Cardiovascular Fellows

Third Year

Vittal Hejjaji, MD

Medical School: Rajarajeswari Medical College and Hospital, Bangalore, India
Residency: Case Western Reserve University/University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, Cleveland, OH
Awards/Accomplishments: Dr. CJ Carpenter Award for Best Graduating Resident, Case Western Reserve University; Award for Best Resident Research, CWRU; Winner, Saint Luke’s Research Day, 2019; Young Investigator Award Finalist, 2020, Society of Vascular Medicine Research Conference; Young Investigator Award Finalist, 2020, AHA Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Conference; Resident Research Committee Leader
What attracted you to this program? 
My interest in pursuing a career in academic medicine made me seek a program which blends clinical exposure of cardiovascular medicine with strong outcomes research training. I found this combination at Saint Luke’s Hospital. The faculty, (clinical and research), are extremely friendly, approachable and profoundly invested in the fellows’ education. The clinical fellowship covers all fields of cardiovascular medicine with a variety of patient populations at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute and Truman Medical Center. Excellent camaraderie among the cardiovascular fellows, and their willingness to help one another is a great attraction and was evident during the interview process. The clinical structure provides an adequate amount of autonomy for fellows, along with opportunities for advanced resident/medical student education. This will help prepare us to be successful cardiologists in all areas of practice. The excellent subspecialty training in the ever-growing field of cardiovascular medicine gives me the chance to explore all areas in an unbiased fashion. The opportunity to work alongside a few of the nation’s best cardiologists is a major attraction. I would strongly recommend this program to all applicants who seek a balanced cardiovascular training program.
Areas of interest: Cardiovascular risk factor prevention, public health and implementation science, general clinical cardiology

Ali Malik, MD

Medical School: Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan
Residency: University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada
Awards/Accomplishments: AOA honor society; Barbara H. O’ Rourke Outstanding Internal Medicine Resident Teaching Award June 2017; Young Investigator Award Finalist AHA QCOR; AHA Nov. 2019, Northwestern Young Investigators Forum; Young Investigator Award Winner AHA Nov. 2020; Saint Luke’s Research Day, First Prize in Clinical Research April 2021; Iron Man Triathlon
What attracted you to this program?
The cardiology fellowship at Saint Luke’s/UMKC is one of the very few in the country that offers a comprehensive program. We are world leaders in patient centered outcomes research that helps physicians improve patient care all over the world. The clinical training is vigorous and involves a variety of experiences ranging from basic cardiology cases to state-of-the-art procedures. The faculty is very involved in the fellowship and makes every effort to help the fellows reach their potential.
Areas of interest: Interventional cardiology and research focused on streamlining systems of care as to improve outcomes.

Anas Noman, MD

Medical School: University of Sana’a, Faculty of Medicine, Sana'a, Yemen
Residency: University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, Kansas City, MO
Awards/Accomplishments: Graduated from medical school with honors; Gold Humanism Honor Society, UMKC SoM; Sirridge Award for Humanism, UMKC Internal Medicine Residency Program
What attracted you to this program?
Spending three years as a resident at UMKC, I was given the opportunity to work closely with the different cardiology teams at UMKC/Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute, including attendings, fellows, and nurse practitioners. Everyone here is kind and very dedicated to educating and helping each other. The fellowship program is structured in a way that prepares fellows to succeed when they graduate whether they choose an academic or private setting. The complexity of cases, advanced skills, and use of technology will give us the tools we need regardless of the goals each fellow has. Besides the solid clinical training, the program is one of the few in the country that is known for its outstanding cardiovascular outcomes research. This gives me abundant opportunities to be involved in a vast array of research projects. Most of all, Kansas City is very family-friendly and was a perfect fit for my wife and our kids.
Areas of interest: Interventional cardiology

