Committed to expanding the scope and pace of collaborative clinical research opportunities across the University of Minnesota and to our hub partners.
CTSI's Executive Leadership Team convenes weekly to collaborate on organizational strategic objectives, respond proactively to opportunities, and guide priorities across the Institute, including clinical and translational research support and collaboration, community-engaged research, research workforce development, and team science.
CTSI’s Hub Leadership Team meets monthly. It brings together leadership from CTSI, hub partners, the community, University of Minnesota Duluth, and the Office of the Vice President for Research. The team focuses on collaboration to expand our CTSA hub’s research capacity, extending collaborative clinical and translational research opportunities, and strategies for harnessing our collective research capacity to address community and state-wide health needs.
The Executive Leadership Team and Hub Leadership Team meetings are convened by Dr. Bruce Blazar, CTSI's director.
Dr. Bruce Blazar, Director
Dr. Blazar directs the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) as well as the Center for Translational Medicine, an integrated component of CTSI, created to bring innovative, early phase therapies into the clinic. He has served as a past member of three NIH study sections and past Chair of one. Dr. Blazar's research focuses on the blood and marrow transplantation immunobiology and he has authored more than 850 manuscripts.
Dr. Daniel Weisdorf, Deputy Director, and Clinical Translational Research Services (CTRS) core Director
Dr. Weisdorf serves as CTSI's Deputy Director and Director of its Clinical Translational Research Services (CTRS) core. He is also co-leader of the Transplant Biology and Therapy Program at the Masonic Cancer Center, and serves as the Senior Research Advisor for the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research. Dr. Weisdorf's research is in application of blood and marrow transplant therapies for hematologic malignancies as well as studying the clinical complications of transplantation including opportunistic infections and graft versus host disease (GVHD).
Executive Leadership Team
Executive Leadership Team
Dr. Bruce Blazar directs the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). He also directs the Center for Translational Medicine, an integrated component of CTSI, created to bring innovative, early phase therapies into the clinic.
Dr. Blazar has served as a past member of three NIH study sections and past Chair of one. He is a past member of the FDA Biological Response Modifiers Advisory Committee, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Translational Research Award Committee, the American Society of Gene Therapy Immunology Committee, American Society of Hematology (ASH) Transplantation Biology Subcommittee, the Immune Tolerance Network Executive Committee, and the NCI Board of Scientific Counselors for Clinical Sciences and Epidemiology. He is the past Chair of the American Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation annual scientific meeting and Co-Chair of the 2012 ASH annual scientific meeting. Dr. Blazar is the recipient of an NIH MERIT Award, the ASH Ernest Beutler prize and lectureship, and the Till and McCullough Lecture Award, Canadian Blood and Marrow Transplant Group and the Lifetime Achievement Award and Lecture for the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Consortium. He is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation, Association of American Physicians, American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Institute of Medicine (renamed as the National Academy of Medicine). He is the author of more than 850 manuscripts on the immunobiology of bone marrow transplantation.
Dr. Blazar has a deep knowledge and dedication to clinical translational science (CTS) research. As a researcher, he has directed preclinical basic and translational immunology and stem cell research and early phase clinical studies for more than 25 years, with particular emphasis in the blood and marrow transplantation immunobiology. These studies include the first testing of: 1) the drug rapamycin to prevent alloresponses following hematopoietic cell transplantation; 2) keratinocyte growth factor to prevent tissue injury in rodents and humans after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation; and 3) rodent and human testing of T regulatory cells (Tregs) as an immune suppressive therapy to prevent alloresponses. The latter have resulted in three ongoing phase I trials that have infused ex vivo expanded allogeneic cord blood or adult peripheral blood Tregs; and 4) preclinical development and clinical testing of new chronic graft-versus-host disease therapies such as the drug, Ibrutinib.
Chief Research Informatics Officer
Dr. Constantin Aliferis serves as CTSI’s Chief Research Informatics Officer and as Director for the Institute for Health Informatics (IHI). Dr. Aliferis leads CTSI’s Biomedical Informatics Program (BMIP), where he oversees the Best Practices Informatics Core (BPIC), a consulting and collaborative science core created to generate and link datasets on-demand, architect systems, perform sophisticated modeling and analysis, and assemble multidisciplinary teams to meet researcher needs.
