Meet the Researchers
Mark Sherer, PhD
Associate Vice President for Research
Mark Sherer, PhD, serves as Associate Vice President for Research at TIRR Memorial Hermann. In this role, he coordinates research activities at TIRR Memorial Hermann. A board-certified neuropsychologist with more than 30 years of experience as a clinician, administrator and educator in brain injury rehabilitation, Dr. Sherer is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, the National Academy of Neuropsychology and the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine.
Dr. Sherer has served as principal investigator for grants on Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) recovery, impaired self-awareness, telephone counseling for persons with TBI, TBI community integration and rehabilitation of brain tumor patients, treatment of agitation and aggressiveness after TBI, and rehabilitation of brain tumor patients. He has published more than 150 articles and book chapters and made numerous presentations at state, national and international conferences. He is currently the Principal Investigator for the Texas Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Model System at TIRR Memorial Hermann.
He is the recipient of Robert L. Moody Prize for Distinguished Initiatives in Brain Injury Research and Rehabilitation, awarded by The University of Texas Medical Branch School of Health Professions and the Transitional Learning Center of Galveston. His scientific and clinical contributions have also been acknowledged with the Mitchell Rosenthal Award for Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems National Database Research, awarded by the TBI Model Systems Program; the Leonard Diller Award for Scholarly Contributions to Neurorehabilitation from the American Psychological Association Division of Rehabilitation Psychology; the Williams Fields Caveness Award for National and International Contributions to Bettering the Lives of People Who Have Sustained Brain Injury, from the Brain Injury Association of America; and the Harold E. Yuker Award for Research Excellence from the Rehabilitation Psychology Journal and the Rehabilitation Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association.
Gerard E. Francisco, MD
UTHealth PM&R, Director, NeuroRecovery Research Center (NRRC)
Gerard E. Francisco, MD, is Professor (with tenure) and Chairman of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) at UTHealth McGovern Medical School. He is also the Chief Medical Officer and founding Director of the NeuroRecovery Research Center at TIRR Memorial Hermann. His research projects encompass a wide range of areas within motor recovery in persons with stroke, brain, and spinal cord injuries, including wearable exoskeletons, neuromodulation and neural interfaces, and robot-assisted rehabilitation. In addition, he conducts therapeutic trials in spasticity management using botulinum toxins and intrathecal baclofen. As a national leader in PM&R he actively leads international and national associations, such as the International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (inaugural editor-in-chief of the Journal of ISPRM) and the American Board of PM&R (director). Recent leadership positions include the Accreditation Commission for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Review Committee for PM&R (chair) and the Association of Academic Physiatrists (president). He has been honored with the Sidney Licht Lecture Award by the ISPRM and Distinguished Member, and Distinguished Teaching Professor by the University of Texas Systems.View Physician Profile »
Lex Frieden, MA, LLD
Co-Director, Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU)
Lex Frieden, MA, LLD, is Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Rehabilitation at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). He also directs the Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) program at TIRR Memorial Hermann. Frieden has served as chairperson of the National Council on Disability, president of Rehabilitation International, and chairperson of the American Association of People with Disabilities. He is recognized as one of the founders of the independent living movement by people with disabilities. He was instrumental in conceiving and drafting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Frieden currently serves on the board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO).
Richard Petty, MBA
Co-Director, Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU); Director, National Center for Aging and Disability (NCAD)
Richard Petty, MBA is Co-Director of ILRU and Director of the National Center for Aging and Disability (NCAD) at TIRR. NCAD addresses the concerns of persons with disabilities who are aging and those who acquire disabilities as they age. Petty has served as the executive director of the National Resource Center for Participant-Directed Services and as research professor in the School of Social Work at Boston College. Petty serves as Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at the McGovern Medical School. He has directed the ILRU New Community Opportunities Center, a national center that fosters innovative community programs and adult and youth transitions from institution to community. He directed the IL-NET, the single national technical assistance and training resource for independent living organizations that foster community independence for people with disabilities. Petty chairs the Houston Commission on Disabilities and is board chair of LINK Houston, a mobility equity organization operating in Houston. Petty holds an MBA degree from the C.T. Bauer School of Business at the University of Houston.
