Center for Advanced Liver Diseases and Transplantation

Meet the Team

The liver transplant and hepatobiliary diseases program at University Hospital is organized with a team approach designed to give comprehensive, individualized care to patients with complex diseases. The team consists of a designated group of physicians, physician assistants, nurse coordinators, social workers, financial coordinators, and nutritionists. Physicians include hepatologists (liver disease specialists), transplant surgeons, a psychiatrist with expertise in transplant issues, and other specialists as the need arises. Nurse coordinators play an important role as the daily, direct and personal liaison between the transplant team and the patient.

(l-r) Nikolaos Pyrsopoulos, MD, PhD, MBA; James V. Guarrera, MD, FACS


Program Leadership

James V. Guarrera, MD, FACS, Program Director Liver Transplantation
Dr. James Guarrera is Professor of Surgery and Chief of Liver Transplant and Hepatobiliary Surgery. Dr. Guarrera, is an experienced and innovative surgeon and researcher who pioneered new developments in transplantation including use of Machine Perfusion for Liver Preservation. He has been federally funded and holds 7 patents for his novel research. He has over 100 publications and book chapters and has won prestigious "Rising Star" awards from both the American Society of Transplant Surgeons and the International Liver Transplantation Society. He comes to University Hospital from the Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City where he served as Surgical Director of Adult Liver Transplantation Program for over a decade. Credentials


Nikolaos Pyrsopoulos, MD, PhD, MBA, FACP, AGAF, FAASLD, FRCP, Medical Director Liver Transplantation
Dr. Nikolaos Pyrsopoulos currently serves as Professor of medicine and Chief of Gastroenterology & Hepatology at New Jersey Medical School and the Medical Director of Liver Transplantation for University Hospital.

He completed his medical degrees (MD and PhD) at the University of Athens in Greece, followed by residency and fellowships at Sismanogleio General Hospital in Athens and the University Of Miami School Of Medicine. Dr. Pyrsopoulos is board certified in the areas of Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology and Transplant Hepatology. He received his M.B.A. from the University Of Miami School Of Business.

Dr. Pyrsopoulos is a Fellow of The American College of Physicians, American Gastroenterological Association, and the American Association of the Study of Liver Diseases. He is also a member of various medical associations such the European Association of the Study of the Liver, the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and the American Society of Transplantation, among others. He has served in numerous national and institutional committees. In addition, he served as the Region 2 Review Board Chair for UNOS. Credentials


Transplant/Hepatobiliary Surgeons

Flavio Paterno, MD, MPH, FACS
Flavio Paterno, MD, MPH, FACS is an Associate Professor of Surgery in the Division of Liver Transplantation and Hepatobiliary Surgery at Rutgers, New Jersey Medical School. He completed his general surgery residency at Yale University (New Haven, CT), and his transplant surgery fellowship at Baylor University Medical Center (Dallas, TX). Credentials

Dr. Keri Lunsford, MD, PhD, FACS
Keri E. Lunsford MD, PhD, FACS is an Assistant Professor of Surgery and a liver transplant and hepatobiliary surgeon on faculty at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and a member of the Center for Immunity and Inflammation. Prior to joining the faculty at Rutgers, she was on faculty at Houston Methodist Hospital where she played a key role in the groundbreaking protocol for liver transplant for intrahepatic cholaniocarcinoma, and she is internationally recognized as an expert in this field. Credentials

Dorian Wilson, MD
Dr. Dorian Wilson, Professor of Surgery, is a graduate of the New Jersey Medical School and completed his fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. An active member of the NJ Organ and Tissue Sharing Network, Dr. Wilson is an accomplished surgeon in both transplantation and trauma surgery. He serves as associate program director for the General Surgery Residency and is the Director of the Healthcare Foundation Center for Humanism and Medicine at New Jersey Medical School. Credentials

Lloyd Brown, MD
Dr. Lloyd Brown, Assistant Professor of Surgery, graduated from the University of Rochester and continued at the University of Rochester School of Medicine for his medical degree. He did a residency in general surgery at Ohio State University's department of surgery and completed a transplant fellowship in Detroit. Dr Brown is also active in Clinical and Translational Research and the Global Surgery program. Credentials


Physician Assistants

Elisabete DaSilva, PA-C

Jacqueline Kocot, PA-C


Transplant Hepatologists

Vivek Lingiah M.D.
Dr. Lingiah is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and an attending physician of Hepatology at University Hospital. Dr. Lingiah obtained his medical degree at St. George's University School of Medicine, Grenada, West Indies. He completed his Internal Medical Residency at Sound Shore Medical Center in New Rochelle NY. Dr. Lingiah completed a fellowship in Hepatology at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School, Newark NJ and a fellowship in Geriatrics at Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx NY. Credentials

Mumtaz Niazi, MD
Dr. Niazi is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. and an attending physician of Hepatology at University Hospital. Dr. Niazi obtained his medical degree at University of Punjab in Faisalabad, Pakistan. He completed his Internal Medical Residency at the Long Island College Hospital in Long Island NY. and his fellowship at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark NJ. Credentials

Raquel Olivo-Salcedo, MD
Dr. Olivo-Salcedo is an Assistant Professor of Hepatology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and an attending physician of Hepatology at University Hospital. Dr. Olivo-Salcedo obtained her medical degree at INTEC in the Dominican Republic with Magna Cum Laude honors. She completed her Internal Medical Residency and served as Chief Medical Resident at St. Barnabas Hospital in New York. She practiced there as an attending physician of Internal Medicine in addition to serving as a Medical Instructor at College University of NY (CUNY) Sophie Davis School of Medicine. Dr. Olivo-Salcedo subsequently completed her Hepatology fellowship at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Credentials



