Research Leadership Team
Randall Lambrecht, PhD
Senior Vice President, Aurora Health Care
President, Aurora Research Institute
Randall Lambrecht, PhD, is a senior vice president of Aurora Health Care, the president of Aurora Research Institute, and emeritus professor and former dean of health sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He oversees all clinical research at Aurora, one of the largest integrated health care systems in the country.
Dr. Lambrecht has spent more than 28 years as a researcher and professor in infectious disease and molecular microbiology. His scientific expertise and research interests are molecular and cellular mechanisms of infectious disease, for which he secured numerous federal research grants (e.g. National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture). He has authored more than 60 publications, presented more than 110 lectures/seminars as an invited speaker, and developed molecular-based diagnostic tests that were subsequently commercialized.
Dr. Lambrecht’s professional interests currently reside in facilitating innovative health care technologies. He holds certification by the American Society of Clinical Pathologists and is a fellow for the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions. Dr. Lambrecht currently serves as a scientific reviewer for several journals, and serves on numerous professional and community boards.
Aurora holds research as one of its top strategic priorities in its ongoing commitment to help people live well. Under Dr. Lambrecht’s leadership, hundreds of clinical trials and investigator-initiated research studies are being conducted across Aurora’s 15 hospitals and 159 clinic sites.
Vice President, Business Services
Kurt joined Aurora Research Institute in July 2013 to ensure research enterprise remains sustainable and solvent. His entrepreneurial and strategic business experience will help catalyze innovation and lead to new opportunities that improve patient care and drive the local economy. He has broad experience in technology commercialization and intellectual property, having worked with industry, academia and hundreds of high-impact start-ups, licensed dozens of technologies, and been part of a New York-based software firm that manages intellectual property portfolios for pharmaceutical companies.
Vani Nilakantan, PhD
Director, Investigator-Initiated/Sponsored Research
Dr. Nilakantan oversees investigator-initiated research and the sponsored programs office at Aurora Research Institute. Prior to joining Aurora, she was an assistant professor of surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where she led a research program in ischemic acute kidney injury and renal protection in kidney transplantation. Her work has been supported by intra- and extramural funding from the American Heart Association and National Institutes of Health. Her collaborations have led to three grants, 29 peer-reviewed publications and numerous presentations at national conferences.
Sara Planton, RN, CCRC
Director, Clinical Trials
Sara oversees more than 80 caregivers in Aurora Research Institute’s Clinical Trials program, which supports around 400 trials in medical specialties such as cardiovascular medicine, oncology, neuroscience, immunotherapy, gastroenterology and radiology. She has more than 20 years of nursing experience with Aurora, including patient care at bedside, during procedures and through clinical trials, as well as 10 years of management experience in cardiac catheterization laboratories. She is committed to the advancement of technology and health care through research participation.
Arshad Jahangir, MD
Medical Director, Center for Integrative Research on Cardiovascular Aging
Dr. Jahangir graduated from Dow Medical College at the University of Karachi (India) and completed his specialty training at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. He joined Aurora in 2011 and is now chair of Cardiovascular Research at Aurora. As a clinician-investigator, he brings extensive expertise in clinical and basic cardiac electrophysiology. He currently serves on the Myocardial Ischemia and Metabolism Study Section at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. His work is extensively published, and he has received multiple awards for his research in cardiovascular aging.
Nina Garlie, PhD
Director, Regenerative Medicine Research
Dr. Garlie received her doctorate in Pathology from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1991, and has been with Aurora for more than 15 years. In addition to directing Aurora’s Regenerative Medicine Center, she is the administrative and cell processing laboratory director of the Autologous Stem Cell Transplant Program and serves on the Institutional Review Board and Research Quality and Compliance Committee. She has published nearly 30 articles and abstracts in the medical literature and lectured at several national and international conferences on cell therapy.
Martin Oaks, PhD
Director, Biomedical Research and Histocompatibility
Dr. Oaks received his doctorate in Experimental Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 1984. He joined Aurora in 1989 to establish an accredited Clinical Histocompatibility Laboratory in support of cardiac transplant. Since then, his laboratory has grown to include support of liver, kidney and pancreas transplantation. Dr. Oaks’ basic research is focused on the role of soluble receptors in transplant immunology. His clinical research is focused on the functional effects of glycosylation on IgG molecules and their significance in the human immune system.
Dennis Baumgardner, MD
Director, Aurora UW Medical Group
Dr. Baumgardner completed his medical training at the University of Illinois. He joined the Aurora St. Luke's Family Medicine Residency faculty in 1986 and has served as obstetrics coordinator, research director and residency director. He received the Teacher of the Year Award from residents six times. His current roles include director of Research and Promotions for Aurora UW Medical Group, associate director of Health Services Research at the Center for Urban Population Health, chair of the Aurora Institutional Review Board, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Patient-Centered Research and Reviews.
Michael Thompson, MD, PhD
Medical Director, Early-Phase Cancer Research
Dr. Thompson earned his medical degree from Mayo Medical School and completed his fellowship training at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He joined Aurora in 2013 and serves as a medical oncologist in the Aurora Cancer Care program and medical director of early-phase cancer research at Aurora Research Institute. He has been involved with the National Cancer Institute Community Cancer Centers Program’s Clinical Trials committees, including its Early-Phase Working Group, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Leadership Development Program.
Judy Tjoe, MD
Medical Director, Breast Cancer Research
Dr. Tjoe earned her medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), which included a fellowship in Anatomic Pathology and Cytology. She completed her surgical training at the Medical College of Wisconsin and UCSF Medical Center at Mount Zion. She now specializes in breast cancer surgery and is principal investigator of Aurora clinical trials evaluating surgical management of breast cancer patients. A fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Tjoe oversees breast cancer care as chair of the Aurora Systemwide Breast Quality Committee.
Ron Cisler, PhD
Director, Center for Urban Population Health
Dr. Cisler is internationally known for his expertise in assessing recovery outcomes of alcoholism treatment clinical trials. His research program is funded by numerous grants and contracts from federal organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and statewide and local health foundations. He teaches graduate courses on clinical research methods, population health, health outcomes assessment, and epidemiology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) and received the 2005 Dean's Research Award at the UWM’s College of Health Sciences.
Vicki is responsible for scheduling appointments, meetings, and travel; providing procedural information; answering inquiries related to operational and substantive matters; and creating/drafting correspondence, reports and documents. She has been with Aurora for 20 years in a variety of roles in pharmacy, finance and administration.
Multimedia Designer, Marketing
Julie provides media support for the Aurora Research Institute and has more than nine years of multimedia design and branding experience. She has extensive knowledge of the Aurora brand, having spent the past six years in various capacities within the organization, conceptualizing design materials for a variety of print and electronic media.