UWSMPH Earns Spencer Foreman Award for Community Service
Madison, Wisconsin - Urban, rural, and everything in between: the numerous outreach and community service projects and programs undertaken by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) have earned the school the Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service.
The national award is one of the highest honors among medical schools.
The award was presented to Dr. Robert Golden, dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health, by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) at its annual meeting in Philadelphia on Saturday, November 2.
“We are absolutely thrilled and extremely proud to receive this national recognition, but more than that, we are really grateful to all of our partners across the state who’ve made this possible,” said Dean Golden. “It’s wonderful to receive confirmation that our radical vision of becoming the first-ever school of medicine and public health has pushed forward the Wisconsin Idea in new and dramatic ways. Integrating the two disciplines has helped us develop unique approaches for diagnosing, treating and preventing illness in individuals and populations.”
"While this award acknowledges what we’ve done to date, there are still important unmet needs, and we are now recommitting ourselves to our vision of elevating the health of all the people and communities in our state.”
According to the AAMC, the annual award honors a member institution for its major, long-standing organizational commitments to addressing community needs that are not being met through traditional health delivery systems.
“AAMC is proud to continue the legacy of Dr. Spike Foreman by recognizing medical schools and teaching hospitals that are elevating the health of local and global communities,” said AAMC President and CEO Dr. Darrell Kirch. “We congratulate the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health for their transformative community partnerships and programs, which have enhanced the health of people in Wisconsin and beyond.”
Elizabeth Petty, MD ’86, senior associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Medicine and Public Health, explains, “Our educational programs are fully committed to addressing health disparities in both rural and urban communities throughout Wisconsin. To really attack health disparities and prevent issues upstream, rather than focusing only on diagnosing and treating diseases in the clinic and hospital, it’s important for our students and faculty to not only work with individual patients, but also to work closely with community populations and organizations to figure out how to improve health in ways that will make a lasting impact within those communities.”
Students Immersed in Community Health
For instance, through current fourth-year preceptorships, UW School of Medicine and Public Health students spend six weeks in one of multiple locations throughout the schol's statewide campus. This immerses students in a community-based clinical environment and in a one-on-one relationship with a physician mentor.
By working with community members and health systems personnel, they gain an intimate understanding of community health issues and resources, as well as insights into the relationships between clinical care, public health and community health.
Developed in 1926, this preceptorship model was the first such U.S. program created in response to national recognition that medical students learn best by applying the science of medicine in community settings.
With ongoing curriculum improvement initiatives, the School of Medicine and Public Health is committed to providing robust opportunities for students to train with physicians and other health care professionals in diverse communities.
Golden notes, “People in organizations across Wisconsin created the substance that led to this award - including those at our academic campuses in La Crosse, Marshfield and Milwaukee, and community leaders like Sharon Adams of central Milwaukee’s Walnut Way. This award is a confirmation of the efforts of all of our wonderful statewide collaborations.”
Walnut Way Conservation Corporation is a non-profit neighborhood organization founded by community residents in 2000. With its headquarters located in a carefully renovated, formerly infamous drug house, the organization provides a hub for youth, families, elders, homeowners and renters to participate in community development.
At Walnut Way, UW School of Medicine and Public Health faculty and staff engage in population-based health projects such as promoting and providing health education for children and adolescents.
A co-founder and director of programs there, Adams says, “I think the impact of working with medical faculty and medical students has heightened the awareness of what it requires to live a healthy life. I think talking to such authority figures has made residents feel empowered because they are taking some initiative for their own health. The people at the SMPH know how important it is to be in communities.”
Serving the Underserved
This center exemplifies partnerships forged through the school’s TRIUMPH (Training in Urban Medicine and Public Health) Program, which is integrated with clerkships in Milwaukee. TRIUMPH prepares third- and fourth-year medical students to become physician leaders with skills to promote health equity in disadvantaged urban communities.
In the Madison area, underserved communities benefit from student-run programs, such as seven free MEDiC clinics. These clinics hold more than 20 sessions each month. They aim to improve the health of patients in need and to educate UW-Madison health professions students.
During MEDiC clinics, students from the MD, physician assistant and physical therapy programs, and the UW schools of pharmacy and nursing, form interprofessional teams, encouraging the exchange of information and an appreciation of students’ varied skill sets as they work together with health professionals.
It’s a winning combination: Student volunteers have the opportunity to put their knowledge and skills into practice, faculty have a unique and rewarding teaching experience, and individuals in need receive health care services.
Physicians and health professional students work together with community partners to bring the Wisconsin Idea to life and influence people’s lives beyond the classroom.
The collaborative nature of MEDiC’s cross-discipline learning model lays a foundation that will continue throughout the students’ careers.
Michael Wauters, a fourth-year student in the MD Program at the School of Medicine and Public Health, says, “The MEDiC clinics provide an opportunity for student volunteers to get into communities they otherwise might not see. The students work with people who are facing significant challenges to their health, and the students learn firsthand about some of the social determinants of health.”
