Mark Harlow, MD

My MCW Story: Mark Harlow, MD

Football player chooses career in medicine

Physicians point to many reasons for deciding to pursue medicine. Dr. Mark Harlow’s enlightenment might be unique. He found his calling as a defensive back playing football for Northwestern University.

“Through the football program,” Dr. Harlow said, “I was introduced to several service programs, Special Olympics and Big Brothers Big Sisters among them, and I felt what it meant to help people.”

“I decided I wanted to pursue a service career – and I decided that medicine is the best service career there is. It’s fairly simple: People who are sick need help.”

The Burlington, Wis., native has lived his creed in two ways since graduating from MCW, his first choice for medical school, having grown up 35 miles away from the flagship campus.

An orthopedic surgeon specializing in joint replacement, Dr. Harlow settled in Rapid City, S.D., in the shadow of the Black Hills. “I moved here for the clean air, clean water and the opportunity for my kids to have a Tom Sawyer childhood,” he said. But he returns to MCW for two months each fall as a volunteer instructor in anatomy and orthopaedic medicine.

“It’s my way of giving back for all the time and knowledge that was given to me here,” Dr. Harlow said. “I thoroughly enjoy my time in Milwaukee, and the wonderful students and teachers at MCW.”

But it is still service to those in need that most drives Dr. Harlow. Since arriving in Rapid City, he has volunteered thousands of hours at the Rosebud Sioux Reservation and now at Pine Ridge Reservation – the poorest county in the United States.

“I’ve been to Haiti, I’ve been to a number of crisis points abroad, wherever the need is great,” Dr. Harlow said. “But I realized that the need is greatest here. I’m the first orthopedic surgeon ever on staff at Pine Ridge, where basic care is one of the many services I provide to my community. And I credit my time at MCW for giving me the skills to meet that need.”



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Page Updated 03/23/2015