Center for Clinical and Translational Research Team

Eugene Ko, DDS
Deputy Director, Clinical Research Operations
Assistant Professor of Clinical Oral Medicine

As Deputy Director, Clinical Research Operations with the Center for Clinical & Translational Research, Dr. Ko supports the leadership of the Center in managing a team of translational scientists to design, validate, and execute translational plans for the growing portfolio of Penn Dental Medicine research. In addition, he provides direct mentorship to the School’s faculty and students on clinical and translational research.

Since 2018, Dr. Ko has been Assistant Professor of Clinical Oral Medicine at Penn Dental Medicine. A graduate of Columbia University, College of Dental Medicine, Dr. Ko was trained in Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology at New York Presbyterian-Columbia University, followed by a Clinical Research Fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Prior to his appointment at Penn Dental Medicine, Dr. Ko was a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, School of Dentistry.

Dr. Ko’s research interests are centered on the the advancement of oral health through translational research and novel medical devices and technologies.

Marta Gabinskiy
Director, Clinical Research Operations and Compliance

Marta has over 16 years of experience in healthcare, with the last ten years focused on supporting clinical research operations. Marta is originally from Slovakia, where her love of mathematics and physics led her to study mechanical engineering. As Director of Clinical Research Operations and Compliance, Marta leverages her attention to detail, precision, scientific mind and analytical skills to developing and implementing innovative solutions and processes to improve efficiencies and overseeing numerous projects and clinical research activities. Never one to sit idle, Marta is fluent in four languages, is a self-taught accordion player, and is pursuing her single engine pilot’s license.

Rosa Urbina
Associate Director of Research Coordination and Regulatory Services

Rosa Urbina is a native of Allentown, Pennsylvania, where she spent eight years exploring various roles in the dental field, including administrative, clinical, and research positions. As the Associate Director for Coordination and Regulatory Services at the Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR) at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine (PDM), Rosa is responsible for managing all center activities and ensuring that the administrative and regulatory aspects of the program run smoothly.

In her role, Rosa provides critical regulatory support, overseeing the submission and management of Institutional Review Board (IRB) applications, maintaining compliance with federal and state regulations, and ensuring that all research activities meet the highest standards of ethical conduct. Her thorough understanding of regulatory requirements and meticulous attention to detail ensure that all submissions are accurate and timely, significantly contributing to the smooth operation of research projects.

Rosa is also a certified medical interpreter and a certified court interpreter, proudly serving the Hispanic community with her skills and expertise. Currently, she is pursuing a degree in healthcare management while working full-time, balancing her professional responsibilities with her academic ambitions.

Known throughout the school for her infectious smile and enthusiastic greetings, Rosa brings a positive energy to the center. Outside of her professional and academic life, she enjoys adventuring into different cities and trying new cuisines. Rosa is always ready with a great restaurant recommendation, making her a go-to person for culinary exploration.

We are fortunate to have Rosa’s dedication and expertise at the Center for Clinical and Translational Research, where she continues to make a significant impact.

Reneé Tangi
Clinical & Research Operations Manager 

Renee is the Clinical & Research Operations Manager at the Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR), bringing over twenty years of experience in the field of dentistry. Her dedication to patient care and her extensive background have driven her to join and excel in our research team.

Renee studied at Philadelphia University and earned her CDA certificate from the Delaware Valley Academy for Medical and Dental Assistants. Her role as a Dental Assistant laid the foundation for her current position, where she ensures that all clinical, research and laboratory procedures run smoothly and that our dental professionals have the necessary materials and support.

Specializing in Infection Control, Renee prioritizes clinic and laboratory cleanliness and safety, ensuring that the highest standards are maintained. Her expertise in this area is invaluable to our operations, contributing significantly to the overall quality of patient care and research integrity.

Outside of her professional responsibilities, Renee enjoys cooking, baking, and spending quality time with her beautiful family. Her passion for these activities reflects her commitment to creating a warm and nurturing environment, both at home and at work.

Renee’s experience, knowledge, and passion for dentistry and patient care make her an indispensable part of our team at CCTR. We are fortunate to have her leadership and dedication as we continue to advance our research and clinical initiatives.

Andrea Cohen
Research Dental Hygienist

With over 25 years of dental hygiene experience in private practice, Andrea  is deeply passionate about patient care and recognizes the symbiotic relationship between oral health and overall physical health. Her extensive experience and commitment to excellence in dental hygiene have laid a solid foundation for her role at the Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR).

Andrea’s lifelong attraction to the sciences and her natural attention to detail have made her transition into dental research a seamless and rewarding endeavor. At CCTR, Andrea is responsible for implementing various study interventions according to protocol, which includes obtaining precise dental measurements. Her meticulous approach ensures the accuracy and reliability of the data collected, contributing significantly to the success of our research projects.

Originally from Philadelphia, Andrea currently resides in Southern New Jersey. Her dedication to her profession is matched by her enthusiasm for personal enrichment. When not working, Andrea looks forward to traveling, especially to Europe, where she enjoys exploring new cultures and cuisines. She also cherishes spending quality time with her friends and family.

