Management Team

Corporate

Juan F. Granada, MD, is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Cardiovascular Research Foundation (CRF). A renowned leader in cardiology, he joined CRF in 2007 and served as Executive Director and Chief Innovation Officer at the CRF Skirball Center for Innovation, the preclinical division of CRF. He is also an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Dr. Granada is one of the world’s foremost investigators in the translational validation of novel cardiovascular therapies and has helped develop and successfully validate several endovascular imaging and device technologies. He received his medical degree from the Institute of Health Sciences in Medellin, Colombia and finished his cardiovascular disease and interventional cardiology fellowships at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. 

Donald L. Abrams, Esq., Chief Legal Officer, Office of Legal Affairs, has overseen legal, regulatory, and compliance matters at CRF since 2000, providing insight and guidance throughout the organization. Don is knowledgeable in areas of the law that include clinical and preclinical research, healthcare, life sciences, labor and employment, and immigration. He also oversees interactions with outside counsel responsible for real estate matters (including tax-exempt bond financing), intellectual property, not-for-profit corporate governance, and international law. Prior to joining CRF, Don managed legal affairs at Columbia Cornell Care, a management services organization responsible for physician contracting and credentialing. Before that, he was a litigator and a regulatory affairs attorney at Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, where he served for several years as the in-house attorney with primary responsibility for combatting healthcare insurance fraud. Don has litigated several cases to verdict, including in New York State Supreme Court and the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, arbitrated millions of dollars in healthcare insurance disputes, and negotiated positive outcomes in numerous other matters.

Eileen Morales, MS, Chief Financial Officer, joined CRF in January 2001. Over the years, she has taken on increased responsibilities and assumed more important roles from staff accountant to financial planning and analysis, to controller. She was promoted to CFO in January, 2017. In her current position, Eileen manages day-to-day corporate operations including Finance, Office Services and IT. Prior to CRF, she managed the accounting office of a law firm in New York.

Emilia K. Halpern, GPHR, Director, Human Resources, is responsible for developing, managing, and implementing strategic human resource initiatives which align with CRF’s vision, mission, and goals. She provides daily oversight of all recruitment and employment processes, compensation matters, training, employment legislation compliance, HRIS management, and employee relations activities for the organization. Prior to CRF, she served as an International Human Resources Representative for the Wildlife Conservation Society and an Employment Coordinator at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Emilia is a graduate of McGill University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Behavioral Science and holds a master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from New York University.

CRF SKIRBALL CENTER FOR INNOVATION

Greg L. Kaluza, MD, PhD, is Senior Director of Research at the CRF Skirball Center for Innovation. He has extensive expertise in guiding early ideas and inventions through comprehensive research programs to introduce practical therapies into clinical cardiovascular medicine. Prior to CRF, Dr. Kaluza served as Scientific Director of the Center for Research in Cardiovascular Interventions and as Co-Director of the Angiographic Core Laboratory at the Methodist Hospital Research Institute in Houston, Texas. He received his medical degree from the Nicolas Copernicus Academy of Medicine in Kraków, Poland. He completed his postgraduate fellowship at the Laboratory of Physiology, University of Antwerp, Belgium, and his residency in internal medicine at the Jagiellonian University College of Medicine, Kraków, Poland. 

Athanasios Peppas, MS is the Director of Operations at the CRF Skirball Center for Innovation (SCI) and is responsible for sponsor liaison, developing study proposals, allocation of resources and the day to day operations of SCI. Athanasios earned a BS in Biology from Rutgers University and a MS in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey where he was trained in the laboratory of Dr. Stephen F. Vatner. Upon joining the CRF Skirball Center for Innovation in 2010, he served on the scientific staff for seven years prior to assuming responsibility for SCI’s operations.

CRF CLINICAL TRIALS CENTER

Alexandra Popma, MD, is the Executive Director of the CRF Clinical Trials Center (CTC). As Executive Director, she is responsible for the strategic direction, management, and operational aspects of the CTC. A distinguished researcher with over 20 years of experience, Dr. Popma comes to CRF from The Baim Institute for Clinical Research, a full-service nonprofit academic research organization in Boston, where she served as Chief Operating Officer. Prior to CRF, she was also the Director of the Cardiovascular Imaging Core Laboratory at Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Under her leadership, the core laboratory developed innovative methods for the analyses of cardiovascular imaging to better understand the outcomes of patients undergoing new device therapy. She received her medical degree from University del Rosario in Bogotá, Colombia.

