Open for just over one year, they have already served over 3,000 patients.
The association of these talented professionals began unexpectedly. Sue McWilliams was on her way out of a coffee shop when she saw a familiar face, Dr. Mark Mass, who had previously worked with Sue at Lake Forest Hospital. After exchanging some pleasantries, he asked Sue what she was doing and she told him she had been busy raising her children and working with a friend to develop patient safety curriculum for nurses, but she missed the patient contact of the ER.
“Dr. Mass said that he was opening his own practice and told me it would be a great opportunity for getting back into patient care.” When she visited the office it was under construction “mostly roughed out” she says. There was still plenty of work to do, and Dr. Mass made it very clear that Sue’s input was needed.
Sue came on board in September 2013, started hiring staff, getting supplies ready, and preparing for their opening date in November.
Now, more than a year later, Lake Forest Acute Care has seen thousands of patients. All have benefitted from the easy accessibility and one-stop healthcare in one of the first urgent care centers in the area.
“When you go to the doctor’s office, you should walk out feeling better,” says Dr. Mass. “Whether after an injury or a sickness, your doctor and medical staff should be highly attentive to your needs.”
It’s with that philosophy, he says, that Lake Forest Acute Care has been founded. An idea that he had entertained for a long time, he made it a reality after locating an accessible location for neighboring communities. People from all over, including not just Lake Forest and Lake Bluff but Deerfield, Lincolnshire, Highland Park, and much farther away including visitors from Europe and Canada have benefited from this urgent care center.
Sue says they have been “taking care of people as they come through the door” and have seen everything from the very serious to typical cuts, scrapes, and illnesses.
Both Sue and Dr. Mass have had longtime experience in Lake Forest Hospital’s emergency room. Dr. Mass is a board certified emergency room physician with over 25 years of experience in hospitals including major medical centers and trauma centers. Sue has over 30 years of nursing experience with a Masters in Nursing Administration. Sue was responsible for running Lake Forest Hospital’s CareCoach Program, a mobile health unit that provided free immunization and health screening throughout Lake County.
A staff of both part time and full time ER physicians, radiology technicians, paramedics, nurses, and patient care technicians round out Lake Forest Acute Care. They are able to diagnose and treat all types of acute illness and injuries using lab tests, performing x-rays, and can make arrangements for further tests (CAT Scans, etc.) if needed at local hospitals.
“We can evaluate anyone who walks through the door,” notes Sue. “If you’re having a heart attack or stroke you should be in the emergency room, but even those patients sometimes come here because they don’t know what’s wrong.”
One of the patient care technicians, Matt Penar, a Lake Forest fireman and paramedic, says his favorite story is of a woman who came to them with a cough that turned out to be something more serious. Through Lake Forest Acute Care, she was admitted to Lake Forest Hospital for a pulmonary problem. But since she was from out of town with no family members in the area, one of the Acute Care’s nurses went to visit her in the hospital so she wouldn’t be alone.
Many of those who are admitted to the hospital choose to return to follow up at Lake Forest Acute Care. This gives Dr. Mass, Sue, and company a chance to continue the medical treatment, and ensure that their problems are resolved.
“That’s what I like to do,” she continues, “I like to be able to take care of people. That’s the best part of healthcare.”
The office, which has been designed to be open and comfortable, exudes a home-like warmth. In the next six months, Lake Forest Acute Care will be adding another waiting area, increasing occupational medicine, and adding additional staff. They are also training new healthcare workers and continuing their successful pre-professional internship programs from Lake Forest College and the DePaul University graduate nursing program.
For Dorothy Bednarczyk, who recently moved to Lake Forest, the opening of Lake Forest Acute Care has been a tremendous boon for her two sons, age three and six. “It’s so easy bringing them here, and the staff is so nice,” she says smiling.
Lake Forest Acute Care is located at 1025 W. Everett Road in Lake Forest, 847-234-7950.
– Simon Murray // Photography by Jim Prisching