Leadership Team

Meet Our Leadership Team

At SARRC, we've assembled a team of well-credentialed, highly experienced leaders and researchers in the field of autism. Additionally, two of our twenty-three Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) are certified at the doctoral level (BCBA-D). Along with over 100 capable and caring staff members, SARRC's leadership team enables us to advance cutting-edge research while also providing a lifetime of services that meet immediate, on-the-ground needs of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families.

  • Daniel Openden, Ph.D., BCBA-D

    President and CEO

    Dr. Daniel Openden became SARRC's President and CEO in July 2013, after having served as Vice President and Clinical Services Director since 2007. He earned his doctoral degree in special education, disability, and risk studies at UC Santa Barbara. Danny's first pivotal encounter with autism occurred when he was a college senior working as a second-grade aide with a girl with autism in a mainstream classroom. Attending school with her every day (while he took college classes at night), forever changed Danny's perspective about what's possible for people with ASD: “That experience led me to believe that kids with autism can be educated in the same environments as anybody else and integrated with the rest of the community.” Since then, Danny has worked extensively with families and children with ASD on both federal and state funded research projects. He has also provided consulting and training for school districts across the country, published peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, and presented research at regional, state, and national conventions. He credits taking acting lessons as a child and playing in small television roles until he was 14 with giving him the confidence to become a talented presenter and leader. He and his wife Erica have two young sons. The Phoenix Business Journal in 2011 named Danny one of Phoenix's “Forty Under 40” up-and-coming community leaders.

  • Christopher J. Smith, Ph.D.

    Vice President and Research Director

    Dr. Christopher J. Smith is an experimental psychologist with expertise in diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder and measuring associated traits. He oversees all diagnostic evaluations and assessments for our clients while also directing all internal and external research projects. Prior to joining us at SARRC, Chris worked as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where he still maintains a faculty position. Originally drawn to study autism because of the complexity of the disorder, here at SARRC, Chris values the ability to work with clients across all age groups and engage in out-of-the-box research endeavors. Originally from New York, when he's not doing science, Chris enjoys running, biking, hiking, and being active with his family.

  • Larry D. Hillwig

    Chief Administrative Officer

    Larry Hillwig comes to SARRC following a 20 year career with McDonough Corporation and its subsidiary, L. J. Smith, Inc.; having been relocated to Arizona from Ohio in 2010. Recently, Larry was the Chief Administrative Officer and Treasurer for McDonough.  During this time, he was responsible for corporate oversight of Human Resources, Treasury, Corporate Secretary and Compliance at the holding company, overseeing activities at its many subsidiary companies across the United States.  Over the years, Larry has held many progressive roles in managerial accounting for large manufacturing organizations, holding positions such as Controller and CFO.  With this background, he moved into increased roles of responsibility such as General Manager, COO and President; all while gaining knowledge of all business functions, growing and expanding operations across the country.  Larry looks forward to applying his broad business background and collaborative management style to the non-profit arena.  Originally from the western Pennsylvania area, Larry obtained a BSBA degree in accounting from Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA and also has an MBA from Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.  Larry and his wife, Diane, enjoy hiking in the beautiful Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve and entertaining visitors from the east, especially their three adult sons.

  • Andrea Levy

    Chief Financial Officer

    Andrea Levy, CPA, CFE serves as CFO with SARRC. Levy started her career in corporate accounting and internal audit, but ultimately found her niche in nonprofit management. Levy provides strategic financial leadership and forward-thinking to support the lifespan of autism research and resources. Levy holds a bachelor’s in accounting and a master’s in business administration. Levy recently served as board member of the Arizona Certified Fraud Examiners Chapter. Her favorite part of the role was championing the Arizona Helping Hands holiday toy charity drive. Levy holds the Certified Fraud Examiner, Chartered Global Management Accountant and Six Sigma Greenbelt designations.

  • Maureen Jorden

    Vice President and Development Director

    Maureen Jorden has devoted her professional career to Phoenix-area nonprofit organizations where she has specialized in development strategies and event organization, and cultivated a vast network of donors and volunteers. At the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center, Jorden has implemented fundraising strategies to expand support for the organization and its dedication to autism research, education, evidence-based treatment and community outreach. She is also SARRC’s liaison with its Board of Directors, works closely with executives to foster relationships with donors and supporters, and strives to increase overall public awareness of SARRC’s mission and accomplishments.

    Jorden is a Sun Devil, having graduated magna cum laude from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies in 2007. In 2012, she earned a certificate from Indiana University in the principals and techniques of fundraising. She is a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.


  • Amy Kenzer, Ph.D., BCBA-D

    Vice President and Clinical Services Director

    Dr. Amy Kenzer earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Nevada, Reno. Amy manages and supervises programs for children 12 years of age and younger. She came to SARRC after working as the Research and Development Manager at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc. (CARD). As an undergraduate student looking for field experience credits, Amy stumbled into autism research and fell in love with the science. She especially values being able to make a real difference in families’ lives. Growing up, her family moved around a lot between Nevada and Arizona. Now living in Phoenix, Amy enjoys reading books and decorating cakes with her young daughter and son.

  • Wade Newhouse

    Information Technology Director

    As IT Director, Wade Newhouse oversees developing, implementing, and using technology at SARRC while also leading organizational efforts to improve the effective use of technology in service of our mission. Wade grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, earning a bachelor's of science degree in mass communication. Before SARRC, he worked as Head of IT Services at Stirling Energy Systems. Soon after Wade's three-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, he joined the leadership team at SARRC, wanting to work closely with professionals in the field of autism. "What I love most about working here," says Wade, "is witnessing hope realized for my own and for other people's families too." When Wade's not spending quality time with his wonderful, supportive wife and three beautiful daughters, he's out singing in a rock-n-roll band.

  • Paige Raetz, Ph.D., BCBA-D

    Transition Academy Director

    Paige Raetz is Director of the Transition Academy, a new program focused on transitioning adults with autism into independent living in partnership with First Place AZ. Since 2010, Paige has served as Clinical Director of Trumpet Behavioral Health and has helped expand services in Phoenix, Illinois and Texas. Paige has a strong foundation in behavior analysis beginning with her undergraduate work with individuals with intellectual impairment and autism at Cal Lutheran University. She went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Pacific, where she first became interested in working with individuals across the lifespan, and a Ph.D. under the mentorship of Linda LeBlanc at Western Michigan University.

  • Raun D. Melmed, MD

    Medical Director and Co-Founder

    Raun D. Melmed, MD, co-founder and medical director of the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, is a developmental and behavioral pediatrician and is director of the Melmed Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is an Adjunct Senior Researcher at the Translational Genomics Institute in Phoenix and on faculty at Arizona State University.  Dr. Melmed earned his medical degree at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa, and completed a fellowship at the Children's Hospital Medical Center in Boston, where he was an Instructor at Harvard Medical School.  

    Dr. Melmed is a member of the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and the Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He is board certified in Pediatrics as well as in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.  

    The author or coauthor of more than 70 publications, he has set up nationally recognized physician training programs for the early identification of infants and toddlers with developmental and behavioral concerns and authored a program geared toward the early screening for autism spectrum disorders.  He is the co-author of Succeeding with Difficult Children and Autism: Early Intervention.  Dr. Melmed is currently a principal investigator of novel psychopharmacological agents in the treatment of autism, Fragile X and ADHD and collaborates on studies of tools used in the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders.