CONNECT-TBI is led by our Primary Investigators, Drs. Douglas Smith and William Stewart. Both have had a continuous decades-long collaboration identifying mechanisms of TBI and how these early events initiate or contribute to progressive neuropathological changes. In addition, they have extensive experience in the examination of the chronic neuropathologies of TBI in context with other neurodegenerative disorders. Together, this team brings extensive intellectual and material resources to characterize important features of TReND that are already known to be found in multiple forms of TBI (e.g. single severe TBI, repetitive mild TBI), having already published multiple, highly cited, original research papers.
Leadership extends to other team members who will direct and contribute to Cores and Research Projects. While the physical Cores will be housed at the University of Pennsylvania, Core work and Research Projects will be performed across all institutions through internet interfaces, frequent leadership videoconference interaction and face-to-face meetings, including an annual CONNECT-TBI General Assembly. Our network of co-investigators includes top professionals in their respective fields whose collective expertise puts this project at the forefront of TReND.
Safa Al-Saraj, PhD
King's College London
Claire Troakes, PhD
King's College London
National Institutes of Health & National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH/NINDS) Scientific Officer
A unique feature of the U54 Grant is the active role NIH/NINDS has in our path and progress. Hibah Awwad, PhD serves as the NIH/NINDS Scientific Program Official on CONNECT-TBI. Dr. Awwad participates as a member of the Internal Governance and General Assembly providing valuable insights and guidance to maximize outcomes for the project and its impact on TBI related neurodegeneration research.
Dr. Awwad earned her Bachelor's degree in Pharmacy from Amman University, Jordan. She worked at the Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, before earning her doctorate degree in Pharmacology from the University of Houston, Texas. Prior to joining NINDS, Dr. Awwad served as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and has been recognized with multiple awards for her excellence in teaching, mentoring and research. Dr. Awwad's research focused on understanding mechanisms that contribute to functional deficits and recovery following a mild or moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI). Her research projects utilized molecular, biochemical, neurological, behavioral and imaging methods to study potential pharmacotherapies in various rodent models of TBI. Dr. Awwad enjoys volunteering in leadership roles to mentor young scientists and to increase neuroscience awareness through public outreach events.
Nsini Umoh, PhD is the Administrative Program Official. Dr. Umoh received her PhD from Howard University in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics and did post-doctoral training in extremity trauma at Yale University and the U.S Army Institute of Surgical Research. Before joining NINDS, she served as a scientific program manager at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Research & Development. While at the VA, she managed research related to traumatic brain injury, women's health, and health equity. Before joining the VA, Nsini spent 3 years as a portfolio manager at the U.S Department of Defense (DoD) Medical Research and Development Command (MRDC) headquartered in Frederick, MD. While at MRDC, Nsini worked with the Combat Casualty Care Research Program (CCCRP) to manage research related to the early management of combat-related neurotrauma on the battlefield.
Acknowledgement and thanks to Patrick Bellgowan, PhD, and Debra Babcock, MD, PhD, who helped launch this program in 2019 as Scientific Program Official and Administrative Program Official respectively.
Hibah Awwad, PhD
Nsini Umoh, PhD
External Advisory Board
The EAB comprises a multidisciplinary group of recognized research leaders in TBI with extensive experience in, among other things, large scale, multi-center collaborative research in TBI (Drs. David Menon, Andrew Maas), networked research tissue archiving in neuropathology (Dr. James Nicoll) and high impact, researcher-led studies in TBI (Drs. Fiona Crawford, Kathryn Saatman). The EAB will review progress in CONNECT-TBI on a quarterly basis with Drs. Smith and Stewart as well as participate in the annual CONNECT-TBI general assembly.