Stefanie Vamenta, MD

Medical School: University of Mississippi, Jackson, MS
Residency: University of Alabama-Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
Awards/Accomplishments: Claude Bennett Award for Outstanding Clinical Performance, UAB Internal Medicine Residency Program
What attracted you to this program?
During my interview, the collegiality among the fellows and attendings was evident. This cohesiveness was what drew me to Saint Luke's. The faculty has a genuine, vested interest in the fellows’ education, while at the same time encourages wellness outside of work. In addition, the program is clinically well-rounded and provides fellows with exposure not only to bread-and-butter cardiology cases but also to an array of new advancements in the field.
Areas of interest: General Cardiology, Preventive Cardiology, Advanced Imaging

Second Year

Amanda Heuszel, MD

Medical School: University of Kansas School of Medicine, Kansas City, KS
Residency: University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Awards/Accomplishments: Chief Resident; Chair, Resident Liaison Committee; ACP Doctor's Dilemma Team Member – Iowa Team Finalist
What attracted you to this program?
From the day I interviewed at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute/UMKC, I knew this would be an incredible place to train. I wanted a program that would expose me to a wide variety of cardiac pathologies, research, and fuel my long-term interest in teaching. With robust divisions in non-invasive cardiology, cardiac intensive care, advanced heart failure and transplant, interventional, and electrophysiology, I will be clinically well-rounded. In addition, there was a real sense of collegiality amongst the fellows, faculty, and program leadership. Coming from a residency program that valued well-being and education, I knew that this program would offer a similar atmosphere and would be a place where I could thrive.
Areas of interest: Heart failure, general cardiology, medical education

Mark Metzinger, MD

Medical School: University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, TX
Residency: University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, TX
Awards/Accomplishments: Graduated with Distinction in Research, UT Southwestern Medical School; AOA honor society; Phi Beta Kappa; Outstanding Biochemistry Research Award, awarded by College of Science, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Summa Cum Laude, University of Notre Dame
What attracted you to this program?
Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute/UMKC offers excellent clinical training combined with numerous research opportunities. The collegiality among fellows and throughout the program was very attractive. My wife and I were both applying to fellowship and UMKC offered outstanding training for both of us. Dr. Enriquez and the program leadership have been extremely supportive throughout the process.
Areas of interest: General cardiology, preventive cardiology

Ellen Murray, MD

Medical School: University of Missouri, Columbia, MO
Residency: University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
Awards/Accomplishments: Gold Humanism Society; Ran two marathons and two 50K races since starting residency
What attracted you to this program? 
I really enjoyed my interview here and felt like the faculty, staff, and fellows were not only passionate about cardiology, but also were committed to training spectacular clinical and research fellows and caring for patients. I especially was interested in the high volume of interventional cardiology and advanced heart failure/transplant as those are what I am most interested in.
Areas of interest: Interventional cardiology, right heart failure, and pulmonary hypertension

Merrill Thomas, MD, MSc

Medical School: University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, MO
Residency: University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, MO
Previous Fellowship: T32 Cardiovascular Outcomes Postdoctoral Fellowship
Awards/Accomplishments Gold Humanism Honor Society; Internal Medicine Consultant of the Year; Dr. and Mrs. Arnold V. Arms Award for Outstanding Internal Medicine Resident; AOA honor society; Graduated medical school Summa Cum Laude; Qualified for Boston marathon
What attracted you to this program? 
As a resident at UMKC, I saw firsthand the wonderful clinical training opportunities available at Mid America Heart Institute. The staff were invested in teaching and providing excellent patient care while at the same time advancing the field of cardiology through leading-edge research in every subspecialty within cardiology. The fellows were eager to help a resident who was interested in the field and everyone got along like family. I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
Areas of interest: General cardiology and advanced imaging

