Application Process: Apply online » (Applications for 2022 are now closed
Stipend: $3200
Duration: 8 weeks: May 16 – July 11 2022

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 16 – 18 — Work with faculty
  • May 19/20 — Orientation seminar (at DFMCH or virtual)
  • May 23 – June 16 — Work with faculty
  • June 17 — Mid-point seminar (at DFMCH or virtual)
  • June 20 – July 8 — Work with faculty
  • July 11 — 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 2022 are now closed)  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

2022 Research Projects

Note: Student Matched

Primary Investigator: Tana Chongsuwat, MD
Collaborators: Stacy Leidel
Location of study: Madison

Background information: This past January was cervical health awareness month and recent studies show that many women don’t know how often they should be screened for cervical cancer and have delayed routine physicals with their primary care providers. The pandemic has increased these delays and the result in late diagnosis of cervical dysplasia can lead to increased morbidity and mortality. The American Cancer Society estimates in the United States for 2022 that about 14,100 new cases of invasive cancer will be diagnosed and about 4,280 women will die from cervical cancer.

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

In this project the student will work with clinic leadership, staff, and clinicians to evaluate and develop a quality improvement project to increase cervical cancer screening uptake at the Wingra Family Medicine Center. Roles will include literature review on cervical cancer intervention programs, development of clinician education, chart review to measure uptake, and summary paper of the program. Students will be able to shadow at the Wingra Family Medicine Clinic 1-2 half days per week and inpatient at St. Mary’s Hospital.

Note: Student Matched

Primary Investigator: David Horton, MS
Collaborators: Randall Brown, MD, PhD and Tudor Borza, MD
Location of study: Madison

Background information: Shortly after the FDA approved buprenorphine for OUD, the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (despite acknowledging lack of evidence) indicated that perioperative analgesia would be difficult to achieve with standard opioids if buprenorphine—a partial opioid agonist with very high mu-opioid receptor affinity—were continued. Since that time, expert opinion and non-systematic reviews have called this position into question (e.g., Harrison et al., 2018; Warner NS et al., 2020).

The present study seeks to determine patterns of perioperative MOUD interruption over a period of 10 years, as well as the consequences of MOUD interruption on patient outcomes.

Specifically, the present study would seek to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the rates of perioperative interruption of MOUD (buprenorphine and methadone), and how have these rates evolved over a period of 10 years?
  2. What differences in outcomes (if any) exist between patients receiving and patients not receiving their MOUD (i.e., methadone or buprenorphine) within 24 hours of surgery?
  3. Do interruption rates differ for buprenorphine and methadone, and are these interruptions associated with different outcomes?

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

Potential roles include statistical analysis of electronic medical record data, organization of data into tables and/or figures, poster/lecture preparation/presentation, and manuscript development/publication. Opportunities for clinical observation of a family physician (study collaborator/Co-Investigator) seeing patients will be available as well.

Additional comments: The study is an electronic medical record (EMR) data analysis study investigating the last 10 years of clinical practice at UW for perioperative pain management of individuals with an Opioid Use Disorder ICD code. The mentee will have opportunities to gain insights into best practices in pain management and perioperative care. Additionally, experience would be available for analyzing and interpreting EMR data, as well as packaging the data collected and analyzed into a presentable format (e.g., poster, paper, presentation).

Clinically, the mentee will have opportunities to observe an experienced family physician seeing patients – either Dr. Randall Brown or other addiction medicine faculty. Dr. Brown is the Founding Director of the UW Addiction Medicine Fellowship Program, among other roles such as Director of the American Board of Addiction Medicine and President of the Addiction Medicine Fellowship Directors’ Association.

Note: Student Matched

Primary Investigator: Jessica Dalby, MD

Location of study: Madison

Background information: Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March of 2020, we have seen an alarming increase in syphilis infections in the City of Milwaukee. Additionally concerning is the sharp increase in syphilis infections in women of reproductive age, which concurrently has led to a marked increase in congenital syphilis cases. Most clinicians have limited experience with syphilis and as the community confronts an increased case burden, more provider preparation is needed to respond appropriately to new cases. This project aims to address knowledge gaps by creating 3 web-based CME provider trainings.

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time? The student project will involve creating web-based learnings for Wisconsin providers on 3 topics: general syphilis identification and treatment, syphilis in pregnancy, and congenital syphilis identification and treatment. We will also create pre- and post- brief testing to capture provider knowledge before and after trainings as well as establish CME credit for participants. Additional SSRCA student activities may include patient care experience in a variety of settings including Wingra Family Medical Center, Meriter hospital newborn and maternity care, Keenan Sexual Health clinic at the Milwaukee health department and Planned Parenthood.

