For the Heart of MN: 3rd Annual Cardiovascular Nursing Conference

Friday, April 21, 2023 at 7:00am - 4:00pm
Arrowwood Lodge at Brainerd Lakes, 6967 Lake Forest Rd, Baxter, MN 56425

We hope you'll join us!

For the Heart of MN: A Cardiovascular Nursing Conference is a continuing education activity designed to educate nurses on the most current, leading-edge information in cardiovascular care.

Topics will include med therapy compliance, women’s heart health, pulmonary arterial hypertension basics, transferring critically ill patients, smoking cessation education, a structural heart update, referring to a vascular surgeon, end of life care in cardiology, and care for the caregiver.

This conference is unique in that it is being offered in the Brainerd Lakes area and is geared toward nurses who may have limited access to high-quality training due to serving a rural area. Faculty include pharmacists, advanced practice providers and physicians.


Contact us: or 612-863-3625

Event Details:

Registration Fee

In-Person Early Bird Registration (through March 10) $150.00
In-Person General Registration (March 11 – April 17) $175.00
Webinar General Registration $100



Registration and Breakfast Buffet, Exhibits





Community Health Survey: A Rural Perspective

Karen Johnson, BS, BA
Stephanie Hendrickson, RN


Med-WRECK: Improving Compliance for Med Therapy

Steve Kappes, BS


Women’s Heart Health

Retu Saxena, MD, FACC


Break, Exhibits and Patient Video


Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Basics (VIRTUAL)

Emily Bernstein, RN, BSN, CHFN


Transfer of the Critical Patient: Tools for Success

Katie Christl, RN, BSN, RNC


Importance of Research

Irena Davies, CCRC
Denise Windenburg, MHA


Lunch, Exhibits and Patient Video


Smoking Cessation and Education (Virtual)

Julee Moorlag, RT, CTTS


Structural Heart Update

Paul Sorajja, MD


Does this Patient Need a Vascular Surgeon?

Jeffrey Jim, MD, MPHS, FACS


Break, Exhibits and Patient Videos


End of Life Care in Cardiology

Timothy Dirks, MD


Care for the Caregiver

Gail Smith, RN, BSN


Takeaways, Wrap Up and Evaluation


Karen Johnson, BS, BA
Community Health Specialist | Essentia Health/Crow Wing Energized
Karen Johnson is a Community Health Specialist with Crow Wing Energized, which is a program of Essentia Health. Karen joined Essentia four years ago as the programs manager within the Brainerd Lakes Market. Previously, she worked at Northern Orthopedics in Brainerd for 35 years, managing the clinic for over 20 years. She is now a community health specialist, which she finds very rewarding.

Stephanie Hendrickson, RN
RN Supervisor| Essentia Health
Stephanie is a Registered Nurse and completed her training through Central Lakes College in Brainerd. She has experience with at St. Joseph’s Medical Center Hospital in the Float Pool and for the past 4-plus years has been the RN Supervisor at the Brainerd Clinic for Internal Medicine, Neurology, Pulmonology, Rheumatology and Elder Care.

Steve Kappes, BS
Pharmacist and Owner | Crosslake Drug
Steve Kappes is a second generation pharmacist and, along with his wife, has owned and operated Crosslake Drug since 2001. His father is one of his relief pharmacists, and he hopes his daughter will take over in the future, as she graduates this spring with her PharmD. The philosophy for operating the pharmacy is to make it as easy as possible for their patients to maintain their medication regiment. Outside of the drug store, Steve is a father to three wonderful children and enjoys coaching baseball and softball. With the little time left, he likes to hunt and relax at the family cabin.

Retu Saxena, MD, FACC
Cardiologist | Allina Health Minneapolis Heart Institute
Researcher | Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation

Dr. Retu Saxena is a general cardiologist at Allina Health Minneapolis Heart Institute with expertise in women’s heart disease, noninvasive imaging and critical care, as well as specific research interests related to cardiovascular risk factors that emerge during pregnancy. She has provided training to ob-gyn and women’s care practitioners to help them better manage risk among their patients as part of MHIF’s BROACH initiative (Broadening the Role of Ob-Gyns in Assessing Cardiovascular Health). Dr. Retu Saxena currently serves as the President of the ACC Minnesota Chapter.

Emily Bernstein, RN, BSN, CHFN
Lead Pulmonary Hypertension Nurse | Allina Health Minneapolis Heart Institute
Emily Bernstein, RN, BSN, CHFN has been an Advanced Heart Failure Nurse Specialist with the Advanced Heart Failure team at Minneapolis Heart Institute since 2011 and the lead Pulmonary Hypertension nurse since 2015.

Katie Christl, RN, BSN, RNC
Nurse Clinician, Cardiovascular Emergencies Program | Allina Health Minneapolis Heart Institute
Katie Christl is a Registered Nurse Clinician with Minneapolis Heart Institute for the Cardiovascular Emergency Program. In her 15 years as a nurse, she has worked primarily in the Cardiac Surgical Intensive Care at Abbott Northwestern hospital, with additional experience in emergency room, and education. In her current role she works closely with the ECMO program and ECPR activation, as well as providing education to outreach sites and pre-hospital staff with the use of multidisciplinary simulation. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN

Irena Davies, CCRC
Clinical Research Manager, Cardiovascular Disease Prevention | Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation
Irena Davies serves as the Clinical Research Manager for the prevention group at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. Irena has 15+ years of clinical research experience in gastroenterology, endocrinology, and presently focusing on cardiovascular research.  Irena is passionate about and strives for quality patient care and building positive working relationships with her patients. Outside of work, Irena enjoys spending time with her three daughters and husband, traveling, practicing yoga and trying out new restaurants.

Denise Windenburg, MHA
Director, Research Operations Effectiveness | Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation
Denise Windenburg is the Director of Research Operations Effectiveness at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation.  Denise has over 25 years of clinical research experience in program development, budget and financial analysis, grantsmanship, regulations and operations management that spans pharmaceutical and device trials, investigator-initiated protocols and practice-based research with a passion for mentoring and training.  Denise earned her Master’s in Healthcare Administration from the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health and an undergraduate degree in Organizational Management and Communications. Denise currently serves on the board of the Midwest Chapter of the Association of Clinical Research Professionals and is a member of the Society for Clinical Research Sites.  Denise has three grown sons and one adorable grandson.  Outside of work she and her spouse love to travel, hang out on the Minnesota lakes, wander around farmer’s markets, and cook for family and friends.

Julee Moorlag, RT, CTTS
Tobacco Intervention Program Coordinator | Mercy Hospital, part of Allina Health
Julee has been the Tobacco Intervention Program Coordinator at Mercy Hospital, part of Allina Health, since 1999.  She has a degree in Respiratory Therapy, and served as a therapist for 15 years, prior to beginning her career as a Tobacco Intervention specialist.  Julee holds a Tobacco Treatment Specialist Certificate from the Mayo Clinic’s Nicotine Dependence Center.  Julee views her work as a journey of using her passion to help groups and individuals change their lives and achieve freedom from tobacco use.

Paul Sorajja, MD
Director of the Center for Valve and Structural Heart Disease, Cardiologist | Allina Health Minneapolis Heart Institute
Roger L. and Lynn C. Headrick Family Chair, Valve Science Center | Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation

Dr. Paul Sorajja joined Allina Health Minneapolis Heart Institute as a cardiologist in 2013. He is the Director of the Center for Valve and Structural Heart Disease and his clinical practice specializes in interventional cardiology, with a focus on structural heart disease interventions. Dr. Sorajja has published over 125 manuscripts and book chapters, with expertise in cardiac hemodynamics, clinical education, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and percutaneous therapy of structural heart disease.

Jeffrey Jim, MD, MPHS, FACS
Chair, Vascular Surgery | Allina Health Minneapolis Heart Institute
Dr. Jim is Chair of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at Minneapolis Heart Institute at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. He holds multiple positions within national and regional vascular surgical societies and certifying institutions and is extensively involved in vascular surgical training in the United States. His clinical interests are in the treatment of aortic pathologies and carotid occlusive disease. He has published on these topics and has lectured extensively in the United States and all over the globe.

Timothy Dirks, MD
Cardiologist | Allina Health Minneapolis Heart Institute
Dr. Dirks has been practicing cardiology with Allina Health Minneapolis Heart Institute in the Brainerd area since 2005. For him, the breadth and complexity of cardiology problems, as well as the rapid advancement in treatment options, continue to make cardiology a joy to practice and he believes the opportunity to develop relationships with patients, while working with them to best manage their cardiac health, is a privilege. When not practicing cardiology Dr. Dirks enjoy spending time with his family, being outdoors, and staying active, preferably on cross country skis, weather permitting.

Gail Smith, RN, BSN
Nurse Clinician | Allina Health Minneapolis Heart Institute
Parish Nurse | Crosslake Lutheran

Gail has almost 50 years experience in critical care and emergency nursing serving in roles as nurse manager, educator, flight nurse and clinician.  Her education includes BSN from Moorhead State University and a number of certifications including CCRN, ACLS and PALS affiliate faculty in Minnesota, meditation, faith-based nursing, Tai Chi and neuroscience nursing.  She has presented at three National Teaching Institutes for AACN, achieved the rank of Captain in the Army Nurse Corps and was deployed to the Middle East during Desert Storm.  Gail currently works as a nurse clinician for Minneapolis Heart Institute Baxter and as the Parish Nurse for Crosslake Lutheran. She has a passion for horses and is a professional artist in her spare time.


Continuing Education: This activity has been designed to meet the Minnesota Board of Nursing continuing education requirements for 6.25 contact hours.

Thank You to Our Exhibitors:

regeneron logo
Abbott logo
Pfizer Rare Disease_resize
BMS Clear large

About Us

The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF) aims to create a world without heart and vascular disease. Our efforts are focused on improving the cardiovascular health of individuals and communities through innovative research and education. This bold vision fuels efforts to investigate new protocols and treatments designed to save lives. Research findings and expertise are disseminated through our professional and community education programs.

Give the Gift of Hope
4 photos of families smiling

The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF) strives to create a world without heart and vascular disease. To achieve this bold vision, we are dedicated to improving the cardiovascular health of individuals and communities through innovative research and education.

Thanks to the generosity of donors like you, we can continue this life-saving work. Please make a gift to support the area of greatest need.

Research Milestone: FDA approves device used as alternative to open-heart

blue background
Triclip team

We are honored to celebrate the culmination of years of research that has resulted in new technologies for patients! In the few last weeks, we announced a similar research milestone with the FDA approval of the TriClip system for tricuspid regurgitation. We celebrated this important milestone with local media KSTP-TV, who spotlighted the importance of this new technology. We were proud to be a leading clinical site led by Global PI Dr. Paul Sorajja and the MHIF research team who contributed significant data to the pivotal trial.