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December 1, 2016

Wisconsin Grows Its Own Doctors

Wisconsin has long had a tradition of raising its own doctors, yet attracting those same young professionals back to small hometowns to launch their careers requires careful tending.

Programs Place Residents in Rural Settings

Wisconsin has long had a tradition of raising its own doctors, yet attracting those same young professionals back to small hometowns to launch their careers requires careful tending. The UW Family Medicine and Community Health Residency Programs and the Fox Valley Family Medicine Residency Program of the Medical College of Wisconsin place cohorts of young doctors into ThedaCare each year, but it’s not always easy to turn their heads, said Stacie Masanz, lead physician recruiter for ThedaCare.

“These residents are bombarded by health systems trying to recruit them in the midst of a very rigorous and stressful residency experience. We’ve had to get much more innovative in the ways we seek out potential candidates,” Masanz said. “No one here is sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. We are out meeting medical students and residents early on.”

The communities ThedaCare serves are very diverse, and that’s attractive. “We want candidates to look at us because our opportunities are so varied, and together with system support, it’s a great place to practice medicine,” Masanz said.

In a separate initiative, the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison created the Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine (WARM) in 2007, a rural education program within the MD program curriculum. WARM students participate in both medical school and residency experiences tailored to their special interest in practicing rural medicine. They complete their first two years of medical school in Madison and then practice in rotation in small community settings throughout the state. Alternatively, traditional medical students complete their third and fourth years of school on site at UW-Madison.

Dr. Alisha Fahley of ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano is a WARM-trained physician who joined ThedaCare in 2015.  “WARM is a style of training doctors that focuses on integrating doctors into smaller communities. It doesn’t have a service obligation or a required specialty. It recognizes that rural health is different than health care in urban centers, and we have a chance to get out in the field very early in our education,” she said.

Dr. Fahley’s three-year residency at the Duluth Family Practice Center in Minnesota included caring for members of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, many of whose chronic health concerns are shared by the Shawano-area Menominee, Stockbridge-Munsee and Ho-Chunk people she now serves.

“It’s very refreshing to work with a diverse group of patients because they offer me new and different ways to view a person’s condition and experience,” Dr. Fahley said.

Mindy Frimodig, DO, of ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano grew up in the small town of Calumet in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She’s been part of ThedaCare since 2011, and finds the culture to be a good fit.

“In our practice, we respect and support one another, and we’re family-friendly,” said Dr. Frimodig. “We are empowered to develop new ideas, like the rotating hospital coverage and the timeshare model, based on our own experiences. Now ThedaCare is looking at what we’ve done and trying to apply it more broadly. I think that speaks volumes about how rural clinics can play an important role in a larger health system. I’d love to see more young doctors have this kind of experience.”

For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 34 clinics in 14 counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.  The ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton opened in February.