Note: Student Matched

Primary Investigator: Ildi Martonffy, MD

Location of study: Madison

Background information: A ten-year retrospective study published in Pediatrics last year reviewing availability of pediatric inpatient services in the United States from 2008 to 2018 showed an 11.8% decrease in pediatric inpatient unit beds with rural areas experiencing a steeper decline than urban areas. (Cushing AM, Bucholz EM, CHien AT, et al. Availability of Pediatric Inpatient Services in the United States. Pediatrics 2021; 148(1)) In some larger health systems, there has been a move toward requiring Pediatric Hospitalist Fellowship training for pediatricians who wish to practice in patient pediatric care. Family physicians have historically provided pediatric care in a variety of inpatient settings and have been the providers of care for inpatient pediatric care in many rural hospitals. The newest proposed ACGME RRC residency training requirements do away with the requirement that programs have faculty who provide inpatient pediatric care. This project seeks to address the “state of the state” of pediatric inpatient care in Wisconsin, with a focus on care provided in more rural areas.

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

Our student will help design and carry out a survey of the “state of the state” of pediatric inpatient care in Wisconsin. We seek to learn which hospitals still provide inpatient pediatric care, who provides this care (family physicians, pediatricians, both), and the nature of the care provided. As a residency program, we aim to train physicians who will meet the health care needs of our state. The results of this study will help us better understand some of those needs.

Note: Student Matched

Primary Investigator: Elizabeth Fleming

Location of study: Cottage Grove, WI (15 miles east of Madison)

Background information: The aim of this project is to invite patients to use writing to share what is important to them as a part of establishing care with a new physician. The patient physician relationship is key to primary care, but building rapport takes time. In our current system, where office visits typically need to address multiple medical concerns, it is difficult to find the time needed to get to know a patient’s person or social history, despite the fact that understanding this context can be crucial to providing the best care possible and can also improve clinician satisfaction. This pilot study will enroll patients who are scheduled to establish care with a new physician and give them the opportunity to respond to the question “What do you want your care team to know about you as a person?”, modeled after the project “My Life, My Story: Advancing the Veteran Experience”, over MyChart prior to the visit with a follow up survey to assess the experience and potential impact of inviting narrative into the clinical encounter.

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time?The role of the student will be to delve into the literature around narrative medicine, storytelling in healthcare, establishing care and relationship building in the clinical encounter. They will reach out to patients who would qualify for the study, facilitate sending the electronic message invitation to write about themselves. Ideally participate in the clinical encounters, compile and review survey results and have the opportunity to participate in any future publication or presentation related to the project. The student would have the opportunity to work in clinic 1-2 days per week.

Note: Student Matched

Primary Investigator: KJ Hansmann, MD

Location of study: Madison

Background information: For many older adults, the transition to non-driving is a significant change in how they move around their communities. This transition has been associated with negative impacts on older adults’ social interaction, community engagement, and mental health as well as their physical function and risk of mortality. Community characteristics – rurality, neighborhood disadvantage, and transportation infrastructure – are important upstream determinants that influence when and how older adults transition to non-driving, as well as what mobility capital they will be able to sustain after the transition. The objectives of this larger research project will be to examine how community characteristics affect when older adults make the transition to non-driving and for those adults who do stop driving, how community characteristics then affect their odds of worsening social isolation.

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time? The aim of this summer opportunity will be to develop a conceptual framework for understanding and evaluating the community transportation resources of older adults in rural, suburban, and urban settings.

The student will be involved in:

  1. reviewing literature and policy to identify key services and laws that promote community mobility for older adults
  2. conducting audits of community transportation resources in Wisconsin’s rural, suburban, and urban settings
  3. developing and testing an interview protocol for community stakeholders
  4. writing a summary review paper with the findings from this project

The student will also be able to shadow Dr. Hansmann at Northeast Clinic for up to 2 half days per week.

Note: Student Matched

Primary Investigator: Sarina Schrager, MD, MS
Collaborators: Elizabeth Burnside, MD, MS, MPH
Location of study: Madison

Background information: Breast cancer is the most common cancer found in women in the US. Primary care clinicians screen and counsel women who are both average and high risk for breast cancer. Women who are at high risk (lifetime risk of >20%) are eligible for chemoprophylaxis (5 years of tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor to reduce risk of hormone dependent cancer( and enhanced screening (addition of annual MRI to mammograms). Many clinicians do not identify women at high risk. This study aims to look at women with a family history of breast cancer (documented in EPIC) and determine whether they are high risk based on established risk models, and if so, if they were counseled about enhanced screening or chemoprophylaxis.

