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Summer 2011 issue (pdf)

Alumni Association President represents first class of Medical College of Wisconsin graduates

Alumni Association President John T. Bjork, MD ’71, Fel ’76 (right), with Past President Steven C. Bergin, MD ’74, GME ’78 (left), and Medical College President and CEO John R. Raymond, Sr., MD (center).

Alumni Association President John T. Bjork, MD ’71, Fel ’76 (right), with Past President Steven C. Bergin, MD ’74, GME ’78 (left), and Medical College President and CEO John R. Raymond, Sr., MD (center).

John T. Bjork, MD ’71, Fel ’76, was just beginning his M1 year at the Marquette University School of Medicine when Marquette terminated its sponsorship of the medical school. Rumors about the future proliferated, he said, and many of his classmates were concerned with the circumstances and what caliber of school they would now be attending.

The Class of 1971 experienced a series of changes, first with the restructuring of the school as an independent institution known for a few years as Marquette School of Medicine. Then in 1970, its name was changed to The Medical College of Wisconsin. As a result, Dr. Bjork was a member of the very first class to graduate from The Medical College of Wisconsin. Looking back, he wants alumni to view the change as positive and as an important part of the medical school’s 118-year history.

“One goal I have had in mind for the Alumni Association Board is to change attitudes and talk about the pride of being The Medical College of Wisconsin,” said Dr. Bjork, who was installed this spring as President of The Medical College of Wisconsin/Marquette Medical Alumni Association.

A gastroenterologist associated with Aurora Advanced Healthcare Milwaukee Digestive Disease, and on the clinical faculty of The Medical College of Wisconsin, Dr. Bjork joined the Alumni Association Board in 2007. He saw this role as a good way to foster connections between the Medical College and community physicians.

“I’ve always practiced in Milwaukee and had a relationship with the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology,” said Dr. Bjork. “I’m proud of what the medical school has done, and I wanted to publicize it. I thought it could provide a forum to talk about research accomplishments, clinical acumen, referral expertise – things MCW offers practicing physicians.”

Dr. Bjork has also taken an interest in the benefits provided to current medical and graduate school students by the Alumni Association. As president, he is looking forward to continuing to help fund student special events, travel for meetings, research projects and scholarships.

“We’re trying to establish relationships with students early in their careers, so that when they are alumni, they will work in harmony with the medical school and have pride in being alumni of The Medical College of Wisconsin,” he said.

In his field of gastroenterology, Dr. Bjork has enjoyed the constant evolution of medical therapies available to his patients and the success they have in treating many digestive diseases. Advanced technologies have improved diagnostics. Capsule endoscopy, for instance, has enabled gastroenterologists to view actual images of the small bowel. Previously, they had to rely on X-ray contrast techniques.

The potential for disease prevention is also a rewarding aspect of his work. His practice includes many screening colonoscopies, which identify the need to remove premalignant colon polyps in at-risk patients. The resulting trend of the last 20-30 years, he said, is a lowering in the incidence of colon cancer.

Endoscopes are also being used in the minimally invasive eradication of Barrett’s esophagus, where the previous standard had involved invasive entry and sometimes organ removal.

“Not everyone with Barrett’s will get esophageal cancer, but it is a precancerous condition, and by eradicating Barrett’s, it would be preventing cancer in those patients at higher risk,” he said.

If you can’t find Dr. Bjork at the office, the best place to look is outdoors. Winter months are met with snowshoes and cross country skis. Spring and summer are for hiking and boating. Since moving to Waterford, Wis., 10 years ago with his wife, Kelly, he is active with the Waterford Waterways Management District, which serves to preserve the local Fox River and Tichigan Lake waterways.

Dr. Bjork also has a 1950s era collection of Lionel trains, presently packed away and awaiting his (eventual) retirement, unless his grandchildren get to them first.

Association Board update

President: John T. Bjork, MD ’71, Fel ’76

President-elect: Kathleen S. Stokes, MD ’87, GME ’91

Secretary-Treasurer: Paul E. Hankwitz, MD ’74, GME ’78

New directors elected to three-year terms: A. John Capelli, MD ’78, GME ’81; David C. Olson, MD ’86; and James D. Thomas, MD ’91


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