CALL 208.262.0945


John L. Pennings, MD, FACS, FASMBS
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.

Read More

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, MD, FACS, FASMBS
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.

Read More

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.


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 NWIDS since September 2001 and continues to provide excellent care for each of our patients.


Jonathan L. Saxe
Physician Assistant

Jonathan L. Saxe, PA-C, DSc, graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree from the University of Illinois. He then received a commission in the U.S. Army where he served as a military police officer before attending the Interservice Physician Assistant Program earning him a Master’s Degree in Physician Assistant Studies from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He later went on to complete a general surgery fellowship at Brooke Army Medical Center in Ft. Sam Houston, Texas and was awarded a Doctorate of Clinical Science with focus in General Surgery from Baylor University. He joined the surgical team at Northwest Specialty Hospital in 2019 after retiring from 20 years of active duty service.


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.


Laurie McBride
Registered Dietitian / Bariatric Program Coordinator

Laurie serves as a Dietitian and is very enthusiastic about helping patients reach their healthy lifestyle goals and manage various medical conditions through nutrition with compassion and evidence-based practice. She has worked in the field of weight management and clinical dietetics since 2013.


Jud Leifheit
Clinical Social Worker

Jud Leifheit is a licensed Clinical Social Worker performing mental health assessments for patients seeking bariatric weight loss surgery. He also facilitates the pre and post-surgery support group to help patients better understand the physical and mental health aspects of weight loss surgery. He joined the team in 2011 and enjoys working with a great team of professionals and helping patients succeed in living healthy.


Casey Richardson, BSN, RN
Nurse Navigator

Casey serves as a Nurse Navigator to guide and assist patients through their reflux evaluation and help coordinate patient’s diagnostic procedures. She spent 10 years working as a RN in a busy Emergency Department in Denver before moving to Idaho in 2017 to start a new adventure. Casey is proud to be a part of our professional team by providing excellent care to our patients.


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 NWIDS since 2002 and is an integral part of the team. She keeps the day-to-day operations running smoothly.


Traceylynn Dawson
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".


Nacona LaBreche
Practice Support Coordinator

Nacona serves as the Practice Support Coordinator at Northwest Institute for Digestive Surgery. She assists with the coordination of patient care. Keep an eye out for her friendly smile, she looks forward to meeting you!


Mikayla Boyd

Mikayla serves as the Receptionist and joined our team in February 2018. She has been entrusted with much of what you will see when you check-in and check-out, as well as the experience you receive when you call into our office. Her welcoming smile really makes our patients feel like family here at Northwest Institute for Digestive Surgery.


Kira Zehfus
Certified Medical Assistant

Kira attended Charter College in Fife, Washington, and became a nationally certified medical assistant in 2016. She joined Northwest Institute for Digestive Surgery in August 2018, working with Dr. Pennings and Dr. Richardson to provide exemplary and compassionate patient care.


Stacie Zaragoza
Certified Medical Assistant

Stacie graduated from Santa Barbara Business College in California in 2002 as a Certified Medical Assistant and has been working in the field ever since. She has a wide range of experience with Orthopedics, Radiology, Pediatrics and for the last 6 years Family Practice. She joined NWIDS in June of 2019. Her favorite part of her job is interacting with the patients and the camaraderie she enjoys with her coworkers. She is very excited to be working with the doctors and staff at NWIDS.


Jessi Lindsey
Medical Scribe

Jessi serves as medical scribe at Northwest Institute for Digestive Surgery. She joined our team in 2019 to assist the providers by performing documentation in the EHR, gathering information for the visit and partnering with the physician to deliver the pinnacle of efficient patient care.