Meet Our Team

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional

Carl H. Backes Jr., MD
Principal Investigator

Carl H. Backes, Jr, MD, is a member of the Center for Perinatal Research at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital. He is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, and Attending Neonatologist and Attending Cardiologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital. His clinical interests include the care of premature infants born with congenital heart disease. His research interests involve improving outcomes among premature infants with cardiovascular or hemodynamic perturbations.

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional

Kristen L. Benninger, MD
Principal Investigator

Dr. Benninger's clinical and research interests focus on identifying changes in early brain structure and function resulting from in-utero opioid exposure and correlation with later neurodevelopment. Her ultimate goal is to design interventions targeting modifiable clinical or environmental factors that promote optimal neurodevelopment in children with in-utero opioid exposure.

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional

Bernadette Chen, MD
Principal Investigator

Bernadette Chen, MD, is a member of the Section of Neonatology at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. She is also an investigator in the Center for Perinatal Research at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital. Dr. Chen's interests are in the Adenylate Cyclase-cAMP-Phosphodiesterase 3 pathway and its role in persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN).

Matthew Kielt

Matthew J. Kielt, MD
Principal Investigator

Matthew J, Kielt, MD, is an attending neonatologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Dr. Kielt's clinical interests include bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) and neonatal pulmonary vascular disease. He practices in the Comprehensive Center for Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia. Dr. Kielt's research interests focus on improving outcomes of infants with the most severe forms of BPD through the development of precision medicine strategies of neonatal care.

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Leeann R. Pavlek, MD 
Principal Investigator

Leeann Pavlek, MD, MS, is a principal investigator in the Center for Perinatal Research at the Abigail Wexner Research Institute. She is an attending Neonatologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Her research interests include cardiac development in premature infants, the impact of maternal conditions such as pre-eclampsia on heart structure and function in the newborn, and improving the management and outcomes of extremely premature infants.

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional

Pablo J. Sanchez, MD
Principal Investigator

Pablo J. Sanchez, MD is a principal investigator in the Center for Perinatal Research at The Research Institute and a professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Dr. Sanchez is also a board-certified neonatologist and pediatric infectious diseases specialist, and the director of Clinical and Translational Research in Neonatology at Nationwide Children's Hospital. His clinical and translational research focuses on perinatal/neonatal infections and antibiotic stewardship.

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional

Jonathan L. Slaughter, MD, MPH
Principal Investigator

Jonathan L. Slaughter, MD, MPH, is a neonatologist and principal investigator in the Center for Perinatal Research within The Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an associate professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University. Dr. Slaughter's ultimate goal is to improve outcomes important to neonatal patients and their families through research that leads directly to improvements in neonatal clinical care. His patient-centered research program focuses on comparative effectiveness research to determine which treatments work best for neonatal patients given specific clinical circumstances and patient characteristics.

OPRN Staff

Demi Beckford, MHS
Lead Clinical Research Coordinator
Demi.Beckford@NationwideChildrens.org

Demi joined the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in March 2018. Demi is responsible for the oversight of study start up, launch activities and day by day management of all divisional studies. She is a member of the Scientific Review Committee and the Activities/Educational Coordinator for the BLOOM Clinical Research Professionals group. Demi's passion focuses on racial and gender disparities in the NICU to help improve better outcomes and care for all infants and their families. She also strives to repair the historical racial tensions to improve the community's confidence and trust in research. Demi has a Bachelor of Arts in business administration and a minor in chemistry from Wittenberg University and a Master of Health Science degree with a clinical research focus from St. Francis University. She has experience in public health, social services and community organization.

OPRN Staff

Brittany DeSantis
Clinical Research Coordinator II
Brittany.Desantis@NationwideChildrens.org

Brittany joined the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in July of 2019. She coordinates various research studies in the NICU at main campus as well as at other off site NICUs. Many of the research studies Brittany helps coordinate are conducted on behalf of the Neonatal Research Network. Additionally, she contributes efforts to investigator driven works. Brittany has a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health with a focus on human disease and epidemiology from Miami University.

