Biographies of Key Personnel

Kyle Womack, M.D.
Principal Investigator
UT Southwestern Medical Center

Shahid Shafi, M.D., M.P.H., FACS
Project Director
Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation

Dr. Shafi is Director of Rehabilitation Research at BIR, a BHCS Clinical Research Scholar, as well as a trauma surgeon. He completed his undergraduate and medical degree at Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan, and a Masters of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. His primary research interests and experience include traumatic brain injury and rehabilitation research and measuring performance of trauma centers using Comparative Effectiveness Research methods. He has extensive experience leading multi-site research collaborations and working with large clinical and administrative data such as the National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB). Prior to joining BHCS, he served as an Assistant Professor of Surgery at UTSW; Assistant Professor (Adjunct), School of Public Health, University of Texas at Houston-Dallas Campus; and Medical Director of Trauma Surgical Services at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas. He has published more than 20 peer-reviewed papers related to improving the quality of patient care across the continuum from trauma to rehabilitation, and has presented his work at multiple national conferences. He is the founding member of the Trauma Quality Improvement Project (TQIP) of the American College of Surgeons. He also serves on the board of directors of the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma (EAST) and chairs the committee on Injury Assessment and Outcome Measurement for American Association for the Surgery of Trauma (AAST). Dr. Shafi has served as a PI on several multi-site grants, including the AHRQ-funded From NSQIP to TQIP – Trauma Quality Improvement Project (1R01HS017718) and a study funded by the National Trauma Institute, Comparative Effectiveness of Clinical Care in Resuscitation and Management of Moderate to Severe Traumatic Injuries – a Multicenter Study.

Ramon Diaz-Arrastia, M.D., Ph.D.
Consultant and Past Principal Investigator
UT Southwestern Medical Center

Ramon Diaz-Arrastia, M.D., Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics at UT Southwestern Medical Center. From October 2002 through July 2011, Dr. Diaz-Arrastia was Project Director and Principal Investigator for the North Texas TBI Model System. In July 2011, Dr. Diaz-Arrastia moved to Washington, D.C., to become Director of Clinical Research at the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine and Professor of Neurology at the Uniformed Service University of the Health Sciences.

He holds a B.A. in Biochemistry magna cum laude from Rice University, a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Baylor College of Medicine, and an M.D. cum laude from Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Diaz-Arrastia completed a medical internship at Harvard Medical School and a residency in neurology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. He subsequently completed a fellowship at the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University before moving to Dallas in 1993. Dr. Diaz-Arrastia is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and is board eligible for the American Board of Clinical Neurophysiology. Awards and honors received by Dr. Diaz-Arrastia include Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Omega Alpha, and the National Research Service Award.

Dr. Diaz-Arrastia has more than 120 journal publications and abstracts to his credit including publications on neuroimaging in epilepsy, homocysteine and neurologic disease, and the neurophysiologic and neuroradiologic features of intractable epilepsy after traumatic brain injury in adults. Dr. Diaz-Arrastia has had an interest in traumatic brain injury, and in November 1998 started a traumatic brain injury registry at Parkland Memorial Hospital. He was lead author on an analysis of intractable epilepsy resulting from traumatic brain injury published last year.

His background as a neuroscientist combining the basic science of neurology with the clinical correlates of neurologic disorders provides an excellent basis for the research projects of the North Texas Model System for Traumatic Brain Injury.

Dr. Diaz-Arrastia is fluent in Spanish, and has frequently participated in community outreach and media presentations to the Spanish-speaking community on topics such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and traumatic brain injury.

Caryn Harper, M.S., CCRC
Project Manager/Administrator
UT Southwestern Medical Center

She received a B.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in Sociology from Southern Methodist University. She has a Master of Science degree in Human Development from the University of Texas in Dallas.

Her research experience includes projects in affective disorders, learning disabilities, and brain injuries. She was a board member and secretary of the executive board of the Learning Disabilities Association and an editorial reviewer for the Journal of Child Neurology. In 2000, she received the Master Service Award for the LDA. Her publications include 6 book chapters which she co-authored with pediatric behavioral neurologist, Warren Weinberg, M.D., and more than 30 articles and posters in developmental and behavioral neurology as well as more than 20 publications on traumatic brain injury.

She has been with UT Southwestern since 1988 and joined the North Texas TBI research team in November of 2002. She has been project coordinator on four NIH-funded grants focusing on TBI.  

Cindy Dunklin, B.S., CCRC
Project Administrator
Baylor Institute for Research

Ms. Dunklin is a Certified Clinical Research Coordinator and has 9 years of experience with the TBIMS project. Ms. Dunklin coordinates collaborative module projects with other centers in the TBIMS and assures that relevant assessments are complete and benchmarks are met. She has primary responsibility for maintaining enrollment and coordinating study logistics with the UTSW and John Peter Smith sites.

Libby Callender, B.A., CCRC
Research Coordinator
Baylor Institute for Research

Ms. Callender has three years of experience on the TBIMS project and is a Certified Clinical Research Coordinator and speaks fluent Spanish. She is responsible for conducting follow-up interviews at 1, 2, and 5 and 10 years post-injury for the BIR and JPS participants and has an excellent track record of following our patients for the longitudinal database. Ms. Callender also coordinates local projects for the NTTBIMS.

Chris Paliotta, B.A.
Clinical Research Coordinator
UT Southwestern Medical Center

Mr. Paliotta has 4 years of experience supporting TBI research. Mr. Paliotta speaks fluent Spanish and enrolls potential subject and conducts follow-up interviews for the patients that received their care at UT Southwestern at 1, 2, 5, and 10 years post-injury. He's also responsible for local project participation at the UTSW site of the NTTBIMS.

Karen Kowalske, M.D.
UT Southwestern Medical Center

Dr. Kowalske is Professor and Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at UT Southwestern and Medical Director of the inpatient rehabilitation units at Parkland Memorial Hospital and Zale Lipshy University Hospital.

Dr. Kowalske obtained her B.S. and M.D. degree from the University of Florida where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She completed her internship and residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia before moving to Dallas in 1990.

She has authored more than 20 peer-reviewed publications in rehabilitation medicine and has 25 years of experience in treating patients with traumatic brain injury. Although her primary interest is in burn rehabilitation, she also has an active interest in outcome after polytrauma including multiple fractures and traumatic brain injuries, and has two TBI-related publications.

John Thottakara, M.D.
UT Southwestern Medical Center

Dr. Thottakara is the Medical Director of Inpatient Rehabilitation at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Medical Director of Outpatient PM&R TBI Clinical at Parkland, and Director of Trauma Rehabilitation Services at Parkland. He also provides onsite visits to Pate Rehabilitation. He completed his residency in PM&R at Wayne State University and subsequently came to UT Southwestern Medical Center to complete a fellowship in TBI.