Angelle Sander, PhD
Baylor College of Medicine, Director, Brain Injury Research Center (BIRC)
Angelle Sander, PhD, is an associate professor with tenure in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and director of the division of Clinical Neuropsychology and Rehabilitation Psychology at Baylor College of Medicine. She is co-project director for the Texas Traumatic Brain Injury Model System of TIRR for which she leads a multisite collaborative project on health literacy and its impact on health outcomes following TBI. She is also site PI for a project on developing a quality of life measure for caregivers of persons with TBI and on a study examining the relationship between negative attributions and anger and aggression following TBI.
Dr. Sander’s history of federal grant funding began in 1997. Her areas of expertise include caregiver assessment and interventions, cognitive and psychosocial interventions, community integration of persons with TBI, intimacy and sexuality after TBI, assessing and treating substance abuse in persons with TBI, and ethnic diversity in outcomes. She has more than 80 peer-reviewed publications and numerous book chapters and published abstracts.
Heather B. Taylor, MS, MEd, PhD
Director, Spinal Cord Injury and Disability Research Center (SCIDR)
Heather B. Taylor, MS, MEd, PhD, is the Director for Spinal Cord Injury and Disability Research (SCIDR) at TIRR Memorial Hermann. She is a Senior Scientist at TIRR MEMORIAL HERMANN, and the former Associate Director for Research for the Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD) in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Taylor has focused her research on health, motor recovery and learning, and psychosocial functioning with a strong emphasis on women and children with SCI. She has been published widely and presented nationally and internationally on research in the context of SCI. Dr. Taylor is the current Chair for the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine’s SCI Interdisciplinary Special Interest Group Women’s Health Task Force (ACRM SCI-ISIG WHTF) focusing on the unique concerns of women’s health after SCI. She is Chair for the Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems Special Interest Group on Women’s Health, and past Chair for the American Spinal Injury Association’s (ASIA) Pediatric Committee sharing her mission to improve the lives of women and children with SCI. Dr. Taylor is the project director for the Texas Model Spinal Cord Injury System. She is also a principal investigator on multiple projects and subcontracts including her NIDILRR funded longitudinal study on pain, depression, and resilience among men and women with SCI.
Shuo-Hsiu “James” Chang, PT, PhD
UTHealth PM&R, NeuroRecovery Research Center (NRRC)
Shuo-Hsiu “James” Chang, PT, PhD, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the McGovern Medical School. He is also the Administrative Director of the NeuroRecovery Research Center (NRRC) and a Scientist at TIRR Memorial Hermann. Dr. Chang is a physical therapist from Taiwan and received an MS and PhD in Human Movement Science, with specialty in motor control and learning, from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received the Fellowship in Geriatric Research Award from Section on Geriatrics, American Physical Therapy Association in 2005 for his significant contribution in geriatric research. During his postdoctoral training at the University of Iowa, his research focused on neuromuscular plasticity and neurophysiology.
As a human movement specialist, his research focus centers on the mechanism of motor recovery with emphasis on effects of neuromuscular modulation, and clinical application of rehabilitation robotic devices in gait rehabilitation, mobility and community integration. He is particularly interested in developing effective intervention that can exercise paralyzed or weak muscles and facilitate plasticity in neuromuscular and musculoskeletal systems in patients with neurological disability. He received funds to investigate the effects of peripheral stimulation on spinal and cortical excitability and identify biomarkers that may modulate the excitability following neurological injury and the effects of lower limb exoskeleton locomotion training on gait in patients with neurological injury.
Matthew Davis, MD
Matthew Davis, MD, is board certified in Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) medicine, Dr. Davis has been serving as SCI Clinical Medical Director at TIRR since 2014, attending physician in SCI services at TIRR since 2001, and as Clinical Assistant Professor in PM&R at UTHealth since 2007. Dr. Davis received a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and completed a fellowship in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at the University of Washington in Seattle.View Physician Profile »
William H. Donovan, MD
William H. Donovan, MD, is Emeritus Professor at UTHealth in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Dr. Donovan served on the Spinal Cord Injury staff at TIRR beginning in 1980 and served as Medical Director from 1988-2008. He is founder and first chairperson of the Department of PM&R at the University of Texas Medical School serving from 1993 until 2008. Dr. Donovan is a past president of the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) and of the International Spinal Cord Society (ISCoS), and is the recipient of the highest awards bestowed by these societies, namely the ASIA Life Time Achievement Award and the ISCoS Silver Medal. He has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles including 77 book chapters as well as other publications related to Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). Dr. Donovan currently serves as Senior Advisor for the Texas Model Spinal Cord Injury System and provides guidance and his educational expertise to physicians and residents at TIRR Memorial Hermann.
