Cardiovascular Fellows

Third 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   
What I like about Kansas City: I love exploring the popular restaurants in Kansas City. There is always somewhere new to try. I also like going to local sporting events. Around the holidays, there are so many holiday-themed events that are fun to attend.

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 and UMKC offers excellent clinical training. The schedule allows flexibility to pursue your interest across the clinical spectrum of cardiology, including multiple imaging modalities. The combination of training sites between the Mid America Heart Institute and University Health offers complementary training with a diverse patient population. The collegiality among fellows and throughout the program is very attractive and evident during the interview process. My wife and I were both applying to fellowships 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, advanced imaging   
What I like about Kansas City: My favorite part is the Kansas City Zoo, where we are members.

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   
What I like about Kansas City: I enjoy Ward Parkway, the trolley track trail, and anywhere I can get outside to run.

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   
What I like about Kansas City: I enjoy any place with good coffee and good running, and there are a lot of both in Kansas City. On the weekends, I enjoy going to local coffee shops to study or read—The Roasterie is a particular favorite. My husband and I are avid runners. There is a great running community here in KC, including races similar to what you would find in any big city.

Second 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     
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   
What I like about Kansas City: My favorite part is Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, but a close second is Power and Light District filled with restaurants, bars, and an outdoor venue for concerts and games. It’s across the street from the T-Mobile Center. A close third is Children’s Mercy Park—home of the men’s and women’s major league soccer teams!

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   
What I like about Kansas City: Loose Park

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 interest: Preventive cardiology, general cardiology, and advanced imaging   
What I like about Kansas City: I enjoy Arrowhead Stadium and the Crossroads District

First Year

Tyler Bullis, MD

Medical School: University of Kansas, Kansas City, KS      
Residency: University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Awards/Accomplishments: Chief Resident, Resident Liaison Committee Chairperson, ACP Doctor's Dilemma Team Member, Internal Medicine Intern of the Year      

What attracted you to this program?     
My residency mentors spoke highly of the program at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute and UMKC. It is easy to see why. The program offers phenomenal clinical training. Most importantly, the program leadership has a track record of supporting their fellows’ career aspirations, even if they are less traditional.       
Areas of interest:  General cardiology, electrophysiology, medical education 

Ain Ejaz, MD

Medical School: The Aga Khan University, Pakistan      
Residency: University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, MO      
Awards/Accomplishments: AOA Honor Society, Recipient of 2022 Women of Saint Luke’s Award for Excellence in Patient Care       
What attracted you to this program?     
The UMKC Cardiology fellowship program offers everything I was looking for—excellent clinical training, robust curriculum, great mentors, supportive faculty, and a program director who goes out of the way to support trainees. I also appreciate the opportunity to train in two different hospital settings, including Saint Luke's Hospital, a tertiary care transplant center, and University Health, a state-funded hospital. Kansas City has been our home for four years, and I enjoy all the amenities of a large city, but none of the hassle, such as traffic congestion, overpopulation, or pollution. The program is a great fit for me, and it will be a privilege to train here as I hope to become a strong clinician as well as a better version of myself.      
Areas of interest: Cardiac imaging, preventive cardiology, heart failure

Kaitlyn Granstaff, MD

Medical School: University of Kansas, Kansas City, KS      
Residency: Washington University/Barnes-Jewish Consortium, Saint Louis, MO      
Awards/Accomplishments: Member and Chapter President of AOA Honor Society, 2016 STSA Clifford van Meter President’s Award for Best Adult Cardiac Surgery Scientific Presentation      
What attracted you to this program?     
When envisioning the ideal training program, I sought an equal balance of clinical rigor/volume, community engagement, and a collegial and collaborative environment. UMKC and Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute exceeded in all these areas. Additionally, the imaging volume and innovation are among the top in the country. Being able to practice at both Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City and University Health allows me to continue my goal of understanding and delivering care to a full spectrum of patients. Despite being national leaders in cardiovascular care and outcomes research, the immensely talented physicians at Mid America Heart Institute remain approachable and grant autonomy to the fellows. What can’t be seen on paper, perhaps, is the genuine investment in each fellow as an individual, as well as clinician. Dr. Enriquez and the leadership team foster wholeness of the individual, from family life to extracurriculars. Community engagement is a common practice for many staff members. It has long been a goal of mine to return to Kansas City to deliver care and serve my hometown, so it is incredible that this jewel of a program is in Kansas City’s backyard.       
Areas of interest: Advanced/multimodality imaging, health equity/addressing health disparities in cardiovascular care, community outreach, women’s heart health

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   
What I like about Kansas City: River Market

Combined Research/Clinical Fellows

Evan O’Keefe, MD

Medical School: University of Queensland/Ochsner, Brisbane, QLD, Australia/New Orleans, LA     
Residency: Tulane University, New Orleans, LA     
Awards/Accomplishments: Dean’s List, 20+ manuscripts published in residency     
What attracted you to this program?     
Up to now, my top priority has been receiving the best education afforded to me. That aim has frequently landed me in big institutions, toiling underneath esteemed staff. The pursuit of fellowship has made me reflect on those choices and experiences in contrast to my first job, which while I found unstimulating, I very much enjoyed because of days I spent alongside my kind, intelligent, interesting coworkers. That first job left such an impression on me, I’ve known at some point the environment I work in would eclipse the renown of any job or education prospect. 

My priority list now is to take my family to a city in which they can prosper, the workplace environment, and lastly, the job. I’ve chosen to continue my career at UMKC and Mid America Heart Institute for the chance to work with great people in a city where my family can grow—the education and their reputation are just a bonus.    
Areas of interest: Cardiac imaging, outcomes research, prevention, nutrition, aging, physical activity, evolutionary biology 

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   
What I like about Kansas City: My favorite place is the Arboretum & Botanical Gardens in Overland Park, a suburb just south of the Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City.

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: Cardiovascular Clinical Trialists (CVCT) Young Trialist Award, 2022; American Heart Association Get with the Guideline’s Resuscitation Early Career Investigator Award, 2022       
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 heart failure 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