2023 UW Health Physician Excellence Awards

The following post was provided by UW Health to highlight the UW Health Physician Excellence Award recipients, a recognition given by UW Health. These physicians are dually employed by the school and UW Health. The original version of this post can be found on UW Health’s U-Connect

We are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2023 UW Health Physician Excellence Awards, which are designed to recognize our most skilled and dedicated physicians. These prestigious awards recognize those individuals who demonstrate exceptional skills in clinical practice, education and leadership and a commitment to the mission, vision and values of UW Health.

Rising Star Clinical Educator Excellence Award

  • Cathy Lee-Miller, MD

Rising Star Clinical Practice Excellence Awards

  • Walid Farhat, MD, GPLLM
  • Lisa Jones, MD, MPH, MMCI
  • Laura Kopplin, MD, PhD
  • Ying Eva Lu-Boettcher, MD

Rising Star Leadership Excellence Awards

  • Sancia Ferguson, MD, MPH
  • Emily Ruedinger, MD, MEd

Regional Services Excellence Award

  • Stephen Rose, MD

Clinical Educator Excellence Awards

  • Jonathan Fliegel, MD
  • Andrew Waclawik, MD
  • Mary Westergaard, MD

Clinical Practice Excellence Awards

  • Raheel Ahmed, MD, PhD
  • Bethany Anderson, MD
  • Sara Damewood, MD
  • Natasha Frost, MD, MS
  • Heather Huang, MD
  • Amish Raval, MD

Clinical Leadership Excellence Awards

  • Brian Arndt, MD
  • Ciara Barclay-Buchanan, MD
  • Hrissanthi (Chris) Ikonomidou, MD, PhD
  • Patricia Téllez-Girón, MD
  • Elizabeth (Betsy) Trowbridge, MD
Group photo of UW Health Physicians Excellence Award winners
Group photo of UW Health Physicians Excellence Award winners. Read more about their in the bios below.

Rising Star Clinical Educator Excellence Award

Cathy Lee-Miller, MD
Assistant Professor (CHS)
Department of Pediatrics

While Rising Star Awards recognize excellence for those with 2-5 years of service, Dr. Cathy Lee-Miller’s gift as a clinical educator was noticed immediately. As Dr. Dan Sklansky, director of the pediatrics residency program says, “Despite a relatively short time in the role, her thoughtfulness, ideas, and perspective mirror the wisdom of seasoned educational leaders I know from national program director conferences.”

Dr. Lee-Miller could win an award for the sheer volume of her educational activities as program director for the Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Fellowship and interim director of fellowships for the department. And as house mentor for the school, she advises one-fifth of each class of medical students and has mentored several Shapiro summer research program students.

She is praised for her bedside manner and for her Socratic and didactic teaching via formal evaluations and word of mouth. Third-year medical student Molly Mercedes Ryan says, “Dr. Lee-Miller is a special kind of person that makes the clinical education arena, often daunting to someone who is new in the clinical world, a really great place to be.”

Dr. Lee-Miller gives learners autonomy while providing thorough and thoughtful, line-by-line feedback on medical student and resident notes. She asks her mentees to set a goal for the week, a small, yet purposeful task that sets up the entire team for a week full of learning. And before giving feedback at the end of the week, she asks learners for their personal reflections, a helpful practice of introspection and self-evaluation.

But it’s how she engages with her young patients and their families as they face cancer that makes the deepest impression. As one student shared: “She models what it looks like for an attending to deeply love her patients and her field.”

Rising Star Clinical Practice Excellence Awards

Walid Farhat, MD, GPLLM
Professor (CHS)
Department of Urology

We recruited accomplished surgeon Dr. Walid Farhat nearly 4 years ago as a professor of urology and division chief for pediatric urology.

A few examples of Dr. Farhat’s direct impact on patient care include:

  • Minor urologic procedures are now done under sedation rather than under general anesthesia, which is safer for the patient, frees up valuable OR time, and improves access to care.
  • He established a multi-disciplinary clinic for children born with differences in sexual development to address the complex medical, surgical, and social needs of this population.
  • And Dr. Farhat expanded the team of providers and partnered with adult urology to meet the needs of patients in our new transitional urology clinic, who will have complex urologic needs over their lifetime.

He leads a diverse team of clinical researchers that includes advanced practice providers like Nurse Practitioner Jenna Finup. While it’s not routine for APPs to be involved in research and clinical practice development, Dr. Farhat recognized Ms. Finup’s passion and talent. And with his encouragement and support, she has redesigned how we care for children with bladder and bowel dysfunction. She has established a preclinic nurse telemedicine visit to educate families immediately upon referral and is building a statewide bowel and bladder disorder network to connect primary care providers with training and tools. It is clear that Dr. Farhat’s team members flourish under his incredible leadership.

In a letter of support by Dr. Shannon Cannon, she describes Dr. Farhat as a remarkable leader with a talent to motivate others, create strong networks, and encourage positive and collegial team dynamics adding, “Our patients receive outstanding care as a result.”

Lisa Jones, MD, MPH, MMCI
Assistant Professor (CHS)
Department of Medicine

Dr. Lisa Jones is assistant professor of medicine and medical director of the Pelvic Floor and Anorectal Disorders Clinic. Dr. Jones established the clinic not long after joining our faculty in 2018 and it has become a program of distinction in our region.

