Headshot of Andy Peterson '00.Andy Peterson ’00, MD MSPH, Head Team Physician, Iowa Hawkeyes

I grew up in rural Northwestern WI with a love for athletics, but was also academically ambitious. I chose LU because it was the best academic school where I could compete on the varsity wrestling team. I majored in Biology and spent lots of time in the Arts Center focusing on metal work. I competed in wrestling and spent much of my “free time” getting better at the sport. But I also participated in a variety of volunteer activities, off-campus research, and was President of LUCC.

During Medical School in Madison, WI mentors introduced me to academic Sports Medicine, a field I didn’t know existed. They guided me through residency in Pediatrics, a fellowship in Sports Medicine, an NIH fellowship in clinical research, and a Master’s Degree in Population Health Science. I also married Vanessa Curtis ’00 who was in my Medical School class.

In 2010, I was part of a cluster hire to build an academic Sports Medicine Division at Iowa and Vanessa had the opportunity to build a Pediatric Obesity program. Initially, I practiced a mix of Pediatric Hospital Medicine, newborn nursery, and Sports Medicine (including coverage of Iowa Hawkeye Athletics). I also served as a Team Physician for USA waterpolo and traveled all over the world with Team USA. This led to the opportunity to be the Medical Director for the 2012 Olympic Wresting trials and do additional training at the US Olympic Training Center. In 2015, I took over leadership of the Primary Care Sports Medicine division. I’m also Head Physician for the Iowa Hawkeyes & I serve as a Team Physician for USA Wrestling. I was elected to the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness Executive Committee and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine’s Board of Directors. I also lead a Collaborative Research Network that helps Sports Medicine researchers work together on complementary projects.

I believe there is a direct line between my experiences at Lawrence and the success I have had since graduation. Obviously, I appreciate the excellent, well-rounded education that Lawrence provides. But the lessens I learned through collegiate athletics and student government leadership are what really prepared me for my current roles.

Headshot of Diane McLeod '14.Diane McLeod ’14 PA, Physician Assistant

The transition from undergraduate to PA school was seamless thanks to the great pre-medical education I received at Lawrence. I was able to complete all of my pre-PA coursework as well as study abroad in Spain, play for the women’s volleyball team, participate in a sorority, and be a part of groups like Viva and GlobeMed. The Spanish language and cultural humility I learned while abroad and through being a part of Viva has been immensely helpful in my study of medicine and my ability to interact with a more diverse patient population. As a member of the women’s volleyball team, I built my knowledge of working as a team player and learned to focus on a common goal. This focus has allowed me to meld into each new clinical rotation on different healthcare teams quickly and with team goals in mind. I also held leadership positions in volleyball, Theta, Viva, and GlobeMed; these positions have given me the confidence and skills to serve as the lead TA for our graduate program’s anatomy lab.

While at Lawrence I was lucky enough to have a great pre-PA advisor. Though I had decided later in my LU career that I would apply to PA school, he helped me complete the necessary classes in time for graduation. I’m currently an internal medicine hospitalist in the Twin Cities area; I couldn’t be more excited for what the future holds!

Headshot of Neel Patel '12.Neel Patel ’12 MD, Radiology Resident

I majored in biochemistry, minored in anthropology, and played jazz guitar in a combo all 4 years. My interest in medicine was typical- it was interesting, I shadowed doctors, took pre-requisites, passed the MCAT, applied, and got in. Keep in mind, I applied all over the country, got 1 US interview and 1 acceptance. You only need 1!

My liberal arts education prepared me for medicine in many ways: I developed critical thinking in my science classes, I learned to question basic assumptions and understand the sociocultural background to everything in anthropology. I practiced and improved my writing in everything from FRST to my SE project. However, I think the most valuable skill for my medical career I learned at Lawrence was during my time in the jazz combo: How to be wrong in front of others.

