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Women's Heart Center Team

The Rush Heart Center for Women features a team of specialists who collaborate to provide you with personalized care, including cardiologists, neurologists, cardio-oncologists, nurse practitioners and nutritionists.

Rush Heart Center for Women

Annabelle Volgman, MD

Annabelle Volgman

Annabelle Volgman, MD, is a professor of medicine and senior attending physician at Rush, and medical director of the Rush Heart Center for Women. She is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease and clinical cardiac electrophysiology, and is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association (AHA).

Volgman received her medical degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. She then completed her residency in internal medicine at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics, and her cardiology and clinical electrophysiology fellowship at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Volgman's current research interests include preventive and management strategies of atrial fibrillation, especially antiarrhythmic drugs and anticoagulants for the prevention of stroke in atrial fibrillation. She has written numerous abstracts and articles, given hundreds of local and national lectures, and served as an editor/reviewer for several scientific journals, including the American Journal of Cardiology and Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)

Throughout her career, Volgman has been very active in efforts to increase awareness of heart disease in women, including being a prominent leader of the "Go Red for Women" movement. She is a member of the AHA, American College of Cardiology and Heart Rhythm Society. She is a board member and past president of the Metro Chicago Board of Directors and currently serves on the AHA's Midwest Affiliate Board. She also serves on the national scientific advisory board of WomenHeart.

Highly respected by peers and patients alike, she has received numerous awards and honors from the AHA — including the Coeur d'Or award at the 2011 and 2012 AHA's Heart Ball. She was named by Today's Chicago Woman magazine as one of the 100 Women Making a Difference in 2011; one of the 100 Most Influential Women in 2013; 100 Women of Inspiration; and one of 32 Chicago Women Role Models in 2014. She was among Castle Connolly's top 1 percent of doctors in the nation in 2012 and 2013. She also wrote the foreword for the book, "Prevent a Second Heart Attack," by Dr. Janet Bond Brill (2011). 

Rupa Sanghani, MD

Rupa Sanghani, MD, Rush Heart Center for Women

Rupa Sanghani, MD, FACC, FASNC, is an associate professor at Rush Medical College and Rush University Medical Center. She is the director of Nuclear Cardiology and the Stress Laboratory, director of the Cardiology Consult Service and the associate director for the Rush Heart Center for Women.

Dr. Sanghani received both her undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Society. She completed her Internal Medicine residency at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell in New York City, went on to complete her fellowship in Cardiology at the University of Chicago and was faculty at the University of Chicago Medicine from 2006-2015. She is board certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Nuclear Cardiology, and Echocardiography. She is a fellow and member of the American College of Cardiology and the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology.

Dr. Sanghani’s clinical interests are in cardiovascular imaging, specifically nuclear imaging, prevention of cardiovascular disease, and women’s cardiovascular health. She recently started the first academic cardiac PET perfusion program in the state of Illinois in February 2019. Her research interests include the appropriateness of cardiac imaging, reducing readmission rates for congestive heart failure and women and heart disease. 

Dr. Sanghani serves on multiple national committees including the quality assurance and education committee for the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology, Cardioserve and the Imaging Section Counsil for the American College of Cardiology. She has written book chapters and articles in the areas of nuclear cardiology and quality assurance and has been invited to present her research at national conferences. She was the 2006 winner of the Young Investigators Award from the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology for her work on Appropriate Use Criteria. In addition, she is an active member of the Chicago Go Red for Women Movement, working on efforts to increase awareness of heart disease in women.

Charlotte Bai, MD

Charlotte Bai

Charlotte Bai, MD, is an associate professor of medicine at Rush. She received her medical degree from Northeast Ohio Medical University and completed her internal medicine residency and cardiology fellowship at Rush University. She completed her training in cardiac computed tomography at UCLA-Harbor in Los Angeles.

Bai is board-certified in internal medicine, cardiology, echocardiography, cardiac computed tomography and nuclear cardiology. Her areas of interest include cardiac imaging, women's heart disease, assessment of cardiac function during chemotherapy, valvular heart disease and preventive heart disease.

Lynne T. Braun, PhD, CNP

Lynne Braun

Lynne Braun, PhD, CNP, is a nurse practitioner in the Rush Heart Center for Women and a professor in the Department of Adult Health and Gerontological Nursing in the Rush University College of Nursing. Her clinical and research interests include cardiovascular risk reduction, exercise, cardiac rehabilitation, hyperlipidemia and hypertension management. She has served as co-investigator for three NIH-funded research grants and co-authored prevention-related scientific statements and clinical practice guidelines. She is also a consultant to the Center for Disease Control's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention for several projects. 

Braun is an active volunteer for the American Heart Association (AHA). Currently she serves on the Medical Leadership Committee for Chicago's Go Red Luncheon and chairs the Illinois Advocacy Committee.