First Year

R. Angel Garcia, DO

Medical School: Rowan University School of Osteopathy Medicine, Stratford, NJ
Residency: Rutgers NJMS, Regional Medical Center, Elizabeth, NJ
Fellowship: Advanced Heart Failure & Transplant Fellowship, Case Western Reserve University – University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, Cleveland, OH; NIH-T32 Cardiovascular Outcomes Research Fellowship, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, MO
Awards/Accomplishments: AHA Young Investigator Award; Chief Resident; Nomination for 2021 Cournand and Comroe Early Career Investigator Award; President of the Latino Medical Student Association; Dorothea E. Fenton Award at Chestnut Hill College
What attracted you to this program?
My journey to Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute/UMKC began at one of the AHA’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research (QCOR) conferences. I met several people from the Saint Luke’s cardiovascular outcomes research group and learned about the numerous research and clinical opportunities and the depth of training that is provided. My future goals include a desire to further my knowledge in research and meld it into my clinical career, so I knew Saint Luke’s was for me. However, it was the collegial leadership and overall culture of community and support—in addition to the exceptional clinical and research training—that made this fellowship stand out above the rest.
Areas of interest: Advanced heart failure and transplant, cardiovascular outcomes

Lehman A. Godwin, MD

Medical School: Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA
Residency: Emory University Internal Medicine. Atlanta, GA
Awards/Accomplishments: Junior AOA member; 2009 Missouri Class I Individual and Team State Golf Champion
What attracted you to the program: The combination of high clinical volume, diverse practice settings, and the ability to work with leaders in the cardiology field made me extremely excited about this program. Ultimately, however, it was the people and relationships that I built on my interview day and going forward that convinced me that there was no better place to learn how to become a great cardiologist.
Areas of interest: Advanced Cardiovascular Imaging and Advanced Heart Failure

Suchith Vuppala, MD

Medical School: University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, TX
Residency: University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, TX
Awards/Accomplishments:  Outstanding Internal Medicine Residency Teacher Award, UT Austin Outstanding Student Health Leadership Award, UT Southwestern Intramural Tennis Champion, UT Southwestern Scholarship for Academic Excellence, UT Southwestern Ambulatory Care Clerkship Award
What attracted you to the program: The aspects of this fellowship that strongly drew me are the outstanding breadth and depth of the clinical and research training, as well as the incredibly supportive atmosphere fostered by the program director and leadership from the onset of the interview process. Since starting the fellowship, the program leadership and the fellows have been extremely supportive and always there to help. The faculty has been amazing and the clinical training has been excellent.
Areas of interest: General Cardiology, Medical Education, and Advanced Imaging

Rob Weidling, MD

Medical School: University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine, Kansas City, MO
Residency: University of Kansas, Kansas City, KS
Awards/Accomplishments: Chief Resident, KU-CHEST point of care ultrasound scholarship recipient, ex-Junior Squat Record Holder in Missouri
What attracted you to this program: This cardiology program offers a unique training environment that I did not find anywhere else on the interview trail. Namely, Saint Luke’s offers world-class cardiology care within a blended academic-private cardiology group. This blend inherently lends itself to a program that strongly values the education of its’ fellows versus their service. Additionally, the size of the fellowship classes leads to strong collegiality amongst co-fellows and faculty alike which has made my transition to fellowship a real joy. The close ties that we share with faculty naturally facilitate career mentorship. With every cardiac specialty division robustly staffed by respective thought leaders of their fields and a top-tier research program, there is truly something for everyone here at Saint Luke’s.
Areas of Interests: Preventative Cardiology, General Cardiology, Advanced Imaging

Combined Research/Clinical Fellows

Dan Nguyen, MD

Medical School: University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
Residency: University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Awards/Accomplishments: AOA honor society
What attracted you to this program?
Mid America Heart Institute was one of the few programs where I interviewed that met my requirements of offering comprehensive outcomes research training combined with rigorous clinical training. To be mentored by giants in the field of outcomes research is an incredible opportunity. The research group is incredibly productive and collaborative, without being cutthroat as is seen with many "traditional" academic centers. From a clinical perspective, I was attracted to both the volume, acuity, and quality of hands-on clinical training. My residency mentors had nothing but high regard for the Heart Institute, and after a short time here, I can see that that regard is well deserved.
Areas of interest: Heart failure/critical care cardiology, interventional cardiology, regional systems of care in cardiogenic and AMI, patient-centered outcomes, risk-averse/risk-tolerant physician treating patterns

