Application Process: Apply online » (Applications for 2021 are open
Stipend: $3200
Duration: Eight weeks: May 17 – July 12, 2021

The Department of Family Medicine and Community Health (DFMCH) has several faculty who are eager to have medical students come join them on people-oriented, clinically relevant, hands-on research projects. Students have ample opportunities to see patients in a variety of settings (office, hospital, others), learn some important concepts and skills about research, and participate in social events with other faculty and students.

Schedule: This is a tentative schedule:

  • May 17‐19 — Work with faculty
  • May 20/21 — Orientation seminar (at DFMCH or virtual)
  • May 24‐June 17 — Work with faculty
  • June 18 ‐‐ Mid‐point seminar (at DFMCH or virtual)
  • June 21 – July 9 ‐‐ Work with faculty
  • July 12 ‐‐ Final presentations (at DFMCH or virtual)

Locations: Madison area, Milwaukee

Director: Sean Duffy, MD

Stipends/Housing/Travel: We have funding available to support up to ten students at $3,200 each for the eight-week session.

Apply online » (Applications for 2021 are open)  Thank you for your interest.

Please complete the online application, including your cover letter described at the bottom. As soon as your application is received, copies of your application will be circulated to the faculty with whom you are interested in collaborating with. The faculty members will contact you to set up interviews either in person or by phone. These interviews will allow faculty and students to determine whether there is mutual interest. Faculty and student matches will be consummated by signing an agreement, which shall be considered binding on both parties unless dire, unforeseen circumstances occur. Since agreements between faculty and students may be made at any time, students who submit their applications early are more likely to have their choice of projects. For additional information, please contact Nicole Watson at:

Phone: (608) 263-1334

2021 Research Projects


Primary Investigator: Randall Brown, MD, PhD
Collaborators: Statistician (ICTR consult)
Location of study: Madison

Background information: Pharmacotherapy can have significant impact on alcohol use for patients with alcohol use disorder. However, this is an underutilized care modality in general medical settings, even though numerous studies have indicated effectiveness (e.g. NNT = 7 for naltrexone). Further information regarding impact on alcohol-related consequences and health care utilization may be useful information for enhancing uptake and wider disseminated prescribing. Aim 1: Using EHR data from the UW Health system, compare ED and hospital utilization for 2 groups of patients with AUD diagnosis (1) those receiving AUD pharmacotherapy, (2) those not receiving pharmacotherapy. Aim 2: Compare the study groups in terms of primary care utilization. Aim 3: Where available for these groups, compare potentially alcohol-related biomarkers (e.g. LFT, blood alcohol, PEth, EtG).

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time? Student will assist in the coordination of EHR data pull with ICTR analysts. Student will collaborate w/ ICTR statistician on analyses. Student will prepare results for dissemination in form of poster, presentation, and/or manuscript for publication. Student will work with the Addiction Medicine team at least 2 half-days per week. Available settings include Access-Wingra, UWH HIV Clinic, UWH inpatient consult service, VA addiction medicine (OP and IP)


Primary Investigator: Tana Chongsuwat, MD

Location of study: Madison

Background information: Cervical cancer morbidity and mortality is the leading cause of cancer death for many women in low and low-to-middle income countries (LLMICs). This is due to multiple factors such as the lack of screening, treatment, and prevention services in LLMICs. Although despite the call to action by the World Health Organization, uptake of cervical cancer programs has faced many challenges. This project will examine perceptions and understanding of cervical cancer through a mixed method survey of health care workers, patients and community members to better understand health seeking behaviors to guide future implementation of cervical cancer screening, treatment and prevention services. Location of the study is in Gulu, Uganda although no travel will be necessary.

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time?1) Literature review of previous perception studies of cervical cancer screening and prevention services in LLMICs. 2) Review of health behavior models as it pertains to global health and public health measures for cancer prevention. 3) Development, testing and refinement of a survey to be implemented. 4) If time allots, will be able to review/code surveys conducted by field officers. 5) Precepting 1-2 days/week at the Wingra Clinic in a primary care setting.


Primary Investigator: Allison Couture, DO, MPA
Collaborators: Narjust Duma, MD
Location of study: Madison

Background information: Does a patient address their physician differently based on gender? Differential forms of address for a man versus a woman is a reflection of societal gender biases. Physicians have long enjoyed the elevated societal status that accompanies a medical degree and with this the expectation of being addressed as “Doctor.” However, academic studies reveal that male and female physicians are not equally addressed as such (Files et al., 2017). We propose a research project that evaluates a patient’s written salutation in a MyChart message to their physicians to see if it varies by patient gender and physician gender. We also aim to explore aspects associated with a type of address including age, race, rural vs urban, subspecialty, and timing of the message.

