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Overview of the PRCTRC

PRCTRC Leadership

The three collaborating institutions participating in the PRCTRC are uniquely positioned and committed to transform the research culture in Puerto Rico and among minority institutions, and move towards a model of clinical and translational research in the health disparities. Meet the Consortium's Principal Investigator and Co-Directors.

Walter R. Frontera, MD, PhD
Principal Investigator
Dr. Walter R. Frontera is Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) and Physiology at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). From 2006-2011 he was Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Frontera completed his medical studies and a residency in PM&R in 1983 at the UPR and a doctoral degree in applied anatomy and physiology at Boston University in 1986. In 1993 he became Chief of the Department of PM&R at the UPR and in 1995 Visiting Professor of Clinical Neurophysiology at the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden. In 1996 he was recruited to Harvard Medical School (HMS) to establish the Department of PM&R and later appointed the Earle P. and Ida S. Charlton Professor and Chairman. He was also the Chief of Service at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

His main research interest is the study of the mechanisms underlying skeletal muscle dysfunction in elderly, and patients with neuromuscular disease and HIV. His research, mainly funded by NIH, has identified rehabilitative interventions to slow down and/or reverse skeletal muscle alterations associated with these conditions. He has more than 200 scientific publications including 79 peer-reviewed manuscripts and 12 edited books. Currently, Dr. Frontera serves as the Editor-in-Chief of The American Journal of PM&R. He is a Regional Vice-President of the International Society for PM&R and fellow of the American Academy of PM&R and the American College of Sports Medicine. In 2008 he was elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (Washington DC, USA) and in 2009 Member-at-large of the National Board of Medical Examiners. Dr. Frontera has presented more than 214 invited lectures in 52 countries and served as a grant reviewer and graduate research examiner for Universities in Canada, South Africa and Hong Kong.

Ivette Molina, MHSA
Ivette Molina Rivera, MHSA, serves as the Administrator for the Puerto Rico Clinical and Translational Research Center. Mrs. Molina completed her B.S. in Biology at the Río Piedras Campus, University of Puerto Rico, and her master degree in Health Services Administration at the School of Public Health of the Medical Sciences Campus, University of Puerto Rico.

She has extensive experience in the management of large health care institutions having served as the Health Services Administrator for the Bayamón Correctional Center and Associate Administrator for the Doctors’ Center Hospital in Manati, Puerto Rico. Prior to joining the Clinical Research Center at the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus, Mrs. Molina was the Executive Director of the State Psychiatric Hospital Dr. Ramón Fernández.

In 2001, she joined the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus as the Program Administrator for the RCMI – Clinical Research Center (RCMI-CRC), overseeing and providing administrative guidance to a complex organization with a mission to develop the necessary infrastructure and support services to conduct clinical research activities and to stimulate the clinical research potential of faculty.

Mrs. Molina assists the Principal Investigator, Program Directors and Key Functions Leaders with administrative guidance as well as the faculty and investigators from the three Consortium-member institutions: the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus, the Ponce School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and the Universidad de Central Caribe.

Marcia Cruz-Correa, MD, PhD
Co-Program Director
Dr. Marcia Cruz-Correa completed her B.S. in Biology at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), and her medical degree at the UPR Medical School. Dr. Cruz-Correa continued her training in Internal Medicine at the University of Puerto Rico Hospital, and subsequently a fellowship in Gastroenterology & Hepatology at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Dr. Cruz-Correa completed a doctorate degree in Clinical Investigation and Genetic Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Dr. Cruz-Correa is an Associate Professor of Medicine & Biochemistry at the University of Puerto Rico, Visiting Assistant Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University and Adjunct Associate Professor of Surgical Oncology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Her research focuses in gastrointestinal oncology, including the study of epigenetics and genetics in gastrointestinal cancer, hereditary GI cancers, and chemoprevention of gastrointestinal neoplasia.

Dr. Cruz-Correa leads a Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at the UPR Cancer Center, which is integrated by a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, basic and clinical scientists, and epidemiologists with an expertise in gastrointestinal cancer. The main focus of the Program is to elucidate genetic and epigenetic pathways for colorectal carcinogenesis among Hispanic patients. Evaluation of environmental and nutritional factors as effect-modifiers and gene-environmental interactions is an active investigative priority. Dr. Cruz-Correa and her team developed the first population-based familial colorectal cancer registry in Puerto Rico that currently has over 500 colorectal cancer patients with detailed epidemiological and environmental information (http://purificar.rcm.upr.edu). A second research area is chemoprevention, and Dr. Cruz-Correa leads an NCI sponsored clinical trial evaluating the role of bioflavinoids (curcumin) as a chemopreventive agent in adult patients with Familial Adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and is a co-investigator evaluating the use of celecoxib in pediatric patients with FAP. In addition, her group is a member of the Polyp Prevention Study Group (11-site national consortia, lead by Dr. John Baron, Dartmouth University) participating in several clinical trials aimed at evaluating different compounds for chemoprevention of sporadic colorectal adenomas. Dr. Cruz-Correa’s research is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and other private foundations including Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Cancer Research Prevention Foundation.

