The OCD’s main purposes are to ensure patient safety and confidentiality, monitor regulatory compliance, assist in policy and resource management, foster training and education, and facilitate the work of intramural clinical investigators.  The specific functions of the OCD include:Join a Study NIAAA clinical research

1) Providing oversight of patient care and patient-related activities within the Division of Intramural Clinical and Biological Research (DICBR), including quality assurance, quality improvement, and human subject protections, thereby ensuring safety and confidentiality

2) Guaranteeing that physicians and other staff not limited to nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical social workers, nurses, and clinical psychologists have the required licensing, certification, and credentialing through NIH Clinical Research Center (CRC) and are otherwise appropriately qualified for their clinical contacts with patients

3) Assisting the Scientific Director in allocating NIAAA and NIH CRC resources including Clinical Center Unit space, Clinical Center Office space, and Clinical Center Clinic space assigned to NIAAA and other CRC-administered resources including neuroimaging, clinical pathology, and pharmacy

4) Supporting Fellowship programs and training and career development of OCD staff

In addition to the above functions, the OCD conducts clinical research, including development and implementation of clinical research protocols and research initiatives; monitors NIAAA protocol review through NIH Institutional Review Boards (IRBs); delivers clinical and administrative infrastructure for NIAAA clinical research protocols as well as basic science studies involving clinical specimens; and assists the Scientific Director in strategic planning that focuses on new clinical research opportunities including studies informed by neurobiology, novel approaches to treatments, comorbidity with other diseases, and design of clinical trials. Furthermore, the OCD creates opportunities for young physician scientists in alcohol research by developing programs for training in addictions medicine.



OCD Personnel


David Goldman, M.D.
Clinical Director

Photo of Dr. Goldman
Dr. David Goldman has been Chief of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics since 1991 and is Clinical Director of NIAAA. Dr. Goldman graduated cum laude from Yale University and magna cum laude from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston where he was also a Resident in Psychiatry. He joined NIAAA in 1979, was an NIMH Clinical Associate 1980-1984, and rejoined NIAAA in 1985. He is a Fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. Throughout his career, Dr. Goldman has focused on identifying genes that influence vulnerability to alcoholism, other addictions and other psychiatric diseases. He has authored over 400 papers, including several of the first “imaging genetics” studies in which genes were shown to alter brain function. He and his group have used various complex methods to explore genetics, and he has discovered inherited gene variations that alter function of molecules in the body and has traced the effects of these genetic variations through to complex behaviors in both humans and animal models. His studies have also taken advantage of the ability to control genetic and environmental factors in animal models, both for gene discovery and for validation of gene effects. Dr. Goldman won the James Isaacson Research Award of the International Society for Biological Research on Alcoholism and twice won the NIH Director’s Award. He is author of “Our Genes, Our Choices,” which won The British Medical Association top prize.

Nancy Diazgranados, M.D., M.S.
Deputy Clinical Director

Photo of Nancy Diazgranados

Dr. Diazgranados received her Doctoral Degree in Medicine and Surgery from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota Colombia in 2001. She completed her Psychiatry residency at Albert Einstein Medical Center and a Master in Science Degree in Pharmacology at Thomas Jefferson University in 2007. In 2008 she became a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. She continued her training as a Post-Doctoral Clinical-Research Fellow at the intramural program at NIMH; there she worked at the Experimental Therapeutics and Pathophysiology Branch in the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program.  In 2010 she joined the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio as a tenure track assistant professor within the Division of Mood and Anxiety Disorders. In 2012 she relocated to Maryland and started a private practice. Dr. Diazgranados is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a recipient of multiple research awards. She joined NIAAA in September, 2013 where she now serves as Deputy Clinical Director in the intramural program.


