David Rakel, MD, a nationally recognized leader in integrative medicine, will join the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health as chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. His appointment begins mid-July 2021.

The Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020, integrates research, education, and patient care to advance the health of families and communities. In its 2021 rankings, U.S. News & World Report named the UW School of Medicine and Public Health’s family medicine program fourth among family medicine programs in the nation. Patient care and training opportunities for medical students, residents, and fellows extend across 17 clinics and approximately 360,000 patient visits annually throughout the state of Wisconsin.

David Rakel
David Rakel

Stepping into this leadership role is a homecoming for Rakel, who was a member of the department’s faculty from 2001 to 2016, when he was recruited by the University of New Mexico School of Medicine to serve as chair of its Department of Family and Community Medicine.

“The University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine and Community Health’s superpower is understanding how humans and the communities in which they live find health and resilience,” said Rakel. “We will grow the science of salutogenesis, creating a better understanding of the origins of health. This focus invites a collaboration across all areas of the university that serves the people of Wisconsin and beyond. That is the Wisconsin Idea!”

Rakel obtained his undergraduate degree from Colorado College and graduated from Baylor College of Medicine in 1991. After residency training in family medicine in Colorado, he worked in private practice in rural Idaho. His burgeoning interest in the relationships between health, the human experience, and the environment led to a fellowship in integrative medicine at the University of Arizona.

He joined the faculty of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health in 2001 as an assistant professor of family medicine. During his time at UW–Madison he founded the Integrative Medicine Program (now known as the Integrative Health Program) and received the Gold Foundation’s Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award, the school’s highest honor for excellence and compassion in care. His team worked with more than 50 clinical systems within the Veterans Health Administration to implement changes to make care more personalized, proactive, and patient driven.

An author of both academic and popular writings, Rakel says one of his missions is to communicate medical information in a way that is accessible to people of all backgrounds. He has published 11 books, including the Textbook of Family Medicine, Current Therapy, and Integrative Medicine, as well as peer-reviewed research on the impact of measures such as mindfulness meditation and the power of the therapeutic encounter. He serves as editor-in-chief of Practice Update, a website devoted to commentaries on primary medical care research. His 2018 book The Compassionate Connection focuses on how relationship-building can influence health outcomes.

“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Rakel ‘back home’ to join our leadership team,” said Robert N. Golden, MD, dean of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “He is exceptionally well qualified to advance one of the nation’s leading departments of family medicine to even greater heights of excellence across our missions of clinical care, research, education, and community service.”