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Our physicians are renowned for their


Dedicated, experienced, driven.

Dual Fellowship

All of our specialists have completed accredited fellowship training programs. Fellowship training is beyond what is required in standard residency training and is the highest level of surgical training attainable. Our surgeons have completed this rigorous training in order to become the highest level experts in the medical and surgical aspects of gastrointestinal diseases.

Dr. John Pennings
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.

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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.

Dr. Cory Richardson
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.

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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.

Derek Dirks
Derek Dirks, MD

Dr. Dirks grew up in Coeur d’Alene, ID. He is a graduate of the University of Idaho in Moscow, ID with a BS in Biology and a minor in Spanish. He attended medical school at the University of Iowa Roy J. & Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, IA. His completed the University of South Dakota general surgery residency program in Sioux Falls, SD. He finished his training with a fellowship in bariatric surgery at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, Oregon. During his fellowship he was trained in bariatric surgery with the Legacy Weight and Diabetes Institute and advanced foregut and colorectal surgery with The Oregon Clinic.

Dr. Dirks resides in Coeur d’Alene, ID with his wife and four daughters. He enjoys skiing in the winter and spending time hiking, biking, and time on the water in the summer.

Robert Johnson
Robert Johnson, MD

Dr. Robert Johnson grew up in rural Minnesota. He played many sports growing up, and still loves to play hockey. He completed medical school at the University of Minnesota Medical School and attended residency at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, NC. In residency, he was awarded the inaugural Cyrus Kotwall Award in Surgical Excellence as voted on by his faculty and peers. Dr. Johnson then went on to 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.

Dr. Johnson is certified by The American Board of Surgery, and an active member in the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons.

Away from his practice, Dr. Johnson loves spending time with his wife and children, and also is an avid surfer and enjoys skiing on the water and snow, kite surfing, and of course, the aforementioned hockey.

Brian Kazmierski, PA-C
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.

Heather Claussen
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
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.

Kelly Hurt
Kelly Hurt
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Kelly Hurt, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker. Kelly graduated with her Master of Social Work from Eastern Washington University and received her Bachelors of Social Work from Lewis-Clark State College. Kelly began her career as a social worker in 2005. Kelly has an extensive background in medical social work including hospice, home health, discharge planning, case management, and counseling.

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Her career began in Sandpoint, Idaho, where she provided care to hospice and home health patients and their families. Kelly was honored to serve those in the community who were dealing with a variety of emotional and social concerns. She has a certification as an Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Worker (ACHP-SW).

She enjoys hearing the stories from her patients and continually learns from them. Her goal is to establish a trusting and supportive relationship with her patients. Kelly’s passion is supporting individuals through change and helping them learn new ways of coping. She is a strong advocate for her patients.

Kelly has lived in Idaho since 1992 with her husband. She has two grown daughters, one who lives in Boise and the other in Colorado. She moved to Coeur d’Alene in 2013. Kelly enjoys spending time hiking, skiing, reading and watching the Seahawks.

Laurie McBride
Laurie McBride, RD, CSOWM, LD
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.

Jennifer Ramsrud
Jennifer Ramsrud, MS, RD, CDCES, LD
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist / Certified Diabetes Care

Jennifer graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science from Michigan State University. She obtained her Master’s of Science in Education from University of Idaho and is a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES). She has been a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) for over 14 years and is passionate about proactively helping patients manage their diabetes and other cardiovascular comorbidities with healthy lifestyle changes.

Casey Richardson
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
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
Traceylynn Dawson, CMA
Certified Medical Assitant

Traceylynn graduated locally from North Idaho Workforce Training Center obtaining her CCMA through the National Healthcareer Association. She has been providing patients with excellent care since 2016. "Working with the staff and patients at Northwest Institute for Digestive Surgery is always a pleasure".

Roxanna Arriola
Roxanna Arriola
Insurance Specialist

Roxanna attended the University Of Arizona where she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Retail and Consumer Science. She has worked in customer service for over a decade and her greatest satisfaction comes from serving others. She looks forward to helping each and every patient navigate their insurance policy as well as provide estimates for upcoming surgeries.

Nacona LaBreche
Nacona LaBreche
Practice Support 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!

Mikayla Boyd
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.

Cody Baldree
Cody Baldree
Medical Scribe

Cody serves as a medical scribe at Northwest Institute for Digestive Surgery. She recently graduated with her Bachelor’s in business, from Lewis Clark State College, and is excited to begin working in the medical field. Cody’s dream has always been to work in medicine and provide excellent patient care, which she does by assisting the physicians, staff and patients. She looks forward to meeting you and assisting in your care at NWIDS!

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill
Medical Scribe

Sarah serves as a medical scribe at Northwest Institute for Digestive Surgery. She recently moved from Oregon and has worked in the healthcare field for many years. She joined our team in 2020 and is happy to assist providers, staff, and patients with everyday needs.

Carolina Bailon
Carolina Bailon

Carolina attended Santa Barbara City College where she obtained her C.N.A certification in 2012. She and her family moved to North Idaho in 2018. She obtained her C.M.A certification in 2018 through the National Healthcareer Association. She really enjoys all aspects of patient care & aspires to have a great bedside manner. She is excited to be a part of NWIDS.

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