Ziad A. Ali, MD, DPhil, is Director of the Angiographic Core Laboratory at the CRF Clinical Trials Center. He is Director of the DeMatteis Cardiovascular Institute, Director of Investigational Interventional Cardiology, and Director of Cardio-nephrology at St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center. Prior to joining St. Francis, he was Associate Director of Translational Medicine at the Center for Interventional Vascular Therapy at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. He was also the Victoria and Esther Aboodi Cardiology Researcher at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He received his medical degree from the University of Sheffield and doctorate in cardiovascular medicine from the University of Oxford. Dr. Ali fulfilled a residency in internal medicine and fellowship in cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University Medical Center. He also served as Chief Fellow in cardiovascular intervention at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Daniel Burkhoff, MD, PhD, is Director, Heart Failure, Hemodynamics and MCS Research at the CRF Clinical Trials Center. He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University. A world-renowned expert in heart failure and hemodynamics, Dr. Burkhoff collaborates on heart failure research initiatives across all divisions of CRF. Dr. Burkhoff is author of Harvi, an interactive simulation-based application for teaching and researching many aspects of ventricular mechanics and hemodynamics. Dr. Burkhoff works with the CRF Center for Education to develop novel curricula using Harvi in educational programs for practicing physicians, fellows, and medical students around the world.

Dr. Burkhoff’s interests include cardiovascular modeling and research in basic and clinical aspects of ventricular mechanics, cardiovascular monitoring, heart failure, device and pharmacologic treatments for heart failure, including left ventricular assist devices. He was instrumental in the creation of the CRF Skirball Center for Innovation and served as Director when it opened in 2005. Before returning to CRF, he was Vice President of Medical Science for HeartWare International. Previously, he served as Medical Director of CircuLite. He received his medical and doctor of philosophy degrees from The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and completed his cardiology fellowship at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

David J. Cohen, MD, MSc, is Director of Clinical and Outcomes Research at the CRF Clinical Trials Center and Director of Academic Affairs at St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center in Roslyn, New York. A world-renowned expert in health economics and outcomes research, Dr. Cohen has devoted his career to studying interventional cardiology devices and procedures, particularly drug-eluting stents and transcatheter aortic valve implantation. His research focuses on the application of formal cost-effectiveness methodology to novel interventions for cardiovascular disease, the extension of traditional cardiovascular outcomes research to include patient-centered outcomes, and the development and evaluation of tools for assessing patients’ health status and preferences.

Previously, Dr. Cohen was Professor of Medicine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Director of Cardiovascular Research at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute. Prior to that, he was Associate Director, Interventional Cardiology and Director of Interventional Cardiology Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where he was also Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Cohen earned his medical degree at Harvard Medical School and his master’s degree in health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health. He completed his clinical training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and was a clinical and research fellow in cardiology at Beth Israel Hospital. He is board certified in internal medicine, adult cardiology, and interventional cardiology.

Jose M. Dizon, MD, is Director, ECG Core Laboratory at the CRF Clinical Trials Center. He is a practicing cardiologist and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Dr. Dizon's area of clinical expertise is cardiac arrhythmia management, including ablation of arrhythmias and device therapy. He received his medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Dizon completed his internship and residency at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and cardiology and electrophysiology fellowships at Columbia University Medical Center.

Ovidiu Dressler, MD, Director, Medical Analytics and Programming, oversees the SAS programming group. He provides clinical input to study teams for protocol development, statistical analysis plans, table shells, case report forms, and database design. He is also responsible for clinical review and quality control for all deliverables and clinical/programming support for academic requests. Prior to joining CRF, he worked as an associate professor of pathophysiology at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Timisoara, Romania, where he also received his medical degree. During his teaching career, he specialized in the field of basic cardiovascular research and completed his residency in nuclear medicine.

