Teaching the Next Generation of Healthcare Leaders

The roadmap to becoming a physician is marked by constant learning and education. From medical school to residency and fellowship, physicians in training look to those who are experienced in patient care to help them build on what they learn in textbooks. 

With a long history devoted to medical education, NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore) is committed to training physician leaders through the dedication of their clinical teachers, or preceptors.

In medical education, a preceptor is an experienced practitioner who provides supervision for medical students, residents or fellows during clinical practice. They also facilitate the application of theory to practice for students and physicians in training.

For hundreds of residents who trained at NorthShore’s Community Health Center (CHC), Mark Ables, MD, was a devoted educator and mentor to them as a preceptor from 1980 to his retirement in 2020.

“Dr. Ables had a passion for resident education and also for the care of the underserved,” said Catherine Glunz, MD, an internal medicine physician and Medical Director of the NorthShore Community Health Center. “It was fitting that he precepted residents at the Community Health Clinic.” 

Sadly, Dr. Ables passed away in 2021, but the memory of his commitment to resident education and care of the underserved will live on at the CHC in the form of a memorial plaque situated in the CHC’s Education Room, now renamed in his honor as the Mark Ables, MD, Education Room.

Inspiring others and caring for the community

Dr. Ables—a resident himself who trained at Evanston Hospital—embodied NorthShore’s current mission to “help everyone in our community be their best.” He provided primary care services for decades at the CHC and through his own practice. 

“Having trained with Dr. Ables as a resident at the CHC, he inspired me to pursue a career in primary care,” said Elizabeth Ward, MD, Associate Medical Director of the NorthShore Community Health Center and internal medicine physician. “I even worked at his primary care practice and eventually came back to the CHC to continue the tradition of precepting current residents.”

Throughout the years, a number of residents have rotated through the CHC, including 48 Internal Medicine residents, 28 Obstetrics and Gynecology residents and six Gastroenterology residents. For those who worked with Dr. Ables, his teaching expanded beyond residents in training.

“He always had a story to share and to learn from with each patient encounter,” said Dr. Glunz. “I always learned from him and will miss his warm and caring personality.”

A memorial to medical education

It is fitting that a memorial plaque in Dr. Ables’ honor is situated in the Education Room, where the majority of the Internal Medicine residents’ outpatient training and teaching occurs. In that room, residents often discuss their patient care approaches with their preceptors. 

“Every patient case is discussed with a preceptor—so when clinic is happening, the room is always abuzz with residents and preceptors talking and discussing, teaching and learning,” said Dr. Ward. “We also hold a weekly Outpatient Conference in the space.”

Dr. Ables’ memorial plaque is situated with his photo by the printer, where all residents print out an After Visit Summary for each patient. While they’re waiting for the printout, they have a moment to view Dr. Ables’ photo and read the inscription, hopefully feeling inspired to carry on his legacy. 

The plaque is engraved: “May the dedication and clinical wisdom of Dr. Ables continue to inspire all those who work and learn in this room.”

Staff from the CHC and members of Dr. Ables’ family gathered on April 25 for a dedication ceremony for the memorial plaque unveiling and for the naming of the Mark Ables, MD, Education Room. 

True to the additional inscription on Dr. Ables’ plaque, the CHC will be forever enriched because of his contributions to medical education: “We will never forget the lessons, the humor and the bright spot that he was to us all.”

If you would like to learn more about the NorthShore Community Health Center, or to make a gift to support their efforts to provide much-needed primary care to the underserved and underinsured members of our community, please contact Kaitlin Czurylo, Director of Annual Giving at kczurylo@northshore.org or 224.364.7226.