Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology & Prevention Fellows
Current T32 Fellows
Tiwaloluwa Ajibewa, PhD
Dr. Ajibewa completed his PhD in Kinesiology at the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology in 2021. As a health disparities researcher, his primary research interests lie at the intersection of race and ethnicity with wellness and disease. Specifically, his focus is on the relationships between psychosocial stress, physical activity, and cardiometabolic health outcomes across the lifespan.
Robert Booker, PhD, MS
Dr. Booker completed his PhD in Kinesiology at Mississippi State University. His primary research focus is on understanding how sedentary behavior, physical activity, and sleep impact cardiometabolic health. Dr. Booker completed his PhD in Kinesiology at Mississippi State University. His primary research focus is on understanding how sedentary behavior, physical activity, and sleep impact cardiometabolic health.
Aryn Phillips, PhD, MPH
Dr. Phillips completed her MPH in Social & Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and PhD in Health Policy at UC Berkeley School of Public Health. Her primary research interests include identifying how social factors and health behaviors, particularly unhealthy alcohol use, contribute to cardiovascular disease-related outcomes and service utilization.
Sabira Taher, PhD, MPH
Dr. Taher completed her MPH in Health Promotion, Nutrition, and Policy Development at NYU, and her PhD in Population Health, Healthcare, Health Equity, and Food Security at the University of Illinois Chicago. Her research focuses on food insecurity dietary risk factors that contribute to cardiometabolic syndrome in diverse populations.
Former T32 Fellows
Faraz Ahmad, MD
Ahmad graduated from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine with honors in 2009, and he completed his Internal Medicine Residency in the Leadership in Quality Track at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in 2012. He formerly was a summer analyst at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, a scientist at The Advisory Board Company in Washington, D.C., and an Albert Schweitzer Fellow. Ahmad’s work focused on using informatics for epidemiological, health services and comparative effectiveness research with a clinical focus on heart failure prevention and outcomes. Ahmad is currently a fellow in Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology, Division of Cardiology in the Department of Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Norrina Allen, PhD, MPH
As a cardiovascular epidemiologist, Allen’s investigations focus on the environmental and neighborhood influences on cardiovascular risk and outcomes with a particular emphasis on disparities in access to healthcare and healthcare quality. She is interested in utilizing novel statistical techniques to evaluate long-term trajectories as well as the use of large databases to examine these questions. Allen is currently an assistant professor of Epidemiology in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Michael Bancks, PhD
Bancks completed his MPH and PhD in epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. His research interests include primordial prevention of cardiovascular disease risk factors, etiology and prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and the intersection between T2DM and cardiovascular disease across the lifespan. His dissertation explored the relationship between cardiovascular health and cognitive function and brain structure. Bancks has experience conducting projects in numerous population-based cohorts and is interested in applying his methods training and research questions to electronic health record data. He looks forward to learning from and collaborating with the skilled research faculty and staff during his training.
Jarett D. Berry, MD, MSCI
Berry is an associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Clinical Sciences. He earned his medical degree and completed a residency in internal medicine at UT Southwestern. He then completed postdoctoral fellowships in cardiovascular medicine and cardiovascular epidemiology at Northwestern University, where he also earned a master of science in clinical investigation. He joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 2008. Berry has published nearly 50 peer-reviewed journal articles. His work is funded by both the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health.
Joshua Bundy, PhD, MPH
Bundy completed his MPH and PhD in epidemiology at Tulane University. His primary research interests include identification of novel risk factors for subclinical disease and targets for therapy in patients with chronic kidney disease, who are at high risk for cardiovascular disease. Bundy is interested in testing new interventions in clinical trials and comparing the effectiveness of interventions using meta-analytic techniques. Additionally, he is interested in novel statistical approaches for evidence-based medicine, including use of new disease prediction methods and exploring the intersection of technology and disease prevention.
Juan Bustos, MD
Bustos' work has been focused on minority health, with special emphasis on health among Hispanics/Latinos. He is interested in examining healthy lifestyle factors and how acculturation and other sociocultural determinants affect cardiovascular risk status. Other topics of interest for Bustos are cardiovascular risk factor status and long-term markers of inflammation. Bustos is a clinical research specialist at Abbvie, Inc.
