Our Team

Senior Physicians:

Ori Ben-Yehuda, MDExecutive Director, CRF Clinical Trials Center
Dr. Ben-Yehuda actively participates in the planning and oversight of CTC activities. He is a distinguished clinical cardiologist and coauthor of numerous scientific publications in top-tier medical journals. Dr. Ben-Yehuda has been a clinical researcher for two decades and most recently was vice president of cardiovascular clinical research at Gilead Sciences, Inc. Prior to that, he was professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Diego and the director of the Coronary Care Unit at UCSD Medical Center. Dr. Ben-Yehuda also served as the deputy editor of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) for nearly a decade and is presently an associate editor of JACC.

Omar Khalique, MD, FACC, FASE - Director, Structural CT Core Lab
Dr. Khalique is an Attending Non-invasive Cardiologist and an assistant professor in medicine at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons specializing in non-invasive imaging of valvular and structural heart disease.

Dr. Khalique is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease, echocardiography, cardiac computed tomography and nuclear cardiology.

Dr. Khalique attended Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, PA. He did his internal medicine residency and his fellowship in cardiology at Westchester Medical Center of New York Medical College in Valhalla, NY, He did an advanced echocardiography and computed cardiac tomography fellowship, followed by further training in interventional and valvular echocardiography at Columbia University Department of Medicine.

Akiko Maehara, MDDirector, Intravascular Imaging Core Laboratory and MRI Core Laboratory, CRF Clinical Trials Center
Dr. Maehara is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City and has authored numerous papers related to cardiovascular interventions and the use of intravascular ultrasound. She received her medical degree in 1993 from Yamaguchi University School of Medicine in Yamaguchi, Japan, and is board certified in internal medicine and cardiology by the Japanese Society of Internal Medicine and Japanese Society of Cardiology. Dr. Maehara completed her clinical fellowship at the Toranomon Hospital in Tokyo, Japan, and a cardiovascular fellowship at the Cardiovascular Center at Toranomon Hospital. In 2000, Dr. Maehara finished a research fellowship in cardiovascular interventions at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, California, with an additional fellowship year at the Cardiovascular Research Institute of the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC.

Rebecca T. Hahn, MDDirector, Echocardiography Core Laboratory, CRF Clinical Trials Center
She is currently the Director of Interventional Echocardiography at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Hahn is a leading authority in the field of echocardiography. For the last 15 years, she has served as Course Director for the Annual State-of-the-Art Echo Course which trains and educates health care professionals on established and new recommendations of the American Society of Echocardiography (ASE). Previously, she directed the Echocardiography Lab at North Shore University Hospital and prior to that, was the Director of Clinical Echocardiography at Cornell University. Dr. Hahn received her medical degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and completed her internship, residency, and fellowship at New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

Ziad A. Ali, MD, DPhilDirector, Angiographic Core Laboratory , CRF Clinical Trials Center
He is Associate Director of Translational Medicine at the Center for Interventional Vascular Therapy at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. He is also the Victoria and Esther Aboodi Cardiology Researcher at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He received his medical degree from the University of Sheffield and doctorate in cardiovascular medicine from the University of Oxford. Dr. Ali fulfilled a residency in internal medicine and fellowship in cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University Medical Center. He also served as Chief Fellow in cardiovascular intervention at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Daniel Burkhoff, MD, PhDDirector, Heart Failure, Hemodynamics and MCS Research, CRF Clinical Trials Center
He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University. A world-renowned expert in heart failure and hemodynamics, Dr. Burkhoff collaborates on heart failure research initiatives across all divisions of CRF. Dr. Burkhoff is author of Harvi, an interactive simulation-based application for teaching and researching many aspects of ventricular mechanics and hemodynamics. Dr. Burkhoff works with the CRF Center for Education to develop novel curricula using Harvi in educational programs for practicing physicians, fellows, and medical students around the world.

Dr. Burkhoff’s interests include cardiovascular modeling and research in basic and clinical aspects of ventricular mechanics, cardiovascular monitoring, heart failure, device and pharmacologic treatments for heart failure, including left ventricular assist devices. He was instrumental in the creation of the CRF Skirball Center for Innovation, and served as Director when it opened in 2005. Before returning to CRF, he was Vice President of Medical Science for HeartWare International. Previously, he served as Medical Director of CircuLite. He received his medical and doctor of philosophy degrees from The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and completed his cardiology fellowship at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dan may be contacted at dburkhoff@crf.org.