Dr. Jones sees patients with difficult-to-diagnose and sensitive issues like constipation, fecal incontinence, and rectal pain. As a provider with the Women’s Pelvic Floor Wellness center, groups of UW urogynecologists, pelvic floor therapists, and urologists rely on her to provide input on bowel symptoms that often co-exist with other complex pelvic floor issues.

She is excellent at explaining concepts to patients in simple terms, making them feel comfortable discussing subjects most people shy away from. Because of her leadership, more patients who suffer from these conditions have access to the compassionate and specialized care they need.

As Dr. Laura Zakowski shared, “I was relieved to have a clinic to refer patients with these conditions. They have been laudatory about the care she has provided, including both her empathy for their problems…as well as her careful exam and education.”

Dr. Jones is deeply committed to improving the experiences of Black, Indigenous and People of Color through research, serving on the Department of Medicine Task Force on Diversity and Inclusivity and community outreach. She is a trusted and valued resource for her patients and women in our community reference her presentations years later.

Her focus as a Centennial Scholar is utilizing technology to enhance medical education. In just one of many examples, she is working with engineering students to develop a simulation model to teach providers about rectal exams, a critical but under-utilized tool for assessing anorectal conditions.

Meg Drolet, a nurse with the GI clinic, enthusiastically shared her support for Dr. Jones and said: “As you are no doubt already aware, Dr. Jones is pretty darn perfect on paper. She is also driven, decisive, knowledgeable, and cooperative and exemplifies our values of excellence, innovation, integrity, and respect.”

Laura Kopplin, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor (CHS)
Department of Ophthalmology

In just 3 ½ years, Dr. Laura Kopplin has revolutionized uveitis care at UW Health, preventing debilitating vision loss and helping those who were blind to see again.

Patients with this inflammatory disease are among the most complex cases seen by ophthalmologists and may have other life-threatening diseases. Dr. Kopplin is among the top 2% in the country with her level of expertise and some of her patients have followed her to Madison from across the country.

She is the only member of her department who provides complete and dedicated uveitis care. She created clinics that offer specifically tailored assessments and imaging protocols, along with the management of chronic immunosuppression as well as eye disease.

She’s brought cutting-edge research treatment opportunities to our patients and created an Ocular Inflammatory Disease Research Data Repository, a registry to track patient outcomes that will be a goldmine of information over time.

She has authored an impressive 31 publications and gives numerous presentations nationally and internationally. As co-creator of “Headlight in the Fog: The Uveitis podcast” with 6,000 downloads and a cult following of residents and fellows from across the country, we might call her an “influencer” as the kids say. More officially, she created the first uveitis fellowship program, one of a handful nationally and is also training rheumatology fellows.

Even with all of these accomplishments, Dr. Kopplin manages to find time to serve as a faculty volunteer with community clinics in Milwaukee and Madison, where she provides care to many uninsured individuals.

As one of her patients shared, “My eyesight with correction is a miracle. I am almost 80 percent back to where I was before. I feel as though Dr. Kopplin has saved my quality of life. Her dedication, kind demeanor, positive attitude, and love of her work will save other people’s as well.”

Ying Eva Lu-Boettcher, MD
Assistant Professor (CHS)
Department of Anesthesiology

We welcomed Dr. Lu-Boettcher as an assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology’s Division of Pediatric Anesthesiology only 2 ½ years ago. She also serves as the Quality Improvement director for the division.

As Dr. Bridget Muldowney shared in her nomination letter: “It is rare to come across a faculty whose everyday practice is clinical excellence, going the extra mile for every patient.”

Dr. Lu-Boettcher is outstanding as a clinician and her expertise with ultrasound vascular access is legendary. It’s common to hear: “Call Eva” or “I wish Eva was here to help.” Her nursing colleagues look forward to receiving handoff reports from her. They appreciate her spirit of collaboration and consider her a valued resource.

She is a master at analyzing and understanding data at a micro-level, while easily translating her knowledge so it is user-friendly for all providers. Her superpower is using data for quality improvement. She initiated a quality improvement project to modify anesthesia machines without compromising patient safety which resulted in a 17% reduction of volatile gases in the first few months – saving costs and helping the environment.

But perhaps her biggest victory occurred in October 2021 when American Family Children’s Hospital became an active member of the Multicenter Perioperative Outcomes Group, a national consortium of 100 investigators from 51 hospitals that works to improve patient care using electronic healthcare data. She took over a 10-year stalled project, at a time when COVID was all-consuming, to lead a team of physicians, attorneys, and IT analysts from UW and the University of Michigan through the year-long process, something her colleague Dr. Lianne Stephenson describes as “a Herculean effort.”

As Quality Champion for the consortium’s quality initiative, called ASPIRE, she serves on the national pediatric subcommittee putting her at the forefront of developing pediatric metrics. She is the first faculty member to play such an integral role on a national scale – making her a rising star at UW Health and far beyond.

Rising Star Leadership Excellence Awards

Sancia Ferguson, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor (CHS)
Department of Medicine

After growing up in Fitchburg and graduating from UW-Madison, Dr. Sancia Ferguson earned her medical degree and MPH from the University of Minnesota. She did her residency at Tulane and completed her rheumatology fellowship at the University of California San Francisco before starting her practice at a safety-net hospital in Oakland, California where she rose to the rank of rheumatology chief.

