Dr. Beth Potter: Gone for One Year But Never Forgotten

This post was originally published to U-Connect, UW Health’s intranet. See the original here

One year ago, nearing the end of Week 3 of the COVID-19 pandemic, Madison was devastated to learn that one of UW Health’s own – Dr. Beth Potter – and her husband, Robin Carre, PhD, were senselessly taken from us.

Potter, 52, a faculty member of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health (DFMCH) since 1999; and Carre, 57, an adjunct professor of History at Viterbo University and coaching director at Regent Soccer Club in Madison, greatly impacted the lives of countless colleagues, patients and students throughout their lives.

Shortly after the news broke, one of Potter’s longstanding patients, Mary Charnitz, expressed in writing how much she imagined being part of a three-generation Potter patient family.

“Dr. Potter was my doctor for 30 years and delivered all three of my children,” Charnitz wrote. “Now as adults, my children chose her as their doctor and she continued to offer the same loving service to them. I secretly hoped she would deliver my grandchildren someday. She was a wonderful physician and friend over the years. She always had time for me and treated me with so much care and respect.”

Other patients echoed Charnitz’s sentiments through hundreds of cards and notes that poured into the Access Community Health Centers Wingra Family Medical Center in South Madison, where Potter practiced.

“Beth was an incredibly amazing, generous person with a great passion for underserved patients,” says Mary Vasquez, clinic manager at Wingra.

“Wingra’s multicultural flavor was completely embraced by Beth,” adds Dr. Jonathan Temte, Associate Dean for Public Health and Community Engagement at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “Her fluency in Spanish and French, as well as English, was just one way that she met patients on their own terms. Beth also was a highly engaged teacher of our residents and greatly beloved by the Wingra Clinic staff.”

Events Were Swirling Around COVID-19 When Dr. Potter Died

At the time of her death, Potter’s plate was running over as COVID-19 upended what was once thought of as “normal” life.

“It was crazy at Wingra Clinic and especially at Employee Health, where Beth also served as medical director,” says Vasquez, the Wingra clinic manager. “In spite of how busy she was, I will never forget the messages of encouragement she sent me as we wondered what each day would bring.”

Dr. William Schwab, interim chair of DFMCH, says Potter’s highest priority during those early COVID days was to ensure that everyone who got tested received compassionate assurance while waiting for test results.

“She knew how frightened they were for themselves and their loved ones,” he wrote in a message to faculty and staff. “She was a beacon of calm amid a swirling storm.”

Meeting Room Named for Dr. Potter Now Used for Vaccine Clinic

To honor Potter’s memory, a large meeting room at the Wingra Clinic was renamed the Beth Potter, MD Conference and Community Room. Last week, Wingra Clinic opened its COVID-19 vaccine clinic in this room.

“Beth would be deeply touched that a room bearing her name is where so many residents of this community are getting vaccinated against COVID,” says Vasquez. “It could not be more fitting.”

Putting her money where her values were, Potter strongly supported minority-owned businesses in Madison as a way to bolster the entire community.

Vata Edari, who owns CocoVaa, a chocolate shop on Madison’s east side, remembers chatting with Vasquez not long after Potter’s passing.

“Wingra Clinic heard about my company from Dr. Potter,” says Edari. “When we shut down for several months because of COVID, my 13-year-old son and I kept our spirits up by perfecting our recipes and creating new ones. We donated our creations to frontline workers and made Wingra Clinic a priority drop-off spot because of Dr. Potter’s strong support of our business. I only wish we were able to get to know her more personally.”

Fund in Beth and Robin’s Names Established to Support UW Arboretum

To memorialize Beth and Robin, the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health established the Beth Potter and Robin Carre Memorial Fund, which has already raised more than$100,000 to create a scholarship and a memorial in the UW Arboretum — a place they both cherished.

The Beth Potter Scholarship will allow DFMCH residents to attend leadership training that focuses on wellness and resiliency. The Arboretum Memorial will include updates and maintenance to the boardwalk, a bench on one of the Gardner Marsh overlooks, a commemorative tree, and a commemorative stainless steel leaf that will hang from a trellis connecting the Native Plant Garden to Longenecker Gardens.