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Clinical Leadership

For over two decades, Accel Research Sites has grown to become an industry-shaping clinical trial network. Across disciplines and departments, Accel’s leadership shares one mission – to advanced scientific and medical innovation through comprehensive patient-centric clinical research.

Dr. James Andersen is a principal investigator at Accel Research Sites’ Lakeland location, specializing in family and addiction medicine. He has completed 226 clinical trials as a principal investigator. His experience in addiction studies includes opioid and cocaine use disorder, opioid-induced constipation, and smoking cessation. In addition, he is Suboxone-certified and has conducted trials evaluating buprenorphine and COVID-19 vaccines, including presenting at the FDA Sublocade Scientific Advisory Committee. Dr. Andersen honed his addiction medicine capabilities during nearly two decades as medical director of Polk County’s first Opioid Treatment Program. Additionally, he served as medical director for two facilities operated by Bridges of America. Dr. Andersen is a Fellow in the American Society of Addition Medicine and a Diplomate with the American Board of Addiction Medicine. He is a former medical review officer, AAMRO, and diplomate, emeritus, of the American Board of Family Practice. He also formerly served for two, three-year terms as director of the Florida Academy of Family Physicians.

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Deborah A. Burke
MD, M.Ed.

Deborah A. Burke

MD, M.Ed.

Accel Research Sites | St. Petersburg

Dr. Deborah A. Burke is a principal investigator at Accel Research Sites’ St. Pete location. She has been with Accel since 2019 and has completed 149 clinical trials as a principal investigator, with studies primarily in neurology. Other study areas include multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s Disease, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s Disease, pain syndromes such as peripheral neuropathy, post-herpetic neuralgia, and migraine headache. In addition to her work at Accel, Dr. Burke also serves as an adjunct professor and movement disorder neurologist at the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Dr. Burke spent nearly 14 years as a neurologist with the Roskamp Institute in Sarasota, and has worked for both Innovative Research and Comprehensive Neuroscience for more than a decade. She is a member of the American Academy of Neurology and the Florida Medical Association, and is also board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). Her medical training was at Boston University School of Medicine, with neurology residency at the University of South Florida, which led to her ABPN certification. Her fellowship was from USF in Movement Disorders, a neurology subspecialty. Dr. Burke has a graduate degree in in Community Mental Health Counseling, which earned her a LCSW license in Massachusetts, and worked with schizophrenics in the community after getting her M.Ed. Since receiving her MD, she has accomplished studies in depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and in behavioral issues associated with multiple CNS degenerative diseases.

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Nicolas Chronos
MD, FACC, FESC

Nicolas Chronos

MD, FACC, FESC

Accel Research Sites | Lake Oconee

Dr. Nicolas Chronos is a principal investigator with Accel Research Sites. He is also president and managing partner at Cardiology Care Clinic, executive vice president of clinical and strategy with Endotronix, and a managing partner with Evia Partners. He has been with Accel Research Sites since 2019, with a focus on bringing clinical research opportunities to patients in rural areas. He has completed 13 trials as a principal investigator. Dr. Chronos previously served as the director of research at the Andreas Gruentzig Cardiovascular Center at Emory University Hospital and as CEO of the Saint Joseph’s Translational Research Institute. He is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, the European Society of Cardiology, and the Royal College of Physicians of London. He has held academic appointments at Duke University and is currently on the faculty of Stanford University as a consulting professor of medicine and cardiology.

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Eva-Maria Heurich
DO, FAAFP

Eva-Maria Heurich

DO, FAAFP

Accel Research Sites | Maitland

Dr. Eva-Maria Heurich is a principal investigator at Accel Research Sites’ Maitland location and a board-certified family physician. She has conducted clinical research since the 1990s and has worked on more than 300 studies, including those on osteoarthritis, pain management, diabetes, and mental health. Dr. Heurich previously worked as an investigator at Florida Hospital in Orlando. She worked on the landmark ALLHAT Trial, which helped to establish the standard of care for hypertension. Dr. Heurich is a senior physician affiliate member of Cenegenics Age Management Medicine and holds memberships with the American Academy of Family Physicians, Florida Academy of Family Physicians, and Florida Osteopathic Medical Association. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians and serves on the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACR) CPI Task Force. She is also certified in Age Management Medicine.

