Building a stronger Milwaukee is at the heart of what drives Jeff and Sarah Geenen Joerres, MD '87, GME '91, to make a difference – and that includes an extensive family commitment to the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and its Digestive Disease Center (DDC).
The Joerreses received MCW's Warren P. Knowles Humanitarian Award at the 2016 Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin Healthcare Dinner on November 17 for their commitment to health-related issues and for their dedication to public service and education – hallmarks of the career of former Governor Knowles. The Healthcare Dinner, now in its 23rd year, benefits research at MCW's Digestive Disease Center. "The DDC is a true asset to the Milwaukee community, and we are lucky to have it here," Dr. Joerres remarked at the Dinner.
Dr. Joerres was introduced to the challenges of digestive disease in her youth, as her father, Joseph E. Geenen, MD '60, GME '65, FEL '67, was a professor and physician in the division of gastroenterology at MCW and its predecessor institution (the Marquette University School of Medicine) from 1966-1992. Today, he serves as clinical professor of medicine at MCW and has been a member of the board of trustees since 2005. Dr. Geenen was honored as Alumnus of the Year in May 2000. Additionally, her brother, Daniel Geenen, received his MD from MCW in 1989 and completed his residency at MCW in internal medicine in 1992.
The Geenen Family, too, believes in philanthropic support for academic medicine, endowing the Joseph E. Geenen Chair in Gastroenterology, held by Reza Shaker, MD, FEL '88, chief of gastroenterology and hepatology, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research, and director of the Digestive Disease Center. "When I was a budding medical student at MCW, I used to love watching ERCPs (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatographies) being performed at the DDC," Dr. Joerres shared at the Healthcare Dinner. "Dr. Shaker was a Fellow there at the time, so it's very special that he now holds the Geenen Chair and is director of the Center," she said. Another of the Geenen Family's gifts to MCW was earmarked to support the Office of Alumni Relations.
Jeff Joerres, who retired from ManpowerGroup as executive chairman in December 2015, served on the MCW board from 2003-2009, and holds the work of the Digestive Disease Center dear to his heart. Early in his marriage he suffered from a serious gastrointestinal illness which had stumped physicians, but was diagnosed as Campylobacter by an MCW Fellow in gastroenterology. Joerres credits the differentiation of MCW's learning environment for recognizing the need to culture the bacteria in order to identify and treat the disease. "The work that is done at MCW can alleviate the pain and anxiety of digestive disease, and the DDC enables much of these efforts to move forward toward a cure," he noted at the Healthcare Dinner.
Dr. Joerres was medical director in the St. Luke's Rehabilitation Unit at Sheboygan (Wisconsin) Memorial Hospital following her residency at MCW in physical medicine and rehabilitation. After the birth of their fourth child, Dr. Joerres left private practice to dedicate her time to her family and volunteer causes.
"Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin physicians have had a real impact in the community, and we want to support them," Dr. Joerres says. "Educational endeavors are especially important to us, and a great clinical and teaching institution such as MCW is particularly valuable to the Milwaukee area. Building a strong community takes a lot of strong work and continuous effort, and Jeff and I are honored to do our small part."
"We moved to downtown Milwaukee four years ago, and love feeling the energy of the city," Jeff Joerres remarked at the Dinner. "We wanted to get more deeply involved, which we are doing, in part, through our support of educational endeavors including role modeling. In fact, role modeling is one of the most important elements in building a strong community, and we are fortunate to have great role models – both sets of our parents – right here with us tonight," he added.
The 2016 Healthcare Dinner, held at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, featured former President George W. Bush as a special guest speaker. In a discussion moderated by MCW president and CEO John R. Raymond, Sr., MD, Mr. Bush shared his thoughts on a wide variety of topics including post-presidency life, his strong family ties, the importance of continuing to support healthcare initiatives, reflections on certain highlights of his years in office, and his vision for the future of our country.
The Dinner was attended by more than 600 individuals and raised approximately $220,000 for digestive disease research.
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