Shamsuddin Khwaja, MD

Cardiothoracic Surgeon
Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Community Medical Centers

Dr. Khwaja has trained at centers of excellence around the nation and completed training in surgery with distinction. A graduate of UC Berkeley, he attended Boston University School of Medicine where he graduated Cum Laude and with election to the exclusive medical honor society, Alpha Omega Alpha. He then was selected for surgical training at the world renowned Dr. Michael E. Debakey Department of Surgery at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

Dr. Khwaja then finished cardiothoracic training at the Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas. He is Board Certified by both the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery.

Dr. Khwaja received specialized training in complex open heart cases with Dr. Michael E. Jessen and Dr. Michael A. Wait at the St. Paul University Hospital in Dallas, Texas.

He has acquired additional training in the treatment of Aortic Aneurysm under Dr. Hazim Safi in Houston, Texas and worked with Dr. Vaughn A. Starnes and Dr. Winfield J. Wells at the Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles and University of Southern California performing pediatric heart surgery as well as heart and lung transplant surgery.

John C. Lin, MD

Cardiothoracic Surgeon
Director of Thoracic Surgery at Community Medical Centers

Dr. Lin performs open heart and aortic surgeries for coronary artery disease, valvular pathology, atrial fibrillation, aortic aneurysm/dissection and pulmonary emboli. He also participates in percutaneous valve replacement, aortic stent placement, and vena cava/right heart thrombectomy. Dr. Lin performs thoracoscopic and robotics thoracic surgery for the lung, airway, and esophagus and serves as the Thoracic Surgery Director for the Community Medical System.

Dr. Lin received his cardiothoracic surgery training at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, which has the highest volume center for heart transplant and percutaneous aortic valve replacement in the United States. He also pursued additional training in aortic stenting and debranching at Harbor UCLA medical center. Interestingly, Dr. Lin previously was a spacecraft engineer at Boeing.


Endovascular/Aortic Surgery, Harbor UCLA Medical Center, 2013

Cardiothoracic Surgery, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 2012

General Surgery, University of California San Francisco (UCSF) East Bay, 2010

Medical Doctor (MD), University of Iowa, 2005

Bachelor of Science (BS), University of California, Berkeley, 1994

Robert Stewart, MD

Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Robert Stewart, MD has been a pillar of the Fresno community for over forty years. After starting his residency training in Fresno in 1975, Dr. Stewart completed cardiothoracic surgery training at the University of Michigan.  Board certified in thoracic surgery, his cardiac surgery practice includes all aspects of adult heart surgery, including minimally invasive valve surgery. Dr. Stewart performs a wide variety of general thoracic surgery procedures, including cancer operations. He has a long history of teaching and training the next generation of physicians. Dr. Stewart has also held many important leadership positions in surgery throughout the Fresno community.  Dr. Stewart provides the highest level of quality surgical care with a personal touch. He enjoys camping, hiking, and skiing with his family.

Heidi J. Reich, MD

Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Dr. Reich graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Reed College in Portland, OR, and excelled as a college athlete, playing rugby. She attended medical school at Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, and completed residencies in general surgery and cardiothoracic surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA, which ranks #1 in California for cardiology and heart surgery and #1 in U.S. for transcatheter aortic valve replacements. She also completed a post-doctoral research fellowship studying heart stem cell therapy. Dr. Reich spent 6 months as the first surgeon to train as a structural heart fellow at Cedars-Sinai focused on minimally-invasive, catheter-based treatments for heart disease including transcatheter aortic valve replacements. She received specialized training in aortic surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, the #1 heart program in the U.S, with a focus on aortic aneurysms, aortic dissections, and aortic valve diseases.

A frequent contributor to peer-reviewed medical publications, Dr. Reich has a strong interest in innovation and quality improvement, leading to numerous honors and special awards, including the Nina Starr Braunwald Research Fellowship Award, a grant in honor of the first woman certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and the first woman to perform open heart surgery. Dr. Reich enjoys running, biking, hiking at Yosemite National Park, cooking, and spending time with her family.

Leheb H. Araim, MD, FACS, FACC

Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Dr. Araim graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a minor in Arabic from Emory University. He completed medical school at Georgia Regent’s Medical School followed by general surgery training at the University of Tennessee. He completed his cardiothoracic surgery training at the University of Louisville/Jewish Hospital, followed by an additional adult complex cardiac surgery fellowship at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Araim performs all types of cardiac, lung, and mediastinal surgeries and feels very fortunate to have had the opportunity to train with outstanding mentors.

“I feel very fortunate to have trained under Ed Garrett Jr, MD whose father was one of the first surgeons to perform a successful coronary artery bypass operation.”

