Custom Guidance Through Medical Challenges

Illness Navigation Resources (INR) is a counseling and consulting service that helps patients and families grappling with acute and chronic medical issues access specialized resources and support.

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About Us

Our team, led by Dr. Stephanie Ross, combines our collective decades of experience caring for patients and their families to offer hands-on, personalized support and coaching for clients facing life-threatening illness and other challenging medical diagnoses.

We specialize in treating all members of the family support system to link patients and caregivers to relevant support organizations, medical professionals, online services and financial and insurance resources through our unparalleled support database. Our unique practice of working collaboratively to customize support services for clients puts a team of highly-qualified professionals with various areas of expertise at your fingertips.

Telehealth Services are Available

Collectively, our expertise extends to supporting clients with a range of medical conditions, especially cancer. Dr. Ross has a special interest and vast experience in helping patients and families with a genetic predisposition to cancer, particularly breast, ovarian, hereditary colon cancer and Lynch Syndrome.

We also specialize in supporting patients and families facing conditions including, but not limited to:

  • Infertility
  • Pregnancy/Loss/Post-partum conditions
  • Heart disease
  • GI disorders
  • Sudden onset of illness
  • Stroke/Neurological issues

Our services include:

  • Facilitating conversations between our patient clients and medical professionals around goals of care or obtaining additional medical opinions
  • Identifying a patient and family’s practical needs at time of diagnosis, during treatment and beyond
  • Helping clients and their families navigate difficult conversations and develop care plans for the future
  • Guiding our clients in developing practical strategies for living with chronic conditions, and in negotiating survivorship and grief counseling
  • Helping our clients navigate complex medical decision-making processes, including difficult decisions based on genetic predisposition and family history

We also offer:

  • Assistance with advance care planning and end of life care, as well as bereavement counseling
  • Consultants available for speaking engagements, including professional events and workshops
  • Referral to affiliated therapists to assist patients and families seeking more traditional counseling for conditions such as anxiety, depression, stress management and lifestyle modification

Consulting Services for Parents & Children

INR has a team of certified child life specialists who can provide custom support to children and adolescents facing acute and chronic medical challenges. We also provide expert guidance for parents who may be struggling to support a child through a parent or family member’s illness.

Child life specific interventions include:

  • Helping to explain medical procedures, treatments, and terms as well as death and dying using age-appropriate language and play-based materials and resources.
  • Providing preparation and coping support for a child receiving medical treatment in the hospital setting or visiting a loved one in the hospital.
  • Leading the family through therapeutic activities to promote bonding, self-expression, memory-making, and legacy activities throughout illness.
  • Consulting with teachers, coaches, and support staff to offer personalized support to a student experience illness or loss in the family.
  • Offering support during memorial services and specialized grief and bereavement services to children and adolescents.
  • Guiding caregivers on developmentally appropriate parenting techniques within the context of illness or loss.
  • Contact Director of Child Life Services, Kelsey Mora, for more information.

Custom support is available in our two office locations. We understand the time constraints of medical illness and are also able to assist families in their homes, at medical facilities, and by telephone as needed.

Meet our Team

Stephanie Ross, PhD

Dr. Stephanie Ross is a clinical health psychologist and founder of Illness Navigation Resources, a consulting organization specializing in supporting patients and families coping with medical conditions. She is also an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Ross is a member of the professional staff at Northshore University Health System, a teaching affiliate of the University of Chicago.

Dr. Ross earned her doctorate at Loyola University Chicago and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where she served as chief research fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. She has extensive experience and expertise in working with a broad spectrum of medical patients and their families. Dr. Ross specializes in coaching entire families through complex medical decision-making, medical crises and the aftermath of medical trauma. She supports patients and families locally and across the country as they navigate the day-to-day adjustments that health crises necessitate.

Dr. Ross is an active volunteer with several community and national nonprofit organizations. Dr. Ross sits on the Professional Advisory Board of and serves as Co-President of The University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital Development Board. She also serves on the Board of Directors for High Jump as well as the Advisory Board of Feed 1st, the Division of Biological Sciences and Pritzker School of Medicine Council, and the Celiac Leadership Council at the University of Chicago Medicine.

Dr. Ross is frequently asked to present to medical professionals, business leaders, and non-profit organizations about the emotional impact of cancer and other medical conditions. She finds particular satisfaction in in being able offer practical coping advice and in connecting patients and caregivers to the many invaluable resources that exist to help support them.

