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Senior Staff and Faculty

Haydar Celik

Haydar Celik, PhD, joined the Institute as assistant research professor to work on the IGNITE program, under the leadership of Peter Kim, MD. Dr. Celik’s current research interest focuses on developing novel non-invasive surgery technologies and combination therapy approaches using magnetic resonance imaging guided high- intensity focused ultra- sound (MR-HIFU) system.

Haydar received his PhD degree from Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Bilkent University, Turkey (2010). He worked with Prof. Ergin Atalar between 2002 and 2010, developing novel devices and methods for interventional magnetic resonance imaging. Immediately after graduation, he joined the Sunnybrook Research Institute Cardiovascular MRI Research Group in Toronto as a post-doctoral fellow, under mentorship of Professor Graham Wright. Dr. Celik led a multi-disciplinary team in a pre-clinical project and introduced a non-contrast enhanced MRI method for characterization of radiofrequency ablation lesions.

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Richard Jaepyeong Cha

Richard Jaepyeong Cha, PhD is an optical engineer with expertise in optical system design and image processing. Dr. Cha joined the institute in July 2016 as an Assistant Professor to work on the VISION program (Vision and Intelligence for Surgical Innovation, Optimization, and Navigation), leading a team of engineers and clinicians in the development of superhuman vision, machine learning and intelligent surgical guidance.

Dr. Cha received his PhD degree from Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Johns Hopkins University (2016), while he completed his bachelor and master degrees from Seoul National University in South Korea. His doctoral work has provided him the necessary background and expertise in optical imaging of cellular/tissue level architecture and physiological function, specifically in the use of fluorescence imaging (FI), multispectral/hyperspectral imaging (MSI/HSI), and laser speckle contrast imaging (LSCI). During his graduate program, he was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellow and he initiated the multiple projects on development of endoscopic fluorescence imaging tool for brain activity mapping in live animals, multispectral imaging platform for optimizing anastomosis placements, and real-time blood flow assessment for intraoperative use in clinical neurosurgery. His current research interests include biomedical imaging guided surgical intervention, anatomical/physiological imaging in live animals.

Conrad Russell Cruz

Russell Cruz, MD, PhD, is the Director of the Translational Research Laboratories for the newly established Program for Cell Enhancement and Technologies for Immunotherapy (CETI). He began working at Children’s National in July 2013. Dr. Cruz received his undergraduate and medical degree at the University of the Philippines, and his doctorate at Baylor College of Medicine. As a physician-scientist, he is committed to developing novel immune based therapies for cancer and opportunistic infections.

Shifts in the medical landscape have brought immune disorders to the fore: advances in medicine have resulted in an increasing number of patients with some form of immune dysfunction, including stem cell/solid organ transplant recipients, primary immune deficiency patients, and those receiving chemotherapies or immune-suppressive therapies. The long- term goals of Dr. Cruz’s laboratory is to harness both innate and adaptive immunity as therapies for the consequences of immune dysfunction: high risk/relapsed malignancy and infectious diseases. Dr. Cruz is part of a team with extensive translational research experience – quickly moving novel cell and gene therapies developed in the laboratory into the clinics. His research interests span a spectrum of diseases (invasive fungal disease, autoimmunity, graft versus host disease, leukemia, lymphoma, pediatric solid tumors) and technologies (chimeric antigen receptors, generation/expansion of antigen specific T cells, genetic modification of cells, combining cellular therapies with chemotherapy/epigenetic modifying drugs/nanotechnology).

Angela Fletcher

Angela Fletcher, PsyD, specializes in the assessment and treatment of children suffering complex pain, and their families. She is the Director of Psychology Services for the Complex Pediatric Pain Medicine Program’s Outpatient Clinic and also works within the Children's National Division of Neuropsychology in the Safe Concussion Outcome, Recovery Education (SCORE) Program. Her research interests include the environmental and family factors that affect pain perception, school functioning for children with complex pain, and the relationship between sleep and pain. Dr. Fletcher completed her doctoral degree at the American School of Professional Psychology and conducted her doctoral internship at Johns Hopkins University/Kennedy Krieger Institute, providing consultation and ongoing treatment to patients with acute and chronic medical conditions. She specialized her training in pediatric psychology by completing a two-year fellowship in the Child Adolescent Diabetes Program the Pediatric Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Children's National.

