NDRD Team Members

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Contact Information

Ph: 412-692-9955
Fax: 412-692-9900

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
One Children's Hospital Drive
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224

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NDRD Team Members

Dr. Escolar

Maria Escolar, MD, MS

Dr. Escolar established the NDRD in 2002 to help children and their families understand the overall effects of rare neurological diseases on child development. Dr. Escolar is a graduate of the Escuela Colombiana de Medicina. She has a Master of Science in human nutrition from Columbia University and completed a residency in general pediatrics and fellowship in child development and behavior at Cornell University Medical Center in 1995. Dr. Escolar is board-certified in neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Dr. Escolar is board-certified in neurodevelopmental disabilities and has 15 years of experience as a practicing clinician and researcher. Dr. Escolar has written multiple original manuscripts, including two published in the New England Journal of Medicine. She is nationally and internationally known for her work in the neurodevelopment of children with leukodystrophies and mucopolysaccharidosis. Her research focuses on behavioral and neuroimaging outcome measurements.


Michele Poe, PhD
Statistician, Research Manager

Dr. Poe is the lead statistician and NDRD Research Manager. She has been the primary statistician for the NDRD since 2003. Dr. Poe worked previously at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina (UNC), where she was involved in a variety of longitudinal research studies on autism and typical neurologic development. Dr. Poe's research interests include finite population statistics and the analysis of longitudinal neurodevelopmental data and neuroimaging data. Dr. Poe was also a member of the statistical core of the UNC Neurodevelopmental Research Center (NIH P30HD03110) from 2003 to 2011.

Jue Wu

Jue “John” Wu, PhD
Neuroimaging Analyst

Dr. Jue Wu, is a research associate of the UPSOM Department of Pediatrics. Dr. Wu joined the NDRD in 2015 to study brain changes in children with Lysosomal Storage Diseases. Dr. Wu was a postdoctoral fellow and research specialist at Radiology Department School of Medicine University of Pennsylvania for 6 years before coming to UPSOM. His main research interests include fetal and neonatal brain image processing and analysis, medical image segmentation and registration in neurodevelopment, lung imaging, epilepsy, computer vision and machine learning.


Xiao Hui Wang, PhD
Senior Clinical and Regulatory Coordinator

Xiao Hui Wang received her M.D. degree from Shanghai Second Medical College, her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the Medical College of Pennsylvania and her M.S. in Information Sciences from the University of Pittsburgh. She has many years of clinical and research experience in child development, neuroscience, medical imaging and women’s health. She joined the NDRD in 2016 as a Senor Clinical and Regulatory Coordinator to oversee all aspects of clinical research regulatory compliance with applicable regulations and standards, and perform overall management of projects to ensure that all work is conducted in a timely, complete and accurate manner.


Hannah Reiser, PNP
Pediatric Nurse Practioner

Hannah joined the NDRD team as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in August 2016. Hannah is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University where she obtained a Master of Science in nursing. Hannah was a LEND trainee at Ohio State’s Nisonger Center, a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service, where she was trained in the interdisciplinary care of children with developmental disabilities. Hannah also rotated through a variety of developmental clinics as part of her nurse practitioner education. Prior to grad school, Hannah attended the College of Wooster where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in neuroscience. For her senior thesis, Hannah studied the pattern of executive function development and decline in children, adolescents and young adults with Down syndrome to better understand the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease in individuals with Down syndrome.


Barbara Derenzo, RN
Clinical Research Nurse Coordinator

Barbie is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor’s of Science in Vocational Education. She graduated from University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Shadyside School of Nursing and began her professional nursing journey on the medical/surgical floor at UPMC Passavant Hospital, where she cared for patients with a high concentration in pulmonary, neurology, and gastroenterology. From there she was hired as a nurse coordinator involved with general pulmonology and sleep-related disorders at the Comprehensive Lung Center. She presently holds a casual position as a hospice nurse at Good Samaritan Hospice House in Wexford. She recently joined the Program for Neurodevelopment in Rare Disorders as the clinical research nurse coordinator. Her role includes direct clinic patient care, educating parents and families on disease processes, approaching prospective participants for research and obtaining informed consent, facilitating the specimen collection process, and acting as liaison between study personnel, patients, researchers, and clinical staff. Barbie is eager to grow professionally and contribute to the successful care of patients and their families. She is enthusiastic about her involvement in the clinical research that is instrumental in directing the care for our patients in the Program for the Study of Neurodevelopment in Rare Disorders.