Sheng Li, MD, PhD
UTHealth, PM&R, NeuroRecovery Research Center (NRRC)
Sheng Li, MD, PhD, is Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at McGovern Medical School. Dr Li received his medical degree from Beijing Medical University, Beijing, China. He obtained his PhD degree in Kinesiology from Pennsylvania State University, and subsequently completed a post-doctoral research fellowship in Neurorehabilitation at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago with a focus on spasticity management and stroke rehabilitation. He was an Assistant Professor in the school of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science at the University of Montana from 2004 to 2008. Dr. Li joined the McGovern Medical School PM&R department as an Associate Professor in July 2013 after he completed his PM&R residency training on a Clinical Investigator Pathway.
Dr Li’s primary clinical focus is spasticity management and neurorehabilitation after neurological impairments, mainly stroke and traumatic brain injury. Dr. Li is the Director of Neurorehabilitation Research Laboratory at TIRR Memorial Hermann Research Center. His main research focus is sensory and motor recovery after neurological impairments, including pathophysiology and management of spasticity, motor control and motor recovery after stroke, and neuropathic pain. He has invented a technique – breathing-controlled electrical stimulation (BreEStim) as a non-pharmacological intervention for management of spasticity and neuropathic pain. He has published more than 60 peer-reviewed journal articles on these topics. His research has been continuously supported by federal grants (NIDILRR, NIH, including an NIH R01 grant), foundation grants (Mission Connect, a program of TIRR Foundation) and industrial research grants. Dr. Li has served as a regular member of the Motor Function, Speech and Rehabilitation (MFSR) study section at the NIH (2011-2015). Dr. Li is currently an Associate Editor with Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, and a guest Editor with Frontiers in Neurology and Neural Plasticity. Dr. Li is the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Early Career Award from the Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP).
Dr Li is a member of the Association of Academic Physiatrists, the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and the Society for Neuroscience.View Physician Profile »
Xiaoyan Li, PhD
UTHealth, PM&R, NeuroRecovery Research Center (NRRC)
Xiaoyan Li, PhD, received her BS degree in Electrical Engineering from Anhui University, and M.S. degree in Biomedical Engineering from University of Science and Technology of China, both in Hefei, China. She obtained her second M.S. degree in Computer Sciences from Loyola University Chicago, and her PhD. degree in Bioengineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Later she was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Institute for Neural Computation of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), CA, and in the Sensory Motor Performance Program of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, IL. She was a research assistant professor in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) of Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, prior to her joining the PM&R department of McGovern Medical School as assistant professor in 2014.
Vinh Nguyen, JD
Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU)
Vinh Nguyen, JD, is the Project Director of the Southwest ADA Center and Project Coordinator for the ADA Participation Action Research Consortium (ADA-PARC). He is a graduate of the University of Houston Law Center. His research interests include the accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face with employment, community living, information technology, and the role of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in addressing these barriers.
Marcia K. O'Malley, PhD
Rice University, NeuroRecovery Research Center (NRRC) and Director, Rehabilitation Engineering at TIRR
Marcia K. O'Malley, PhD, is Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Rice University where she directs the Mechatronics and Haptic Interfaces Lab. She currently also serves as Special Advisor to the Provost on Health Related Research and Educational Initiatives. She holds joint appointments in the departments of Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice, and is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at both Baylor College of Medicine and the UTHealth McGovern Medical School in Houston. Additionally, she is the Director of Rehabilitation Engineering at TIRR and co-founder of Houston Medical Robotics, Inc. Her research interests focus on the issues that arise when humans physically interact with robotic systems. One thrust of her lab is the design of haptic feedback and shared control between robotic devices and their human users for training and rehabilitation in virtual environments. Psychophysical studies provide insight into the effect of haptic cues on human motor adaptation, skill acquisition, and the restoration of motor coordination. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and currently serves on the editorial boards of the IEEE Transactions on Robotics and the ACM Journal of Human Robot Interactions.
