The Research Team | UnityPoint Health - Peoria

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The Research Team

VP/Chief Medical Officer

Gary L. Knepp, DO

Medical Director

Vaughn Hanna, MD

Clinical Research Manager

Natalie Dilts, CPhT

Natalie joined the research team in 2015 and specializes in CHF and pulmonary clinical trials, including COPD and asthma research.  Previously, Natalie worked as a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) compounding sterile injections and medications in a pharmacy laboratory.  Natalie earned her BLS degree and Certificate in Public Health from the University of Iowa and is currently completing her MPH from Northern Illinois University.  She enjoys applying the knowledge gained from these academic programs to help improve patient outcomes through research.  To reach Natalie, please email her at or call 309-672-3118.

Research Nurse

Deanna Ruder, RN BSN

Deanna has been a part of the research team since 2012 and has worked at Methodist for 15 years. She has previously worked in a variety of areas such as pediatric homecare, nursing home, medical-oncology, child and adolescent psych, surgical care and military nursing. She enjoys learning new studies and different specialties.  To reach Deanna, please email her at or call 309-672-4808.

Research Nurse

Dean Thompson, RN

Dean recently joined the research team.  He has worked at Methodist for 9 years in a variety of areas such as the acute respiratory care unit, child and adolescent behavioral health nursing, orthopedic nursing, and is certified in medical - surgical nursing.  He is working on obtaining an MSN in nursing.  He enjoys learning new study treatment methods and specialties to promote better patient outcomes.  To reach Dean, please email him at or call 309-672-3194.

Clinical Research Associate

Madison Kelly, CMA

Madison joined the research team in 2016.  She has been with Methodist for 4 years working as a CMA prior to research.  Currently working on a variety of studies, she enjoys learning new information everyday as well as helping patients improve their health through research.  To reach Madison, please email her at or 309-672-3153.

Research Specialist Lab

Sandy Pottorf, CLS (ASCP)

Sandy joined the research team in 2008 after working 17 years in Methodist's Laboratory, mostly in the Chemistry department.  She enjoys the challenges of research which allow her to apply her laboratory expertise while collaborating with outside companies in the development of new assays, reagents and instrumentation for the clinical laboratory.  To reach Sandy, please email her at or call 309-672-4910.