Dr. Araim also trained under Laman Gray, MD, who was the first to perform a heart transplant in Kentucky.

“I was given the opportunity to develop on their vast and cumulative experiences. Surgery is very personal and based on collective experiences; no two operations are the same. These experiences allow surgeons to make the best decision coupled with the best operation for their patients.”

Board certified in thoracic surgery and general surgery, Dr. Araim is active in professional organizations, including the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, Southern Thoracic Surgical Association, and the Tulare County Medical Society. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology

Dr. Araim has been serving the central valley since 2010 and is excited to join Central California Heart and Lung Surgery.

Ramesh B. Pamula, MD

Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Dr. Pamula is Board Certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and by the American Board of Surgery. He joins Central California Heart and Lung Surgery with eleven years of experience. His training includes a fellowship in Cardiac Surgery at the University of Tennessee, an advanced Cardiac Surgery fellowship training at Northwestern University, Chicago.

Dr. Pamula is married with three children. He likes to travel, read, and enjoys hiking, jogging, and riding motorcycles.


    • Fellowship, Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Tennessee, Memphis, TN
    • Attending General Surgeon, South Sunflower County Hospital, Indianola, MS.
    • Seton Hall University General Surgery Residency, NJ.
    • Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences, General Surgery, Hyderabad, India
    • Rangaraya Medical College, Andhra University, India. MBBS

Lisa Wilkins, FNP-C

Nurse Practitioner

A cardiac nurse for 20 years, Lisa was raised in Central California, graduating from California State University, Fresno with her Bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Lisa received her Master’s degree in nursing from Fresno Pacific University. Board certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP-C), Lisa also holds a national certification in progressive care (PCCN).

Lisa enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling to explore new places with her son, reading, and quiet time at home.

Alexander Calkins, NP

Nurse Practitioner

Alexander graduated with honors from Biola University in Los Angeles, California with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, a minor in biblical studies, and received All-American recognition competing in track and field. He has worked as an Emergency Medical Technician, ocean lifeguard, emergency room nurse, and cardiac ICU nurse. He received a master’s degree in nursing from University of Texas at Arlington.

Board certified as an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP-BC) with an additional national certification in cardiac surgery (CSC), adult critical care (CCRN), and emergency nursing (CEN), Alexander enjoys spending time with family and friends and staying active outdoors on trails, in the mountains, and at the ocean.

Ashley Bowers, NP

Nurse Practitioner

Ashley received her nursing degree from Fresno City College and her bachelor’s degree in nursing at Western Governors University. She graduated with honors from California State University, Fresno with a master’s degree in nursing—Family Nurse Practitioner. Ashley’s professional experience includes twelve years of Intensive Care Nursing. Ashley holds a national certification in adult critical care (CCRN).

“My goal as a nurse practitioner is to provide quality care and expand community access to healthcare.”

Ashley enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, dancing, reading, and cooking. She is also an active member of local nonprofit organizations.

Jacqueline L. Gomez

Physician Assistant

Jacqueline completed her undergraduate education at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville Virginia, where she also worked in the UVA Emergency Department and volunteered as an Emergency Medical Technician. She attended George Washington University, where she graduated with her Masters in Health Sciences as a Physician Assistant. Jacqueline is board certified through the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) and a member of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS).

Before joining Central California Heart & Lung Surgery, Jacqueline worked as a Physician Assistant in Vascular Surgery at Duke University Hospital, as well as with the Veterans Health Administration in General Surgery, Vascular Surgery, and Thoracic Surgery. Jacqueline enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially cooking or searching out good food, and traveling to the coast or mountains.

Tricia Khwaja

Chief Operating Officer

Tricia oversees practice operations, HR, finance, accounts payable, and billing services. Prior to this position she managed the Employee Health Clinic at Valley Children’s Hospital. She has managed the practice since 2009. Tricia holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Clinical Laboratory Science from Ohio Northern University. In addition to spending time with family, Tricia enjoys traveling, horseback riding, tennis, and cooking.

Niomi Lazalde

Office Manager / Surgery Scheduler

Niomi has more than a decade of experience in healthcare, supporting patients and staff alike to obtain the very best outcomes for our patients and their families. She was drawn to the field after supporting her mother who was a patient in 2009. Her stated goal is to help others and to make what can be a difficult experience graceful throughout the process. Married, with one daughter, Niomi enjoys gardening and family time.

Paula Sanchez
Medical Assistant

Livier Nava
Medical Assistant

Victoria Salceda
Medical Assistant

Jessica Lazalde
Medical Office Assistant

Sharon Gill
Medical Office Assistant

Melissa Espinosa
Office Assistant

Alejandra Silva-Sanchez
Office Assistant