sinai. Prior to joining the Communications team in 2019, Sarah spent more than a decade in federal government communications and public affairs at the national level, covering topics that included defense, federal policy, public health and epidemiology.


Senior Communications Specialist

Cara Martinez covers the neurosciences and the Smidt Heart Instittute at Cedars-Sinai. Past roles with the organization include supporting Cedars-Sinai Cancer as well as internal communications.  Prior to her current position, Cara served as associate director of communications at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN). She earned her master's degree in strategic public relations from the University of Southern California.


Senior Communications Specialist 

Nilou Salimpour-Davidov writes for the S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center. A senior communications specialist at Cedars-Sinai for the past two decades, she also provided communications support for the Medical Genetics department. Nilou earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles.


Project Associate, Communications

Before joining the Cedars-Sinai Newsroom team in 2021, Christina Elston was editor of L.A. Parent magazine, bringing information on education, health and parenting to families across Los Angeles County. Her decades-long career in journalism also includes an Annenberg Health Journalism Fellowship and authorship of two books on children’s health and safety.