In 2020, Dr. Ferguson joined our Rheumatology team as medical director. A popular clinician and clinical leader, Dr. Ferguson is seen as a thoughtful, innovative rising star who shines most brightly in the areas of quality improvement and operational excellence.

She has led efforts to break out of old silos and produce a more unified rheumatology practice spanning UW Health and UnityPoint Health – Meriter. She has also helped build bridges across ambulatory care as a leader on the Department of Medicine Specialty Ambulatory Council and Quality Improvement Committees.

Dr. Ferguson also embraces opportunities for win-win outcomes for patients and UW Health. Thanks to her team leadership, more than 500 last-minute in-person appointment cancellations were converted into same-day video or telephone visits.

Another innovation pioneered by Dr. Ferguson helped UW Health capture hundreds of thousands in savings associated with the federal government’s 340B drug savings program. By leading a team to envision and skillfully redeploy savings, Dr. Ferguson’s efforts resulted in greater quality, safety and medication compliance.

Dr. Ferguson’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion comes in many forms, perhaps most notably in her capacities to inspire others to lead change. We saw this in her role as an SMPH Q.I. coach and mentor in the School’s BEAM program, which enhances the medical school experience for individuals from historically underrepresented groups.

Dr. Ferguson’s creative approach is paying big dividends for patients, the rheumatology team and UW Health as a whole.

Emily Ruedinger, MD, MEd
Assistant Professor (CHS)
Department of Pediatrics

An outstanding, highly beloved clinician, Dr. Emily Ruedinger cares for pediatric and adolescent patients.

One of her colleagues, Dr. Mary Ehlenbach, recalls an anecdote from the sidelines of a soccer match. As Mary tells it, “Another soccer mom, who knew she was a pediatrician, was curious if she knew Dr. Ruedinger. When she said that she did, the mom could not stop gushing. This mom’s daughter had been struggling with an eating disorder associated with isolation from the COVID lockdown. It turns out that Emily lifted not only her daughter, but their entire family out of what seemed a hopeless situation.”

In the clinic, Dr. Ruedinger may change lives one patient at a time. Within the Department of Pediatrics, however, her impact in the areas of social justice and health equity is wide, deep and impactful beyond mere words.

By way of background, Dr. Ruedinger’s undergraduate degree is in education. She is a physician who is truly a gifted teacher at heart.

Not long after arriving at UW Health in 2019, Dr. Ruedinger developed a much needed and incredibly well-received social justice curriculum for Department of Pediatrics residents called “Education for CHANGE.”

Incorporating several learning techniques, this 33-hour, longitudinal curriculum traces the history of structural racism both within and outside of medicine. By focusing on real-life cases, Dr. Ruedinger’s program authentically brings to life ways in which micro-aggressions and implicit bias not only can offend a patient or family member but yield an erroneous diagnosis.

Thanks to Dr. Ruedinger’s unique ability to present this content in an evidence-based and highly accessible manner, many of her colleagues now enjoy a more fruitful and fulfilling relationship with their patients and families.

Another of Dr. Ruedinger’s nominators says she is driven by passion, education and giving back to the community. When you add it all up, she balances resident education, patient care, research, and academia with tremendous grace, professionalism and kindness.

Regional Services Excellence Award

Stephen Rose, MD
Professor (CT)
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Dr. Stephen Rose plays a pivotal role in bringing the Wisconsin Idea to life in his capacity as medical director – regional oncology services. In this role, Dr. Rose collaborates with local oncologists at partner cancer centers in Rockford, Beloit, Waukesha, and Johnson Creek.

Critical to the success of these partnerships is a mutual commitment to keeping as much care as possible close to home. Patients with more complex needs have ready access to our cancer sub-specialists in Madison before care is respectfully returned to the local provider.

Not surprisingly, our regional partners tell a compelling story when it comes to working with Steve.

Dr. Ali Raza from ProHealth Care in Waukesha says Dr. Rose “has a friendly, insightful leadership style that is effective yet not overbearing or restrictive. His polite and collegial demeanor has endeared him to our team.” Dr. Raza also praises Dr. Rose for his ready accessibility.

Natalie Wilson, director of Northern Illinois oncology services, describes Dr. Rose as “an essential partner in fostering growth and executing strategy of the NIL oncology program.” She credits Dr. Rose for helping recruit a gynecologic oncologist to Rockford, connecting the Northern Illinois medical oncologists with the appropriate Madison-based tumor boards, and overall strong support and insightful collaboration.

At the Carbone Cancer Center, Dr. Rose leads our gynecologic oncology program, which has experienced more than 30 percent growth in patient referrals over the past two years. According to Dr. Lee Wilke, Dr. Rose is one of the most requested surgeons in his group, offering five-star care to all of his patients.

Cancer, of course, is serious business. At the same time, Dr. Rose studies and strongly advocates for the use of humor as a therapeutic tool for oncology patients. Typically sporting one of his signature bow ties, Dr. Rose’s sartorial flair perfectly complements his own wicked sense of humor. Whether you are one of his patients, colleagues or members of our cancer care team, time spent with Dr. Rose invariably puts a smile on your face.

