Learn more about the members of the Survivorship team at Penn State Children’s Hospital.
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Smita Dandekar, MD
Survivorship Clinic Director and Physician
Dr. Smita Dandekar was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and moved to Mumbai, India, when she was 5 years old. After graduating from Grant Medical College medical school there, she moved to New York City, where she lived for 10 years. She settled in Pennsylvania in 2013.
Dr. Dandekar and her husband have two girls who keep them on their toes. She enjoys traveling and exploring new places. She loves to dance and is trained in Bharatnatyam, a classical Indian dance. In her spare time – which she says doesn’t come often with two young kids – she likes to unwind with a good book. Dr. Dandekar loves to paint and has won several national-level art competitions, something that she hopes to spend more time on when her kids get older.
She considers her role as a director of the Childhood Cancer Survivorship Clinic to be one of the most rewarding experiences of her career. Dr. Dandekar recognizes that each survivor has a unique story and enjoys seeing children and young adults embrace survivorship and take the leap beyond childhood cancer.
Christina Toepke, CRNP
Survivorship Clinic Nurse Practitioner
Christina Toepke is a graduate of the University of Delaware and Thomas Jefferson University and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and nursing as well as a master’s degree in pediatric nurse practitioner studies.
She has two young children. She started working at Penn State Children’s Hospital in the inpatient hematology/oncology unit after graduating from nursing school. Her initial plan was to try it out because she was uncertain about the position, but she quickly fell in love with her patients and their families. That was six years ago, and she has never thought of changing career paths.
She now serves as the nurse practitioner for Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Survivorship Program. She loves the mission of the clinic as well as being able to celebrate huge milestones with all survivors. In her spare time, she enjoys being with her family, vacationing at the family beach house and rooting for her favorite home teams (Go Eagles, Go Phillies!)
Survivorship Clinic Genetic Counselor
Krista Krol-Buch is a recent graduate from Arcadia University with a Master’s in Genetic Counseling. She received her Bachelors in Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, and Genetics from Boston University.
In her spare time she loves to travel, cook, listen to podcasts and spend as much quality time as she can with her nieces and nephews. She has a special interest in studying the psychological impact that somatic tumor profiling can have on patients and their families.
She is currently the genetic counselor for the Pediatric Cancer Genetics Program. She is excited to now be a part of the Survivorship Clinic. She is passionate about working with patients to help them gain a better understanding of how genetics can play a role in childhood cancer.
Sara Merrill, MSW, LSW
Survivorship Clinic Social Worker
Sara Merrill has been working in the field of social work for the last 12 years with experience in working with children, adolescents and adults. She has assisted patients and families coping with bereavement issues, mental health and those living with chronic and serious illness. She has been part of the Penn State Health family since January of 2017 and is excited to now be working closely with the survivorship team.
Sara acquired her bachelor’s degree in health sciences from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania and her master’s degree in social work from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. She obtained her license in social work in 2007.
In her spare time, Sara enjoys spending time with her family and close friends. She enjoys walks with her dog and playing with her son. She participated on the Track & Field team at Lock Haven University where she met her husband and now resides in Berks County Pennsylvania.
Rowena Sheils, BSN, RN
Survivorship Clinic Nurse Coordinator
Rowena Sheils was born and raised in the Philippines, where she completed her nursing degree at St. Paul University. She moved to El Paso, Texas, in 1990, before arriving in Pennsylvania in 2008.
She is married and has two teenage children and a loving dog. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family, gardening, reading action thriller novels and watching TV series on Netflix.
She considers herself privileged to be the Survivorship Clinic nurse coordinator and says, “The survivors and their families are the bravest people I know.”