The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH



Laura DeFina, MDLaura DeFina, MD

  • President and Chief Executive Officer
  • Chief Science Officer

Laura DeFina, MD has been the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Cooper Institute since 2014. She joined The Cooper Institute Research Division in 2009 and has served as Chief Science Officer since 2013, where she has authored manuscripts on a variety of prevention topics, including brain health, cardiorespiratory fitness, and healthy aging. The Cooper Institute’s mission is to promote life-long health and wellness in adults and children through research and education. Our vision is two-fold: First, to spread the need for personal responsibility for mind and body wellness through peer-reviewed scientific evidence from the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study, the largest study in the world with measured fitness. Second, to assure that all children have access to quality physical education and recess as well as fitness assessment to ensure that they are gaining the health-benefits of regular physical activity. The Cooper Institute undertakes these initiatives with renowned partners including Stanford University, University of Texas at Southwestern Medical Center, NFL Play 60 programs, and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

Dr. DeFina spent the three years prior practicing preventive medicine at Cooper Clinic. Formerly, she practiced Geriatric Medicine in the Baylor Senior Health Network for 10 years. Additionally, she completed her post-graduate training in Internal Medicine in the U.S. Army at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, was last stationed at Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center, and received numerous military honors including a US Army Meritorious Service medal. She earned her Doctor of Medicine from George Washington University School of Medicine where she was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society.

In 2013, Dr. DeFina was appointed by Governor Rick Perry to the Texas Council for Alzheimer’s disease and Related Disorders. She serves on the Prevention and Brain Health Group for the Texas State Plan on Alzheimer's disease. Currently, she is a member of the American Heart Association’s Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Physical Activity committee and a member of the American Council on Exercise Prescription for Activity Task Force. She has completed Leadership North Texas as well as the Stagen Integral Leadership Program and is actively involved in local and regional community affairs.

The Cooper Institute is a non-profit 501(c)3 dedicated to promoting life-long health and wellness through research and education.

Laura DeFina, MDKayla Heath

  • Chief Financial Officer 

EDUCATION: University of Texas at Dallas

Kayla Heath joins The Cooper Institute as the Chief Financial Officer. Formerly with RMS, the fifth-largest accounting firm in the world, Kayla brings 10 years of experience in audit, accounting and finance as a Certified Public Accountant working with consumer products, professional services and nonprofits.

Laura DeFina, MDOnyeka Nchege

  • Chief Information Officer 

Onyeka Nchege is the newest addition to the leadership team as the Chief Information Officer. A 2018 ORBIE Enterprise CIO of the Year award finalist, Onyeka brings more than 25 years of experience leading teams, developing strategies and building digital technology solutions to the biggest name in automotive aftermarket replacement batteries, financial services, and consumer packaged goods.

Onyeka began his career working in the banking industry, serving as a technical business analyst, designing and implementing their e-commerce solutions. He moved to the manufacturing industry where he led software developers and business leaders in multiple platforms and locations.

Before Interstate, Onyeka was the CIO for Coca Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, where he led teams to modernize technology in the field, powering business processes for daily, on-the-street use, ensuring customers experience an integrated and seamless digital experience.

Onyeka regularly speaks at community and industry events, including serving as an executive host for the Technology Ball, a series of events focusing on the passion and advancement of STEM, the keynote and guest speaker for the 2017 DFW Technology Prayer Breakfast, which helps connect North Texas technology leaders through faith and integrity and as a member of the Dallas CIO Governing Body for EVANTA.

Onyeka is a graduate of Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business. Onyeka contributes to CIO Review magazine and shares his insights and experience with peers and colleagues via his own blog,