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Clinical Research Institute

Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute

The Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute (MHSCRI) is a multi-disciplinary entity that facilitates research throughout Methodist Health System, its hospitals, and its affiliates. The MHSCRI was established to facilitate a culture of clinical innovation that benefits our patients and their families. The MHSCRI strives to ensure that researchers conduct their work in such a way that it meets or exceeds international, federal, and state regulations.

Our Mission

The mission of the MHSCRI is to provide professional, ethical, and relevant clinical research support to clinical investigators and research staff at Methodist Health System.

MHSCRI areas of expertise include:

  • Cardiology
  • Cardiovascular Surgery
  • Endoscopy
  • Endovsacular
  • Endocrinology
  • Family Practice
  • Gastroenterology
  • Hematology
  • Hepatology
  • Hepatopancreaticobiliary
  • Infectious Disease
  • Internal Medicine
  • Interventional Radiology
  • Neurology
  • Nursing
  • Obstetrics
  • Oncology
  • Orthopedics
  • Pain Management
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Surgical Transplantation
  • Trauma
  • Vascular Surgery
  • Wound Care

Visit for a database of clinical trials.

To learn more about our Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute, call (214) 947-1280.


Crystee Cooper, DHEd, MPH, LSSGB, CHES, CRA, Director

Dr. Crystee Cooper is the Director of the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute (MHSCRI). As Director, Dr. Cooper leads a team of investigators, research administrative and clinical support staff, fellows, and volunteers in the conduct of high-quality, safe, and compliant clinical trials in collaboration with industry, academia, and government sponsors. Prior to joining Methodist Health System, Dr. Cooper served in several leadership roles with high-profile organizations and held an adjunct faculty appointment with the University of North Texas Health Science Center, School of Public Health in the Department of Health Behaviors and Health Systems from 2013-2019.

As director of the MHSCI, Dr. Cooper is responsible for general oversight of the institute, including resourcing, business development, and client services.  She establishes and maintains collaborative relationships with industry sponsors, academia, and other research and education organizations in an effort to support the provision, collection, and dissemination of high-quality services, data, and information.  Under Dr. Cooper's leadership, and in collaboration with an esteemed group of medical providers and study teams, the MHSCRI continuously strives to improve communities one life at a time by doing its part to help increase access to new treatments, bridge research-practice gaps, and support nationally recognized programs across Methodist Health System and its affiliates. 

Dr. Cooper holds a Doctorate of Health Education and Master of Public Health from A.T. Still University, formerly Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (KCOM), located in Kirksville, Missouri. She is a former National Institutes of Health (NIH) scholar at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine where she helped to design the Graphics Assisted Learning Environment (GALE) for computer-assisted instruction and clinical observation of rheumatic diseases. She has more than 20 years’ experience in the areas of research, healthcare administration, quality-assurance, compliance, grants administration, and public health.  Dr. Cooper is certified in health education, research administration, and Lean Six Sigma.

Administrative Staff

Priyanka Acharya, MPH, MSc, Biostatistician and Data Manager

Priyanka is a results-driven research professional with experience in both public health and clinical research.  Priyanka received her master's in public health from the University of Texas at Houston.  At the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute (MHSCRI), she provides analytical support for clinical studies including statistical methodologies, data analysis, and interpretation, research dissemination, and development of research protocols. She performs statistical analyses of clinical data, including descriptive analyses, trend analyses, linear and logistic regressions, survival analyses, and Classification & Regression Trees (CART) analyses.  Priyanka has expertise with several statistical tools, including Stata, Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), and Statistical Analysis System (SAS).  She is a key contributor to many peer-reviewed manuscripts for multiple disciplines, including hepatology, gastroenterology, internal medicine and obstetrics and gynecology.

Paola Gregoire, MS, MBA, Regulatory Specialist

Paola Gregoire is a clinical research professional with experience in clinical operations and data management in multiple worldwide clinical trials. She holds a Master of Business  Administration and a Master of Science in Biotechnology from Texas Tech University.  Prior to joining the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute (MHSCRI), Paola served as a key player in the operational strategy, implementation, and conduct of global clinical trials in oncology.  AT the MHSCRI, Paola assists researchers as they strive to deliver high-quality data and patient saftey through regulatory compliant and operationally efficient clinical trials.

Jordania Lilly, MEd, Regulatory Specialist

Jordania holds a Master of Education from Georgia Southern University. Her expertise includes public communication, fostering holistic learning environments, and facilitating professional and personal development. Jordania serves as a valuable resource for regulatory compliance related to investigator initiated and sponsored trials at Methodist Health System.