Kezia Shirkey, PhD

Dr. Kezia C. Shirkey is a clinical health and pediatric psychologist. She is also a Professor of Psychology at North Park University. She enjoys working both directly with clients and teaching students—training and inspiring them to use their passion and knowledge to serve others.
Dr. Shirkey earned her doctorate from Vanderbilt University (2011) and completed her clinical internship and postdoctoral clinical fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital / Harvard Medical School. She trained in a variety of settings including an adult mood clinic, adult and pediatric medical clinics (e.g. diabetes, cystic fibrosis, atopic dermatitis/food allergy), general child clinical settings, various inpatient medical floors, and intensive care units.
Dr. Shirkey has extensive experience working with individuals and families coping with a wide range of medical and psychological conditions, both common and rare. Some of these conditions include diabetes, chronic pain, cystic fibrosis, congenital cardiac conditions, cancer, food allergies, IBD, transplants, challenges with pill swallowing, end of life, depression, and anxiety. She is also adept at learning about individuals’ medical conditions and collaborating with medical providers as needed. She provides individual therapy or consultation to older children, teens, and adults. She works with individuals with health conditions or caregivers/parents.
Dr. Shirkey tailors evidenced-based techniques including Cognitive-Behavioral, ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), and mindfulness approaches to specific individuals’ needs. She believes forming a positive and collaborative working relationship is key to healing and growth. She takes a strengths-based approach and believes in “meeting people where they are” in their journey; assisting people to build upon their strengths and values. Dr. Shirkey continues involvement in research in areas of pain, health promotion in adolescents and young adults, and spirituality.

Kelsey Mora, CCLS, LCPC

Kelsey Mora is the Consulting Director of Child Life Services at Illness Navigation Resources. With her complementary expertise as both a Certified Child Life Specialist and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Kelsey consults on pediatric and parenting cases to support families impacted by medical illness, trauma, and grief. She oversees our child life services to increase the availability and accessibility of community-based services. Kelsey has worked with Illness Navigation Resources since 2015 and is also available for individual and family counseling through Kelsey Mora, PLLC.

Kelsey was on the professional staff at Advocate Aurora Health for nearly a decade where she supported children facing a range of diagnoses, conditions, and treatments of themselves or a family member. Kelsey has completed clinical training in hospitals, clinics, and mental health practices and has unique expertise in supporting the youth experience of health-related stress. She earned her master’s degree in counseling psychology with a concentration in child and adolescence from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology as well as two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Minnesota in Child Psychology and Spanish Studies.

Kelsey is an active volunteer with local and national organizations including Child Life Disaster Relief and Aftermath. She is a member of the Association for Child Life Professionals, a Registered Wonders & Worries Provider, and part of the Academy of Food Allergy Counseling. She is the author of The Dot Method: an interactive tool to teach kids about cancer and serves as the Chief Clinical Officer of Pickles Group: a nationwide nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide free peer-to-peer support and resources to kids and teens impacted by a parent’s cancer.

Kelsey works together with Illness Navigation Resources to provide collaborative and comprehensive support for the entire family. Kelsey is also available for school and community consultation or training when there is an ill or grieving child, an ill parent, or a community tragedy.

Sari Ticker, PsyD

Dr. Sari Ticker is a licensed clinical psychologist. She earned her doctorate degree from Adler University in Chicago and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Cancer Wellness Center, where she provided individual and group therapy to cancer patients and their families. At Cancer Wellness Center she also served as the Child and Family Program Coordinator, and the Training Director for graduate students in clinical psychology.

Dr. Ticker provides individual therapy and consultation for adults. In addition to her psycho-oncology experience, she has expertise in treating depression, anxiety, grief/loss, life transitions and adjustments in physically healthy populations and patients and families confronted with a medical diagnosis. Dr. Ticker offers caregiver support and resources when there is an acute or chronic medical illness in the family.

Dr. Ticker’s training is rooted in mindfulness and third-wave CBT interventions. Her therapeutic approach utilizes an empathic style to help clients develop a greater understanding into themselves and life events. Meaningful change begins with this insight, which acts as a catalyst to overcome obstacles. She works collaboratively with clients to develop an open and honest relationship, while approaching each client’s experience as unique. Dr. Ticker’s clinical style is integrative, and she is thoughtful about working together to shape sessions to best fit your needs.

Dr. Ticker is also an active volunteer with local and national organizations that educate and support communities facing the emotional impact of a medical illness. She participates on the Health Education Task Force at the Sarnoff Center for Jewish Genetics to promote awareness of hereditary cancer to communities across the country. Dr. Ticker also facilitates program development and resources in the Chicago area for new parents who are adjusting to life’s demands with a young child.