Dr. Aliferis’ research is focused on high dimensional modeling and analysis designed to transform biomedical data into novel actionable scientific knowledge. His three key areas of broad interest are:
- Use of advanced informatics and analytics to accelerate and enhance the sophistication, volume, quality and reproducibility of scientific research
- Precision medicine
- Quality and cost improvements of healthcare using Big Data approaches
Over the last 25 years Dr. Aliferis has invented and applied methods that include: automated protocols and automodeling systems for complex data analytics, Markov Boundary induction, Causal Graph based discovery and modeling, high dimensional feature selection, Support Vector Machines, multi-modal omics analysis, multiplicity modeling, clinical predictive modeling, scientometrics and evidence-driven information retrieval.
Between 2008 and 2015 he served as the Founding Director of the Center for Health Informatics and Bioinformatics (CHIBI) at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC). At NYU he led the CTSI Informatics program since 2008 and the Informatics core of the NYU Cancer Institute since 2011. He also served as Scientific Director of the Best Practices Integrative Informatics Consulting Core, and Scientific Director of the NYULMC High Performance Computing Facility. He was also the Founding Director of both the Vanderbilt and NYU PhD Training Programs in Biomedical Informatics. At NYU and Vanderbilt, Dr. Aliferis had appointments in Informatics, Pathology, Computational Biology, Cancer Biology, Computer Science, Biostatistics and Data Science.
Michele Allen, MD, MS
Co-Director, Community Engagement to Advance Research and Community Health (CEARCH) and Co-Lead, Community & Collaboration
Dr. Michele Allen co-leads CTSI’s Community Engagement to Advance Research and Community Health (CEARCH) core and CTSI's Community and Collaboration component with Jerica M. Berge, PhD, MPH, LMFT, CFLE.
Dr. Allen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Director of the Program in Health Disparities Research, and Endowed Chair of Health Equity Research at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
In addition, she is a clinician at the Community-University Health Care Center, a UMN-affiliated FQHC and CTSI partner. She also leads two training programs: One with the Masonic Cancer Center (MCC) on a NCI-funded R25 program for high school and undergraduate students to enhance the diversity of the cancer research workforce, and another with MCC and School of Public Health faculty on a NCI-funded T32 focused on cancer disparities.
Her NIH research focuses on community-based participatory approaches to developing and implementing health promotion, and tobacco and other substance use prevention interventions for adolescents of color and those from immigrant communities.
Senior Advisor, Community & Collaboration
Dr. Timothy Beebe advises the Community & Collaboration component of the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) and provides leadership for learning health systems research initiatives for CTSI. Dr. Beebe is Mayo Professor of Health Services Research, Policy, and Administration and Division Head of Health Policy and Management in the School of Public Health.
Since arriving at the University in 2016 from the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Beebe has built collaborations with CTSI’s hub partners, including Hennepin Healthcare and the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, and with CTSI’s Education function, CTSI-Ed. He served on both the CTSI-Ed Internal Advisory Board and the CTSI-Ed Executive Leadership Group and established program collaboration between the Learning Health System Career Development Program and CTSI-Ed’s K Scholar Seminar.
Dr. Beebe’s research interests include survey methodology as well as patient-reported outcomes measurement, developing and testing health measures, health care policy, health care access for vulnerable populations, and learning health systems research, a form of health services research that is defined by its embeddedness in health systems. He leads the Minnesota Learning Health System Mentored Career Development Program, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality/Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.
Medical Advisor, Clinical Translational Research Services (CTRS)
Dr. Melena Bellin advises and collaborates with CTRS function leaders to refine policies and processes, while also consulting with investigators on how best to engage with CTSI. She collaborates closely with CTSI’s Research Preparation Group.
Dr. Bellin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, with a joint appointment in Surgery. Her focus is islet transplantation, transplantation of the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, for patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus and patients whose pancreas has been removed to treat severe chronic pancreatitis. She is a graduate of CTSI’s K-R01 Transition to Independence career development program.
Jerica M. Berge, PhD, MPH, LMFT, CFLE
Co-Director, Community Engagement to Advance Research and Community Health (CEARCH) and Co-Lead, Community & Collaboration
Dr. Jerica Berge co-leads CTSI’s Community Engagement to Advance Research and Community Health (CEARCH) core and CTSI's Community and Collaboration component with Michele Allen, MD, MS.
Dr. Berge is a Professor and the Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School. She also directs the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) K12 training program and the Center for Women in Medicine and Science (CWIMS).
Dr. Berge is both a researcher and licensed behavioral medicine clinician focused on integrated care and community-based partnerships to address social determinants of health within the family context. Her NIH research agenda focuses on conducting both childhood obesity prevention and treatment studies within primary care settings with the ultimate goal of decreasing childhood obesity disparities in low-income and minority households.