Clinical Educator Excellence Awards

Jonathan Fliegel, MD
Associate Professor (CHS)
Department of Pediatrics

Dr. Jonathan Fliegel has served on the Academic Pediatric Association’s Education Committee since 2000, and has been a member of its special interest group on evidence-based medicine since 2009. More recently, he was selected through a very competitive process to serve as Editor of PREP Hospital Medicine, the primary tool of the American Academy of Pediatrics to prepare for the newly approved specialty examination in pediatric hospital medicine. And he also leads a panel of hospitalists from around the country in developing a new CME curriculum.

He is passionate about his role as a teacher and mentor, and his reviews from learners at every level are superior. He has received numerous teaching awards throughout his career including the UW-Madison Family Residency Teaching award. This is particularly impressive as the amount of time a family resident spends with the department of pediatrics is limited, so to be a standout among faculty across all departments at our large institution is a distinct honor.

Considered by his peers as an expert at “diagnosing the learner,” he was selected as a founding member of the new Coaching for Optimal Resident Education (CORE) Mentor program, for which he will perform direct observations of residents, provide feedback, serve as a clinical coach, participate in broader learner assessment, and be more formally recognized as one of the key leaders in the education of future pediatricians at the University of Wisconsin.

But it may be his role as a facilitator for the Healer’s Art elective for eight years that speaks best to his great character. This elective is an internationally recognized course offered to first and second-year medical students throughout the world that invites students and faculty to explore themes of humanity in Medicine.

Dr. Vincent J. Minichiello who first met Dr. Fliegel during his residency in family medicine and now serves as course director for the Healer’s Art elective shared this: “Year after year [Dr. Fliegel] brought his authentic self, a genuine curiosity, and a kind presence to this elective space. And as a resident I always looked forward to being with Dr. Fliegel on service. He consistently brought the same compassion, brilliance and skillful presence to his teaching. I feel that I am a better family physician having worked with Dr. Fliegel during residency.”

Andrew Waclawik, MD
Professor (CHS)
Department of Neurology

Dr. Andrew Waclawik’s colleagues in the Department of Neurology say he is a “national treasure” and “detective for difficult cases.” As an expert in neuromuscular disease “let’s see what Andy thinks” is a commonly used phrase.

He has trained many generations of physicians and received numerous teaching awards during his impressive 29-year tenure. His most significant impact on learners is through bedside teaching. He is passionate about the bedside encounter, and students reflect on the value of watching this veteran neurologist with patients.

He is deeply invested in each residents’ learning, assigning individual residents to cases with the most educational value and reviewing important findings with them even on the busiest days. “Hands-on” learning has new meaning as Dr. Waclawik gives learners the opportunity to practice the complex electromyography test on him first so that the experience is more comfortable for the patient. He pushes trainees to develop their own critical thinking skills, filling them with excitement and confidence to meet the challenges ahead.

Dr. Waclawik grew up in Poland during the height of the Cold War and was a student activist fighting for democracy. Fearing for his family’s safety, he came to the United States. While his own path to becoming a nationally regarded physician was not an easy one, Dr. Waclawik has devoted himself to helping others find their way in medicine.

Mohammad Abdul Azeem, a clinical neurophysiology fellow whom Dr. Waclawik mentors shared this: “On the surface of it, there may not be much that would appear common between us. I am neither European nor Caucasian nor have I lived through the Soviet Union’s reign of terror over Poland. I am probably the same age as his daughter. However, seeing him makes me hopeful that despite growing up impoverished and hungry, despite living through violent terrorism and weekly suicide attacks, despite being the first person to make it to college in my family, despite my numerous flaws and insecurities, maybe there is a place for me here too. And maybe, I too could become a competent neurologist and a respected teacher someday. That hope is the most invaluable thing he has given me.”

Mary Westergaard, MD, FACEP
Associate Professor (CHS)
Department of Emergency Medicine

Dr. Mary Westergaard has held every major educational leadership role within the Department of Emergency Medicine and currently serves as inaugural Vice Chair of Education. She has been a unique force in advancing medical simulation, wellness, women in medicine, and DEI efforts at UW Health, all while serving as an amazing mentor to many and role model to all.

As Assistant Director and later Director of Medical Student Education, Dr. Westergaard created a novel simulation-based curriculum that sets a standard for other departments to follow. As the Residency Program Director, she fundamentally reshaped the identity of the training program into a national powerhouse attracting many of the best medical students from around the country and transforming them into physicians coveted for the most desirable jobs.

As the Founder and Inaugural Chair of the local chapter of the AAMC’s Group on Women in Medicine and Science, Dr. Westergaard has worked to advance issues of gender equity and inclusivity, providing a forum for career advancement, education, and mentorship for students and faculty.

She embodies UW Health’s DEI principles, teaching learners how investigating and addressing social determinants of health improves the care provided in the ED and encouraging them to reframe common narratives used to relate details about patients. She has also made a point of connecting with several BIPOC residents to hear and amplify their personal stories and experiences. That led to the creation of an employee resource group for BIPOC residents and diversity social hours for prospective applicants.

As Dr. David Tillman shared, “To appreciate the thread that unites Dr. Westergaard’s clinical approach with her approach to teaching is to appreciate how dedicated she is to humanism.”

