About the program and organization
Our Heart Center is one of the 15 largest clinical pediatric cardiac programs in the USA. We serve a population of over 5 million, consisting of diverse urban, suburban and rural communities with a multi-state geographic catchment that includes Missouri, Kansas and adjacent portions of Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Annually, we perform over 500 cardiac operations, 600 cardiac catheterizations including over 200 invasive EP procedures, 18,000 outpatient visits, and 20,000 echocardiograms.
Children’s Mercy Kansas City is an independent, non-profit, 390-bed pediatric health system, providing over half a million patient encounters each year for children from across the country. Children’s Mercy is ranked by USNWR in 9 specialties. Our faculty of nearly 800 pediatric specialists and researchers are actively involved in clinical care, pediatric research and educating the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists.
The Ward Family Heart Center (TWFHC) is a service line led by co-directors (Aliessa Barnes, MD and James O’Brien, MD) who report to the Chief Medical Officer (Robert Lane, MD). The Director of Research would report to the Co-Directors of the Heart Center. This is a new leadership position with significant administrative responsibilities; candidates must have significant prior leadership experience. Direct reports to the Director of Research currently include the Administrative Director for Research and Quality (David Cloutier, MS, MBA); as the research enterprise grows, direct reports are expected to increase in number and scope.
In addition to leading their own research program and seeking extramural funding to support that effort, duties will include, but are not limited to:
- Establish the vision and strategic direction of TWFHC Research Program.
- Develop short and long-term plans for Heart Center Research strategy and staffing that are aligned with organizational plans and vision.
- Recruit and retain faculty and staff to build the academic profile of TWFHC and the recruitment of clinical and translational scientists positioned to lead our field.
- Lead a culture of research mentorship: help accelerate investigators’ progress towards independence and eliminate barriers to successful extramural funding
- Lead alignment of research resources, protected faculty time, research metrics and accountability to achieve desired research goals.
- Create and maintain a robust training / educational program for grant education, development, submissions and awards specific to pediatric cardiac science.
- Develop the research enterprise in a manner that is integrated seamlessly with the clinical enterprise, thus facilitating synergies and enabling clinicians and scientists to work together to identify and address clinically relevant problems.
- Serve as a liaison with the Children’s Mercy Research Institue (CMRI) to ensure collaboration both at the operational and strategic levels.
- Work with Heart Center leadership to develop staffing and budgetary plans and to monitor the financial performance of the program.
- Work with the Department of Philanthropy to identify sources of philanthropic support.
- Regularly assess research staffing to ensure capacity and adequacy to achieve the research mission.
The ideal physician candidate should be board-certified or board-eligible in Pediatric Cardiology; PhD candidates should have a career focus on pediatric cardiac research. Applicants’ current academic rank could range from Assistant Professor to Professor. Familiarity with federal funding and/or industry / foundation sponsored clinical trials is required. We value prior experience as a Principal Investigator or Project Director under federal grants or cooperative agreements, familiarity with award processes, experience as a PI on industry sponsored clinical trials and/or investigator initiated research, and/or knowledge of regulatory requirements of the FDA, GCP, and applicable IRB/IACUC requirements.
The successful applicant must share our unwavering commitment to excellence, integrity, collegiality, antiracism, and respect for inclusion of individuals with diverse backgrounds. They should have experience with leading teams. Desired style and personality traits include flexibility, creativity, transparency, accessibility, thoughtfulness, insight, confidence, fairness, humility and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. LEAN experience is preferred; CMKC is fully committed to LEAN, and provides a wide range of LEAN training opportunities.
Potential resources include startup funding, CMRI space, and the recruitment of faculty and staff.
Please refer to the Appendix for additional details regarding the Children’s Mercy Research Institute, TWFHC clinical and research program, funding and academic productivity.
Please submit CV and cover letter to:
Or send to
For more information:
Aliessa Barnes MD
Co-Director, Ward Family Heart Center
Chief, Section of Cardiology
Phone (816) 983-6225
Children’s Mercy Mission and Vision
Children's Mercy is a leading independent children's health organization dedicated to holistic care, translational research, breakthrough innovation and educating the next generation of caregivers.
Together, we transform the health, wellbeing and potential of children with unwavering compassion for those most vulnerable.
Our vision is to create a world of wellbeing for all children.
