The Epilepsy Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, has a multidisciplinary staff that includes epileptologists (physicians specializing in epilepsy), neuropsychologists, physiologists, pediatric and adult neurosurgeons, clinical nurse specialists and social workers. Together, they develop treatment plans to address all aspects of epilepsy as it affects patients — medical, social and psychological — as well as the practical problems of daily life.
Our neurology team is on the leading edge of advances in medicine, whether it's a new minimally invasive technique or a novel drug. Because Rush is an academic medical center, our patients benefit from all of the latest innovations, including some that are unavailable anywhere else in the world.
The neurology program at Rush University Medical Center is considered among the nation's best. Our Epilepsy Center staff includes the following experts:
Michael Smith, MD, is director of the Rush Epilepsy Center, an associate professor in the Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush University Medical Center and a member of the Rush Epilepsy Center since 1986. He received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and his medical degree from Rush University. He completed his residency at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and his fellowship at Rush. He teaches at Rush Medical College and is involved in epilepsy research. Smith serves on the board of directors and professional advisory board of the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago and Professional Advisory Board of Epilepsy Services of Northern Illinois. He is also on the board of CURE (Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy) and chair of the Professional Advisory Board. For the past five years, Smith has been on the faculty of Penry Minifellowship and a faculty member of the American Epilepsy Society. In the past, he was president of Chicago Neurological Society and chair of the Merrit Putman Regional Meeting. Smith is a popular guest speaker at many of the area support groups. He has been a sought-after speaker for many of the grand round presentations at hospitals throughout the United States. Smith, who has written extensively on issues regarding epilepsy, has been director of the Rush Epilepsy Center since 1997.
Antoaneta Balabanov, MD, is an assistant professor at Rush Medical College and an attending neurologist in the Department of Neurological Sciences. She attended the Medical Academy in Sofia, Bulgaria. Before she completed a fellowship in epilepsy and clinical neurophysiology at Rush University Medical Center, Balabanov was chief resident in neurology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Mich. She is board-certified in both clinical neurophysiology and neurology. She is involved as principal investigator on research of trial medications for the treatment of epilepsy. Her active research interests include the genetics of epilepsy, the surgical treatment and anti epileptic medications in epilepsy. Balabanov has published numerous book chapters and scientific journal articles related to epilepsy. She is a member of the Epilepsy Foundation of America, American Academy of Neurology and the American Epilepsy Society.
Donna Bergen, MD, has been a member of the Rush Epilepsy Center since 1975. A professor of neurological sciences at Rush Medical College, she also serves as assistant chair of the Department of Neurological Sciences and director of faculty development and promotion. She was director of the EEG Lab until 1989; she has written numerous medical articles. Bergen has spent time abroad, having been a visiting professor in Athens, Greece, and an honorary clinical assistant in London, England.
Bergen is on the professional advisory boards of the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago and of Epilepsy Services of Northeastern Illinois. She is active in the World Federation of Neurology and has written extensively on international neurology, and on public health and neurology.
Bergen has conducted many clinical therapeutic trials at the Rush Epilepsy Center, using new antiepileptic drugs and vagus nerve stimulation. She has a special interest in the special concerns of women with epilepsy.
Adriana Bermeo-Ovalle, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and clinical neurophysiologist with added competency in epilepsy monitoring. She received her medical degree at Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá, followed by residency in clinical neurology at Javeriana University in Bogotá. Her interest in epilepsy and clinical neurophysiology led her to complete research and clinical fellowships in clinical neurophysiology and epilepsy at the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University’s University Hospitals of Cleveland. Bermeo moved to Chicago in 2007 to pursue general neurology training at Rush University Medical Center and joined the Rush Epilepsy Center in 2011 as an assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Sciences.
Bermeo’s clinical interests include the treatment of refractory epilepsy, EEG and clinical neurophysiology, intraoperative EEG monitoring, cortical brain mapping and autonomic manifestations of epilepsy. Her publications include research in cardiac manifestations of epilepsy, ictal asystole and seizure semiology.
Richard W. Byrne, MD, completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois in 1987 and his medical degree at Northwestern University Medical School in 1991. Byrne graduated from the neurosurgical residency training program at Rush University Medical Center in 1997 and joined the faculty after additional training in epilepsy and brain tumor surgery.
Byrne is a board-certified neurosurgeon who specializes in surgical treatment for epilepsy, skull base and brain tumor surgery, pituitary surgery, trigeminal neuralgia and radiosurgery. He has been involved in a number of epilepsy and brain tumor surgery trials and has conducted basic science research in epileptogenesis and brain tumor genetics. He has authored many manuscripts and book chapters on these subjects.
