Meet Our Faculty Researchers
Sanford Research relies on a team of more than 200 researchers. Every day, we’re in the lab, the clinic, the classroom and the community.
We’re studying ways to prevent cancer, cure diabetes, use genetics in primary health care, make sports safer, and close health care gaps for minorities – just to name a few.
Learn more about our adjunct faculty researchers and their work below.
Benjamin Balas, PhD
Dr. Balas is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at North Dakota State University. His research interests include how experience shapes perceptual abilities. He uses psychophysics, EEG, and computational techniques to study how children and adults recognize things they do and do not have experience with.
Marc Basson, MD, PhD, MBA
Dr. Marc Basson is the Senior Associate Dean for Medicine and Research and a Professor in the Departments of Surgery, Biomedical Sciences and Pathology at the University of North Dakota. He also serves as the PI on the Dakota Cancer Collaborative of Translational Activity, or DaCCoTA Consortium.
Jonathan Bleeker, M.D.
Dr. Jonathan Bleeker is a practicing medical oncologist with Sanford Health and board certified in medical oncology and hematology. He is primarily interested in clinical research on gastrointestinal oncology and hematology, including retrospective research, cancer clinical trials and helping to coordinate the clinical aspects of translational cancer research projects.
Dr. Bleeker is currently working on multiple open clinical trials for gastrointestinal malignancies. He is also validating a 3D cell culture model across multiple solid tumor types.
Dr. Bleeker is the primary investigator for both the Sanford NCORP grant and the MNCCTN collaboration.
He received his B.A. in biology from Dordt College in 2001. In 2005 he received his M.D. from the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.
Praveen Cherukuri, Ph.D.
Dr. Praveen Cherukuri’s research focuses on designing, implementing, evaluating and validating genotyping accuracy of different sequencing and genotyping platforms by using and developing appropriate bioinformatics and statistical tools.
Dr. Cherukuri is currently working on the analytical validation of global screening array for clinical utility using whole genome sequence and publicly available genotyping data.
Dr. Cherukuri holds a Ph.D. from Boston University.
- Assistant Professor, University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine
- Fellows Award for Research Excellence, National Institutes of Health (2005)
- Fellows Award for Research Excellence (2006)
Robert Dvorak, PhD
Dr. Dvorak is an Associate Professor in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Central Florida. His research interests include:
- Examining the role of cognitive, affective, and behavioral self-regulation in health-compromising behaviors
- Assessing factors associated with health-compromising behaviors in real-time through experience sampling methodology
- Developing mobile and web-based interventions to reduce involvement in health compromising behaviors
Lindsay Erickson, Ph.D.
Dr. Lindsay Erickson focuses her research on combinatorial games played on graphs, with a goal to completely characterize winning strategies given various initializations on a broad category of graphs. Dr. Erickson’s major research projects include:
- The game of Nim on the K3,3
- Nim on the Petersen graph
- Machine learning as applied to combinatorial games
As a tenured associate professor of mathematics at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Dr. Erickson believes that her research informs her teaching and makes her better able to convey complex ideas to a wide audience.
Naturally curious about the workings of the world around her, Dr. Erickson continuously seeks to understand the nature and beauty of mathematics.
After earning her bachelor’s degree from North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota in 2006, she studied combinatorics at the Alfred Renyi Institute in Budapest, Hungary in 2010, before returning to NDSU to complete her Ph.D. studies in 2011.
- Associate Professor of Mathematics, Augustana University
Grants and Awards
- Augustana Faculty/Student Research Award (2017)
- Augustana Research and Artist Fund Summer Research Grant (2014, 2016-18)
- Augustana Granskou Award (2015)
- South Dakota Space Grant Consortium Project Innovation Grant (2014)
- National Science Foundation, Institute of International Education and Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst graduate research fellow (2010)
- National Science Foundation Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education grant (2008)
Anu Gaba, M.D.
Dr. Anu Gaba is a practicing physician in Fargo, North Dakota, for Sanford Health and is board certified in oncology and hematology. Her research focus is in conducting oncology clinical trials, and serving as a primary investigator on several investigator-initiated trials in breast cancer.
Kathryn Gordon, PhD, LP
Dr. Gordon is a licensed psychologist practicing at Sanford Health, Fargo specializing in behavioral health. Her research interests include eating disorders among traditionally understudied groups, interpersonal and emotional processes related to suicidal behavior, and the occurrence of suicidal behavior in individuals with eating disorders.
