Medical College alumni have been honored by
Wisconsin Medical Society three years running
James C. Allen, MD ’59, (center) and a colleague visit with a patient at University of Wisconsin Hospital, where he practiced until 2000.
The height of a school’s success in training physicians might best be measured by the impact those physicians have on their communities. If so, The Medical College of Wisconsin is standing tall. For three years in a row, a doctor with a Medical College connection was named a Physician Citizen of the Year by the Wisconsin Medical Society.
James C. Allen, MD ’59, a graduate of the Marquette University School of Medicine, received the award in 2008; Edward F. Cody, MD, GME ’78, whose residency was completed at a Medical College of Wisconsin-affiliated hospital, was honored in 2009; and recent alumna Peggy A. Stickney, MD ’02, was named in 2010.
“I was surprised I was selected,” Dr. Stickney said, “because I’m just a frontline physician listening to what patients say and doing my best.”
Her nomination was unusual because it came from a female patient who praised Dr. Stickney for “taking time” to address her health concerns. In presenting the award, George Lange, MD ’75, then Society President-elect, said, “Although patients often show their gratitude, it’s not every day that a patient goes the extra mile to publicly recognize her physician. Dr. Stickney has truly made a difference in the lives of her patients.”
Peggy A. Stickney, MD ’02, examines a young patient at the Froedtert Health Hartford Clinic.
Addressing Dr. Stickney directly, he said, “Thank you for reminding us that patients often come to us when they are most vulnerable, and the time we spend with them can have a profound impact, not only as it relates to their medical care, but also on a purely human level.”
Dr. Stickney grew up in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., and received her undergraduate degree from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, where she enjoyed hiking and snowshoeing. She credits professors at the Medical College with her winning bedside manner.
“I learned that there are four or five ways to tell a patient something,” said Dr. Stickney, who practices with Froedtert Health in Hartford, Wis., “but first you have to listen carefully to what they say. You can’t be in hurry.”
She and her husband, Charles, have three daughters, identical twin 3-year-olds, Heather and Sarah, and 6-year-old Paige.
Dr. Cody was born in Follansbee, a small town in the West Virginia panhandle, but his mother was from Wisconsin and moved the family back to Milwaukee in the late 1960s. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he returned to Milwaukee and did his residency at the former Deaconess Hospital, then a teaching affiliate of the Medical College.
“It was a good experience, and the Medical College doctors who watched over me knew their stuff,” Dr. Cody said. Practice opportunities were better in small towns, so he took a job as a family doctor with Medical Associates, a group of physicians in Beaver Dam, Wis., and stayed until he retired in 2009. “It’s just a really nice community.”
Edward F. Cody, MD,
Dr. Cody performed volunteer services throughout his career, including serving as medical director for the local school system and a nursing home.
“When you’re in a small town, all the doctors get together and discuss who will take which voluntary position,” he said. “It’s one of the great things about living here.”
Since 1999, he has also led a two-hour-per-week study group at Fox Lake Correctional Institution. “I was ordained as a deacon in the Catholic Church, and this is part of my faith-based service,” he said. “The inmates very much enjoy and benefit from contact with the outside world.”
For the past several years, Dr. Cody has also traveled to Bay St. Louis, Miss., which is about 60 miles northeast of New Orleans.
“This area was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina so I go down there with a group of people from the archdiocese in Milwaukee and help rebuild homes,” he said.
He and his wife, Coletta, have two sons, Mark, an industrial engineer and Matt, a CPA, and one daughter, Michelle, who is an accountant for the state.
When Dr. Allen was attending Marquette University School of Medicine in the late 1950s, the Milwaukee Braves won the pennant. “There was a huge celebration on Wisconsin Avenue,” he recalled.
Dr. Allen pursued his medical degree supported by the GI Bill after serving in the U.S. Army. He had arrived in Korea just after the armistice was signed in 1953, he said.
He never forgot his military service or his boyhood in Brodhead, Wis.
“Money never meant a thing to me,” he said emphatically. “I just wanted to help my fellow citizens and veterans—they needed a fair shake, and that’s what I dedicated my life to.”
He became an ophthalmologist because he wore glasses and was “curious about what that eye doctor was doing.” Dr. Allen’s residency was at the University of Wisconsin Hospital, and he liked Madison.
“It worked out that I could spend half my time at the VA hospital and the other half at the University hospital,” he said. “I also discovered that I enjoyed teaching!”
From 1967 until his retirement in 2000, he was a professor of ophthalmology and coordinator of Ophthalmology Inpatient Care for UW-Madison. Just before he retired, he saw a patient who had lost an eye in the D-Day Invasion.
“As this patient aged, he lost vision in his remaining eye due to macular degeneration,” Dr. Allen said. “But, the VA wouldn’t give him the benefits a vet who is blind due to combat receives, and I didn’t think that was right.”
When he retired after nearly four decades of practice, he decided to look into the matter. Soon he found himself in the Milwaukee Public Library thumbing through volumes of the U.S. Code, which he said takes up “about 10 feet of shelf space.” Poring over the books, he came upon a section that pertained to the Department of Veteran Affairs.
“That’s where I found the paragraphs that applied to the loss of eyes and arms and legs,” he said. “The difference was just a few words, but it meant that arms and legs were considered ‘paired organs’—lose one and it was like losing both—whereas eyes were not.”
Dr. Allen made changing the code his goal and went to talk with Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District, beginning a journey through the U.S. legislative system that would continue for the next seven years and put him in contact with many elected officials. He finally succeeded toward the end of 2007 when the change known as the Dr. James C. Allen Veteran Vision Equity Act (H.R. 797) was signed into law.
In a press release, Rep. Baldwin said, “I’m very grateful to Dr. Allen for bringing this problem to my attention and for his service to his country and our veterans. The Dr. Allen bill reminds all of us of the difference one person can make in our democracy.”
When Clarence P. Chou, MD ’77, GME ’83, former President of the Wisconsin Medical Society, presented the 2008 Physician Citizen of the Year award, he said, “Dr. Allen may be a formally retired ophthalmologist, but he’s never stopped working on behalf of patients.”
Dr. Allen lives in Madison with his wife, Kathryn. They have two adult sons, David an orthodontist, and John, who works for an advertising agency.
James C. Allen, MD ’59 (second from right), received a Veteran Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs in 2008. He is pictured with Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs members (L-R) Rod Moen, Pete Moran and Marv Freedman.
Dr. Allen was given an official proclamation on Feb. 20, 2008.
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