Chief of Staff
Jennifer Cieslak provides administrative leadership to Dr. Blazar and the Executive Leadership Team. She is a graduate of Princeton University and served in senior administrative positions at the University of Minnesota before joining CTSI. She previously held senior administrative positions at Dartmouth College and Princeton University. Cieslak oversees human resources, workforce development, integration of CTSI activities across core functions, communications, Research Navigator, internal and external leadership relations, external advisory board (EAB) activities, NCATS annual reporting, and CTSA application planning.
TRACT TL1 program PI and Director and Translational Research Development Program Director
Dr. Jayne Fulkerson leads the TRACT TL1 program, providing mentored research training for pre- and post -doctoral trainees through an individualized curriculum that focuses on professional development activities, effective collaboration and communication with the larger community, mentorship, and more. She also leads the Translational Research Development Program (TRDP) for early stage investigators to gain significant experience with clinical and translational research.
Dr. Fulkerson is a Professor in the University of Minnesota's School of Nursing and an Affiliate Professor in the Division of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health. She also serves as the Director, Center for Child and Family Health Promotion Research. Her research interests include family-based health promotion in community settings; Child and adolescent obesity prevention, particularly through the home food environment and family meals; Research methodology, Program evaluation, Measurement, and Instrument development.
Deputy Director, Office of Rural Health
Dr. Carrie Henning-Smith is Deputy Director of CTSI's Office of Rural Health, an Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health’s Division of Health Policy and Management, and Deputy Director of the Rural Health Research Center.
Her research focuses on historically marginalized populations in order to illuminate structural barriers to health and well-being and practical policy solutions. Under this broad umbrella, her work falls into two distinct, but overlapping themes: 1) illuminating disparities in health and access to care, especially for older adults and rural residents, and 2) investigating the ways in which environment, from immediate living environment to broader geographical context, impacts health.
She has PhD and MS degrees in Health Services Research, Policy and Administration from the University of Minnesota, an MPH in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of Michigan, and an MSW in Interpersonal Practice and Mental Health from the University of Michigan.
Director, Research Education, Training, and Career Development (CTSI-Ed)
Dr. David Ingbar leads the Research Education, Career Development and Training Core (CTSI-Ed), providing training and education to advance researchers through the career development continuum through mentorship, educational opportunities, and by working to enhance faculty rewards and recognition.
Dr. Ingbar is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota with joint appointments in Pediatrics and Integrative Biology & Physiology, and has served as Director of the Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep Division for more than ten years. Prior to becoming a CTSI Associate Director, he served as Director of the K Scholar Multidisciplinary Seminar Series and led CTSI faculty scholar progress evaluations.
Dr. Ingbar received his MD from Harvard Medical School, and was an Internal Medicine Resident and Chief Resident at the University of Washington before completing his Pulmonary & Critical Care fellowship at Yale University. In addition, he is a physician scientist who focuses on understanding how the lung is repaired after injury and how this compares to lung development.
Director, Office of Discovery and Translation
Dr. Tucker LeBien directs CTSI's Office of Discovery and Translation (ODAT), designed to accelerate the process of bench-to-bedside translation in a coordinated, University-wide effort. ODAT supports innovative, early development research with a high likelihood of translational success. Dr. LeBien's experience as a researcher and administrator makes him uniquely qualified for this role.
Dr. LeBien is Senior Advisor for Research Operations in the Office of Academic Clinical Affairs and Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. An immunologist, he is a recognized authority in human lymphocyte (blood-cell) development. He is a former scholar of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America and currently holds the Apogee Enterprises Chair in Cancer Research. LeBien has been a faculty member since 1980. He earned his bachelor’s degree in zoology and master’s degree in bacteriology from North Dakota State University. He earned his doctorate in medical microbiology (immunology) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Dr. LeBien's research interests are in normal and abnormal human B cell development.
Director, Office of Rural Health
Dr. Katy Kozhimannil directs CTSI’s Office of Rural Health, where she develops programs to improve rural health through translational research and science and contributes to emerging national efforts of the NIH Clinical Translational Science Award Program to improve rural health.
Dr. Katy Kozhimannil is a Professor in the School of Public Health’s Division of Health Policy and Management, Director of the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center, and the Office of Academic Clinical Affairs' (OACA) Director of Rural Health Programs.
She conducts research to inform the development, implementation, and evaluation of health policy that impacts health care delivery, quality, and outcomes during critical times in the lifecourse, including pregnancy and childbirth. Through her scholarly work, she aims to contribute to the evidence base for clinical and policy strategies to advance racial, gender, and geographic equity and to collaborate with stakeholders in making policy change to address social determinants and structural injustice in order to facilitate improved health and well-being.