Stephen Herrmann, Ph.D.
Dr. Stephen Herrmann’s current research and collaboration focuses on behavioral factors to improve weight management outcomes, gut health and the microbiome.
Dr. Herrmann’s work at Profile aims to provide a scientifically sound program to guide individuals through all phases of weight management, oftentimes beginning with healthy weight loss and continuing to long-term, sustainable, weight loss maintenance.
Dr. Herrmann’s interests include understanding individual variability in response to exercise and diet interventions and the relationship between behavioral factors and weight management.
Dr. Herrmann is currently collaborating with a group of researchers to investigate the microbiome and gut health in relation to weight management under a $3.8 million grant.
Dr. Herrmann holds a Ph.D. in physical activity, nutrition and wellness from Arizona State University and completed his postdoctoral fellowship in weight management at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
- National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity
- American College of Sports Medicine
Nicola Herting, PhD, LP
Dr. Nicola Herting is the mental health director at Red River Children's Advocacy Center in Fargo, ND.
Benson Hsu, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.P.
Dr. Benson Hsu is working to characterize the inconsistencies between payment and delivery within the current health care system and identify a path for value-based care transition in an application-based approach.
Dr. Hsu serves on the Data and Methods Council for AcademyHealth. He is also on the American Academy of Pediatrics executive committee section on critical care.
Health services research at Sanford allows for immediate impact on our delivery and payer systems. By immediately translating this research, we can rapidly move towards true value-based care.
Academic Affiliations and Training
- AB Economics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, (1994-1998)
- Certificate in Premedical Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY (1999-2001)
- MD, University of Missouri School of Medicine, Columbia, MO, (2001-2005)
- Residency in Pediatrics, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI (2005-2008)
- ellowship in Pediatric Critical Care, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI, (2008-2011)
- MBA, Duke University Fuqua School of Business, Durham, NC, (2011-2012)
- Certificate in Public Policy, Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, Boston, MA (2018)
- Certificate in Healthcare Innovation, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA (2018)
- Chester McVay Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research, Sanford School of Medicine, USD (2018)
- Outstanding Young Physician, MU Medical Alumni Organization (2018)
- Bush Leadership Fellow (2018)
- Top Articles of 2017, Pediatric Section Society of Hospital Medicine (2018)
- Top Research Abstract Award, University of Wisconsin Pediatric Critical Care Regional Mtg. (2018)
- Excellence in Analytics (ANNY) Honorable Mention, International Institute for Analytics (2017)
- Sanford AirMed Flight Team of the Year, Sanford Health (2015), Physician of the Month, Sanford Health (2012)
- Vice President of Population Health, Sanford Health (2018-present)
- Vice President of Data Analytics & Chief Medical Analytics Officer, Sanford Health (2015-2018)
- Medical Director of Pediatric Flight Program, Sanford Children’s Hospital (2012-2018)
- Medical Director of Pediatric Sedation Program, Sanford Children’s Hospital (2012-2013)
Leah Irish, Ph.D.
Dr. Irish is an assistant professor in the department of psychology at North Dakota State University. Dr. Irish's program of research examines the complex interplay between sleep and waking health behaviors and the promotion of sleep health in vulnerable populations.
Jeff Johnson, PhD
Dr. Johnson is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at North Dakota State University. His research focuses on studying the cognitive and neural bases of attention and working memory, and the pathophysiological basis of attention and memory disruptions in psychiatric illness.
Megan Landsverk, Ph.D.
Eighty percent of rare diseases in the world originate in genes, and children represent nearly half of those affected. Dr. Megan Landsverk’s research focuses on identifying novel genetic variants in individuals with rare diseases, and determining the functional significance of those variants. She facilitates these studies through collaborative efforts with a variety of Sanford Research faculty.
Board certified in clinical molecular genetics since 2011, Dr. Landsverk completed her undergraduate degree at the University of North Dakota and earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in the Genetic Medicine Division of the Pediatric Department at the University of Washington in Seattle.
In addition to her research in rare genetic disorders in children, Dr. Landsverk’s research projects include the development of genomic testing in both oncology and adult medicine, analysis of pharmacogenetic genes to determine how a patient responds to various drugs and the translation of clinical gene discoveries to functional protein studies.
- Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine
Jason Lavendar, PhD
Dr. Lavendar is the Deputy Director of Research for the Military Cardiovascular Outcomes Research Program (MiCOR) at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. His research focuses on trait and momentary factors contributing to the onset and maintenance of dysregulated eating among individuals across the weight spectrum. His interests also include multi-method study designs, with an emphasis on linking laboratory-based methods and real-world, real-time data collection.
Dr. Joanna Lubieniecka serves as the manager of genetic test development for Sanford Imagenetics.
Molly Orcutt-Woods, PhD
Dr. Woods is a psychiatrist at the VA Hospital in Fargo, ND. She works collaboratively with the Center for Biobehavioral Research in Fargo on various research studies.
James Roerig, PharmD, BCPP
Dr. Roerig is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. In addition, he is the the Director of Undergraduate Medical Eduation in Psychiatry and Psychiatry Clerkships and the Assistant Director Psychiatry Residency Program. He is Board Ceritified in Psychiatric Pharmacy (BCPP) by the Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties. His research focus is psychopharmacology, drug interactions, and eating disorders as well as psychotropic pharmacokinetic changes associated with bariatric surgery.
Abe Eric Sahmoun, PhD
Dr. Sahmoun is an Associate Professor and Director of Research Affairs in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine. His primary research interests are in cancer epidemiology.
Molly Secor-Turner, Ph.D., M.S., R.N.
Dr. Molly Secor-Turner is an Associate Professor of nursing and public health at North Dakota State University. Using both qualitative and quantitative approaches to her research, Dr. Secor-Turner explores ways to improve adolescent health through reducing risk and building protection in the lives of youth. In particular, her work focuses on how social context shapes adolescent sexual health, access to youth-friendly health services, and global health.
Dr. Murat Sincan’s research interests intersect at genomics, biomedical informatics and precision medicine. He works with large genetic and clinical datasets to develop computational methods to test novel hypotheses.
Specifically, Dr. Sincan explores computational methods to study genetic causes of rare and undiagnosed diseases, as well as risk factors for complex genetic and chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
The goal of his research is to identify new ways that provide the best diagnostic information and best treatment options for each individual patient.
Dr. Sincan believes that improving and understanding of the universe comes through research, and while certain aspects of the world around us remain a mystery, research allows us to approach each aspect of our existence and test hypotheses so we can become more informed and gain an empirical understanding of our reality. With this approach, he thinks that we can improve our lives, and the lives of patients, one question and answer at a time, and leave a better world for the next generation.
Dr. Sincan earned his medical degree at Hacettepe University School of Medicine, Ankara, Turkey, and then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. He also worked as a researcher for the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
- Assistant Professor, University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine
- Section Head for Clinical Informatics, University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine
- Director’s Distinguished NHGRI Group Recognition Award (2016)
- Genome Recognition of Employee Accomplishments and Talents Award (2014)
- The American Association of Clinical Chemistry Outstanding Speaker Award (2012)
- NIH Center for Information Technology Merit Award (2011)
Kristine Steffen, PharmD, PhD
Dr. Steffen is a Professor of Pharmaceutical Science at North Dakota State University. Her research focus is on characterization of the pharmacokinetic changes of medications and alcohol following bariatric surgery. She is also interested in obesity pharmacotherapy and problematic alcohol use following bariatric surgery.
Dr. Vitiello is an associate professor of biology at Augustana University where she teaches Genetics, Molecular Biology, Genetics and Society, and Cell Signaling. Her lab at Augustana specializes in characterizing the molecular underpinnings of rare diseases, such as Friedreich ataxia. Specifically, she is interested in the epigenetic changes that occur in that disease. Dr. Vitiello also studies the relationship between service-learning and science identity in undergraduate students.
James White, Ph.D.
Dr. James White is a professor and chair in the Department of Human Performance, Sport and Health at Bemidji State University. His research interests include health promotion, role of physical activity in prevention and management in chronic illness, interventions/strategies that impact behavior change, cultural, social and environmental factors that promote health, quality of life and active living.
Sanford Health News
Rare disease registry helps connect causes, treatments and patients worldwide
“We can’t change our genetics, but we can change behavior”
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