OPRN Staff

Cory Hanlon
Clinical Research Program Coordinator
Cory.Hanlon@NationwideChildrens.org

As one of the department’s Program Coordinators, Cory is responsible for all aspects of study start-up including IRB applications, protocol/consent development, feasibility, and database development. Cory works directly with sponsors and investigators to ensure that all potential studies are compliant behind the scenes before recruitment begins.  Cory’s main interests in research fall under optimizing study start-up/development through smart programs and new technology. Cory began pursuing a career in pediatric research with a passion to be a driving force of change for good in the community in 2017 when he started as a Research Coordinator for Dr. Sanchez in Neonatology/Infectious Disease. Cory completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Cincinnati and received his Bachelor of Science in 2015.

OPRN Staff

Laura Marzec, IMG
Clinical Research Lead Coordinator
Laura.Marzec@NationwideChildrens.org

Laura is a Medical Doctor from Venezuela. Laura is pursuing pediatric residency here in the United States. Research is a pathway for Laura to continue her medical experience, nurture relationships, and broaden her exposure to leading medicine. Laura is committed to the mission Nationwide Children's Hospital stands for in the medical community. Laura is married and has a 3 year old daughter. She enjoys traveling, dancing, and cooking. Currently, Laura is the Lead Coordinator for the PDA prediction study. This study actively enrolls premature infants at 5 different NICU’s across the greater Columbus area. She provides support to members of the staff and coordinates all elements of the research study to ensure that the study progresses efficiently and the data quality is maintained throughout. Laura’s interests in research include how to improve care for premature infants while in the NICU as well as improving their quality of life at discharge.

OPRN Staff

Jacqueline McCool
Data Research Coordinator
Jacqueline.Mccool@NationwideChildrens.org

Jackie McCool is the Data Coordinator at Nationwide Children's Hospital Center for Perinatal Research. She works closely with Clinical Research Coordinators in the timely entry and retrieval of all patient data in various forms. She also supports OPRN in maintaining and updating management sections of the operational manuals for all/any OPRN clinical studies. She assists with the preparation and maintenance of clinical research charts for each protocol patient. She identifies and enters clinical research data into the computer program data bases, spreadsheets, chart flowsheets. She tracks data clarifications, data corrections and query resolutions within the electronic data capture (EDC) systems. Her passion as a Data Coordinator is to provide her knowledge, skills, and incorporate continuous quality improvement to the best of her ability.

OPRN Staff

Joanie Randle
Clinical Research Coordinator RN
Joanie.Randle@NationwideChildrens.org

Joanie Randle is a member of the Center for Perinatal Research at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital where she is a Clinical Research Coordinator-RN.  She received her Master's Degree from The George Washington University School of Medicine (Integrative Medicine) and holds a BSN from The Ohio State University College of Nursing.  Her clinical interests include improving nursing care for premature infants.  Her research interests involve investigating the Poly Vagal Theory in relation to morbidities of prematurity.  She is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, The International Lactation Consultants Association and the United States Lactation Consultants Association.

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Brian Rivera
Research Associate
Brian.Rivera@NationwideChildrens.org

Formally trained as a biomedical engineer, Brian is the "Swiss Army Knife" of Dr. Backes' lab. His responsibilities are many and varied - from processing samples to running assays to preparing protocols. Brian's research interests during my tenure here at Nationwide Children's Hospital also vary, but primarily involves extremely preterm infants.

OPRN Staff

Kristi Small
Program Coordinator
Kristi.Small@NationwideChildrens.org

Kristi joined Nationwide Children’s Hospital in 2015, beginning in the hospital’s Inpatient Pharmacy. After a few years in this role, Kristi transitioned to Perinatal Research in the beginning of 2018, as a Follow Up Coordinator. This role really grew the passion for neonatology and perinatal research. Now, as a Program Coordinator, Kristi is responsible for all aspects of study initiation for the Ohio Perinatal Research Network. This includes regulatory aspects, as well as development for site-specific protocols regarding how research studies will be conducted here at NCH. Kristi has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology & Global Public Health from The Ohio State University. She plans on continuing her education, with a strong desire to continue helping provide best outcomes to children and infants.