Jordania developed and facilitates a regulatory auditing management system for the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute, ensuring regulatory complicance for all Methodist Health System researchers.  Jordania also designs training and education for physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals at Methodist Health System.  In these training and education sessions, Jordania expertly teaches potential researchers the process and foundation for initiating and properly conducting research activities at Methodist Health System. 

Anne Murray, PhD, Medical Writer

Anne holds a PhD in Cell Biology from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and has over eight years of scientific writing experience in basic science research in the areas of cell and molecular biology, endocrinology, genetics, retina biology, and immunology. She is an active member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA).  Through AMWA, she earned a Composition and Publication Certificate, attends education sessions to expand her medical writing knowledge, and has experience co-leading educational sessions at international medical writing conferences.   

At the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute (MHSCRI), Anne performs comprehensive literature searches as well as writes, edits, and reviews manuscripts, abstracts, posters, and study material for Methodist Health System researchers.  She ensures quality control review of all final documents, verifying that all documents comply with regulatory, journal, and other guidelines. Anne assists Methodist Health System researchers in developing comprehensive document strategies and detailed timelines for research dissemination. She developed curriculum for a manuscript development seminar for clinicians and staff at Methodist Health System.  Anne also creates and disseminates informative documents to Methodist Health System researchers and employees associated with MHSCRI.

Colette Ngo Ndjom, MS, Regulatory Specialist

Colette is a research and regulatory professional with several years of experience in the areas of compliance and regulatory affairs. Prior to joining the Methodist Health System  Clinical Research Institute (MHSCRI), Colette served as a research manager with an interest in immunotherapies.  She holds a M.S, in Biotechnology with a concentration in enterprise and entrepreneurship / regulatory affairs from Johns Hopkins University and a B.S. in Biology from Oklahoma Baptist University.  

At the MHSCRI, Colette has direct experience in regulatory oversight for all clinical trials issues in drug products and medical devices.  Colette is involved with study startup and aptly interacts with stakeholders and sponsors to assist researchers in maintaining regulatory compliance during their studies.  In 2019, she completed the Emerging Leadership Program (ELP) offered at Methodist Health System, which identifies and recruits asporifing leaders and prepares them for possible leadership role at Methodist Health System.

Nitasha Phatak, MD, PhD, Regulatory Specialist

Dr. Nitasha Phatak received her medical degree in ophthalmology and has eight years' experience in opthalmic surgery from University of Mumbai, India.  She also earned a PhD in biomedical sciences from the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth. At the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute, Dr. Phatak acts as a liaison between sponsors, investigators, the institutional review board (IRB), and research staff during qualification, initiation, monitoring, and close-out visits with study sponsors.  She assists in the development of clinical trial documents, IRB submissions, conducting monitoring visits, and obtaining and tracking relevant regulatory documents for clinical trial submission and management. Dr. Phatak is a key point person that coordinates the research projects of nurse researchers at all Methodist Health System hospitals, an essential factor in obtaining and keeping Magnet status.

Will Ren, MS, Staff Accountant

Will is a certified public accountant candidate that holds a Master of Accounting degree and bachelor’s degrees in both finance and accounting. His previous work experience at a Fortune Global 500 company has given him innovative problem solving skills and a solid knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), financial reporting, and accounting analysis.  At the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute (MHSCRI), Will maintains accounting systems that facilitate accurate and timely reporting of both MHSCRI and clinical trial activities.  These systems include assisting with the development, execution, and monitoring of program budgets; accounts receivables activities for clinical trials, grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements; analysis of budget variances; and auditing.  Will promotes well-organized financial operations at the MHSCRI by maintaining databases and overseeing the development and implementation of financial standard operating procedures. His proficient with programs such as Epic, Epic Change Review, SAP (Systems Applications and Products in Data Processing), and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software facilitates the efficient conduct and completion of clinical trials at Methodist Health System.  Also, his proficiency in grant application budgeting supports the efficient use of investigator awards in their research projects.

LaToya Thomas, DHEd, MHA, LSSGB, CHPE, Clinical Trials Manager

Dr. LaToya Thomas has been active in the fields of healthcare administration and public health for over seventeen years, focusing on health education, quality assurance, compliance, and research. She attended A.T. Still University, where she earned her doctorate degree in health education. Prior to joining Methodist Health System, Dr. Thomas served as a consultant among organizational cultures to identify new strategies and recommend appropriate revisions to program design.  

