LAKE FOREST -- Dr. Deborah S. Clements was awarded the Illinois Association of Family Physicians Distinguished Service Award, recognizing her significant lifetime contributions to the specialty of family medicine.
It is the highest award given to Illinois family physicians, and commends exceptional members for outstanding contributions across the career spectrum, including leadership, education and patient care.
Dr. Anna Shannahan, her former resident in the program, nominated Clements. “During medical school at Northwestern, I was immediately interested in family medicine. However, there was not much exposure to the specialty at the time,” Shannahan said in a news release. “Luckily, Dr. Clements arrived to chair the department, and her mentorship kept me motivated and inspired to pursue the specialty that I now love so dearly. In fact, her guidance and vision made such a difference to me that I stayed at Northwestern Medicine for residency and then continued on as a family medicine attending.”
At age 33, and as a widowed mother of three seeking a transition into medical school, she was often told to take a different career path. But that didn’t stop her, and Clements is now a recognized leader in family medicine with a strong presence in local and national organizations, and under her guidance, has expanded from one to three family medicine residency programs at Northwestern Medicine.
“She performs at the highest level to guide the residents in through the program — advocating for their needs, making herself available to address concerns and seeing them through so they can become the successful family practice physicians,” said Denise Majeski, chief nurse executive at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital. “It is because of her leadership that patients, physicians, nurses and her team seek her guidance, direction and clinical education to support exceptional practice and exemplary outcomes in managing the health of our community. In addition, her work in establishing this residency program has graduated physicians who often practice in the underserved areas of the county.”
In fact, Clements became the group lead for the federally qualified health center in Waukegan, in partnership with the Erie Health Center. She staffed the center with residents, providing patients access to high-quality health care. For first time, many of these patients were able to establish a relationship with a primary care physician.
“Dr. Clements sets the standard for her trainees and practicing physicians, and is known in the community as a wonderful physician who cares for her patients and their families with compassion and great clinical skill,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kopin, chief medical officer at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital. “Prior to her arrival, Northwestern Medicine was not known for our family medicine academic medical center. Dr. Clements changed that. Through her tireless efforts, family medicine now proudly stands as an important medical discipline at a world-class health care system.”
IAFP President Tabatha Wells presented the award to Dr. Clements via Zoom during at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital along with her colleagues and residents could share in the celebration. Dr. Clements and her husband, Walt, live in Highland Park with their dog and share seven children.
“The ability to impact lives is what drives me; it’s what drives all of us,” Clements said. “And combining my passion for family medicine and teaching brings me fulfillment every day.”