Madison, Wisconsin – Recognizing that good health is achieved through more than just clinic visits, the UW Department of Family Medicine changed its name to the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.
Department chair Dr. Valerie Gilchrist said the new name more accurately reflects the department’s commitment to and involvement in community health for the last 45 years. She noted that medical care contributes only 10 to 20 percent to what keeps people healthy; the other 80 percent is determined by people’s lives outside the clinic.
“Medicine continues to change,” said Gilchrist. “Our department recognized decades ago that social and economic factors were critically important to health. We are not just philosophically in communities, but want to be there working in collaboration with other groups to promote health.”
Department of Family Medicine and Community Health physicians are embedded in communities throughout Wisconsin leading projects that reflect local needs. For example, faculty members provide some Lake View Elementary School children in Madison with backpacks with food over school breaks. They are also leading fitness and lifestyle initiatives in Verona.
Hmong physician Dr. Kevin Thao at the department’s affiliated Wausau Aspirus Family Medicine Residency Program has launched a community coalition to improve the health of Hmong people in their community. The Eau Claire Family Medicine Residency Program partners with Chippewa Valley Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to help employees meet health goals. In Milwaukee, a long-standing collaboration with the Walnut Way Conservation Corp is promoting health, wellness and community revitalization in the Lindsay Heights neighborhood.
Gilchrist said the family medicine residency curriculum also has been adapted to reflect community health efforts. Each resident is required to design their own community health learning plan, which can consist of hands-on projects, research or writing.
“Our goal is to prepare future family physicians to respond to the general health of their communities, as well as provide personal care for individuals and families,” said Gilchrist.