CTC Management

Ovidiu Dressler, MDAssociate Director of Clinical Programming, CRF Clinical Trial Center
Ovidiu Dressler oversees the SAS programming group and construction of internal databases for the Angiographic and Intravascular Imaging core laboratories. Prior to joining CRF he worked as an associate professor of pathophysiology at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Timisoara, Romania, where he also received his medical degree. During his teaching career, he specialized in the field of basic cardiovascular research and completed his residency in nuclear medicine.

Cecilia Jade (CJ) Hart Manager, Data Management, CRF Clinical Trials Center, Cecilia is responsible for the daily oversight of the progress and quality of all data management deliverables and activities. Cecilia earned a bachelor of science degree in public health and has been with CRF since July 2007.

Ivana Jankovic, MDDirector, Core Lab Operations, CRF Clinical Trials Center 
Ivana is responsible for managing project portfolios, including maintaining timelines and budgets and achieving target revenue/financial growth objectives, as well as day-to-day operational aspects of many multi-service projects within the CTC. Ivana has several years of core lab and project management experience and has managed multiple phase I-IV clinical studies. Prior to joining CRF, Ivana worked as a project manager for the Yale Cardiovascular Research Group of the Yale University School of Medicine. Ivana holds a medical degree from Belgrade University School of Medicine in Serbia.

Mitchel B. Lustre, MPHAssistant Director, Angiographic Core Laboratory, CRF Clinical Trials Center
Mitchel has been with CRF for more than 5 years and his job revolves around problem-solving and managing a clinical research setting associated with the conduct and implementation of multi-center clinical trials. He has a unique combined experience in scientific, clinical and health policy research serving in both local and international organizations and prior to CRF, he was a Clinical Research Coordinator at New York Methodist Hospital (NY-Presbyterian Healthcare System), for the Department of Cardiology. Mitchel is a graduate of the University of the Philippines-Diliman with a bachelor of science degree in biology and a master of public health in health policy and management from the City University of New York School of Public Health.

Katharine GarciaDirector, Administration, CRF Clinical Trials Center 
Katharine joined CRF in 2005 and is responsible for all operational activities in the Administration and Data Entry department, including resource allocation, budget review, and strategic planning. She is responsible for the direct oversight of all incoming medias and data entry for all departments under the Clinical Trials Center. Prior to joining CRF, Katharine worked at NYC Physical Therapy and Pain Management, which treated more than 200 patients a day, where she oversaw 15 employees. She received a bachelor of arts degree in forensic psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Ryann SardiniaSenior Director, CTC Operations and Development
Ryann is responsible for the operational excellence of the CRF Clinical Trials Center and oversees the Administration, Project Management, Project Development and Safety groups. She previously served as Director of Project Development. Ryann has clinical research experience in juvenile diabetes, gynecologic and thoracic oncology, and skin cancer. Prior to joining CRF in 2013, she worked in clinical research at Columbia University and did a brief stint in promotional medical writing. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in health service administration.

Barbara SantiagoAssociate Director, Project Management, CRF Clinical Trials Center
Barbara’s responsibilities include oversight of the project management team and management of a portfolio of high-profile projects at the CTC. She brings a wealth of regulatory experience to her role. Prior to coming to CRF, she worked at the Brain Trauma Foundation, Columbia University, and the University of Pennsylvania. Barbara holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science from the University of Pennsylvania.

Ozgu Issever Director, Biostatistics and Data Management, CRF Clinical Trials Center
Ozgu is responsible for managing the statistical and data management functions for sponsored clinical trials. Prior to joining CRF in 2015, she worked as a clinical statistician at Boehringer Ingelheim and taught statistical methods classes during her graduate studies. Ozgu holds a Bachelor of Science degree in statistics from Middle East Technical University in Turkey and a Master of Science degree in statistics from the University of Georgia.

Monica Embacher, MDAssistant Director of Operations, Clinical Endpoint Adjudication and Data Monitoring, CRF Clinical Trials Center
Monica is responsible for the day-to-day supervision of the Clinical Endpoint Adjudication and Data Monitoring group and the operation of all Clinical Events Committee (CEC) and Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) activities. Monica has over nine years of experience in pharmacovigilance, drug safety, medical device safety, and clinical operations. Monica holds a medical degree from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy Victor Babes, Timisoara, Romania and prior to joining CRF, she attended residency in pediatrics at the Hospital for Children Louis Turcanu, Timisoara, Romania.