Chintan Desai, MD
Desai's interests lie in the detection and prognostic value of subclinical atherosclerosis and left ventricular dysfunction, primarily using coronary artery calcium and echocardiography. He has studied the improvement in risk prediction for coronary artery disease and heart failure in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and the Cardiovascular Health Study. He is also interested in the development and progression of subclinical cardiovascular disease in young adults. He completed a cardiology fellowship at Johns Hopkins. Desai is currently a practicing cardiologist affiliated with Northwestern Medicine.
Steven Driver, MD, MPH
Driver completed his internal medicine residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Prior, he earned his MPH degree in health management and policy at the Harvard School of Public Health. He received his medical degree at Ohio State University in 2010. He has a dual appointment as a clinical cardiology fellow while completing the T32 fellowship. Driver’s work focuses on managing healthcare costs in employee populations by intervening on cardiovascular risk factors like obesity via financial incentives and mobile health applications. He is currently completing his cardiology fellowship at Northwestern.
Arlene Hankinson, MD
Hankinson is a cardiovascular epidemiologist with particular interest in obesity risks and consequences. She served as medical director of chronic disease and mental health at the Chicago Department of Public Health and continues to serve as a lecturer in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University. Currently, she is a drug safety physician, conducting surveillance, performing benefit-risk assessments and communicating health risks of marketed products and investigational compounds.
Rosalba Hernandez, PhD
Hernandez received her PhD degree in public health from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2012. That same year, she joined Northwestern University as a Cardiovascular Epidemiology and Prevention Postdoctoral Fellow, sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Hernandez’s research focuses on the influence of psychosocial factors on health behaviors (e.g., physical activity) and health-related outcomes (e.g., glycemic control and subclinical atherosclerosis). She is now an assistant professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Mark Huffman, MD, MPH
Huffman is an assistant professor of preventive medicine and medicine-cardiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. He is a practicing cardiologist and scientist with an interest in global cardiovascular epidemiology, prevention and outcomes research. He leads an acute coronary syndrome quality improvement clinical trial in Kerala, India, is the coordinating editor of the Cochrane Heart Group U.S. satellite and serves as the senior program adviser to the World Heart Federation for its Emerging Leaders presidential initiative, which aims to develop a cadre of scientists from around the world to help achieve the WHO's goal of reducing premature mortality from chronic diseases by 25 percent by 2025. Huffman lives in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood with his wife, Katie, and 3-year-old daughter, Virginia.
Kunal Karmali, MD, MSCI
Karmali received his MD degree from the Feinberg School of Medicine in 2007 and then completed his internal medicine and chief medical residency training at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in 2010. After completing a clinical cardiology fellowship at Northwestern University, he started a postdoctoral research fellowship in the department of Preventive Medicine in July 2014. Karmali is interested in the role of multivariable risk estimation in guiding cardiovascular prevention. Under the mentorship of Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, he has worked with the Blood Pressure Lowering Treatment Trialists’ Collaboration to complete a meta-analysis evaluating the role of pre-treatment cardiovascular risk in guiding blood pressure management. He is also working with Stephen Persell, MD, MPH, in the Division of General Internal Medicine to improve the effectiveness of cardiovascular risk estimates in clinical practice. He has a strong interest systematic reviews and is an active contributor to the Cochrane Heart Group. He is now on the faculty as assistant professor of Cardiology.
Kiarri N. Kershaw, PhD
Kershaw is a social epidemiologist whose research focuses on understanding how contextual factors lead to disparities in cardiovascular outcomes. Specifically, she is interested in understanding the pathways through which racial and ethnic residential segregation lead to disparities in various cardiovascular disease risk factors. She is also interested in better characterizing the behavioral and biological factors linking chronic exposure to psychosocial stressors to cardiovascular-related risk factors and outcomes. Her current position is assistant professor of Epidemiology in the Department of Preventive Medicine.
Andrea T. Kozak, PhD
Kozak earned her PhD in clinical psychology from Western Michigan University in 2003. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Hines VA Medical Center from 2003-2005. Next, she began a T32 fellowship that was completed in 2007. She is currently an associate professor with tenure in the Department of Psychology at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, where she directs a research lab and teaches undergraduate and graduate students. Her work examines health-related quality of life and a number of topics related to obesity, such as risk factors, associated diseases (e.g., CVD and diabetes) and interventions (behavior change, technology). She is currently co-chair of the Obesity and Eating Disorders Special Interest Group for the Society of Behavioral Medicine. Kozak is the 2015 recipient of the Oakland University Psychology Teaching Recognition Award.