Aims of the project:

  • To determine if salutations in patient portal messages vary by the gender of the patient and the gender of the physician.
  • To determine any racial differences in the type of address.
  • To analyze how a physician prefers to be addressed compares to how they are actually

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time? The student would function as an analyst in reviewing text excerpts from patient portal message (MyChart messages). One of the primary roles of the analyst would be to record the message salutation as: 1 = Dr. First and Last Name, 2 = Dr. Last Name Only, 3 = Dr. First Name Only, 4 = First and Last Name, 5 = First Name Only, 6 = Last Name Only, 7 = Other Once salutations are coded, we would collapse the above 7 categories into two groups: professional title (1, 2) and non-professional title (3-7). The primary outcome of interest is whether or not the physician’s professional title was used by a patient when sending a MyChart message. My clinical site is UW Health Verona and I would be happy to accommodate a student shadowing me during their SSRCA time. I practice full scope family medicine, with OB and inpatient additionally I offer osteopathic manipulative therapy to my patients as well as a variety of other office based procedure.


Primary Investigator: Jessica Dalby, MD

Location of study: Madison

Background information: Starting in March 2020, with the onset of clinical changes in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, we began offering patients the choice to use subcutaneous depo-provera injections for self-administration at home. This allowed decreased clinical contact time for patients and staff. Patients were prescribed one year of injections to be given every 3 months. This project will aim to assess continuation rates and patient experience with subcutaneous depo-provera. It will also aim to understand patient perception of adequacy of educational materials that supported this transition process along with provider perception, knowledge and prescribing of subcutaneous depo-provera.

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time? Potential student roles include literature review, chart review, design and implementation of patient and provider qualitative study. Clinical opportunities include participation in full spectrum family medicine practice including obstetric care and family planning.


Primary Investigator: Sarina Schrager, MD

Location of study: Madison

Background information: Breast cancer is the leading cancer diagnosis in women. Screening for breast cancer with mammograms saves lives but the potential for call backs, overdiagnosis, and unnecessary biopsies limits the effectiveness of screening in women in their 40s. Accurate risk assessment is paramount in order to appropriately counsel women about their screening options. Recommendations abound for supplementary screening with breast MRI for women who have a > 25% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, but many PCPs do not know how to assess a woman’s lifetime risk. In addition to traditional risk factors such as family history, breast density, age and known BRCA mutations, precision medicine (genomic information) may help PCPs delineate high risk women from intermediate and average risk women.

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time?

This summer project will accomplish the following:

  • Explore the main contributors to breast cancer risk: age, family history, breast density, genomics (BRCA and other)
  • Develop educational materials for PCPs about breast cancer risk assessment
  • Outline breast cancer screening strategies using risk stratification and shared decision making

The student will work with Dr. Schrager (family medicine, women’s health) and a multidisciplinary team (radiology, psychology, population health) to research content about risk assessment, develop a webinar or interactive online module for PCPs, and write a review paper.  The student will also have the opportunity (COVID permitting) to spend time at a family medicine clinic with Dr. Schrager and potentially also doing breast imaging.


Primary Investigator: Karina Atwell, MD, MPH
Collaborators: Jennifer Edgoose, MD, MPH; Shelly Shaw, MPH; Christopher Barnes
Location of study: Madison

Background information: The Family Medicine ACGME Milestones, which define the core competencies for family medicine residencies, emphasizes the importance of teaching the broad scope of competencies related to community and population health. This curriculum is inherently challenging to design, requiring both traditional didactics and requiring both traditional didactics as well as community-centered exposures, partnerships and hands-on experiences. The UW Family Medicine Residency Program has worked extensively to develop a robust community and population health curriculum; yet has not evaluated if it appropriately aligns with, AND effectively teaches, the ACGME competencies relevant to training residents with the necessary attitudes, knowledge, and skills to serve diverse communities in an evolving healthcare environment. To-date, we have developed and implemented a pilot competency-based qualitative and quantitative evaluation approach for our first-year resident curriculum. We are now ready to start analyzing initial data with the aim of informing a broader evaluation approach, and plan to share our process and findings through multiple scholarly venues.

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time? An SSRCA student would be valuable to our project by assisting in data analysis, developing our broader curriculum evaluation approach, and contributing to related scholarly products, which could include peer-reviewed journal and conference submissions. More broadly, the student would have access to our Office of Community Health faculty/staff, who would provide opportunities to engage in a variety of community and public health-oriented experiences and clinical shadowing. Finally, this position would provide a unique lens into the UW Family Medicine Residency Program, including participation in resident didactics.

