CREF Founder

CREF Faculty


Joe R. Utley MD

Dr. Joe Utley, an internationally respected cardiothoracic surgeon and world-renowned researcher and educator in the area of cardiopulmonary bypass, served as chief of cardiac surgery at the University of Kentucky and UC San Diego Medical Schools.

In 1980, he founded CREF to promote teaching and research related to cardiopulmonary bypass and extracorporeal perfusion.

Dr. Utley was also a licensed pilot and accomplished trumpet player. Following a long battle with cancer, Dr. Utley passed away in 2001.

CREF Program Directors

CREF Faculty Julie Swain


Julie A. Swain MD

Dr. Julie Swain currently serves as Vice Chair for Clinical Performance for Mount Sinai Health System and Director of the Center for Medical Devices (CMeD) at Mount Sinai Heart. She is also Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery and Director of Clinical Research in the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Swain practiced cardiac surgery and served as an FDA advisor for more than 20 years.

CREF Faculty Al Stammers


Alfred H. Stammers MSA CCP

CREF Course Co-Director Al Stammers is Director of Clinical Quality & Outcomes Research at SpecialtyCare. Prior to this, he served as a perfusionist at ESSA Heart and Vascular Institute and Director of Perfusion Services at Geisinger Health Systems. Past president of AmSECT and former editor-in-chief of JECT, Mr. Stammers has authored 300+ publications on perfusion-related topics and is an internationally renowned speaker in this area.

CREF directors and faculty


Joanna Chikwe MD

CREF Course Co-Director Dr. Joanna Chikwe is Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Stony Brook University Hospital, leading a multi-disciplinary team that works closely with cardiologists and vascular surgeons to manage the full spectrum of surgical, transcatheter, and endovascular treatment options to patients with adult cardiac surgical disease. Dr. Chikwe also serves as Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

CREF Program Committee

CREF Faculty Brown


Jeremiah R. Brown PhD

Dr. Brown,  Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Clinical Practice at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, is trained in the disciplines of epidemiology, biostatistics, health policy reform, shared decision-making, and quality improvement of healthcare. Dr. Brown’s research focuses on prevention of acute kidney injury in cardiac surgery and percutaneous coronary interventions.

CREF Faculty


George J. Despotis MD

Dr. Despotis is Associate Professor of Anesthesiology, Immunology, & Pathology and is Associate Medical Director of Transfusion Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Despotis’s practice consists of alternating months as a staff Anesthesiologist for Cardiothoracic Operations and as Medical Director of Transfusion Medicine. 

CREF Faculty Rebecca Gottesman


Rebecca S. Gottesman MD PhD

Dr. Gottesman, a vascular neurologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, holds joint appointments as an Associate Professor in Neurology and Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University. Her research focuses on stroke and other neurologic complications after cardiac surgery, as well as causes of hypoperfusion to the brain. She is also interested in short- and long-term cognitive dysfunction resulting from stroke.

CREF Faculty Serdar Gunaydin


Serdar Gunaydin MD PhD

Dr. Serdar Gunaydin, a cardiac surgeon, serves as Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery at the Numune Training and Research Hospital in Ankara, Turkey. Dr. Gunaydin’s research interests include the clinical evaluation and biomaterial confirmation of novel CPB-related technologies designed to prevent the inflammatory response. He is also on the Steering Committee for MiECTiS, an organization dedicated to promoting minimally invasive perfusion.

CREF 2017 Faculty Robert Kramer


Robert S. Kramer MD FACS

Dr. Kramer, a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon, has served as Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery and the Director of Cardiac Surgery Research and Quality Improvement at Maine Medical Center. His  interests include transfusion medicine, glucose management, reperfusion injury,  acute kidney injury, fluid management,  multidisciplinary critical care management, neurocognitive outcomes, and postoperative dysrhythmias.

CREF Faculty


Richard F. Newland BSc CCP (Aust)

Australian Richard Newland is a lecturer at Flinders University and senior perfusionist on the staff of clinical perfusion at Flinders University Medical Center in South Australia. He is also involved in the Cardiac Surgery Research Group at Flinders and has participated in numerous clinical research projects.  His research interests include evidence-based medicine, perfusion registries, and outcomes improvement.

CREF Faculty Wahr


Joyce A. Wahr MD FAHA

Dr. Joyce Wahr, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology at the University of Michigan, has served as director of the ICU rotation for residents, director of cardiac anesthesiology, and director of the cardiac research program. She is the first author on the American Heart Association Scientific Statement “Patient Safety in the Cardiac Operating Room: Teamwork and Human Factors.”

CREF Support Staff

CREF Faculty


Michelle Freeland BA CMP

Michelle coordinates all details for CREF exhibitors, sponsors, and industry partners. A meeting professional with more than 20 years of experience, she recently received from Convene magazine a “Best in Show” award  for making live events successful. Michelle has worked with CREF for many years, providing valuable ideas and impeccable organization to our industry partners.

CREF FAculty


Karen S. Morgan

In 1980, Karen partnered with Dr. Joe Utley to develop the first annual Cardiothoracic Surgery Symposium: Pathophysiology & Techniques of Cardiopulmonary Bypass. In the 37 years since then, she has provided logistical and administrative support by working with the Program Committee and other CREF staff to ensure a consistent, successful event.

CREF Faculty


James D. Westwood CMP

Since 1997, Jim has provided logistical and administrative support to industry partners of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Symposium. A certified meeting professional, Jim also assists on site, helping attendees and exhibitors have the best possible event experience, and provides marketing support for digital and print communications. 

CREF Faculty Westwood


Susan W. Westwood MA

Since 1999, Susan has overseen  CREF'S educational component, working closely with the Program Committee members to create a scientific agenda that meets the various educational needs of our attendees, while adhering to specific guidelines established by the ACCME, the ABCP, the California Board of Registered Nursing, AdvaMed, and others.



Lou Winant

Since 1980, Lou Winant and his support team at Convention AV Services have provided quality audiovisual services for the Cardiothoracic Surgery Symposium. Lou's team handles all AV setup and tear-down, and he personally monitors each presentation to ensure exceptional audio and visual quality throughout the event.