In researching individuals with distinguished careers from our community to highlight in these pages, I subscribe to numerous publications, not to mention alumni newsletters from the various colleges and law schools around this state. In the most recent edition of “Loyola Living,” I learned of two outstanding folks from our community, Drs. John Leonetti and Sam Marzo. The article introduced them as “surgeons who restore hearing.”
Both distinguished individuals went to medical school and residency at Loyola where they both now practice. They both are members of the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at Loyola. They have great colleagues, nurses and staff members who provide excellent patient care, do great research, and help them train their 15 residents (3 per year for 5 years total).
Dr. Leonetti is currently the director of the Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Program and is the vice chairman of the department. Dr. Leonetti and Dr. Marzo are co-directors of the Loyola Facial Nerve Center. Dr. Marzo is the medical director of the Clinical Practice, the Residency Program, and the Loyola Center for Hearing.
Dr. Leonetti started the Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Program in 1988 after completing his Otolaryngology Residency at Loyola in 1987 and a Neurotology fellowship afterward at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis and the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles. He was the first to perform acoustic neuroma surgery and cochlear implant surgery in the area, and now has one of the largest acoustic neuroma practices in the United States. (An acoustic neuroma is a benign growth on the hearing and balance nerves that can cause hearing loss, ringing in the ears and imbalance. It is generally slow growing, but with time can cause deafness and possibly death.) Dr. Leonetti further expanded the program to take care of patients with facial nerve paralysis, deafness and other causes of hearing loss that could benefit from medications and/or surgery.
Dr. Marzo was recruited to join Dr. Leonetti when he was finishing his residency at Loyola. He finished in 1996, did a one-year Neurotology Fellowship in Nashville, and then came back to Chicago in July of 1997. He basically does everything Dr. Leonetti does but also has developed their implantable hearing device program. They are now offering patients a completely implantable hearing aid for those patients with hearing loss not helped by hearing aids. He also performs office-based treatment of sudden hearing loss.
The good doctors have seen a steady growth in our clinical practices and currently have one of the busiest clinical practices in the Midwest. Their main love is taking care of patients of all ages with hearing loss, treating them with medications, hearing devices, and/or surgery if necessary.
As they are both in academic medicine, they both wear several hats. Their focus is on excellent patient care, education of patients, residents, and medical students, and clinical and basic science research. The research work that they perform has been presented locally, nationally, and internationally. Their research involves acoustic neuroma surgery, implantable hearing devices, chronic ear surgery, and translational animal surgery to improve the outcome of patients with facial nerve paralysis.
They both enjoy spending time with their families and both live in the Chicago area. Both are avid golfers.
Dr. Marzo grew up in Chicago Heights and attended Mt. Carmel Grade School (now gone) and Marian Catholic High School. He caddied at Idlewild Country Club in Flossmoor and was awarded the Chick Evans Scholarship to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, majoring in biochemistry. His great-grandfather, Nicola Petrarca, emigrated from Castel di Sangro in Abruzzo in 1908, and his wife Concetta came over eight years later. They initially lived near Pittsburg, where his grandfather was born, growing up to work in the steel mills. His grandfather later moved with his family to Chicago Heights.
Dr. Leonetti grew up on “The Island,” the area bordered by Roosevelt and Austin along with the Eisenhower Expressway and Victor Gaskets factory. Anecdotally, he was granted a $500 scholarship from Fra Noi when he was a senior in high school in 1975. He used that money to help offset his tuition at Augustana College in Rock Island. His father’s roots extend to Calabria, and his mother’s family was from Bari and Abruzzo.
Two examples of the finest our community has to offer.