Elizabeth B. Lynch, PhD
Lynch received her PhD in cognitive psychology at Northwestern University in 2000 and subsequently completed the T32 fellowship. She then joined the faculty of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Rush as an assistant professor of Community and Social Medicine in 2008. Lynch's work focuses on the psychosocial factors associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors, as well as the development of behavioral interventions to improve health-related behavior in low-income African American adults and other high-risk populations. Lynch is an associate professor of Preventive Medicine and director of Community Health in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Rush Medical College.
Stephanie Mayne, PhD
Mayne completed her PhD in epidemiology at Drexel University and her MHS in international health at Johns Hopkins University. Her scientific interests include examining the effect of health policies and neighborhood environmental exposures on health behaviors and cardiovascular disease outcomes and how electronic health record data may be used to study the effect of health policies and other natural experiments. Mayne started her first year of postdoctoral fellowship in the T32 Cardiovascular Epidemiology and Prevention Training Program in February 2017.
Rosenda Murillo, PhD
Murillo completed her PhD in health behavior and minor in social science approaches to health and healing systems from Indiana University at Bloomington in 2012. Her work focuses on understanding the mechanisms through which psychosocial factors contribute to physical activity and disparities in cardiovascular disease risk among vulnerable populations. Murillo is currently an assistant professor of Health Disparities at the University of Houston.
Sarah Nadimpalli, RN, PhD
Nadimpalli began her clinical career as a general medicine nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and practiced community health nursing for nearly a decade before receiving a PhD in nursing at New York University. She received predoctoral funding through a F31 grant with the National Institute of Nursing Research. Nadimpalli investigates health inequities, the social determinants of health and psychosocial factors that may lead to poorer health outcomes among ethnic minority and marginalized groups. In particular, she examines how discrimination may operate as a psychosocial stressor and lead to indicators of cardiovascular risk and chronic disease among South Asian Americans. Nadimpalli also investigates the psychosocial and cultural resources individuals may utilize to cope with exposure to discrimination. Nadimpalli seeks to expand her investigations through studying additional social determinants of health, how social determinants shape the experiences and well-being of ethnic minority groups and how social factors may be addressed in future health interventions. Nadimpalli is a research associate in Behavioral and Social Sciences at Brown University.
Jay Nitin Patel, MD
Patel completed his MD at St. George's University, internal medicine residency at NYU Winthrop Hospital and cardiovascular disease fellowship as chief fellow at University of Illinois - Peoria. His primary research interests are understanding the role of impaired baroreflex and autonomic dysfunction in the pathogenesis of heart failure. During his clinical training, along with an all-volunteer research team, he recruited a cohort of patients undergoing cardiac catheterization, measured their response to Valsalva maneuver and collected blood samples for proteomic analyses. Additionally, he is interested in using machine learning algorithms and multi-OMICS datasets to expand his search for novel biomarkers and pathways that are associated with autonomic dysfunction and lead to heart failure. After his postdoctoral fellowship, Patel will continue his clinical training as an Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology fellow at Northwestern University.
Amanda Marma Perak, MD
Perak completed her MD at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, pediatrics and pediatric cardiology training at Boston Children’s Hospital and noninvasive cardiac imaging training at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Her interests include primordial prevention from fetal life through young adulthood with a focus on very early indicators of cardiovascular health and disease.
Tamar Polonsky, MD, MSCI
Polonsky studied whether the use of cardiac imaging and biomarkers can improve cardiovascular risk prediction that is based on traditional risk factors. She also studied the use of magnetic resonance imaging in adults with peripheral arterial disease to gain a better understanding of atherosclerotic plaque characteristics. Polonsky is an assistant professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago. She earned her MD at University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine in 2002 and completed her internal medicine residency at Brigham Women’s Hospital in 2005. She is a general cardiologist who treats a wide range of cardiac conditions, including coronary artery disease, hypertension, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) and valve disease.
Christina Shay, PhD, MA
Shay completed her PhD in epidemiology in 2009 at University of Pittsburgh. She also completed her postdoctoral training in cardiovascular epidemiology in the Department of Preventive Medicine in the Feinberg School of Medicine in 2011. During her T32 fellowship, Shay began her work as an investigator on the CARDIA study, where she investigated the role of adiposity distribution in the development of cardiometabolic disease in this cohort. Under the mentorship of Jeremiah Stamler, MD, she also expanded her scientific interests to the "low CVD risk" phenotype as a model for primordial and primary prevention of cardiovascular disease from a population perspective. Shay currently serves as the director of impact and health metrics at the American Heart Association (AHA) at the National Center in Dallas. She is responsible for developing methodological approaches for identification, collection, analysis and dissemination of data from AHA’s programs for the evaluation of effectiveness and impact.