Second-year medical student Surbhi Singhal shares, “By getting experience in building strong relationships with communities early in medical school, we can guarantee that our physicians will continue to do this all the way through their career.”
Addressing Rural Health Needs
Looking out for another underserved group, the school’s WARM (Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine) program has a goal to increase the number of physicians in rural Wisconsin and improve health in these areas. It is a collaboration among UW-Madison; Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield; Gundersen Lutheran, La Crosse; Aurora Health Care and Bay Care, Green Bay; and rural satellite clinics.
Students spend the last two years of medical school at one of these locations. The Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine has allowed the School of Medicine and Public Health to increase its class size by 25 students per year by admitting to the program those who intend to practice rural medicine.
The TRIUMPH and WARM Programs embody the Wisconsin Idea by supporting advances in knowledge for the common good in collaboration with statewide communities. They also both have been successful.
On every Match Day since 2011, students in the Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine have learned their residency locations.
For the 33 students who have graduated from WARM in 2011 through 2013, 67 percent have matched into primary care residencies and 64 percent have matched to residency programs in Wisconsin.
These percentages are much higher than medical students in the School of Medicine and Public Health’s traditional curriculum, reflecting the commitment of WARM students to meet health care needs in Wisconsin.
In 2011 and 2012, the first Training in Urban Medicine and Public Health graduates all entered residencies serving urban, underserved populations, and a majority selected primary care careers.
Partnerships for Research
Petty notes that community partnerships, in addition to being very important for training future health care providers, are critical for the School of Medicine and Public Health’s research mission, which seeks to improve the health of people of Wisconsin and beyond through the discovery process.
“The school allocates funds for community research through a program called the Wisconsin Partnership Program,” explains Richard Moss, PhD, senior associate dean for basic research, biotechnology and graduate studies. “Through our investigators’ research and observations, we identify problems in our communities, and ultimately, we award grants to address those problems.”
The Wisconsin Partnership Program advances public health statewide through research, education and partnerships. Funding comes from the endowment that was created in association with the conversion of Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisconsin to a for-profit corporation. It advances health improvement through community-academic partnerships, training public health practitioners and exploring determinants of health and disease. Its founding principle is that successful research and interventions depend on engaging communities as partners.
This program has provided more than $129 million in grants since 2004 for programs and initiatives that encompass community-academic partnerships. For instance, it provided startup funds to establish the WARM Program.
According to Patrick Remington, MD ’81, MPH, associate dean for public health, “The efforts of the Population Health Institute are nationally recognized for engaging communities using novel approaches such as the Wisconsin Population Health Service Fellowship Program, the Healthy Wisconsin Leadership Institute and the Evidence-Based Health Policy Program.”
The UW Population Health Institute established the County Health Rankings, a system that assesses health and health care for counties across Wisconsin. Through a substantial grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the program expanded to rank all counties across the United States.
“The remarkable aspect of the ranking system is the impact it has had on local communities as they think about health and health care,” says Moss.
Residents and health care professionals in Juneau County, Wisconsin, found themselves thinking about just that.
According to Barb Thesis, a health officer for that county, “We received our county health rankings, and we were the unhealthiest county in the state. But, we turned it around. We challenged ourselves, and we are now moving forward. None of this could have happened without the County Health Rankings.”
Measuring Wisconsin's Health
Another School of Medicine and Public Health program - supported by the Wisconsin Partnership Program - is the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW). The organization’s research infrastructure includes an annual statewide survey that examines Wisconsin’s health and provides opportunities to support targeted ancillary and community-based studies.
Researchers travel to more than 60 communities to gather data from residents on myriad health conditions, health care access and utilization to provide a complete picture of state residents’ health. The program’s novel health data serves as a primary resource for researchers and stakeholders, including public health practitioners and policymakers.
The Survey of the Health of Wisconsin is used to evaluate interventions, set priorities, plan programs and assess state health plan objectives. Data and biosamples are available to researchers and stakeholders. It is modeled after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which has provided key information about the nation’s health for more than 40 years. Wisconsin is the first state with a health survey of this magnitude and scope.
The school’s National Institutes of Health-funded Institute for Clinical and Translational Research has created several unique programs that engage communities and significantly improve the health of the people of Wisconsin and beyond. For example, its Collaborative Center for Health Equity works with rural and urban partners to build mutually respectful collaborations to increase health equity and improve health outcomes.
Noting that many more examples of community-based programs exist at the School of Medicine and Public Health, Golden and Petty agree that forming such partnerships is not only a good thing for the school to do, it’s the right thing to do.
Together with colleagues and statewide partners, they cheer, “On Wisconsin!”
By Ian Clark and Kris Whitman
This article appears in the fall 2013 issue of Quarterly.
Date Published: 11/18/2013