Michelle Buelow, MD ’11, MPH—a physician at the Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and an associate director of the Training in Urban Medicine and Public Health (TRIUMPH) Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH)—received the 2020 Max Fox Preceptor Award from the school and Wisconsin Medical Alumni Association (WMAA).
The annual award goes to a Wisconsin physician whose outstanding service as a preceptor has played an important role in the education of SMPH medical students. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SMPH and WMAA held a virtual ceremony on February 28, 2022, to honor Buelow, also an affiliate faculty member, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, and a public health faculty associate, Department of Population Health Sciences at the school.
Established in 1969, the award is named for its first recipient, Max Fox, MD. Fox taught for 46 years and served as a preceptor for more than two decades, influencing the careers of more than 4,000 physicians.
Paul Hunter, MD ’89, director, Ambulatory Acting Internship, said the program expanded upon the school’s former Fourth-Year Preceptorship, which then-Dean Charles Bardeen created in 1926 to teach medical students how to apply their medical knowledge in community-based clinics.
“This opportunity prepares students for clinical practice,” explained Hunter, associate professor of family medicine and community health and associate director of the Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine. “Today, 50 physicians from 35 communities across the Badger State teach in the program.”
Buelow earned a master of public health degree from Emory University and her medical degree and certificate in global health from the SMPH, where she was in the first TRIUMPH cohort. She completed the United Family Medicine Residency Program at Allina Health, St. Paul, Minnesota.
She practices family medicine at a Federally Qualified Health Center while speaking English and Spanish; supports TRIUMPH’s longitudinal curricula; and oversees placements of TRIUMPH students at the Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers for their Ambulatory Acting Internships and TRIUMPH public health projects.
Buelow commented, “I am full of gratitude to be surrounded by colleagues and students who inspire me to do this work every day. It is a privilege to work with people who are mission-driven and truly dedicated to community engagement and health equity. Knowing that we are all in this together is energizing and gives me hope for the future!”
Pamela Wilson, MD—vice president of medical affairs at the Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers, a colleague who was Buelow’s preceptor when she was a medical student—said, “The passion I saw in her as a medical student still shines as brightly today. She loves the population of patients we serve at our health center. And she works very hard to ensure that each medical student learns the significance of the work we do. She understands that no matter what field of medicine the students go into, they need to understand how they can make a difference, not only in the lives of the patients, but also in the community.”
Wilson said Buelow has been instrumental in putting in place the necessary infrastructure, including recruiting additional preceptors and support staff, to create meaningful experiences for students who rotate at the health center.
TRIUMPH Director Kjersti Knox, MD ’11— who earned her medical degree in TRIUMPH alongside Buelow—said, “She has an incredible talent for making others feel seen and heard and to know that they have something important to offer our patients and our community. … When mentoring students, she draws on that dynamic between support and challenge to help people grow.”
Noting that a primary goal of the school is to increase the number of physicians who practice in underserved urban and rural settings, SMPH Dean Robert N. Golden, MD, said, “We thank Dr. Buelow and the other incredible preceptors at the Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers, the Milwaukee community and throughout Wisconsin for helping us achieve this goal.”
Buelow’s husband, Benjamin Weston, MPH ’10, MD ’11, FAEMS—who practices medicine and public health in the Milwaukee area (see page 22)—added, “One of the things I think is unique about Michelle is that each of the many roles she plays positively influences the others. She’s not a doctor at the expense of being an educator, nor either of those at the expense of her family. Instead, she is able to channel the empathy, the mentorship, the expertise, the knowledge and the caring that she has in each of those roles into the other roles.”
By Kris Whitman
This article appears in Quarterly magazine.