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Northwestern Medicine Launches Hispanic Brain and Spine Tumor Program

Hospital closes gap in neurological cancer care and provides better access for patients in the Hispanic community

Northwestern Memorial Hospital recently launched the Northwestern Medicine Hispanic Brain and Spine Tumor Program in Chicago to make life-saving neurological care more accessible for the Hispanic and Latino population by removing cultural, linguistic barriers to patients who speak Spanish. Led by neurosurgeon and Mexico City native Dr. Adam Sonabend, the program aims to provide patients with brain and spinal tumors and their family members personalized care in Spanish from diagnosis to treatment.

“As a diverse city with two dominant air transportation hubs in Chicago, I was compelled to start a program that accommodates the Hispanic community and provides world-class care for patients with brain and spinal tumors from all over the world.” said Adam Sonabend, MD, neurosurgeon and director of the Hispanic Brain and Spine Tumor Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “With this program, patients will be able to pick up the phone to schedule an appointment in Spanish, understand their diagnosis and treatment options, and undergo treatment and surgery including brain mapping for language in the operating room in Spanish. They also receive care by a clinician in Spanish at all follow-up appointments and while recovering at the hospital.”

Along with Dr. Sonabend, the multidisciplinary team includes Jean-Paul Wolinsky, MD, a neurosurgical expert in spine tumors, Roger Stupp, MD, a world-renowned neuro-oncologist who treats patients with brain and spine tumors, and an expert neuro-oncologist Priya Kumthekar MD. The program also includes Spanish speaking nurses, medical assistants and phone operators.

Guillermo Muñoz understands first-hand the significance the Hispanic Brain and Spine Tumor Program has had on his life. Born in Santiago, Chile and now living in Chicago, Muñoz was getting ready to conduct the Christmas Eve church service in Chicago when he started experiencing an unsurmountable headache that wouldn’t go away causing him to become nauseous. Concerned with the headache, Muñoz decided to call Northwestern Memorial. An avid marathon runner who follows a vegan diet, Muñoz wasn’t sure why he was feeling sick especially since he hadn’t experienced a headache of this magnitude before.

Muñoz called Northwestern Memorial where he was advised to get MRI scans which showed a plum sized tumor in the back of his brain which was compressed on his brainstem and needed to be removed. These images alerted doctors to send Muñoz to the emergency room right away for more testing.

Less than 24 hours later, on Christmas Day, Muñoz had to cancel his plans to fly to Chile to visit his family for the holidays and instead was wheeled into the operating room where Dr. Sonabend spent hours removing the tumor from Muñoz’s brain.

After surgery, Muñoz spent the next two weeks in the hospital recovering and then was transferred to Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, a few blocks from Northwestern Memorial, where he began the process of recovering.

“I count my lucky stars that I was under the care of Dr. Sonabend and I was able to communicate to him in Spanish,” said Muñoz. “This allowed me to be able to connect with him under his care and I was able to learn the proper medical terminology for my condition so that I could accurately share the information with my family in the U.S. and Chile.”

The program also provides one-on-one support with a care team member who will help assist in travel plans, airfare, hotel accommodations, banking services and connecting the patient and family with places of worship, if desired.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, fill out the form here and a member of our staff will contact you directly. For immediate assistance, please call 312.926.3576.

To learn more about the Hispanic Brain and Spine Tumor Program at Northwestern Memorial, please visit https://www.nm.org/tumorcerebral.