CICATS Leadership & Governance

CICATS  is governed by a collective body of physicians and scientists who provide executive oversight of CICATS resources, including its operating budget, faculty and space allocations.  As leadership, this body is responsible for the strategic and implementation planning of all CICATS programs, research initiatives, education and training, as well as overseeing and managing  collaborations across institutional environments.

Dr. Cato Laurencin

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Director, CICATS

Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.

Cato Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D. is an orthopaedic surgeon and biomedical engineer. Dr. Laurencin is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering. Dr. Laurencin holds the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Endowed Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery, and is one of the only two designated University Professors at UConn.  In addition, Dr. Laurencin is a tenured professor of chemical, materials and biomolecular engineering at UConn. He is a Fellow of the American Surgical Association, the American College of Surgeons, and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, as well as a Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He has been continually funded by NIH and the National Science Foundation for the past 25 years. His work in translational research has resulted in clinical products for the treatment of brain tumors and for the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries. Dr. Laurencin is also extensively involved in education and mentoring.  He received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from President Barack Obama in ceremonies at the White House in 2009, and received the American Association for the Advancement of Science Mentoring Award from the AAAS in 2013. Dr. Laurencin has been a member of the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee for Engineering (ADCOM), and has served both on the National Science Board of the FDA, and the National Advisory Council for Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases at NIH. He currently sits on the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director and the National Advisory Council for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. Dr. Laurencin is involved in programs throughout the region. He serves on the board of directors of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and on the board of corporators of St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. He has been honored by numerous community groups such as the Urban League of Greater Hartford and the Hartford Public School District for his work in community engagement. As CICATS Director, he makes final decisions on the overall budget and interfaces with senior leadership of all the partner organizations to ensure that CICATS is successful in achieving its goals. Dr. Laurencin is responsible for the yearly report to the External Advisory Committee and to the provost of the University.

Dr. Victor Hesselbrock

Associate Director and Chief Scientific Officer (CSO), CICATS

Victor Hesselbrock, Ph.D.

Victor Hesselbrock, Ph.D. is the Associate Director and Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) of CICATS, is Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Psychiatry and holder of the Physicians’ Health Services endowed chair in addiction studies and Co-Director of the Clinical Research Center (CRC). Together with Dr. Kuchel and Dr. Liu, he has leadership oversight of the Clinical and Translational Resources and Services Sector. He is Principal Investigator and Scientific Director of the NIAAA/NIH funded Alcohol Research Center at UConn Health. He is also co-Principal Investigator of the NIAAA-funded Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA), a nine (9) site study of the role of genes and environment in determining the vulnerability for developing alcohol-related health problems.  Dr. Hesselbrock has had continuous NIH funding since 1976 and is nationally and internationally known for his program of research focused on the identification of psychological and biological factors that contribute to the susceptibility to develop alcohol problems, including dependence. He has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers.   Dr. Hesselbrock is also chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Medical School’s Clinical Research Center (CRC). He serves as an Associate Editor for Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, is an Assistant Editor for Addiction, and is on the editorial boards of several other addiction medicine journals. He is a past President of the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) and a member of the Board of Directors of the International Society on Biomedical Research on Alcoholism (ISBRA). Dr. Hesselbrock has also served on and chaired several NIH study sections. Also, he was a member of the National Advisory Council of the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and an initial member of the NIH National Advisory Council of Councils.

Core Leaders

Ernesto Canalis, M.D.

Ernesto Canalis, M.D.