OCD Staff


Photo of Megan Carraco

Megan Carraco, MA, CCRC
Recruitment and Outreach Specialist
Megan Carraco holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Southern Methodist University. She is a certified clinical research coordinator who came to NIH from Sibley Hospital, Johns Hopkins Medicine, where she worked as the Oncology Research Program Coordinator. She is responsible for recruitment, screening, and assessment at NIAAA.

Betsy Davis
Protocol Coordinator and Monitor

Photo of Betsy Davis

Betsy Davis serves the OCD as a protocol coordinator/monitor.  She has an extensive background in clinical research.  Betsy has been involved in many and varied studies since joining the Institute in 1980, including neuropsychological testing of patients with Alcohol Amnestic Disorder and Alcoholic Dementia, studies of electroencephalography and evoked potentials and work with both PET and MRI studies.   She has been responsible for all aspects of running many of these studies, from advertisement, patient recruitment and screening to testing the subjects, entering data and analysis.   Having been responsible for so many aspects of running clinical protocols in the past has helped to prepare Betsy for her role as coordinator/monitor.    In addition to monitoring, she works on the programming of data collection instruments for computer administration of self-report questionnaires.   She also participates in the training of staff in procedures and processes related to GCP compliance and computerized testing.


David T. George, M.D.
Senior Scientist

Photo of Dr. George

Dr. George is a senior scientist in the NIAAA OCD. Dr. George received his Medical Degree from Bowman Gray School of Medicine of Wake Forest University.  He has completed residencies in Internal Medicine at Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Michigan and in Psychiatry at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.  He is board certified in both internal medicine and psychiatry. His major research interests include exploring new treatments for alcoholism and understanding the biological antecedents of domestic violence and PTSD.   He has published more than 100 peer reviewed articles and is the author of Untangling the Mind. Why We Behave the Way We Do. Dr. George is a Clinical Professor at George Washington University School of Medicine.


Caroline Grant, B.A.
Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Awardee (IRTA)

Photo of Caroline Grant

Caroline Grant is a postbaccalaureate IRTA in the OCD. She began working at the NIAAA in July 2017 after graduating with a B.A. in Neuroscience from Northwestern University. As an undergraduate, she first worked on a study investigating novel treatments for nicotine addiction. She later collected and cleaned peripheral electrophysiology data for a study investigating the development of bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. She is interested in learning more about the interaction between biology and behavior that occurs in addiction and mood disorders, and she plans to explore this interest further by pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.


Yvonne Horneffer, M.S.N., CRNP
Adult Nurse Practitioner
Yvonne Horneffer is a board certified Adult Nurse Practitioner. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing in 2001from George Mason University in collaboration with the George Washington University School of Medicine. Prior to joining NIAAA Yvonne was an Associate Investigator at the National Cancer Institute’s Early Drug Development Program from 2006 to 2016 conducting Phase 0 and Phase 1 clinical trials. Yvonne is also a Certified Nephrology Nurse who served as an Associate Investigator at NIDDK’s Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program from 2004 to early 2006. With prior background in nursing management and surgical nursing, in her spare time, Yvonne organizes, plans, and leads a team of volunteer surgeons and other health care providers on an annual surgical mission overseas. 
Cheryl L. Jones, B.A.
Research Psychologist
Photo of Cheryl Jones
Since joining NIAAA in November 1979, Cheryl has had several titles, roles, and responsibilities.  Currently, her responsibilities include a combination of study data coordination and management, training, and quality assurance (QA) monitoring.   She is responsible for independent quality assurance review of patient safety data and eligibility criteria for three active investigational drug protocols. This involves reviewing each patient’s case report form (CRF), eligibility, labs, and source documents.  Following the monitoring of completed CRFs, she reports protocol deviations and irregularities, correction requests, and corrective actions to the PI. In addition to her other duties, she reviews and records auditory stimuli for stress challenge studies. She also attends monthly inter-institute QA advisory committee (IRPAC) meetings as well as the LCTS/IT group data management monthly meetings.  Cheryl holds a B.A. in Family Living and Human Development from the University of the District of Columbia.
Laura Kwako, Ph.D.
Clinical Research Psychologist
Dr. Kwako
Dr. Kwako is a clinical research psychologist in the OCD.  Since 2010, she has been licensed in Washington, DC and credentialed at the NIH Clinical Research Center as a clinical psychologist.  She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Catholic University of America, and her bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Northwestern University.  She completed postdoctoral clinical training at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville, MD, specializing in treatment for addiction and trauma-related disorders in an inpatient, primarily forensic, setting.  Dr. Kwako’s research interests include the sequelae of early life stress, particularly as they relate to addictive and comorbid psychiatric disorders.  She has authored multiple peer-reviewed publications on various aspects of stress and trauma-related conditions.  Within the OCD, Dr. Kwako manages implementation of the Addictions Neuroclinical Assessment (ANA) initiative, provides guidance on regulatory compliance, human subjects protections, and quality assurance, and conducts original research within the NIAAA IRP.

