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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.

Tammy Chan, PhD, Regulatory Specialist  

Tammy is a clinical research professional with diverse experience in research and biotechnology. She earned her Ph.D. from the Program in Developmental Biology at Baylor College of Medicine where she completed her dissertation on neural mechanisms controlling physiology, sleep, and aging. After her graduate studies, she served as a field applications scientist supporting diverse study sponsors in pre-clinical drug development. She also has experience in regulatory compliance, study management, quality assurance, and subject recruitment from her roles in research coordination and clinical recruitment for a large global contract research organization. Following her passion for ensuring patient safety and quality in drug development, Tammy joined the regulatory team at Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute where she focuses on helping investigators maintain regulatory compliance in 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.

Celesta Myles, MBA, Staff Accountant

Celesta is an innovative and driven accounting professional with many years of experience. Celesta strives to learn new ways of doing things and takes on challenges that sometime are out of her comfort zone. Celesta holds a MBA from University of North Texas-Dallas and Bachelor’s degrees in both accounting and management from University of North Texas. Her previous work experience in the healthcare industry allowed her gain knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles, financial reporting, accounts receivable/account payables, and accounting transactions. At the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute (MHSCRI), Celesta 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 reconciliation. Celesta promotes well-organized financial operations at the MHSCRI by maintaining databases and overseeing the development and implementation of financial standard operating procedures.  

Colette Ngo Ndjom, MS, Research Regulatory Compliance Manager

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 aspiring leaders and prepares them for possible leadership roles 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 ophthalmic 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 closeout 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.

Jeny Rendon, BS, Clinical Trials Manager

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.  Jeny also ahs experience supporting nationally accredited and recognized fellowship programs that are responsible for bridging the research-practice gaps. Jeny  

Misty Tong, Administrative Assistant

Misty Tong is an administrative professional with over eight years’ administrative experience in supporting worldwide operations. She earned a bachelor of business administration from the University of New Orleans. Prior to joining the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute (MHSCRI), Misty served in the United States Army including supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan. In the Army, she was instrumental in the logistical management of over 100 million USD worth of military property and equipment. Her efforts earned her an Army Commendation Medal, which is awarded to members of the Army who distinguish themselves by heroism, meritorious achievement, or service. She continued on an administrative career path after the Army. As an administrative assistant to those in senior management positions, she has gained experience and proficiency in problem solving, office management, customer service, and project management. At the MHSCRI, Misty performs diverse administrative activities to assist the director and managers as they strive to provide professional, ethical, and relevant support to investigators, research staff, and other employees at Methodist Health System.  

Francisco (Frank) Verdin, BBA, Staff Accountant

Francisco graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from The University of North Texas. He has four years of experience in full cycle and fixed assets accounting in the real estate, logistics, and hospitality industries. Francisco is proficient in analysis, workflow efficiency, corrections, and auditing. He efficiently accomplishes his tasks by constant learning, collaboration with involved parties, and teamwork. At the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute (MHSCRI), Francisco assists with the development, execution, and monitoring of program budgets; accounts receivables activities for clinical trials, contracts, and cooperative agreements; accounts payable activities; analysis of budget variances; and auditing.

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 and 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.

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 trials 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.

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, Lead Nurse 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.

Taniqua Warren, LVN, Nurse Research Coordinator

Taniqua is a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) with over five years' experience in healthcare at Houston Methodist Hospital.  As an LVN, she gained experience working in many specialty departments, including cardiology, neurology, orthopedics, oncology, gynecology, primary care, pulmonary and internal medicine.  Taniqua transition from her LVN position to a full-time position as a Nurse Research Coordinator for the pulmonary department at Houston Methodist.  She participated in all phases of pulmonary hypertension clinical trials where she coordinated the activities of colleagues and investigators to ensure compliance with overall scientific study objectives.  She also assisted with startup studies, billing, institutional review board submissions and protocols.  She is very passionate about providing excellent patient care, utilizing her nursing skills to help others, and enhancing her education further by completing a bachelor of science in nursing program.