Katharine Garcia, Director, Administration & ECG Core Lab Operations, joined CRF in 2005 and is responsible for all operational activities in the Administration and Data Entry department, including resource allocation, budget review, and strategic planning. She is responsible for the direct oversight of all incoming media and data entry for all departments under the CRF Clinical Trials Center. Prior to joining CRF, Katharine worked at NYC Physical Therapy and Pain Management, which treated more than 200 patients a day, where she oversaw 15 employees. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in forensic psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Rebecca T. Hahn, MD, is Director, Echocardiography Core Laboratory at the CRF Clinical Trials Center. She is currently the Director of Interventional Echocardiography at the Columbia Structural Heart & Valve Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and a Professor of Medicine at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Hahn is a leading authority in the field of echocardiography. She has served as Course Director for the Annual State-of-the-Art Echo Course which trains and educates health care professionals on established and new recommendations of the American Society of Echocardiography (ASE). Previously, she directed the Echocardiography Lab at North Shore University Hospital and prior to that, was the Director of Clinical Echocardiography at Cornell University. Dr. Hahn received her medical degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and completed her internship, residency, and fellowship at New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

Ozgu Issever is Director, Biostatistics and Data Management at the CRF Clinical Trials Center. She is responsible for managing the statistical and data management functions for sponsored clinical trials. Prior to joining CRF in 2015, she worked as a clinical statistician at Boehringer Ingelheim and taught statistical methods classes during her graduate studies. Ozgu holds a Bachelor of Science degree in statistics from Middle East Technical University in Turkey and a Master of Science degree in statistics from the University of Georgia.

Ivana Jankovic, MD, Director, Core Lab Operations, is responsible for operations of the CTC’s imaging core laboratories (ACL, IVI, OCT, Echo, CT, MRI and ECG). She is also responsible for the timeliness of image analyses and oversight of technical personnel, including performance quality across all groups. Ivana has several years of core lab and project management experience and has managed multiple phase I-IV clinical studies. Prior to joining CRF, Ivana worked as a project manager for the Yale Cardiovascular Research Group of the Yale University School of Medicine. Ivana holds a medical degree from Belgrade University School of Medicine in Serbia.

Allen Jeremias, MD, MSc, is Director of the Physiology Core Laboratory at the CRF Clinical Trials Center. He is also Director of Interventional Cardiology Research and Associate Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, New York. He was previously the Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at Stony Brook University Medical Center and an Associate Professor of Medicine at SUNY Stony Brook. He received his medical degree from the Heinrich-Heine-University School of Medicine, Germany. Dr. Jeremias also completed his residency at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and fellowships in cardiology, interventional cardiology, and peripheral interventions at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Omar K. Khalique, MD, is Director of the Structural CT Core Laboratory at the CRF Clinical Trials Center. He is Director of Multimodality Cardiac Imaging at the Columbia Structural Heart & Valve Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and an Associate Professor of Medicine (in Radiology) at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, specializing in non-invasive imaging of valvular and structural heart disease.

Dr. Khalique received his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He completed his internal medicine residency and his fellowship in cardiology at Westchester Medical Center of New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York. He did an advanced echocardiography and computed cardiac tomography fellowship, followed by further training in interventional and valvular echocardiography at Columbia University Department of Medicine. Dr. Khalique is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease, echocardiography, cardiac computed tomography and nuclear cardiology.

Akiko Maehara, MD, is the Director of the Intravascular Imaging Core Laboratory at the CRF Clinical Trials Center. She is also an Associate Professor of Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She is a leading authority in the field of intravascular imaging and physiology. Dr. Maehara received her medical degree from Yamaguchi University School of Medicine in Yamaguchi, Japan. She completed her clinical fellowship in the Toranomon Hospital in Tokyo, Japan, and a cardiovascular fellowship at the Cardiovascular Center in Toranomon Hospital, also in Tokyo. Dr. Maehara finished a research fellowship in cardiovascular interventions at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, California, with an additional year of fellowship in the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC.

Ryann Sardinia, Senior Director, CTC Operations and Development, is responsible for the operational excellence of the CRF Clinical Trials Center and oversees the Administration, Project Management, Project Development and Safety groups. She previously served as Director of Project Development. Ryann has clinical research experience in juvenile diabetes, gynecologic and thoracic oncology, and skin cancer. Prior to joining CRF in 2013, she worked in clinical research at Columbia University and did a brief stint in promotional medical writing. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in health service administration.