As a scientist playing music with music majors, I improvised solos in front of my peers 3+ times a week even though I was arguably less practiced. "When in doubt, play it out" as the saying goes. Crucially, the environment was very supportive and helped me improve along the way. The ability to be wrong, and to be wrong loudly, has helped me immensely in medical school. Most of my colleagues have been successful at most of their pursuits and being wrong if front of others is not something they have had to deal with. Medical education is fast paced; it requires learning and practicing new skills simultaneously, and many of my colleagues were timid and shy and afraid to speak up for fear of being wrong. With my jazz experience, I was comfortable "performing" even when I didn't feel 100% comfortable with my skills or knowledge. As one of my mentors in radiology says- "you don't learn from being right."

The acceptance of being outside my comfort zone and many other skills I learned at Lawrence have only helped me move forward and become a better physician.

nhi nguyen headshotNhi Nguyen '13
MSN; Nursing

My name is Nhi Nguyen! I’m from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I graduated from Lawrence University in 2013, with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Biology. My 4 years at LU were not only filled with a strong background of liberal education, I was also able to engage myself in the diverse community and participate in numerous co-curricular activities. Here, I found my family away from home, Lawrence International, an organization devoted to support international students and promote cultural integration. I served on the LI Board, actively planning events such as formals, ethnic dinners, Spring Break trip as well as performing in the annual Cabaret to showcase my Vietnamese heritage. In addition, I mentored students from Japan through their transition and adaptation to American culture. Essentially, LU was my study abroad experience that couldn’t have been more meaningful, whose lasting impact has shaped me as a person. Outside of the classroom, I sang in the Viking Chorale. I also learned to play and perform Gamelan which is an ensemble of musical instruments from Bali, Indonesia. My community work can be reflected through volunteer experiences with Habitat for Humanity. I also tutored a local middle-schooler in Math and French as a way to immerse myself into the Appleton residential community and build rapport with the local family. During my last year at LU, I served on the Senior Class Committee as the secretary with the goals to further leadership skills and make memorable differences for my graduating class. For me, taking ownership of my future at LU was not a quick process, yet a rewarding one. I had to identify my strengths and weaknesses, but more importantly, to completely step out of my comfort zone and take any opportunity as a learning experience. I am most thankful for supportive friends, the international student coordinators, organization leaders, and academic professors, all of whom offered guidance and help towards my success while at LU.

I’m currently working as a Registered Nurse at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL. After completing pre-nursing courses and graduating from Lawrence, my goal was to pursue a nursing degree. I took a year off to volunteer at multiple hospitals in Louisville, KY, with the intention to expose myself to the medical field and its various settings, while searching for a suitable nursing program. I reached out to a LU alum for advice and decided to apply for the Generalist Entry Masters of Nursing program, which is designed for students with bachelor degrees in a different field who want to pursue nursing. The 2-year program is offered at Rush University, and I graduated in May of 2016 with a Master’s of Science in Nursing. I passed the board exam and got my license soon after, then started working as an RN in October of 2016.

As a novice nurse, I enjoy the challenges that come with nursing the most. Each patient and family member that I’ve come in contact with and taken care of has entirely different background and story, hence making each experience unique. No two relationships are the same! As a result, I learn to be patient, communicate effectively, and think fast as well as creatively to cater to the individuals. To a great extent, my years at Lawrence have prepared me for my career. I’m equipped with an engaged learning mindset, which is highly applicable for graduate school and helped me get through nursing school. Transferrable skills that I acquired from LU include, for example, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, etc. that still play an important role in my everyday life, especially at work. My training to adapt to changes is more relevant than ever because nursing is an ever changing field.

Richard G. Fessler, M.D., Ph.D. ’74, Psychology and Education  

MD and PhD, Neurosurgeon at Rush University Medical Center

Dr. Richard G. Fessler is Professor of Neurosurgery at Rush University Medical Center. Prior to assuming this position he was Professor and Vice Chair of Neurosurgery at of Northwestern University, and the John Harper Seeley Professor and Chief of Neurosurgery at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics. He founded and directed the Institute for Spine Care at the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch (CINN) after serving as Director of Clinical Services and Education at the University of Florida Brain Institute. Additionally, at the University of Florida, he held the Dunspaugh-Dalton Chair of Brain and Spinal Surgery and served as Professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery. The Chicago Surgical Society honored Dr. Fessler with the Excellence in Surgical Research award.

