When Jeremy Topin, MD, was a medical resident, he was drawn to helping people who were critically ill and struggling to breathe— so much so that it led him to a specialty he had never envisioned: pulmonology.
“I went to medical school thinking I was going into internal medicine and pediatrics. I wanted to treat people from the day they were born until the day they died. To my surprise, I fell in love with the ICU and critical care medicine,” he said. “I enjoyed the physiology and the fast pace of it, but I also saw that I had the unique opportunity and privilege to work with patients and their families at their most vulnerable times and to really help them through traumatic and scary times in their lives.”
After spending 15 years in private practice in the Chicago area, Dr. Topin is excited to serve at Sarah Bush Lincoln as its full-time, in-house lung specialist and critical care doctor, particularly during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. “This is a great opportunity, and I look forward to offering services that will allow more patients to stay close to home during times of critical illness,” he said.
As a pulmonologist, Dr. Topin cares for people with acute and chronic lung conditions. When he is in the Critical Care Unit, he takes care of patients who need advanced life support and mechanical ventilation, but when he is in the office, Dr. Topin diagnoses and treats a range of respiratory issues, including shortness of breath, asthma, COPD, emphysema and interstitial lung disease. Dr. Topin provides pulmonary function studies and procedures such as bronchoscopies and scopes of the lungs to diagnose lung disease, plus he collaborates with experts in nearly every specialty to deliver effective, personalized care.
“I look forward to building relationships to help people manage chronic lung diseases so they can live their lives as fully as possible, with the values and preferences that are important to them,” he said.
Dr. Topin was born and raised in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook. He went to college at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. “Medicine was nowhere on my radar. I thought I was going to go to law school,” he said. After volunteering several years at a muscular dystrophy camp, he switched gears, hoping to enroll in physical therapy school. However, he was surprised to find a viable path to medical school.
After completing his science prerequisites at Loyola University, Chicago, Dr. Topin was accepted into Rush University Medical College, where he earned his medical degree in 1998. He completed a four-year internal medicine and pediatric residency at the University of Chicago, followed by a three-year pulmonary and critical care fellowship at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago in 2005. Thereafter, he joined a private practice.
“Every day is different, and it’s been a privilege to work with patients and their families in the intensive care unit during tough times,” he said. “Medicine still fascinates and excites me, but it’s the relationships and the ability to help people navigate very difficult times that makes it so rewarding. Communication is so important— especially now with COVID because families can’t be with their loved ones who are sick, so we have to take a greater role in helping families understand what’s going on.”
Ensuring that critically ill patients are heard (even when they cannot speak) has become a driving passion of Dr. Topin’s. To initiate conversations about end-of-life decision-making and advanced care planning, Dr. Topin started writing a few years ago about some of his experiences and insights as a doctor. Several of his stories have been published in national newspapers, including The Washington Post, and he is currently writing a book on the topic. To aid in his own understanding of the issues people face, Dr. Topin is working toward a Master of Public Health degree.
In his free time, Dr. Topin enjoys spending time with his wife, Becky Lee, and two children, both of whom are students at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He also plays water polo and is an avid triathlete. He plans to compete in his eighth Ironman race following the Covid-19 pandemic.