Mirza Khan, MD

Medical School: Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
Residency: University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, Iowa City, IA
Previous Fellowship: VA Medical Informatics Fellowship, Nashville, TN
Awards/Accomplishments:  Joseph A. Bartos Endowed Student Award; Most Outstanding Poster, Carver College of Medicine 2018 Health Sciences Research Week; Poster Competition Semi-Finalist, American Medical Informatics Association 2019 Annual Symposium; Student Paper Competition Semi-Finalist, American Medical Informatics Association 2021 Annual Symposium; Epic Physician Builder
What attracted you to the program: The people. Remember the old Olive Garden commercials with “when you’re here, you’re family”? That slogan sums up the program here. Everyone from the fellows to the faculty and staff is sincere in their care and support of one another. This was most apparent during the interview process when fellows shared how life/family struggles in the COVID-19 era arose and how the program rallied around them and their families in support.

You also feel like you can be your whole self and are encouraged to pursue and excel at interests outside of medicine. For example, Dr. Enriquez practices Jiu Jitsu and also serves as a part-time cop. Dr. Spertus and his family have a famous farm and restaurant.

Clinically, every possible training opportunity is available (even the ones that don’t quite have a name yet). And objectively, the volume and outcomes of the clinical program are among the top. On the research side, the mentorship and statistical support are superb. Faculty and statisticians are extremely supportive and tailor opportunities and projects to the trainees’ interests and career goals. As with the clinical side, the research is tops and the opportunities are plentiful: outcomes, clinical trials, implementation science, informatics, etc.

Areas of interest: General and preventive cardiology, advanced imaging; The intersection between cardiology and informatics (“cardioinformatics”); Implementation Science; ML/DL/NLP

Charles Sherrod, MD

Medical School: University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, Kansas City, MO
Residency: Brown University/Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, RI
Awards/Accomplishments: Warren Alpert Medical School Resident Research Day Winner
What attracted you to the program: I went to the 6-year med program at UMKC before moving to Rhode Island for my residency. I became interested in research during my training, and Mid America Heart Institute came up time and time again. The outcomes research program is unparalleled. I am looking forward to starting the bioinformatics master’s program this fall that is sponsored by the fellowship. The clinical training is also strong. Unlike most cardiology fellowships, Mid America Heart Institute excels in every subsection from transplant to imaging to prevention. The exposure and education are great and it is balanced with a large amount of supported autonomy at our county hospital. The program leadership is warm and approachable from the top down. Kansas City is also a fun city with a lot to explore.
Areas of interest: Clinically, I am interested in HF and enjoy thinking about hemodynamics. I like considering the big picture while also enjoying the minutia of critical care. My research interest is in the adoption of cardiac devices, real world vs clinical trial data, and regulatory policy.

Recent fellowship graduates

2022 graduates

Chris DeZorzi, MD – Adult Congenital Heart Disease Fellowship, Boston Children’s-Harvard, Boston, MA
Ryan Eckert, MD – general cardiology Kansas City, MO
Rick Mills, MD – general cardiology, Kansas City, MO
Poghni Peri-Okonny, MD – Interventional Cardiology Fellowship, Yale-New Haven, CT

2021 graduates

Jason D’Souza, MD – Interventional Cardiologist, Shawnee Mission, KS
Yevgeniy Khariton, MD – Academic Adv Heart Failure Cardiologist, Temple, TX
Kyle Lehenbauer, MD – Academic Advanced Imaging Cardiologist, Kansas City, MO

2020 graduates

Ata Bajwa, MD – Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology Fellowship, Penn State, Hershey, PA
Travis Gratton, MD – Academic Interventional Cardiologist, University of Texas-Austin, Austin, TX
Krishna Patel, MD – Academic General Cardiology/Imaging, Mount Sinai, New York, NY
Yashashwi Pokharel, MD – Academic/Clinical Cardiologist, Wake Forrest, NC