Careers at UW Health

Meet Our Advanced Practice Providers

Meet Our Advanced Practice Providers

Physician assistants, nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives are health care providers you might see during your visits at UW Health. These providers are also referred to as advanced practice providers (APPs).

UW Health advanced practice providers who work in partnership with physicians provide high quality, patient and family centered care. Meet a few of the APPs here at UW Health:

Meet Abby

Abby was drawn to UW Health not only because of its academic reputation but because UW Health strives to be an inclusive and equitable workplace. As a physician assistant in family medicine, Abby says she loves the variety it provides. She gets to see patients from birth to old age and no two days are ever the same. She often cares for the entire family and gets to watch them grow and thrive.

Read her story

Meet Carol

Carol Carr, who retired from UW Health in September 2021, says she attributes her career success to truly listening to her patients and being present in their care. She retired after a 35-year career of nurse midwifery, 31 of those years at UW Health. She has been an RN for 42 years.

Read her story

Meet Elise

As a transplant nurse practitioner, Elise Strycharske says the team effort that goes into caring for this complex population is simultaneously challenging and rewarding. When she reflects on how she got into transplant medicine at UW Health, she said it was partly out of necessity. “We hired new doctors and surgeons and then the patient base tripled,” she says. “I enjoy being a part of the process to get a patient on the transplant list.”

Read her story

Meet Emelle

Throughout Emelle’s 14 years in the medical field, she has always had a desire to take care of women. Her love for medicine started when she was a young girl living in Gary, Ind. “I was in fifth grade. I wanted to be a doctor. I would read encyclopedias from cover to cover and was fascinated with the human body and how it worked,” she says with a smile.

Read her story

Meet Karie

If your child has open heart surgery at American Family Children’s Hospital, they likely will be seen at some point by Karie Canada, pediatric cardiovascular nurse practitioner. Karie works with pediatric patients born with heart abnormalities — congenital heart defects (CHD) — and those with acquired heart disease.

Read her story

Meet Loyda

For Loyda, providing the best cancer care for her patients, empowering her daughters and giving back to those in need all boil down to doing what’s right as a professional. Like many nurse practitioners, Loyda had a desire to work in healthcare since childhood. But her story has a different beginning than those of her colleagues. Loyda was born and raised in a small town in Panama.

Read her story

Meet Mike

Mike Horowitz has always loved emergency medicine. It’s fast paced, unpredictable, requires astute assessment skills, flexibility and the ability to function in a high-stress department. Working as an EMT/firefighter in the past, Mike says emergency medicine just comes naturally to him, maybe even instinctual. “It’s always been my home base. I’m often seeing a patient on their worst day. My day-to-day is their worst day.”

Read his story

Meet Renee

Renee grew up on a farm in Wisconsin — the second oldest of five girls — and knew she wanted to be a nurse, even at a young age. For Renee, working at UW Health is a family affair. Her husband, Peter, works in the neurosurgery intensive care unit at University Hospital and her younger sister, Janelle, is a nurse in outpatient oncology and shadowed her at UW Health.

Read her story

Nurse Midwife Shares Memories After 35 Incredible Years Supporting Mothers

Carol Carr

APP Champion:  Carol Carr, CNM, retired, UW Health West Clinic, UW Health 20 S. Park Clinic, UW Health Union Corners

Carol Carr, who retired from UW Health in September 2021, says she attributes her career success to truly listening to her patients and being present in their care. She retired after a 35-year career of nurse midwifery, 31 of those years at UW Health. She has been an RN for 42 years. The definition of the word midwife is, ‘with woman.’

“So, to me, whether it’s in the office simply listening to a woman talk at a prenatal visit or during the labor process, I’ve learned to just be attentive, listen and be present and patient. Sometimes that can be hard. But it’s always best to just step back, look at the entire situation. Listen. Truly listen,” she says.

Her love of nursing came at a very young age. Carol grew up in Wales, Wis., one of seven children. “My mom certainly embraced having children. She and my dad were both only children. My oldest brother is 21 years older than my youngest brother. I was in the middle of the seven, so I was around babies while growing up, often caring for my siblings. My mom was a nurse and so were some of my cousins and great aunts. The desire to become a nurse came very naturally to me. I knew I wanted to be a nurse since I was 5 years old!”

Carol attended Marquette University in Milwaukee and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing there, enjoying her liberal arts classes as much as her nursing classes. She initially thought she wanted to be a pediatric nurse. “I was lucky to have one of my early student nurse rotations at Family Hospital in Milwaukee, where they embraced family-centered care and were one of the first hospitals in Wisconsin to have certified nurse midwives attend births. After this experience, I knew I wanted to be a nurse midwife.”

A certified nurse midwife (CNM) is a registered nurse (RN) who has a master’s or doctorate degree in nursing. They have also received certification from the American Midwifery Certification Board.

