Our Team


Our team is committed to EPIC (or totally awesome) Innovation to improve health and wellbeing, and to save lives. This acronym describes our core values of Excellence, Passion, Integrity, Collaboration and Innovation. As a research and education foundation, we are passionate about evidence-based solutions and recognize that collaboration is critical to population health improvement. We would love to collaborate with you! We have a diverse team of leaders who bring expertise, experience and passion to work every day. We really do believe that together, we can create a world without heart disease.

Dr. Michael Miedema, MD, MPH

Researcher and Preventive Cardiologist

Dr. Michael Miedema, MD, MPH
Michael Miedema, MD is a preventive cardiologist with a Master's degree in Public Health. Minneapolis Heart Institute® at Abbott Northwestern Hospital is recognized internationally as one of the world’s leading providers of heart and vascular care. We have developed an Integrated Cardiovascular Care Model, involving groundbreaking clinical research, scientific innovation, and premier medical care with top-ranked physicians throughout the Midwest, that are blurring the lines between today’s advanced clinical practices and tomorrow’s possibilities. We focus on the full range of cardiovascular specialties, working toward excellence in all areas of heart disease - prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation - as we work to change the face of CV care worldwide.

Dr. Thomas Knickelbine MD, FACC, FSCAI, FSCCT

Medical Director

Dr. Thomas Knickelbine MD, FACC, FSCAI, FSCCT
Dr. Knickelbine is proud to be a member of the Minneapolis Heart Institute® at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, where he is the Director of Preventive Cardiology and co-director of HeartScan Minnesota®. His interests are focused around the detection and research of new approaches to the diagnosis and prevention of cardiovascular disease. He has published multiple abstracts, presentations and papers surrounding the need for early detection and optimal treatment of coronary artery plaque. He is board certified in cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular CT. He has Level III training in cardiac and peripheral CT. Dr. Knickelbine's special interests include prevention, lipids, cholesterol, echocardiography, diagnostic imaging, general cardiology, coronary angiography and calcium scoring.

Rebecca Lindberg, MPH, RD

Director of Population Health

Good health habits start young, and for Rebecca Lindberg, she appreciates how fortunate she was to experience that firsthand. Growing up, she was always around real food — and never had a casserole, frozen meal or spaghetti sauce out of a jar, even with a busy college professor as a mom. Everything was made from scratch, every relative had a garden, and family meals lasted for hours. Looking back it’s no surprise that a passion for food, particularly the role food plays in community connectedness and health, transpired. Today, Rebecca loves nothing more than to share her love of all things health-related, especially with people who are working to improve the health of their communities. As director of population health for the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation (MHIF), she oversees the overall population health strategic direction and operational leadership for Hearts Beat Back, as well as MHIF’s women’s heart health program and other community programs. Prior to joining MHIF as a consultant for The Heart of New Ulm’s nutrition environment programs, Rebecca’s career experiences included work as a clinical and community dietitian, a population health advisor for HealthPartners, and more than 20 years running her own successful nutrition and wellness consulting business. She’s an expert at designing, implementing and evaluating innovative programs and campaigns to reach diverse audiences with effective key messages — all while meeting organizational goals and objectives. From entire communities to worksites and schools, she’s adept at assessing and evaluating environments to identify effective strategies that key stakeholders can employ to help make improvements to support healthful eating, physical activity and weight management. Rebecca has her master’s degree in public health from the University of Minnesota.

