“Madison has its own unique culture and is home to so many people of different backgrounds, interests, and ideologies. Moreover, the city has provided me with an instant sense of community, which is absolutely necessary during the rigors of residency training.”
—Sagar Shah, MD
Madison is the second largest and fastest growing city in Wisconsin. Hosting the University of Wisconsin and the state capital, Madison is the center of innovation and advocacy. With a population of 264,000, it boasts many big-city amenities, but is only 20 minutes from the countryside. The city consistently ranks as one of the best places in the country to live, work and play. A sampling of ratings:
Madison’s history goes back to the indigenous Ho-Chunk people, who have been in this region for over 12,000 years.1 They named this area Teejop or the Four Lakes. In 1829, Judge James Duane Doty bought the area and renamed it after President James Madison. While many Ho-Chunk people were forced out of Wisconsin into neighboring states, some resisted the displacement and others have returned. Today there is not a Ho-Chunk reservation in Wisconsin, but the Ho-Chunk Nation owns land throughout the state of Wisconsin, and there is a Ho-Chunk reservation in Nebraska, the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.
The first recorded African American resident of Madison came in 1839.2 As statehood was achieved, more Black families relocated to the area as free individuals in pursuit of economic opportunity. The population has continued to grow as Black-owned businesses contribute to the economy, culture, and community as a whole. Today, Black individuals make up 5.5% (27,819) of Dane County and 6.8% (19,071) of the Madison population.3
Latinx Americans inhabited the area prior to statehood, and their numbers increased after World War II with government-sponsored programs that brought migrant workers from Mexico and southwestern US.4 While Mexican Americans comprise the largest Spanish-speaking population in the area, Madison is also home to sizable Puerto Rican and other Central and South American populations. Currently, Latinx are the largest non-white racial/ethnic group in Dane County, making up 6.1% of the Dane County population (30,662). Close to 70% live in Madison and Fitchburg.5
Wisconsin is home to political refugees, most notably the Hmong population, and other immigrant populations.6 The Hmong people were United States allies during the Vietnam War and many came to the U.S. following the war. Wisconsin has the third largest Hmong population in the U.S.7
Disparities / Equity
Madison is in the midst of grappling with an awareness of the extent to which opportunities for wellness, employment, and education vary amongst its citizens. The 2013 Race to Equity report demonstrated immense racial disparities experienced by Black people in Dane County. Our history is often intertwined with oppression of those in the minority, and this report has helped to energize our community to work to strategically change systems and structures and improve equity in our community. For those of us working with and living in diverse communities, addressing health disparities and working in support of health equity continues to be at the heart of our calling to medicine.
We are working aggressively to recruit diverse, culturally humble residents to our program to join us in this work. Please check out our diversity page to learn more about this work.
Paddle, sail, sailboard, swim, fish and even kitesurf on one of Madison’s four lakes. Or visit the UW Arboretum, a favorite of runners, hikers, cyclists, and cross-country skiers. Check out one of our many parks and maybe even join our residents in the seasonal intramural sports team!
Arts & Culture
Enjoy world-class theater, dance, and concerts at The Overture Center, a state-of-the-art performing arts complex in downtown Madison. We love exploring the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chazen Museum of Art. Madison also has a lively local music scene, numerous eclectic restaurants, and an energetic intellectual and political climate.
Many distinct neighborhoods contribute to the city’s unique character. A few organizations that are key in creating a welcoming community are: Centro Hispano of Dane County, Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, Hmong Madison, Ho Chunk Nation, Outreach Madison LGBTQ+ Community Center. Some events that help bring us together as a community Taste of Madison, Make Music Madison, Willy Street Fair, Capital City Salsa Social.
State residents take pride in our Wisconsin Badgers. The Women’s Hockey team has appeared in eight Frozen Four tournaments with the most recent appearance in 2019, where they won it for the fifth time. The Men’s Hockey team has recently won two NCAA Championships and won the Frozen Four in 2014. The UW Women’s Volleyball team has 7 consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament and ranked second in attendance among all D1 volleyball programs in the 2019 season. The Football team has won the Rose Bowl in 1994, 1999 and 2000 as well as 14 Big Ten Championships. The Men’s Basketball team has won the 2002, 2003 and 2008 Big Ten Championships and made 20 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament, while the Women’s Basketball team has also had many NCAA and WNIT appearances.
Working in Madison
Wisconsin is a great place to practice family medicine. Approximately two-thirds of our graduates accept jobs or begin fellowships in the state. Their practices vary from tribal clinics in the northern part of Wisconsin to Federally-Qualified Health Centers in rural and urban settings.
Family physicians in Wisconsin practice full-spectrum family medicine, including hospital privileges and obstetrics. The number of malpractice lawsuits here is one of the lowest in the country.
Madison has an affordable cost of living, a stable economy, and plentiful employment opportunities. Major employers include the state government, UW-Madison, American Family Insurance, CUNA Mutual and Epic Systems. We are grateful to have several Chambers of Commerce that support our diverse business community: Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, Latino Chamber of Commerce, Madison Black Chamber of Commerce, Wisconsin LGBTA Chamber of Commerce.
- Ginsburg, Maggie. The Story of Madison’s Indigenous People. Madison365. Published 12/3/2015. Accessed 10/18/2020. https://madison365.com/the-story-of-madisons-indigenous-people/
- Johnson, Michael. A History of Black Madison. Madison365. Published 1/27/2018. Accessed 10/18/2020. https://madison365.com/history-black-madison/
- Asian Americans in Wisconsin: History. Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Published 9/10/2018. Accessed 10/18/2020. https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/minority-health/population/asian-pophistory.htm
- Sanchez, Edgar. A Century of Wisconsin Latinos. Madison 365. Published 8/22/2018. Accessed 10/18/2020. https://madison365.com/a-century-of-wisconsin-latinos/
- Hispanics/Latinos in Wisconsin: Overview. Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Revised 9/10/2018. Accessed 10/30/2020. https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/minority-health/population/hispanlatino-pop.htm
- American Community Survey. Census. https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs
- Asian Americans in Wisconsin: History. Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Revised 9/10/2018. Accessed 10/30/2020. https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/minority-health/population/asian-pophistory.htm