Executive Leadership

Laura James, M.D., Principal Investigator & TRI Director

Leadership Council

Beatrice Boateng, Ph.D., Evaluation and Continuous Improvement
Alison Oliveto, Ph.D., Research Processes and Methodology
Nancy Rusch, Ph.D., Education and Workforce Development
Mary Kathryn (Kate) Stewart, M.D., M.P.H., Stakeholder Engagement Director
Umit Topaloglu, Ph.D., Informatics

Laura James, M.D.

Principal Investigator and TRI Director

James_LauraAs co-principal investigator and director of the Translational Research Institute (TRI), Laura James, M.D., is responsible for 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.

Beatrice Boateng, Ph.D.

TRI Evaluation Director

As the Evaluation Director for the Translational Research Institute (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.

Alison Oliveto, Ph.D.

Translational Research Services Center Director

OlivetoAlison Oliveto, Ph.D., directs the Translational Research Services Center, the centralized administrative office of the Translational Research Institute that provides resources and services to investigators.

Oliveto is a tenured professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (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.

Nancy Rusch, Ph.D.

Translational Education Center Co-Director

picNancy Rusch, Ph.D., co-directs the Translational Education Center, which develops structured career pathways for clinical and translational research professionals. She specifically oversees the Translational Research Institute‘s efforts to expand research fellowship funding.

Rusch is professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (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 Institues 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 Assocation.

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.

Stakeholder Engagement Director


Stewart_Mary_KateMary Kathryn “Kate” Stewart, M.D., M.P.H., directs the Translational Research Institute’s stakeholder engagement team. 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 Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health (COPH) at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), 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 Masters of Public Health with a concentration in international health from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in Baltimore. Her postgraduate training included a residency in preventive medicine and a fellowship in health and child survival, both from JHU. Prior to joining the faculty of UAMS 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.

Umit Topaloglu, Ph.D., M.A.

Comprehensive Informatics Resource Center (CIRC) Director

Topaloglu_Umit_PhD_Informatics_8-22-11Umit Topaloglu, Ph.D., is director of the Comprehensive Informatics Resource Center, where he is responsible for carrying out the biomedical informatics goals of the Translational Research Institute.

Topaloglu is an assistant professor in the Division of Biomedical Informatics in the College of Medicine and director of research for the Information Technology Department. He is an internationally recognized leader in open-source clinical research informatics and has been working on development of the Comprehensive Research Informatics Suite (CRIS) for electronic management of clinical and translational research. His research involves semantic interoperability and clinical research informatics tool development. He is also a member of the Arkansas CyberInfrastructure Initiative by which state institutions and researchers are connected through high speed network and computing resources.

Topaloglu earned his bachelor and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Cukurova University in Turkey, and an Applied Science Doctorate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He joined UAMS in 2006.