Roz Turner, LCSW

Roz Turner is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. While her specialization is working with patients and their families dealing with a cancer diagnosis, she is passionate about helping all individuals facing medical challenges and more general life stressors and transitions. She received her bachelor’s degree in communication from Lake Forest College and her master’s degree in social work from Loyola University Chicago.

In addition to working at Illness Navigation Resources, Roz is an oncology social worker at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, working in their Development Therapeutics Institute with patients enrolled in Phase I and Phase II clinical trials. Prior to Northwestern, Roz worked as an oncology social worker at NorthShore University HealthSystem Kellogg Cancer Center and Amita Saint Joseph Hospital Center for Cancer and Specialty Care. Aside from helping individuals and caregivers navigate the complex practical and emotional concerns that come with a medical diagnosis, she has extensive knowledge of additional resources for oncology patients and families and vast experience facilitating oncology support groups.

Roz also excels at helping a broad range of clients seeking counseling for generalized emotional issues including caregiver stress, grief and loss, relationship issues, general life stressors and anxieties, and life cycle transitions. Roz’s approach to therapy is to provide a safe environment for clients to explore their feelings and collaboratively work together to set goals, enable change and growth, and help clients meet their unique needs by learning new tools and skills.

Roz also strongly believes in giving back to the community and volunteers with multiple community nonprofit organizations. She is a board member of The Sommer Foundation, providing college scholarships to high school seniors who have lost a parent and a board member and committee chair for the Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, whose mission is supporting research for the early detection of pancreatic cancer.

Helen Donnelly, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C

Helen Donnelly is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and a Certified Oncology Social Worker (OSW-C). Helen is passionate about supporting patients and caregivers facing medical challenges, life stressors and transitions. She received her bachelor’s degree from University of Dayton in Ohio and received her master’s degree in Social Work from the School of Social Service Administration at University of Chicago, with a focus on Geriatrics and Medicine.

In addition to working at Illness Navigation Resources, Helen is an oncology social worker at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, working with their Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant and CAR-T programs. Prior to Northwestern, Helen worked as a social worker and practice manager with Rainbow Hospice. Helen’s comprehensive experience as an LCSW in healthcare settings has crystalized her expertise in assisting individuals and caregivers navigate both the complex practical and emotional concerns that come with a medical diagnosis. Helen is well-versed in local and national resources for oncology patients and families and vast experience helping patients cope with terminal illness, grief and loss.

In Helen’s prior outpatient work she assisted a broad range of clients seeking counseling for generalized emotional issues including caregiver stress, relationship issues, general life stressors and anxieties, and life cycle transitions. Helen’s approach to therapy is warm and interactive, with a focus on creating a safe environment for clients to explore their feelings and collaboratively work together to set goals, enable change and growth, and help clients meet their unique needs by learning new tools and skills.

Helen also strongly believes in the growth of her field, belonging to both the National Association of Social Work (NASW) and the Association of Oncology Social Workers (AOSW). She is a regular participant of the Capital Strategies Women’s Forum, which includes monthly networking events for the personal, professional and financial success of women through events and resources that inspire and propel women to live empowered and fulfilled lives.

Annie Kendzior, CCLS

Annie Kendzior is a Certified Child Life Specialist. She earned her bachelor’s degrees in Child Development and Psychology from Olivet Nazarene University and completed her clinical training at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Overland Park, KS and Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, IL.

Annie was on staff at Advocate Children’s Hospital for eight years where she supported children and families through the acute stressors of hospitalization. Serving both the general pediatric unit and pediatric intensive care unit, Annie has experience working with patients and their caregivers facing a wide variety of diagnoses, conditions, and treatments. Annie is trained to utilize play-based interventions to help mitigate the potential anxiety and distress that accompany procedures, illness, trauma, and grief.

Annie is passionate about helping children understand medical experiences at a developmentally appropriate level and empowering them with preparation and tools to successfully cope with their own or a loved one’s diagnosis. In addition to her direct work with children, Annie has significant experience guiding caregivers in how to facilitate difficult conversations and implement effective parenting techniques while navigating an acute or chronic illness in the immediate or extended family. She is able to assist families individually, help coordinate services and provide expert consultation to schools, camps and other organizations to help support families.

Annie is a volunteer with Child Life Disaster Relief and a member of the Association of Child Life Professionals. Through these organizations, Annie remains connected to the growth happening within the child life profession and is continuously learning about new resources to support children and families.

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Contact Us

For information regarding our services or to schedule an initial appointment, please contact:

Northfield Location

400 Central Avenue
Suite 250
Northfield, IL 60093