Transformational Times

Words of Hope, Character & Resilience from our Virtual Community

Friday, May 5, 2023

In This Issue:

Director's Corner


Poetry Corner

  • Help take the pain away, Paul Holmes

Call For Submissions!

Transformational Times will have parent issues this year, around Mothers Day and Fathers Day. We are looking for a variety of submissions ranging from untraditional families, advice, what you wish you knew, or anything else folks might like to share around parenting. If you are interested, please reach out to the email below.

Reach Out

What is a meaningful childhood mantra you learned from your mother that still rings true today?

Let Us Know!

Answers from last week: Please share a picture of your child's artwork with our readers, or something YOU created as a kid that reflects the sweet, creative, colorful, fun, unvarnished perspective of childhood. Feel free to tell us a bit about it, and the child who created it. 

-Nineteen years ago my then 5-year-old son drew this picture of our family in his favorite colors. His red hair is accurate. I liked his perspective on our family portrait and used it as our holiday card (years before Pinterest, etc.). My favorite part is that everyone's head is at the same height, and the little ones just need to grow to the ground. We've expanded our family since then and the artist is now an engineer. This drawing always makes me smile and remember that time in our lives. -Chris Skumatz

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Director's Corner

What does a medical student look like? Social Determinants of Medical Education

By Adina Kalet, MD, MPH

In this week’s Director’s Corner, Dr. Kalet muses on what it means that not all, but most, medical students come from high-income households and how this may be the cause of unnecessary struggle and suffering... 

It was late on a wintery night when the car’s brakes failed. As we rolled down the steep Upper Manhattan hill the driver, my classmate, Laura, pumped the hand break until we came to a stop by gently bumping the rear of the vintage Mercedes Benz paused at the traffic light. “Shit,” she muttered.


Following Laura’s lead, I got out of the car and gingerly approached the older tuxedoed man who had emerged from the driver’s seat and was now carefully inspecting the rear bumper. No harm done.  A moment later, a woman emerging from the passenger seat, wrapping her fur coat tightly around her shoulders as she strode over. She looked us up and down, no doubt taking in our matching server uniforms, poorly fitting black skirts, and polyester white button downs, bow ties askew. She then eyed the rusted 10-year-old baby blue Buick from which we had emerged and screeched, “How can you have this piece of junk on the road? You could have killed us…and my husband is a surgeon!?” 

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We’ve come a long way, but have a long road ahead

By Alicia Pilarski, DO

Dr. Pilarski reflects on her first few days as the Inaugural Froedtert & MCW Chief-Well-Being Officer...

While the waves of excitement wash over me, I’m simultaneously pulled under the current with the reality that this new role is going to be incredibly overwhelming and at times, very challenging.

Our healthcare system needs an overhaul. It’s not just our own organization, but others across the nation that need to restructure many aspects of how we collectively deliver safe and quality care to our patients, all while protecting those who deliver that care. 

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Creating a “zone of fabulousness” through collective care

By Sara Kohlbeck, PhD, MPH 

Mental Health Awareness Month is about self-care, and it’s also an opportunity to reflect on collective care – caring for those around us...

An invitation to boldly engage in collective care

As a suicidologist, a question that I often hear is, “How do you do that work, day in and day out?” As I started my work in suicide research and suicide prevention several years ago, I was reminded, often, by well-meaning mentors and supervisors to remember to engage in self-care as a regular practice while working in this space. Indeed, suicide is a difficult topic to engage with, and even more difficult to research.

Over the years that I have been doing this work, I recall several instances in which the research itself nearly knocked the wind out of me. I still remember reading one suicide investigation report of a 13-year-old girl, whose own mother found her. I had a 13-year-old daughter myself at the time. I remember closing my computer and crying in my office. This case still sticks with me as one that impacted me deeply. 

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FOMO ~rebranded~

By Erin Gruber

Have you heard of the term FOMO? Fear Of Missing Out? It’s not something you strive for…but what if I told you, it’s something you should want?

During my first year of medical school, I have been struggling with FOMO: the Fear of Missing Out. I know that medical school is exactly where I am supposed to be and am so grateful that I have been given the opportunity to fulfill this career path for which I have worked so hard.

However, I often wonder what it would be like if I were in the shoes of my college besties – those who aren’t in med school. Would I be making a difference in my teaching community and have an abundant savings account like Grace? Would I be spending quality time with my family and wine tasting in Italy like Liv? Would I be content with where I am?

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Taking the mystery out of psychotherapy

By David Cipriano, PhD

Dr. Cipriano shares his thoughts on the image problem surrounding psychotherapy and the need for psychotherapists to practice what they ask of their patients...


Psychotherapy still has an image problem. After all these years and with what seems like a lot more visibility, people are still a little unsure about it. This hesitancy runs the gamut from “That’s for people with real problems” to hesitancy to open up to a stranger. I get it, but that’s why I like to talk about it; to take the mystery out of it. And I think therapists should talk about it to each other because it is a hard business, even with all its rewards (more on that later).

I could talk all day about how stress or any change in mood can cause our brain to play tricks on us. These ‘tricks’ or cognitive distortions, as we say in the industry, come in all sorts of forms. But they usually have to do with overestimating the chances of negative outcomes or magnifying the threat in a situation. Sometimes, they are more personal and involve assigning more blame to oneself than is reasonable. Or, we assume others have ill intent toward us. Whatever it is, we are all subject to these distortions.

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Peaks and valleys. Or valleys and peaks?

