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Northwestern Medicine Honors Five Individuals for Extraordinary Contributions to the Community

Northwestern Medicine celebrated the life of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his ongoing legacy of service during the 40th Annual Humanitarian Awards Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Five members of the Northwestern Medicine family were presented with awards for their extraordinary contributions to the community and for embodying Dr. King's legacy of humanitarianism.

The Humanitarian Awards launched in 1979 to honor individuals, both employees and physicians from across the Northwestern Medicine health system, who best exemplify the ideals of Dr. King, as demonstrated by a positive impact in the community. Since its creation, the Humanitarian Award has been awarded to 77 employees and 29 physicians.

The keynote speaker was Gloria Castillo, president and CEO of Chicago United, a corporate membership organization that advances multiracial leadership in business to achieve parity in economic opportunity. Her work on behalf of underrepresented populations was recognized in 2017 with an honorary Doctorate in Social Justice from Roosevelt University, and in 2018 with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Award from Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

The 2019 Humanitarian Award winners are:

  • Jennie P. Bagaconza, RN, nurse clinician in the Bariatric Center at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, was recognized with a Humanitarian Award for providing humanitarian aid in developing areas including the Philippines, Bolivia, Guatemala, Indiana and Africa. Every year, Bagaconza saves her paid time off and money for another volunteer medical mission. Bagaconza volunteers with the organization Poor Household of God and is a resident of Glendale Heights. VIDEO

    “Being born in a third world country, I was born and raised in the Philippines, you see poor people, hungry people. I volunteered after graduating from nursing school in a local clinic before I came to the United States and it all evolved from there, “said Bagaconza, who also collects clothing and other goods to donate to orphanages in the Philippines. “In 2011, I started my first mission trip to the Philippines. I did it for three years in the Philippines, then I extended. If I’m going to help, I’m not only going to help people in the Philippines, I want to help other people too. Every year, I’m thinking: Where do I go next?”

  • Johntay Macklin, CRCST, CHL, sterile processing manager at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, was recognized with a Humanitarian Award for his volunteer work traveling on medical missions to developing countries to provide hip and knee joint replacement surgeries enhancing mobility and quality of life for individuals who may not otherwise have access to orthopaedic care. With expertise in sterile processing, Macklin’s role as a volunteer is to ensure the surgical tools are sterile so that the patients do not get infections. Macklin volunteers with Operation Walk Chicago and lives in Chicago. VIDEO

    “Our patients don’t have much. They’re in poverty. They’ve been unable to provide for their families. They’ve been unable to be successful. A lot of the patients haven’t walked,” said Macklin, who assists with 20 to 40 surgeries on each week long mission trip. “We go there in the mindset that we’re here to help and we’re all hands on deck. You give the patients surgery and the next day they’re up and walking and it’s just joy. It gives you the perspective that the little things that you can do can change someone’s life and make things better for them. ”

  • Heeren Patel, MD, neurologist at Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital, was recognized with a Humanitarian Award for his work volunteering at a summer camp for children with muscular dystrophy. First approached five years ago to serve as an “on-call” physician for the camp, Dr. Patel saw an opportunity to provide better care and a better experience for the campers by volunteering in person. Since his first year at camp, he has assembled a volunteer medical team that provides not only clinical care, but also connects with the kids on a personal level. Dr. Patel volunteers with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and lives in Lake Zurich. VIDEO

    “I am a better doctor because of my time volunteering at camp. Being able to have a much more personal, invested relationship with the patients in a non-clinical setting really changed the way I saw my role as their medical providers. I needed to look at the patients as more than just their disease processes that they were diagnosed with and dig down deep to get to know my patients to truly be able to take care of them. Getting the kids to really break out of their shells and know that they are more than just the wheel chair they sit in and I think that giving them and being able to give them that voice is part of what I love about going to camp.”

  • Mia Quintana, ophthalmic photographer at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and Anjum Koreishi, MD, ophthalmologist at Northwestern Memorial, were recognized with Humanitarian Awards for their volunteer efforts to provide medical aid to people impacted by the devastating and destructive volcano that hit Guatemala in 2018. When the volcano hit her home country, Quintana knew she had to return to Guatemala to try to help. Her husband, Dr. Koreishi, encouraged her to think bigger. Together, they gathered donated medical supplies then traveled to the country bringing supplies and providing medical exams and eye exams, as well as providing emotional support to the people impacted by the volcano. Quintana and Dr. Koreishi live in Chicago. For more information on their organization, The Healing Tree Edgewater, contact MiaQ.healingtree@gmail.com. VIDEO

“Our goal was to help relief the acute suffering of the families there, but really the most important thing that we did was let them know that someone was there for them and to listen to them and ask how they were feeling,” said Dr. Koreishi.

When asked about how Dr. King inspired them, the couple reflected on his message of equality. “The idea of it sounds so beautiful and you read it, and it’s so inspiring, then so often we go back to our lives. But, if you really put a little bit of action to that dream…I think about that and I think about how we’re all in this world together.”

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