Braun is past president of the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association, a current board member and chair of the Advocacy Committee. She is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, AHA and other professional societies. Her numerous honors include the Marie Hippensteel Lingeman Award for Excellence in Nursing Practice from Sigma Theta Tau International and the Healthcare Volunteer of the Year Award from the AHA. She was also the Coeur d'Or Medical Honoree for the American Heart Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

Sonal Chandra, MD

Sonal Chandra, MD

Sonal Chandra, MD, is an assistant professor in the Section of Cardiology at Rush. Board certified in cardiology, echocardiography, cardiac computed tomography and nuclear cardiology, with specialty in cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, she combines her clinical interest in preventive cardiology with advanced imaging techniques to address her patients' health needs.

Chandra is especially interested in management of risk factors that increase the risk of coronary artery disease, such as family or personal history of heart disease or stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, excess body fat and high cholesterol. She is part of the cardio-metabolic initiative at Rush aimed at reducing the occurrence and burden of disease in several at-risk populations, including those with diabetes, fatty-liver disease and inflammatory conditions (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondyloarthropathies and IBD).

Chandra's goal is to not only recommend which tests should be performed to determine each patient's health risk status — and to personalize treatment based on their risk status — but also to help patients address the social, psychological and nutritional behaviors that contribute to poor health. As an integrative cardiologist, she views the heart within its environmental context and health as a modifiable property of the person. She places a strong emphasis on preventing disease by promoting well-being.

After receiving her medical degree from the State University of New York Medical University in Syracuse, Chandra completed her residency in internal medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and her fellowship in cardiology and advanced cardiovascular imaging at University of Chicago Hospitals. She has published in numerous peer-reviewed scientific journals; has written book chapters on a variety of subjects, including cardiovascular imaging, valve disease, aortic disease and lipidology; and has presented at several national conferences.

Ewa Dembowski, MD

Ewa Dembowski

Ewa Dembowski, MD, specializes in cardiovascular disease and internal medicine. Her clinical expertise includes heart disease in women, coronary artery disease, aortic stenosis, high blood pressurehigh cholesterol and high triglycerides

She received her medical degree from Rush Medical College, completed her residency in internal medicine at the University of Chicago (U of C) Medical Center, followed by a cardiology fellowship at U of C. 

Carolyn Jones, MD, PhD

Carolyn Jones, MD, PhD

Carolyn Jones, MD, PhD, is a professor and director of clinical genetic services at Rush University Medical Center. Board certified in both clinical genetics and cytogenetics, Jones' clinical interests comprise inherited cardiovascular disorders, including connective tissue disorders such as Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos and Loeys-Dietz. She also has an interest in inherited cardiomyopathies and rhythm disturbances.

She attended Rush Medical College and obtained her doctoral degree in molecular genetics at the University of Illinois-Chicago. She then completed pediatrics training at the University of Chicago and clinical genetics training at Lutheran General Hospital in Chicago.

Jones is involved in a number of national committees, including chairing the education committee for the American College of Genetics and Genomics, and is involved in the annual Marfan conference in 2005. She serves as a reviewer for various publications and has published many articles related to cardiology.

Dinesh Kalra, MD

Dinesh Kalra, MD - director, Advanced Cardiac Imaging, Rush University Medical Center

Dinesh Kalra, MD, is an associate professor at Rush and director of the Advanced Cardiac Imaging Program. He received his medical degree from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and completed his residency in internal medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, where he was selected by the American Board of Medicine to pursue an academic career as part of their MERIT pathway. He stayed on at Baylor to serve his cardiology fellowship (1999-2002), during which he was honored with the Best Clinical Research Award in Cardiology. He also received the American College of Cardiology (ACC)/Merck Research Award in 2000 and the Young Investigator Award (AACIO) in 2002. In 2015, he was elected to serve on the Board of Directors for the local chapter of the ACC for Indiana. He currently serves on the Illinois ACC chapter.

Dr. Kalra advocates putting his patients in the driver's seat when it comes to their health care decisions. A strong believer in prevention and educating patients, as well as empowering them to achieve positive results through diet, exercise and nonsurgical means first, he champions the cause that personalized medicine can help tremendously in the care of his patients' cardiac issues. With expertise and board certifications in cardiology, cardiac CT, nuclear cardiology, echocardiography and cardiac MRI, he judiciously uses the best possible tools at his disposal to accurately diagnose cardiovascular disease in its entirety before formulating thoughtful treatment programs.

He is very active in the education of students, residents and fellows at Rush, and on the international level as a member of the Board of the Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance education committee. He has authored many peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and reviews in major journals, and serves on the editorial board of several journals. He lectures regularly across the country on lipids and pulmonary hypertension and the role of imaging in various cardiovascular disorders.

