Cardiovascular Fellows

Third Year

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Chris DeZorzi, MD, Chief Fellow

Medical School: Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, NE
Residency: University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Awards/Accomplishments: Recipient of the Francois M. Abboud Internal Medicine Resident Award; Winner of moderated poster session at the European Society of Cardiology Congress; President of Medical School Government; Chief Fellow
What attracted you to this program?
Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute has a unique training opportunity that offers tremendous clinical training combined with years of proven success in research. Beyond the extraordinary training, is a real sense of community among the fellows and the faculty involved with the program. Throughout my medical training I've realized, it's not so much where you are, but the people you are with. The people—both fellows and educators–at the Mid America Heart Institute clearly stood out from all the other programs I interviewed at, and that’s why I’m proud to be here.
Areas of interest: Adult congenital cardiology, advanced cardiac imaging


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Ryan G. Eckert, MD

Medical School: University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine, Kansas City, MO
Residency: University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine, Kansas City, MO
What attracted you to this program?
I was born and raised in Kansas City and have completed all of my medical training, thus far, here at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. The city is growing and filled with fun things to do. Art, music, food, sports (GO CHIEFS AND ROYALS!!!), etc. You name it, we have it, and it just keeps getting better. The city and surrounding suburbs are also family centered and have some of the top-ranked school districts in the country. 

Apart from the city itself, I chose this program specifically because of the collegiality amongst the fellows and faculty. As a medical student and resident, I’ve seen firsthand how the fellows interact with the faculty. The attendings are very approachable and always ready to assist with anything in both the clinical and research settings. 

When I was applying for a cardiology fellowship, this program had everything I was looking for. It offers a “second family” vibe, strong clinical and research training, and a geographical location that provides an excellent quality of life. I know that when complete my training I will be clinically and academically strong in the field of cardiology, while also having an outstanding professional and personal life. 
Areas of interest: Electrophysiology, interventional cardiology


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Richard A. Mills, MD

Medical School: Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
Residency: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX
Awards/Accomplishments: Leon Levinson Prize in Physiology; Harold Williams Research Fellowship Recipient; Eagle Scout
What attracted you to this program? 
My wife and I were both applying for fellowships and Kansas City was one area which offered excellent training for both of us. The cardiology leadership at my previous program had very high regard for the faculty and training offered at the Mid America Heart Institute. After coming for a visit, I was very impressed by the quality of the clinical training. The Mid America Heart Institute stands out by excelling in elite clinical training while not sacrificing a positive academic culture. I have been pleasantly surprised by the many didactic sessions, as well as the other resources the administration offers. This institution is very strong in clinical outcomes research and fellows are encouraged to participate. I will also say that Dr. Enriquez and the rest of the program leadership have been very supportive and have made me feel very welcome. 
Areas of interest: General Cardiology, interventional and structural cardiology


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Poghni Peri-Okonny, MD

Medical School: Rush Medical College, Chicago, IL​
Residency: University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
Fellowship: Hypertension Fellowship, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX
Awards/Accomplishments: Gold humanism honor society; AHA QCOR Young investigator semifinalist; Executive MBA class of 2022
What attracted you to this program?
The cardiology program at Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute/UMKC offers the opportunity for great clinical cardiology training and outstanding outcomes research training. There is a rich history of high impact research originating from this institution. All aspects of cardiology are well represented and are quite robust providing great learning opportunities for trainees.  The program leadership emphasizes collegiality and have done a great job of building an inclusive, cooperative culture within the program.
Areas of interest: Interventional cardiology, hypertension, peripheral artery disease


Second Year

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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


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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


First 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


Combined Research/Clinical Fellows

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: 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; US Quidditch World Cup Competitor
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

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


Recent fellowship graduates

2021 graduates

Jason D’Souza, MD – Interventional Cardiology Fellowship, UMKC/Saint Luke’s Hospital, Kansas City, MO
Yevgeniy Khariton, MD – Advanced Heart Failure/Transplant Cardiology Fellowship, UMKC/Saint Luke’s Hospital, Kansas City, MO
Kyle Lehenbauer, MD – Advanced Structural Imaging Fellowship, Columbia University, New York, NY

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

2019 graduates 

Adam Fledderman, MD – Academic Cardiologist, UMKC/Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas City, MO
Matt Pflederer, MD– Academic/CV Imaging Cardiologist, UAB, Birmingham, AL
Mohammed Qintar, MD – Academic Interventional Cardiologist, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, MI
Justin Sheehy, MD – Structural Interventional Cardiologist, Mercy Hospital, St. Louis, MO
Mohamed Omer, MD – Academic Interventional Cardiologist, Mayo Clinic Health System