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. Along with nearly 200 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. Dr. Openden earned his doctoral degree in special education, disability, and risk studies at UC Santa Barbara. His 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 his 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,  Dr. Openden 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  Dr. Openden one of Phoenix's “Forty Under 40” up-and-coming community leaders.

  • Maureen Jorden

    Chief Development Officer

    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, Maureen 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 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. Through her leadership of the development team, Maureen manages a department of nine that is responsible for donors, volunteers, and marketing for the entire organization. She also leads SARRC’s flagship event, its annual Community Breakfast. Maureen 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 principles and techniques of fundraising. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and served on the Board in 2017. When she’s not raising money for a cause, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two young boys. 

  • Amy Kenzer, Ph.D., BCBA-D

    Chief Operating Officer

    Dr. Amy Kenzer earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Nevada, Reno. Dr. Kenzer 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, she stumbled into autism research and fell in love with the science. Dr. Kenzer 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, she enjoys reading books and decorating cakes with her young daughter and son.

  • 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. 

  • Christopher J. Smith, Ph.D.

    Chief Science Officer

    Dr. Christopher J. Smith is an experimental psychologist with expertise in diagnosing autism spectrum disorder and measuring associated traits. Dr. Smith oversees all diagnostic evaluations and assessments for our clients while also directing all internal and external research projects. Prior to joining us at SARRC, he 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, Dr. Smith 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, he enjoys running, biking, hiking, and being active with his family.

  • Rachel Anderson, MA, BCBA

    Director of Clinical Services

    Rachel Anderson, a licensed Board Certified Analyst (BCBA), became interested in the science of Applied Behavior Analysis while pursuing her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from UCLA. She took coursework taught by Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas and his passion for the science of behavior and dedication to helping individuals with autism achieve best outcomes inspired Rachel. She has been involved in the field of behavior analysis ever since. Rachel went on to receive her Master of Arts in Exceptional Student Education from the University of West Florida as well as a certificate in Positive Behavior Support from Northern Arizona University. Previous to her current role,  Rachel served as the Director of SARRC’s Community School for the past 10 years. Under her guidance, the Community School grew from one classroom with eight students to a program across two campuses, eight classrooms and serving over 100 families. When Rachel is not at work, she enjoys biking to dinner with her family and trying out fun, new restaurants in downtown Phoenix.

  • Devon Graham

    Director of Human Resources

    As the Director of Human Resources, Devon W. Graham oversees all aspects of human capital management and performance, payroll and benefits at SARRC. Devon’s passion for human resources began in high school when he started a 6-year internship for Eastman Kodak Company that continued through his college years. Devon is a Purdue University Boilermaker at heart and graduated with a major in management and a minor in human resources/organizational behavior. For over 20 years he has fine-tuned his skills by working in property management, healthcare, real estate and customer service industries. Devon began the process of educating himself on autism when his father befriended a neighborhood child with autism spectrum disorder. Through this learning process and the continual drive to help others, he came to join the dynamic team at SARRC in 2019. Devon is an active member of the Society of Human Resource Management and American Payroll Association.  In his spare time, he enjoys running, hiking, mountain biking, volunteering at two animal rescues in the valley, home remodeling, and being the parent to three furry children (Milo, Google and OZ).

  • 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, 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 his 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 he'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

    Director of Clinical Services

    Dr. Paige Raetz earned her Ph.D. in Behavior Analysis at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Dr. Raetz joined SARRC after serving in both research and clinical director roles for autism agencies both nationally and internationally. She currently oversees all services for teen and adult clients at SARRC. She has published work in several journals on a variety of topics within behavior analysis. In addition to her role at SARRC, Dr. Raetz has served as an adjunct professor within the Behavior Analysis Master's program at Arizona State University from 2012-2018. She also serves as president of Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism, a national group supporting and advancing opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum. She enjoys being back in her home state of Arizona and helping to make a meaningful impact in the community.

  • Karen Scott

    Director of Marketing and Communications

    With 13 years in the nonprofit sector, Karen has experience in internal and external communications; strategic implementation, branding and marketing; event planning and fundraising, and company collaboration. Under her guidance at SARRC, Karen has successfully grown the organization’s presence through strategic marketing and communications efforts. She leads the development of current and new communications and marketing strategies, plans, and protocols to advance SARRC’s brand identity and position within the community. She has also served in numerous nonprofit roles, both as an employee and volunteer, which has enabled her to gain an understanding of the inner workings of charitable organizations. She holds a bachelor’s degree in integrative public relations and public affairs from Central Michigan University. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, exploring Arizona and traveling with her husband.