“I’m a community doc:” What motivates our MLK event keynote speaker

Tito Izard, MD ’94, will give a keynote titled Legends and Legacy: The Masking of Black Health in America on this coming Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 at 11 a.m. The talk will be followed by a question-and-answer session. See more information here and submit a question for the Q&A via this form.  

We checked in with Dr. Izard in advance of his keynote to learn more about his background and what motivates him in his career.

Q: What motivated you to pursue a bachelor’s in social work and then an MD? This is a very interesting track.

Izard: I pretty much always wanted to be a doctor but being a first-generation college student, I didn’t really know what that meant. Growing up in the inner city of Milwaukee, our family did not have a primary care physician, someone whom I could trust and receive mentorship from. What I did experience though was a very strong sense of community and helping others in need.

Without the formal degree, my mother was the neighborhood therapist and social worker. From what others would call the “worst” children in the neighborhood, I would come home and witness hours of hurt humanity revealing their deepest secrets to her. I was fascinated by how empathy and compassion can transform even the worst of us.

Q: Was there something in your studies at Marquette that piqued your interest in medicine?

Izard: I went to Marquette to become a social worker, and a healer. The first social worker in Marquette’s history to go on to become a physician. I did this because I wanted to become a “community doc.” I wanted to better understand community resources and how to connect people based on their needs. I understood early that addressing health without wellness was myopic. Today we call these social determinants of health. Back in the day, we called it community.

Q: Why are you excited to come speak on this topic at SMPH?

Izard: Most importantly, I am excited to return virtually to speak because of an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Like the song, Little Drummer Boy, I came with “… no gift to bring.” The school helped me find my gift to share throughout the state of Wisconsin and beyond.

Q: What motivated you on this journey to medicine and academia and then to pivot to fully pursue your medical practice in Milwaukee?

Izard: I’m a community doc. That’s what I am; that’s my destiny. I like spending time educating other learners about how to create successful, sustainable urban health practices committed to vulnerable populations. There are several ways to accomplish this mission, but each journey begins with a sacrifice. The most important question you must answer for yourself is, what are you willing to sacrifice in order to make the world a better place? If you can describe your sacrifices, I can show you the vision of our future together.