Children’s Mercy Research Institute
The Children’s Mercy Research Institute (CMRI) was founded in 2016 to transform the outstanding clinical care environment of Children’s Mercy by integrating pediatric translational research to find answers to the most challenging questions in pediatric medicine. In January 2018, CMRI and CMKC announced the receipt of two major gifts, totaling $150M, representing the largest donations to a children’s hospital to support the construction of a new research building and for recruitment of top talent to the hospital. In 2021, the CMRI moved into a nine story, 410,000 square foot space emphasizing a translational approach to research in which clinicians and researchers work together to accelerate the pace of discovery that enhances care. CMRI has identified five areas of emphasis (AOE): Genomic Medicine, Precision Therapeutics, Health Care Innovation, Population Health and Emerging Infections.
- The Genomic Medicine Center provides state-of-the-art clinical genomic services and is an epicenter for genomic research including large sequencing efforts in children with rare conditions such as congenital heart defects and disease modeling using human cardiac organoids.
- Precision Therapeutics uses patient-specific information to optimize treatment for individual patients through a transdisciplinary research approach.
- Health Care Innovation identifies, articulates, and advances products and processes that optimize the medical, surgical, and therapeutic management of children.
- Population Health uses transdisciplinary research to generate new knowledge on the personal, social, economic, and environmental factors that influence the distribution of health outcomes and the evaluation of interventions and policies to improve those outcomes.
- The Emerging Infections AOE focuses on enhancing the ability to handle current and emerging infectious diseases to protect children and public health.
In FY21, CMRI investigators secured over $25 million in grants and contracts. We invite you to visit Children’s Mercy Hospital virtually at cmkc.link/PhysicianTour
Heart Center Clinical Program
The successful candidate would join an existing group of 30 pediatric cardiologists, four pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons, over 30 APNs and three PhDs.
Our Kansas City-based clinical super-specialty resources include Electrophysiology (which includes Pacing and Genetic Arrhythmia), Cardiac Transplantation/Heart Failure, Interventional Cardiology and Advanced Cardiac Imaging (fetal echo, 3D echo, trans-esophageal echo, CT, MRI and 3D printing). We also provide specialized, team-based care in Fetal Cardiology (with on-site delivery services for high-risk neonates in Kansas City), Interstage Monitoring (CHAMP), Preventive Cardiology, Cardiac Genetics, Cardio-oncology, Single Ventricle Survivorship, Pulmonary Hypertension, a dedicated POTS clinic and Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Services. Our two state-of the art catheterization labs are hybrid suites with 3D rotational angiography and advanced EP mapping. In 2022, the Ward Family Heart Center program was ranked # 19 nationally by USNWR.
Heart Center Research
Areas of Thematic Focus
The Heart Center has several productive areas of research including innovations in models of care delivery such as interstage monitoring and cardiac rehabilitation, cardiac imaging, cardiac outcomes research and precision therapeutics.
Training Opportunities and Collaborations
The Heart Center has six fellows in Pediatric Cardiology, one advanced fellow in Non-Invasive Cardiac Imaging, and one fellow in Congenital Cardiac Surgery. In addition to clinical education for UMKC medical students, the Heart Center has historically provided opportunities for UMKC medical students to work on research projects with our faculty (Geetha Raghuveer, MD, Sanket Shah, MD and Brian Birnbaum, MD). The Heart Center provides education for 105 residents in pediatrics and internal medicine / pediatrics.
Our program has enjoyed productive research collaborations with NIH-funded T32 programs in Clinical Pharmacology at Children’s Mercy (Laura Ramsey, PhD, and Jonathan Wagner, DO, Co-PIs) and in Cardiac Outcomes Research (John Spertus, MD, PhD, PI, Mid America Heart Institute). Other research collaborators and mentors have included Ann Davis, PhD (Center for Healthy Lifestyles and Nutrition, Children’s Mercy) and Joseph Donnelly, PhD (University of Kansas Weight Management Programs).
This group supports Heart Center faculty, nurses and fellows in their research efforts. It is led by the Director of Research and Quality (an administrative position), and includes one full-time and two part-time research scientists, two managers for data quality, two research coordinators and a research assistant.
