NorthShore University Physician Response Vehicle program ready for deployment
They call him MD1.
Well, actually they call him Dr. Ben Feinzimer, a certified emergency medicine physician with NorthShore University HealthSystem.
Feinzimer is the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) medical director for Illinois EMS Region 10 at Highland Park Hospital.
He earned his medical degree from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine at Midwestern University in 2008, and completed his residency in emergency medicine at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
In his capacity with NorthShore's new Physician Response Vehicle program, though, he's MD1.
"I'm the driver and the doer," said Feinzimer, who lives in Deerfield with his wife, Laurie, and two of their three children. The oldest just left for her freshman year at the University of Colorado in Boulder. All four of Ben and Laurie's parents live in Highland Park.
Thanks to donations to NorthShore by the Chicago-based Alvin H. Baum Family Fund and the nonprofit, volunteer ambulance service Hatzalah Chicago, as MD1, Feinzimer is the driver of a Ford Explorer purchased by NorthShore that is literally decked out with bells and whistles -- emergency lights, sirens, communications equipment.
What he does is join other first responders at the scene of an emergency requiring medical treatment. Only two other communities in Illinois, Peoria and Rockford, are running the PRV program.
"It's targeted at response alongside our EMTs (emergency medical technicians) and paramedics," Feinzimer said.
"I'm essentially a physician-level resource to care for patients at the site of an injury or illness before they arrive at the emergency room," he said.
What distinguishes his role on the scene from that of an EMT is Feinzimer's advanced medical acumen, his experience in emergency medicine, and his PRV being stocked with "physician-level meds and equipment," he said. He hopes in the future to also carry blood in the Explorer for transfusions.
Once a problem is diagnosed, MD1 is able to communicate to hospital personnel to provide a head's up on what to expect from the scene and to coordinate initial treatment and assemble any necessary response teams.
For patients, it can hasten access to emergency procedures or, if necessary, bypass emergency rooms and admit patients straight into, say, the cardiology department.
"This is my passion," Feinzimer said. "I consider myself a field physician first and an emergency medicine doctor second," Feinzimer said.
It's long been a passion.
"I remember when my friends in high school were out partying on a Friday night, I was watching William Shatner on television on 'Rescue 911,'" Feinzimer said.
He did more than watch while in his undergraduate studies at Kenyon College in Ohio. During his four years there, Feinzimer worked as an EMT with the College Township Fire Department in Knox County.
Feinzimer developed the Physician Response Vehicle approach over the course of seven years in emergency medicine at Froedtert South Kenosha Medical Center in Wisconsin. He said people were reassured simply by having a physician walk up to an emergency scene along with a paramedic.
Also, when Feinzimer called primary care doctors with his report as one of their patients was being transported to the hospital, "their level of awareness and confidence in the transition and care between the field and the emergency room grew," he said.
In Kenosha, Feinzimer worked full-time in the emergency room and employed the PRV program only when he had time, limiting prospects for the program's expansion.
He said the NorthShore PRV program -- approved by Highland Park Hospital President Gabrielle Cummings and NorthShore University HealthCare's Ernie Wang, division chief of Emergency Medicine -- will be "so much more robust."
Feinzimer's work will be split between the emergency room and the PRV.
Physician and Ford Explorer are based at Highland Park Hospital, and dating to Aug. 1, the opening phase of the program has Feinzimer responding to select emergency calls with the Deerfield Fire Department. The goal is to expand the PRV program in both response area and hours.
"Though Kenosha was my first job and where I cut my teeth and got tons of experience with the truck, now I'm back home to help guide EMS where my family and friends are," Feinzimer said.
It's what MD1 is all about.
"I want to be elbow-deep alongside the guys and gals in the ambulance," Feinzimer said.