our team

The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF) aims to create a world without heart and vascular disease. As a research and education foundation, we are passionate about evidence-based solutions to population health improvement. With more than 20 years of experience, our Population Health Team has most recently been putting recommended guidelines, interventions, systems changes and policies into action while measuring long-term health improvement outcomes in the award-winning Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project.


Rebecca Lindberg, MPH, RD

Senior Director, Population Health, Education and Communications

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Cindy Winters, BA

Project Manager, Population Health

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. 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. 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.

Gretchen Benson, RDN, CDE

Program Manager, Population Health

After graduating from college, Gretchen knew she wanted to connect with people on their health and nutrition in a more personalized manner. She has more than 10 years of experience creating systematic, efficient health improvement programs to reach people at the right time and place. Gretchen also has a particular interest and successful track record in expanding the scope of practice for registered dietitian nutritionists. As a testament to her accomplished work in this area, she is a recipient of the Young Dietitian of the Year award from the Minnesota Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Derek Hersch, MPH

Project Leader, Population Health and Education

Ever since his job working in Sears’ fitness department Derek has enjoyed convincing people to invest in their health. For the past five years he has worked on the Heart of New Ulm Project's population health research and community capacity building initiatives. Derek co-led the Project’s food environment and community Health challenge action teams, supported research and evaluation efforts, and developed and implemented various programs across the community. In addition to population health, Derek has a passion for worksite wellness and leads MHIF's employee wellness committee.


Joy Hayes, MS, RDN, LD, CDE

Specialist, Population Health

Growing up in the Finnish community of New York Mills, Minn., Joy Hayes wasn’t familiar with kohlrabi — the German turnip. So when her coaching clients in predominately German New Ulm started talking about it as one of their favorite vegetables, she became curious and eager to try it. Now it’s one of her favorites as well and she grows it in her own garden. 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.


Jennifer Beaudette, BS, CHES

Specialist, Population Health

During an aerobics class about 25 years ago, Jenny was expecting to get her heart rate pumping. What she didn't expect was that she’d also get pumped about a future career. Over the years she learned she loves talking to people and figuring out what drives them, making a career as a health coach a natural fit. Jenny 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.


Kate Schmitz, RDN, LD

Specialist, Population Health

Kate’s 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. 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 30+ years of experience working in both inpatient, outpatient and population health positions Kate has gained a deep understanding of the power of food and how it affects people differently.