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, 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, is an associate professor at Rush, director of nuclear cardiology and associate director of the Rush Heart Center for Women. She came to Rush from the University of Chicago (U of C) Medical Center, where she served on the faculty from 2006 to 2015. She received both her undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She then completed her internal medicine residency at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City and her fellowship in cardiology at U of C.
Board certified in internal medicine, cardiology, nuclear cardiology and echocardiography, Sanghani's clinical interests include women's cardiovascular health — in particular, pregnancy-related cardiovascular disease and prevention of heart disease — and cardiovascular imaging in women, including nuclear imaging and echocardiography. Her research interests include women and heart disease, the appropriateness of cardiac imaging, and reducing readmission rates for congestive heart failure.
Sanghani serves on multiple national committees, including the quality assurance and education committee for the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology and the CardioSurve committee 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. She is also an active member of the Chicago Go Red for Women movement, striving to increase awareness of heart disease in women.
Sarah Alexander, MD, is an assistant professor of medicine at Rush. She received her medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine and completed her internal medicine residency and cardiology fellowship at Rush.
Alexander's clinical interests include cardiac imaging, valvular heart disease, preventive heart disease and heart disease in women. Her research interests include cardiac workup in liver transplantation patients and heart disease prevention.
She is a member of the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology.
Charlotte Bai, MD, is an assistant 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. Her training also includes completion of a cardiac CT fellowship at UCLA-Harbor in Los Angeles.
Bai is board-certified in internal medicine, cardiology, echocardiography 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 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, 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, specializes in cardiovascular disease and internal medicine. Her clinical expertise includes heart disease in women, coronary artery disease, aortic stenosis, high blood pressure, high 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, 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, is an assistant 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.
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.
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.
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.
Marie-France Poulin, MD is an interventional cardiologist who specializes in structural and congenital heart disease. She completed her internal medicine residency at Drexel University/Saint-Peter's University Hospital and her cardiology fellowship at Rush University Medical Center. She then went to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital in Boston, for her interventional cardiology training.
Poulin's clinical expertise include coronary angiography, angioplasty (PCI), radial artery access, coronary flow reserve and structural heart disease. She performs procedures and works with the Rush Heart Center for Women staff to follow patients.
Christine C. Tangney, PhD
Christine C. Tangney, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at Rush, and the associate dean for research in the College of Health Sciences. She has been teaching future dietitians and other health professionals in the classroom, workshops and webinars for more than 30 years.
Tangney's expertise is in assessment of dietary behaviors of individuals and population samples in relation to cardiovascular and cognitive health. She has authored or co-authored more than 100 papers and five book chapters, and has presented or lectured at more than 125 conferences. Her recent efforts have focused on developing short dietary screeners to monitor changes in dietary behaviors and key biomarkers in young pre-hypertensive African American women, middle-aged and older women with cardiovascular risk, people with Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease, and breast cancer survivors. She previously studied the influence of dietary antioxidants — in particular vitamin E — on heart and brain health.
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, is associate professor of medicine and chief of noninvasive cardiology at Rush. She is a graduate of Hahnemann University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and completed a residency in internal medicine and a cardiology fellowship there. Before joining the Division of Cardiology at Rush in 2013, she was assistant professor of medicine, assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine, director of echocardiography and director of cardiac rehabilitation for the University of Miami Hospital.
Tracy's clinical interests include cardiac rehabilitation and preventive cardiovascular medicine, echocardiography with 3D reconstruction, echo research, structural valvular heart disease, and women and heart disease. Her research interests include stem cells to treat ischemic cardiomyopathy, structural valvular heart disease, primary cardiac prevention in minority women, and the impact of age on changes in cardiovascular risk factors and angiogenic capacity after cardiac rehabilitation.
She is a member of the American College of Cardiology, American College of Physicians and American Medical Association.
Julie Vanourek, MSN, ACNP-BC
Julie Vanourek, MSN, ACNP-BC, is a nurse practitioner in the Section of Cardiology, specifically working with the inpatient cardiology interventional service and in the outpatient University Cardiologists clinic.
Vanourek received a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, 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; and, most recently, develop the inpatient interventional cardiology consult service. Vanourek is always striving to improve patient care and patient outcomes.
Neelum Aggarwal, MD, a cognitive neurologist and clinical trialist in the Department of Neurological Sciences and the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, heads up the Cardiology Cognitive Clinic at Rush and is director of research for the Rush Heart Center for Women. She received her medical degree from Chicago Medical School, then completed her residency in neurology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and an aging and neurodegenerative disorders fellowship with the RADC.
Board certified in neurology, Aggarwal's clinical interests lie in the diagnosis and clinical management of people experiencing changes in cognitive function, mild cognitive and vascular cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer's disease. She serves as site principal investigator for multiple NIH-funded consortium-led clinical trials in cognition and prevention of Alzheimer's disease.
Her research interests include identifying how social determinants of health, cardiovascular disease and other novel risk factors for cognitive impairment — including sex and gender differences — may lead to strategies to prevent cognitive decline and dementia in older adults, women and minorities. She is co-principal investigator for the Chicago-based Community Engagement for Early Recognition and Immediate Action in Stroke (CEERIAS) grant; this study addresses the socioeconomic, race/ethnicity and sex and gender disparities in stroke awareness, barriers to health care access, treatments and outcomes in Chicago's minority communities.
Aggarwal was appointed as the first chief diversity and inclusion officer for the American Medical Women's Association; is chair of the Mentoring, Advisors and Peers Committee of the Chicago Women in Bio chapter; and is vice chair of the governing council of the AMA-Women's Physician Section. She was awarded the 2016 Women in Science Award from the American Medical Women's Association and is a fellow of the Institute of Medicine of Chicago. She is a member of numerous organizations, including the American Heart Association, American Academy of Neurology, American Medical Association and Chicago Medical Society. She is also an active member of the Go Red for Women movement, serving on the steering committee for Chicago's Go Red STEM Initiative.
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.
Leah Cerwinske, MS, RDN, LDN
Leah A. Cerwinske, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical dietitian in the Department of Clinical Nutrition, specifically working in the Rush Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit and Rush Heart Center for Women outpatient clinic.
Cerwinske received a Bachelor of Science from Indiana University in Bloomington and a Master of Science from Rush. She has worked with a variety of patient populations both within the clinical realm and in the community setting. She has graduate experience in assessing the validity of a Mediterranean diet screening tool in an adult outpatient setting.