Gastroenterology & Advanced Endoscopy

Sushil K. Ahlawat M.D.
Dr. Sushil Ahlawat, is an Associate Professor of Medicine and the Director of
Endoscopy at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark. He earned his medical
degree from Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Rohtak (India) and M.S.
(Clinical Research) from Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester. He was a
medicine resident at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, and completed
gastroenterology and advanced endoscopy training at Georgetown University Hospital in
Washington. Credentials


Interventional Radiology

Sohail Contractor, MD,
Dr. Sohail Contractor, earned his medical degree at Grant Medical College in India and did a residency in internal medicine at Coney Island Hospital in New York. He completed a fellowship in vascular interventional radiology at New York University School of Medicine. Credentials


Patient Navigators
The patient's initial contact with the center will be with a patient navigator. They will arrange initial appointments with the team, and obtain records from the referring physician office. The navigators work side by side with the coordinator to assist the patient during the evaluation period.

Patients whose last name begins with A-L 
Julie Vargas, CMA, phone: 973-972-3613 fax: 973-972-2605

Patients whose last name begins with M-Z
Maria DeAlmeida, phone: 973-972-9460 fax: 973-972-1375

Patients who have already been added to the UNOS Liver Transplant Waitlist
Anjaya West, CMA,  phone: 973-972-8059 fax: 973-972-3866


Transplant Coordinators
Upon the first visit, the patient will meet with a transplant coordinator—a Registered Nurse with special training in transplantation. The Transplant Coordinator schedules all tests and activities from pre-evaluation to follow up care. This individual will be the patient's main partner through the transplantation process, explaining every step along the way.

Pre-Transplant Nurse Coordinators

For patients who are being evaluated for a possible liver transplant:

Jennifer Zuber RN, BSN, 973-972-6938

For patients who have already been added to the UNOS Liver Transplant Waitlist:   

Maria Elena Montero, RN, BSN, 973-972-5439


Post-Transplant Nurse Coordinators

For patients who have received a liver transplant whose last name begins with A-I
Esther Aligmayo, RN, BSN, 973-972-9619

For patients who have received a liver transplant whose last name begins with J-Q
Emily Berls RN, BSN, 973-972-6616

For patients who have received a liver transplant whose last name begins with R-Z
Chester Guss RN, BSN, 973-972-9609


Social Worker
The Social Worker meets with patients to evaluate their social support system, coping ability, and  past psychosocial history. The patient will need to identify a primary care partner, or someone to support them before and after transplant. The Social Worker also can refer you to community agencies that can address the changes and difficulties the patient and their family may experience. Assistance could include referrals to community transportation, or financial grant applications. Connecting the patient with others who have experienced transplantation firsthand is another aspect of this role. One resource is the Positive Living Liver Support Group, which meets monthly.

For all patients whose last name begins with A-I 
Mimi Toney, LCSW, 973-972-5115

For all patients whose last name begins with J-Q 
Jennifer Cashin, LCSW, 973-972-2460

For all patients whose last name begins with R-Z 
Zaneta Person, LCSW, 973-972-7911


Financial Coordinators
The Financial Coordinators meet with the patient and family members to discuss specific information regarding the costs of transplantation, including insurance and prescription coverage as well as any out-of-pocket expenses. The coordinator will go over any financial issues related to medical care, both before and after the transplant, as well as identify options and create a plan that works best for the patient and family. For patients with inadequate health insurance, the financial coordinator will advise and refer the patient to an appropriate agency for eligibility. It is essential the patient communicate any changes in insurance to your coordinator

For all patients whose last name begins with A-I
Chukwuka Ndukwe, BA, 973-972-9614

For all patients whose last name begins with J-Q
Irma Nunez, 973-972-2872

For all patients whose last name begins with R-Z
Felma Izar, BSBA, 973-972-8951


The pharmacist will review the patient's current medications and make suggestions to the MD. Then for post-transplant care, you will require a daily program of immunosuppressive drug therapy. The pharmacist is an authority on these medications, and can answer questions about the doctor's instructions for taking them. The patient should never change the dosage schedule unless specifically told to do so by the doctor or transplant coordinator.

Merlin Punnoose, Pharm D. BCPS,  973-972-8939

Stephanie Holland, CPHT, Pharmacy Liaison, 973-972-7600


Registered Dietitian
A Registered Dietitian will review the dietary habits with the patient and family as well as help the patient develop and maintain an appropriate diet before and after the transplant. If the patient is overweight or underweight, our transplant dietitian will counsel the patient regarding healthy habits to improve nutritional status. The dietitian can also provide recipes and helpful hints to reduce health risks.

David Mercado, RD, 973-972-0765


Clinic Staff
Clinic Front Desk 973-972-2018

Nicholas Santoiemma, BSN, RN-BC, CCRN, Clinic Manager, 973-972-2025

Latonia Baldwin, Medical Office Assistant 

Mevlija Abazi, ACT 

Lucy Palacio, ACT 

Alyece Cassidy, ACT


Data Analysis
Geoffrey Koizumi


Administrative Staff
Renee Wooten, Staff Assistant, 973-972-2652

Melissa Lugardo, Staff Assistant, 973-972-8412


Quality Coordinator
Sandra Lao, RN, MSN


Kathleen Ruping, MBA, BSN, RN, CCTC, Administrative Director, 973-972-9554

Joel Lindower, Assistant Administrative Director, 973-972-8352