Principal Investigator, TRI Director and Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical and Translational Research
As principal investigator, director of the Translational Research Institute (TRI) and associate vice chancellor for clinical and translational research, Laura James, M.D., is responsible for the overall administration and strategic development of the institute.
James is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine and Section Chief of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology at Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH). Her research program in acetaminophen toxicity has been funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases since 1999. In 2006, she founded Acetaminophen Toxicity Diagnostics, LLC, to develop a novel device for the rapid detection of acetaminophen toxicity. She also oversees clinical trials that address the appropriate and safe use of a number of medications in children.
James previously served as principal investigator of the ACH Pediatric Pharmacology Research Unit, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. She has served as an associate editor for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics since 2008. She has mentored numerous pediatric residents, graduate students and junior faculty and has been named among “The Best Doctors in America” in multiple categories.
James received her medical degree from the University of South Carolina and completed a pediatrics residency at UAMS. She completed fellowships in Pediatric Emergency Medicine and Pediatric Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and UAMS, respectively. She joined the faculty of UAMS in 1996.
John Arthur, M.D., Ph.D.
TRI Associate Director
As associate director, John Arthur, M.D., Ph.D., is providing leadership on multiple fronts for TRI. He is co-leader of TRI’s Research Forums, leader for the Collaboration and Multi-disciplinary Team Science functions, serves as a mentor and Internal Advisory Council member for the KL2 Scholars program, and is program faculty for the Health Sciences Innovation and Entrepreneurship (HSIE) training program.
Arthur is professor and chief of nephrology in the UAMS College of Medicine and at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System. He is past chair of the Charleston VA Research and Development Committee and will serve an important role as liaison between the VA and TRI. He has expertise in building multidisciplinary teams and has a track record of research that blends basic science and clinical care.
He is a practicing nephrologist with an interest in acute and chronic kidney disease. The research in his laboratory focuses on the discovery and validation of biomarkers in renal diseases. He has been using proteomic technologies for discovery and validation of biomarkers for over 15 years.
Arthur created and led three multi-center consortia, including the NIH-supported Southern Acute Kidney Injury Network, which resulted in significant advances in the area of biomarkers of acute kidney injury. Since his arrival at UAMS in 2015, he has built a consortium of private practice and academic nephrologists interested in a broad array of kidney diseases.
He has served as secretary-treasurer and president of the Southern Section of the American Federation of American Research, and was the founding director of the Medical University of South Carolina CTSA biobank.
Arthur received his medical degree and a doctorate in pharmacology from the University of Iowa. He completed an internal medicine residency followed by a research residency, both at Duke University. His residencies were followed by clinical nephrology and research in nephrology fellowships, also at Duke.
Mary Aitken, M.D., M.P.H.
KL2 Scholar Program
Mary Aitken, M.D., M.P.H., serves as co-director of TRI’s KL2 Scholar Program.
Aitken is a professor of pediatrics who joined UAMS in 1996. She is a general pediatrician with clinical activities based at Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH), where she is active in medical student and resident training. In 2006, she was appointed director of the Department of Pediatrics’ Center for Applied Research and Evaluation, which seeks to improve child health through research into child health services, pediatric injury prevention, child development and nutrition. As director of the Injury Prevention Center at ACH, she has advocated for stronger injury-prevention policies at the state level, including Arkansas’ graduated driver license law, restrictions on cell phone use by teen drivers, car seats, and bicycle helmets. She has also testified before state and federal committees and the Consumer Product Safety Commission on all-terrain vehicle safety.
Aitken’s research program focuses on primary prevention of pediatric injury, including major injury mechanisms that disproportionately impact the health of rural and low income children. She has received funding from the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Emergency Medical Services for Children Program of Maternal and Child Health Bureau, and other agencies to support her research in injury prevention. Recent studies include interventions to improve motor vehicle and all-terrain vehicle safety in community settings as well as those promoting safe sleep in high risk populations. Her work has been recognized with a number of awards, including the Siebert Award for team building from ACH, the Joan Cranmer Mentor of the Year award from the UAMS Department of Pediatrics, and the Gil Buchanan Award for Excellence in Child Advocacy and Community Service from the Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Aitken earned her medical degree from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and completed a pediatrics residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md. She also received a Master of Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology during a general academic pediatrics fellowship at the University of Washington.
Beatrice Boateng, Ph.D.