Andrea’s combination of practical dental hygiene experience, scientific curiosity, and attention to detail makes her an invaluable member of our team at CCTR. Her contributions enhance our research initiatives, ensuring that we continue to advance our understanding of the critical link between oral health and overall well-being.

Kristina Hlinka
Lead Clinical Research Coordinator C

Kristina began her journey at the Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR) as a Research Assistant while she was in nursing school. Graduating in June 2023, she was promoted to Lead Clinical Research Coordinator at CCTR. Kristina is now furthering her education by enrolling at Penn Nursing School, where she is studying Master of Science in Nursing Health Leadership.

Kristina discovered her passion for comforting others during their most vulnerable times while working as a certified nursing assistant. Her experience in this role solidified her desire to pursue a career in nursing. She initially enrolled in the five-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where she honed her clinical skills through rotations at various city hospitals. At CCTR, she provided phlebotomy services and supported the Center by assisting hygienists and coordinating participant visits.

Now, as the Lead Clinical Research Coordinator, Kristina is an integral part of CCTR’s daily operations. Her dedication to clinical research and her ability to manage and coordinate complex projects have been instrumental in the success of our studies. She has also developed strong regulatory skills, ensuring compliance with federal and institutional guidelines, and meticulously managing IRB submissions and other regulatory documentation. Her attention to detail and thorough understanding of regulatory requirements have been crucial in maintaining the integrity and compliance of our research projects.

When Kristina is not at work or in class, she enjoys baking, exploring new cities, and spending quality time with her friends and family. Her passion for healthcare, combined with her dedication, leadership, and regulatory expertise, makes her an invaluable member of the CCTR team.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Bryn Mawr College, Rosemary discovered a deep passion for laboratory research. Eager to consolidate her knowledge and gain more hands-on experience, she decided to work as a research specialist in academic labs before pursuing a higher degree.

Rosemary joined the PDM family in 2022, initially assisting in basic research focused on jaw tumors. Her work in this area allowed her to develop a strong foundation in laboratory techniques and scientific inquiry. Recognizing her potential and dedication, Rosemary transitioned to the clinical research team at the Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR) in 2023.

At CCTR, Rosemary plays a crucial role in the lab processing of human subject samples obtained from the clinic during each visit. Her responsibilities include meticulously performing processing procedures and maintaining detailed documentation for each sample. Her precision and attention to detail ensure the integrity and accuracy of the data collected, which is vital for the success of our research projects.

Rosemary’s commitment to excellence and her passion for research make her an invaluable member of our team. She continues to broaden her expertise and contribute significantly to the advancement of our clinical research initiatives. Rosemary’s journey from basic research to clinical applications exemplifies her dedication to improving healthcare outcomes through scientific discovery.

Praise Okoh-Aihe
Clinical Research Coordinator B

Praise discovered her passion for research while studying Chemistry at Saint Joseph’s University, where she focused on drug mechanisms, targets, and genetics. To further explore her interest in genetics, Praise worked in a lab on the Heme-based oxygen sensor protein FixL, gaining valuable hands-on experience in molecular biology techniques and research methodologies.

After graduation, Praise worked at a pharmacy for over two years, where she initiated a project on diabetic medications and their mechanisms. This experience provided her with a practical understanding of pharmaceutical applications and reinforced her commitment to advancing medical research.

Driven by a strong interest in combating infectious diseases, Praise pursued a Master’s in Biology. During her graduate studies, she immersed herself in immunology, molecular genetics, and biotechnology. Her research focused on genes of unknown function in yeast, particularly DFG5, to gain insights into similar human genes. This work deepened her understanding of genetic regulation and its implications for human health.

Following her master’s degree, Praise transitioned to a role as a Scientific Project Manager, where she focused on cancer tissues and studied biomarkers related to specific cancers using ImmunoHistoChemistry. Her work in this area aimed to identify and understand the molecular markers that can be used for cancer diagnosis and treatment, contributing to the development of personalized medicine approaches.

Praise’s career goal is to ensure that our bodies work for us, not against us, by advancing biomedical research and educating people about their health. Her diverse experiences in drug mechanisms, genetics, and cancer research have equipped her with a comprehensive skill set and a deep commitment to improving health outcomes. As a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Center for Clinical and Translational Research, Praise continues to contribute to groundbreaking research while fostering a greater understanding of health and disease.

Alexander Rodriguez
Clinical Research Coordinator B

Alex graduated from Kutztown University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, focusing on Finance. His career is marked by a strong commitment to exceptional customer service and effective collaboration with cross-functional teams.

As a former Project Coordinator for a biotechnology company in Germany, Alex managed the lifecycles of various clinical research projects, overseeing data management and equipment utilization. His proactive approach and attention to detail ensured the efficient and high-quality execution of each project.

Currently working as a Clinical Research Coordinator, Alex continues to leverage his expertise in project management to support clinical research initiatives. His ability to coordinate complex projects and ensure regulatory compliance makes him an invaluable asset to the research team.