Gretchen Benson, RD, CDE

Health Care Project Manager

After graduating from college, Gretchen Benson knew she wanted to connect with people on their health and nutrition in a more personalized manner. Her first job as a health coach was just the right fit. Health coaching allowed her to create a strong rapport with her patients and work with them over time. Because of this, she was able to see first-hand how long-term behavior changes pay off. Ever since, Gretchen’s passion for nutrition and facilitating behavior change has paved her career path. She currently serves as manager for health care systems integration at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. She leads the clinical interventions for Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project, including a phone-based coaching program, and also works on the Women’s Heart Health Program. Gretchen is skilled at creating systematic, efficient programs to reach people at the right time and place and has a particular interest and successful track record in expanding the scope of practice for registered dietitians (RDs). In a former case management role for diabetes and coronary heart disease for a managed care provider, she hired several advanced practice RDs for roles that were previously only given to nurses. And with Hearts Beat Back, she spearheaded a new provider-approved protocol that allows RDs and nurses to initiate and titrate medications for patients participating in the phone coaching program who have elevated blood pressure or lipids. As a testament to her accomplished work in this area, Gretchen is a former recipient of the Young Dietitian of the Year award from the Minnesota Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Cindy Winters, BA

Heart of New Ulm Project Manager

Life is an adventure — with many twists and turns. But if you pay attention to the right signs and opportunities along the way, they’ll lead you in the direction you were meant to go. Just ask Cindy Winters. Cindy’s early career experiences as a physical education teacher and therapeutic recreation specialist reinforced for her the importance of incorporating physical activity into our daily lives. But it also opened her eyes to how difficult activity can sometimes be for people of all abilities. With a newfound mission, she worked as program director for the Arthritis Foundation and learned the importance of empowering people to take charge of their life and not let a chronic disease define them. As a trained Arthritis Self-Help leader and Chronic Disease Self-Management Program Trainer, she also honed her skills at facilitating groups and empowering others to reach their goals. It was while working in the Bureau of Health Promotion at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that Cindy began following her true passion — helping communities create environments that support healthful lifestyles. Today, she serves as manager for Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project. Her philosophy of working with communities involves learning to understand the community, being a good listener, being flexible and finding the common ground that everyone can agree on to help create those supportive environments. She truly enjoys providing guidance to others so they can become leaders within their community and says that seeing positive change take shape and leaders stepping up is the most rewarding experience. Cindy has a bachelor’s degree in physical education and recreation from Buena Vista University, along with a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation from the University of Northern Iowa.

Dawn Witt, PhD, MPH

Research and Evaluation Advisor

As Dawn Witt was completing her master’s degree in public health at the University of Minnesota, she had the good fortune to cross paths with a faculty member in the School of Nursing. The visionary professor not only became her master’s project advisor, but encouraged Dawn to take a rather non-traditional path and pursue her doctorate in nursing, even though she was a non-nursing student. She took the leap and was amazed to discover the endless possibilities that exist for a nursing scholar and practitioner in the rapidly changing world of health care today. Those possibilities have led Dawn to a rewarding path where every day, as a research and evaluation advisor on the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation’s (MHIF) Population Health Team, she enjoys the opportunity to explore her passion of finding novel ways to identify risk and prevent heart disease. Her research interests focus particularly on women and heart disease, specifically primary and secondary prevention, as well as health-related quality of life and stress. She currently serves as the principal investigator on three women’s research studies that are exploring these issues. Prior to joining MHIF in 2010, Dawn worked at the University of MN on a multi-site study of peripheral arterial disease funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Derek Hersch, BS

Health Promotion and Grants Especialist

Ever since his high school job in the fitness department of Sears, Derek Hersch has had a knack for convincing people that they should value their health. Now that he’s no longer working on commission, he says his reward is seeing children — and typically stubborn adults — actually enjoying their fruits and vegetables. A Minnesota native, Derek first brought his zeal for health and wellness to the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation (MHIF) as a population health intern in the summer of 2013. After a subsequent stint working at MHIF as a part-time research assistant while finishing his master’s coursework in public health nutrition and epidemiology, he came on board full-time as a health promotion and grants specialist in 2014. Whether working with rural business owners, nationally recognized researchers or kindergartners who like jicama, Derek relishes his many opportunities to interact with new audiences and put his natural persuasion skills to work. That includes engaging his coworkers in getting active, eating healthier and reducing stress as he leads the charge for MHIF’s Employee Wellness Committee. He also writes grants for the Population Health department, assists with Hearts Beats Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project, and implements and evaluates community health programs. Derek holds a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and is currently writing his master’s thesis on the food environment in New Ulm, Minn.