Evaluation and Continuous Improvement
As the evaluation director for TRI, Beatrice Boateng, Ph.D., employs a formative approach to evaluation, using mixed qualitative and quantitative methods to assess program processes and provide regular feedback to TRI leadership.
Boateng is an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). She is also the director of the office of education and co-director of faculty development in the Department of Pediatrics. Her research interests include instructional technology in medical education, social media and open source tools for education.
Since joining UAMS in 2007, Boateng has served on a number of education related task forces and committees in the College of Medicine. She has earned numerous awards, including Educator of the Year in 2010 and 2012 in the Department of Pediatrics, the Dean’s Educational Incentive Award in 2012 and 2013, and the 2013 UAMS Educational Technology Excellence Award. She is a member of several national pediatrics committees and collaboratives, including the Pediatrics Milestones Assessment Collaborative (PMAC), the Association of Pediatric Program Directors (APPD), and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME).
Boateng earned her master’s degree in international affairs and a doctorate in instructional technology, both from Ohio University.
Geoffrey Curran, Ph.D.
Geoffrey Curran, Ph.D., is a TRI program director and leads TRI’s efforts in implementation science.
Curran is director of the UAMS Center for Implementation Research and is professor of pharmacy practice (College of Pharmacy) and psychiatry (College of Medicine). He is also a research health scientist at Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System. He has served as principal investigator (PI) on numerous VA and National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded implementation research projects, and he established the concept of the “hybrid effectiveness-implementation design,” now in broad use. He serves as one of 10 national experts on the NIH Dissemination and Implementation Research Design and Methods Working Group with the goal of developing guidance and tools for selecting implementation research designs.
Since joining UAMS in 1999 he has been conducting mental health services research, with a focus on implementation research for the last 15 years. He has studied and published manuscripts primarily on: 1) adaptation and implementation of evidence-based practices in mental health settings, and 2) the broader area of perceived need, treatment utilization, treatment retention, and outcomes in mental health/substance use disorders. Recently, he has been developing formative evaluation methods for implementation intervention and research designs for hybrid effectiveness-implementation trials. He is PI or co-PI on current and/or recently completed VA and National Institute of Mental Health grants that are testing implementation strategies to assist both primary care and specialty care settings in adapting and adopting evidence-based mental health practices. He recently completed a VA-funded grant that developed and pilot tested online training materials for substance use counselors to learn and implement cognitive behavioral therapy for depression groups. The UAMS Center for Implementation Research’s mission is synergistic with the goals and activities of the TRI Implementation Science Optional Module. Curran teaches a graduate-level course in implementation science and methods in the UAMS College of Public Health. He has experience establishing coalitions of partners to facilitate implementation research including the Federally Qualified Health Centers around Arkansas.
Curran earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in sociology from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.
Anna Huff Davis
TRI Leadership Council Community Representative
Anna Huff Davis brings an extensive background working in the community with specific training and expertise in community-based participatory research and participatory rural appraisal.
Since 2001, she has been director of the Mid Delta Community Consortium and community liaison with the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health. As director of the consortium, and in partnership with the College of Public Health, Davis led the establishment of rural health networks across 38 counties in the Delta as part of a federal Health Resources and Services Administration grant. As the technical service provider, the consortium assisted in establishing systems to provide financial and technical resources to community organizations.
A member of the TRI Community Advisory Board, Davis was involved in TRI’s development of the Community Scientist Academy, which completed a successful pilot in September 2016. She also chairs the Arkansas Prevention Research Center Community Committee which was formerly the Community Advisory Board and was instrumental in the creation of “The Dos and Don’ts of Community Engagement” workshop. The workshop has been presented three times in Arkansas and once at the University of California, Riverside, with faculty from Loma Linda University and University of California, Los Angeles.
Davis is primary community liaison, adviser or recruiter on three College of Public Health research projects.
She received a degree in business administration from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, certification for the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, and has completed community-based education graduate courses at the University of California, Davis.
Teresa J. Hudson, Pharm.D., Ph.D.
