Larry Hardy, Board Chair

Larry Hardy has been a Financial Advisor in Springfield for nearly 30 years. Prior to that, he graduated from University of Illinois with a degree in biology and managed the anatomic and surgical pathology laboratories at St. John’s Hospital. A major priority for Larry is to see continued progress and expansion of clinical research trials and cardiac services that are offered in our community as well as throughout the entire network that Prairie Cardio Vascular and HSHS services including the national and international spotlight that their accomplishments command and receive. Additionally, educating the community as to the economic impact and the recognition these services bring to our community equalizing the playing field with much larger institutions and communities.

Jacob Kitchener, M.D.

Dr. Kitchener graduated from Northeastern Ohio University College of Medicine, completed his residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and trained at Rush University in Chicago, Illinois, and St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri where he completed his Clinical Neurophysiology and Interventional and Vascular Neurology fellowships. Dr. Kitchener maintains certification in Neurocritical Care: United Council for Neurologic Subspecialities, American Board of Electrodiagnostic Medicine, and American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, with subspecialty certification in Vascular Neurology and Clinical Neurology. He is currently part of the HSHS Medical Group, practicing in Springfield, Litchfield, and Decatur.


Brenda Jeffers, PhD, RN, NEA-BC

Dr. Jeffers is a registered nurse with experience in direct care, undergraduate and graduate nursing education,and  higher education administration. Her professional experiences include, leading the development of advanced-practice nursing and nursing doctoral programs as well as undergraduate curriculum development, service on an institutional review board, and principal investigator of multiple federal and state education grants. She has served on a variety of national, state and regional committees focused on nursing research and workforce development. Dr. Jeffers has authored numerous scholarly publications and has served as a manuscript reviewer for prominent nursing journals including Nursing Research and Journal of Nursing Scholarship. She has experience as a member of a hospital  ethics committee, past board member of  the Sangamo Club and the Zonta International Club of Springfield. Dr. Jeffers is most recently retired as Chancellor of St. John’s College of Nursing.

Bharath Rajagopalan, M.D.

Dr. Rajagopalan graduated from Madurai Medical College, India and completed his internal medicine residency and cardiovascular medicine Fellowship at State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo. He also served as Chief medical resident at SUNY Buffalo. He then completed his Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology fellowship at Tufts University.  He joined Prairie Education and Research Cooperative in 2019. Dr. Rajagopalan is active in research and has published in numerous high impact journals like Journal of American College of Cardiology, Circulation, Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology, Heart Rhythm among others. He has also authored guidance documents and scientific statements for American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association on cardiac electrophysiology during COVID-19 and drug induced arrhythmias. He is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and Heart Rhythm Society. He is also a member of the American College of Cardiology Electrophysiology leadership council and is active with the Heart Rhythm Society.

Avinash Murthy, M.D.

Dr. Murthy  graduated from Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Kolar India and completed his internal medicine residency at University Hospitals of North Staffordshire, Stroke-On-Trent, UK, University Teaching Hospitalof Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, and Albany Medical Center, Albany, NY.  He completed his cardiovascular fellowship at Albany Medical Center, Albany, NY, his interventional cardiology fellowship at Bridgeport Yale  Hospitals, Bridgeport, CT, and his PVD fellowship at Cardiovascular Institute of the South, Houma, LA..  He joined Prairie Education and Research Cooperative in 2019. Dr. Murthy is active in research, serving as Principal investigator for PERC on numerous clinicaltrials . He is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and the Society of Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions. He is a member of the American Society of Echocardiography, American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, American Professional Wound Care Association, and the American Vein and Lymphatic Society.


Kristin has over 30 of experience in healthcare including respiratory therapy, cardiovascular diagnostics, information technology, and cardiovascular practice and service line administration. Kristin has overseen a variety of specialized programs within the Cardiovascular Service line network include STAT Heart, STAT Stroke, Prairie Chest Pain Network, Prairie Patient Care Mobile Cardiac Telemetry, and Structural Heart Disease programs including TAVR, Watchman, and MitraClip. In addition to these programs, Kristin implemented Prairie Rapid Read, a diagnostic network facilitating transmission of cardiovascular testing from over 40 community and critical access hospitals across Illinois. She is a Fellow in the American Society of Echocardiography and certified six sigma black belt.

Dennis Rizzo

Dennis Rizzo currently serves as the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer for the Purchasers Business Group on Health.  He is responsible for the finance and internal operations to ensure the organization has the resources necessary to serve its members. Previously, Dennis has held financial leadership roles at a number of associations and has extensive financial and operational experience in the non-profit healthcare space.  He has served on the board of the Midwest Homeless Shelter for Veterans in Wheaton, Illinois.  Dennis holds a Master of Business Administration from Keller Graduate School and a Bachelor of Science in accounting from DePaul University.