She received her PhD in Health Policy from Harvard University and her MPA in Policy and Administration from Princeton University.
Ana Núñez, MD, FACP
Dr. Ana Núñez collaborates with CTSI staff and faculty to shape and enact initiatives that promote inclusive excellence across the organization and with our communities.
Dr. Núñez is a Professor of General Internal Medicine and Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Minnesota Medical School. In her Vice Dean role, she collaborates with faculty, staff, and students across the Medical School, as well as community partners, to address issues of inequities, bias, and discrimination in clinical programs, recruiting, curriculum, and research.
She is nationally recognized as a medical education and health services researcher, having developed novel curricula in the areas of sex and gender medicine, primary care, trauma/violence prevention, and cultural competence. In addition, she has served as principal investigator on numerous educational and health services grants, serves as Editor-in-Chief of Health Equity, and brings nearly 30 years of established clinical practice.
Chief Financial Officer
Beth Nunnally is the Associate VP for Finance for the Academic Health Center and provides financial leadership to CTSI and its leadership team. With more than 25 years' of financial management experience in complex and matrixed organizations, she provides a critical liaison function to the AHC, its clinical partners, and the UMN, at large, as an ambassador for financial investment in the clinical research enterprise. She graduated from Vanderbilt University.
Medical Advisor, Clinical Translational Research Services (CTRS)
Dr. Byron Vaughn advises and collaborates with CTRS function leaders to refine policies and processes, while also consulting with investigators on how best to engage with CTSI. He collaborates closely with CTSI’s Recruitment Program and Regulatory Specialist function.
Dr. Vaughn is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. His research focuses on developing microbiota therapeutics for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and he is actively involved in clinical and translational research for patients with IBD. Dr. Vaughn is a graduate of CTSI’s Pre-K Discovery Scholar program.
Monitoring & Evaluation Director, Affiliate Assistant Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health
Dr. Boris Volkov leads CTSI's Monitoring and Evaluation function, which fosters systematic, collaborative evaluation throughout CTSI. The function supports decision-making, accountability, continuous improvement and organizational learning.
Dr. Volkov received his PhD in Evaluation Studies from the University of Minnesota; he also holds masters’ degrees in Educational Policy & Administration and Psychology and completed his Evaluation Fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Volkov previously served as a CDC Evaluation Fellow with the Division of Public Health Systems and Workforce Development at the Center for Global Health. He has expertise with research and evaluation studies in public health, healthcare, epidemiology, education, technology, and evaluation capacity building in organizations.
Deputy Director and Clinical Translational Research Services core Director
Dr. Daniel Weisdorf serves as CTSI's Deputy Director and Director of its Clinical Translational Research Services (CTRS) core. As Deputy Director Dr. Weisdorf works closely with the CTSI executive leadership team to oversee the institute’s operation and achieve excellence in clinical research. In his CTRS Director role, he oversees research teams that provide a wide range of services and expert consultations to support clinical and translational research, which includes the Biostatistical Design and Analysis Center (BDAC), the Biorepository Laboratory Services (BLS), the Clinical Research Support Center (CRSC), Regulatory Support, the Workforce Development Program, and the Recruitment Program.
Dr. Weisdorf is co-leader of the Transplant Biology and Therapy Program at the Masonic Cancer Center, and serves as the Senior Research Advisor for the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research. As Professor of Medicine, Dr. Weisdorf's clinical and research interests are in application of blood and marrow transplant therapies for hematologic malignancies as well as extensive study of the clinical complications of transplantation including opportunistic infections and graft versus host disease (GVHD).
Dr. Weisdorf received his MD from the Chicago Medical School in 1975 and received Internal Medicine Training at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. He was a Fellow at the University of Minnesota in Hematology and Medical Oncology and is Board certified in both disciplines. Dr. Weisdorf previously served as the Scientific Director of the National Marrow Donor Program and currently is Senior Research Advisor for the Acute Leukemia Committee of the Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research. He is the University of Minnesota Principal Investigator and former Steering Committee chair of the NIH-sponsored Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network.
Hub Leadership Team
Hub Leadership Team
Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System
Dr. Steven Fu is the Director of the Center for Care Delivery and Outcomes Research at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Co-Chief, Section of General Internal Medicine, Veteran Affairs Medical Center, and is a Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota. He is interested in smoking cessation and tobacco-related health disparities. His research is focused on identifying best practices for improving the delivery and utilization of tobacco dependence treatments among diverse and disadvantaged populations.