Evaluation and Continuous Improvement
Teresa Hudson, Pharm.D., Ph.D., co-directs TRI’s Evaluation and Continuous Improvement function and co-leads TRI’s Collaboration and Team Science program. An associate professor of psychiatry, she brings 16 years’ experience with evaluation and directs the Division of Health Services Research in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Psychiatry. Hudson previously served as TRI’s director of evaluation from 2010-2014. She is associate director for the Center of Innovation in Little Rock and principal investigator and director of the VA National Rural Evaluation Center, a partnered evaluation center funded by the Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) and the Office of Rural Health. She also serves as the evaluator for the Arkansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE). Hudson’s research interests include optimizing medication use across a wide range of diseases including schizophrenia, PTSD and opioids. As principal investigator on a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)-funded study, she examined the epidemiology of opioid use among veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly those with traumatic brain injury. She also used VA data to develop and validate quality metrics for persons with substance use disorders as principal investigator on another NIDA-funded project.
Hudson received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from St. Louis College of Pharmacy in Missouri and a Ph.D. in health systems and services research from UAMS.
Laura Hutchins, M.D.
Liaison to Trial Innovation Centers
Laura Hutchins, M.D., oversees the TRI Clinical Trial Innovation Unit and serves as the liaison for the CTSA consortium’s clinical trial initiatives.
Hutchins is a professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology and holds the Virginia Clinton Kelly Endowed Chair for Clinical Breast Cancer Research. She is also associate director of clinical research at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. Hutchins received her medical degree from UAMS and has worked nearly 40 years as a medical oncologist at UAMS specializing in breast cancer and melanoma. She has dedicated her career to patient care, clinical research, systems improvement and the education of others, and for 15 years she led the Hematology/Oncology Division as its director.
Hutchins has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and she has received numerous local and national awards including the Delivering Results Award for caBIG® from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). In 2012, she was honored at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Gala. Hutchins is the principal investigator for many industry-sponsored clinical trials and is the site principal investigator for all Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG) trials at UAMS.
Pearl McElfish, Ph.D., MBA
Integrating Special Populations
Pearl McElfish, Ph.D., MBA, co-leads TRI’s efforts on integrating special populations into research activities. She also directs community engagement initiatives for TRI in Northwest Arkansas.
McElfish is the associate vice chancellor for the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus and director of the Office of Community Health and Research, co-director of the Center for Pacific Islander Health, and an assistant professor with appointments in the colleges of Medicine, Public Health, Nursing, and the UAMS Office of Global Health. She is the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on five nationally funded projects, including the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), to address health disparities within the Pacific Islander community. Prior to joining UAMS, McElfish spent 12 years serving in executive director and chief level positions in rural health. Her combination of experience in business, rural and rural minority health, policy, research, and community development have made her particularly effective in engaging diverse populations and research.
McElfish received a Ph.D. in health policy from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, a Master of Business Administration from John Brown University, and a Master of Science in community and economic development from the University of Central Arkansas. She also holds professional certifications in project management and community development.
Jean McSweeney, Ph.D., R.N.
Liaison to Recruitment Innovation Centers
Jean McSweeney, Ph.D., directs TRI’s participant recruitment efforts. She also leads the Research Forum initiative as part of the Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design function.
McSweeney is professor and associate dean for Research in the College of Nursing. She is a research pioneer in the field of women’s cardiovascular disease and published the first study that described women’s symptoms of heart disease. Findings from her initial studies about women’s early warning and acute symptoms of heart disease across ethnic groups received national and international coverage from television and radio stations, such as CNN & CBS Evening News and newspapers including the New York Times and Chicago Tribune. She has presented her research findings to the National Heart Attack Alert Coordinating Board, served as a discussant for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Heart Lung, and Blood Institute’s Women’s Ischemia Taskforce, and was a featured speaker at the NIH National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) 20th Anniversary Symposium. She has received funding for her research endeavors from the NINR, American Heart Association, Sigma Theta Tau International and the American Nurses Foundation. She has received continuous NINR funding since 1999. She has published in numerous nursing and medical journals including Circulation, the premier cardiovascular medical journal. Her research on women’s symptoms of heart disease have also been featured in a variety of women’s magazines and news journals such as Ladies Home Journal, Family Circle, Prevention, and U.S. News and World Report. She is also the director of a NIH-funded Center for Bio-behavioral Interventions.
McSweeney is the recipient of the 2004 American Heart Association “Manuscript of the Year” Award, the 2005 UAMS Chancellor’s University Graduate Teaching Award, the 2005 American Heart Association “Best Abstract Award,” and the 2007 Southern Nursing Research Society “Leadership in Research” Award. She also has been recognized as a Distinguished Alumni of the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing.