Primary Investigator: Valerie Gilchrist, MD
Collaborators: Jennifer Lochner, MD
Location of study: Madison, MD

Background information: Telemedicine was rapidly incorporated into UW Health delivery of primary care during the pandemic. Last summer in an SSCRA project we explored patient’s assessment of their telehealth experience. (Paper is being submitted for publication.) This project is to expand that information in a more systematic study exploring the what patients value or do not like about telemedicine, how it might have changed over the year, the balance of telemedicine and office visits and for what types of problems, according to patients, and concerns or problems with telephone vs video visits.

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time? This student will join a team of faculty working in this area. They will be part of survey development (depending on the timing of the survey), IRB submission and review, delivery of the survey and data analysis. They will become familiar with the research on telemedicine and be part of the team submitting at least one publication. They may be part of contacting patients who have agreed in the survey to further contact to explore responses.


Primary Investigator: Sean Duffy, MD, MPH
Location of study: Madison, WI and San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala (if travel permitted based on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic)

Background information: The San Lucas Mission (SLM) serves a population of nearly 40,000 people in rural Guatemala. SLM’s work includes a number of health care initiatives carried out in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin and other local and international partners. SLM runs a system of mobile health clinics serving rural villages, which uses a novel EMR. This has allowed for the collection of a large amount of patient data, analysis of which has the potential to improve the efficacy of visiting teams and optimize the EMR system. A network of SLM community health workers (CHWs) enabled by mobile health (mHealth) applications also provide care for malnutrition and diabetes in these communities. Plans to expand this successful model to cervical cancer screening and hypertension management are in the nascent stages.

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time? Possible student activities include: analysis of mobile EMR data; optimization of EMR diagnostic and treatment entry options; assisting with the development of treatment protocols for common diagnoses seen in mobile clinics; assisting with mobile application design and testing for cervical cancer screening; training CHWs in cervical cancer screening promotion; assisting with the development of treatment protocols for hypertension by CHWs; assisting with the design and testing of a mobile application for hypertension treatment. As permitted by the current state of the COVID-19 epidemic, the student will travel to San Lucas Tolimán to work directly with SLM CHWs and other health care program staff for at least part of the summer. They may have the opportunity to participate in mobile clinics if operating during this time. While in Madison, the student will be able to shadow Dr. Duffy at Wingra clinic for 2 half days per week.


Primary Investigator: Jensena Carlson, MD
Collaborators: Jennifer Lochner, MD; Valerie Gilchrist, MD; Julia Lubsen, MD; Bethany Howlet, MD; William Michael, MD; Jillian Landeck, MD
Location of study: Madison, WI

Background information:  Screening tools and patient information handouts are an essential part of the toolbox for family medicine providers. In our current information-rich era of medicine, it can be difficult as a practice to stay up to date on the most evidence-based tools and handouts and develop a system to keep them at the ready in a busy office. Our practice would like to undertake a quality improvement initiative to review the top 10 diagnoses in family medicine, what the highest yield tools and handouts for these diagnoses are, and develop a system of information management that facilitates ease of use and frequent updates. We anticipate that this initiative would be of high value to our patients and to us as providers.

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time? We anticipate that the student would play a lead role in the literature review identifying the tools and patient information for the top 10 diagnoses in family medicine with the support of the faculty. The student would be able to apply these resources in the clinical setting in our rural family medicine practice and help us identify the ways we can best manage these tools in our practice setting including developing a database that is accessible in the exam room and has a structure for updates.

Additional Comments: We are a rural family medicine residency clinic with special focuses on medication treatment for opiate use disorder, OB care including prenatal ultrasound, geriatric care, and community health. We would welcome a medical student working with us to have significant clinical exposure to any and all of these areas of interest.

Primary Investigator: Caitlin Regner, MD
Collaborators: Angela Marchant, DO
Location of study: Madison, WI

Background information: Access Community Health Centers has been expanding its prenatal care program to include higher risk obstetric care, ultrasonography and antenatal testing for prenatal patients. Dr. Marchant and Dr. Regner, both of whom started work at Access Clinics fall of 2019, have been highly involved in implementation of prenatal care expansion. They have been working with members of the prenatal team to evaluate the current prenatal care model and identify areas of possible improvement and expansion. In response to these needs, Dr. Marchant has been serving as obstetric provider coordinator since Fall 2020.

