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Graduating cardiology fellows, “You’ll always have a home at Yale.”

June 25, 2020
by Elisabeth Reitman

On Tuesday June 16, 22 graduates of the Yale Cardiovascular Medicine fellowship program gathered for an hour-long virtual ceremony. The program included opening remarks from section chief, Eric J. Velazquez, MD, and comments from this year’s Special Teaching Award recipients. During his remarks, the director of the Cardiovascular Medicine Fellowship Program, Edward Miller, MD, PhD, highlighted the extraordinary commitment of the fellows during the COVID-19 pandemic and the academic achievements of the graduates.

Watch the virtual graduation ceremony here.

2020 Graduates

Yale Cardiovascular Medicine Clinical Fellows:

  • Dr. Cecilia Berardi, Advanced Heart Failure Fellowship at University of Washington
  • Dr. Kerrilynn Carney Hennessey, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center
  • Dr. William Hindle-Katel, Advanced Cardiac Imaging Fellowship at Yale
  • Dr. Fiorella Llanos, Interventional Cardiology Fellowship at Yale
  • Dr. Elliot Miller, Instructor and 2nd year NCSP program
  • Dr. Sumeet Pawar, Hartford Health Care Heart and Vascular Institute
  • Dr. Marabel Schneider, Interventional Cardiology Fellowship at Yale
  • Dr. Krishna Upadhyaya, Non-invasive Cardiologist Ascension Medical Group

Advanced Imaging Fellows:

  • Dr. Cesia Gallegos Kattan, Instructor at Yale
  • Dr. John Stendahl, Instructor at Yale
  • Dr. Angela Higgins, Maine Medical Center
  • Dr. Aaron Soufer, Multi-modality cardiac imaging/cardiology position at the Chattanooga Heart Institute, Chattanooga, Tennessee – Leadership role in the Cardiac MRI and Structural Heart Programs

Advanced Heart Failure and Transplantation Fellow:

  • Dr. Michael Beasley, Instructor at Yale

Electrophysiology Fellow:

  • Dr. Rae Obasare, Hampden & Franklin Cardiovascular Associates

Interventional Fellows:

  • Dr. Yulanka Castro-Dominguez, Peripheral Vascular Fellowship at Yale
  • Dr. Grant Kim, Structural Fellowship Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
  • Dr. Prabhjot Singh, Structural Fellowship Yale
  • Dr. Khola Tahir, University of West Virginia

Structural Heart Disease Interventions Fellow:

  • Dr. Amir Azarbal, UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute Structural Interventions

Peripheral Vascular Interventions Fellows:

  • Dr. Mahesh Anantha, Interventional Coronary fellowship, University of Arizona Banner
  • Dr. Azfar Bilal Sheikh, Interventional Cardiology Fellowship, University of Texas Health Science Center

Adult Congenital Heart Disease Fellow:

  • Dr. Abigail Simmons, Pediatric and adult congenital cardiologist, Presbyterian Health System

Special Teaching Awards

Yale Interventional Education Award: A newly established award was presented to Joseph Brennan, MD, for his commitment to the education of interventional trainees. Brennan has led the Interventional program since 1999. He resigned this year as the program director.

Faculty Teacher of the Year Award: The Teacher of the Year Award was presented to Lynda Roesnfeld, MD. This is the highest honor that a faculty member can receive in recognition of their impact as a medical educator. To honor this year’s recipient, the award has been renamed the Lynda Rosenfeld Yale Cardiovascular Medicine Faculty Teacher of the Year Award.

Four of our graduates will be joining the section as faculty.

Elliott Miller, MD

Describe your experience as a Yale Cardiovascular Medicine fellow.

Being a cardiovascular fellow at Yale Cardiovascular Medicine far exceeded my expectations. First, Dr. Edward Miller (no relation) and Dr. Parul Gandhi were beyond supportive and helped me reach several important goals, including participating in the National Clinician Scholars Program (NCSP). Drs. Tariq Ahmad and Nihar Desai are two of the best research mentors I’ve ever had. I don’t think a month went by without an email from them either introducing me to a new contact or offering to nominate me for a position or award. Last but not least, Dr. Joseph Brennan was the best clinical mentor I could have ever asked for. He facilitated our joining of a national CICU registry and deserves much of the credit for any successes I had.