She has been a mentor to many, helping those who may feel lost find direction and others to reach the next level.

Former resident Matthew Goblirsh shared, “Her influence helped me to find strength at a time when I thought I had none, and the inspiring example she set helped me form a new model for the kind of person that I wanted to become – the kind of person who strives to build connections and make a difference in people’s lives.”

Clinical Practice Excellence Awards

Raheel Ahmed, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor (CHS)
Department of Neurological Surgery

Neurosurgeon Dr. Raheel Ahmed has built a top-notch pediatric epilepsy surgery program with significant regional impact. His chief collaborator in this endeavor, neurologist Dr. David Hsu says: “A pediatric surgery program seemed a pipe dream, but Raheel has been the key to our success.”

Before Dr. Ahmed arrived here, surgeries to help children with epilepsy manage their seizures were done on an ad-hoc basis and patients often ended up at the Mayo Clinic. The workup for a child with uncontrolled epilepsy as a candidate for surgery is incredibly complex. It involves collaboration with seven care teams and is drawn out over several months with two phases of study and a review in between.

But with his quiet manner and gentle humor, clear logic and organizational skills, Dr. Ahmed has established a comprehensive presurgical evaluation that reduced the phase one workup time from six to eight months down to just three. He hired a nurse navigator to guide families through the complex and disorienting process and added a state-of-the-art robotic system to aid in stereo-EEG implantation which has reduced OR time and is better tolerated in children with better outcomes.

But the key measure of success of an epilepsy surgery program is the percentage of patients who are seizure-free after surgery, and Dr. Ahmed’s surgical skills are second to none. While the national success rate is in the 40-70% range, 84% of Dr. Ahmed’s patients are seizure-free following surgery.

He has done much to improve surgical care for children with brain and spinal disorders through his research and by mentoring and teaching others, but patients always come first. He happily adds patients onto his schedule outside of regular clinic hours and makes himself available to his colleagues night and day to ensure his patients get timely care.

As Dr. Diane Pucetti shared, “His patients and families love and respect him and always ask me ‘what does Dr. Ahmed think?’ on those rare occasions when he is unable to be present during a patient discussion. They place their most precious belonging, their child, in his capable and caring hands.”

Bethany Anderson, MD
Associate Professor (CHS)
Department of Human Oncology

As the only UW Health radiation oncologist with a primary focus on breast cancer, Dr. Bethany Anderson has developed a breadth of knowledge over the past 12 years that has changed how we care for breast cancer patients.

Dr. Anderson spearheaded the brachytherapy program which delivers radiation through special seeds placed inside or near the cancerous tumor and spares healthy tissue from radiation. Our patients now have the option of accelerated partial breast irradiation, reducing the length of radiation treatment from four weeks to 3 days. And individuals worldwide will benefit as she led a national team in the development of and publication of consensus guidelines for this treatment option.

She is respected for her commitment to re-evaluating options for radiation annually and is dedicated to improving treatment options through research. She is one of the most knowledgeable clinicians with regard to clinical trial specifics and outcomes and is one of the top enrollers in clinical trials in the department. She has also designed a clinical trial investigating the use of MRI-guided radiation for treating breast cancer.

The impact of her commitment to research leads to personalized care for any stage of life. She has elegantly applied outcomes of clinical trials to elderly patient populations with early-stage breast cancer to ensure they don’t need unnecessary therapy. And Dr. Anderson’s innovative treatment regimens for young women to preserve a cosmetic appearance without sacrificing long-term health cannot be obtained anywhere else in the country.

Her patients rave about her care, and she is known for providing the combination of expertise and compassion that one would wish for all cancer patients. And as a key leader in the development of Eastpark Medical Center who recognizes the importance of novel radiation approaches for all cancer types inclusive of brachytherapy and image-guided therapy, she is changing cancer care for all future patients.

Dr. Lee Wilke, Senior Medical Director of UW Health cancer services is one of Dr. Anderson’s biggest cheerleaders and said: “I know you will receive many fabulous letters regarding our great clinical leaders, but I believe Bethany is always at the top of this list!”

Sara Damewood, MD, FACEP
Associate Professor (CHS)
Department of Emergency Medicine

Dr. Sara Damewood is the inaugural Section Chief for the Division of Emergency Ultrasound and a national leader in using point-of-care ultrasound to improve the quality and safety of clinical care. She single-handedly brought this care innovation into practice in our emergency departments and has had an enormous ripple effect on patient care systemwide which is why we honor her today with this award for excellence in clinical practice.

Point-of-care ultrasound can provide a more immediate diagnosis of time-sensitive conditions, is less invasive for diagnosing more common medical problems and allows a safer approach to invasive procedures.

Prior to her arrival at UW Health eleven years ago, ultrasound was not completed by anyone other than radiologists. Dr. Damewood developed this best practice of care from the ground up for the emergency department – managing every detail from procuring ultrasound machines to establishing hospital credentialing criteria.

Today, ultrasound used at bedside by experienced and well-trained clinicians has become an invaluable tool to assist in immediate patient-care decisions in many clinical areas including the ICU, PICU, hospital medicine, pediatrics and family medicine and is under development for our NICU.

