Award-winning nurse an advocate for patients worldwide
In 2007, Teri Dreher of Libertyville watched as her father-in-law became ill on a cruise ship and needed medical help in Belize. As his condition deteriorated, he was sent back to the United States.
As a nurse, she realized how stressful such emergencies can be for families.
That's why in 2011 she founded North Shore Patient Advocates, a Libertyville company that provides guidance and resources for patients and families so they can navigate the medical profession.
"That whole situation with my father-in-law taught me a lot," said Dreher, 59. "And there are a lot of incidents like that where people don't always know what to do and don't know what normal is. They need an advocate to help sort it out."
Dreher was the oldest of nine children. Her father was in the military, and she moved around the country 37 times before graduating high school. After she was inspired by an aunt, who was a nurse, Dreher also became a nurse serving in the ICU, stem cell transplant and cardiovascular areas for 38 years. She worked at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Lutheran General and elsewhere, before starting her own company.
Besides untangling the medical and insurance systems, Dreher also has volunteered to help the less fortunate in Africa and founded two nonprofits, Hands and Hearts International to provide medical orientation, and Aid Africa's Children that helps to get government aid for African schools.
In 2004, she took her first trip to Africa as a nurse to help train and do hospice care. A new hospice center was not yet completed when she arrived and she instead saw 780 children who were malnourished and "in bad shape." She and other nurses helped to do physical evaluations of the children. She was hooked, and returned several times to Africa to help.
She also works as the community health catalyst for International Teams in Elgin and does various assessments in Africa, Ukraine and elsewhere. She has been so busy with International Teams, she eventually dissolved Hands and Hearts.
She is also active with her church and with the Rotary. In fact, she has been honored as the GLMV Chamber Entrepreneur of the Year, Rotarian of the Year, and other awards for her work around South Africa, Nigeria and Tanzania.
"I like to help people, and so far, it has given me the opportunity to make a big difference in many lives," she said.
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