Mary Brannaman, MPA
Program Coordinator

Ms. Brannaman joined the NDRD Clinic in June, 2014. She transferred from UPMC Passavant Hospital where she held various positions over the last two and a half years. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from DeVry University and a Master’s of Public Administration with a concentration in Healthcare Administration from Keller Graduate School. She has a background in working with young adults and children with developmental disabilities including, Angleman Syndrome, Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Fragile X Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and Intellectual Disabilities.


Jodi Martin
Research Coordinator

Ms. Martin has a Master of Science degree from La Roche College and has recently joined the NDRD team as a Research Coordinator. She has worked for the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC in similar positions over the last 11 years. Her experience includes recruitment, budgeting, managing the care of participants participating in research, ensuring compliance with protocol procedures, assessments, reporting requirements as well as management of symptoms.


Dayna Pitcairn, MA, CCC-SLP
Lead Speech Language Pathologist

Dayna has more than 20 years experience assessing, treating, and researching speech and language skills of children. Clinical responsibilities have included assessing and treating children with developmental speech and language deficits, speech and language deficits due to hearing loss, central auditory processing difficulties, and word retrieval deficits. She has worked with children with epilepsy and cerebral palsy, and children with cochlear implants and/or hearing aids. As a research coordinator, Dayna was responsible for the administration of several NIH grants and subcontracts through the Center for Research on Acquired and Neurologic Communication Disorders in Children, including a traumatic brain injury study. She has performed cognitive and speech language assessments for hundreds of children (3, 4, 6 and 9-12 years old) enrolled in a longitudinal study of Child Development/Otitis Media. Dayna has a Master degree in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Pittsburgh and is an ASHA-certified and Pennsylvania licensed speech language pathologist. In addition to participating regularly in continuing education programs, Dayna attended the 10th Annual Summer Institute in Auditory-Verbal-Therapy at the University of North Carolina and Center for Acquisition of Spoken Language Through Listening Enrichment (CASTLE) and the program for Accelerating Spoken Language Development for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children at The Moog Center for Deaf Education in St. Louis, MO.

Lynn A.C. Golightly M.S. CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Lynn has more than 5 years experience working with early intervention, assessing, treating, and researching speech and language skills of children. Clinical responsibilities have included assessing and treating children with developmental speech and language deficits, developmental apraxia of speech, dysarthria of speech, fluency disorders, and speech and language deficits due to cognitive disorders/traumatic brain injuries. She evaluates and treats patients for feeding and swallowing disorders ranging in ages from infancy to adulthood.  She has worked with children with epilepsy and cerebral palsy as well as children with autism spectrum disorders.  Lynn has a Master degree in Speech Language Pathology from Clarion University and is an ASHA-certified and Pennsylvania licensed speech language pathologist. Her clinical responsibilities include administering Speech, Language, and psychometric tests to children with rare neurodegenerative disorders to determine their functional skills and provide recommendations for developmental intervention.

Karen Karnavas, MSPT
Physical Therapist

Karen has over 19 years of experience evaluating and treating children with gross motor and developmental delays in both the inpatient and outpatient settings. Her clinical responsibilities include assessing motor skills through objective testing as well as assessing adaptive equipment and braces. Karen has been involved in research in several capacities.  She was a clinical evaluator for CINRG (Cooperative International Neuromuscular Research Group) which included evaluating boys with muscular dystrophy. She was also a site evaluator for Genzyme assessing patients with Pompe’s Disease. Karen obtained her Master of Science degree in physical therapy from the Medical College of Virginia in 1994.  She also has a Master of Science degree in exercise physiology from West Virginia University and a Bachelors degree in psychology from Marshall University.