McSweeney received her baccalaureate in nursing from Cameron University in Lawton, Okla., her master’s in nursing from the University of Texas at Arlington, and her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. She belongs to many professional organizations including American Nurses Association, Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honor Society, and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and the American Heart Association Council of Cardiovascular Nursing. She is a long-standing member and past president of Southern Nursing Research Society. She is one of four nurses who serve on the NIH National Institute of Nursing Research Advisory Council. She was recently appointed to the NIH Council of Councils that advises the NIH director. She is a fellow in both the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Nursing.
Donald M. Mock, M.D., Ph.D.
TRI Pilot Translational and Clinical Studies
Donald M. Mock, M.D., Ph.D., directs TRI’s Pilot Translational and Clinical Studies program and co-directs its Mock Study Section.
Mock is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, as well as pediatrics, and has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 1984. He has published 143 peer-reviewed manuscripts and dozens of book chapters, reviews, and solicited commentaries. He is principal investigator on a completed NIH R37 (year 28), project director/core lab director for a program project grant in its 25th year, and the leader of the team that discovered and characterized the original cases of biotin deficiency during total parenteral alimentation (providing nourishment intravenously) and of inborn biotin transporter deficiency.
During his leadership of long-standing National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funded research, he has applied his knowledge in the area of biotinylation of red cells for use in red blood cell (RBC) kinetic studies of relevance to neonatal transfusion medicine. Mock’s broad background (spanning physics, biochemistry, nutrition, pediatrics, gastroenterology, and clinical research including regulatory affairs – as principal investigator, administrator and research subjects advocate) has enabled an effective application of basic and clinical science to solve problems in designing and implementing studies covering the lifespan. He has been recognized by several research and teaching awards, including the Deans Distinguished Faculty Scholar in 2014. Mock has served on 34 extramural grant peer review panels, including 28 NIH member or ad hoc panels, and served as program director for the USDA Competitive Program in Human Nutrient Requirements. He received his medical degree from Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and completed his pediatric residency at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. He received a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Dallas, and he completed fellowship training in clinical research at the University of California, San Francisco.
Alison Oliveto, Ph.D.
Research Processes and Methodology Team Leader
Alison Oliveto, Ph.D., is a TRI program director and directs the Clinical Trials Innovation Unit (formerly Project Support Unit), the centralized office of TRI that provides research budget review and development, Medicare coverage analysis, protocol development, regulatory support, professional research staff, and laboratory processing resources to investigators.
Oliveto is a professor and vice chair for Research in the Department of Psychiatry in the UAMS College of Medicine. Since 1993 the National Institute on Drug Abuse has provided continuous funding for her research focused on improving treatments for drug addiction. She conducts both human laboratory studies and clinical trials to determine the efficacy of combining potential treatment medications with an evidenced-based psychotherapy among cocaine-, methamphetamine- or opioid-dependent individuals. She has served on many National Institutes of Health study sections and on the Board of Directors of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence.
During her tenure at UAMS, Oliveto has served on numerous research-related committees, including the Council on Clinical Research, the Institutional Review Board, the Scientific Advisory Council and the former General Clinical Research Center. She co-directed and continues to lecture in a complementary and alternative medicine course elective and has a strong commitment to mentoring. She is a member of the UAMS Women’s Caucus Career Mentoring Committee and has mentored more than 20 students, residents, fellows and junior faculty.
Oliveto earned a doctorate in experimental psychology with a specialty in behavioral pharmacology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in human behavioral pharmacology at the University of Vermont. She was on the research faculty at the Yale School of Medicine for 13 years before joining UAMS in 2004.
Fred Prior, Ph.D.
Fred Prior, Ph.D., is a TRI program director and directs TRI’s Comprehensive Informatics Resource Center (CIRC), overseeing all biomedical informatics efforts for TRI.
He is a professor and the inaugural chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics in the UAMS College of Medicine. He has over 30 years of research and development (R&D) experience in industry and academia focused on the design of advanced medical information management and imaging technologies. He has held senior management positions in a variety of R&D environments ranging from Silicon Valley startups to major multi-national corporations in the United States and Europe.
Prior’s research interests include cancer informatics, radiomics, advanced imaging technologies and Big Data analytics. He was a member of the Human Connectome research team serving in both the MEG and Informatics Operating Teams. He serves as principle investigator and director of the NIH National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Imaging Archive project. He is deeply involved in open source software development through participation in programs such as the Cancer Bioinformatics Grid and the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent.
He is an associate editor of several leading information technology journals and a reviewer for numerous other scientific and engineering journals as well as U.S. and European funding agencies. He is the author of over 100 scientific publications and holds seven U.S. and international patents.