CRF CENTER FOR EDUCATION

Tricia Rawh is Executive Director of the CRF Center of Education. She was previously Director, Industry Relations, leading the sales and business development operations for the division, including exhibits, sponsorships, satellite programs, and educational grant acquisitions. Tricia joined CRF in June 2008 as a Project Manager in the Creative and Marketing Services department before transitioning over to a program project management role in the Educational Services & Strategic Relations department. Prior to joining CRF, she was an Account Manager at Thomas Publishing Company LLC.

Ligia Alas-Guerra, Director, Meetings is responsible for leading the meeting planning function, strategy, and execution of all aspects of event/meeting management, including budget preparation and site selection for the CRF Center for Education. She manages a staff of meeting planners and works with vendors and internal resources to execute the logistical operations for CRF’s educational meetings throughout the year. Ligia has extensive experience working across internal and external functional groups, full-cycle project management, budget ownership, and is a dedicated client liaison for internal and external stakeholders. Prior to joining CRF, she was Director of Meetings and Events at Valeant Pharmaceuticals. She also spent more than 10 years at Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceutical, leading the planning and execution of over 200 major domestic and international meetings with up to 11,000 attendees.

Liza Alegado, Director, Program Development is responsible for the development of CRF programs within the Center for Education and oversees the program team. The Program Team manages the project deliverables related to program content and collaborates with physician course directors to ensure CRF’s standard of high-quality medical educational events. Liza joined CRF in 2013 as Program Coordinator for CED. Prior to CRF, she was an Associate Research Scholar at New York University, managing a national initiative to improve outcomes of depression and worked as a Research Coordinator at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.

Stephanie Gutch, Senior Director, TCTMD/Digital oversees content and operations for TCTMD.com, and the CRF Studio. Stephanie joined CRF in 2008 as Content Coordinator for TCTMD. Prior to joining CRF, she was the web editor for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, a seven-hospital system based in Memphis, TN.

Tara Lucas, Director, Industry Relations, oversees the business development operations for the Center of Education, which include exhibits, sponsorships, satellite programs, and grant acquisitions. Tara joined CRF in 2008 as a Meeting Planner and transitioned to a project management role within the industry relations department in 2015. Tara received a Bachelor of Science from New York University.

Debra Lund, Marketing Director, is responsible for the strategy and execution of all CRF branding and marketing, including copywriting, creative services, websites and web application development. She brings over 25 years of marketing, strategy and analytics experience with large brands such as The Madison Square Garden Company, Cirque du Soleil, Sotheby’s and Cablevision. Debra is a graduate of the City University of New York where she earned her master’s degree in Applied Sociology. She lives in Plainview with her husband and two daughters.

Thaifa S. Smith, MHA, Director, CME and Scientific Programs, is responsible for managing the program development and compliance for all Continuing Medical Education and Call for Science functions and joined CRF in 2022. Prior to joining CRF, she was the Director of Global Medical Education at Operation Smile and Director of CME and Physician Professional Development at Christiana Care Health System. Thaifa was able to achieve ACCME accreditation for one of the largest academic based medical centers in Delaware.

Thaifa has over 15 years of medical education, physician professional development, accreditation, and credentialing experience. She managed a portfolio of educational activities offered to 11,000 learners nationally and organized a fragmented system of CME activities into a comprehensive institutional program of value-driven, peer-reviewed, and professional education trainings. Thaifa has a Masters Degree in Health Care Administration from the University of Maryland.

Shelley Wood is Managing Editor of TCTMD and the Editorial Director at CRF. She did her undergraduate degree at McGill University and the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and her graduate degree in journalism at the University of British Columbia, specializing in medical reporting. Before joining CRF in 2015, Shelley was Managing Editor at theheart.org and Senior Director, Global News for Medscape. Her work has won the National Institute for Health Care Management's excellence in print journalism prize, the Online News Award for best specialty site journalism, two prizes from the Canadian Online Publishing Awards and Gold from the Association of Healthcare Publication Editors Awards. She is also the host of TCTMD’s Heart Sounds podcast, which won the 2016 merit prize in the Digital Health Awards, Audio/Mobile category.