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CCTSI Announces Three New Leaders in Clinical Research

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Written by Wendy Meyer on May 17, 2024

Associate Director of Resources and Services

Starting in June 2024, Kevin Messacar, MD, PhD, will serve as associate director of CCTSI Resources and Services. In this role, he will work closely with Wendy Kohrt, PhD, director of resources and services, to oversee and integrate many crucial CCTSI resources, including Research Studios, Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design (BERD), the Clinical Translational Research Center (CTRC) Network, Dissemination and Implementation Core, and CCTSI Marketing and Communications. Dr. Messacar is an associate professor of pediatrics and a practicing pediatric infectious disease consultant at Children's Hospital Colorado. He completed his pediatric residency and infectious disease fellowship training at the University of Colorado and has been providing expert clinical care to children for 15 years. He recently completed a PhD in clinical investigations at the University of Colorado Graduate School.

Dr. Messacar's research seeks to improve diagnosis, management, and prevention of central nervous system infections, including meningitis, encephalitis, and myelitis--with a focus on enteroviruses and other emerging infectious diseases. He is currently the principal investigator of the PREMISE (Pandemic REsponse REpository: Microbial and Immunologic Surveillance and Epidemiology) study, a multicenter pandemic preparedness program with the NIAID Vaccine Research Center, seeking to create an immunologic biorepository to be used for development of on-the-shelf countermeasures against emerging pathogens with pandemic potential.

“Dr. Messacar has seized the opportunity to utilize many of the CCTSI programs over time: the K12 program, the Workforce Development Program (obtaining his PhD), CO-Mentor, and the CTRC Network, among others, and is passionate about promoting these resources. In conjunction with Dr. Kohrt, he is well equipped to navigate the complexities of the grant structure to enhance and coordinate the resources and services portfolio,” said CCTSI’s Director of Operations Janine Higgins, PhD. “Additionally, he is highly collaborative, both locally and nationwide, which is an asset in this role.”

Medical Directors at the Pediatric Clinical Translational Research Center

Each year, thousands of Coloradans participate in research studies at the Clinical Translational Research Centers (CTRCs). The CCTSI operates these research units, and is pleased to announce that Natalie Nokoff, MD, and Christopher Baker, MD, will serve as medical co-directors of the Pediatric CTRC located at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

“The role of the CTRC medical directors is to ensure the safety and quality of all research conducted on the units, and work with nursing, other CTRC Cores, and study teams to improve processes and make the CTRC the best place to conduct clinical research,” said Ronald Sokol, MD, director of the CCTSI. “The knowledge and skills of Drs. Baker and Nokoff will make them excellent leaders for the clinical faculty who will be conducting their own research in our CTRCs.”

Dr. Natalie Nokoff, associate professor of pediatric endocrinology, came to the University of Colorado School of Medicine 14 years ago. She has been chief resident in pediatrics, a pediatric endocrine fellow, and she completed the subspecialist clinical outcomes research fellowship through the Adult & Child Center for Outcomes Research & Delivery Science (ACCORDS).

Her clinical care and research focus is on improving outcomes for sex and gender minority youth, including those with a difference of sex development or who are transgender. She conducts clinical research studies, collaborates on numerous multi-site studies and registries, does large database research, and conducts industry-sponsored trials. She has been an awardee of the CCTSI CO-Pilot grant, has mentored more than 20 trainees, and has over 60 publications on sex and gender minority youth. In her new role with the CTRC, Dr. Nokoff will assume the position of medical co-director of operations and process improvement for the pediatric CTRC.

“In my new role, I am looking forward to continuing to work with the incredible pediatric CTRC nursing team, improving communication with PIs, study staff and nurses, and streamlining communication with the adult CTRC,” said Dr. Nokoff.

Dr. Christopher Baker is a professor of pediatrics, pediatric pulmonologist, and the medical director of the Children’s Hospital Colorado Ventilator Care Program. He was an NIH-funded early-career investigator in pulmonary vascular biology. He served as the medical director of the former Perinatal Clinical Translational Research Center (CTRC) and associate medical director of the Pediatric CTRC. He became interim director of the Pediatric CTRC in October 2023 when Phil Zeitler, MD, stepped down from the role. In his new role with the CTRC, Dr. Baker will assume the position of medical co-director of quality and safety for the pediatric CTRC.

“I am thrilled to partner with Dr. Nokoff and the amazing team of pediatric CTRC research nurses to expand the clinical and translational research efforts on our campus, improving the health of children in Colorado and around the world,” said Dr. Baker.

“We are delighted to welcome all three of our new leaders!” Higgins said.

For more information on the many ways the CTRC can help scientists conduct their research, click here.


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Kevin Messacar, MD, PhD

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Natalie Nokoff, MD

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Christopher Baker, MD