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May 24, 201810:37 AMOpen Mic

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How the Wisconsin Idea makes people healthier

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We are close collaborators who became good friends while serving the Wisconsin Idea and our state.

We are proud to have recently created a truly integrated academic health system, UW Health. As, respectively, dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health and a state senator on the UW Health Authority Board, we navigated a lengthy process of integrating our hospitals and clinics with our physicians’ group. UW Health is now a more seamless organization caring for patients across the full continuum of community-based primary care to highly technical, state-of-the-art specialized services.

We have been committed to innovative thinking for a while. More than a decade ago, we pursued another innovative integration that is paying dividends for patients across Wisconsin and beyond. We wanted to integrate the principles of public health, with its emphasis on disease prevention and health promotion, into the traditions of medicine. To achieve this radical vision, we transformed the state’s public medical school into the UW School of Medicine and Public Health — a school that fully intertwines medicine and public health in training the next generation of clinicians and scientists and in its research programs.

This innovation for the public good is the essence of the Wisconsin Idea: taking the resources of this great university and extending them to serve the people of the state and beyond. Our state’s investment in our universities makes extending and building on this public good possible, and we both endorse that.

We arrived at our partnership from different paths. Dean Golden pursued a career in academic medicine, eager to be part of a public organization that looked outward, making a difference in the lives of as many people as possible through clinical care, research, and education. Senator Olsen and his brothers were the third generation of a farming family that ran an agriculture supply business and experienced firsthand the discoveries coming out of the university system, which shared practical information on pesticides or crop yields that helped farmers make their decisions.

The Wisconsin Idea is equally meaningful to each of us. When it comes to health, it means going beyond the student or patient in front of you and developing outreach programs and new innovative discoveries that will affect all of our communities and populations, as well as individual patients and their families. As we train the next generation of physicians and health professionals, we want to expand and diversify the pipeline of prehealth students and support practicing clinicians in every community in our state.

Our state is a tale of two cities. If you live in Madison, you can’t walk down the street without running into a doctor, nurse, or other health care professional. But if you’re living in rural Wisconsin or in the zip codes in Milwaukee that suffer from terrible health disparities, it’s very difficult to get access to medical care, let alone the health-promoting activities and environment that may decrease your need to see a doctor. The UW School of Medicine and Public Health applies the Wisconsin Idea to our educational mission, reaching across the state into rural and urban areas that need more physicians.

We expanded in strategic, targeted ways, first by creating the Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine (WARM). We now have 26 students who come to us each year, selected for their interest in rural health care. The vast majority of our WARM graduates pursue careers in rural Wisconsin where more physicians are clearly needed.

We also created an urban counterpart, Training in Urban Medicine and Public Health (TRIUMPH), in partnership with Aurora Sinai, a component of Aurora Health that serves disadvantaged communities in Milwaukee. Our TRIUMPH students spend most of their clinical training years in urban settings. They complete long-term community service learning projects that advance health through innovative approaches ranging from nutrition programs for preschoolers to interventions that allow geriatric patients to continue to live in their homes.

TRIUMPH and WARM students will become the doctors who care for children, families, and the elderly across our state of Wisconsin in underserved rural and urban communities. Like all of our graduates, their clinical practice will be shaped by a deep understanding of the principles of public health. They will address the social, behavioral, and environmental determinants of health, along with traditional medical approaches.


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