Timothy Kane

Timothy Kane, MD, is a pediatric surgeon and researcher who specializes in endoscopic surgery. As principal investigator in the Institute's Translational Biodesign Initiative, Dr. Kane is focusing on the development of the minimally invasive surgery program through clinical practice, instruction, and research. He is working to improve minimally invasive surgical techniques and speed their incorporation into standard clinical care for pediatrics.

Marius George Linguraru

Marius George Linguraru, PhD, is a principal investigator in the Translational Biodesign Initiative of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation. Within the Bioengineering Initiative, Dr. Linguraru leads the medical image analysis efforts and will develop tools for computer-aided diagnosis, minimally-invasive interventions and multi-organ modeling of anatomy and physiology in children. These efforts are enhancing traditional medical imaging modalities and create modern clinical tools for pediatric radiology and oncology. Surgeons will be able to perform less invasive interventions with the use of pioneering imaging techniques. Dr. Linguraru is internationally known for his work in radiology and medical image processing, particularly in harnessing software based technology to enhance the clinical use of existing imaging tools. He joins the Sheikh Zayed Institute from the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, where he served as staff scientist in Radiology and Imaging Sciences. He maintains an appointment as a guest researcher within that center. Dr. Linguraru is currently a Member Elect of the Technical Committee for Medical Imaging and Image Processing of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Dr. Linguraru completed his doctorate at University of Oxford and holds two master’s degrees from the University of Sibiu, Romania. He held postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard University and the French National Institute of Research in Informatics and Mathematics.

Evan Nadler

Evan Nadler, MD, is a pediatric surgeon and researcher specializing in bariatric surgery on adolescents, as well as co-director of the Children's National Obesity Institute. As principal investigator at the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, Dr. Nadler works closely within the Care Accelerators Initiative, which gathers broad data for testing how the body’s complex systems interact. Dr. Nadler, along with genomics experts, seeks to identify the expressed genes that correlate with bariatric surgery success, which could lead to the use of personalized medicine in this space. Dr. Nadler's basic science research focuses on the liver fibrosis associated with biliary atresia. His clinical and translational science investigates the systems biology of obesity, and the safety and effectiveness of various weight loss procedures in adolescents. Prior to joining Children's National, Dr. Nadler was an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at the New York University School of Medicine. He earned his bachelor of science in biological sciences at Stanford University, attended the University of Pennsylvania for his medical education, and completed a research fellowship and pediatric surgery fellowship at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Laura Olivieri

Laura Olivieri, MD, is a pediatric cardiologist who performs advanced cardiovascular imaging in Echocardiography, Cardiac Magnetic Resonance (CMR), and Cardiac Computed Tomography for children with heart disease. Dr. Olivieri's research is focused on improving imaging techniques, particularly in CMR imaging. She is a co-investigator in the National Institutes of Health/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute/Children’s National partnership dedicated to this effort. She is also focused on creating a novel, three-dimensional display of congenital cardiovascular defects to both enhance education about heart disease as well as improve the clinical care and interventional outcomes of children and adults with congenital heart disease. Dr. Olivieri joined the Institute from Children’s National Heart Institute at Children's National as well as the NHLBI Intramural program in advanced cardiac imaging. She is a diplomat of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of the American Heart Association, Society for Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging and the American Society of Echocardiography. Dr. Olivieri has authored or co-authored numerous abstracts and peer-reviewed articles. She attended medical school at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, completed residency at Brown University, Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, RI, and completed a clinical and research fellowship at Children's National in cardiology and in advanced cardiac imaging at NIH.

