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 who can’t afford healthcare?

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


Fall 2019

Importance of Genetic Testing

Your generous giving supports programs like DNA-10K. The DNA-10K pilot, launched last spring, is currently the largest national program of its kind. It delivers the power of genomics to routine primary care at population scale. To date, 7,000 patients have accessed this groundbreaking effort.

Patients like Julie Galassini know all too well the importance of this kind of testing. The BRCA1 genetic mutation runs deep within her immediate family. A mail-in genetics test in 2017 informed Julie that she tested positive for the mutation. A previous test two decades ago had put her in the clear.


My experience at NorthShore was outstanding—and looking back, this whole situation was kind of like a weird miracle.

Julie Galassini,
NorthShore’s Neaman Center for Personalized Medicine Patient

Julie had concerns about the differing results. Her first call was to NorthShore’s Gustavo Rodriguez, MD, the Matthews Family Chair of Gynecologic Oncology Research, who had treated her older sister. Dr. Rodriguez ordered a new, more advanced medical-grade screening at NorthShore’s Mark R. Neaman Center for Personalized Medicine, which confirmed that she was indeed BRCA1 positive.

Vital philanthropic funding helps support the Neaman Center. The Center offers the latest, most comprehensive genetic screening panels. It also provides vital counseling services for patients of all ages on how to better prevent and treat a wide range of inherited conditions.

Five months after undergoing a minimally invasive full hysterectomy, Julie had a bilateral mastectomy with NorthShore’s Chief of Surgical Oncology Katharine Yao, MD, followed by reconstructive surgery with NorthShore-affiliated Plastic Surgeon Geoffrey Fenner, MD.

“At least this is a gene that you can react to and save your own life,” Julie added. “We’re lucky in that respect.” 

Crucial philanthropic funding totaling more than $2.6 million has made the DNA-10K pilot possible. This is just one way NorthShore is working to change the way medicine is practiced.


A Nationwide Shortage

Initial funding for NorthShore’s new multidisciplinary Pituitary Center came from grateful patients of recently retired NorthShore Endocrinologist William Kerr, MD, and the Department of Medicine. The Kerr Innovation and Education Fund also supports medical education and advancements in patient care.

The Pituitary Center is the first of its kind in Chicagoland. Something Maria Xoy, age 22, came to appreciate. At 4 feet, 9 inches tall and normally weighing in at 100 pounds—Maria suddenly began gaining weight without any change in her diet. In two months, she put on 20 pounds and would eventually hit 150—an extreme weight for her tiny frame.

“There was a lot of weird stuff going on with my body,” Maria recalled. “I felt so ugly, my clothes didn’t fit anymore and I just wanted to lock myself in my room.” She grew increasingly tired, too. Even lifting a jacket off a hanger in her closet was overwhelming. Maria sought help from NorthShore.

“We diagnosed Maria with a rare, cyclical form of Cushing’s disease. Her body produced too much of the hormone cortisol for weeks, then suddenly the problem would disappear and her tests would normalize,” explained Endocrinologist Jill Apel, MD. “That fluctuation made her diagnosis much trickier.”

Nearly two years after surgery, Maria is back to her normal weight and feeling healthy and energetic. Thanks to philanthropic support—NorthShore is addressing a nationwide shortage of endocrinologists and continuing its excellence in advanced techniques.

Through NorthShore’s new Center, we hope to improve access so our patients get the care they need much more efficiently.

Romy Block, MD, FACE
Division Chief of Endocrinology


New Rapid Response Protocol Saves Lives

Your giving helps NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute offer our patients the most advanced treatment options and surgical interventions available. Jim Hessenthaler experienced this vital work when a serious heart issue nearly put an end to his mission work and his life.

Jim was transferred in grave condition to NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute, where he was seen by Cardiologist Jay Alexander, MD, and Surgeon Jonathan Somers, MD. A transesophageal echocardiogram, which provides a clearer assessment of heart structure and function, found that Hessenthaler’s aortic valve was failing.

Not only did the NorthShore cardio team have the expertise to address Hessenthaler’s life-threatening issue, but also the Institute recently implemented a new rapid response protocol to better handle these kinds of emergencies, explained Justin Levisay, MD, who serves as Medical Director for NorthShore’s Cardiac Catheterization Labs.

The valve had torn, and I was being starved of blood to my brain and other parts of my body. I would have died if they hadn’t taken quick action.

Jim Hessenthaler,
NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute Patient

Philanthropy is vital to sustaining and growing the Cardiovascular Institute’s programs. Programs that also helped patients like Milton Pickett. Milton was suffering from advanced heart failure. The longtime Evanston resident had less than a year to live before NorthShore cardiologists intervened and saved his life.

Two years later, the 72-year-old enjoys a full life and has returned to his nearly 50-year career as a barber and reopened his business. “I feel 100 percent better,” said Milton. “I can do what I want, and it was great to get back to work!”

Generous support is helping to create a highly personalized patient experience, a destination education program for the next generation of cardiac specialists and a pioneering research program that leads the way in developing transformative innovations in care.



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