By Grace Buechel


Where We May Find Ourselves


All too often, I catch myself focusing on the negative or worrisome parts of each day. This class is moving too fast for me. That class has so much material. How do I stay on top of all my work when there are other obligations, too? Focusing on the negative is almost reflexive. Especially when it pertains to academics. I don’t like to admit that I always have something to complain about, but I do. Maybe that’s just the stressed medical student in me.

Over time, and with personal experience, I’ve come to realize the small, yet looming, harm that this worrisome negativity has on my own wellbeing. I stress, and then I stress more. I study my material with a vexing attitude. There I am, dragging my body and mind through the same motions. And I wonder why my wellbeing seems to be, well, unwell. 

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Kern Congratulations

Drs. John Yoon, Tavinder Ark and Fabrice Jotterand published the following article in Medical Education.

"Practical wisdom in medicine through the eyes of medical students and physicians"

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Help take the pain away

By Paul Holmes

You don’t have to be a hero 

To relieve an aching heart, 

To ease the burdens on his shoulder 

A kind word will make a start. 


A friendly smile may be all 

You need to raise his spirits high, 

A gentle touch upon the arm 

Can ease a heavy sigh. 


You don’t have to be a genius 

To know what words to say, 

Just by being at his bedside 

Is relief enough for that day. 


A warm embrace from a friend 

Is the best medicine you can give. 

To feel really cared about 

Adds further reason to live. 


You don’t have to be superman 

To be strong enough to show 

How much that you care 

To make a heart really glow. 


Any of these suggestions 

Will encourage and comfort each day 

That you try to help a loved one 

And take the pain away. 


Published by Family Friend Poems December 20, 2022  

Submit a Poem for Next Week

KICS Medical Education Journal Club

May 10, 2023

12:15 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. CDT


All students, trainees, faculty and staff are invited to join!

Register to join us at our monthly Kern Institute Collaboration for Scholarship Medical Education Journal Club! Each month, we discuss recent medical education scholarship with its author for a lively, intimate conversation about the transformation of medical education. This month MCW’s own Dr. Cassie Ferguson will be discussing the REACH curriculum and how she went about getting the curriculum published in Academic Medicine.

Register Here


Author's Reflections on

Catastrophic Rupture:

A Memoir of Healing"

May 11, 2023

Discovery Classroom - MEB - M3750

3:15 - 3:45 pm (CDT) - Pre-Reception

4:00 - 5:00* pm (CDT) - Author's Reflections

5:00 - 5:45 pm (CDT) - Book Signing

*Author's Reflections from 4:00 - 5:00 pm also available via Zoom


With Author, K. Jane Lee, MD, MA

Associate Professor of Pediatrics (Special Needs) & Medical Humanities

Institute for Health and Equity

Medical College of Wisconsin

Program Description: At the close of Catastrophic Rupture: A Memoir of Healing, the author has come to a place of peace and acceptance regarding her daughter’s disabilities, and has learned to see the joy and value in her daughter’s life. Now, after 10 more years of parenthood and clinical work with children with severe disabilities and their families, what else has the author learned? Please join us for this discussion as the author shares her reflections on life since Catastrophic Rupture.

Register Here

Leveraging Your Strengths, Talents, and Lived Experiences to Promote Excellence across the Medical Education Continuum

Monday, May 22, 2023

10:00am - 10:50pm


Kristina Kaljo, PhD, Associate Professor, Faculty Pillar Director, Kern Institute; Co-Director, SPARCC Program

In recent years, we have observed a shift away from the traditional understanding of "excellence", i.e. perfect grades, high test scores, or number of publications. Join this panel discussion as we explore the evolution of excellence in medical education and collaboratively identify strategies to better recognize excellence among our colleagues, learners and ourselves.

Register Here

Strengthen Your Financial Health

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. CDT

In-person only, MCW's HRC Conference Room #1210

The MCW Council for Women's Advocacy is hosting an all trainee event for any MCW student, and MCWAH residents and fellows. Junior faculty and staff are also warmly welcomed. 

Presented by: Dr. Emily Davidson, Assistant Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology and Kevin Sandieson. 

Goals of the seminar:  

  1. Discuss unique financial planning concerns for women in the workplace (i.e. career breaks, higher debt levels, longer lifespan) 
  2. Review basics of financial planning as a trainee begins their first career 
  3. Socialize with members of the field to discuss specific financial concerns and navigating pitfalls 

Register Here

Inaugural William Choi Lectureship

Humility, Creativity, Allyship, and Justice

Rita Charon, MD, PhD

Friday, June 2, 2023

8:00am - 9:00am

Bolger Auditorium- H1400 & Zoom

The Department of Medicine and Kern Institute present the William Choi Lecture Series. This series aims to establish an annual visiting lectureship focusing on the intersection between medicine and the humanities. The inaugural speaker for this series is Dr. Rita Charon.

Rita Charon is a general internist and literary scholar who originated the field of narrative medicine. She is Professor and Founding Chair of the Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics and Professor of Medicine at Columbia University. Her research focuses on the consequences of narrative medicine practice, narrative medicine pedagogy, and health care team effectiveness. She has lectured and served as Visiting Professor at many medical schools and universities in the US and abroad, teaching narrative medicine theory and practice.

Register Here
The Transformational Times publishes weekly, delivering stories of hope, character and resilience to our virtual community.

Jeff Fritz, PhDEditor-in-Chief

Editorial Board: Bruce Campbell, MDKathlyn Fletcher, MD, Adina Kalet, MD, Wendy Peltier, MD, Karen Herzog, Justine Espisito, Nabil Attlassy, Julia Bosco, Ana Istrate, Linda Nwumeh, Wolf Pulsiano, Eileen PetersonAnna Visser, Sophie Voss, James Wu & Emelyn Zaworski

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