Ernesto Canalis, M.D. is a Professor in the Departments of Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery. He is a board-certified internist and endocrinologist who has dedicated his career to studies pertinent to skeletal cell biology. His laboratory is located at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center (SFHMC), where he is the Director of Research. Dr. Canalis’ laboratory discovered the existence of skeletal growth factors and has pursued important investigations on the role of growth factors and their antagonists in skeletal function. Dr. Canalis’ group has made seminal contributions to our understanding of the mechanisms of glucocorticoid action in bone in an effort to explain the pathogenesis of glucocorticoid induced osteoporosis and correct the disease. His recent work has centered on CCN proteins, and factors determining cell fate, osteoblastogenesis and osteoblastic function. These investigations include studies on the role of Notch and Nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) in osteoblastic cell differentiation. Dr. Canalis is a highly innovative researcher, who has been funded continuously by the NIH since 1981. In 1990, Dr. Canalis received a MERIT Award from the National Institute of Musculoskeletal and Skin Disorders and has served as a member of the General Medicine B and Orthopedic Study Sections and on the Council of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Dr. Canalis also served as President of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR), and is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians. He is the recipient of The 1990 Ann Doner Vaughan Kappa Delta Award for Excellence in Orthopedic Research from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, The 1996 Gerald Aurbach Award for Outstanding Research in Endocrinology from the Endocrine Society, The 1996 Marshall Urist Award for Excellence in Tissue Regeneration Research from the Orthopedic Research Society, The 2004 Louis V. Avioli Founders Award for fundamental contributions to bone and mineral basic research from the ASBMR, and The 2012 Lawrence G. Raisz Award for Outstanding Achievements in Preclinical Translational Research from the ASBMR.

Marja Hurley, M.D.

Marja M. Hurley, M.D.

Marja M. Hurley, M.D. is a professor of Medicine and Orthopaedic Surgery, Associate Dean and Director of the Office of Health Career Opportunity Programs at UConn Health and has leadership oversight for the Education, Training, and Career Development Sector of the CICATS program.  As a physician-scientist and educator at UConn Health for 26 years, she has conducted innovative, basic research that has led to major advances in our understanding of the role of Fibroblast Growth Factors (FGF) in skeletal biology.  Her research has been funded by the NIH since 1989 and she has been both a charter and ad hoc member of the NIH Study Sections.  As a recognized leader and scientist, Dr. Hurley has received a number of awards including the Connecticut Technology Council 2010 Women of Innovation Award for Academic Innovation & Leadership; the First New England Board of Higher Education Award for Innovation in Education; elected to the Connecticut Academy for Science & Engineering; and was appointed as a Commissioner of the State of Connecticut Legislative Commission on Health Equity.

George A. Kuchel, M.D., F.R.C.P.

George A. Kuchel, M.D., F.R.C.P.

George A. Kuchel, M.D., F.R.C.P. is the Citicorp Chair in Geriatrics and Gerontology, Professor and Director of University of Connecticut Center on Aging.  Dr. Kuchel provides leadership oversight of the Clinical and Translational Resources and Services Sector of the CICATS program. A board-certified geriatrician, he has over two decades of relevant research, mentoring and administrative experience.  Leading a translational research program, his work addresses the impact of aging, frailty and relevant diseases on continence, mobility performance, host defense and brain function, especially as these relate to function and independence in late life.  Dr. Kuchel and his colleagues in the Center on Aging have developed and assured continual external funding for four Research Cores which are designed to provide faculty and trainees with aging-specific expertise and infrastructure pertaining to human subject recruitment and community outreach; evaluative and survey research; clinical data and geriatric outcome measurements; as well as biomarker and preclinical animal model work. Dr. Kuchel has published a broad range of relevant peer-reviewed papers and is currently conducting several research projects funded from the NIH and other agencies.

Edison T. Liu, M.D.

Edison T. Liu, M.D.

Edison Liu, M.D. is the President and CEO of The Jackson Laboratory. Previously, he was the founding executive director of the Genome Institute of Singapore (2001-2011), and has been the President of the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) from 2007-2013. Before 2001, Dr. Liu held leadership positions as the Scientific Director of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Clinic Sciences (1996-2001), the director of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Specialized Program of Research Excellence in Breast Cancer, the director of the Laboratory of Molecular Epidemiology at UNC’s School of Public Health, chief of medical genetics, and chair of the Correlative Science Committee of the national cooperative clinical trials group, CALGB. Dr. Liu is an international expert in cancer biology, genomics, human genetics, molecular epidemiology, and translational medicine. Dr. Liu’s current scientific research is focused on the functional genomics of human cancers, particularly breast cancer, uncovering new oncogenes, and deciphering the dynamics of gene regulation on a genomic scale that modulate cancer biology. He has authored over 300 scientific papers and reviews, and co-authored two books.

