With heavy hearts, we share that Beth Potter, MD, associate professor (CHS) in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, passed away on March 31, 2020. Our sadness and shock at this loss is profound. We honor the passion and commitment she brought to the health of her patients and her fellow health care professionals. We also grieve the loss of her husband, Robin Carre, whose life was claimed by the same tragedy.
A physician at the Access Community Health Centers Wingra Family Medical Center, Potter also served as the Medical Director of Employee Health Services for UW Health. She dedicated her career to the health of families, women, and underserved communities, as well as the education of medical students and residents. In addition, she championed initiatives aimed at fostering the wellness of her health care colleagues.
“Words cannot express our grief,” says William Schwab, MD, professor and interim chair, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. “In addition to being a wonderful family physician and highly respected teacher, Beth was a dedicated leader at the Wingra clinic and in our health system. She was wise, warm, and always supportive. There are so many in our department whose lives have been touched by Beth; her loss will weigh heavily within us.”
Potter grew up in Illinois and studied French language and literature at Knox College as an undergraduate before attending medical school at Rush Medical College in Chicago. In 1996 she began her residency training in family medicine at UW, joining the faculty in 1999.
Potter approached the practice of family medicine with tremendous compassion, earning the respect of patients and colleagues alike. Her multilingualism in French and Spanish brought clarity and comfort to the diverse patient population she served.
She took an innovative approach to clinical care, devising new ways to establish trust between providers and patients and to promote health. For example, she helped pilot a program in 2017 that utilized group visits for patients with chronic pain, a practice that addressed both physical health needs and that also connected those living with chronic pain to one another so that they could discuss their experiences and share pain management strategies.
As the Medical Director of Employee Health Services for UW Health since 2016, Potter led a team focused on occupational health to address the work-related health needs of UW Health employees. She also was a highly respected medical educator who taught and mentored hundreds of medical students and family medicine residents, many of whom went on to join the departmental faculty. Her work focused on teaching evidence-based medicine, wellness, women’s health, and investigating ways in which emerging technologies can be used to advance medical education. Potter is remembered by students and residents as a kind mentor who worked to instill the missions of education, research, patient care, and service to society. She led by example, showing with brilliance how to put these ideals into action.
“Our sadness is immense,” says Schwab. “We will care for patients and attend to all of the other meaningful work of our department today and in the coming days because we must, and we will do so, as we have been, under the most extraordinary circumstances — and we will keep Beth’s legacy in our hearts as we step forward. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, there is added pain in not being able to gather together directly to comfort each other, but we will take time to reflect and console in a way that sustains.”
Beth Potter and Robin Carre Memorial Fund
With support from the family of Beth Potter and Robin Carre, the UW Department of Family Medicine and Community Health has created the the Beth Potter and Robin Carre Memorial Fund, which will support two initiatives. The department aims to raise $100,000 for the fund, with the first $15,000 to be used for a memorial in the UW Arboretum. Beth and Robin often visited the UW Arboretum and Beth frequently had lunch on one of the Gardner Marsh overlook benches.
The arboretum memorial funds will go support:
- a memorial bench on one of the Gardner Marsh overlooks
- replacement of a portion of the boardwalk leading to the overlook
- ongoing maintenance of the boardwalk
- a commemorative tree
- a commemorative stainless steel leaf that will hang on a trellis that connects the Native Plant Garden and Longnecker Gardens
Additional funds raised will support Beth Potter Scholarships for Department of Family Medicine and Community Health chief residents to attend leadership training that focuses on wellness and resiliency.