As the Clinical Trials Manager for the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute, she is responsible for overseeing the daily clinical operations of an interdisciplinary clinical coordination team that provides optimal services to patients seeing to participate in research trials across the widespread continuum of care network of Methodist Health System.  In collaboration with Methodist Health System leadership and Foundation, Dr. Thomas oversaw the implementation of a multi-million dollar expansion project that included state-of-the-art equipment that supported the collection, processing, shipping and storing of collected specimens.

Audrey Tucker, Administrative Assistant

Audrey earned a Medical Assistant certificate through PCI Health Training Center and a certification as a paralegal from El Centro College.  She has over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry as an administrative assistant.  Audrey used her skillset to support principal investigators in the area of developmental biology at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.  At Methodist Dallas Medical Center (MDMC), she has assisted in credentialing of an onboarding physician seeking employment within Methodist Health System.  She also has worked with residents and medical students in granting computer and Epic access. Audrey also provided support for the Physician Leadership Program and continuing education courses at MDMC.  At the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute, Audrey specializes in front office management and assists in project management, event planning and process improvement.

Heather Grossman Verner, MS, Clinical Research Scientist

Heather is a scientist with over 10 years’ experience in multidisciplinary translational research. She earned a master of science in biological sciences focusing on pathogenesis modeling systems of emerging infectious disease. Heather has a passion for collaborative science and effective science communication. Her areas of expertise include in vivo and in vitro modeling as well as battlefield trauma standard of care. Heather served as a third-party manuscript editor, promoting the publication of scientific findings from non-native English speaking scientists. 

At Methodist Health System, Heather manages an interdisciplinary research program fostering collaboration between system physicians and the trauma research team.  Her program research aims currently target geriatric trauma (G60), mass casualty preparedness, penetrating trauma and antibiotic stewardship. Heather works to facilitate multi-center research trial in alignment with institutional investigator interests, provides research mentorship to surgical residents, and manages a Trauma Research Fellowship for aspiring surgeon.  With her diverse background, she utilizes a unique lens to collaborate, drive an disseminate research that drives improvements to surgical practice and the care and surgery of trauma.

Clinical Staff

Esmeralda Colmenero, NRCMA, Clinical Research Coordinator

Esmeralda has more than fifteen years of healthcare experience as a Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA).  After working as a medical assistant for fifteen years, six of those dedicated to The Liver Institute at Methodist Health System, she moved to the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute (MHSCRI) as a research coordinator.  As the veteran of the clinical research coordinator team, Esmeralda's understanding of the "patient first" concept, affords MHSCRI the opportunity to continue to offer initiatives and processes to deliver an effective outcome with each patient interface.  She strives to apply flexibility and adaptability to the needs of study assignments, which may include undertaking additional tasks, adjusting to competing priorities, extending work schedules, and / or attending educational opportunities outside the work setting.  Esmeralda's skills, experience, perspective and dedication to patient health make her a valued team member at the MHSCRI.

Christopher Hendrix, BS, Clinical Research Coordinator 

Chris holds a bachelor degree from the University of North Texas.  He has over seven years of healthcare experience of which three years have been devoted to coordinating clinical research studies primarily in the field of oncology.  His experience in healthcare includes the disciplines of behavioral health, healthcare administration, and hospital admissions.  As a clinical research coordinator at Methodist Health System, Chris works with study subject and formulates, implements, and organizes research processes to ensure the successful operation of clinical trials.

Wangeci Kanyiri, LVN, Clinical Research Coordinator

Wangeci has a background in bedside nursing in both geriatric and pediatric care.  Before acquiring her LVN licensure, she worked as a Senior Pharmacy Technician for 3.5 years. At the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute (MHSCRI), Wangeci is a nurse research coordinator that recruits clinical trial participants, developing relationships with these participants that last the duration of each trail and that increase patient retention rates.  In addition to recruiting subjects, of of Wangeci's primary responsibilities is to help the navigate the various research activities involved in studies (e.g. labs, pharmacy, imaging, etc.).  Wangeci is responsible for performing physical examinations, transient elastorgraphy, electrocardiograms, phlebotomy, and medication administration in her role as nurse research coordinator at the MHSCRI.  Her knowledge in being able to understand research and medicine from an interdisciplinary approach as well as her concern for patients makes her an essential nursing asset to the MHSCRI team.