Susan Robinson-Whelen, PhD
Spinal Cord Injury and Disability Research Center (SCIDR)
Susan Robinson-Whelen, PhD, is a Scientist at TIRR Memorial Hermann, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), and a Senior Investigator at the Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD). She holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Washington University-St Louis, and has participated in multiple grants as Co-PI or Co-I, including a Craig Neilson Foundation grant addressing weight management in people with SCI, and Co-I on NIDILRR field-initiated research projects.
Argyrios Stampas, MD
Argyrios Stampas, MD, serves as Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Research Medical Director at TIRR. He also delivers rehabilitation medical services to patients with acute and chronic spinal cord injury. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at the University of Texas McGovern Medical School in Houston. Dr. Stampas received a Doctor of Medicine degree from the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in 2005. He completed an SCI Fellowship at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2010which allowed him to incorporate electric stimulation in the outpatient rehabilitation of spinal cord injury. He also did a residency and internship in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He is board certified in spinal cord and brain injury medicine. He has been able to take this education and use it in the inpatient rehabilitation setting. As a clinical researcher, he advances the field of rehabilitation using electric stimulation in the acute period to prevent problems commonly found in chronic spinal cord injury, including neurogenic bladder, autonomic dysreflexia, and spasticity. Dr. Stampas, who has been working at TIRR since 2014, has obtained funding from Mission Connect and has contributed in many other ways to the SCI research program.View Physician Profile
Lisa R Wenzel, MD
Baylor College of Medicine PM&R
Lisa R Wenzel, MD, is an attending physician at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital treating both SCI inpatients and outpatients. She has previously served as the chair of the health committee for the NeuroRecovery Network (NRN), evaluating the effect of body weight supported treadmill training on various health parameters including bone health, respiratory, quality of life, bowel and bladder, lipids, and other health markers, and the planning committee for the American Spinal Cord Injury Association (ASIA). Dr. Wenzel is active in the management of the spinal cord injury program at TIRR, and the infection control, pharmacy, and therapeutics committee. Dr. Wenzel has a special interest in women’s health and collaborates on research projects investigating women’s health and spinal cord injury. She is co-investigator for the Texas Model Spinal Cord Injury System site specific project that evaluates a psychosocial health intervention for women with SCI.View Physician Profile »
Nuray Yozbatiran, PT, PhD
UTHealth PM&R, NeuroRecovery Research Center (NRRC)
Nuray Yozbatiran, PT, PhD, is Assistant Professor for Research in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at UTHealth. Dr.Yozbatiran has received her PhD degree from Dokuz Eylul University School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation in Izmir, Turkey. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neurology at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at McGovern Medical School. She has been involved in clinical studies emphasizing recovery of upper-limb functions after stroke and spinal cord injury, by using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), constraint induced movement therapy (CIMT), robotic exoskeletons and used functional MRI to study mechanism of recovery (Mentor: Steven Cramer, MD at UCI). Dr.Yozbatiran has been part of the McGovern Medical School since 2009. She is primarily interested in development and optimization of treatment protocols for rehabilitation of upper-limb movements in persons with stroke, spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury. Treatment modalities vary between non-invasive brain stimulation devices such as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), robotic exoskeletons and exercises. Secondarily she is interested in underlying mechanism of neurorecovery, using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and functional MRI techniques.
Ping Zhou, PhD
UTHealth PM&R, NeuroRecovery Research Center (NRRC)
Ping Zhou, PhD, received a BS degree in electrical engineering and an MS degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China, and a PhD degree in biomedical engineering from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. From 1999 to 2014, he was progressively a Research Assistant, Research Associate, Research Assistant Professor, and Research Associate Professor at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation of Northwestern University, Chicago. He is currently a Professor in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). He directs the NeuroMyo Engineering for Rehabilitation laboratory of TIRR Memorial Hermann Research Center in Houston, Texas. His research interests include biomedical signal (in particular, EMG) processing, motor unit pathophysiology, electrodiagnosis, myoelectric control, and assistive devices for neurorehabilitation.