Hiroshi Sakuma, M.D., Ph.D.
Special Volunteer

Dr Sakuma

Dr. Sakuma is a volunteer researcher in the OCD. He is presently engaged in research on alcohol response and identifying phenotypes of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Dr. Sakuma started his career as a researcher and a clinical psychiatrist. He received his M.D. in 1995 from the Fukushima Medical University in Japan. He majored in psychiatry and received his Ph.D. in Medical Science in 2011 at Fukushima Medical University in Japan, where he conducted neuropsychological research about cognitive dysfunctions in Schizophrenia. Dr. Sakuma worked in Kurihama Medical and Addiction Center as a chief of psychiatry since 2012. While there, his research included studies on the epidemiology of addictive behavior after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, Internet Addiction therapeutic camp program (a collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan), and development and assessment of an Anger Management Program focused on AUD.

Melanie Schwandt, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist
Photo of Dr. Schwandt
Dr. Schwandt is the clinical data manager and statistics coordinator for the OCD. She received her Ph.D. in physical anthropology from Arizona State University with a focus on non-human primate behavior and development. During her studies, she also developed database management skills and a strong foundation in applied biostatistics. She initially came to the NIH as a postdoctoral fellow, conducting research on behavior and genetics in rhesus macaques. In 2008 Dr. Schwandt transitioned to the clinical component of the Laboratory of Clinical and Translational Studies, and in 2011 she completed certification in applied statistical analysis with a focus on clinical research studies. Along with the Information Technology branch, she is responsible for clinical data capture, database creation and curation, and the provision of statistical support to laboratories within the OCD. In addition, she continues to pursue her own research interests in environmental and genetic influences on behavior, stress reactivity, and addiction-related phenotypes. In particular, she is interested in the effects of early life trauma on stress vulnerability and resilience.
Tonette Vinson, M.S.N., CRNP, OCN 
Adult Nurse Practitioner
Tonette Vinson graduated from The University of Pennsylvania as an Adult Oncology Nurse Practitioner.  She is a board certified Adult Nurse Practitioner.  She has taken the skills learned and honed in the oncology setting and is using them to support research within NIAAA.  She is an associate investigator on several studies and serves as a clinical provider. Tonette also served in several capacities of research, while in the United States Navy.   
Sheila Walsh, MA, CCM, PMHN-BC 
Research Nurse
Sheila Walsh has vast experience in both research and mental health nursing with a specialty in assessment, specifically cognitive assessment and rehab.