A few examples of Dr. Damewood’s impact on inpatient care include:

Nurses and tech staff in the emergency department place peripheral IVs with ultrasound guidance, sparing thousands of patients from repeated, painful needlesticks when IV access is difficult. And because lab acquisitions are easier, patients spend less time in the ED.

In the ICU, point-of-care ultrasound has replaced many daily chest x-rays while central line placement guided by ultrasound means lower infection rates.

And point-of-care cardiac echocardiograms have improved patient care during off hours when the availability of formal echocardiograms may be limited.

Dr. Damewood has also received national accolades for the robust educational program she created that utilizes simulation models to train a broad range of faculty and other learners. Emergency department residents performed a total of 14,693 ultrasound exams with a remarkable accuracy of 97.1%. She also launched and serves as Fellowship Director for our Advanced Emergency Ultrasound Training Program, making us one of few elite programs to offer this specialized training.

Natasha Frost, MD, MS, FAAN
Professor (CT)
Department of Neurology

Neurologist Dr. Natasha Frost joined UW Health in 2015 and was named medical director of the Multiple Sclerosis program almost immediately upon her arrival. Her multidisciplinary approach to care has earned UW Health top recognition as a National Multiple Sclerosis Society Comprehensive Care Center.

MS is an often devastating and debilitating chronic condition with flare-ups that require immediate attention. The clinic has the highest number of MyChart messages and acute add-on visits of any neurology specialty clinic.

It’s demanding work and her clinic fill rate is 135%, but Dr. Frost readily makes room for patients in need. She responds to MyChart messages on days off, after hours, on weekends, and even from a hospital bed within a week after having major surgery to make sure patients’ questions and concerns are answered promptly.

Dr. Christopher Luzzio says she was a standout early on: “I have attended MS meetings for 23 years and have been aware of up-and-coming young MS specialists. She earned difficult-to-earn respect from internationally renowned MS researchers.”

Dr. Frost is the premier educator on clinical diagnosis and management of MS for the region and has maintained a continuously funded research program for the past 15 years. She’s also an expert on the everchanging treatments. No less than 15 new MS drugs – many given by infusion and requiring careful monitoring – have been FDA approved since she completed her fellowship.

She was appointed medical director of the Neurology Clinic at a time when morale was low and vacancies high but has created a welcoming working environment by enforcing a standard of care and compliance with deliberate, precise and fair leadership.

Dr. Frost consistently receives the highest patient satisfaction scores among neurology specialists along with many personal notes from patients including this one: “She was amazing and caring. She showed so much compassion for my fear of not being who I used to be…She made me feel SO MUCH better about it.”

Heather Huang, MD
Associate Professor (CT)
Department of Psychiatry

Dr. Heather Huang is Board Certified in both psychiatry and internal medicine, an exceedingly rare and highly sought-after skill set. She is uniquely positioned to serve as medical director for the UW Health Collaborative Care model, and today thousands of UW Health patients are receiving high-quality mental health care because of her.

Collaborative Care provides treatment for patients with depression and anxiety in their primary care clinic or from home. Providers refer patients to a behavioral health clinician for therapy and review cases with the team psychiatrist.

As internal medicine physician Dr. Kristin Steffen Lewicki shared, “My colleagues and I were ‘all in’ within weeks and we’ve never looked back.”

What began as a pilot program in two clinics is now available in all 27 UW Health primary care clinics, serving 7000 new patients each year over an average of 6 months. More than half of patients achieved remission from depression – a remarkable outcome that surpasses national averages.

Dr. Huang recognized more recently that while the demand for care was high, many primary care physicians were uncomfortable prescribing ADHD medications. So she developed an Adult ADHD Evaluation clinic and offers 1-3 consultations each week, providing assessment and treatment recommendations to the referring provider and serving as an invaluable resource for her colleagues in both psychiatry and primary care.

Dr. Huang has mentored primary care clinicians and given Grand Rounds across the country. She has presented at many national meetings including the American Psychiatric Association and Association of Medicine and Psychiatry, the latter of which awarded her the prestigious Roger Kathol Pioneering Spirit Award in 2018 in recognition for her excellence in integrated care.

But perhaps the most important endorsement comes from the patients she sees in her busy clinical practice who have shared: “Dr. Huang showed concern for a devastating experience in my life …[She] made me feel validated and I appreciate her compassion for me.” “I can’t give you enough praise. When I think of how low my lowest low was, it was not pretty. Thank you so much.” And “This is the first time I have left an appointment feeling like things may actually get better.”

Amish Raval, MD, FACC, FAHA
Professor (Tenure)
Department of Medicine

Dr. Amish Raval is a nationally regarded specialist in interventional cardiology who gives our patients with heart disease hope when they’ve exhausted all other options.

Nurse practitioner Athanasia Schreiner has worked with Dr. Raval since his arrival 17 years ago says: “Most physicians are known for being strong in one or two areas of practice−whether that be their technical skills, bedside manner, research and innovation, teaching and education or leadership. Somehow, Dr. Raval manages to be exceptional in all. Until I met him, I wasn’t even sure if this type of physician (let alone human being) existed. This is why I refer to him as a “unicorn”.

To survive a deadly heart attack time is of the essence, and our STEMI Program works with 20 regional hospitals and 25 EMS agencies along with UW Med Flight to provide critical care to patients, as well as education to those in the field. Under Dr. Raval’s leadership as medical director, we have been recognized for eleven straight years with the highest honors from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.