Joy Hayes, MS, RD, CDE

Health Coach

Growing up in the predominately Finnish community of New York Mills, Minn., Joy Hayes wasn’t familiar with kohlrabi — the German turnip. So when her coaching clients in heavily German New Ulm started talking about it as one of their favorite vegetables, she became curious and eager to try it. Along with eggplant and kale, it’s now one of her favorites, too. As a health coach for Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project, Joy is used to being the one on the phone who’s offering helpful advice and tips. But she welcomes opportunities to have the tables turned as well. Thanks to her enthusiastic clients, she’s not only learned about new vegetables, but gotten new recipe ideas and even a few gardening tips as well. Joy reaches out to people who are at highest risk for having a heart attack or stroke, or those who have diabetes, and supports them as they make changes to live healthier lives. She helps people of all ages and backgrounds with prevention and management of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and weight. She has extensive experience in working with people from diverse backgrounds, having started her career as a registered dietitian working for the Indian Health Service diabetes program on the Winnebago and Omaha Reservations in Nebraska and becoming certified as a diabetes educator while there. Joy has her master’s degree in health sciences from Minnesota State University at Mankato with an emphasis in community health. She recently became a Master Gardener and helps care for a community garden that donates produce to a local food shelf.

Kate Callahan Schmitz, RD

Health Coach

When someone strikes up a conversation about food, fitness or anything to do with health and wellness, you can see Kate Callahan Schmitz’s eyes light up. Her enthusiasm for personal health, nutrition and fitness was sparked back in high school while working at her grandfather’s grocery/health food store, and the experience inspired her to pursue a career as a dietitian. Kate admits her college days included a steady diet of ramen noodles, pizza and cookie dough, but she eventually figured out how much better she felt when she was eating healthier — and how much more energy she had when she was staying active. Today, as a health coach for Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project, she aims to help people from all walks of life make similar positive lifestyle changes that bring new energy to their world. With an inspirational approach to coaching that includes a healthy dose of understanding, compassion and humor, she loves helping people identify what’s holding them back from making changes and then working with them to formulate their personal plan for better health. With 25+ years of experience working in both inpatient and outpatient positions, and now as a health coach, Kate has gained a deep understanding of the power of food and how it affects people differently. By keeping things simple and practical, she loves helping people find just how easy and amazing healthier eating can be. Kate earned her bachelor’s degree from Concordia College and recently completed the WellCoaches coaching course.

Jennifer Beaudette, BS

Health Coach

During an aerobics class about 25 years ago, Jenny Beaudette was expecting to get her heart rate pumping. What she didn't expect was that she’d also get pumped about a future career. After a staffer approached her about becoming an aerobics instructor, she became certified, started teaching, and knew she’d found her calling. As students sought her advice, she was inspired to learn more to help them be successful. Jenny decided to major in community health and corporate fitness and began teaching in both public facilities and private worksite facilities. Over the years, in addition to being an instructor and health coach, she also taught certification classes. She learned she loves talking to people and figuring out what drives them, making a career as a health coach a natural fit. Today, Jenny serves as a health coach for Heart Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project. She thrives on helping people realize that just starting with one or two small changes can make a big difference and lead to bigger long-term changes. Among her many strengths, she’s skilled at being positive and helping her clients remain positive as well, even when change is not happening as fast as they would like. A Minnesota native, Jenny has a bachelor’s degree in community health and corporate fitness from the University of Minnesota at Mankato. She’s also currently certified as a Health Coach by the American Council of Exercise and working on her Health Fitness Specialist certification with from the American College of Sports Medicine.

Scientific and Media Consultants

Abbey Sidebottom, MPH

Managing Scientist

Arthur Sillah, MPH

Data Analyst

Jeff VanWormer, PhD


Barb Pribyl

Communications and Design