Arjun Sinha, MD, MS
Dr. Sinha completed his MS in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University and MD at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. His primary research focus is on understanding the role of immune function in the development of cardiovascular disorders, specifically atherosclerosis and heart failure.
Yacob Tedla, PhD, MSc
Tedla is currently a research assistant professor in the Center for Health Information Partnership at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Formerly,Tedla was a T32 postdoctoral fellow in cardiovascular epidemiology and prevention at Northwestern. Tedla’s work focuses on arterial structural and functional abnormalities and their impact on cardiovascular diseases. He investigated the association of decline in lung function and long-term blood pressure (BP) variability as well as the roles of BP control, BP variability, optimal clinical and lifestyle factors on the progression of arterial stiffness. He is also interested on the use of big electronic health record data to conduct clinical research while leveraging on robust epidemiologic methods and analytical techniques.
Emily Vargas, PhD
Dr. Vargas completed her PhD in psychology at the University of Michigan in 2019. Her research focuses on the intersection of individual’s marginalized identities and psychosocial factors, and how they impact health outcomes, including psychological health and cardiovascular disease risk factor management. Her work strives to promote individual empowerment and equity in health.
John Wilkins, MD, MS
Wilkins is an assistant professor of Cardiology in the Department of Medicine and Preventive Medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Wilkins earned his medical degree from Wake Forest University. He completed his internship, residency, cardiovascular disease fellowship and master's degree in clinical science investigation at Northwestern. Wilkins’ work focuses on the development of cardiovascular risk across the adult life course. He has specific interests in apolipoprotein structure and function as it relates to the development of atherosclerosis in young and middle-aged adults. His research is funded by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health.
Veronica Womack, PhD
While a T32 fellow, Womack conducted epidemiological research on the psychosocial factors of cardiovascular-related health behaviors (i.e., sedentary behaviors, eating behaviors and healthcare use) and metabolic disorders. Currently, she is a research associate in the Scientific Careers and Research Development Group at Northwestern University. She designs, executes and studies coaching intervention that seeks to address the low percentage of underrepresented minorities pursuing faculty positions in the biomedical sciences.
Yuichiro Yano, MD, PhD
Yano received his MD degree (2002) and PhD degree (2014) from Jichi Medical School, Tochigi, Japan. In Japan, Yano conducted blood pressure (BP) research for 10 years, with a focus on evaluating 24-hour ambulatory BP monitoring (e.g., morning BP surge, nocturnal BP). In 2012, Yano came to the United States to pursue his research at the University of Chicago’s American Society of Hypertension Comprehensive Hypertension Center as a visiting scholar. Yano moved to Northwestern University in 2013 as a visiting scholar and was appointed to the NU-PROF fellowship in 2014. Under the mentorship of Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, and Philip Greenland, MD, Yano carried out population science research using the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study and the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). His primary interest is assessing the clinical implications of BP in the young, including nocturnal BP, BP variability and BP phenotype (e.g., isolated systolic hypertension). Yano is now an assistant professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Former AHA Fellows
Abbi Lane-Cordova, PhD
Lane-Cordova is a former American Heart Association Fellow in Cardiovascular Disease Prevention. She finished her BS and MS at the University of Florida in Gainesville and her PhD at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2013. Prior to working as a fellow in the Department of Preventive Medicine, Lane-Cordova completed a two-year National Institutes of Health T32 Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Translational Vascular Physiology Laboratory at the University of Iowa. Her research interests involve examining the effects of lifestyle factors, particularly exercise and physical activity, on mediators and mechanisms of vascular function and disease prevention throughout the lifespan. Lane-Cordova is currently an assistant professor of Exercise Science at University of South Carolina at Columbia.
Victor Wenze Zhong, PhD
Zhong was a postdoctoral fellow funded by the American Heart Association Strategically Focused Research Network on Prevention. He completed his PhD in nutrition epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Zhong's scientific focus includes using electronic health record data to develop phenotype algorithms for childhood diabetes and to study acute complications in adults with type 1 and type 2 diabetes and using cohort and clinical trial data to study nutrition, hypoglycemia and cardiovascular risk factors in children with type 1 diabetes. During his postdoctoral training, he plans to expand his research interests to genetics and metabolomics in diabetes. Also, he is helping harmonize diet data for a large pooling project and will study nutrition, lipids and cardiovascular events and mortality in the project.