Michael LaMonto, DO, knows what it’s like to overcome life challenges and succeed, and he believes it has helped make him a better doctor.
Dr. LaMonto brings a unique set of skills and experience upon his return to Sarah Bush Lincoln in September. He joined The Heart Center medical team as a Prairie Heart Institute of Illinois cardiologist after completing a three-year fellowship at Midwestern University in Downers Grove.
“People have just welcomed us back with open arms,” the former Emergency Department physician said. After caring for people in the ED at Sarah Bush Lincoln for six years, Dr. LaMonto’s life was turned upside down when he suffered a motorcycle accident in April 2011.
The accident crushed his left leg and shattered his knee leaving him bed bound for two months in recovery from the six-hour surgery to repair the damage. “I was in rehab for almost two years,” Dr. LaMonto said. “It took me over a year to get to one crutch walking. There were dark days when I wasn’t progressing and I’m like what am I going to do with my life.”
Dr. LaMonto is grateful to his colleagues in the Emergency Department who not only worked extra shifts to cover his absence, but also helped him with his personal recovery. “It wasn’t just a job, it’s family. We watched out for each other and took care of each other,” Dr. LaMonto said about his time in the ED.
Dr. LaMonto worked part-time in the stress-testing lab and in other areas of the hospital during his recovery, but he longed to have a greater impact on people’s lives again. Once drawn to the fast pace and unpredictability of emergency medicine, Dr. LaMonto was forced to shift gears. “I have always enjoyed cardiology,” he said. “I enjoy the science of it and I’m fascinated by the complexity of the human heart.”
With his wife and two young daughters, Dr. LaMonto moved back to the Chicago area where he grew up and returned to school. “It was very difficult and challenging. Doing this with a family, the life pressures were much different than they were before.” he said. However, his experience as an emergency room doctor allowed him to offer a specific skill set that his younger colleagues didn’t have. “The first week, we had a patient coding, and I immediately started evaluating this guy like an ER doctor – from a critical care standpoint – so I brought that aspect to the table,” he said. “It will make me a better cardiologist because I see a much bigger picture than someone who has a strict, single specialty background. I’ve always treated the whole person because in the ER you have to take everything into consideration.”
Going back to school also gave him an opportunity to step back from the responsibilities of being an attending physician. “It was great fun, and freeing to step back and absorb knowledge and teach and I love teaching,” he said. He was twice voted as “Fellow of the Year” by faculty and colleagues.
Upon completion, Dr. LaMonto never wavered in his decision to return to Sarah Bush Lincoln where he has forged many friendships and special bonds. “We consider this our home,” he said. He looks forward to getting to know his patients. “Building a strong relationship will help us work together to prevent the progression of heart disease,” he said.
Dr. LaMonto works with fellow Prairie Heart cardiologists Thomas Cahill, MD, and Amit Dande, MD, and Allyson Gough, APN-BC, to evaluate and treat people with issues ranging from coronary artery disease to rhythm disorders and valve disease. He holds six board certifications including general cardiology, echocardiography, nuclear cardiology, internal medicine, emergency medicine, and aerospace medicine. Prior to his injury, he served as a flight surgeon in the US. Air Force Reserves and was extremely physically fit.
Though his left leg will never be 100 percent, Dr. LaMonto said his injury has positively impacted every aspect of his life. “I’m a better husband, father, doctor and person. It has given me the ability to feel greater empathy and I see how dramatically injury or illness can affect a person’s life. It’s devastating.”
For more information, or to make an appointment with Dr. LaMonto at The Heart Center, call (217) 238-4960. The office is located at 1000 Health Center Dr., Suite 107. (It can be easily accessed from the Entrance F.) To learn more about The Heart Center go to www.sarahbush.org.