We have an extremely diverse group of clients here at DDI, and today we’d like to introduce one of them: Dr. Daniel Ivankovich. I recently attended a TedX talk at Northwestern University at which Dr. Ivankovich spoke. It would have been hard to miss him. Upon his introduction, Dr. Ivankovich entered the stage in motorcyle boots and and full surgical scrubs, shocking members of the Northwestern acapella band Brown Sugar as they filed off stage. After he said his hellos to the stunned crowd and paid his respects to Dr. John Charnley, the pioneer of hip replacement procedure, he showed us in full detail how it was done. Replacing a hip, that is. “Do you mind if I do a demonstration,” he quipped, bonesaw in hand, as the audience including myself looked on, stunned, while the saw fired up and buzzed through the replicated joint.

This is nothing new for Dr. Ivankovich. He’s been stunning the city of Chicago for decades with his revolutionary ideas on patient care in some of the toughest and most medically underserved areas of the city. I was able to speak with him before his TedX talk, and if there was a theme to our conversation, it was his desire and ability to care for an underprivileged population tempered with a fierce pragmatism.

I looked at the problem and thought, there’s no way I can fix this. I can’t fix it. But I can fix the patient in front of me. And that’s what we did.

For instance, when Dr. Ivankovich spoke to me about the importance of getting the marginalized citizens with joint problems the help the need, he talked about the particular set of problems the poor might face. They need to keep working because they can’t afford to take time off, and so need working joints to do so. Their pathology is often far more advanced since they often don’t have as much preventative care. The poor often have less support groups to rely upon, so they need to be self-reliant more quickly. But he also said, quite seriously, “Plus, you are literally a sitting duck being immobile in the ghetto. You have to be able to run, man. These are what they call ‘the mean streets.’”

Dr. Ivankovich and his wife, Dr. Karla Ivankovich, are the co-founders of OnePatient.org, and in that capacity are able to coordinate with local agencies in the city of Chicago to get prospective patients the help they require. Dr. Ivankovich told me that the process is collaborative between both the organization and the patient. If the patient is an operative candidate, he or she will be referred to Karla to look at ways to bolster the recovery process. From there, they will determine what obstacles the patient might face on the road to recovery. As he reiterated at his TedX talk, “They come to me in disease states that are far more advanced. Patients have comorbidities. They’re obese; they’re diabetic; they smoke; they have behavioral disorders; they’re depressed. You gotta treat the whole human, people. Not just the knee. Not just an ankle. Not just the back.”

We also talked about his work with The Bone Squad, or what he described a loose consortium of doctors dedicated to helping devastated communities across the globe. When I asked him about the name, he told me, “Well, it’s kind of like the Mod Squad, that show from the 60s. They were cops, you know, but they were cool too.”

We talked about how OnePatient.org was born out of the devastation of the Haitian earthquakes. “OnePatient.org came out of the flames that was Haiti. The violence and trauma of what happened there was overwhelming. Just overwhelming. I looked at the problem and thought, there’s no way I can fix this. I can’t fix it. But I can fix the patient in front of me. And that’s what we did.” OnePatient.org honors this ethos with a quote by Mother Theresa front and center on their home page: “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”

Speaking about his motivations for his work, he had this to say, “This, all this, what we do … it’s a human condition issue. It’s bigger than politics, bigger than communities. It’s about the individual. It’s about doing what makes the patient healthy and happy but also what makes you healthy and happy … and maybe if you make it about someone else, if you can do good, if you can make it happy for the giver and the receiver … then it’s sustainable. Positivity is a chain-reaction. When you can help someone, they can help themselves, and maybe they can help someone else. And it keeps going.”

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