Dr. Kalra is a part of Rush Heart Center for Women's imaging research programs and believes that early diagnosis and imaging provide a unique opportunity to track progression as well as regression of cardiac disorders. Because women have different presentations of cardiovascular disease than men, and often times, a greater burden of morbidity and mortality, he is passionate about using advanced technologies to help women in their efforts to stem the development of more advanced disease. Dr. Kalra is also Director of the Rush Lipid Clinic and Infiltrative Disease Program and sees patients with cholesterol and heart disease and with cardiac amyloid, Fabry and sarcoid.

Karolina Marinescu, MD

Karolina Marinescu, MD

Karolina Marinescu, MD, specializes in cardiovascular disease, internal medicine, nuclear cardiology and echocardiography. Raised in Poland, she is fluent in both Polish and English.

Marinescu received her medical degree at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago. After an internship at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., she completed her residency and fellowship at Wayne State University/Detroit Medical Center in Michigan, followed by an advanced heart failure fellowship at U of C.

Anu Rao, MD, FACC, FSCMR

Anu Rao is an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at Rush. She is the section chief for Noninvasive Cardiology and the Director of the Rush Echocardiography Lab. She is a multimodality imager with expertise in cardiac MRI, cardiovascular CT and echocardiography. She received her medical degree from Case Western Reserve University. She completed her Internal Medicine training at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and Cardiology fellowship training at Barnes Jewish Hospital/Washington University in St Louis. She also completed a sub-speciality fellowship in advanced cardiac imaging at the National Institutes of Health. She is board certified in Cardiovascular Medicine, Echocardiography, Cardiovascular MRI and Cardiovascular CT.

She serves on several committees for the Society of Cardiovascular MRI and has presented at various national meetings and has a number of peer-reviewed publications.  She is a member of the American Society of Echocardiography, Society of Cardiovascular CT, Society of cardiovascular MRI and the Internal Contrast Ultrasound Society.  She has a special interest in valvular heart disease, structural heart disease and novel imaging of ischemic heart disease in women. She is active in resident and fellow education.

Vanessa Tirone, PhD

Vanessa Tirone, PhD - Clinical Psychologist

Vanessa Tirone, PhD,  a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences, treats patients at the Rush Heart Center for Women, the Center for Women's Behavioral and Mental Health, and the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program. She uses cognitive behavioral and mindfulness-based treatments to help patients cope with stressors and mental health symptoms.

Broadly, Tirone's research focuses on the impact of interpersonal trauma on women's emotional, sexual and physical health. At Rush, she has been involved in the development of psychotherapy interventions to help trauma-exposed individuals cope with stress, chronic pelvic pain and pregnancy-related stressors.

Tirone received her bachelor's degree from the State University of New York College at Geneseo, and her master's and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She completed her residency at the Veterans Administration Healthcare System of Western New York and a postdoctoral fellowship in trauma and women's behavioral health at Rush before joining the Medical Center as a faculty member in 2016.

Melissa Tracy, MD

Melissa Tracy

Melissa Tracy, MD, completed her medical training in Philadelphia at Hahnemann University Medical Center.

Upon successfully completing her Cardiology Fellowship, she held faculty positions at several academic institutions. She has been on staff at Montefiore Medical Center, NY, MGH and Tufts New England Medical in Boston, University of Miami, and currently at Rush University Medical Center. Her prowess for Cardiac Rehabilitation began during her tenure in Boston. While in Miami, she created two robust Cardiac Rehabilitation programs. Her programs in Miami were highlighted by the ACC and both are accredited by the AACVPR. She was recruited to Rush to re-establish their Cardiac Rehabilitation program which was launched in 2017 and has rapidly expanded.

Dr. Tracy is actively involved in the Prevention and Cardiac Rehabilitation committees with the ACC. She has lectured nationally and internationally on prevention and the benefits of Cardiac Rehabilitation. Dr. Tracy has participated in the Cardiac Rehabilitation webinars supported by the ACC which have been one of the most visited webinars provided by the ACC. She was chosen to be on the special emphasis for the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation grants selection committee for the NIH. Dr. Tracy will be speaking next year at the ACC.20 in Chicago on “Making the Prevention Business Model Work”.

She was recently promoted to Systems Cardiac Rehabilitation Medical Director overseeing all of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention programs under the Rush umbrella. Furthermore, she has a robust outpatient cardiology clinic which is expanding to our new Oak Brook facility in the capacity as cardiologist and Medical Director of Cardiology at Oak Brook to start and expand Rush’s Cardiology expertise and exposure in the Western Suburbs delivering on our system-wide aspiration for Rush. 

Julie Vanourek, MSN, ACNP-BC

Julie Vanourek, MSN, ACNP-BC

Julie Vanourek, MSN, ACNP-BC, is a nurse practitioner in the Section of Cardiology, specifically working in the outpatient University Cardiologists clinic with the general cardiology team.

