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Stroke Program Team

The treatment of stroke requires a team approach to get patients the comprehensive care they need.

The Rush Stroke Program is one of the largest and busiest Joint Commission certified Comprehensive Stroke Programs in the region.

The Rush Stroke Program provides the highest level of emergency care for acute stroke patients, through collaboration with the Section of Cerebrovascular Disease, neurocritical care, vascular neurosurgery and emergency medicine.

Section of Cerebrovascular Disease

Stroke neurologists provide comprehensive follow-up care to Rush stroke patients in the outpatient stroke clinic; they also welcome those seeking a second opinion after stroke.

Stroke neurologists in the Section of Cerebrovascular Disease run a neurovascular ultrasound laboratory, specializing in transcranial Doppler and carotid ultrasound.

Laurel J. Cherian, MD, MS


Laurel J. Cherian, MD, MS, is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush University Medical Center. She is the director of the vascular neurology fellowship program and also serves as a faculty advisor to the medical school.

Cherian received her medical degree from Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, Ill. She completed neurology residency at the University of Chicago and a vascular neurology fellowship at Rush University Medical Center. In addition to her clinical practice, she has completed a Master of Science degree in clinical research.

She is a member of the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Neurology and is board-certified in neurology with a subspecialty certification in vascular neurology. Her clinical interests include peripartum stroke, intra-arterial therapy for stroke, post-stroke depression, and cerebral amyloid angiopathy.

James J. Conners, MD, MS


James J. Conners, MD, MS, is an associate professor in the Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush. He is head of the Section of Cerebrovascular Disease. He is also medical director of the Comprehensive Stroke Program and Rush's telestroke and mobile stroke unit programs.

He received his medical degree at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago and a Master of Science degree in neuroscience from Loyola University, where his research focused on neuronal regeneration.

Conners then completed a medical internship, neurology residency and vascular neurology fellowship at Northwestern University. His interests include the acute treatment of stroke, cryptogenic strokes (strokes with no definitive cause) and stroke prevention.

Rima M. Dafer, MD, MPH


Rima M. Dafer, MD, MPH, is an associate professor in the Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush. She is a stroke and headache expert, mainly studying the link between migraines and stroke.

Dafer has been a principal investigator on numerous clinical trials in acute stroke intervention and secondary stroke prevention. She sits on the American Board of Vascular Neurology Examination Committee and is a fellow at the American Heart Association.

She is a clinical educator and has received numerous teaching accolades as best teacher of the year by neurology residents and medical students. She has written numerous articles and chapters on stroke management, stroke in young adults and uncommon causes of stroke.

Nicholas D. Osteraas, MD


Nicholas D. Osteraas, MD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush.  He completed an internship in internal medicine, residency in neurology and fellowship in vascular neurology all at Rush University Medical Center.  

Osteraas is actively investigating coagulopathy occurring after the administration of intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) and has an interest in the acute care of ischemic stroke patients.

Osteraas has presented at several international conferences and has multiple manuscripts under submission for publication. He is a member of the American Academy of Neurology and American Heart Association.

Sarah Song, MD, MPH


Sarah Song, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush.

Song received a medical degree and master's degree from the University of Illinois. She completed neurology residency training at Georgetown University Hospital and then completed a vascular neurology fellowship at the University of California, Los Angeles. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in stroke outcomes research with the American Heart Association.

Song's clinical expertise includes cerebrovascular disease, stroke, stroke prevention and transient ischemic attack. She has a special interest in stroke in women and minorities.

Alejandro Vargas, MD

Alejandro Vargas, MD, Department of Neurological Sciences, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago

Alejandro Vargas, MD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush.

After receiving a master's degree in biomedical sciences at Barry University, Vargas received his medical degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine (UIC). He also completed his medical internship and neurology residency at UIC, serving as chief resident in his final year. In 2016, he was honored with the Melvin Wichter, MD Award for Teaching Excellence and the Nirav Mehta, MD Resident Humanitarian Award.

Vargas is a member of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. His research interests include access to care and ethnic disparities in stroke among Hispanic populations, stroke in young adults, atypical stroke causes and Moyamoya Disease.

Neurological Surgery

Neurosurgical specialists in stroke provide immediate stroke care in emergencies through the use of interventions to restore blood flow in the brain, such as mechanical thrombectomy.

Michael Chen, MD

michael chen

Michael Chen, MD, is a board-certified physician with appointments in the departments of neurology, neurosurgery and radiology. 

Chen's practice focuses on minimally invasive, endovascular treatments of brain and spinal cord vascular disease. Specifically, he is involved in the study and treatment of brain aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations of the brain and spine, intracranial atherosclerosis, carotid artery stenosis, acute stroke thrombolysis and preoperative tumor embolization of the brain and spine.

He has been in practice at Rush for 10 years and has been awarded grants to study cerebral aneurysms in women and treatments for memory loss after cerebral aneurysm rupture.

He has authored more than 70 peer-reviewed scientific papers and is an editor for the "Journal of Neurointerventional Surgery."

R. Webster Crowley, MD


R. Webster Crowley, MD, is a board-certified endovascular neurosurgeon who has expertise in the treatment of brain aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations, carotid stenosis, and stenting for pseudotumor cerebri.

Crowley is a fellowship-trained endovascular surgeon who received his medical degree from the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington D.C. His training consists of neurological surgery residency at University of Virginia, a neurological surgery fellowship at Auckland City Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand, and an endovascular fellowship at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.

He is currently a member of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, AANS/CNS Section on Cerebrovascular Surgery, the American Heart Association, and the Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery.

Kiffon Keigher, RN, MSN, ACPN

Kiffon Keigher, RN, MSN, ACPN, is a nurse practitioner with many years of experience in neurosurgery and neuroscience nursing.

She has been at Rush University Medical Center since 2003. She worked for seven years as a neuroscience intensive care unit nurse before starting her career as an advanced practice nurse.

Keigher has certification as an acute care nurse practitioner, a certified neuroscience nurse (CNRN) and a certified critical care nurse (CCRN). In addition, she has certifications in advanced life support (BLS, ACLS, PALS) and administering the NIH stroke scale (NIHSS).

She is published in the journal "Endovascular Today." Keigher works primarily with Demetrius Lopes, MD.

Demetrius Lopes, MD


Demetrius Lopes, MD, is board-certified in neurosurgery. He is the director of neuroendovascular surgery at Rush. He is highly skilled in neuroendovascular therapy, an innovative approach to treating brain and spinal cord diseases from inside the blood vessels.

He specializes in the revascularization (restoration of blood circulation) in the brain, including the treatment of brain aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations, cerebral ischemia, stroke and the conditions leading to stroke.

Lopes has written many articles and chapters on various aspects of neuroendovasclar therapy, including carotid stenting.

Lopes began his medical education in 1987 at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, He joined Rush University Medical Center in 2001.