Esmeralda Martinez, NRCMA, Clinical Research Coordinator

Esmeralda has more than nine years’ experience in health care, and has worked in the Liver Institute at Methodist Health System as well as the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute (MHSCRI). Esmeralda holds a certification from the National Association of Health Professionals as a Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA).  At the MHSCRI, she coordinates clinical trails in multiple medical disciplines.  Esmeralda has become adept in navigating strict eligibility criteria for every study's unique inclusion / exclusion criteria.  She also works closely with principal investigators treating liver fibrosis in patients diagnosed with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.  Since becoming a member of the MHSCRI team, Esmeralda has become resourceful in assisting with managing contractual obligations and sponsor expectations, while continuing to improve the quality of life for patients.

Brittany Reinhart, BA, Clinical Research Coordinator

Brittany earned her Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Louisville and has been involved in human services for over ten years. Her experience in the healthcare field includes childhood psychiatric inpatient treatment, service coordination for patients with developmental disabilities, and management of a regional practice of nurse practitioners.  At the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute,  Brittany works with the Clinical Research Scientist on coordination of all trauma-related research studies as well as many emergency and general surgery studies at Methodist Dallas Medical Center.  As the Trauma Research Coordinator, Brittany participates in data collection through our trauma registry system and national trauma databases, submission of data for national and international multicenter trials, guiding the general surgery residents and research volunteers in their research participation, submission on manuscripts for publication in peer- reviewed scientific journals, and ensuring regulatory compliance for ongoing and past studies.

Jeny Rendon, BS, Clinical Research Coordinator

Jeny holds a bachelor degree from the University of Houston. She has six years of experience in healthcare, including coordinating clinical trials in a variety of therapeutic areas and serving as a patient care technician in intensive care and post-operative units. She customarily oversees the proper execution of, and adherence to, approved protocols by ensuring accurate and timely study data collection.  Currently Jeny coordinates research studies and associated activities at Methodist Richardson Medical Center, where she is intricately involved in supporting nationally accredited and recognized fellowship programs that are responsible for bridging the research-practice gaps.

Keyshania Smith, BS, Clinical Research Coordinator

Keyshania Smith obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Northwestern State University.  She has over 10 years of experience in physical therapy and sports medicine as both a fitness/wellness specialist and a cardiac rehabilitation specialist/wellness director.  Keyshania has clinical research experience in Alzheimer's and dementia clinical trials in which she contributed to the research as both a cardiac rehabilitation specialist/wellness director and as a clinical research coordinator. She is passionate about providing exceptional patient care, improving patient quality of life, and utilizing her skills to advance new developments in healthcare.

Shandra Silas, LVN, Clinical Research Coordinator

Shandra is a Licensed Vocational Nurse with nine years’ experience in healthcare. She has worked in Skilled Nursing Facilities, Long Term Care Facilities and private nursing – for both pediatric and geriatric patients. As a medication review nurse she developed a proficient knowledge of the impact of concurrent use of multiple medications by a patient. She is well versed on the adverse effects of medication related to the patient’s age, gender and multiple diagnoses.

Melba Townsend, Clinical Research Coordinator

Melba is a veteran Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute (MHSCRI) team member and has over twenty years of experience in the healthcare industry. Her previous experience in healthcare includes working in phlebotomy, billing, serving as a patient care technician, and managing back office duties in the clinic setting.  Using expertise she gained as an employee of a Methodist Health System physician group, Melba is able to couple her knowledge of Methodist Health System and the MHSCRI to offer comprehensive services to all patients she serves.  At the MHSCRI, she provides clinical support in a variety of medical disciplines.  Melba's tenure with the MHSCRI has also allowed her the opportunity to expand her knowledge in administrative, financial and contractual duties within the department.

Keaton White, LVN, Clinical Research Coordinator

Keaton obtained his Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) credential from Texarkana Community College.  Keaton has over 12 years of experience in healthcare, six of which have been as an LVN.  HE has experience working in skilled nursing facilities, long-term assisted care facilities, and a Chronic Care Management Services-certified program.  Under the supervision of various principal investigators, Keaton carries out a variety of administrative tasks that involve analytical skills, a good-decision-making ability, and a sound knowledge of study-related practices.  As a nurse research coordinator at the MHSCRI, Keaton in responsible for performing physical examinations, transient elastography, electrocardiograms, phlebotomy, and medication administration. Keaton uses his experience as a nurse to provide quality and patient-centered care throughout the Methodist Health System.