José R. Romero, M.D., FAAP 

José R. Romero, M.D., FAAP  (Program Director): Chief, Pediatric Infectious Diseases & Director, Clinical Trials Research, Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute

Dr. Romero participates in clinical research related to viral and antiviral therapies through the NIH/NAID supported Collaborative Antiviral Study Group. Dr. Romero’s research interests focus on the molecular pathogenesis and molecular epidemiology of enteroviral infections. Additional areas of clinical interest include pediatric tuberculosis, viral central nervous system infections, and novel molecular approaches to the diagnosis infectious diseases. Dr. Romero is the principal investigator on multiple pharmaceutical company sponsored vaccine trials. He also serves as the Director of Infectious Diseases Section and Clinical Trials Research at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute. Dr. Romero has served on Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Board and the National Board of Medical Examiners/United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 Microbiology Committee.

Vini Vijayan, M.D., FAAP

Vini Vijayan, M.D., FAAP  Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

Dr. Vijayan is a faculty member in the pediatric infectious diseases section. She completed her pediatric residency at The Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper Medical Center, and her pediatric infectious diseases fellowship at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Her research interests include improving vaccination coverage among adolescents and pregnant women and development of tools and programs to promote rational use of antimicrobials. Areas of clinical interest include evaluation and treatment of infectious diseases among international travelers and internationally adopted children, infections in the immunocompromised host, and autoimmune disorders.

Heather Highsmith, M.Sc., M.D.Heather Highsmith, M.Sc., M.D. Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

Dr. Highsmith is a faculty member in the section of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. She also serves as the medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program.

Dr. Highsmith’s primary research interests include operational research targeting antimicrobial stewardship, hoping to promote providers to safely choose the correct antibiotics and prevent antibiotic over prescription. Dr. Highsmith is also interested in operational research on the diagnosis and treatment of childhood TB infection and disease in the United States as well as in TB endemic regions of the world.

Dr. Highsmith is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Pediatrics. She is an affiliate of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the International Union Against TB and Lung Disease.

Haleigh Shumate, APRNHaleigh Shumate, APRN

Haleigh is the newest member of the Pediatrics Infectious Diseases section.  With over 5 1/2 years of PICU experience, Haleigh joined our team in August 2018.


Tim Onarecker, MD

Dr. Onarecker will be joining our team on July 15, 2019!  Check back after that time for more updates.



Archana Balamohan, MD

Dr. Balamohan will be joining our team on July 22, 2019!  Check back after that time for more updates.




J. Gary Wheeler, M.D. J. Gary Wheeler, M.D.  Arkansas Department of Health – Branch Chief of Infectious Diseases, Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics

Dr. Wheeler serves as the branch chief of Infectious Diseases for the Arkansas Department of Health. He oversees the HIV, STI, TB, zoonoses, and immunization programs of the Arkansas Department of Health. Dr. Wheeler’s current research interest in is health policy and prevention. He has current and past funding from the CDC and NIH for work on improving immunization rates and on preventive health education. He actively participates in fostering legislation at the state level that promotes health in children and adolescents. He works at multiple levels to prevent and treat tobacco addiction, prevent childhood obesity and monitor vaccine policy. Dr. Wheeler has received multiple accolades for his teaching skills and is a devoted clinician and educator. In the past, he co-chaired the ACH institutional bioethics committee. He serves on the AAP committee on state government affairs and is a member of the AAP Richmond Center faculty.