J. Neil Henderson, PhD
University of Minnesota Duluth
Dr. J. Neil Henderson is Executive Director of the Memory Keepers Medical Discovery Team on Health Disparities at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus, and is a Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and BioBehavioral Health. He is Oklahoma Choctaw. Dr. Henderson's research areas focus on dementia and diabetes among American Indian people. Specifically, his work is on dementia and diabetes as an interactive syndrome, biological and cultural influences regarding recognition and treatment of dementia and diabetes, cultural constructions of disease, and community health interventions and education in the context of cultural diversity. He has conducted bio-cultural research on Alzheimer's disease in American Indian tribes, developed Alzheimer's support groups in African-American and Spanish-speaking populations, and conducted geriatric health care education for American Indian providers across the United States. The themes of this research are the prevention of disease, reduction of health disparities, and the building of healthier lives among the youth, adults, and elders in culturally diverse populations.
Dr. Ajay Israni is a Nephrologist at Hennepin Healthcare and also is a Professor of Medicine and an Adjunct Faculty of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. Israni also serves as the interim President of the Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute, and is the Director, Molecular Epidemiology Laboratory at the Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute. He has extensive experience in the care of kidney disease, particularly kidney transplant patients and has received several federally-funded research grants. He is also the Deputy Director of the federally funded Scientific Registry of Translplant Recipients.
Clarence Jones is the Outreach Director for Hue-MAN. He has 25 years’ experience in youth development community projects, facilitates cultural diversity training, and hosts a "Community Health Dialogues" segment on KMOJ Radio every Monday evening. Jones serves on several community boards, including the University of Minnesota's Health Disparities Research Advisory Board, has served as the mayor's representative on the Public Health Advisory Committee for the City of Minneapolis, and co-founded a group called Hue-MAN, which works to address the health crisis among our young and middle-aged men, primarily men of color. Jones has served as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Catherine's School of Public Health.
University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth
Dr. Catherine A. McCarty is the Interim Head, Associate Dean for Research and a Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and BioBehavioral Health at the University of Minnesota's Medical School, Duluth. She previously served as the Director of the Research Division at Essentia Institute for Rural Health, as a Senior Research Scientist at Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, and as Head of the Epidemiology Research Unit in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Melbourne. McCarty has directed a population-based study of eye disease in Victoria, Australia, collaborated on similar projects in Hyderabad and Chennai, India and in Hong Kong, and was the Principal Investigator for a Personalized Medicine Research Project. She has published more than 400 peer-reviewed manuscripts, earned more than $12 million in research grants. McCarty leads community engagement efforts for a PCORI-funded research network and has active research projects in the areas of trauma, genetic epidemiology and pharmacogenetics.
Community-University Health Care Center (CUHCC)
Since 2015 Colleen McDonald Diouf has served as Chief Executive Officer of the Community-University Health Care Center and previously served as CUHCC's Associate Director. McDonald Diouf has extensive experience working with underserved populations. She holds a Master of Educational Policy and Administration degree from the University of Minnesota.
Dr. Anne Murray is a geriatrician, internist, and neuroepidemiologist at Hennepin Healthcare. She has been investigating the epidemiology of dementia and caring for dementia patients for more than 30 years, and for the past 15 years has focused on the epidemiology of cognitive impairment in older patients with kidney disease and diabetes. She is the Medical Director of the Berman Center for Clinical Outcomes and Research at Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute (HHRI) and Treasurer for HHRI. She is a Professor of Medicine and Adjunct Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Murray is also the US PI for the NIA and NCI-sponsored ASPREE—ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly- low-dose aspirin trial, and the ongoing observational follow-on ASPREE XT study. Dr. Murray also enjoys teaching future geriatricians as a Faculty member of the Geriatric Fellowship Program at Hennepin Healthcare, an acute care and teaching hospital for the University of Minnesota.
University of Minnesota
Dr. Michael Oakes is the Associate Vice President for Research with the University of Minnesota's Office of the Vice President for Research, is a Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health, and is the Director for the Interdisciplinary Research Leaders Program. Oakes has previously directed the Graduate Program in Epidemiology, served as a long-time member and leader of the University of Minnesota's Institutional Review Board (IRB) and served the Faculty Senate in various roles. He has expertise in research methods, social epidemiology, research ethics, and research leadership. Oakes' research focuses on the social determinants of health and he has been a principal investigator or co-principal investigator on several long-term grants from the National Institutes of Health.