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Senior Manager, Public Affairs

Heather Simonsen, MA

Heather Simonsen

Heather Simonsen, MA, is a passionate storyteller. As senior manager of public affairs at Huntsman Cancer Institute, she combines cutting-edge scientific research and heart-felt patient stories and crafts them into impactful stories for national and international media outlets. Storytelling is at the heart of Heather’s work.

The public relations leader, who is originally from San Antonio, could often be seen at her parents’ dining room table growing up, turning stacks of scratch paper into colorful stories complete with lovable characters, conflict, and drama. That interest blossomed into a successful career in news where she earned six Rocky Mountain Emmys and many awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. 

Now, Heather interviews, pitches, writes, develops, and leads a team of storytellers and PR professionals at Huntsman Cancer Institute. Her successful media campaigns include deep science discoveries about the gut microbiome and colon cancer, triplets with a devastating legacy of cancer who won NCAA All-America honors, and how education and outreach about the HPV vaccine is being embraced by Utah parents.

“Patients are the heart of our work,” Heather says. “Physician scientists bring the facts, but patients make it relatable, memorable, and impactful.”

Heather also teaches physicians and researchers how to complete successful interviews on every media platform.

“Often, interviewees don’t realize how much they can guide messaging,” she says. “With preparation, practice, and know-how, you can ace any media interview.”

Her creative work extends to her home kitchen, where her husband and three children enjoy her original, made-from-scratch, gourmet pizzas.

Associate, Public Affairs

Avery Shrader

Avery Shrader

Avery Shrader joined Huntsman Cancer Institute as a public affairs associate in 2022. She started her professional journey as a nurse assistant at LDS Hospital in 2019. With this background, coupled with her lived experiences of being a long-term patient, Avery has always had a passion for healthcare. She graduated from Utah Valley University with a specialized degree in disability law and advocacy. In her free time, she advocates for students with disabilities transitioning from high school to college.

Avery has always had a passion for equitable healthcare. This position has allowed her to use her hands-on experience in patient care to bridge the gap between providers and researchers, and the community, making it more patient-focused and inclusive. She now focuses her efforts on taking care of a much broader patient population through her writing and news pitches. As a member of the public affairs team, Avery has been able to oversee many projects and events that have reached thousands of people.

Specialist, Public Affairs

Nina Earnest

Nina Earnest

Nina Earnest joined Huntsman Cancer Institute as a public affairs specialist in 2024. Before joining the team, she worked as a podcast producer for over a decade. Nina is an award-winning storyteller who has spearheaded a variety of creative projects in several genres, including history, politics, and investigative journalism. She is excited to be using her research and writing skills in health care communications.

Nina loves her home state of Iowa — but has happily decided to make Utah and its mountains home.

Communications Specialist, Social Media

Amy Olsen

Amy Olsen

Amy Olsen has worked for Huntsman Cancer Institute since November 2018, and in healthcare most of her life. Her passion for cancer care runs deep. In her free time, she volunteers as a board member for a local cancer foundation that helps families with children who have cancer. Amy is a true ambassador as her social media work demonstrates her empathy and pride in Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Executive Assistant/Office Manager, Communications and Public Affairs

Jill Woods

Jill Woods

Jill Woods has been a part of the Public Affairs & Communications departments since 2001. She serves as the office manager to both teams and as an executive assistant to Ashlee Harrison, executive director of innovation and transformation at Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Jill also manages HCI-RN and RS auditorium scheduling, compiles the daily news clip report,  handles department purchases, assists with budget management, general office needs, and other special projects.