Stories of service, advocacy and resilience were abundant at the University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine and Community Health’s (DFMCH) 17th annual McGovern-Tracy and Student Scholars awards ceremony, held May 2, 2018, at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison.

The awards program honors UW School of Medicine and Public Health (UW SMPH) students or DFMCH residents and faculty who exemplify outstanding community service, outreach, and leadership.

Compassion in Action Community Health Leadership award winner Alexandra Giselle Argento-Berrio (center) with her brother Alex De la Rosa and sister Stefanie Ramirez
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Dr. Nancy Pandhi: Guideposts in the Service Journey

DFMCH Vice Chair for Education William Schwab, MD, the evening’s master of ceremonies, first honored the families whose generosity made the evening possible, and paid respects to original teaching faculty member Rudy Hecht, MD, who died earlier this year (

Keynote speaker and DFMCH Assistant Professor Nancy Pandhi, MD, PhD, MPH, then shared three stories that served as guideposts in her journey of service as a physician, researcher and educator—in hopes that they will inspire others.

She spoke first about her young son’s recent reaction to an active-shooter drill at his school. After learning that people do sometimes kill other people or themselves, her son said, “I think I know why that happens. That happens because people don’t know why they are here. I know why I’m here. I’m here to help people, and I do that by making friends.”

Encouraging the audience to reflect on purpose as a component of service, she said, “We need to know why we are here and what we bring to the world.”

Next, she remembered a frantic day at her clinic. An hour late for her last appointment of the day, she entered the clinic room apologizing before greeting her patient. But her patient stopped her and asked her to take a moment to breathe and get some water. She then simply said, “I waited for you because I wanted to.”

As a result of that encounter, Dr. Pandhi now pauses before every appointment to clear her mind of the day’s challenges and set her intention on the patient—before even opening the door. “When we serve, it’s a partnership, which involves giving and receiving,” she noted.

Finally, she shared a success story from her research project in which the goal was to empower teams to engage their patients to improve the quality of care. One clinic in southern Wisconsin chose to try and improve lipid screening for patients with diabetes. Through the clinic team directly surveying their patients to find out their preferences on care delivery, and working with a quality-improvement coach, overall screening rates improved by 13 percent in three months. Screening rates for the clinician who piloted the project jumped 20 percent in the same time period.

From that experience, she shared a variation of the Golden Rule: “Treat others how they wish to be treated, and involve them to find out.”

Meet all the Winners

Learn more about this year’s award winners.

Compassion in Action:

  • Samuel Starke: Before medical school, Starke lived and worked for 14 months at a community hospital in rural Haiti as part of a global health fellowship. He hopes to join efforts at Delek Hospital in Dharamsala, India, learning from health professionals there and conducting research that will help inform decision making for hospital leadership.

Compassion in Action Community Health Leadership:

  • Alexandra Argento-Berrio: During medical school, Berrio worked on a health impact assessment on parole recovations and wrote an op-ed sharing a clinical experience of that problem.

Compassion in Action International Health Leadership:

  • Aref Senno: in the summer of 2016, Senno spent three months at Delek Hospital, participating in a tuberculosis (TB) screening initiative and launching a photo project that raised $3,000 from online donors. Now a student in the UW SMPH’s Training in Urban Medicine and Public Health (TRIUMPH) program, he is working with Lutheran Social Services’ Refugree Resettlement Agency to expand their capacity for medically complex refugees.

Compassion in Action Tibetan Delek Hospital in India:

  • Noah Borchardt: Borchardt will be traveling to India this summer to work with Tibetan refugees in Dharamshala. He will be working at Delek Hospital and involved with the Zero TB in Tibetan Kids campaign.

Dr. Lester Brillman Scholarships:

  • Taylor Boland: To better understand patients’ goals and advocate for them with their physicians, Boland collected patients’ life stories as part of her “Every Patient Has a Story” project. She is committed to advocacy at levels as an opportunity to improve patient and public health.  
  • Jenny Giang: Giang has been a certified Spanish interpreter at the UW SMPH’s MEDiC free clinics and has held leadership roles in many student organizations. A student in the UW SMPH’s TRIUMPH program, she partnered with a federally qualified health center in Milwaukee to improve mental health outcomes among Latina girls through group-based sessions with their parents.

Dr. Lester Brillman Leadership and Advocacy Award:

  • Megan Bartz: As the director of outreach and community service for the UW SMPH’s Family Medicine Interest Group, Bartz helped organize and recruit students for a wellness day at Madison’s Lake View Elementary School. She has also conducted research at a DFMCH clinic and presented at the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine conference.