Mitsuaki MatsumuraManager, Intravascular Imaging, Physiology, and MRI Core Laboratories,
CRF Clinical Trials Center

Mitsuaki is responsible for managing the activities of the lntravascular Imaging, Physiology, and MRI Core Laboratories. He acts as the point-person for sponsors, reporting project status to physician directors, maintaining proper documents, approving paperwork, assigning work, training new staff, and overseeing trial management from start to end. Prior to joining CRF, he worked as a radiology technician at Japanese Red Cross Kobe Hospital and Hyogo Emergency Medical Center in Hyogo, Japan, and did a fellowship at CRF/Columbia University Medical Center in New York. He is a graduate of Nagoya University School of Health Sciences with a Bachelor of Science degree in radiological technology.

Business Development

Aisha AhmadSr. Proposal Analyst, CRF Clinical Trials Center
Aisha joined CRF in March 2017 and is responsible for the preparation of project proposals and budgets. She also plays a significant role in coordinating with operations and finance on new contracts. Her prior experience includes working in clinical trials management at a leading global central laboratory. She received her BA in economics from Boston University and her MBA from Cornell University.

Miriam MooreProposal Analyst, CRF Clinical Trials Center
Miriam joined CRF in 2013 and is responsible for developing project budgets and drafting proposals for industry and academic clients. She brings extensive expertise in clinical trials to this role with her prior project management experience at CRF and academic project consulting experience at Weill Cornell Medicine. Prior to coming to CRF, Miriam worked on healthcare-related cases for a civil legal services non-profit organization in Rochester, NY. She received both her BA in economics and MS in human development from the University of Rochester.

Project Management

Dominic FrancesePublications Office Manager, CRF Clinical Trials Center
Dominic is responsible for managing the academic research publication process for the CRF Clinical Trials Center from an initial research query to editing, submission, and publication of a completed manuscript. Prior to joining the CTC in 2012, Dominic worked as the managing editor of a live continuing medical education symposia series and in health communications at the National Cancer Institute. This experience has given him a breadth of knowledge of medical specialties, including cardiology, primary care, and oncology. Dominic has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Syracuse University and master of public health degree from Southern Connecticut State University.

Ecaterina PrepelitaAssociate Project Manager, CRF Clinical Trials Center
Ecaterina joined CRF in 2011 and is responsible for a wide-ranging portfolio of projects with the Clinical Trials Center. Previously a manager in the CTC data administration department, she is able to apply that experience and understanding to her project management role by keeping internal and external communications flowing. She tracks progress, benchmarks resources and budgets making sure each project is progressing efficiently and smoothly. Ecaterina earned a combined bachelor's and master’s degree in Philosophy and Political Science from the St. Petersburg State University, Russia.

Hiral PatelAssociate Project Manager, CRF Clinical Trials Center
Hiral joined CRF in 2017 and is responsible for leading the development of project related deliverables, manages project budgets and serves as the point of contact for sponsors. Prior to coming to CRF, Hiral worked as a Project Director at Montefiore Medical Center for the Division of General Internal Medicine in which she worked closely with recruitment efforts in an underserved population. Hiral attended Long Island University where she received her undergraduate degree in Biology and her Masters of Public Health.

Michelle CinguinaAssociate Project Manager, CRF Clinical Trials Center
Michelle joined CRF in 2018 and is responsible for supporting the management of multiple studies within the CTC. Prior to coming to CRF, Michelle worked as a Clinical Research Coordinator in the Department of Geriatric Psychiatry at Columbia University. Michelle previously worked in the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Texas at Austin. Michelle holds a Bachelor of Sciences in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin.

Bryan Winograd Associate Project Manager, CRF Clinical Trials Center
Bryan joined CRF in 2018 and is responsible for managing studies within the CTC and overseeing the development of all project-related deliverables. Prior to joining CRF, Bryan worked as a Clinical Research Associate at the CRO TrialWise, monitoring studies in various therapeutic areas and stages of development. Bryan also worked in the Department of Cardiology and Bariatric Surgery at NYU Lutheran Medical Center, conducting clinical quality improvement and data management. Bryan received his Bachelors in Biological Sciences at the University of Buffalo and his Masters in Science in Biotechnology and Entrepreneurship at New York University.

Cassandra Wolf Clinical Project Manager, CRF Clinical Trials Center
Cassandra joined CRF in 2018 as a Clinical Project Manager. Cassandra’s career began as a Research Assistant studying insulin resistance at the Center for Metabolic Biology. She went on to work as a Clinical Research Lead in the Hematology/Oncology division at Mayo Clinic. In her current role within the CTC, she is responsible for overseeing project planning, resource allocation, quality control, timeliness, and scope of all project deliverables. Cassandra holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Arizona State University.

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