Madelaine Tully

Position title: Chief Medical Officer, Westside Healthcare Association, Milwaukee

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Born and raised in Milwaukee, Dr. Madelaine Tully currently serves as Chief Medical Officer and a family physician at the Lisbon Avenue Health Center and Hillside Family Health Center in Milwaukee. A friend of Wisconsin AHEC and its mission to enhance learning experiences for health professions students, Dr. Tully shared her perspective about working with students at the community health center where she practices.

What do you like about being a preceptor? What are some of the challenges?
Working with students is exciting, fun, rewarding. Students are enthusiastic and they ask good questions. The greatest challenge of teaching students is not having time to process what we’ve seen; the clinics are so busy, we can’t discuss everything that happens. So basically, they all have to put their roller skates on to keep up. But they like it! I get them right in there working with patients. We do it together. I’m a big believer in having the student present to the patient and to me at the same time, as a learning opportunity that builds confidence.

Can you share a little bit about your experience at Westside?
One of the things that kept me away from community medicine, initially, was an assumption of lack of resources. Whereas now what I can say about Westside is we’re functioning with top notch technology and top-notch staff – so I don’t feel any disadvantage compared to private practice colleagues, plus I get to work with this population, which is very rewarding professionally.

What makes a Community Health Center particularly well suited as an educational setting?
Students may not have spent time in this part of town before; the economic and cultural diversity, with the immigrant populations – African, Somalian, Hmong – is a different slice of things for them. It goes beyond a medical experience – it’s also a social experience. Students get not only medical history but also social history when talking with patients. We have a lot of uninsured patients here; it’s very eye-opening for students to see what’s offered to people who are uninsured, compared to those on Medicaid or who have other insurance, which is integral to that patient’s care. Students learn a lot here. You’re looking at the whole person, and the whole spectrum of health care.

How is the setting different than in other types of clinics?
Our population has lots going on. Sometimes it seems that we don’t ever have ‘normal’ labs or test results here; the pathology is very rich from a clinical perspective. For a student, it’s a very interesting place – you learn so much here because our patients in many cases have waited before coming to see a doctor, so their conditions have escalated, for example untreated diabetes or abscesses. On the other hand, the people who come for preventive care are especially motivated and determined to stay healthy despite the challenges of their environment. It’s inspirational for us as providers to see them succeed.

Can you describe an example from Westside that demonstrates how students apply theory to clinical practice?
When we talk about cuts to programs, and decisions being made by political leaders: we’re living that right here. It’s not in the abstract. The pressing issues are brought to a very local level – every day – which makes the student experience richer, humanizes it, and makes it less scary.”

Anything else you would like to talk about related to the education of future health care professionals? Current themes or issues?
We absolutely need more students to go into medical care, and to practice in underserved communities. The best way to achieve that is to get them here, as students, and get them hooked early on working with this community. The more support we have – from AHEC, the state, or other sources – the more we can offer. We need an adequate number of providers to be able to train the numbers of students needed as future practitioners.”

Do you have any messages for public health staff and other clinicians around the state?
Stay in touch with politics, and the political leadership. Stay active in a medical society. Medical providers are given respect; when we step up and communicate, we get attention and respect. Stay politically active and aware, take time to write an email whenever possible. CHCs are vulnerable and need support.

Read more about the Westside Healthcare Association (permanently closed).