What specific research questions would you like to explore?

My main research interests focus on clinical outcomes in the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) and studying the delivery of care and organizational structure of the CICU. In particular, I’d like to leverage the electronic medical record to investigate risk factors, outcomes, and ventilator strategies for patients that develop respiratory insufficiency. With this information, my hope would be to conduct pragmatic trials to answer questions on ventilator strategies in patients with cardiovascular dysfunction. I also hope to study national trends in CICU care models and investigate which models may deliver the best outcomes for patients.

Where do you think your field is headed in the next five years?

In the next five to ten years, I think cardiac critical care will become its own specialty in cardiology, similar to interventional and electrophysiology, and leading programs will have integrated fellowships. In the future, care models may combine medical and surgical cardiac patients into a shared cardiovascular unit managed by a multidisciplinary team.

Michael H. Beasley, MD

Describe your experience as a Yale Cardiovascular Medicine fellow.

My time as a Yale Cardiovascular Medicine fellow marks the final chapter of twelve years of medical training. For me, this was a period in which I was not only asked to develop top-notch clinical skills but more importantly to nurture a young, growing family. I matriculated into medical school in my late 20’s. The years before involved service in the Peace Corps and starting a family with my wife, Mwavisu. Along with our two oldest daughters, Helena and Rose, she stood by my side during the white coat ceremony - marking the beginning of our journey. In medical school, we welcomed another daughter, Heather, and then in the first months of residency training we were blessed with the arrival of our last born, Leah. They have experienced all of the highs and lows of life as an aspiring physician as much as I have, and have earned their own special recognition while being my strength over this time. I am truly humbled to be included among this year’s stellar class of Yale Cardiovascular Medicine graduates. However, I am even more proud of the family that my wife and I have created, and of the strong, intelligent young women which my daughters have become.

What specific research questions would you like to explore?

My passion lies in the clinical care of patients with cardiomyopathies, followed closely by educating and inspiring young learners. When I was first approached with the opportunity, following graduation, of joining the excellent team of physicians in the Comprehensive Heart Failure Program, I felt I could fill a niche alongside the highly talented individuals in the department. My hope is to explore the role of palliative care in heart failure management, as well as clinical considerations concerned with the medical management of geriatric heart failure patients. While neither of these areas is particularly flashy or likely will get as much attention as breakthroughs in drug development or heart transplantation surely will, optimizing the delivery of care to these populations can positively impact the quality of life for so many people.

Within the discipline of advanced heart failure, my time at Yale has sparked an interest in mechanical circulatory support devices and their roles in bridging patients to advanced therapies - particularly heart transplantation. The period of time in which a patient must be stabilized on temporary mechanical circulatory support until a donor organ becomes available is fraught with peril. At the present time, a variety of devices are lumped together as options to cross this period of time - but not all devices are created equally. The new donor heart allocation system, unveiled in 2018, has led to a rise in the use of circulatory support devices for the sickest of patients on the waiting list. Guidance is needed to assist clinicians in determining the proper device to be used in these circumstances.

Where do you think your field is headed in the next five years?

This is a wonderful time to be caring for patients with cardiomyopathies. Following many years of stagnation, we have recently seen the development of several new medical therapies for these patients. In general, our “guideline-directed medical therapies” have been joined by the angiotensin receptor neprilysin inhibitor (ARNI) and sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT-2) inhibitors. Additionally, diseases with medical treatments previously unavailable, such as cardiac amyloidosis and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, can now be addressed with drugs such as tafamidis and, most likely, mavacamten, respectively. We also excitedly await the results of the GALACTIC-HF trial, in which omecamtiv mecarbil, a cardiac myosin activator, is being evaluated. With all these new options, we can feel like a kid in a candy store. However, I think perhaps one of the most important issues in the medical management of cardiomyopathies may involve the simplification of drug regimens for patients. While it is great that we have so many options to choose from, the burden of medication adherence must be considered, as does the relative benefit provided by our current medical therapies. However, through meticulous characterization of an individual’s myocardial substrate, phenotypically and genotypically, we may one day be able to precisely tailor the medical therapy of a patient, thereby giving them the best chance at myocardial recovery.

