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Our TEAM

John L. Pennings, M.D.
Director, CEO

Dr. John Pennings received his MD degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School, which was followed by a general surgery residency at Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, Oregon, an institution noted for excellence in trauma and critical care. He went on to complete a fellowship in advanced laparoscopic surgery and endoscopy at Oregon Health Sciences University. He was one of the first eight fellows in the nation to complete this highly specialized training.

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During this training, Dr. Pennings helped to develop new surgical techniques for esophageal, gastric and colon surgery, and was responsible for educating other surgeons in these new, minimally invasive surgical techniques. Dr. Pennings has also pursued advanced training in bariatric (weight loss) surgical techniques, surgical and endoscopic management of reflux disease, Barrett’s esophagus and  non-surgical management of hemorrhoids.

In his twenty year career as a community general surgeon, he founded Minimally Invasive Surgery Northwest, Surgical Bariatrics Northwest, Optifit, and currently is the founder and director of The Northwest Institute for Digestive Surgery.

Dr. Pennings has served in leadership roles as chairman of the department of surgery at Kootenai Medical Center and as chairman of the board of directors at Northwest Specialty Hospital. As part of his involvement at Northwest Specialty Hospital, he oversaw the development of a comprehensive bariatric surgery program and was awarded Center of Excellence in Bariatric Surgery status by the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. He is board certified by the American College of Surgeons, a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, a fellow of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons, and an active member of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons.  He is committed to surgical excellence and compassionate patient care.

 

Cory Richardson, M.D.
Director of Foregut Surgery

Dr. Richardson grew up in Mammoth Lakes, CA. He attended the University of Nevada, Reno where he was a member of the NCAA Division I Men’s Alpine Ski Team. He completed medical school and General Surgery Residency at the University of Nevada School of Medicine. He then went on to complete an advanced surgical fellowship at the Minnesota Institute for Minimally Invasive Surgery, the only fellowship program in the United States or Canada accredited in Advanced Gastrointestinal/Minimally Invasive/Bariatric Surgery and Flexible Endoscopy.

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In addition to performing the entire spectrum of general surgical procedures, Dr. Richardson has extensive advanced training in foregut (esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, spleen) surgery, bariatric and metabolic surgery, colorectal surgery, and advanced hernia surgery.  He also performs complex revisional anti-reflux and bariatric surgeries, and is the first surgeon in northwest Idaho certified to perform magnetic sphincter augmentation as a treatment for GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

Dr. Richardson’s unique combination of advanced laparoscopic and endoscopic training allows him to diagnose and treat a wide array of medical conditions.  He is one of only a handful of surgeons in the world that perform ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography), an advanced endoscopic procedure used to diagnose and treat diseases of the bile ducts, liver, and pancreas.  Dr. Richardson has conducted years of research dedicated to the development of techniques that combine conventional laparoscopic surgeries with ERCP, and he has given numerous national presentations on the topic.  These techniques allow patients to have multiple procedures performed simultaneously, which results in earlier discharge from the hospital and a quicker recovery. These combined procedures also allow patients with altered gastrointestinal anatomy (i.e. gastric bypass) to have an ERCP if needed, which was previously not possible due to the changes in their anatomy.

Dr. Richardson’s other research endeavors have included: surgical education, surgical simulation, advanced endoscopic techniques, endoscopic and minimally invasive trauma surgery, anti-reflux surgery, and new technologies for diagnosing cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions of the esophagus.

His dedication to surgical education and teaching has been recognized on numerous occasions, having been awarded the Outstanding Resident Teaching Award (2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014) and the Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism and Excellence in Teaching Award.

Dr. Richardson is board certified by the American Board of Surgery and is a member of the American College of Surgeons, American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons, Society of Critical Care Medicine, and Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons.

 

Heather Claussen
Practice Manager

Heather joined our team as Practice Manager in February 2002. As Practice Manager, Heather leads our team of dedicated staff and is responsible for the day–to–day operational management of the practice. Heather has over 20 years experience working in the healthcare sector, both in administration as well as medical billing. She lives in Post Falls with her husband and two children.

 

Brian Kazmierski
Physician Assistant

Brian E. Kazmierski, PA-C graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science from the University of Washington School of Medicine. He obtained his Master’s Degree in Physician Assistant Studies with a focus on General Surgery from the University of Nebraska Medical College in 2001. He has been with Surgical Bariatrics since September 2001 and continues to provide excellent care for each of our patients.

 

Jeni Dillon
Registered Dietitian

Jeni Dillon attended the University of Idaho, and graduated in 2014 with a degree in Dietetics. She has been working as a Dietitian since January 2015. Jeni believes whole heartedly in the multidisciplinary approach to weight loss at Northwest Institute for Digestive Surgery, and is proud to be a part of a wonderful team of caring professionals.

 

Alyssa Bundy
Scheduler and Insurance Specialist

Alyssa Bundy serves as the surgery scheduler and insurance specialist for Northwest Institute for Digestive Surgery. Alyssa has been working with Dr. Pennings since 2002 and is an integral part of the team. She keeps the day-to-day operations running smoothly.

 

Nacona LaBreche
Patient Care Coordinator

Nacona serves as the Receptionist at Northwest Institute for Digestive Surgery. She assists with the coordination of patient care and will be the first person you are introduced to when visiting the institute. Keep an eye out for her friendly smile, she looks forward to meeting you!

 

Traceylynn Morlan
Insurance Specialist

Traceylynn serves as our insurance specialist and provides estimates for upcoming procedures. Traceylynn has been providing patients with excellent care for the past ten years. "Working with the staff and patients' at Northwest Institute for Digestive Surgery is always a pleasure".

 

Becky Morrison
Certified Medical Assistant

I have been in the medical field for over 25 years. Most recently, I moved back to the Pacific Northwest in October 2012 from Eastern Tennessee where I was a Histology Tech in Pathology for 6 years. I joined NWDS in January 2017 bringing with me laboratory, GI, and Cardiology experience to help better serve our patients.

 

Ivy Stern
Certified Medical Assistant

Ivy attended Carrington College in Spokane, Washington, and became nationally certified with the American Association of Medical Assistants in 2015. She joined Northwest Institute for Digestive Surgery in October 2016, working with Dr. Pennings and Dr. Richardson to provide exemplary and compassionate patient care.