Meet Our Experts | Illinois Poison Center 

Meet Our Experts

Nov 24, 2020
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Meet the Illinois Poison Center Experts!

Jerome Dimaano, CSPI – Emergency Room Nurse

“I’ve been working for the IPC full-time for 14 years. I like working with the staff because we always work as a team. Plus, the work is very rewarding, because at the end of the day I know we helped prevent or treat a potential toxic exposure/poisoning. One of my most memorable cases was a snake bite where an antidote was more than 30 miles away from the hospital. We had to coordinate with the Illinois State Police to transport. The patient got the antidote in time and did very well. Pretty exciting stuff, everyday.”

Cheryl Webster, CSPI – Pharmacist

“I’ve been working at the poison center since I earned my doctorate in pharmacy 15 years ago. The most rewarding part of my job is helping callers, both the general public and other health care professionals.  I also enjoy working with my co-workers as a team using our different education backgrounds and areas of expertise to answer questions about uncommon exposures.  My favorite calls are those about drugs/medications because they give me the opportunity to use my knowledge of pharmacy.”

Reggie Brown, CSPI  - Physician

“I started working at the IPC 10 years ago; after completing my residency and fellowship. The most enjoyable aspect of my job is the patient management. The staff and my co-workers are great to work with, as well.  I am never bored because of variety of the calls and cases we handle every day."

Todd Sigg, CSPI – Pharmacist

“The best thing about working for the poison center is that no two days are the same; every day is truly different than the last. Early in my career I received a call from a new mom who had a very…unique question – Is dog’s milk harmful? In an attempt to capture a “cute” moment by taking a picture of her three month old baby and her dog’s new litter of puppies, she set the baby and the pups together. When she returned from getting a camera, she found her child suckling on the breast of the mother dog. When she called us she was hysterical. I calmed her down and told not to worry – the child should be fine. It is definitely one of my most memorable cases."

Connie Fischbein, CSPI

“This March will mark my 30th anniversary at the IPC. What keeps me coming back to the IPC are the people we help and my co-workers. There is always something new and unexpected happening every day. The work is still challenging after all these years and that’s a good thing. 

Miguel Razo, CSPI – Nurse

When I started at the IPC I was a Poison Information Provider (PIP).   I went to nursing school while working at the IPC and upon graduation became a Certified Specialist in Poison Information (SPI).  I now take more challenging calls. I like the conjunction of math, medical and science that is involved in the IPC. I really enjoy the interesting and novel cases (i.e. new drugs). Occasionally I’ll receive calls about drugs that are labeled in Spanish – and the hospital staff isn’t sure what the drug is. I’ll refer to a Spanish medication drug resource that describes what the drug is, its purpose, etc. Also if a patient brings medication from overseas and the medication is in, say Polish or Arabic, hospitals will also call us to help translate.”

Jessica Metz, CSPI – Pharmacist

"I really love the variety of calls we get. I have no idea what type of call I’m going to get before I answer. Every day is interesting, and fascinating. All calls are exciting to me; from the simplest to the most challenging. But the most interesting calls are the ones about super glue! I’m always in awe of the things people do with super glue (intentional and unintentional). In addition, because of my knowledge and love of plants everyone here calls me “The Plant Lady”. Whenever there are calls about people who have eaten a plant or had a plant exposure, I’m happy to handle the call."

Art Kubic, CSPI – Pharmacist

“After I found out what happens at the IPC, it was like love at first sight. The best part of the job is talking to the public and hearing the sigh of relief in their voice. I truly enjoy interacting with people. That’s why the most memorable calls are the ones when people actually call back to say thank you after you’ve helped them. “Thank you for being there” – are the greatest words to hear."

Tony Burda, CSPI- Pharmacist and Diplomat of the American Board of Applied Toxicology

“Working at the IPC can truly be challenging at times. It requires keeping up with all the latest toxicology information and trends. There’s always a new twist to an old story, which adds variety to the work. But the routine calls are just as good. Being able to calm down callers, and give them reassurance is a great feeling."


Tracy Esposito, CSPI – ER Nurse

“My most memorable calls are the ones from hysterical moms (and dads) who call us upset and scared.  After talking to them, and letting them know they have nothing to worry about, the relief in their voices are priceless. Mostly because they are thankful they didn’t have to go to the ER, I’m sure. On the flip side I also like working to help treat the really sick patients we deal with. It is an opportunity to work with the Toxikon Consortium experts. Not all poison centers have a medical back up like Toxikon. They are a great resource.”