Our dedicated three-person Heart Center Informatics team has extensive expertise in the design of customized interfaces to multicenter databases and registries including the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), PC4 (Pediatric Cardiac Critical Care Consortium), Pediatric Acute Care Cardiology Collaborative (PAC3), IMPACT (American College of Cardiology) and PediPERFORM. We serve as the Core facility hosting all data and videos for the multicenter CHAMP program.
Our Informatics team has built a custom application (‘Heart Center’) that provides powerful KPI tracking, classification, association, clustering, and numeric prediction algorithms, thus enabling powerful research and QI initiatives.
Publications and Ongoing Research
Over the past 5 years, our faculty have authored 46-63 papers (median 53 papers) per year. We currently have 94 active IRB protocols, consisting of 21 externally funded, 4 externally sponsored and 69 internally sponsored studies.
Nine faculty are currently PI / site PI on funded projects. The number of successfully funded external and internal grants is demonstrated below.
Annual research funding from all sources since 2012 is demonstrated below.
Overall, annual research grants / contracts and research revenues have steadily increased (other than a pandemic-related decrease in 2021) and now average ~ 20 per year and $900K per year respectively.
Since 2012, Heart Center faculty have secured one RO3 grant (Gabe Converse, PhD, 2015-17), one STTR grant (Jos Domen, PhD, 2013-15) and two current NHLBI K23 grants (Natalie Jayaram, MD, ‘The Impact of Public Reporting on Procedural Outcomes Following Congenital Heart Surgery’, 2022-26, and David White, PhD, ‘Remotely Delivered Cardiac Rehabilitation for Adolescents with Congenital Heart Disease’, 2022-27).
NIH-funded multi-center studies
Since 2013, the Heart Center has been an auxiliary site for the NHLBI-funded Pediatric Heart Diseases Clinical Research Network, participating in the following studies (names of site PIs are in parentheses):
- Residual Lesion Score (Geetha Raghuveer, MD)
- Saxophone (Apixaban), Natalie Jayaram, MD
- Fontan Udenafil and Exercise Longitudinal Assessment Trial (the FUEL and FUEL-2 Study, Jonathan Wagner, DO)
- Long-Term Outcomes after the Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children: PHN MUSIC Study (Daniel Forsha, MD)
- Comparison of Methods of Pulmonary blood flow Augmentation in neonates: Shunt versus Stent (The COMPASS Trial, Ryan Romans, MD)
- DO_IT study (Geetha Raghuveer, MD)
Several of our faculty (Daniel Forsha, MD, James St. Louis, MD, David White, PhD) are or have been co-investigators on NIH-funded RO1 grants.
Two of our faculty (Jonathan Wagner, DO, 2017-2019, and Natalie Jayaram, MD, 2020-22) have previously secured KL2 funding from the Frontiers CTSA.
Other Federal and Foundation Grants
- Two of our faculty (Jonathan Wagner, DO, 2013-2016, and Dan Forsha, MD, 2018-2021) obtained Early Career Development Awards from the American Heart Association.
- Daniel Forsha, MD, is PI on a single-center foundation grant (‘A comprehensive and non-invasive assessment of skeletal muscle in adolescents with single ventricle palliation. Single Ventricle Research Fund, Additional Ventures’), 2023-2026.
- Lori Erickson, PNP, PhD, received an award from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (2016-17) to further develop the Cardiac High Acuity Monitoring Program (CHAMP).
- Maria Kiaffas, MD, is PI on a multi-center 1-year award (‘Myocardial Tumors’, 2022-23)) from the Missouri chapter of the American Heart Association.
- Several of our faculty (Aliessa Barnes, MD, Geetha Raghuveer, MD, Elizabeth Willen, PhD, David White, PhD) are site PIs for multicenter studies
Industry funded studies
Several of our current (Aliessa Barnes, MD, Brian Birnbaum, MD, Lindsey Malloy-Walton, DO, Ryan Romans, MD) and former (Abhay Divekar MD, Anitha Parthiban, MD, James St. Louis, MD and Svetlana Tisma Dupanovic, MD) faculty are or have been site PI’s for multi-center studies.
Core Lab Facilities
Over the past 11 years, we have served as the sole US Echocardiography Core Laboratory for six separate FDA studies of percutaneously-implanted pulmonary valves (Girish Shirali, MBBS, PI). Three of those studies are actively recruiting patients.