Paula Roberson, Ph.D.
Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design
Paula Roberson, Ph.D., leader of TRI’s Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design (BERD) function, is professor and chair of the UAMS Department of Biostatistics, which is jointly administered by the Colleges of Medicine and Public Health. She is an active participant in the Association of Clinical and Translational Statisticians and in the BERD Special Interest Group of the Association for Clinical and Translational Science. She served as a reviewer for applications for new Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) in 2010 and 2011.
An elected fellow of the American Statistical Association (ASA) and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Roberson is a recognized leader in biostatistical aspects of the design, conduct and analysis of biomedical research. A frequent reviewer for the National Institutes of Health, she has served as a standing member on both the Clinical Oncology Study Section (CONC) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Clinical Trials Review Committee. She was a member of the NHLBI appointed Data Safety Monitoring Boards for the Stroke with Transfusions Changing to Hydroxyurea (SWiTCH) Trial, the Transfusion Medicine/Hemostasis Clinical Trial Network (TMH CTN), and the Transfusion Trigger Trial for Functional Outcomes in Cardiovascular Patients Undergoing Surgical Hip Fracture Repair (FOCUS). She recently served as the chair of the protocol review committee for the NHLBI Chronic Hypertension and Pregnancy (CHAP) trial, and has been appointed by NHLBI to that study’s DSMB. She is the 2015 president of the Caucus for Women in Statistics and a representative from the ASA to the Joint Committee for Women in the Mathematical Sciences. She was recently elected to the ASA Board of Directors for the term 2016-2018. She is a member of the Statistical Advisory Board for the online journal PLoS ONE.
Roberson earned her doctorate in biomathematics from the University of Washington in Seattle. Prior to joining UAMS in 1993, she held positions with the Health Effects Research Laboratory of the Environmental Protection Agency in Cincinnati, Ohio, and with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
Nancy Rusch, Ph.D.
Translational Workforce Development
Nancy Rusch, Ph.D., is a TRI program director and directs the workforce development efforts for the TRI by developing structured career pathways for clinical and translational research professionals. She specifically oversees TRI’s efforts to expand research fellowship funding.
Rusch is professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the UAMS College of Medicine, a position she has held since 2005. Her preclinical research focuses on mechanisms of hypertension and identifying antihypertensive drug targets, and she has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), American Heart Association (AHA) and other funding sources for more than 25 years. She is co-director of the UAMS Cardiovascular Research Center and has served in leadership positions in NIH peer review, the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, and the American Heart Association.
During her career, she has mentored many undergraduate students, graduate students, fellows and visiting faculty, most of whom applied for and obtained extramural grants to support their training. She was named Graduate Faculty Member of the Year by the UAMS Graduate School in 2014 for her record of mentoring research trainees.
Rusch received her doctorate from the Mayo Clinic (University of Minnesota) and completed post-doctoral fellowships in pharmacology at the University of Iowa and in physiology and biophysics at the University of Cincinnati. Rusch served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1979-1984, where she achieved the rank of captain before starting her academic career at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Mary Kathryn (Kate) Stewart, M.D., M.P.H.
Mary Kathryn “Kate” Stewart, M.D., M.P.H., directs TRI’s Community Engagement program. In this capacity she oversees activities fostering collaboration and partnerships involving community members and organizations, patients and families, and clinician stakeholders to address health issues that are vital to translational research.
Stewart, a professor of health policy and management in the UAM Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health (COPH), directs the Office of Community-Based Public Health and leads the community engagement efforts of the Arkansas Center for Health Disparities and the Arkansas Prevention Research Center at COPH. Through these leadership roles she has partnered with communities to create infrastructure for community-engaged research with support from the National Institutes of Health, federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, federal Health Resources and Services Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She has more than 20 years of experience engaging communities, both domestically and internationally, in research and interdisciplinary efforts to improve public health. Her efforts have led to policy changes related to access to care, community health workers, and long-term care.
Stewart earned her medical degree from UAMS and obtained a Master of Public Health with a concentration in international health from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Her postgraduate training included a residency in preventive medicine and a fellowship in health and child survival, both from Johns Hopkins. Prior to joining the UAMS faculty in 1997, she spent nearly a decade working internationally in the Matlab Maternal and Child Health and Family Program in Bangladesh and for the Demographic and Health Surveys Program in Namibia, the Philippines and Ethiopia.