Karun Sharma

Karun Sharma, MD, is an interventional radiologist, and director of the interventional radiology section at Children’s National Health System, in addition to his work as principal investigator in the Sheikh Zayed Institute. Dr. Sharma’s collaborative and translational research is aimed at furthering the use of image-guided, minimally invasive therapy in children. Specifically, he is working on enhancing local drug delivery techniques in cancer and thrombosis and has been principal or co-investigator on clinical trials evaluating the role of endovascular treatment of deep vein thrombosis as well as the role of chemoembolization and image-guided ablation for treatment of liver cancer. He is translating this previous experience into the pediatric population. He is also interested in evaluating the role of MR- guided high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) to treat pediatric conditions. Dr. Sharma joins the Sheikh Zayed Institute from his previous position as Assistant Professor of Radiology at Georgetown University Hospital and as a research scientist in the Center for Interventional Oncology at the National Institutes of Health. He is a member of the Society of Interventional Radiology, Society for Pediatric Interventional Radiology and Radiological Society of North America. Dr. Sharma has authored or co-authored numerous abstracts and peer-reviewed articles. He attended medical and graduate school at the Medical College of Virginia, completed residency in Radiology and fellowship in Vascular and Interventional Radiology at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University in St. Louis.

Raj Shekhar

Raj Shekhar, PhD, is a researcher and engineer specializing in multimodality image fusion and augmented reality. As principal investigator in the Translational Biodesign Initiative at the Sheikh Zayed Institute, Dr. Shekhar co-directs its Fusion Program. Dr. Shekhar works with surgeons to advance planning and navigation that will improve surgical performance and outcomes. Image fusion is a computer-assisted surgery technique that combines imaging data from multiple sources, such as computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, or a laparoscope, to provide more accurate preoperative assessment as well as superior intraoperative visualization and navigation during surgical procedures. Dr. Shekhar’s basic science research focuses on medical image processing, real-time computing, 3D ultrasound, and image-guided interventions. Prior to joining the Children's National, Dr. Shekhar was an associate professor of Diagnostic Radiology and an affiliate professor of Bioengineering and Electrical Computer Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is also the founder of IGI Technologies, a medical imaging technology startup. He has authored or coauthored more than 75 scientific papers, including nearly 40 published in peer-reviewed journals. He holds five U.S. patents.

Pavel Yarmolenko

Pavel Yarmolenko, PhD, is a biomedical engineer who is working primarily on development and clinical translation of novel pediatric applications of Magnetic Resonance-guided High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (MR-HIFU) at the Sheikh Zayed Institute. This technology has shown promise as a non-invasive alternative to surgical intervention, a means of locally targeting drug delivery as well as a local modulator of immune response. As medicine becomes increasingly interdisciplinary, image-guided noninvasive and minimally invasive therapeutic approaches, such as those offered by MR-HIFU, clearly offer an exciting and promising alternatives to traditional treatments and point to new possibilities for combination treatment. In close collaboration other groups, Pavel 's current work seeks to further develop MR-HIFU-based ablative as well as mild hyperthermic heating alone and in combination with drug delivery systems. The possibilities offered by these new approaches are especially promising for pediatric medicine, as they offer potentially efficacious treatment without the need for scalpels, needles, or ionizing radiation.

This research direction is a natural continuation of Pavel's doctoral thesis work on development of image-guided local drug delivery with a combination of temperature-sensitive liposomes and MR-HIFU-mediated local mild hyperthermia. During his doctoral work, Pavel enjoyed the mentorship and deep insight of Dr. Mark Dewhirst at Duke University as well as Dr. Bradford Wood and Dr. Matthew Dreher at the National Institutes of Health. At SZI, Pavel is excited to join an interdisciplinary team of scientists, engineers and clinicians who are working towards introducing safer and less traumatic therapeutic regimens to pediatric medicine.

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