Dr. Fessler is internationally known for his contributions to endoscopic and microendoscopic surgical developments. He has been instrumental in developing many of the current minimally invasive surgical techniques for spinal surgery. The Kambin Foundation awarded Dr. Fessler their annual research award for his research in the field of minimal invasive spinal surgery.

Dr. Fessler is also well known for his pioneering research into human embryonic spinal cord transplantation for the treatment of spinal cord injury.  He undertook research on the first human transplant study to evaluate the safety and efficacy of human embryonic spinal cord transplantation for the treatment of syringomyelia, and is the only physician in the United States to have performed these procedures.  More recently, Dr. Fessler evaluated the safety of transplantation of the stem cells into humans suffering acute spinal cord injury.

He has held leadership positions for several professional organizations. Dr. Fessler has served on Advisory Committees for the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Head Injury Foundation, and was chairman of the Congressman Bob Dold’s health care policy committee and was a member of Senator Mark Kirk’s health care policy committee.

A prolific author, Dr. Fessler has written 27 books and contributed over 200 book chapters to medical texts. He has published over 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals and presented hundreds of papers at peer-reviewed symposia nationally and internationally. Dr. Fessler lends his expertise to multiple Editorial Boards.  In addition to all of the above accomplishments, Dr. Fessler served as a Medical Specialist and Flight Surgeon for NASA/Space Shuttle.

Richard Fessler has this to say about his time at Lawrence: “Lawrence turned out to be great for me.  It was small, with a high teacher to student ratio.  You got to know your teachers personally.  That kept me relatively straight, even during my exploratory years.  Also, years later, the personal relationship was critical to turning my career around.”

Laura Knudsen ’00, English and Biology, MD in Family Medicine

Lawrence University’s liberal arts program was my insurance policy against physician burnout today.  As an English and Biology double major, my participation in club rowing, chorale, fencing, Lambda Sigma, and Residence Life taught me about teamwork, play, and savoring the process (regardless of skill).  A biology professor taught me how to really learn and think critically. An English professor showed me how to approach life with both healthy skepticism and enormous gratitude. Our Vertebrate Morphology class, with its elegant physiology lectures and hands-on dissection (including a feline zipperostomy with now-pathologist and internist classmates) lit my spark of interest in medicine. This balance of work and play protected me as that spark grew into my career as a Family Medicine physician. 

While at LU, I studied in London and had the privilege of travelling to Alaska, Kenya and the Philippines with the Henry Wriston scholarship.  These trips opened my eyes to public health, health systems, and barriers to care.  While my trips abroad were amazing, in hindsight I could have had similar experiences in the U.S. with the underserved and stigmatized populations here, learning from my neighbors who eventually became my patients. 

During my 2 years between LU and medical school, I was a waitress, medical transcriptionist and receptionist, and completed massage school.  While attending University of Minnesota Medical School, I focused on primary care via the Rural Physician Associate Program and obtained a Masters in Health Journalism.  After completing my Family Medicine residency at the University of Utah, I worked for 3 years in a Federally Qualified Health Center, focusing on Spanish-speaking and chronically mentally ill populations.  Currently, I live in Bloomington, Indiana where I have a Family Medicine practice with an emphasis in eating disorders, LGBTQ medicine and chronic condition management.  Outside of the office, I volunteer with our county medical society and reproductive justice organizations.  I also have 2 hilarious young kiddos, an awesome spouse in the Indiana University Biology Department, and I enjoy hiking, running, reading, cooking and spontaneous dance parties.

I love my job.  Despite medicine’s cumbersome administrative trappings, it is a privilege and pleasure to care for my patients every day.  I get to see how small actions make lasting changes, work on an individual and community level, and work with incredible medical team.  Behind every door is a different person, a new problem, a creative solution.  Thanks in part to my start at Lawrence, I’m never bored, often laughing, and always grateful.