Cheryl Oncken, M.D., M.P.H.

Cheryl Oncken, M.D., M.P.H.

Cheryl A. Oncken, M.D., M.P.H. is the Professor of Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. She is also Director of the Clinical Research Center at UConn Health. After completing her undergraduate studies and receiving her MD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Oncken earned her Master’s in Public Health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology. During her Master’s Degree she received the John Hawley Award for the advancement of Public Health. She completed her residency requirements in Internal Medicine at the Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis. She completed a Fellowship in General Medicine at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Oncken is internationally recognized for her work on the treatment of smoking in women. She has conducted numerous smoking cessation trials in pregnant women including behavioral interventions (peer support counseling, intensive psychosocial counseling and telephone follow-up), short term studies of the safety of nicotine replacement therapy during pregnancy, and one randomized controlled trial of nicotine gum for smoking cessation during pregnancy. She is also interested in interventions to reduce tobacco exposure during pregnancy in low and middle income countries and co-facilitated international workgroups in this topic area. She is currently a member of the World Health Organization Committee developing guidelines for the treatment of tobacco use and second hand exposure during pregnancy. Dr. Oncken has contributed to over 60 peer reviewed articles on smoking related research. She has authored 5 book chapters, and has been an invited speaker at more than 50 Advisory Board Meetings, Symposia, and Conferences. She is a board certified practicing internist at UConn Health. She has been a presenter at the Medicine Grand Rounds and since 1995, has contributed to a number of Continuing Medical Education Seminars for smoking cessation.

Gualberto Ruaño, M.D., Ph.D.

Gualberto Ruaño, M.D., Ph.D.

Gualberto Ruaño, M.D., Ph.D. is one of the leading medical experts and executives in personalized healthcare and translational genomics worldwide. An innovator and entrepreneur, he has been an advocate of personalized medicine in the biomedical industry for the last 20 years. He has pioneered physiogenomics based on multi-gene DNA markers and medical presentation for the diagnosis of disease and prediction of human physiological responses to a wide array of clinical treatments. In his research career, Dr. Ruaño has developed systems for DNA-guided medicine based on genomics and clinical informatics. Currently, he is the Director of Genetics Research and of the Genetics Research Center at Hartford Hospital and is also the Director of the Laboratory of Personalized Health and President of Genomas Inc. Dr. Ruaño holds Adjunct Professorships at both George Washington University and the University of Puerto Rico. His continued record of scholarship and innovation in translational medicine is reflected in 85 publications and 8 patents as of late 2012. He has been a principal investigator of research and development grants totaling $12M from NIH, NSF and DOE. Dr. Ruaño is a Fellow of the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry and of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. He obtained both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University, where he was a Fellow of the NIH Medical Scientist Training Program and the Ford Foundation. He obtained his B.A. degree from Johns Hopkins University.

Pramod Srivastava, M.D., Ph.D.

Pramod Srivastava, M.D., Ph.D.

Pramod Srivastava, Ph.D., M.D. is Professor of Immunology and Medicine, and Director of the Carol and Ray Neag Cancer Center at the UConn School of Medicine. He will have oversight responsibilities for the Integrated Home Sector. Dr. Srivastava had continuous NIH funding 1986-2011, including multiple R01 grants. He has served on several NIH study sections as a permanent member and as an ad hoc member. His work in cancer immunology is the sole basis of the regulatory approval of a cancer vaccine in Russia; through the CTEP mechanism, the NIH has approved funding for a just-initiated large randomized trial of a cancer vaccine against glioblastoma.