Dr. Raval is also a pioneer with the TAVR heart procedure, a non-surgical aortic heart valve replacement for adults who would not tolerate open-heart surgery. As Principial Investigator for a national clinical trial of the first therapeutic treatment to use a patient’s own cells to treat heart failure after a heart attack, he provides options for patients who continue to have crippling chest pain despite receiving optimal care and are desperate for help.

Dr. Raval demonstrates humility, compassion, and empathy for patients and family members. He can be found sitting next to a family member during difficult times, talking them through next steps, patiently answering questions and addressing their needs in an empathetic way which shows that they are his priority and focus. Compassion is just part of his DNA and doesn’t just apply to humans. He fosters dogs and provides them with the love and care that all living beings deserve whether two-legged or four.

Clinical Leadership Excellence Awards

Brian Arndt, MD
Professor (CHS)
Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Dr. Brian Arndt joined the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health in 2008 after graduating from our Family Medicine Residency Program. He serves in several leadership capacities, including medical director of the UW Health Verona Clinic.

If there is a thematic line that runs through Dr. Arndt’s career path, it is his concern for the well-being of others. One of his greatest accomplishments stemmed from a well-founded concern for his physician colleagues.

Not long after the introduction of electronic health recordkeeping, or EHR, which we at UW Health call “HealthLink,” it became impossible to escape the increase in physician workload — unintended as it may have been. Seeing a clear need to validate what he was hearing and seeing, Dr. Arndt initiated a comprehensive 3-year study that quantified the time spent on EHR by the 142 faculty members in his department.

His transformative, pathbreaking study, showed an unmistakable increase in workload during and outside of normal clinic hours. Titled “Tethered to the EHR” Brian’s study was published in 2017 in the Annals of Family Medicine. Since then, his work has been cited by nearly 300 publications. Dozens of other researchers have built on Dr. Arndt’s findings and collectively, these studies play a valuable role in the development of well-being initiatives, scheduling policies and physician recruitment efforts.

Dr. Arndt’s concern for others not only extends to the patients and families he cares for, but also to the entire community in which he lives and works. We all know that unhealthy eating contributes to the incidence of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. We know that consuming fresh produce in the diet is essential but for those on low incomes, less than one in 10 people in Wisconsin meet either the recommended daily intake for fruits or vegetables.

As a passionate believer in the “Food is Medicine” movement, Dr. Arndt not only talks the talk; he walks the walk. His work with Madison Area Food Pantry Gardens, which includes plenty of Saturday mornings covered in mud, has substantially increased availability of fresh produce in local food pantries. He also partners with local agencies that help teach people about quick and easy preparation of healthy foods.

One of Dr. Arndt’s colleagues, Dr. Russell Lemmon, said this in his letter of support: “Perhaps more impressive than Brian’s accomplishments themselves is the way he approaches his leadership on a daily basis – passionately. Dr. Arndt believes deeply in the work he engages in and the teams he leads, and that passion is an underlying driver of why his work is so impactful.”

Ciara Barclay-Buchanan, MD, FACEP
Associate Professor (CHS)
Department of Emergency Medicine

After joining the BerbeeWalsh Department of Emergency Medicine in 2015, it did not long for leaders and colleagues, both inside and outside the ED, to spot an incredibly talented, driven, and kind individual.

When a problem surfaces, Dr. Ciara Barclay-Buchanan thrives on finding a solution with a relentless focus on patient safety and optimal results. She does it with poise, determination and a style of leadership built on empowering others.

As Vice Chair of Clinical Operations, Dr. Barclay-Buchanan is responsible for overseeing three emergency departments that care for 100,000 patients annually. Such responsibility requires meticulous oversight of strategic planning, workforce staffing, interdisciplinary team building, workflow development, process refinement, equipment management, and quality improvement.

Somehow, Dr. Barclay-Buchanan pulls it all off. With an uncanny understanding of our sizable, often complex organization, Ciara gracefully navigates the web of people from across UW Health who regularly interface with the ED.

Dr. Barclay-Buchanan is the first person to celebrate the accomplishment of a peer, advocate for women in healthcare, encourage a mentee to take the lead, or offer her amazing wordsmithing assistance to anyone who asks.

She advocates tirelessly for her patients and team. In her role as Vice Chair of Operations for the BerbeeWalsh Department of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Barclay-Buchanan has helped procure additional staff and space needed to support the incredibly rapid growth in patient volume over the past few years.

Above all, when something needs to be done, big or small, Dr. Barclay-Buchanan steps right in without hesitation. No matter if it’s helping turn over a room, answering a radio call or re-arranging the waiting room to create more space, Dr. Barclay-Buchanan steps right in without hesitation. She is truly a class act.

Hrissanthi (Chris) Ikonomidou, MD, PhD
Professor (Tenure)
Department of Neurology

Dr. Chris Ikonomidou, the chief of our pediatric neurology section, has poured her entire being into building an extraordinary team of faculty physicians.

Less than 10 years ago, pediatric neurology at UW Health was hanging by a thread. At one point, there were just two attending physicians and no advanced practice providers.

