2008 Forward under 40 Award Honoree
UW Major: Medicine
Age: 27 | San Francisco, California
Ob-Gyn Resident UC-San Francisco
After graduating from Harvard magna cum laude, Claire Herrick returned to her Madison roots in 2003 excited to earn an MD at her hometown university.
It was in the UW's School of Medicine and Public Health that Herrick would learn and embrace the idea of being a community-minded physician, and finding ways to balance a responsibility to both the local and international communities. Crediting numerous UW departments, schools and organizations, she notes that her UW experience offered a multitude of resources for students who, like Herrick, were interested in exploring the interconnectedness of our species across political borders, and the extent to which we truly all live in one community.
Herrick has traveled to Tanzania four times during the past six years, working the Women's Dignity Project and an associated hospital and providing patient care for women with obstetric fistula. As a fluent speaker of Swahili, she also engaged in numerous dialogues with African health care professionals about leadership and service in medicine and medical education in Africa.
In addition to her international service, which also included a trip to Cuba, Herrick has dedicated countless hours to volunteer in free clinics around Madison.
She credits opportunities to work with dedicated UW leaders during her education with enhancing her commitment to both the local and the international communities, which in turn, she notes, have given me faith in what is possible as a community-minded physician.
Herrick earned her MD in 2007 and is currently a first-year Ob-Gyn resident UC-San Francisco. She hopes to return to East Africa for her elective time in her third year, but in the meantime is actively involved with underserved communities in the San Francisco area.
In her own words
One of the biggest delights and biggest opportunities for growth during my time at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health was in cultivating the idea of belonging to the community one serves/serving ones own community. There are examples of this all over the university and the people who make it up a direct community service; translating research into clinical practice and public education; the longstanding commitment to the rural communities of Wisconsin and recent efforts to attract and retain the students who will become their physicians.
Another less intuitive piece of this remarkable balance comes from a nuanced understanding of globalization and our shrinking world. The relatively new Center for Global Health, as well as the International Institute and the Division of International Studies offered immense human and energy resources for students like myself who are interested in exploring the interconnectedness of our species across political borders, and the extent to which we truly all live in one community. Through a number of talks, discussions and presentations, I had the opportunity to learn about dozens of international health-related efforts under way across the university in many different schools. An inner tension between knowing, understanding, and serving ones local scene on the one hand, and a drive to make oneself available to the poorest and most underserved peoples in the world, on the other, slowly dissolved as through my time at UW I came to see how one enhances the other. Many UW faculty and physicians have smoothly applied the Wisconsin Idea in this way, providing personal, top-notch medical care to their Wisconsin patients for much of the year, and also setting aside time for research, service work, and advocacy for less-resourced parts of our global community.
I had opportunities to experience this firsthand through working with Dr. Cindy Has, founder of the Center for Global Health as well as LOCUS; on a trip to Cuba with Dr. Ann Bergmann; and through countless talks and free-clinic volunteer experiences in Madison. Without a doubt, the physicians most committed to local public service are the same who spend their vacation time in Central America, or Africa, or Southeast Asia, providing the same high-quality care and advocacy for patients there. Their international work brings fresh perspectives and wider medical knowledge to the local clinics, while work at home drives them to fight the inequity seen abroad.
The opportunity to work with many of these dedicated leaders has enhanced my own commitment to both sides of the coin, the local and the international, and given me faith in what is possible as a community-minded physician. Further, they have shown how local efforts lobbying in political and institutional arenas, fundraising, awareness building, and lest we forget, celebration all have a global impact, as our state and our country has an immense influence on the international exchange of ideas, the prioritization of resource usage, and the draw of health professionals away from their homes, for example. Raised in Madison and attending a private institution for college, I was excited to return to my roots and explore my own home university; but looking back I did not appreciate how UW would empower me to keep a broad worldview and take the Wisconsin Idea to the boundaries of our globe. I look forward to further involvement with the university and to cultivating this same spirit of local-global service leadership in future physicians and UW graduates.