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time? This chart review study will evaluate any risk assessment documented in the chart and will also assess whether family history alone can be a surrogate marker for high-risk status by completing risk stratification models for each woman and assessing the relationship between family history and level of risk. The student will review a sample of 200 charts of women from 35-50 years old who have a family history of breast cancer, assess their breast cancer risk using 2 different risk models, and develop a database that will allow for correlations to be made between level of family history (i.e 1st or 2nd degree relative, number of relatives, etc.). The student will have an opportunity to work in a family medicine clinic with Dr. Schrager to experience breast cancer risk assessment and counseling with women.

Note: Student Matched

Primary Investigator: Jon Temte, MD, PhD
Collaborators: John Eich (WI Office of Rural Health) and Gary Gilmore, MPH, PhD
Location of study: Madison

Background information: The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic created challenges for public health systems, which are exacerbated in rural settings due to chronic issues of resource allocation, underfunding, and prioritization. Differences in attitudes about governmental role result in differential acceptances of public health measures such as COVID-19 vaccination and masking. Objective: Summer 2022 will be an ideal time to obtain the perspectives of rural health officers through an oral history approach, on successes, challenges, failures, and personal experiences through the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Methods: Using a partnership through the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health, and the UW La Crosse Graduate Community Health and Public Health Programs, the student will conduct structured key informant interviews with rural health officers across Wisconsin, either in person or virtually. We anticipate that 20-30 interviews will be conducted to examine the breadth and depth of the lived experience throughout the pandemic. Interviews will be recorded and transcribed. Qualitative methods will be used to examine common themes among the professionals.

What is the potential student role in the project, including clinical time? The student will work with Dr. Temte, Mr. Eich, and Dr. Gilmore to develop the set of questions within the structured key informant interview. S/he will arrange and conduct the 20-30 minute interviews, take notes, and review the transcripts of the interviews. A report will be written, with assistance of the mentors, and the student will have the opportunity to present the findings at the Wisconsin Rural Health Promotion Symposium in October, 2022.

Note: Student Matched

Primary Investigator: Valerie Gilchrist, MD

Location of study: Madison

Background information: Teams are essential to the delivery of optimal primary care (PC) yet research about the characteristics, components and outcomes of optimally functioning teams in PC offices is lacking. This SSRCA will focus on the assessment of PC office team composition and function by

  1. the members of the PC team using a brief survey
  2. PC patients using a semi structured survey or interview

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

The student with the primary mentor will visit PC offices to

  • explain the project
  • deliver and collect staff surveys

The student will also talk with a convenience sample of patients (either in person or by telephone) using the semi structured interview outline to obtain their understanding of their primary health care team

Additional comments: This project is ideal for a student who is inquisitive about health care systems and also one who enjoys talking with patients and wants to hone her/his interviewing skills. If patient interviews are done remotely by telephone the student could be outside of Madison for part of the project.

Note: Student Matched

Primary Investigator: Brian Arndt
Collaborators: Mark Wirtz, MD; Cassandra Vanderwall, PhD, RDN, CD, LDN, CDCES, CPT, FAND; and Matt Lechmaier
Location of study: Madison

Background information: There are 50,000 people in Dane County who experience food insecurity. Madison Area Food Pantry Gardens (MAFPG) and several other community partners have a collaborative vision that everyone in “Dane County EATS Healthy.” This vision is informed by the CDC’s Community Health Improvement framework with a goal of clarifying roles in increasing the emergency food system’s fresh local produce supply, light food processing, and coordinating last mile transportation and distribution logistics.

Dane County EATS Healthy as currently defined:

  • Enhance nutrition security for all through expanded produce access
  • Amplify partnerships and increase collaboration
  • Transform the regional emergency food system
  • Sustainable synergy and economic stability for all

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

To better understand how to create nutrition security in Dane County with a focus on produce, the SSCRA student will engage with patients at the Verona Clinic and participate in volunteer sessions at several MAFPG locations including Forward Garden and the Verona Clinic garden. The student will help develop and distribute a produce preference survey for Dane County food pantries and other food programs as part of a community needs assessment. Input for survey design and distribution logistics will be solicited from organizations such as The Hmong Institute, Centro Hispano of Dane County, The Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness, Growing Together WI (Division of Extension), the UW Madison Departments of Food and Nutritional Sciences, and others. The Integrated Graduate Program in Nutrition and Dietetics at UW Health, UW Preventive Medicine Residency, and UW DFMCH will help with data entry, analysis and reporting of survey results.

Additional comments: 

Cassie Vanderwall: Manager, Nutrition & Health Education Programming; Program Director, Integrated Graduate Program in Nutrition & DieteticsMatt Lechmaier: Farm Manager at Madison Area Food Pantry Gardens’ Forward Garden in the Town of Middleton

Summer Research & Clinical Assistantship Students

Medical Students Join DFM Faculty on Summer Research Projects.