View from the outside of Gunderson House

MD Houses and House Mentors

Within the MD Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, the Neighborhood, comprised of five houses, cultivates community, well-being and professional identity through individual and shared experiences.

The Neighborhood

Our Neighborhood mission is achieved by:

  • Developing skills to improve awareness, resiliency and professionalism
  • Supporting a diverse and inclusive environment
  • Engaging fully in advocating for the health of ourselves and each other
  • Wellness hosted sessions focused on taking care of your whole self — physically, mentally and emotionally while in medical school
  • Focused career development, including helping you identify your future specialty of choice and mentor support as you apply for residency and prepare for match

Each house has an Academic Career Advising Program (ACAP) house mentor — a practicing physician who serves as your academic and career advisor. House mentors connect with each of their students at seven required touch points, beginning in fall of M1 year. These touch points are designed to help you explore career options as you move forward strategically toward the residency match by helping you make decisions that support your professional goals.

MD house mentors smiling arm-in-arm
The house mentors are (left to right) Cathy Lee-Miller, MD, Pam Ryan, MD, Chris Hildebrand, MD, Sam Lubner, MD and Mary Westergaard, MD.

Role of the Houses

In concert with the Neighborhood mission, each house will connect to the needs and interests of its members through:

  • Leadership and guidance by practicing physicians serving as academic and career advising house mentors
  • Peer leaders (elected house officers) dedicated to creating a caring and connected community
  • Peer and professional mentoring, advising and guidance
  • Personalized, proactive and student-centered engagement

Bamforth House

Advisor: Pam Ryan, MD, Internal Medicine

The Bamforth House is named after Betty J. Bamforth, MD. Bamforth wore many hats, including physician, teacher, mentor, historian and professor emeritus of anesthesiology at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health until her death in 2001 at age 78.

After completing medical school at Boston University, Bamforth arrived at Wisconsin General Hospital to begin her residency in 1951. She was among the last residents to serve under Ralph Waters, MD, chair of the UW Department of Anesthesiology and widely considered the father of modern anesthesia. The department was the first such academic department in the United States.

Bamforth joined UW medical school faculty as an associate professor of anesthesiology in 1954, remaining on the faculty for 38 years. She spent 10 years as the medical school’s assistant dean for student affairs and a year as the assistant dean for academic affairs.

Bamforth achieved several firsts in her career. She was the first woman chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and the first female mentor for the medical school, serving the Class of 1992. The next year, she was the first woman to deliver the distinguished keynote Emery A. Rovenstine Memorial Lecture for the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the most prestigious award bestowed by the society.

She attained national and international prominence largely for her writing and lecturing about the history of anesthesiology.

When asked whether she felt she had helped to break down barriers and forge new paths for women in the medical profession, she answered modestly, “I probably did, although it didn’t seem so at the time.”

Bardeen House

Advisor: Cathy Lee-Miller, MD, Pediatric Hematology-Oncology

The Bardeen House is named after Charles Russell Bardeen, MD. Historians no doubt agree that Dr. Charles Bardeen, the founding dean of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, was the person who has influenced the school more than any other.

Bardeen came to Madison in 1904, a time when the state was flourishing under the progressive leadership of Governor Robert LaFollette, and the university was expanding under President Charles Van Hise. The two shared the view that the one element the University of Wisconsin–Madison was missing was a medical school. Bardeen, a graduate of the innovative Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was asked to create a two-year program fully integrated into the university.

Although he was a reserved man, Bardeen was a forceful advocate who insisted that modern medical practitioners required the broad scientific training only a university could provide. In three short years the new program was up and running, with 23 men and three women enrolled.

Bardeen was a scholarly physician but he never had a clinical practice nor was he particularly adept at interpersonal interactions. Despite this, he was a visionary dean and wanted the new University of Wisconsin Medical School to evolve into a four-year program.

This vision took 17 years to materialize. Bardeen had to battle local physicians, who believed that such an institution would rob them of their livelihood. Global crises such as World War I and the 1918 influenza epidemic severely diverted everyone’s attention. But finally, in 1924, Wisconsin General Hospital opened its doors, and a year later the medical school invited students to participate in a four-year curriculum.

Still, for several years the school had difficulty meeting the clinical needs of the curriculum. From Bardeen’s expansive mind came a solution: co-optation of state physicians into the medical school’s educational activities. Beginning in 1926, fourth-year medical students would spend eight weeks working in one of several private practices scattered across the state.

The preceptorship rapidly grew into one of the most popular aspects of medical education at the University of Wisconsin. By the time Bardeen died in 1935, imitations had spawned across the nation, and the preceptor concept became an important national innovation. The fourth year state-wide preceptorship remains an integral part of the training of UW medical students.

Gundersen House

Advisor: Sam Lubner, MD, Oncology

The Gundersen House is named after Gunnar Gundersen, MD, and Adolf Gundersen, MD. The Gundersens were La Crosse natives and part of the founding family of Gundersen Lutheran Clinic, have both been described as men of passion and compassion.

Gunnar Gundersen, MD, was born in 1897, the son of founder Adolf Gundersen. He attended Columbia University School of Medicine and specialized in orthopedic surgery. He returned to La Crosse to intern with his father, being particularly valuable because of his fluency in German, Norwegian and English.