Outside of work, Alex enjoys snowboarding on the West Coast and exploring Philadelphia’s diverse neighborhoods. His passion for adventure and new experiences reflects his dynamic personality and ability to thrive in different environments.

Alex’s financial acumen, project management expertise, and dedication to collaboration make him a valuable member of the team, driving success and innovation in every project he undertakes.

 

Clinical Research Honors Students

Elly Choi
Clinical Research Honors Program 2023-2024

Cerjay Lugtu
Clinical Research Honors Program 2022-2023

Cerjay Lugtu presented his poster on ACCE Day, May 11, 2023, at the University of Pennsylvania (image of student)

Poster title: Literature Review of Inflammatory Salivary Biomarkers in Patients with Burning Mouth Syndrome

Wenyan (Wendy) Lei
Clinical Research Honors Program 2022-2023

Wendy Lei presented her poster on ACCE Day, May 11, 2023, at the University of Pennsylvania.

Poster title: Exploring caregivers’ experiences when using a smart toothbrush by children with autism spectrum disorder

Andrew Tsai
Clinical Research Honors Program 2021-2022

Julia Jeong
Clinical Research Honors Program 2021-2022

Jessica Kang
Clinical Research Honors Program 2021-2022

Jared Layton
Clinical Research Honors Program 2021-2022

Moussa Ghannam, DMD candidate
Clinical Research Honors Program 2020-2021

Mousa Ghannam is a second year Doctor of Dental Medicine and Masters in Public Health (DMD/MPH) dual-degree student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. A Michigan native, he earned his BS in Chemistry from Kalamazoo College in 2017. Upon graduating, he had the opportunity to study salivary gland development as a post-baccalaureate research fellow at the National Institutes of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). Working for the NIH also afforded Mousa the opportunity to visualize National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data with fellows pursuing the Oral Health Informatics fellowship at NIDCR. Since then, he has become passionate about informatics and its applications within dentistry, particularly public health. As a clinical research honors student at CCTR, Mousa is gaining exposure to innovative ways that information technology can support Clinical and Translational Research. Outside of research, he plays on the intramural soccer team, and beatboxes for the Dental School’s acapella group, SoundBites. His favorite cereal is Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Jiahui (Madelaine) Li
Clinical Research Honors Program 2020-2021

Summer Student Interns

Nicholas Hlinka

Summer 2023

Nicholas Hlinka is a committed student from the Wentworth Institute of Technology, specializing in Biomedical Engineering. He has joined the Center for Clinical and Translational Research as a summer intern, keen to expand his practical experience and deepen his understanding of clinical research.

Nick has consistently demonstrated a strong interest in the synergy between engineering and biological sciences. His rigorous academic training has equipped him with a comprehensive grasp of biomedical engineering, and he is eager to leverage this knowledge in various projects at our center.

Throughout his internship, Nicholas engaged in multiple facets of clinical research, contributing to ongoing projects and gaining critical insights into the field. His enthusiasm for biomedical engineering and his commitment to enhancing healthcare technologies make him a valuable asset to our team.

Peter Kavecky

International Student Intern, Summer 2022

Peter is a dedicated student from the Slovak University of Technology, where he is focusing on Biochemistry and Biophysical Chemistry for Pharmaceutical applications. Originally from Slovakia, he has joined the Center for Clinical and Translational Research as a summer intern, eager to expand his knowledge and experience in clinical research.

Throughout his studies, Peter has demonstrated a keen interest in the intersection of biochemistry and pharmaceutical sciences. His academic journey has equipped him with a strong foundation in these fields, and he is now applying his skills to various projects at our center.

During his time with us, Peter was involved in diverse aspects of clinical research, contributing to ongoing projects and gaining valuable insights into the field. His enthusiasm for pharmaceutical applications and commitment to advancing scientific knowledge make him a valuable addition to our team.

 

Rodrigo Bastos

International Post Doc, 2022-2023

Rodrigo joined the Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR) as an intern from Brazil, bringing with him a wealth of knowledge and experience from his medical background. Rodrigo earned his MD from UNIFIPMOC (Centro Universitário FIPMoc), where he developed a strong foundation in medical sciences and clinical practice.

Rodrigo has a deep interest in psychiatry, focusing on understanding the human mind, its treatment, and ways to improve mental health. His dedication to this field is evident in his commitment to exploring innovative approaches to psychiatric care.

In addition to his passion for psychiatry, Rodrigo is also deeply invested in pediatrics. Since returning to Brazil, he has been working in the pediatric ER, an experience he describes as enriching. Rodrigo finds immense joy in interacting with children, providing them with the attention they sometimes lack at home, and answering their curious questions. His ability to navigate their minds and offer compassionate care has been a highlight of his medical practice.

During his internship at CCTR, Rodrigo contributed significantly to various projects, leveraging his clinical expertise and keen analytical abilities. His work has advanced our research initiatives, particularly in areas requiring detailed clinical insight and a nuanced understanding of medical principles.

We are grateful for Rodrigo’s dedication and the significant impact he has made during his time with us. His expertise and enthusiasm for clinical research continue to inspire and drive the success of our projects at the Center for Clinical and Translational Research.