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New SCMC allergist preaches what he practices

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

Like many adults, Jack Mutnick's career choice was greatly influenced by something he experienced as a child.

In Mutnick's case, his decision to become a doctor and practice as an allergist came from standing helplessly by as his father nearly died from an allergic reaction to cats.

"From that time on I've had an interest in allergies and asthma," said Mutnick, who joined the Stevens Community Medical Center staff last week. "Plus, I'm an asthmatic myself."

Mutnick, 35, is a native of Las Vegas who graduated with honors from the University of Nevada-Reno and earned his medical degree with honors from the University of Nevada School of Medicine.

Mutnick spent one year in residency at the University of California-Irvine before completing the next two years at the University of Minnesota. He also did his fellowship training in Allergy and Immunology at the U of M.

Mutnick is an accomplished clinical researcher, and has a particular interest and skill in the unique field of antibiotic desensitization. He has published and presented papers at national allergy conferences about protocols he invented.

Desensitization is for people who have developed allergies to antibiotics, which greatly limits care options. They are started on low doses through IVs, and then the amounts are increased over a 24-hour period.

"Antibiotic allergy is a big problem," Mutnick said. "(Desensitization) is an amazing thing. People who previously couldn't use an antibiotic can now be treated."

The procedure is important to people who may be suffering from a serious infection. Physicians now have options to fight it, he said.

Mutnick also is working on aspirin desensitization, which is a boon for heart patients.

"It's a very useful tool, and I'm the only one doing them," Mutnick said. "I'm really excited to bring this to the community. It offers a big opportunity to combat big and chronic infections."

Mutnick discovered his asthma as a youth, and it gives him empathy for those who deal with similar problems. He was very athletic as a kid and saw a specialist because he was constantly out of breath after exerting himself.

"You want to be outside playing," Mutnick said. "You don't want breathing to be the reason why you can't be out there."

Advances in diagnoses and medications have made it possible to live healthier, more active lives for those with asthma or allergies. When Mutnick goes home at the end of the day and doesn't have an exciting story to tell his wife, he considers that a great day.

"When I tell her it was a boring day, that's the best," he said. "What's interesting isn't good for the patient."

Mutnick met his wife, Beth, during his training at the U of M. They moved to El Paso, Texas, in August 2009. They and 18-month-old son Max moved back to Minnesota in April.

Mutnick said he's was a "weather whimp," and that it was one reason he spent a year at UC-Irvine before accepting a residency at the U of M. Now, the family is living in an apartment in Willmar and he's embraced his environment. He's looking forward to eventually spreading out on some acreage in the western part of the state.

He's also avid about car restoration. He bought a 1967 Mustang while working in San Diego and has since restored it. He's also restored a 1969 El Camino. He's such a nut for vehicles and machines that he stopped at a local implement just to take a look at the farm machinery.

"Thirty acres out here would be great," Mutnick said. "Then I could get my riding lawnmower, I could get a snowmobile and get one of those cat vehicles and go driving around the property."

Mutnick will travel to practice in Litchfield, Paynesville, New London, Glenwood and Redwood Falls.

His wife's family lives in the Twin Cities area, as do many of their friends, and they enjoy being close enough to visit or take in shows or events. But life on the prairie appeals to them.

"It's what we want," Mutnick said. "Small communities, you can't beat 'em."