He was known for his love of national politics, and in 1958 was elected president of the American Medical Association. To quote from his inaugural address, “Medicine, like religion, speaks a universal language which passes all barriers of race, color, creed and nationality.”

Adolf Gundersen, MD, the nephew of Gunnar, was a graduate of Harvard Medical School and completed his surgical residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was renowned for his work in vascular surgery, but left his greatest mark as a leader of the Gundersen Clinic and the Gundersen Medical Foundation.

Since its founding more than a century ago, Gundersen Lutheran has grown into a medical practice of almost 400 specialists offering services in a 19 county area in Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota.

“He was a compassionate physician, a superb surgeon and truly an outstanding human being,” said William Boyd, MD, a friend and fellow Gundersen Lutheran surgeon. “He had tremendous intellectual curiosity, which made him a good teacher. He was able to size up something correctly, which made him a tremendous surgeon and leader. He inspired us to strive for excellence.”

He was also remembered for his passion about medical education. Under his guidance, Gundersen Lutheran developed reputable medical education and top-notch research programs. He served on the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents for eight years, following a family tradition that included service as regents by his grandfather and uncle.

Adolf Gundersen was an advocate of the UW System and he was most proud when UW medical school named Gundersen Lutheran as its western clinical campus. Today, one half of each medical school graduating class has spent one month or longer rotating at the Gundersen Health System/Western Academic Campus, and fourth-year students may elect to spend an entire year in training there.

Middleton House

Advisor: Christopher Hildebrand, MD, Internal Medicine

The Middleton House is named after William S. Middleton, MD. Following the death of William Shainline Middleton, MD, a UW School of Medicine and Public Health memorial committee characterized the man and his career with a fitting tribute:

“… His influence will be felt for generations to come. He had an admirable, full, happy, and useful life that covered a span of an active medical career twice or thrice that of most physicians. A more meticulous man with greater gentleness one has not met … He was inspiration personified …”

Middleton earned his medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1911. After an internship at Philadelphia General Hospital, he joined the UW medical school faculty in 1912, progressing to dean in 1935. Middleton spent 63 years on the Wisconsin faculty, including 20 years as dean.

Highly decorated for his service in World Wars I and II, he was distinguished in his academic life as well. Middleton won the Alumni Award of Merit from the University of Pennsylvania in 1945 and the UW Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1969 and 1972. He received honorary degrees from several universities and contributed more than 300 scholarly papers related to internal medicine, medical education and medical history.

Middleton’s determined spirit extended beyond the world of medicine. He was highly competitive in tennis and handball, and for years — until he was 81 — he swam in Lake Mendota early each summer morning. Once a year, he walked around the same lake.

In 1955, Middleton left the medical school to head the Veterans’ Administration in Washington, DC, where he served until 1963. Middleton helped develop the VA’s hospital and clinic research programs, and his work led to improved access for veterans to rehabilitation services and mental health and hypertension treatment.

In 1976, a year after Middleton’s death at age 85, the U.S. Senate renamed Madison’s Veterans Hospital the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital — a rare honor considering that, at the time, only six veterans hospitals were named for individuals. The Senate Veterans Committee report called Middleton “one of the greatest teachers of medicine this country has ever developed.”

McPherson House

Advisor: Mary Westergaard, MD, Emergency Medicine

The McPherson House is named after Alice McPherson, MD

Although it’s quite the norm today for women to become physicians, it was far from true when Alice McPherson, MD, began her training at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. A Class of 1951 graduate and now a world-renown ophthalmologist, McPherson recalls the era just after World War II.

“Competition for places in medicine was so strong that some of the men couldn’t get appointments. They said it wasn’t fair for women to take up space, since women would quit in a few years,” says McPherson. “I thought about this at our 50th reunion. Only three members of the Class of ’51 are still practicing, and I’m one of them.”

In those 50-plus years, McPherson hasn’t slowed down. She is a professor of ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, one of the world’s premier medical centers. Between treating patients, supervising a teaching program and training   fellows in surgery, she leads the Retina Research Foundation that she founded in 1969.

She has raised $20 million for programs in research and education and an $80 million endowment fund for future scholarships. McPherson’s international reputation took hold in 1965, when she pioneered laser surgery.

In the 1970s, she helped develop the use of vitrectomy procedures. She has spoken internationally on new ways to treat diabetic retinopathy and retinopathy of prematurity, and her research continues to focus on the interplay between the retina and vitreous tissues.

In 1988, she received an Outstanding Medical Alumni Citation from UW–Madison, and in 1997, she came back to Wisconsin to accept an honorary degree. She is a member of the UW Foundation board of directors.

Even as McPherson developed her practice at the Baylor College of Medicine over the past four decades, she maintained her admiration for the UW medical school and the strength of vision science on the UW campus. She takes pride in the high research rankings of the Department of Ophthalmology, where she completed her residency.

Her tireless enthusiasm has helped to raise significant funds, including three endowed professorships and two endowed chairs, for the UW Eye Research Institute, a multidisciplinary community of scholars working to gain critical knowledge about the science and art of vision and apply it to the prevention of blindness.

McPherson has no plans for retirement. “I like the work, and I haven’t developed another hobby; the Retina Research Foundation is my hobby,” she says. She looks forward to many visits to Wisconsin, where she believes there is something of a renaissance in action.