Cesia Gallegos Kattan, MD

Describe your experience as a Yale Cardiovascular Medicine fellow.

When I was looking into fellowships, I knew that I wanted to be in a program with outstanding clinical training along with research and professional development opportunities in cardiac imaging. I chose Yale because it met those criteria and more, particularly in Nuclear Cardiology. Dr. Edward Miller, my mentor, and the Section have been tremendously supportive of my professional goals and I was encouraged to participate in the Master in Health Science program during my training, were I focused on infiltrative cardiomyopathies and noninvasive quantification of flow with nuclear techniques. This successful mentorship allowed me to participate in leadership development programs, present in numerous meetings, and find a clinical area (amyloid/sarcoid) where I want to focus my career going forward. My advice to new fellows is to prioritize choosing a mentor early, who aligns with your interests or can direct you into a specific area to focus on.

Tell us about your research interests and how you see your research developing over the next few years.

My current research has focused in the noninvasive assessment of microvascular and coronary artery disease through positron emission tomography (PET) flow assessment. My overarching goal is to explore the extent in which noninvasive technologies can help predict and prognosticate patients prior to referral to coronary angiography, while identifying patient phenotypes to ultimately guide management which is a challenge currently.

For the last two years, I have been closely involved with the Infiltrative Cardiomyopathy program at Yale and I have really enjoyed taking care of these patients. This has been perhaps my favorite part of training. As such, my goal as I transition to faculty, is to focus on multimodality imaging assessment on amyloid and its impact on treatment guidance.

Describe your vision in your chosen specialty.

As imaging technologies continue to expand, I think nuclear cardiology will remain essential and powerful in the study of obstructive coronary artery disease. However, it will continue to advance the understanding of microvascular disease and guide management through precise quantification of blood flow while providing better characterization of different patient phenotypes. Lastly, molecular imaging will continue to be a key component in the assessment and management of diseases such as amyloid, in which bone scintigraphy for example, has allowed identification of transthyretin cardiac amyloidosis and directed some of the novel therapies available now.

John Stendahl, MD, PhD

Looking back, what advice would you give someone starting their Fellowship Training Program?

Be sure to fully utilize the exceptional resources and opportunities that Yale has to offer. This includes outstanding clinical and research facilities, a large, diverse patient base, and knowledgeable and supportive faculty who will help you pursue your interests. This also includes the outstanding cultural and historical resources at Yale, such as the world-class libraries, museums, and entertainment on campus.

How do you see your research developing over the next few years?

I am interested in utilizing aspects of cardiovascular physiology, cardiac imaging, and bioengineering to treat cardiac disease. My pre-medical training was in materials engineering and I studied cardiovascular physiology and cardiac imaging for two years as a T32 fellow in Dr. Sinusas’ Y-TRIC lab. I am excited to be pursuing a new project focused on ex vivo perfusion of hearts for transplantation. There is potential for expansion of the donor heart pool through improvements in perfusion techniques, diagnostics, and therapeutic delivery. Given the longstanding shortage of donor hearts, this could help many people who suffer from end-stage heart failure.

Where do you think your field is headed in the next five years?

I am specializing in nuclear cardiology and cardiac CT. Technology in both fields have improved and changed significantly over the past decade, with better instrumentation and new capabilities. At the same time, cumulative trial results over the past decade (including the recent ISCHEMIA trial) have, to some degree, reshaped our view of cardiac physiology and its relation to clinical outcomes. Our thought processes and practices pertaining to test utilization will likely continue to evolve over the next several years. At the same time, the fields are branching out into new areas such as molecular imaging, spectral CT imaging, and hybrid functional/anatomical imaging, which will continue to reshape the field and provide additional opportunities. It’s an exciting time and one that is pivotal in the future of cardiology.

Submitted by Elisabeth Reitman on June 22, 2020