Northstar Healthcare - History of Our Medical CenterIntroduction
Northstar Medical Center has been from the beginning of its’ history, a state-of- the- art comprehensive treatment and clinical research center specializing in HIV therapy but also focuses on general internal medicine issues and treatment. The Center was founded in 1991 by Dr. Daniel S. Berger. At that time, Dr. Berger moved his internal medicine and HIV-focused practice from Andersonville into the current building on 2835 N. Sheffield, located in the Boystown / Lincoln Park neighborhood and the hub of the gay and lgbt community. Also, during these earlier days, the Center was known as the Chicago Center for Special Immunology. In 2005, Northstar expanded and moved its facilities within the same building to the top floor of 2835 N. Sheffield. In this new space, Northstar became the first private clinic nationally, to house an inner Walgreens Pharmarcy, specialized and very personalized to its’ patients. The new Northstar facility has a lofty wide open architecture and atmosphere filled with original artwork, many having been contributed by fellow patients.
HIV treatment research has continued to evolve at the Center. Northstar has contributed to most antiretroviral drug development over the last 20 years. To date, nearly 200 clinical research trials have been conducted at the Center under the direction of Dr. Daniel Berger. Thus while Northstar is a stand-alone private institution, it harnesses a unique academic and research environment within. Its’ patients have access to the most up to date research and access to treatments that are frequently otherwise unavailable in the private sector.The Early Years: Combining Research with a Unique Holistic Approach
During the early years of the HIV epidemic, Dr. Berger opened this research treatment center directing its’ attention to early intervention of HIV disease with a proactive stance towards preventing complications and simultaneously treating opportunistic infections aggressively. The staff was assembled so that the Center would easily and seamlessly incorporate medical care with specialized HIV-treatment research, psychological support and nutrition. This was the first clinic that had this multifaceted approach however it was met with skepticism and criticismdoubting the merits of such an undertaking. They challenged the use of early unapproved laboratory testing of immune function and viral activity for a disease that was felt to be at that time hopeless. The availability of antiviral agents was limited as were treatments for some opportunistic infections.
Dr. Dan Berger’s response to the general skepticism was stubbornness and to privately and scrupulously create a clinical research and integrative treatment center that would eventually prove that early intervention would be life-saving. The first focus of the Center’s commitment was towards basic medical principles including meticulous diagnosis, aggressive preventive medicine, carefully monitored therapy and team oriented holistic case management. The second was the flexible but futuristic state-of-the-art use of medical technology with promising new drugs. Ahead of its time, The Chicago center directed by Berger offered patients a unique combination of therapeutic options, instead of the pervasive fatalism of the time. Dr. Berger also attracted pharmaceutical industry sponsored trials with many promising new drugs in development, allowing patients access to new treatments far in advance of their approval.
During that time, Dr. Dan Berger began early intervention and formulated one of the world’s first plans for combining what were the only available antiviral drugs at the time, thus constructing his version of the first antiviral cocktails. His work won a presentation highlighted at the World AIDS Conference in Amsterdam in 1992, four years before the actual cocktail became the standard of care.