Dr. Cruz-Correa has published over 50 original publications, is a reviewer of several NCI special review panels, and reviewer for numerous medical journals including Gastroenterology, Cancer Research, and GUT. She is actively involved as a Chair or committee member in several national gastroenterology societies, including the American Gastroenterology Association and the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and is President of the Puerto Rico Gastroenterology Association.

Robert Hunter-Mellado, MD, MS
Co-Program Director

Dr. Robert Hunter Mellado is Professor of Internal Medicine at the Universidad Central del Caribe in Bayamon. Dr. Hunter completed medical school at the UPR-MSC in 1978 followed by completing Internal Medicine training at the VAH in San Juan in 1981. He completed Hematology and Medical oncology training at Duke University in Durham in 1984. During his tenure as Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee in Memphis he continued his studies in the basic pathogenesis of Aplastic Anemia and was leader in the clinical trial development in Lung Cancer. He was appointment Chairman and Program Director of the residency training program of the Department of Medicine at the Universidad Central del Caribe in 1989, a position he held until 2002. He is director and Principal investigator of the Retrovirus Research Center at the UCC since 1992, Director of the Cancer Research Unit of the RRC since 2010 and director of the Clinical Research Center of the UCC since 2009. He has served as Invited editor of the Boletín de la Asociación Medica de Puerto Rico and is Editorial consultant of the Puerto Rico Health Sciences Journal. He is a member of the NASBP and ECOG cancer cooperative groups and is Fellow of the American College of Physicians.

His research interests include the study of the natural history of HIV infection in Puerto Rico and are active in the study of platelet activation in several inflammatory conditions. He is also active in the recruitment of Hispanic cancer patients to NCI sponsored clinical trials. He has more than 60 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals. In 2007, Dr. Hunter completed a Masters degree in Bioethics, becoming one of the few clinicians and researchers in the Island to have formal advanced training in the Bioethics. This training has been effectively used to mentor researchers in the area of the ethical conduct of research, as overseer of various DSMB programs and by providing patients with the highest standards of research ethics. His role in the PRCTRC is as co-program director with the task as a facilitator in the areas of regulatory, bioinformatics, Epidemiology, Biostatistics and clinical ethics.


Carlos A. Luciano, MD
Co-Program Director
Dr. Carlos Luciano received his M.D. from the UPR School of Medicine and completed his residency in neurology at the Boston City Hospital. He completed subspecialty training in Electromyography and Clinical Neurophysiology and in Neuromuscular Medicine at the National Institutes of Health where he also served as Acting Chief of the electromyography section from 1991 through 1996. He was recruited from the National Institutes of Health in 1998 to contribute to the clinical research efforts at the UPR-MSC where he joined the RCMI-Clinical Research Center. He is a fellow member of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Association of Neuromuscular Medicine and Electrodiagnosis and is a recognized expert in electromyography and clinical research in neuromuscular medicine. He maintains a research laboratory funded by NIH through the Specialized Neuroscience Research Program and has been actively involved in translational research applying confocal microscopy and multilabelling techniques to the study of cutaneous innervation in healthy children and adults, as well as patients with HIV and diabetic neuropathy. He has also participated in various multicenter clinical trials and is a member of the North Eastern ALS consortium, a consortium organized to perform clinical trials in ALS, and the Cooperative International Neuromuscular Research Group (CINRG), a consortium of researchers studying treatment modalities for the muscular dystrophies.

José Torres-Ruiz, PhD
Co-Program Director
Dr. Jose A. Torres-Ruiz received his Ph.D. and post-doctoral training at the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. He joined the faculty at the Ponce School of Medicine and Health Sciences (PSM&HS) in 1987 as an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry. Currently, he serves as the Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and holds the academic rank of Full Professor. Dr. Torres-Ruiz research interests fall in the areas of cellular stress and protein folding under pathological conditions. Through his tenure at PSM&HS Dr. Torres-Ruiz has occupied several administrative positions including; the Director of the Doctoral Program in the Biomedical Sciences, Director of the Office for Sponsored Programs and Projects, and the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies. Further, he have served as the Principal Investigator/Program Director of numerous federal as well as non-federal research and training initiatives; MBRS Program (NIGMS), RCMI Program NCRR), the PSM/Moffitt Partnership Award (U56) sponsored by NCI, the TRIGR Program for Diabetes Type I (NIDDK and several foundations), the STEP-UP Program for High School Students (NIDDK), etc. More recently, he has been named as one of the four PDs for the Puerto Rico Clinical and Translational Research Consortium (PRCTRC) which is supported by NCRR. Dr. Torres-Ruiz actively participates as a grant reviewer for various agencies and foundations including; NIH (NCI, NIGMS, NCRR, NICHHD, and NIMHHD), NSF, Department of Defense, and the Howard-Hughes-Medical Institute. Dr. Torres-Ruiz has served as a member in national and international scientific and other professional organizations; Society for Research Administrators, Association of Chairs of Departments of Biochemistry, GRAND and GREAT Groups-AAMC, National Board of Medical Examiners Item Development Group in Biochemistry and Cell Biology, etc.



The project is supported by grant U54 RR 026139-01A1 (RCMI Clinical and Translational Research award, University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus) from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NCRR or NIH.


The Puerto Rico Clinical and Translational Research Consortium is a collaborative project of the the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus, Universidad Central del Caribe and Ponce School of Medicine and Health Sciences.