Much of the literature on medical education focuses on medical students and providers. However, clinical support staff provide much of the daily clinical care and have varying degrees of experience and comfort with routine and high risk prenatal care. In this study, we aim to evaluate clinical staff’s prenatal knowledge base and competency before and after participation in prenatal care education sessions. We also hope to evaluate clinical staff preferred methods of instruction for a variety of clinical topics.

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time? The student chosen for this project will shadow in clinic and with prenatal care team members to get to know staff and understand current prenatal care model within Access clinics. The student will continue to shadow with prenatal providers throughout the summer, learning from a variety of providers, observing obstetric ultrasonography, and attending deliveries at St. Mary’s and Meriter Hospitals as their policies allow.

At the beginning of the summer, the student will perform baseline survey of staff knowledge and self assessment of competency with prenatal care topics. Under supervision of Dr. Marchant and Dr. Regner, the student help develop power-point presentations and materials for staff training on common prenatal care topics. The student will attend and participate in prenatal education sessions with staff. Following these sessions, the student will perform post-education session survey and analyze data.

Additional Comments: All shadowing opportunities are tentative. The student will have highest priority for shadowing, as the changing infection rate and response to the COVID19 pandemic allow.

Primary Investigator: David Hahn, MD
Location of study: Madison, WI

Background information: Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) are the core guideline-recommended treatment to control symptoms in asthma patients of all ages but the randomized trials upon which asthma guideline recommendations are based have systematically excluded asthma patients who smoke, raising uncertainty about the efficacy of ICS in this group. Several small non-Pharma studies and reviews have raised concerns that ICS treatment may be less efficacious in asthma patients who smoke compared to non-smoking asthma patients. A search of the Cochrane Library found no systematic reviews or meta-analyses addressing this question. The summer student who elects this opportunity will be a full collaborating partner in performing a systematic review and meta-analysis entitled “Efficacy of inhaled corticosteroids in asthma patients who smoke: Systematic review and meta-analysis.” The primary PICO question to be addressed is: In asthma patients who currently smoke (P), are chronically administered inhaled corticosteroids (I) – compared to placebo (C) – efficacious for any asthma outcome (O)? Further details are available from Dr. Hahn (

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time?

The student will learn how to perform a systematic review and meta-anlaysis:

  • will read the Cochrane Handbook
  • will learn how to use the Cochrane software package (RevMan 5)
  • will learn how to register a review in PROSPERO
  • will perform an independent literature search and tabulation of study results
  • will compare results and resolve discrepancies with the collaborator’s search (Dr. Hahn)
  • will collaborate in analyses and writing
  • should consider being the first author on a subsequent publication, if desired

This review will familiarize the student with general critical thinking skills useful for interpreting clinical publications, and with specific treatment modalities for asthma useful in Family Medicine. The student will also have the opportunity to rotate with a practicing Family Physician in Madison, Wisconsin. The clinician sees a wide variety of medical conditions, including asthma.

Additional Comments: Due to COVID, and the fact that Dr. Hahn resides in Iowa County, much of the student interaction with Dr. Hahn will be performed remotely using zoom. It is anticipated, however, that as Wisconsin approaches herd immunity, more in-person interactions may be feasible.

Primary Investigator: Anne Drolet, MD
Collaborators: Sarina Schrager, MD
Location of study: Madison, WI

Background information: While prenatal care is evidence based, the schedule in which it is delivered has been primarily dictated by expert opinion. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) had recommended 12-14 prenatal visits throughout pregnancy, while the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended only 8 visits for otherwise low risk pregnancies.

In March 2020, rapid changes care delivery took place in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Providers worked to limit face to face interaction and shift care to virtual mediums when possible. The DFMCH OB provider team worked to create a schedule that allowed for evidence based prenatal care and limited potential exposures. The policy proposed by the department shifted some visits (primarily weeks 8-12, 16, 24, and 37) to a virtual visit with a provider.

There was some previous investigation into virtual prenatal care prior to the pandemic, but it was limited and often including additional RN or telemonitoring support. This study aims to examine unintended benefits or consequences of this change, provider perceptions, and patient satisfaction.

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time?

The student will help in collecting and analyzing data, performing chart reviews, and help in building surveys. There is an opportunity to collaborate with several health care providers and potentially implement QI work depending on the results. An interested student can become involved in all aspects of the project, and would be credited in dissemination efforts!

There is also opportunity for the resident to spend time in at the residency clinic over the summer, and get to know what life is like as a resident!

Summer Research & Clinical Assistantship Students

Medical Students Join DFM Faculty on Summer Research Projects.

How to Apply

Fill out the Online application to apply to the Summer Research & Clinical Assistantship.

Applications for 2021 are open.

Final Presentations