Dr. Lester Brillman Mentorship in Family Medicine:

  • Rachel Bennett, MD: Bennett is a frequent teacher of medical students through all four years, and has maintained mentoring relationships with several of the students who rotated with her. She believes that helping patients lead healthier lives by prescribing, teaching and motivating is based on our ability to have good personal relationships.
  • Jacqueline Gerhart, MD: Gerhart was the medical director of the UW SMPH Family Medicine Interest Group (FMIG) and the director of student recruitment and mentorship in the DFMCH’s Office of Medical Student Education. She has personally mentored over 130 medical and physician assistant students, and was the 2015 Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians Educator of the Year.

Founders Award (WAFP):

  • Amanda Lam: As a UW SMPH student, Lam has worked with underserved populations through MEDiC, Centro Hispano, a primary-care clerkship in Milwaukee and the Native American family medicine elective. She co-founded the Palliative Care Student Interest Group and explored the importance of advance care planning in primary care through a Wisconsin Medical Society fellowship.

Robert and Irma Korbitz Endowed Scholarships:

  • Christopher Laylan: For his third-year primary care clerkship, Laylan spent over fourth months in Tomah, where he grew up. He learned how family physicians are an integral part of the community and having matched into family medicine, has a strong desire to practice in a rural setting after residency.
  • Molly Sygulla: Sygulla worked in community health centers in Wisconsin and Washington for three years before entering medical school. Through participation in numerous UW SMPH committees and initiatives, she has advocated for change in how students are trained, especially toward service of underserved communities.
  • Donna Ugboaja: A student in the UW SMPH’s TRIUMPH program, Ugboaja will spend the next year at the Bread of Healing clinic in Milwaukee, assessing self-empowerment in patients with poorly controlled diabetes and creating an intervention based on what their main barriers are.

Vogel Foundation Scholarship:

  • Alex Kivimaki: Kivimaki considers his family and community as the biggest sources of inspiration and motivation. He aims to become a healthcare provider that the Native American community can trust, who has strong medical knowledge and cultural competence, who can treat those in need and also cover any previously overlooked health issues.

Jan Ashe Memorial Award for Excellence in Community Radiography:

  • Alyssa Lutz: Lutz is a top-performing student in the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics School of Radiologic Technology who strives to perform each exam with technical expertise, compassion and respect. She looks forward to developing professionally as a radiologic technologist and growing into a leadership position within a radiology department.

McGovern-Tracy Student Scholars:

  • Taryn McGinn Valley: In college, Valley helped launch a student-run emergency medical service. An MD/PhD student in anthropology, she was named Volunteer of the Month for her work with a patient at the MEDic Southside free clinic who had complex medical and psychosocial needs. She also is an advocate for women’s rights and is the elected representative for her class.
  • Nina Mirabadi: Mirabadi has served as a UW SMPH Middleton House leader, was a clinic coordinator at the Salvation Army MeDIC free clinic, and traveled to Uganda to take place in a public health project to help reduce the rates of tuberculosis transmission.
  • Jennifer Mirrielees: Through leadership roles at the MEDiC Southside free clinic, Mirrielees has worked to connect patients to fee-waived and fee-reduced laboratory and clinical services. She also led a quality improvement project to review relationships with community partners, which made an immediate impact on connecting patients to primary care quickly and effectively.
  • Mireya Taboada: As the MEDiC Southside clinic coordinator, Tabaoda helped streamline x-ray referral processes to prevent miscommunication between schedulers and patients whose primary language may not be English, and improved access to social services in those clinics. She is a student in the UW SMPH’s TRIUMPH program, and has been a leader of Medical Students for Minority Concerns.
  • Ronghua “Jeanne” Tong: As the coordinator of Safe Haven, the MEDiC student-run free mental health clinic, Tong works to identify and address specific barriers for each individual patient. She hopes to one day be a family physician who can treat both medical and psychiatric conditions.

McGovern-Tracy Resident Scholars:

  • Allison Couture, DO: Couture used the ChopChop Kids platform to create community cooking classes for children and their families to combat childhood obesity. She is also leading a quality improvement project to address obesity in pregnancy, and has joined a workgroup to address racial disparities in infant birth weight in Dane County.
  • Caitlin Harris, DO: Harris piloted a Community Care Coalition project in Wausau, which aims to introduce a new care model for patients there who have complex health and social needs.
  • Tina Ozbeki, MD: Ozbeki has taught first- and second-year medical students in the UW SMPH’s Patient, Doctor and Society course and served as resident liaison for the FMIG. She also expanded her teaching skills through a teaching masters course and through the UW SMPH’s internship prep course.

The McGovern-Tracy and Student Scholars program is named for Isabel McGovern Kerr and Michele Tracy. McGovern Kerr endowed the DFMCH in 1998 to establish scholarships in memory of the McGovern family who pioneered in Wisconsin and were some of its first family physicians. Michele Tracy was a second-year UW medical student who was killed while participating in an educational service program in Malawi, Africa, in July 1999.

Published: May 2018