Byrne is an active member of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the Council of State Neurosurgical Societies, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Neurosurgical Society of America. He is past president of the Rush Surgical Society, treasurer of the Chicago Neurological Society and treasurer of the Illinois State Neurosurgical Society. He also serves on the board of directors of the Interurban Neurosurgical Society, the advisory board of the Epilepsy Society of Greater Chicago, the FDA Neurological Devices Committee and as an ABNS oral boards examiner. In addition, he serves on many national committees, including the Scientific Program Committees of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the American Epilepsy Society and the Neurological Society of America. For more on Byrne and epilepsy in the news, see the following articles in Parade Magazine and Businessweek.
Esmeralda Park, MD, joined the staff in 2010 as an assistant professor of Rush Medical College and as an attending in the Department of Neurological Sciences. She received her medical degree from Rush Medical College in 2004, completed her neurology residency at Loyola University Medical Center in 2008, and completed a two-year fellowship in clinical neurophysiology and epilepsy in 2010. Board-certified in neurology, Llanas is a member of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Epilepsy Society. Her special research interest is the inter-relation between neuroimmunology and epilepsy.
Marvin A. Rossi, MD, PhD, received his medical degree from Rush Medical College in 1996. His doctoral dissertation addresses age-related neural plasticity. Rossi completed his neurology residency training at the University of Chicago Hospitals and served as faculty-elected chief resident from 1999-2000. After finishing an ACGME accredited clinical neurophysiology fellowship at the University of Chicago in 2001, he returned to Rush to complete an advanced epilepsy fellowship in 2002. Currently, as assistant professor and adjunct attending at Rush, he has been integral in codeveloping the multimodality neuroimaging initiative within the Rush Epilepsy Center. His expertise includes contributing to the perisurgical workup for medically intractable focal epilepsy by employing state-of-the-art electrophysiological and metabolic imaging modalities including dipole source localization and SISCOM.
Marlis Frey, MSN, RN, CNP, received her bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing from Rush University. Her neurosurgical nursing experience has been invaluable in her day-to-day activities in her current position as a nurse practitioner with the Rush Epilepsy Center. In addition, she has been a pivotal member of the center in its development. She has collaborated on research projects investigating psychosocial and pharmacological issues pertinent to patients with epilepsy. Her major interests include post-surgical psychosocial issues as well as pharmacotherapy in patients with epilepsy. Frey is the author of book chapters and scientific journal articles related to epilepsy. She has received numerous academic and clinical awards. She has lectured extensively on the topic of epilepsy to both lay persons and peers. She is a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American Epilepsy Society.
Mary Jo Grill, MSW, joined the Rush Epilepsy Center in May 2007 after working as a case manager for the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago for almost two years. Grill's role involves working with patients and families affected by epilepsy, providing access to educational, community and advocacy resources. She is an active member of the Epilepsy Center team, consulting with staff members regularly.
Grill received her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and Spanish from Rosary College (now Dominican University) in River Forest, Ill., in 1996. While at Rosary, she worked as a child life intern at Lutheran General Children's Hospital in Park Ridge. After graduating, she spent two years in a national volunteer program; first in Minneapolis, Minn., working with youth in foster care, and then in Spokane, Wash., in a program for women and children in transitional housing. While working toward her master's degree in social work at UIC's Jane Addams College of Social Work, she completed internships at Christ Hospital and Medical Center, where she counseled families who had children in neonatal intensive care, then at an elementary school and middle school in Orland Park, Ill. After graduating with her MSW in 2000, Grill was employed as a school social worker for two elementary school districts in New Lenox and Manhattan, Ill.
Debbie Zielinski, RN, Adult NP, has been with the Rush Epilepsy Center since June 2000. She received her master's degree as a clinical specialist in neurology and neurosurgery from DePaul University, and went on to receive her certification as a nurse practitioner from North Park University. She also has experience in pediatric neurology and neurosurgery. Her interests include working with patients with epilepsy and brain tumors. Her responsibilities include working with and counseling patients (inpatients, outpatients and surgical patients), teaching neurophysical assessment and day-to-day management of the epilepsy patients and research coordinator for the NeuroPace study. In addition to working with patients at the main Rush campus in Chicago, she sees clients at Rush, Misericordia and the Streamwood Epilepsy Foundation Clinic.
EEG Technicians and staff:
- Coretta Shields, R. EEG T., chief EEG technologist of Epilepsy Monitoring Unit
- George Meyer, Epilepsy Section biomedical system analyst
- Sandra Arroyo, EEG T.
- Nichole Arnett, R. EEG T.
- Dee Coia, R. EEG T.
- Jennie Dennis, R. EEG T.
- Shirley Fleming, R. EEG T.
- Patricia Gayden, EEG T.
- Virginia Hall, R. EEG T.
- Kenneth Nunn, EEG T.
- Carmen Preciado, EEG T.
- Jihane Roper, EEG T.
- Rick Rostescu, R. EEG T.
- Otis Sheppard, EEG T.
- Edyta Turowiecka, EEG T.