NorthShore’s quarterly Connections magazine shares stories of real people in our community who have benefited from the superior clinical care, exceptional patient experiences and innovative research at NorthShore.

Did you know that charitable donations to NorthShore help power all of this, while also assisting our underserved neighbors?

Learn here about how philanthropy has impacted care for the patients you read about in Connections.


Spring/Summer 2020

Rhythm Regulators

Philanthropic support from our donors is helping create a pioneering research program that leads the way in developing transformative innovations in care. Donors are impacting the lives of patients like Renato Mediola of Lake Villa. Mendiola benefited from the new AFib Center which streamlines care for emergency patients.

When the 75-year-old Mendiola experienced intense heart palpitations and a rapid, irregular heartbeat last October, he knew he needed to stop everything and seek immediate emergency care.

“It seemed like I could hear my heart thumping,” recalled Mendiola, who feared he might be having a heart attack. “The Emergency Department (ED) doctors quickly diagnosed atrial fibrillation (AFib) and referred me to NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute’s AFib Center for follow-up.”

Access in a Heartbeat

The AFib Center is one of the most comprehensive in Chicagoland, offering the full range of treatments to correct arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, which increases risk for stroke or heart failure.

“Our new Center is unique because it includes a protocol for the ED team to ensure patients get the heart care they need as quickly as possible,” explained the Center’s Director and Electrophysiologist Mark Metzl, MD. AFib patients who come in through the ED are discharged home rather than admitted to the hospital. They are then seen at the Center within 72 hours.

“In Renato’s case, we needed to perform an ablation procedure to correct his irregular rhythm,” noted Dr. Metzl, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

My symptoms are all gone, and I’m back to my job with no restrictions on my activity. I just can’t say enough about the caring doctors and nurses at NorthShore and the AFib Center.

Renato Mendiola
AFib Center Patient

“Patients also can be evaluated for numerous cofactors that contribute to their AFib all in one location,” added Dr. Metzl, noting that the Center collaborates with other medical specialties, including integrative medicine, pulmonology, neurology and cardiothoracic surgery to help evaluate and treat patients. “The Center is part of a multisite research study to determine the most appropriate amount of ablation needed to correct AFib to achieve even higher success rates.”

“I’m so grateful for my care,” said Mendiola. “My symptoms are all gone, and I’m back to my job with no restrictions on my activity. I just can’t say enough about the caring doctors and nurses at NorthShore and the AFib Center.”

For more information on supporting cardiovascular initiatives and the Cardiovascular Institute at NorthShore, please contact Walt Cody at 224.364.7204. 


The Biggest Challenge of His Life

Generous support is helping to transform the way we treat and care for cancer patients. Philanthropic gifts enable us to pursue proven novel therapies such as immunotherapy. Tim Johnson is one cancer survivor who benefited from this type of treatment.

An avid competitor, Johnson faced an unexpected jolt in the form of cancer a few years ago that set him up for the ultimate test of strength and courage.

Hitting a Wall

Johnson’s journey began in the spring of 2016. The Deerfield resident had undergone surgery to remove what he thought was a benign parotid tumor on a salivary gland. But the issue was far more serious, as the tumor was in his parotid gland and it was malignant. Johnson knew he had to act quickly.

“I was never the one who got hurt or sick. I was working out all the time, and I was super healthy,” said Johnson. “Cancer put the brakes on all that. Tomorrow’s never promised, and I’m not Superman.”

Kellogg Cancer Center Hematologist David Grinblatt, MD diagnosed an aggressive form of large B-cell lymphoma. The silver lining was that it fortunately was caught at a very early and treatable stage. “We expect a 90% cure rate with the right treatment,” explained Dr. Grinblatt, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. “This was one of the first diseases where adding immunotherapy to chemotherapy showed a significant benefit.”

Cancer-fighting Confidence

The treatment plan called for six rounds of chemotherapy with immunotherapy. Johnson attacked it with his usual positive attitude and competitive athlete’s mindset. The chemo derailed his race season, but Johnson doubled down on a healthy diet, rest and meditation, focusing on regaining his health and strength.

This was one of the first diseases where adding immunotherapy to chemotherapy showed a significant benefit.

David Grinblatt, MD
Kellogg Cancer Center Hematologist

Pedaling On

A few months after his final chemo treatment in November 2016, Johnson triumphantly returned to training. Now age 53, Johnson is cancer-free and feeling as strong as ever, hoping to use his positive experience as an inspiration for others.

“Tim’s prognosis is excellent,” added Dr. Grinblatt. “We’re optimistic this is gone for good.”

With a new race season ahead of him, Johnson is full of gratitude and goals that include setting a new personal record in a Half Ironman and coaching other triathletes to be their best. “There are so many positive takeaways from this experience, including accepting temporary setbacks and limitations. Thankfully, I’m moving forward with those lessons.”

To learn how you can support the advancement of NorthShore's immunotherapy program, contact Kevin Gray at 224.364.7230.


Pharmacogenomics: Gene-Powered Prescriptions

Critical donor support is helping NorthShore in the emerging age of genomic medicine. This has had a tremendous impact on the treatment of disease and predicting an individual’s response to treatment.

The Pharmacogenomics Clinic at NorthShore’s Mark R. Neaman Center for Personalized Medicine offers genetic testing and interpretation to help deliver the right drug at the right dose the first time.

Pharmacogenomics and Total Joint Replacement

Working together, Mark Dunnenberger, PharmD, NorthShore’s Director of Pharmacogenomics, and Orthopaedic Surgeon Alexander Tauchen, MD, launched a study on the use of pharmacogenomics to improve pain management following total knee replacement.

This groundbreaking pilot, titled The impact of patient pharmacogenomics profile on narcotic consumption and outcomes following total knee arthroplasty, is designed to help physicians minimize opioid consumption by patients who have undergone joint replacement surgery.

The objective is to learn more about pain management as the medical community continues to combat the ongoing, tragic opioid epidemic.

The research team is tracking patients’ pain medication use and pain levels for 30 days following discharge from the hospital after surgery and comparing that information to the genes associated with metabolizing pain medications and self-reported patient psychosocial traits. Combining genetic data with other clinical information is a major point of innovation for this project.

DNA as a Tool to Choose Medication

Psychiatrist Laura Parise, MD, uses pharmacogenomics to treat depression and mental health issues. “Using DNA as a tool to choose medication helps reduce side effects, as we’re able to determine if someone is highly sensitive to a specific medication—especially if they’re new to treatment.” Said Dr. Parise. “We also can better treat patients with mood and anxiety disorders, depression, and addiction by using their pharmacogenomics profile to identify medications that are more suitable for their needs based on how their body uniquely responds to the drug.”

“I treated a patient who had been taking a certain medication for years and whose depression was in partial remission,” recounted Dr. Parise. “But because they weren’t feeling 100%, they began drinking alcohol excessively and this went on for years. When the patient entered our program, we discovered that their body didn’t tolerate a certain class of antidepressants. Based on pharmacogenomics, we switched to another drug and subsequently both their depression and substance use disorder achieved remission.”

Dr. Dunnenberger concludes, “Surveys of our patients with a pharmacogenomic screening show they’re more likely to take their prescribed medication. So, if we can help increase their adherence, the more likely we’re able to improve their health.”

To learn how you can support the advancement of NorthShore's Pharmacogenomics program, contact Molly Neuleib at 224.364.7218.

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