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Dr. Rosario Hidalgo is a principal investigator and sub-investigator at Accel Research Sites’ St. Pete location. She joined Accel Research Sites in 2021. She has been conducting CNS clinical trials since 1998. Her areas of expertise include mood disorders (bipolar disorder, depression, TRD), all the anxiety disorders, PTSD, schizophrenia and others. Dr. Hidalgo has clinical research experience both at academic institutions (Duke University 1998-2005 and University of South Florida 2006-2012) as well as in private research sites. At USF she rose to the position of director of the Depression and Anxiety Research Institute (DARI) from 2010 to 2012. Since 2012, she has been the medical director of Tampa Comprehensive Psychiatry, LLC and continued to be involved in clinical research in private sites. Dr. Hidalgo obtained her medical degree at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina and completed her general psychiatry residency at Duke University with a fellowship in clinical psychopharmacology with the Duke-GlaxoSmithKline program. Dr. Hidalgo is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a member of the Florida Psychiatric Association. She has over 16 publications in peer-reviewed journals and is fluent in both English and Spanish. Dr. Hidalgo volunteers at the Judeo Christian Health Clinic providing free psychiatric care to the working poor of Tampa Bay.

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Dr. Sarah Holder
Sarah A. Holder
MD
Dr. Sarah Holder

Sarah A. Holder

MD

Accel Research Sites | Deland

Dr. Sarah A. Holder is a principal investigator at Accel Research Sites. Dr. Holder has over 30 years of experience in private practice as an OB/GYN and joined Accel Research Sites in 2021. Her areas of expertise include OB/GYN and women’s health studies. Prior to joining Accel, Dr. Holder spent 10 years working in research with IC Research. Dr. Holder received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan and earned her medical degree from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit.  Her residency in OB/GYN was completed at St. Joseph-Mercy Hospital and The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Andrea Marraffino
PhD

Andrea Marraffino

PhD

Accel Research Sites | Maitland

Dr. Andrea Marraffino is a principal investigator at Accel Research Sites’ Maitland location. She has served as a principal investigator since 2013. Dr. Marraffino has completed 180 clinical trials and has extensive experience with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), major depressive disorder (MDD), schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She has worked in United States Armed Forces training development research and in regulatory and IRB departments for the MD Anderson Cancer Center Clinical Trials Office in Orlando. Dr. Marraffino previously held a Secret clearance from the Department of Defense Security and actively holds certification in Good Clinical Practices (GCP) and IATA dangerous goods processing and shipping. She is a member of the Florida Medical Association, Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP), Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA), and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

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Dr. Jorel Martinez is a principal investigator at Accel Research Sites’ Maitland location. He has been a practicing psychiatrist for over five years. He has worked on three clinical trials as a principal investigator at Accel Research Sites. His areas of expertise are Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Bipolar 1 and 2 Disorders. Dr. Martinez received his medical degree from Rush Medical College and completed his residency at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

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Rosa Negron Munoz
MD, DFAPA, DFAACAP

Rosa Negron Munoz

MD, DFAPA, DFAACAP

Accel Research Sites | Lakeland

Dr. Rosa E. Negron Munoz is a principal investigator at Accel Research Sites’ Lakeland location. She has been a practicing psychiatrist for over 18 years and has served as a principal investigator with Accel Research Sites since 2020. In addition to her role at Accel, Dr. Negron Munoz currently supports several organizations with psychiatric services in the Lakeland area. Dr. Negron Munoz is triple board-certified psychiatrist by the ABPN in Adult, Child and Adolescent, and Forensic Psychiatry. She is a distinguished fellow of both the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). She is on the board of directors of NAMI Polk County, as well as the Tri-County Human Services Foundation. She is a member of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, AACAP, APA, and the Florida Psychiatric Society.

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Dr. Nash
Marshall L. Nash
MD, CPI, FAHA, FAPCR
Dr. Nash

Marshall L. Nash

MD, CPI, FAHA, FAPCR

Accel Research Sites | NeuroStudies

Dr. Marshall L. Nash is chief principal investigator at Accel Research Sites-NeuroStudies Decatur location. Dr Nash also serves as Medical Director for the NeuroStudies subnetwork within Accel Research sites. Dr Nash has been a certified principal investigator since 2002 and has served as a PI on more than 200 clinical trials, which have enrolled over 1,000 patients. Dr. Nash currently conducts and supports Phase 1 trials at Accel Research Sites Florida locations in addition to running several phase 1 trials at the Decatur, Georgia-Accel Research-NeuroStudies site. Dr Nash supports several high-volume vaccine trials in both Georgia and Florida. Dr Nash, a board-certified neurologist since 1995, specializes in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, migraine, and stroke research. Dr. Nash is a Fellow of the American Heart Association as well as a Fellow of the Academy of Physicians in Clinical Research. Dr Nash has many peer reviewed publications and has been a speaker at several national neurology academy meetings. Dr Nash has a lifelong commitment to improving treatment options through neurology research.