Following a massive and extraordinarily successful recruitment effort, Dr. Ikonomidou today leads a team of 12 attending physicians and four APP’s. Her efforts — always conducted with great inclusivity and collegiality — have paid off many times over.

With experts in epilepsy surgery, neuromuscular disorders, neurogenetics, neuro-oncology, brain injury care and headaches, UW Health’s child neurology team provides remarkable, comprehensive care not only in Madison, but at regional sites in Oshkosh and Rockford.

One of Dr. Ikonomidou’s colleagues, Dr. Dave Hsu, attributes the team’s evolution to their leader’s highly collaborative, non-directive style. As Dave says, “Chris talks with us, listens to us, probes us, supports us and champions us.”

In one of the most striking examples of servant leadership, Dr. Ikonomidou selflessly notified her team in March 2020 that she would take all inpatient, in-person call for the coming month to spare everyone else from the higher risk of COVID-19. Dr. Ikonomidou was especially concerned about her newer faculty members with young children, and she continued this practice for several months during those highly uncertain times.

In her clinical practice, Dr. Ikonomidou exhausts all treatment avenues to ensure her patients receive the best possible care. In one recent example, Dr. Ikonomidou saw a child who had been suffering for years with chronic headaches. After making some changes in his care, the patient is now free of headaches and completely off medication.

Dr. Ikonomidou also serves as Vice Chair for Research within the Department of Neurology and conducts extensive research on the effects of several drugs and compounds on the developing brain.

The accolades for Dr. Ikonomidou truly know no bounds. Perhaps no higher compliment can be found than one Dr. Kwon provided in closing her letter of support.

“There are two things I always say about Chris,” wrote Dr. Kwon. “The first is that she is the best boss I ever had. And the second is that I will stay at UW for as long as she is the section chief of Pediatric Neurology. I look forward to continuing to share the successes of this winning team, created by the best leader I know, Dr. Chris Ikonomidou.”

Patricia Téllez-Girón, MD
Associate Professor (CHS)
Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Dr. Patricia Dr. Téllez-Girón Salazar has always been someone who is fiercely determined to overcome obstacles.

She was the first in her family to go to college, followed by graduation with high honors from medical school in Mexico. Thirty years ago, Dr. Téllez-Girón emigrated to the United States — a place filled with opportunity but also widespread challenges, including a new language and myriad new customs.

Dr. Téllez-Girón joined UW Health as a Family Medicine physician in 2000. In a community that was far less diverse than it is today, you can imagine the countless instances of overt and covert bias Dr. Téllez-Girón faced while seeking validation as a physician in Madison.

It is through this lens that Dr. Téllez-Girón sees the healthcare disparities among marginalized and underrepresented communities every day.

Today, Dr. Téllez-Girón is the unquestioned face of health care in Madison’s Latinx community. She hosts Nuestra Salud, or “Our health,” a monthly program on Madison’s Spanish radio station, “La Movida.” And since 2001, Dr. Téllez-Girón has chaired the Latino Health Council of Dane County a consortium of more than 25 local health-related organizations.

In 2020, not long after the pandemic upended life as we know it, Dr. Téllez-Girón was recognized by Time Magazine as someone who helps “bridge divides across America.” She was often cited locally for her unrelenting support of vaccination, which clearly helped mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within the Latinx community and Dane County as a whole.

Given the enormous growth of Dane County’s Hispanic population over the past two decades, it is not surprising that more than 90 percent of Dr. Téllez-Girón’s Wingra Clinic patients speak Spanish. It is impossible to overstate the incredible bond and trust that comes from having a doctor who comes from a similar culture.

In her letter of support for Dr. Téllez-Girón, Fabiola Hamdan, who leads the Dane County Immigration Affairs Office, said this: “Patricia’s work these past 25 years has had a marked impact in creating more equity for our underserved communities by increasing diversity and cultural competence. Patricia always says, ‘the greatest of my rewards is assuring that the communities I serve receive the services they deserve.’”

Elizabeth (Betsy) Trowbridge, MD, FACP
Professor (CT)
Department of Medicine

From late 2018 until early 2020, Dr. Betsy Trowbridge served as interim chair of the Department of Medicine — the first woman to lead the department. Last year, Dr. Trowbridge was named the first Kenneth D. Skaar Chair of Primary Care, which she holds concurrently with her role as head of the Division of General Internal Medicine.

Several years ago, Dr. Trowbridge was asked to spearhead the monumental task of redesigning the way primary care is delivered throughout UW Health. She embraced the challenge passionately, and this enterprise and our patients are reaping the benefits.

This unprecedented project necessitated the breakdown of silos among three departments that each used to deliver primary care its own way — Internal Medicine, Family Medicine and Pediatrics. At the same time, physician compensation methods were becoming antiquated, so Betsy championed the development of an innovative, population-based compensation model that is now viewed as a best practice.

In short, old mindsets, systems and processes were closely scrutinized and replaced when necessary. In the end, primary care was overhauled with a new approach that places the patient at the center of everything.

With 250,000 patients who have chosen UW Health as their medical home, we now have the ability to customize and optimize the way we deliver primary care. Years ago, primary care was essentially delivered in a vacuum occupied by one patient and one doctor. Thanks to the work spearheaded by Dr. Trowbridge, today’s patients receive care that is highly informed by ever-evolving population health principles.