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Alumnus Profile - Joseph E. Kerschner, MD ’90, Fel ’98

Joseph E. Kerschner, MD ’90, Fel ’98 EXTRA
In his own words


Joseph E. Kerschner, MD ’90, Fel ’98, chose to spend the summer after his M1 year in the microbiology lab of Vladimir Kushnaryov, MD, PhD, studying macrophages in the mouse. It may not be the traditional trajectory for an ENT, or a CEO, but for Dr. Kerschner, it was the beginning of a career in which he is both of these and more.

“I was afforded an opportunity to do some research early on in my career and really liked it,” he said. “I think that is what sort of started to push me toward an academic pathway.”

Dr. Kerschner has embraced every area of academia – as a clinician, a researcher, a teacher and an administrator – with aplomb. He is Professor and interim Chairman of Otolaryngology & Communication Sciences and Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs at The Medical College of Wisconsin, Chief Executive Officer and member of Children’s Specialty Group, and Medical Director of Pediatric Otolaryngology at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

For nearly three years, Dr. Kerschner has been CEO of Children’s Specialty Group, the pediatric specialty group practice established between the Medical College and Children’s Hospital and Health System. Among his initial objectives when he took the position was to better integrate the planning of the specialty practice with the planning of the hospital and health system. He is able to report substantial progress in this effort.

“We have a number of different areas where there’s seamless integration between the hospital and health system and specialty group,” he said. “Those would include areas surrounding service and quality initiatives, planning with respect to marketing and education, and strategic planning and development of the practice as it goes forward.”

Dr. Kerschner is leading significant advances in quality reporting and improvement, developing a comprehensive metro Milwaukee strategy to expand services and elevate the care of children, and enhancing service through refined communications internally with colleagues and externally with patients.

Serving these efforts has been the strong relationship between Children’s Specialty Group and the Medical College. As the academic home for all faculty, including specialty group members, the College plays a vital role in nurturing careers, providing the research engine that supports excellence in clinical care, and representing the link to students and residents that gives specialty group pediatricians the opportunity to teach, he said.

“I think most of us choose academic medicine either because we like to teach or we like to do research – it’s one of those two areas, really,” Dr. Kerschner said. “So, we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for our other roles in teaching and research, which the College provides for us.”

For Dr. Kerschner, research was the primary draw. Following his residency at University of South Florida, he returned to the campus as a fellow and a clinician-scientist-in-training. He spent five years developing his research skills in both pediatric otolaryngology and in collaboration with the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. He is now principal investigator for a National Institutes of Health R01 grant studying the causes of and potential treatments for otitis media and molecular and cellular biology surrounding middle ear disease.

Despite many overlapping responsibilities, caring for children remains his core passion. He considers the unique rewards and challenges of treating kids a special calling.

“The most rewarding thing for me clinically is to be able to take care of kids with complex ear, nose and throat disorders and bring them through that disease or illness and out the other end, being completely functional and either cured, or at least substantially better, from the care I’m able to provide,” he said.

Though there are no average days, Dr. Kerschner can rely on one constant – the support of his family. He and his wife, Jane, have three children, Jack, Abby and Anna, and most of their free time is spent together. Dr. Kerschner spent the winter coaching two grade school girls basketball teams – a fitting activity for a man who helped create the intramural sports program at the Medical College in the late 1980s and still plays the sport competitively.

In his own words – Joseph E. Kerschner, MD ’90, Fel ’98 outlines some of the specific efforts underway within Children’s Specialty Group.


In the past couple of years, we have succeeded in integrating the quality processes in Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and within Children’s Specialty Group. We share ideas and work collaboratively to do things. We’ve established some really exciting, innovative things around quality, including taking the Council for Quality Reports, which are produced by the hospital and health system, and integrating those within the practice to actually make quality improvements.
In addition to that, the specialty group’s Quality Committee has worked very, very hard on developing quality Web pages, so we are one of the first organizations to actually publish our quality outcomes on the Web. It’s transparent and available for anybody to see.
We’ve also instituted a number of things around quality education for our doctors, and we’re working on that now. Finally, we’ve supported a number of other avenues for people to engage in quality improvement projects throughout the organization.


With respect to the Finance Committee, we’ve really tried to put some additional rigor around how we use our development dollars and how we strategize with the health system in utilizing our resources, to be good stewards of those resources, to not only provide excellent care to the children of this community but also to look at ways that we can expand services that are needed and expand the practice.

As we look toward moving into adjacent markets, the goal is always to elevate the care for children. So whether it’s New Berlin, where we’re opening a new clinic in August 2009, or becoming partners with a health system in Fox valley (ThedaCare), or bringing our doctors to Green Bay or Northern Illinois – in any of those markets, our goal is really to try and elevate the quality of care for children.

Along with that, one of the things we’ve invested in heavily the past year has been the off-site practice, which is going to be in New Berlin and open in the summer of 2009. Developing a comprehensive metro strategy was a very big priority for me when I took this job. There was very little that had been done to expand off the campus. We were one of the very few pediatric health systems and one of the very few pediatric subspecialty practices that did not have an off-campus presence. Everything we did was at the medical center. I felt that was a huge deficiency in our practice and in our system. We knew from market analysis that moms and dads and kids wanted to have services closer to their home. They didn’t necessarily want to come into this metropolis of an academic health center for more basic services, so we felt like it was an important area with respect to service to our patients but also, again, to elevate the quality of care in the community.

So, we embarked upon a process to develop a comprehensive metro strategy. The first foray into that was a smaller venue – Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Clinics-Greenway – which opened in Greenfield in the fall of 2008. Orthopaedics, sports medicine, cardiology, radiology, ENT are among the disciplines in the Greenway Clinic. Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Clinics-New Berlin is our next step forward. That’s a 72,000-square-foot building that will have 12-14 different specialties represented, so a true, full-service, multispecialty practice.


Linked to that effort is the work of the specialty group’s Service Committee. I think the service we provide to our patients and families as well as to our colleagues is incredibly important, and it’s a huge initiative, so we’ve done a number a number of things.
The first was really to get some metrics to measure our service, so we’ve used a number of internal and external surveys to gauge our level of service excellence to our patients, families and our colleagues. Then we initiated improvements to our communications strategies. We are also working on our availability and communicating that back to our patients. We want people to have access to all of the great things that we do.


An additional area of importance for the specialty group and Children’s Hospital and Health System is education. This takes place in many different venues, clearly in the work we do in teaching the next generation of medical students, resident physicians, nurses and other health professionals. But an area that the specialty group has really taken on as a priority is also educating our colleagues in this region about state-of-the-art pediatric specialty care. We provide a number of CME-based seminars around the state and northern Illinois geared towards primary care physicians. These “Best Practices” events feature lectures by our physicians and nurse practitioners and are provided free of charge. They have been enormously well-received and well-attended and have been an outstanding venue to highlight all of the great work we do for kids and to demonstrate to a wide audience the quality care that is provided by Children’s Specialty Group at Children’s Hospital – something matched by very few organizations.

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