Jonathan Cohen, PhD
Director of Human Genetics
Jonathan Cohen, PhD, is a Professor of Internal Medicine at the Center for Human Nutrition, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, where he holds the C. Vincent Prothro Distinguished Chair in Human Nutrition Research, and Director of Genetics at the Cooper Institute.
Dr. Cohen earned his doctorate at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, then moved to UT Southwestern in Dallas where he did postdoctoral training with Scott Grundy and with Helen Hobbs. He remained at UT Southwestern where has focused his research on lipid and lipoprotein metabolism. Together with his scientific partner, Dr Helen Hobbs, he has identified genes responsible for Mendelian disorders of cholesterol transport as well as more common forms of hypocholesterolemia and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Laura DeFina, MD
Medical Director of Research
Laura DeFina received her MD from George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC. She completed her post-graduate training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. While in the US Army, she practiced medicine at Andrew Radar US Army Health Clinic (Fort Myer, VA) and at Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center (Fort Gordon, GA). In Dallas, she practiced Geriatrics with the Health Texas Provider Network/Baylor Senior Health Network for 10 years prior to joining the Cooper Clinic in 2006 given her interest in prevention and research.
In June 2009, she transferred to The Cooper Institute as Medical Director to begin a full-time research career. Her areas of research interest are healthy aging, brain health, and preventive health care. Currently, she supervises our Clinical Investigations division which presently has active trials looking at the benefits of exercise on adolescent depression and on memory in seniors. In addition, she oversees the Cooper Institute/University of Texas Southwestern Research Collaboration with Dr. Scott Grundy from UT Southwestern which develops collaborative research projects with investigators from both institutions. She has authored and co-authored manuscripts related to, among other topics, brain health, cardiorespiratory fitness, injury in physically active women, and healthy aging. Her active grants include a Discovery Foundation Grant looking at cardiovascular issues in women and a Roche Grant looking at the impact of cardiorespiratory fitness on a cardiac biomarker. Dr. DeFina is on the Prevention and Brain Health Group for the Texas State Plan on Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dr. DeFina joined The Cooper Institute as Medical Director of research in June 2009. She previously served as a preventive medicine physician with a special interest in healthy aging and caring for the elderly for the past 2 1/2 years at the Cooper Clinic.
Melba Morrow, MA
Vice President for Research Administration
Melba Morrow is Vice President for Research Administration at The Cooper Institute. Morrow has an MA from the University of Colorado and a BA from the University of West Florida. She has more than 18 years experience in grants administration, overseeing all aspects from pre- and post-award to compliance. She is a Certified Research Administrator.
Ms. Morrow also served as director of annual scientific conferences for the Institute for 10 years. Prior to coming to the Institute, she was a public school teacher.
Benjamin L. Willis MD, MPH
Dr. Willis received his MD from UT Southwestern Medical School in 1980 with post doctoral residency training at LSU in New Orleans and is a board certified ophthalmologist. He received his MPH from the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth in 2006 with an emphasis in biostatistics. He has been with the Cooper Institute since 2007 as staff epidemiologist and has authored peer-reviewed journal publications and presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine. Dr. Willis has directed the development of the Cooper-UT Southwestern Biobank at CI and works in concert with UT Southwestern collaborators. His current research interests include healthy aging and the relationship of midlife fitness and modifiable risk factors with health outcomes in Medicare patients.
Beth Wright, PhDc
Director of Data Management
Beth Wright is the Director of Data Management for The Cooper Institute. She leads a talented team of database specialists in support of the Institute’s data management needs.
Beth began her professional career with the Institute as an intern and moved to full-time staff member shortly thereafter. The Institute provides her the unique opportunity to combine her undergraduate (BSPH in Biostatistics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and graduate degrees (MS in Wellness and Fitness from Middle Tennessee State University; PhDc in Epidemiology from the University of Texas at Houston Health Science Center) to explore the relationships between health behaviors and outcomes. Her responsibilities at the Institute have included co-authorship on numerous scientific publications, project management, data management and analysis, as well as morbidity and mortality surveillance for the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study. She maintains membership in the American College of Sports Medicine and the Society for Epidemiologic Research.