Meet Our Team

Meet Our CFRI Team

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Dr. Jon McCullers is chair of the Department of Pediatrics for The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) and pediatrician in chief for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Before joining Le Bonheur, Dr. McCullers worked as a pediatric infectious disease researcher at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital studying influenza and bacterial infections. From the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, Dr. McCullers received his Bachelor of Arts degree in pre-medicine from the University of Virginia. He received his medical degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he also completed his internship and residency. He moved to Memphis, Tenn., in 1996 for a Pediatric Infectious Disease fellowship with a joint St. Jude/UT program. He joined St. Jude as an assistant faculty member in 2000 and became a full faculty member in 2011.

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Dr. Dennis Black serves as the director of the Children’s Foundation Research Institute and vice-president for Research for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. He is a professor of Pediatrics and Physiology and holds the J. D. Buckman Endowed Professorship in Pediatrics at UTHSC. From the Mid-South, Dr. Black received his medical degree from UTHSC. He completed his pediatric residency and gastroenterology fellowship at Le Bonheur. His research interests include pediatric liver disease, disorders of lipid metabolism and molecular mechanisms of fat absorption in the neonate. The NIH, FDA and several foundations have funded his research. He has served on the executive councils of the Society for Pediatric Research and the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition and on the NASPGHAN Research Committee as chair.

Marie Jackson
Marie Jackson, PhD, MBA

Dr. Jackson is senior director of the CFRI and provides leadership toward a vision of bridging scientific research and clinical care through the CFRI. She serves as a key partner of the CFRI, and her responsibilities include strategic planning, research infrastructure, clinical care standards, program development and service excellence.

Stephen Espy
Stephen Espy, MSCS

Stephen Espy, MSCS, is director of the Biomedical Informatics Core (BMIC) for CFRI. His responsibilities include research data management and governance as well as informatics innovation. He has a bachelor's in psychology from Rhodes College and a master's in computer science from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He previously served as CISO and Chief Data Officer for the City of Memphis and provided research technology architecture leadership at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Thomas Hobson
Thomas Hobson, MME, MHA, MT-BC, CCLS

Thomas Hobson has been with Le Bonheur Children's Hospital for nearly 15 years, having most recently served as the director of Child Life Services. While working with process improvement, budgeting and other such tasks, Hobson fell in love with the business side of healthcare and is now working with the CFRI as the business manager. His background training is as a music therapist, holding master's degrees in both music therapy and healthcare administration.

Billie Masek
Billie Masek, MS, MBA

Billie Masek is research laboratory manager and comes to CFRI from Johns Hopkins University where she served as laboratory manager in the Department of Emergency Medicine and the Division of Infectious Diseases. She has several years of laboratory management, basic research, clinical research and clinical laboratory experience. She has a Master of Biotechnology and Master of Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University.

Kerry Moore
Kerry Moore, RN, BS, CCRC

Kerry Moore serves as director of research/study coordinators for the CFRI. She coordinates efforts with UTHSC IRB, Le Bonheur and university staff. She has been a certified Clinical Research Coordinator through the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) for 16 years, and a nurse for 25 years. Her prior experience includes Manager of Clinical Research and Clinic Nursing Manager.

Tamekia L. Jones
Tamekia L. Jones, PhD

Dr. Tamekia Jones is a director of the CFRI’s Biostatistics Core. She assists investigators with study design, sample size and power calculations and statistical analyses. Jones earned her PhD in Biostatistics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and served as a senior statistician for frontline Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia clinical trials in the Children’s Oncology Group at the University of Florida. Her research interests include clinical trials, survival analysis, robust statistics, obesity, cardiovascular disease and health disparities. She is also an assistant professor in UTHSC’s Department of Pediatrics and Department of Preventive Medicine.

Christopher E. Smith
Christopher E. Smith, EMBA, MLS (ASCPCM)

Christopher Smith is director of finance and research lab operations of the CFRI. He oversees all financial activities for research including CFRI’s operational budget, financial reporting and implementing and improving financial processes. He also oversees research laboratory activities and operations to maintain and improve safety and collaboration of principal investigators. Chris has a master’s in business administration with a concentration in executive leadership.

Venessa Spearman
Venessa Spearman, MPA

Venessa Spearman is director of grant administration and contract development. She assists researchers by identifying funding sources and coordinating proposals to government agencies, foundations and other grant-making organizations. She also facilitates the contracting process for sponsored and investigator-initiated clinical research protocols.