OPRN Staff

Rox Ann Sullivan
Clinical Research Coordinator-RN
Roxann.Sullivan@NationwideChildrens.org

Rox Ann joined the Abigail Wexner Research Institute 2009 as the Clinical Research Manager of the Ohio Better Birth Outcomes (OBBO) Collaborative. She transitioned to a Clinical Research Coordinator-RN, in the Ohio Perinatal Research Network (OPRN), in 2010, and has been there ever since. Rox Ann has a BSN from Xavier University and served in the United States Army Reserves as an Army Officer for 6 years. Her research interests are with the prevention of premature birth and the prevention and reduction of the complications of prematurity to achieve the best possible outcomes for every child.

OPRN Staff

Eli Zettler
Clinical Research Coordinator
Eli.Zettler@NationwideChildrens.org

Eli is a recent Ohio State graduate who majored in microbiology. Cardiology has always been fascinating to him, making the research we do in the Backes Lab a natural fit! Being able to talk to parents about their new babies is an extremely rewarding experience that Eli has enjoyed immensely. Making a difference, even if only reassuring a parent about their newborn, is what motivates him daily. Eventually, Eli would like to use the numerous skills he has acquired at Nationwide Children’s Hospital to become a doctor himself. Outside of work Eli is passionate about his two cats, outdoor activities and English soccer.

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Aishwarya Tallikar
Clinical Research Coordinator
Aishwarya.Tallikar@NationwideChildrens.org

Aishwarya joined Nationwide Children's Hospital as a Clinical Research Coordinator for the Center of Perinatal Research in March of 2021. She finds it fascinating to understand the causes and mechanisms of preterm birth, as well as the methods in place to reduce the complications associated with preterm birth. Prior to joining Nationwide Children's, Aishwarya was a Clinical Research Assistant for the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary. She helped develop a Uveitis Registry database to capture recruitment records for more than 300 patients, producing research reports towards the course, treatment and outcomes of ocular inflammatory diseases. Aishwarya has a Bachelors of Science degree in Neuroscience from The Ohio State University. She has experience in the areas of nonprofits, social justice, and clinical research.

Nationwide Children's Researcher

Patty Luzader
Lead RN Clinical Research Coordinator
Patty.Luzader@NationwideChildrens.org

Patty joined the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in 2012. She transitioned to research after 25 years in the main campus NICU where, as a Clinical Lead, she worked on several QI projects. It was in this pursuit that she realized that she had a passion for the research studies that support the evidence molding the care of these fragile infants. Her focus with OPRN is with the Neonatal Research Network (NRN) where she is the Site Coordinator for Nationwide Children's Hospital. She oversees and implements NRN studies in the NICUs on main campus, Riverside and OSU. Her passion is in the improvement of the care that we provide to the neonatal population, thus improving the outcomes that endure long after discharge from the hospital. Patty received her nursing degree from Mount Carmel School of Nursing.

Nationwide Children's Researcher

Rachel Reedy
Clinical Research Coordinator RN
Rachel.Reedy@NationwideChildrens.org

Rachel joined Nationwide Children's Hospital in 2015 where she started in the NICU and formed a passion for providing best outcomes for neonates. She joined Nationwide Children's Center for Perinatal Research as a Clinical Research Coordinator RN in 2020 where she now coordinates varies studies. Rachel received her BSN for the University of Cincinnati and plans to continue her education.

Nationwide Children's Researcher

Roopi Korada
Research Intern
Roopi.Korada@NationwideChildrens.org

Roopi is currently an undergraduate student at the Ohio State University majoring in biology under their honors program. She has been a part of the Nationwide Children's team since December of 2018. As a part of the Center for Perinatal Research, Roopi's research focuses primarily on preterm birth and the impacts of perinatal exposures on heart function. Previously, the team has studied the impacts of maternal inflammation and postnatal hyperoxia on heart development and morphology, where they identified the upregulation of several microRNAs that are involved in contractile strength and energy consumption. Roopi's current research investigates the clinical outcomes of perinatal exposures, primarily preeclampsia, and their consequences on the development of cardiac structure and function in the neonate.