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Taming the IBD Beast

Fourth-year medical student Brad Schifrien of Chicago is one of the faces of inflammatory bowel disease—or IBD. This group of somewhat related intestinal diseases with inflammation often results in significant medical issues. Conditions—including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis—can ignite abdominal pain, bleeding and weight loss–wreaking havoc on otherwise normal, productive lives. Every year in the U.S. nearly 70,000 new cases are diagnosed.


Schifrien’s IBD battle began a decade ago, before starting his freshman year at Northwestern University. Physicians in his hometown of Rockville, Md., initially diagnosed him with Crohn’s and were able to stabilize his symptoms with medication so he could leave for college on time.

Total Team Approach

“It was initially hard for both Brad and his family when he got to Chicago,” recalled Gastroenterologist at NorthShore IBD Center. “But Brad is a perfect example of how a collaborative team can optimize patient care.”

The Center surrounds patients like Schifrien with the full spectrum of advanced GI care, from selecting the most effective medications, to dietary changes and surgery when warranted. Joseph Muldoon, MD, who leads a team of three board-certified colorectal surgeons, operated on Schifrien three years ago. He successfully removed an obstruction that was causing bleeding in his patient’s small intestine.

“We bring a range of expertise from different specialties, but through the Center’s integrated approach we all work together to choose the best course of treatment,” noted Dr. Muldoon. “Our goal is to reduce IBD’s impact on daily life.”

Rising to the Challenge

Now 25 years old and in his final year at Chicago Medical School in North Chicago, Schifrien is getting ready to launch his career as an emergency medicine physician. “I always wanted to go to medical school, and the care I receive at the IBD Center helps me keep my Crohn’s disease in remission so I can focus on that goal,” explained Schifrien.

In addition to physicians and surgeons, a multidisciplinary group of dietitians, psychologists, integrative medicine specialists, pharmacists and IBD-trained nurses are on staff to help patients manage their disease without interruption. Research also is paramount, as the IBD Center participates in clinical trials that offer new therapies to patients who may not be responding to conventional treatments.

“I fully expect our patients to live normal lives, and recent advances in medications and research have allowed us to do that now more than ever before,” added NorthShore gastroenterologist, who along with Dr. Muldoon holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

“I’ve been so lucky to have NorthShore here through the years when I needed it,” said Schifrien. “It has so many resources available for patients like me going through Crohn’s disease.”