The Center’s integrative approach included the incorporation of nutrition and psychological intervention within Northstar’s standardized care for HIV. AIDS wasting was among the top causes of death during this time of the AIDS epidemic and it seemed only logical to intervene early to stop and correct the progressive lean body mass loss. Moreover, in 1994, the Center became a lead site for the investigation of growth hormone treatment for AIDS wasting and Dr. Berger presented the phase III results of this national multi-center phase III trial at the World AIDS Conference in Vancouver in 1996. The Center was also the first to conduct studies using anabolic steroids to combat wasting. In concert with this clinical research, an internationally known leading expert in HIV/AIDS and nutrition, Cade Fields-Gardner, became a key provider of nutritional therapy at the Center in 1992. Her consultations and treatment importantly contributed to the recognizable difference at Northstar; she continues to make herself available and sees patients to the present day, while remaining busy setting up nutritional programs for AIDS throughout the third world and Africa.The Middle Years: A Renaissance in Therapeutics
The Center had changed its’ name in 1998 to Northstar Medical Center, but continued to function under the direction of Dr. Daniel Berger MD and has become known as the largest private state-of- the-art treatment and research center of the Greater Chicago area. During its’ history, Northstar has become well known throughout the US and internationally, and numerous publications and presentations have ensued at national and international conferences. Also, in 1998, Dr. Berger presented the first study using Interleukin II for advanced AIDS at the World AIDS Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
In the years 2005-2010, antiretroviral therapy for HIV disease experienced a revolution in therapeutics. Dr. Berger was heavily involved as principal investigator of these agents and co-authored several resultant iconic publications of trials including the Power 2, Titan, Duet and Startmrk studies and the first studies of elvitegravir. During the beginnings of this new era in treatment, Dr. Berger traveled around the US providing many lectures and programs to physicians on incorporating the latest treatments into practice.Northstar Staff and Services
Additionally Northstar staff includes many dedicated individuals who pride themselves with a strong work ethic and mission. Dr. Ron Gonzales, has become known for his very personable style and his dedication and expertise in HIV treatment. Dr. Gonzales is board-certified in infectious disease and has been the Assistant Program Director and Physician Advisor at Weiss Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Univ of Illiinois College of Medicine. Dr. Gonzales serves as research investigator and also has published articles on various topics including MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staph aureus) infections which are now quite common in the HIV community.
Psychological services have also been a key component of Northstar. Dr. Cheryl Mejta, PhD, has been an integral part of the psychological staff and has provided excellent care to patients for more than an impressive 15 years at the Center. Dr. Mejta is Professor and Department Chair of Addictions Studies at Governors University. More recently, in 2012, to meet the rising therapy demands of Northstar, Dr. Berger has enlisted the expertise of Dr. Anthony Oltean, PhD. Dr. Oltean has come to us with more than a decade of experience working at Chicago’s Haymarket Center specializing in addiction-related issues as well as anxiety and depression. Although Dr. Oltean has been with Northstar for comparatively short period, through strong skills, ability and talent, he has fast built a fast grown practice. Many of his treatment experienced patients have stated they felt Dr. Oltean to be one of the best therapists they’ve experienced to date.
Another facet of Northstar’s facility is the MedSpa which provides patients the benefits of PPX laser treatments for facial rejuvenation and derm-abrasion. Further, patients and clients may also take advantages of obtaining facial filling procedures for individuals suffering from facial wasting and facial fat loss. Dr. Berger helped pioneer the use of New-Fill for patients with HIV disease, which eventually gave rise to the reformulated version known as Sculptra. Additionally, cosmetic treatments for correction of facial wrinkles, facial skin folds and other aging related problems are also available at Northstar with facial fillers including Radiesse, Perlane and Restylane as well as Botox and Dysport treatments.Internal Medicine and Health Maintenance
As healthcare has improved, through the various uses of new technology and medication development, Northstar remains flexible in catering to the needs of the community. Internal medicine issues are well managed and treated. Men’s healthcare and consultations related to male-related sexual issues are an integral component of treatment. Individualized approaches to addiction are provided through experienced practitioners and peers who have achieved full recovery are also available. Nutritional assessment and dietary consultations are integrally incorporated in medical treatment and follow-up.
As a Center, Northstar also provides infusions for antibiotics for bacterial infections including pneumonia and MRSA. MRSA, (Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus, a medication resistant bacteria) has become very prevalent within the community. Treatment for Hepatitis C and B are also offered. Also, STD testing and a 15 minute rapid HIV and rapid Hepatitis C testingare also readily on hand.Summary
While Northstar prides itself on being a busy space, it is known for providing its’ patients with unique, quality care with hands-on attention. Many of the staff are long-term members which further enhance the steady and stable family-like atmosphere within its’ sophisticated environment. Whether one comes to the Center for general internal medicine services or for more specialized treatment, Northstar believes it paramount to be prepared in addressing the comprehensive needs of the Chicago community. To date, Northstar enjoys a national reputation and fame. Physicians and individuals working in AIDS research and the HIV industry often visit the center. It is also not unusual for patients who live in other distant states to readily travel to obtain care from Northstar physicians. Some patients have expressed their feelings by stating that they could not imagine seeking care elsewhere.