A Conversation with Our Medical Director

Apr 16, 2024

 Doctor type keyboard with stethoscopeEvery day at The Admiral at the Lake, there are meetings and conversations taking place that revolve around how to make life healthier, safer and better for residents. From administrators to staff to the residents themselves, efforts are made to keep achieving the excellence for which the community is known.

In meetings about resident wellness and healthcare, you’re likely to find Eric T. Mizuno, MD.

Meet Dr. Eric T. Mizuno, Medical Director at The Admiral

Dr. Mizuno is the medical director at The Admiral at the Lake. A Chicago native, he is a board-certified Internist and a Clinical Assistant Professor at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine.

He has been in his role at The Admiral, which he calls a huge privilege, for over two years. He took over for a mentor of his, former medical director Robert Perlmuter.

Dr. Mizuno, who attended medical school at University of Illinois College of Medicine and completed his residency at McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University, is also the medical director at Lake County Jail.

“I tell my nurses there, they’re patients, not inmates. Treat them with dignity,” Dr. Mizuno said. “We went into healthcare because we wanted to care for people. You do that with your words and actions.”

Dr. Mizuno’s Care Philosophy

Dr. Mizuno—who prefers that his patients call him Eric—believes that those in his profession must look past the prestige to focus on the people who place their trust in doctors.

“I tell medical students that medicine isn’t a profession. It’s greater than that. It’s a calling,” he said. “But with that comes great responsibility.”

At a recent medical school graduation, Dr. Mizuno spoke of the white coats common in hospital hallways. Medical students are easily recognized in short white coats, while doctors get to wear long white coats. It’s a reminder of the profession’s hierarchy and a promise that after the long days and nights of medical school, the students will have a long coat of their own.

“I said to the students, ‘you’re entering into the greatest profession. There are perks and privileges, like wearing the long coat. But as you wear it into the exam room, know that the exam room is a sacred space,’” Dr. Mizuno said.

When entering an exam room, doctors are often met with nervous patients worried about serious or embarrassing problems. In order for those patients to feel comfortable, there needs to be a human connection, Dr. Mizuno explained.

“This person sitting in front of you is ready to unload their greatest secrets. They’re ready to drop it on you, that’s why they’re there. To do your part, to tell this woman she has breast cancer or to tell a person they have something embarrassing, to do that properly, you need to learn how to take that coat off,” he said. “Because when you give that diagnosis, she’s not just a patient. She’s someone’s daughter, mother, sister, beloved best friend. You’re changing a circle of lives forever. You need to do it in a caring, compassionate way.”

Philanthropic Efforts

With this emphasis on forming emotional connections and nurturing not just physical but emotional well-being in patients, it’s not surprising that Dr. Mizuno is also an active philanthropist.

Following Hurricane Katrina, he flew himself to New Orleans a few hours after the levee broke. After the 2010 earthquake struck Haiti, he traveled there to provide medical aid. And in the devastating aftermath of the recent Hurricane Maria, Dr. Mizuno was on the first non-military flight to land in Ponce, Puerto Rico.

“In those situations, it’s not just providing the technical healthcare, meeting the guidelines,” he said. “It’s about providing it in a compassionate way.”

Holistic Health at The Admiral at the Lake

In his role at The Admiral at the Lake, Dr. Mizuno is responsible for creating and implementing a vision for wellness and healthcare at the North Side Chicago Lifecare community.

“We’re dedicated to the overall well-being of the residents here,” he said. “We want to keep them healthy as they age in place, so to speak. Ideally, we do that with a holistic approach—not just physical but emotional well-being.”

Because The Admiral is a life plan community, it offers assisted living, long-term care, rehabilitation and memory care to residents should they need it. Dr. Mizuno’s primary responsibility is working with residents in those areas.

He has big plans for the future at The Admiral, such as implementing a fall and fracture prevention program, expanding independent living services and offering preventative care.

Preventative care especially is key when it comes to older adult health. However, that means something different at 70 than it does at 30.

“Much of adult life is spent preventing premature aging issues, such as heart attacks or cancer. But as residents get older, the focus needs to shift to things you didn’t worry about before,” Dr. Mizuno explained. “For example, when you’re younger, you fall and get up and brush yourself off and the worst you have to show for it is a bruise. But older adults tend to get fractures.”

Reducing injuries and ailments through preventative actions can help cut down on a common issue facing patients in the United States.

“If you have 10 different ailments, you may end up with 20 different medications,” Dr. Mizuno said. That’s a serious problem, he explained, because “the most common reasons people are in the hospital these days in the United States are actually medication side effects and complications from procedures.”

An Eye on the Future

As with all things at The Admiral at the Lake, input from the residents is crucial in Dr. Mizuno’s plans for health and wellness offerings.

“The residents here are all very intelligent. We’ll seek their feedback to see what’s missing,” he said. “They have knowledge we don’t. I have medical expertise developing practices but they’re the recipient. We need their feedback. I want them to feel safe and I want their family members to feel safe.”

Dr. Mizuno’s goal is to anticipate residents’ needs and provide services in a moral, ethical and—above all—human way.

“I think of The Admiral at the Lake as a center of excellence, and the medical component should be at those same standards,” he said. “We should not tolerate mediocrity in anything we do. As a medical director, it’s a sacred responsibility.”