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Clinical Core Laboratory

The NIAAA OCD is located in the Hatfield Clinical Research Center (CRC) on the main NIH campus in Bethesda, MD.  The goal of the OCD’s Clinical Core Laboratory (CCL) is to provide a shared laboratory space for NIAAA researchers in the CRC to facilitate human alcoholism research. Space and cost limitations preclude Principal Investigators (PI) from having individual laboratories; thus, the OCD has created the CCL to provide a common environment for performing analysis not covered by the NIH Clinical Center’s Department of Laboratory Medicine.
Under the direction of the OCD, the CCL will assist with technical laboratory training for any PI’s staff members, research assay design, and will provide the framework for core laboratory functions, and perform certain core assays. It will verify that non-CCL staff who may work in the CCL are qualified to do so by training appropriate administrative status and annual certifications and maintain a list of people approved to work in the CCL.
The CCL may also provide support for PI non-core specialized experiments, with OCD approval. Laboratory staff members will work with investigators to provide the most appropriate and cost-effective services to meet their research needs. The lab will be Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certified for analyses used to generate laboratory results into patient records or used to determine course of care.
Hui Sun, M.D.
Photo of Dr. Sun
Dr. Hui Sun directs analyses of sequencing, genotyping and functional genetics of DNA samples collected from human research subjects. Her research involves using gene expression analysis (e.g., mRNAs, protein) to elucidate the neurobiological mechanisms of addiction. In studying the neurobiological mechanisms, Dr. Sun develops research protocols, methodology, and novel biomedical techniques while optimizing medical laboratory procedures and techniques. Dr. Sun uses real-time PCR, reporter assays, nanostring, and microarray analysis to examine gene expression at the level of mRNA and protein. For protein analyses, Dr. Sun uses EMSA, receptor binding and receptor signaling analysis luciferase binding assays to screen neurotransmitter receptor variants and analyze target membrane proteins. Dr. Sun has a wide range of expertise including Real-time PCR, genotyping, gene expression, oligonucleotide primer design, electrophoresis of DNA and proteins, and DNA sequencing as well as cell culture, receptor binding, and transfection techniques. 
Erick Singley, B.S.
Photo of Eric Singley
Erick Singley is a chemist and runs the analytical core, which involves everything from measuring blood alcohol levels in humans, through HPLC analyses of monoamines and their metabolites in cerebrospinal fluid, to analyses of neuropeptides using immune-based methods.  In addition, he is responsible for the maintenance of equipment, including property management and the procurement of equipment and supplies.
Ruslan Damadzic, M.D.
Photo of R. Damadzic
Dr. Damadzic joined the Laboratory of Clinical and Translational Studies, NIAAA, in October 2006 after finishing postdoctoral training and employment in NIMH.  He received his M.D. degree in University of Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he completed Internship and General Practice training.  Dr. Damadzic came to NIMH as a Fogarty Fellow awardee, working in the Clinical Brain Disorders Branch and investigating several projects in neuroanatomical study in human adults with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and unipolar depression. He continued his training in NIMH where he worked on study on the PACAP effect. His group discovered that PACAP might act to protect the brain from paraphysiological insult, including exposure to toxins or hypoxia.  In last several years in LCTS/NIAAA, as a neuroanatomist and biologist, he began work with a research team to better understand the consequences of excessive ethanol consumption on the brain and behavior and assisted in development of new pharmacotherapeutics. His research efforts focus on understanding the brain’s biological changes that lead to excessive alcohol consumption and the neurochemical changes that occur with alcohol addiction.

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Clinical Infrastructure

Our clinical facilities are located in the Hatfield Clinical Research Center (CRC) on the main NIH campus in Bethesda, MD.  These include an outpatient clinic, for purposes of participant screening and evaluation, and outpatient treatment groups, and a 14-bed inpatient unit for treatment and research.
Clinical Research Center, Aerial View
Clinical Research Center Aerial View
Clinical Research Center, North Entrance
Clinical Research Center North Entrance
Clinical Research Center, Atrium
Clinical Research Center Atrium
1SE Outpatient Clinic
Photo of 1SE Outpatient clinic
1SE Inpatient Behavioral Health Unit
Photo of 1SE Inpatient Behavior Health Unit

Clinical Training Programs

We offer a rotation in alcoholism treatment through the Clinical Electives Program.  Please see the following link for further details: 
Actively Recruiting Protocols (via
Regulatory Information

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