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2021 Family Physician of the Year
Marian Sassetti, MD, FAAFP
Lake Street Family Physicians, Oak Park

Dr. Sassetti’s family medicine practice is in the heart of downtown Oak Park. She is also the heart of her community and the embodiment of the words “family physician” as well as a voice for those who need help beyond her practice.
It’s not surprising then, that Dr. Sassetti’s CV leads with her community service and leadership, demonstrating her belief that family medicine and community service are intertwined.

Physician assistant LaToya Miller works with Dr. Sassetti at Lake Street Family Physicians and also serves alongside her as a board member of Sarah’s Inn, which serves those affected by domestic violence and helps to break the cycle. “From the moment I met her, I have adopted her as my mentor due to her medical brilliance, compassion for patients, willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, passion for justice, sacrificial commitment to her family and community, and her ability to invoke change.”

Sassetti sought to involve the youth of the community and give them a voice against domestic violence. That led to the creation of the Youth Voice Award. This award gave high school students a platform to express themselves with essays, original songs, poems, videos or art. Over 40 students in the Oak Park surrounding area submitted heartfelt, private works of art expressing their experience or thoughts regarding domestic violence. “Dr. Sassetti has a way of bringing the best out of everyone she touches and gives the voiceless a voice.”

Her steadfast championing of students led to her being honored with Trinity Leadership Award from Trinity High School in River Forest which recognizes alumnae who are leaders within the Trinity community but also their own communities, whether professional or personal. She'll receive that award at the Trinity High School annual gala on November 13. 

“I believe there has never been a more important time for us to harness our credibility to write a new narrative about what healing needs to look like in our country,” says Sassetti. “We can be bold and creative; and we can empower each other to rest up, rejuvenate, and to contribute whatever our individual gifts are wherever they may be needed.”

Bridget Sperduto is executive director of The Well Spirituality Center, where Dr. Sassetti also served six years as the board president. During her years on the board, Sassetti helped The Well set up systems, gain financial stability, and expand their ministry. “Marian gives of herself beyond her medical practice. She donates her time once a week to a free clinic. Once our handyman couldn’t get out of bed because of severe stomach pain. He wouldn’t go to a doctor because he didn’t have insurance. Dr. Sassetti offered to see him pro bono.”

The Sperduto family is also among Dr. Sassetti’s longtime patients for more than 20 years. “Marian Sassetti is a brilliant, well educated, caring and compassionate physician. She has both breadth and depth of knowledge that allows her to navigate medicine with the warmth of a family doctor and the mind of a specialist.”

Like most family physicians, she relished the idea of caring for anyone regardless of age or the condition they had. “I also found that the family doctors were the ones talking about social justice issues and access to care; areas that have been important to me my whole life. And, quite frankly, the family doctors just seemed to be having more fun!” she says.

Patient Ellen Griffin describes the incredible impact Dr. Sassetti has had on their family for over 20 years, especially with their special needs son. “One Saturday in 2019 our son was upset, and our situation had escalated to a level beyond our control. I immediately called Dr. Sassetti who then suggested that I call the police and Thrive Counseling Center. We very quickly had the support and protection of the police as well as a counselor from Thrive. I was relieved by the arrival of Dr. Sassetti. She wanted to not only support our family but wanted to explain to our son that this form of help was a way of supporting him on his journey to an emotionally better place.”

IAFP members of all ages and generations might be familiar with Dr. Sassetti. One of her strongest supporters is Rush Medical College 2021 graduate Leah Petrucelli, MD who worked with Sassetti once a week through her four years in the Rush Family Medicine Leadership Program. Now a resident at Illinois Masonic Family Medicine Residency, she shared her support. “She defies the typical power dynamic in a doctor’s room by reminding her patients that this is their visit and they participate in their care plan. She uses her encyclopedia brain to teach her patients and medical students the evidence behind what she recommends and how they can augment their own recovery from illness at home,” says Dr. Petrucelli. “She empowers me and other colleagues by continuously giving us the opportunity to share our insight with patients, which was paramount to my ability to see myself as a future physician.”

"Because of Dr. Sassetti, I understand the amount of time it takes to work through wounds, as well as how important it is to not detach from my future patients. She has shown me how sharing my own inner demons can help alleviate the darkness of someone else’s burdens. As a mother of children with mental illness, she has shared her story and struggles to help others (in and out of the office) on their journeys. I have been lucky to not only be in the audience of many of her talks to community members, but also be empowered by her to share my own story with the Oak Park community. This was one of the biggest gifts she gave me," Petrucelli shares. 

It's a gift that all family physicians can give. “It is my dream that every family doctor consider allowing medical students to shadow them. Students are hungry to see us in action and for us to role model many of the skills they cannot learn in lecture halls or through inpatient rotations. If you invite in just one medical student just once, you can touch the lives of so many future patients!”

Veteran IAFP members likely remember Dr. Sassetti as a member of the IAFP board of directors in the early 2000s. After her three-year term was over, she returned to her practice and her busy family, which included young triplet sons. When an incoming IAFP Board Chair left the state unexpectedly, Sassetti answered the call to come back and step in to chair the IAFP Board of Directors for a year. More recently she has been the Academy’s leading expert on sexual harassment training and advocacy, providing the required CME for physicians across Illinois, which is free to IAFP members on our education website. She was also one of two subject matter experts on the IAFP’s Dialed in on Diabetes education series. She is also a leading advocate and educator on gender-based violence and protecting and assisting women and girls facing domestic violence.

“I fervently hope that we can rekindle a sense of the sacred in the work we do and in the gifts we offer society in general. I do not believe it is hubris to remind each other that we are the direct descendants of the first healers -- people who cared for the mind, body, and souls of individuals and communities,” concludes Sassetti.

She was nominated by colleague and IAFP member Steven Jaharis, MD - who joined the ceremony to offer his congratulations virtually. The award was delivered in person by IAFP Board Chair Michael A. Hanak, MD, FAAFP who is also a Rush family physician, at the November 10th Rush Department of Family Medicine meeting where colleagues and medical students shared in the celebration either in the room or via virtual connection.  Along at the event with Dr. Hanak were IAFP Second Vice President Kate Rowland, MD who is a professor at Rush Medical College and IAFP Co-CEO Gordana Krkic, CAE while many other fans and friends joined online. 

It was a great morning all around at Rush, as class of 2022 student Laura Hurley received Dr. Hanak's final President's Award at the meeting, also. (More details on all four President's Award Honorees here).  Hurley demonstrates incredible dedication to IAFP public health and leadership opportunities. She also worked extensively with Dr. Raj Shah on the Mental Health First Aid project. She led the IAFP’s 2020 Annual Meeting Student Town Hall on Health Equity and helped develop the IAFP's Health Equity Resource Center.  She also co-led the development and implementation of the IAFP’s Implicit Bias Workshops in March. Her work here has led many presentations at AAFP and Family Medicine Midwest conferences.

"She not only sets a high standard, she also personally encourages and supports the next generation of student leaders at IAFP," says Hanak. "Honestly, I can’t imagine IAFP without her."
You can view a recording of the Zoom here.



Last Updated on Thursday, February 03, 2022 04:39 PM