Duke’s STAR Program Faculty and Staff
Danny Benjamin, MD, PhD, MPH
Dr. Benjamin is the Kiser-Arena Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics at Duke University, adjunct professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health, and adjunct professor of pharmacy at the University of North Carolina School of Pharmacy. Dr. Benjamin has active NIH-sponsored research in clinical pharmacology, therapeutics, trials, and pharmacoepidemiology. He is the author of more than 150 peer-reviewed publications. He has led or is leading more than 20 clinical trials for FDA labeling, and his annual research budget is $15,000,000. He is the principal investigator and chair for the Pediatric Trials Network (PTN), an NICHD-sponsored initiative to study off-patent therapeutics in children of all ages. In that role, he has broad oversight of 5–7 multicenter trials and 3–6 pharmacoepidemiology projects each year. He recruits the protocol chair for each project and oversees selection of all team members and operations staff. In addition to his research activities, Dr. Benjamin has a track record for dedication to mentorship and education of trainees at all levels. He is the PI of a K24 (NICHD) grant and co-PI of a T32 (NIGMS) grant, as well as faculty mentor for four faculty mentees supported by the NIH.
Vivian Chu, MD, MHS
Dr. Chu is an associate professor of medicine at Duke University and co-director of the Duke Medical Student Clinical Research Study Program. Dr. Chu has expertise in infective endocarditis and clinical trials and has more than 30 peer-reviewed publications. She is the recipient of the American Heart Association Career Development Award to study the pathogenesis of coagulase-negative staphylococcal infective endocarditis (IE) (0675027N: 2006 – 2012) and an NIH R34 Clinical Trials planning grant (1R34AI098620-01: 2012) to determine the optimal duration of antibiotic therapy following surgery for IE. She is the co-director of the International Collaboration on Endocarditis (ICE), a multinational consortium of investigators from 64 sites in 28 countries dedicated to research in IE. She directs the activities of the ICE group, including the development of new projects, database oversight, conference coordination, manuscript preparation, and funding acquisition. Dr. Chu teaches the infective endocarditis course for Duke medical students annually. She has mentored upcoming physician-scientists ranging from undergraduates to fellows.
P. Brian Smith, MD, MPH, MHS
Dr. Smith is professor of pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, and chief of the Division of Quantitative Sciences. Dr. Smith has significant expertise in the design and execution of clinical trials and has led a series of multicenter pediatric studies, including trials for pediatric labeling. He is the principal investigator of two federally sponsored grants. He was invited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to collaborate on a series of projects related to the Pediatric Exclusivity Program, providing him with in-depth knowledge of the specific intricacies of pediatric drug-trial regulations and ethical considerations. Dr. Smith has formally mentored many physician-scientists.
Michael Cohen-Wolkowiez, MD, PhD
Dr. Cohen-Wolkowiez is associate professor of pediatrics, Divisions of Infectious Diseases and Quantitative Sciences. Dr. Cohen-Wolkowiez has substantial expertise in the design and execution of clinical trials, as well as expertise in pediatric pharmacology to optimize dosing for children (pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics). He has led a series of multicenter pediatric studies, including trials for pediatric labeling. He is the principal investigator of one federally sponsored grant. He also spent 2 years as a scientific advisor to the Office of Pediatric Therapeutics at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and collaborated with the clinical pharmacology team on a series of projects related to pediatric dosing and ethical aspects of pediatric regulatory submissions. Dr. Cohen-Wolkowiez has formally mentored many physician-scientists.
Austin Chan, MD
Dr. Chan is an infectious diseases fellow at Duke University Medical Center. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at Emory University in creative writing and went on to complete medical school and internal medicine residency at the same institution. Dr. Chan is currently pursuing a Master of Health Sciences degree with a focus on clinical pharmacology through the Duke Clinical Research Training Program. His research interests include pharmacokinetics in elderly populations, in addition to hepatitis C and HIV co-infection. Dr. Chan hopes to pursue a career in academic medicine with a focus on training new physicians.
Rachel Greenberg, MD, MHS
Rachel Greenberg, MD, is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center. She obtained her MD from Duke University and completed her residency, chief residency, and neonatal perinatal medicine fellowship in Pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center. She also has a master’s degree in biostatistics at Duke University. Dr. Greenberg’s research focuses on infections in the neonatal intensive care unit, as well as improving safety and efficacy of drugs in premature infants. She served as a mentor for the 2015 Duke's STAR Program.
Lawrence Ku, MD
Dr. Ku is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, at the Duke University Medical Center. He is currently pursuing a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Division of Pharmacotherapy and Experimental Therapeutics. Dr. Ku’s research focuses on infant clinical pharmacology, pharmacometrics, and drug metabolism. He has been a lecturer for the Duke's STAR Program since its inception in 2013.
Julia Messina, MD, MSc
Dr. Messina is a transplant infectious disease fellow in the Department of Medicine and a Duke Clinical Research Institute fellow. She completed a Master of Science degree in anatomy and neurobiology, medical school, and an internal medicine residency at Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Messina is pursuing a Master of Health Science degree in clinical research through the Duke Clinical Research Training Program. Her research focuses on invasive enterococcal infections in patients with hematologic malignancies. Dr. Messina served as a mentor for the 2015 Duke's STAR Program.
Kevin L Thomas, MD
Dr. Thomas is a cardiac electrophysiologist and an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiovascular Disease at Duke University Medical Center. He maintains multiple administrative positions across Duke Health including: Assistant Dean of Underrepresented Faculty Development, Director of Faculty Diversity and Health Disparities Research at the Duke Clinical Research Institute, Associate Director of the Duke CTSA TL-1 scholars program, Co-director of the Duke Health Disparities Research Curriculum, and member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for URM Faculty. His work in the field of disparities in therapies to prevent sudden cardiac arrest has received national recognition, and his study on racial differences in cardiovascular mortality was featured in Ebony magazine. His passion and commitment to eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in cardiovascular care and outcomes is reflected in his research focus and mentoring of students, residents, and fellows committed to careers in health disparity research.
Kanecia Zimmerman, MD, MPH
Kanecia Zimmerman, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Critical Care Medicine, at Duke University Medical Center. She is also pursuing a PhD in pharmacoepidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Public Health. Dr. Zimmerman is the recipient of a Duke CTSA Career Development Award, and she focuses her research on improving the safety of drugs administered to critically ill children. A recent graduate of the Duke Clinical Research Institute Fellowship program, Dr. Zimmerman is passionate about teaching and mentoring young scientists. She served as a mentor for the 2015 Duke's STAR Program.
Amanda McMillan, MPH, MA
Amanda McMillan provides didactic training in medical writing and results presentation. Formerly a senior science writer for Dr. Benjamin’s pharmacometrics group and now an education program manager at the Duke Clinical and Translational Science Institute, she has more than 10 years of experience in assisting clinician-researchers with the preparation of research findings for dissemination in a variety of formats, from peer-reviewed journal articles to poster presentations. This experience, paired with her graduate-level training in writing instruction, enables her to tailor a writing curriculum to the unique needs of the trainees.
Divine Pinson has been employed by the Duke Clinical Research Institute since 2010, serving in a variety of administrative roles. In 2012, she received the Karen S. Pieper Fellowship Supporter Award for her work assisting DCRI fellows acclimate to the DCRI environment. She has been involved with the Duke's STAR Program since its inception in 2013, acting as a critical partner in the day-to-day logistics of the program.