By teaching, alumni can volunteer their wisdom for next generation

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Fall/Winter 2013 issue (pdf)

Mark Harlow, MD ’86, GME ’91Years ago, while making Saturday rounds with one of his own children in tow, Mark Harlow, MD ’86, GME ’91, visited a hospital room that one of his patients shared with another woman. Upon concluding his visit, he noticed the other patient struggling with her meal tray, so he asked her if she needed assistance. He proceeded to help situate her in her bed and cut her meat for her, while the family of his patient teased him lightheartedly, asking “Did they teach you that in medical school?”

“No,” Dr. Harlow said, “but they should.” And that chance encounter and realization inspired an interest in teaching that repeatedly has led the alumnus back to the Medical College of Wisconsin to share his experiences with medical students as a volunteer educator. He hopes more alumni will find the passion to do the same.

“The principal reason I teach is to honor the people who took time from their busy lives to be a mentor to me when I was a young, aspiring medical student,” he said. “In the best of circumstances, those of us who have substantial experience and acquired wisdom can return to teach the next generation of physicians and hopefully instill in them the same dedication to the pursuit of excellence that I learned at MCW.”

An orthopaedic surgeon specializing in joint replacements, Dr. Harlow began his career in Rapid City, S.D., in 1992. His first step toward returning to MCW as a volunteer teacher was to contact a friend, Gary Kolesari, MD ’77, PhD ’76, Professor of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy. Dr. Kolesari put him in contact with Todd Hoagland, Associate Professor of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy, who oversees the teaching team in Clinical Human Anatomy.

Dr. Hoagland considers Dr. Harlow an amazing asset to the team, so much so that he recommended him for MCW’s Marvin Wagner, MD, Preceptor Award. Dr. Harlow received the honor in 2012.

“Dr. Harlow is generous with his time and talents, and students flock to him for his expertise,” Dr. Hoagland said. “He is a true professional and serves as an excellent role model for first-year medical students seeking insight into the profession of being a physician. He is a tireless champion of student learning.”

In doing so, Dr. Harlow lives near MCW during the upper and lower limb portions of Clinical Human Anatomy, approximately two months per year. In addition to lecturing and volunteering in every lab related to the extremities, he is also helping to develop interactive learning modules for use in MCW’s Discovery Curriculum, Dr. Hoagland said.

“For me, this is the completion of the circle of my professional career,” Dr. Harlow said. “I thoroughly enjoy the teaching opportunity. The students are uniformly enthusiastic and highly motivated to excel. I especially enjoy their idealism and altruism, which is so refreshing and is a great reminder as to why we all raised our hands and took the oath to serve our fellow man.

“I routinely tell them that they are entering the best career there is. They will have more opportunity to do more good for more people than in any other line of work. That is both a great privilege and a great responsibility. When our patients choose us and trust us to be their doctor, there is no higher compliment.”

When he’s not volunteering at MCW, Dr. Harlow is often volunteering elsewhere. He is a board member for Special Olympics of South Dakota as well as Cornerstone Rescue Mission for the Homeless. He is currently starting an orthopaedic clinic at the Pine Ridge Sioux Indian Reservation. He and his wife of 32 years, Micki, have four children and three grandchildren.
He contends that alumni in the community, near and far, have much to offer current students, and can take the time to share those life and career experiences.

“I would encourage all MCW graduates to consider participating in the mentoring process,” he said. “After all, these students will be our doctors one day. As is so often the case, when we give a little, we get much more in return. That has certainly proven to be true for me.”

How to volunteer
To receive consideration as a volunteer faculty member:
Option 1: Contact MCW Faculty Affairs at or (414) 955-8666. Send a copy of your CV and indicate the type of volunteering that interests you and the department with which you would like to affiliate.
Option 2: If you already have contacts within an MCW department, reach out directly to them, and the department will contact Faculty Affairs to initiate the process.


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