Briggetta Ducre, RN, CSPI

“When I speak to nurses and physicians about a patient, it is truly a collaborative effort. And for that, most physicians and nurse really are appreciative of the IPC. I always tell healthcare professionals don’t ever hesitate to call us – we’ll do your thinking for you, just call us!"

Cindy Howard, CSPI – Nurse

“I love working with hospitals- walking them through a treatment, especially when it’s something they don’t deal with very often.  The IPC is a great resource for hospitals, when it comes to cases they really don’t see often.”

Mike Strugala, CSPI– Pharmacist

“I love this job because I’m able to help frantic callers. It feels good helping them realize that their situation is not as grave as they think. I find the most interesting calls are those when people brush their teeth with everything but toothpaste; those items include but are not limited to: diaper rash ointment and super glue. They often feel embarrassed but I always tell them not to be – we’ve heard it all. We really make a big difference. I couldn’t imagine what would happen if our service was not available.”

Gennady Vatel, PIP, EMT-P

“Having great coworkers is part of it, but I would say the biggest draw for me is the gratification in helping people when they could really use some help.  Not every call is an emergency, but nearly always there is a concerned friend or family member of the patient, or the patient themselves.  Commonly, the caller goes through a process with us: from them feeling out of control of the situation, to them getting it together with our help.

Erin Pallasch, CSPI – Pharmacist

"I find working in the poison center to be a very rewarding experience as most of our callers are so appreciative of the service the IPC provides. It also feeds my desire to stay busy as every other minute I am presented with a phone call on a completely different topic or level of acuity. It’s clear that we all are here to help people through what can be very frightening, stressful events."

Marco Gonzalez, PIP

“I started working at the IPC 3 years ago. I love my job, because we are always helping people. I’ve worked at other call centers, but there is no comparison to the work we do here. Everyone that works at the IPC is always willing to do their best; in the end it’s a gratifying experience. I enjoy handling the very complex calls, because it gives me an opportunity to learn something as well. It is also during those extremely complex cases when the staff really works together.”

 Amy Deitche, CSPI – ED Nurse

“Thankfully, my experience as a nurse prepared me very well. I love my job because no two days are the same. Every day presents a new challenge. In Texas my most memorable case involved a child who ate fire ants (which are very plentiful in Texas) and the mother gave the child ant poison to kill the ants he just ate. Luckily the child did alright after a little in-home treatment, and didn’t have to go to the hospital.

Karen Hoeller, CSPI – Nurse

“This year will mark my 20th anniversary! I love this job because I love helping people. Working here also provides me an opportunity to keep growing and learning as a professional. The work is interesting and I really enjoy the relationship I have with my co-workers, especially when we work together to treat a patient. There are those calls where I can help and reassure a caller quickly, that I feel most useful. My goal on each and every call is to be as thorough as possible.”


Babbs Hoard, PIP – Paramedic, EMT-P

“Prior to working at the IPC I was an ambulance paramedic. I would hear people talk about the poison center, so when the opportunity presented itself, I decided to look into working at the IPC. The best part of the job is working with my co-workers to treat a patient, and helping frantic parents.  I love being able to calm them down when their upset. Receiving a ‘thank you’ is the best feeling.”

Jessica Sims, PIP

“I enjoy helping people that are in need of our assistance; putting people at ease is a good feeling. Empowering parents/people to take care of the problem themselves at home is my goal. Any calls related to insects are my favorite, especially when the caller is really squeamish.”


Sharon Cook, PIP 

"Even though I never saw myself working at a poison center as a child, I remember watching TV and seeing the Mr. Yuk commercials in between cartoons on Saturday morning. So the jingle and the concept of the poison center were deeply ingrained at an early age. After I started working at the IPC, I found it really rewarding to help people who were very agitated at the beginning but when the call’s over they’re calm and relaxed."

Abrar Baig, CSPI- Pharmacist

“It’s nice to use our clinical knowledge and provide expertise on poisoning and drug related subjects that health care professionals and the general public rely upon when they call us.  It is a great feeling knowing that we are making a positive impact with those who use and need our services...My favorite calls are probably the ones where the person did not take enough to have a toxic reaction.  The bottom line is we want people to be ok. I’ll take boring and benign call any day.”


The IPC’s mission is dedicated to reducing the incidence and injury of poisoning in our communities through immediate expert telephone treatment recommendations, innovative public and healthcare professional education and focused research. This mission is internalized throughout our organization. In order to continue our mission and provide services  to the people who work and live in Illinois we ask that you join us in helping us save our funding, Please click here to send an electronic letter to your representative (takes 20 seconds!).

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