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Dr. Ramana Puppala is a principal investigator at Accel Research Sites. He is also an attending OB/GYN physician at Emory Decatur Hospital in Decatur, Georgia. Dr. Puppala has been a practicing OB/GYN for 18 years and came to Accel Research Sites in 2021 with 22 years of research experience as a principal investigator and sub-investigator. His areas of expertise include women’s health and gynecology, plastic surgery, dietetics, endocrinology, and more. Dr. Puppala is a member of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, and the American Board of Obesity Medicine. He also served his country in the United States Army and was an attending OB/GYN physician with various appointments, including Fort Sill Oklahoma, and Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.

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Bruce Rankin
DO, CPI, FACOFP

Bruce Rankin

DO, CPI, FACOFP

Accel Research Sites | Deland

Dr. Bruce G. Rankin is the Medical Director at Accel Research Site Deland, which conducts Phase 1-4 clinical trials. He has been in medical practice in the Deland area for over 35 years and has served as an investigator with Accel Research Sites since 1998 during which time he has conducted over 500 clinical trials. His experience includes trials for vaccines, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cardiovascular, neurologic, arthritis, infectious disease and pain treatment indications. Dr Rankin is a Fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians (FACOFP), certified clinical investigator by the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (CPI), and is a diplomate of the National Board of Osteopathic Medicine. He has served as past Chief of Staff at Florida Hospital Deland and is past President of the Florida Society of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians (FSACOFP). He is a Florida Delegate to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and serves on the Executive Board for the Florida Osteopathic Medical Society (FOMA). He was awarded Physician of the Year from FOMA in 2022.

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Dr. Hiten Upadhyay is a principal investigator at Accel Research Sites St. Petersburg location. Dr. Upadhyay has been practicing emergency medicine for more than 20 years and has served as a principal investigator with Accel Research Sites since 2021. He has completed several COVID-19 clinical trials as a principal investigator, with expertise in emergency and general medicine.  Dr. Upadhyay is currently a fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. He is board certified in emergency medicine with the ABEM. He graduated from Wayne State School of Medicine with a doctor's degree in medicine in 1997 before completing his residency in emergency medicine at Wayne State in 2000. Dr. Upadhyay currently has credentials at four local hospitals as an emergency department staff physician or staff physician in the trauma department. 

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Hayes T. Williams
MD, PhD

Hayes T. Williams

MD, PhD

Accel Research Sites | Birmingham

Dr. Hayes T. Williams serves as the medical director and lead principal investigator for the Accel Research Sites Birmingham Clinical Research Unit. He’s been with the company since 2008. Dr. Williams has completed 193 clinical trials, and his areas of expertise include anesthesiology, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular, dermatology and more. He has been a top enroller in many trials. Dr. Williams was previously the medical director and principal investigator at West Alabama Research and an investigator at Capstone Clinical Trials, Inc. He also held anatomy teaching positions at Louisiana State University Medical School and the University of Mississippi Medical School in Jackson. He is certified as a State Board Examiner in Louisiana and Alabama and holds an ACLS Certification. He is a member of the Pan American Congress of Anatomy and the Southern Society of Anatomists.

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Dr. Rowell Ashfored

Dr. Rowell S. Ashford, II, is a principal investigator at Accel Research Sites’ Birmingham, Alabama location. He is also currently a gynecologist at Cahaba Medical Care-OBGYN and Baptist Health Centers in Birmingham. Dr. Ashford has been with Accel Research Sites since 2018, and his areas of expertise include obstetrics and gynecology and women’s health.  Dr. Ashford was the chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baptist Princeton Hospital and Cooper Green Mercy Health System, where he also served as Institutional Review Board chair and medical director of the National Community Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. He has won numerous awards and honors, including the Baptist Health System Compassion Award in 2015, and he has written abstracts about gynecological conditions and cervical cancer and been published in Cancer Gene Therapy and the Journal of Bacteriology. 

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Dr. Diane Ryder Counce is a principal investigator in the Accel Research Sites Network. She is also a physician and medical director at Neurology & Neurodiagnostics of Alabama, LLC. She has been with Accel Research Sites since 2019 and has completed six neurology clinical trials. Dr. Counce serves as a neurology consultant with MedPlex Injury in Birmingham. She has also been a member of the ProAssurance Companies’ Regional Advisory Board and has been the Alabama medical director for Ambulatory Video EEG Monitoring, Alliance Family of Companies since 2019. She is a member of the American Academy of Neurology, American Society of Neuro Imaging, National Headache Foundation, and American Headache Society. She is certified in Neuroimaging and Headache Medicine from the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties. Dr. Counce has been published extensively in prestigious medical journals, serves on advisory boards for nearly a dozen different pharmaceuticals and speaker boards for six pharmaceuticals, and has received numerous awards.

