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Honoring a Cardiologist’s Personal Approach to Patient Care

Dr. David Mehlman and his wife, Arlene Alpert-Mehlman

This story was published in the September 2023 issue of The Philanthropist, a newsletter for supporters and friends of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Longtime Patient’s Gift Supports David J. Mehlman, MD Fellowship in Echocardiography

September 18, 2023

Cardiologist David J. Mehlman, MD, has built a legacy of providing personalized care to his patients—and of training generations of cardiologists to nourish the fundamental skills of their trade.

Dr. Mehlman has fine-tuned his philosophy around patient care over the 43 years he has been on faculty at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Building meaningful relationships, he explained, enables him to manage patients’ health issues over the long term, spanning years or even decades.

“It takes time to establish rapport with a patient, but the results are rewarding beyond
measure,” he said.

Such was the case for Robert “Bob” Asher, a Chicago native, businessman, and prominent member of
the American Jewish community who passed away at the age of 94 in January 2023. His son,
Dan, credits Dr. Mehlman for his father’s exceptional quality of life and prolonged heart health
during the nearly four decades he was his patient.

“The quality and duration of his life both were increased by his relationship with Dr. Mehlman,”
Dan Asher said. “The way he approaches care should be the beacon and template for cardiology.”

At Feinberg, Dr. Mehlman is a treasured faculty member and mentor. To honor him and his work
in academic medicine, Bob Asher donated extensively to the new David J. Mehlman, MD
Fellowship in Echocardiography. Dan, too, has made generous contributions, and their gifts
together have boosted the fund by nearly $150,000.

The fund is more than halfway fulfilled. After it is fully endowed, the new fellowship will exist
in perpetuity, establishing a long-lasting legacy championed by many of Dr. Mehlman’s current and former patients in his honor.

Robert Asher, shown here at a speaking engagement, was a patient of cardiologist Dr. David Mehlman for more than 30 years.

Dan praised Dr. Mehlman’s approach to care while recollecting his father’s experience as a patient.

“It wasn't just medical care; it was person care. He was always caring for my dad as a person,” Dan said. “It was one of those things where I could go to sleep at night knowing that he was in absolutely the best possible hands he could be in.”

Dr. Mehlman noted that Bob Asher came under his care after he had already found great success in manufacturing. At this phase in Bob’s life, he was deeply involved with his family and advocating for the Jewish community, locally and internationally. While Bob was a patient in cardiology, he also had additional health needs that intersected other fields of medicine. Despite this, he still maintained an outsized presence in the world through his activism.

“Maintaining Bob’s ability to participate fully in his many interests is testimony to the effectiveness of his successful healthcare,” Dr. Mehlman said. “At its best, the practice of medicine is the most invigorating team sport."

An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. The resulting visual image reveals vital insights into the performance of a person’s heart, helping physicians diagnose and treat heart disease.

Emphasis on Echocardiography

The David J. Mehlman, MD Advanced Echocardiography Training Fellowship will support the advanced training of early career cardiologists in echocardiography, a technique for visualizing and analyzing heart tissues and structures using sound waves.

“As far as I am concerned, at the present time, echocardiography is the foundation of all clinical cardiology, and its basic knowledge is a requirement of all cardiologists,” Dr. Mehlman said.

For many patients, receiving an echocardiogram is the point of entry for heart diagnosis. A careful, nuanced reading can mean the difference between reassurance and surveillance or medical management. Dr. Mehlman is an expert in echocardiography, speaking on its importance at annual conferences for decades, and he designed the Mehlman Fellowship to train advanced echocardiographers.

As a junior faculty member at the University of Chicago Medicine in 1979, Dr. Mehlman came to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for three months to study under James Talano, MD, the echocardiography laboratory director, since there were no equivalent opportunities in echocardiography at that time at the University of Chicago.

Throughout his training at Northwestern, he honed his own skills in echocardiography and became familiar with Northwestern Memorial Hospital. When a position became available in 1980, he jumped at the opportunity and has been at Northwestern ever since.

“It is intentional that I have stayed at Northwestern Medicine for decades, because I made the initial investment to establish rapport with so many patients,” Dr. Mehlman said.

His hope for the echocardiography fellowship is that bright, newly trained cardiologists can learn under the expertise of Northwestern faculty members, who in turn can evaluate the trainee’s performance—much like they did for him—and train the next generation of Northwestern cardiologists.

Dr. Mehlman also has his eye on the future of echocardiography, noting that these fellows will be well-equipped to adapt as the field evolves and the technology becomes more sophisticated.

Dan Asher noted Dr. Mehlman’s thoughtful nature in the context of his father’s care.

“The moment you spend a little while with him, you realize that he is genuine in his care for humanity,” he said. “I think the world's a better place for having him there and thinking and fighting for it. He reminds me of the very best my father was.”

For more information about supporting the fellowship, please contact Kathleen Praznowski at or 312-503-0762.