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Highly recommended

Many Wisconsin alumni choose Medical College for their referrals

Lawrence P. Sullivan, MD ’84
Lawrence P. Sullivan, MD ’84

When Lawrence P. Sullivan, MD ’84, was an intern, a cardiologist taught him there were “three As” to being a good consultant, in order – availability, affability, and ability. Now the neurologist for the West Bend Clinic in West Bend, Wis., Dr. Sullivan makes sure consultants he uses have these tenets, which often leads him to make referrals to Medical College of Wisconsin faculty physicians.

Many alumni choose to refer their patients to Medical College specialists and subspecialists at Froedtert Hospital or Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Their reasons typically follow the three As or some variation. They look for a system or physician who is accessible, responds well before, during and after referral, and will provide the best possible care for their patient. They find this with Medical College Physicians and Children’s Specialty Group.

Ashok N. Rai, MD ’97
Ashok N. Rai, MD ’97
Medical College Physicians is The Medical College of Wisconsin’s adult group clinical practice. Children’s Specialty Group is the pediatric specialty practice group established between the Medical College and Children’s Hospital and Health System. As President and Chief Executive Officer of Prevea Health, Ashok N. Rai, MD ’97, has experience with both groups. As a clinician, he had sent multiple patients with acute cases to Froedtert, and as a health system executive, has helped build a relationship with the Medical College specialists at Children’s.

“In general, the doctors from the Medical College, and those specific to the Children’s Specialty Group, have all been very good in the referral process – not just upon receipt of the patient but through ongoing communications with us,” he said. “That communication has kept referring physicians in the loop, and that has made the relationship very good between our systems.”

Making sure the referring physician is aware of the treatment plan and can ensure it is followed when the patient returns home is an important part of the relationship, Dr. Rai said. He particularly seeks a seamless and not cumbersome referral process for his Green Bay-based Prevea doctors as well as great care.

“We are looking for, No. 1, the quality of the receiving facility,” he said. “We also look for very good customer service because they reflect on us as we are the referring physicians.”

Dr. Sullivan appreciates good service, especially in the form of prompt communication from the receiving doctor. He has referred a number of epilepsy patients to Medical College specialists at Froedtert as well as some with brain tumors and peripheral nerve problems who have done well. He said the Medical College physicians do a good job of keeping him involved, and that adds to his trust level.

“I’m making referrals because these patients have more complicated issues than I’m used to dealing with, or I don’t know what’s going on,” Dr. Sullivan said. “Froedtert is close, and I think the quality is better, and I have confidence in the people there in general that I don’t necessarily have with other institutions.”

John G. Sanidas, MD ’95, GME ’98
John G. Sanidas, MD ’95, GME ’98
In the experience of John G. Sanidas, MD ’95, GME ’98, that confidence often comes from knowing the specialists to whom you are referring and knowing that they tend to think along the same lines as you, especially in terms of commitment to the patient. He knows many Medical College faculty from having trained there.

“First off, I look at reputation,” he said. “Do they practice the quality of medicine that I practice? That is very important to me.”
Dr. Sanidas, an internist in private practice in Milwaukee, agrees about the significance of good communication as well as accessibility, so his patients don’t have to wait an inordinate length of time for an appointment. He also has confidence in the Medical College because it’s part of an academic medical center.

“As a research-based, medical college-associated facility, Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin tends to be cutting edge as far as research and treatments for more difficult to control problems,” he said. “If we see something more rare or more strange, we’ll send it their way. It may be something they’ve seen 50 times vs. someone in the community who has only seen it two or three times.”

Jeffery R. Smale, MD ’89, GME ’96
Jeffery R. Smale, MD ’89, GME ’96
That foundation of experience is especially relevant for some of the cases that Jeffery R. Smale, MD ’89, GME ’96, refers. Dr. Smale is a pulmonary, critical care, sleep medicine and internal medicine physician at the West Bend Clinic.

“There are cases that are highly specialized where even board-certified specialists need sub-specialty advice from a physician who specializes in treatment of an ailment,” he said, citing primary pulmonary hypertension and diaphragm paralysis of uncertain etiology as examples he may refer. “The expertise from Medical College Physicians often can help in those difficult cases.”

Eric B. Pifel, MD, GME ’04
Eric B. Pifel, MD, GME ’04
When orthopaedic surgeons face a case that lies outside of their expertise, they also may make a referral to a Medical College specialist. This is often true when cancer is discovered. Eric B. Pifel, MD, GME ’04, an orthopaedic surgeon with the Orthopedic Institute of Wisconsin in Franklin, Wis., recently had a 30-year-old female patient with a large scapula tumor appropriately diagnosed and treated at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin. She returned very satisfied with her care, he said.
“I am in a large orthopaedic group and most referrals stay within my group,” Dr. Pifel said. “However, when I refer outside of my group, it is typically for difficult orthopaedic oncology cases or complex children orthopaedic problems.”

He likes the communication from Medical College specialists and the easy access for his patients, something Mark T. O’Meara, MD ’77, also an orthopaedic surgeon, specifically values.
“I look for unique expertise or highly specialized training that would benefit my patient,” said Dr. O’Meara, who practices at West Bend Clinic and has referred a number of patients to the Medical College for specialized treatment of bone tumors. “I like the ease of making referrals and the satisfaction that the patients will be getting excellent care.”

Such peace of mind comes in to play when a patient might need an alternate perspective or review of their case.

“I occasionally have patients who do not respond to therapy and find a second opinion may be of benefit to make certain that we have not missed anything that can be of use,” Dr. Smale said.

Karen L. Zorek, MD, GME ’96
Karen L. Zorek, MD, GME ’96
Most physicians value that episodic input on challenging cases, Dr. Smale said. Karen L. Zorek, MD, GME ’96, can attest to that. She recently sent one of her patients, whom she suspected had a specific condition, to a Children’s Specialty Group physician who confirmed the diagnosis in clinic and expedited treatment.

A pediatrician with Wilkinson Medical Clinic in Hartland, Wis., Dr. Zorek said that access to care combined with her patients’ satisfaction are reasons she prefers to refer patients to Medical College physicians. She also appreciates that not only does she receive prompt feedback from the specialists, it is provided in a respectful and productive manner.

“I have had patients who present immediately with an issue that I’d like to discuss with a consultant,” Dr. Zorek said. “When I call and speak with someone at the Medical College, they always show respect for my concern and work with me to determine the best course of action for my patient.”

View the entire summer 2009 issue of Alumni News. (opens as a pdf)

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