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Dr. Salma Elfaki is a principal investigator in the Accel Research Sites Network and is the owner of Nona Pediatric Centers in Orlando. She has been practicing pediatrics in Florida since 2008 and has been with Accel Research Sites since 2018. She has served as a principal investigator for numerous trials in areas such as behavioral pediatrics, developmental pediatrics, vaccines, and more.  Dr. Elfaki is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and the Sudanese American Medical and Physician Associations. She serves as an associate professor of pediatric residency training at the Arnold Palmer Medical Center of the Orlando Regional Healthcare Systems. Dr. Elfaki is the recipient of the 2020 Top Doctor Award from Orlando Family Magazine and Doctor of the Year and Elite Doctor awards from Orlando Style Magazine. Since 2007, she has been a spokesperson for Docs for Tots, an advocacy organization for children.

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Dr. Bobby V. Khan is a principal investigator in the Accel Research Sites Network and the executive director of Carmel Biosciences. His areas of expertise include cardiovascular and immunology. In his role at Carmel Biosciences, Dr. Khan helps the company get high-efficacy and safe drugs to market quickly. He was involved in successfully getting FDA approval of Prexxartan (oral valsartan solution) for the indication of hypertension, congestive heart failure, and myocardial infarction in patients over 6 years of age and those who cannot swallow tablets. His area of research interest is based on primary preventive measures in reducing cardiovascular and immunological diseases, specifically, in the mechanisms of vascular biology that initiate atherosclerosis and on targets (either medical or nonmedical) that may retard or even reverse the process of the disease. Dr. Khan is dedicated to providing further education to populations who are at high risk of early and aggressive forms of cardiovascular and immune diseases.

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Dr. Robert Routh is a principal investigator in the Accel Research Sites Network. He currently acts as assistant professor at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Atlanta Campus. He recently became interested in clinical research and joined the Accel team with his first trial for chronic open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension. His areas of expertise include ophthalmology, glaucoma, cataracts, ocular disease management, cataract surgery, and more. Dr. Routh attended medical school at the University of Florida and completed his ophthalmology residency program at Louisiana State University in New Orleans in 2013. He is a member of the Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons, and the Florida Medical Association.

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Dr. Neil Sandhu is a principal investigator in the Accel Research Sites Network. Dr. Sandhu has been a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon practicing in Florida since 2012. He is the founder and medical director at Aspire Dermatology & Aesthetics and an associate professor at the University of Central Florida Medical School and Nova Southeastern University School of Medicine. His areas of expertise include cosmetic, surgical, and medical dermatology for all skin types. Dr. Sandhu is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, American Society of Dermatologic Surgery, and a fellow of the American Society for Mohs Surgery. He has authored multiple scientific articles and is a frequent medical guest on local TV shows.

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Dr. Hiten Upadhyay is a principal investigator at Accel Research Sites St. Petersburg location. Dr. Upadhyay has been practicing emergency medicine for more than 20 years and has served as a principal investigator with Accel Research Sites since 2021. He has completed several COVID-19 clinical trials as a principal investigator, with expertise in emergency and general medicine.  Dr. Upadhyay is currently a fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. He is board certified in emergency medicine with the ABEM. He graduated from Wayne State School of Medicine with a doctor's degree in medicine in 1997 before completing his residency in emergency medicine at Wayne State in 2000. Dr. Upadhyay currently has credentials at four local hospitals as an emergency department staff physician or staff physician in the trauma department. 

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Dr. Timothy J. Wierzbicki is a principal investigator in the Accel Research Sites Network. He has participated in numerous clinical trials since 2009 and has served as a principal investigator with Accel Research Sites since 2018. His area of expertise is neurology, and he has worked on trials involving multiple sclerosis, dementia, Parkinson's disease, migraine headaches, epilepsy and Alzheimer's. Dr. Wierzbicki is the owner of the Brain & Spine Institute, which he founded in 2013. His previous experience as a neurologist includes Neurology Associates of Ormond Beach and The Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio. He has been twice named a diplomate by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and he holds an NIH Stroke Scale Certification and a Carotid Ultrasound Certification. His medical society memberships include the American Medical Association, American Academy of Neurology, AAN Section of Interventional Neurology, American Society of Neuroimaging, American Stroke Association, and the American Heart Association.

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