Vanourek received a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the University of Iowa and her master's degree in nursing from Rush University. She has worked in a variety of cardiology settings throughout her career as a nurse and nurse practitioner. During her time at Rush, she has helped to develop the nurse practitioner service line in the cardiology intensive care unit (CICU); create a program to prevent the number of heart failure re-admissions from the CICU; develop an inpatient interventional cardiology consult service; help develop the cardiac rehabilitation program at Rusk Oak Park Hospital and, most recently lead the expansion of the APP team within the Cardiovascular service line. Vanourek is always striving to improve patient care and patient outcomes.

Neelum Aggarwal, MD

Neelum Aggarwal

Neelum T. Aggarwal, MD, is a board certified cognitive neurologist, clinical trialist and associate professor in the Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush University Medical Center. She is the senior examining neurologist for the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center Clinical Core and the Cardiology Cognitive Clinic at the Rush Heart Center for Women, where she also serves as the center’s research director. Dr. Aggarwal’s clinical interests lie in the diagnosis and clinical management of people experiencing changes in cognitive function, mild cognitive, vascular cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease.

She serves as the Rush Steering Committee member and site principal investigator (PI) for multiple NIH-funded consortium-led clinical trials in cognition and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, in addition to serving as the Rush Imaging Site PI for the U.S. POINTER study, a two-year clinical trial to evaluate whether lifestyle interventions protect cognitive function in older adults who are at increased risk for cognitive decline. She is co-investigator and neurologist for the MIND Study and Co Principal Investigator for the Chicago-based Community Engagement for Early Recognition and Immediate Action in Stroke grant.

She is a Fellow of the Institute of Medicine of Chicago, a founding member of the Women Against Alzheimer’s Disease Network and in 2016 was awarded the Women in Science Award from the American Medical Women’s Association. She is a member of numerous professional organizations, including the American Academy of Neurology, American College of Cardiology, Radiological Society of North America, American Medical Association and the Illinois State Medical Society. She is also an active member of the American Heart Association, the Go Red for Women program, Cyclenation and serves as the Rush Steering committee member for Chicago’s Go Red STEM Initiative. Dr. Aggarwal completed her medical degree from the Rosalind Franklin University Medical School, her residency in Neurology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and an Aging and Neurodegenerative disorders fellowship at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center.

Meghan Bezaire, DNP, FNP-BC

Meghan Bezaire, DNP, FNP-BC is a nurse practitioner in the Section of Cardiology specifically focusing on preventative cardiovascular medicine, a member of the Rush Heart Center for Women, and the Rush Oak Park Cardiac Rehabilitation team. She is also an active member of the National Lipid Association, American Heart Association,  Preventative Cardiovascular Nurses Association, and the American Association for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. 

Bezaire received her Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences, emphasis in Nutrition and Fitness-Business from University of Missouri in Columbia. She then received her Bachelor of Science in nursing from Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri.  She has spent her entire career in Cardiology and received her Doctorate in Nursing Practice from Rush University.

Bezaire’s current interests include complex lipid and blood pressure management, exercise science, cardiac rehabilitation, atrial fibrillation, and prevention of cardiovascular disease.  During her time at Rush she has been an active member in establishing the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Rush Oak Park, Rush Fitness Center Committee, and Chicago’s Go Red STEM initiative.

Tochi Okwuosa, DO

Tochi Okwuosa

Tochi Okwuosa, DO, is an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush, and director of the Cardio-Oncology Program. Before coming to Rush, she was director of the Wayne State University Physician Group's cardio-oncology program at Karmanos Cancer Institute. She uses her expertise in cardio-oncology to provide care for patients whose chemotherapy regimens put them at high risk for heart disease and those who have both cancer and heart disease.

Okwuosa received her doctor of osteopathic medicine from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed her residency and fellowship at the University of Chicago Medical Center. She is a member of numerous organizations, including the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, American Society of Nuclear Cardiology, Association of Black Cardiologists and Illinois State Medical Society.

Her research interests include cardio-oncology, and cardiovascular disease prevention in women and people of African descent. She has been published in numerous journals, including the American Journal of Cardiology, Atherosclerosis, JACC Cardiovascular Imging and the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Jaime Rizzie, MS, RDN, LDN 

Jaime Rizzie, clinical dietitian

Jaime Rizzie, MS, RDN, LDN is a clinical dietitian in the Department of Clinical Nutrition working in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit and the Rush Heart Center for Women outpatient nutrition clinic. Jaime received her Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition with a concentration in dietetics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She completed her dietetic internship at the Ohio State University and her Master of Science in Nutrition from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Jaime’s clinical expertise is nutrition education and counseling for weight management, heart health, and chronic disease prevention and management. Her previous experiences include long-term and post-acute nutrition care, health promotion and wellness programming for college students, food service coordination, community nutrition programming, and community and clinical nutrition research.