While at Marquette University, she met a woman who went to England for midwifery training. At the time, she says, it was hard to get into the graduate nurse midwifery programs in the U.S., so she decided to go to England. “I was fortunate to live in England for 16 months, where I completed my initial midwifery training. This was in the early 80s. I made such lovely friends while living there. I lived in the northern part of England,” Carol says. “At that time, home visits to new moms and families were part of postpartum care. It was such an incredible experience and I still talk to families I met there.”

When she returned to the U.S., Carol earned her master’s degree from the  University of Illinois Chicago. Her early midwifery clinicals were at Cook County Hospital. She then returned to Milwaukee to do her final clinical at Family Hospital.

After finishing the master’s program and becoming a certified nurse midwife, Carol moved to Hyden, Ky., for her first job. Carol says going to Kentucky was a dream of hers since she was a girl and read a book about a woman who was teaching in the hills of Kentucky. “The hospital where I worked was named after Mary Breckinridge, a pioneer nurse midwife who brought modern nursing to the rural environment. In the 20s and 30s, she helped decrease maternal morbidity in the hills of Kentucky. She was an inspiration.”

When Carol got engaged and married, she made her way back to Wisconsin. At the time, there was only one nurse midwife at UW Health. “We established ourselves at UW Health and soon expanded, developing a solid patient base. Today, we have nine certified nurse midwives working in five clinics and assisting in 500–600 births per year.”

UW Health nurse midwives are members of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and work in collaboration with OB-GYN doctors and residents. They also work with the Maternal-Fetal Medicine doctors at the Center of Prenatal Care. “Our OB-GYN department has grown to be large, dynamic and comprehensive in prenatal care. We co-manage and provide care for women with high-risk medical conditions.”

Carol says a woman may choose to come to a midwife for many reasons. Sometimes it’s a personal connection or word-of-mouth — women talk to other women, hear good things and want to see us. She says many women also like that all UW Health midwifery staff are female and they can meet many of the nurses at their clinic visits. “We spend a lot of time with them in prenatal visits and during the labor process. We meet them in triage. The biggest difference is we are there through their labor, not just the birth.”

“Many women choose nurse midwifery care as they hope to avoid interventions such as induction, epidural or C-section. Our group practice C-section rate is less than 10 percent.”

When asked what inspires her about midwifery, Carol says she has really enjoyed having many colleagues and friends come to UW Health for their nurse midwifery care. “I’ve also had the pleasure of attending the births of my nephew and niece. It’s inspiring to work with midwifery and medical students. It’s always so incredible to experience their first births with them.”

As a nurse midwife, Carol says she has the pleasure of being a part of a woman’s incredible journey of mothering and parenting. “It brings me to tears. I recall one young woman — I was at her first birth and unfortunately, her husband was not present as he was detained in immigration in Chicago. She had church friends who were with her as she labored. Her husband was with her for her next three births, and I was able to be her midwife at all four of her births. I still keep in touch with her.”

Sadly, it’s not uncommon for a woman to experience a miscarriage. Carol has been present at the births of rainbow babies. A rainbow baby is a name for a healthy baby born after losing a baby due to miscarriage, infant loss or stillbirth. “It is a privilege to attend these births as it’s a true gift and brings intense joy and healing for these families.”

When Carol reflects on her long career in midwifery, she recalls a memorable moment at one of the first births she was a part of when she was a nursing student. It was a young woman having her first baby. “The physical strength this woman had in the act of giving birth was incredible to watch. Then as that baby was put in her arms, she transformed into this loving, beautiful mom. It was amazing. I knew very early in my nursing education that I wanted to be a midwife. There is a Norwegian proverb that I hold close to my heart, “The greatest joy is to become a mother, the second is to be a midwife.”

Carol has three children with her husband, John. Their oldest, George, is 27, and they have twins, Jack and Katie, who are 21. Carol says she looks forward to becoming a grandparent and spending time with family in her retirement. “Once you hit 60, you start thinking of retirement. My son and his wife are expecting their first baby, a boy, at the end of October.”

Now that she will have more time, she says she may consider working with friends who are involved in maternal healthcare in other countries, including Belize, Africa and Guatemala.

“Retiring is a big change. It’s hard to leave but we’re looking forward to spending time with family and hoping to travel. As I reflect on my career, it’s funny — my initial school/work/places I lived were in two-to-four-year stints, and then we moved to Madison, had children and suddenly, it’s been 31 years! It’s been a wonderful place to practice, to see midwifery grow. I’m very happy to have spent most of my career here.”

Making a Difference to Improve Quality of Life for Transplant Patients

Renee Churchill

APP Champion: Renee Churchill, NP, Cardiovascular/Transplant Medicine, University Hospital, East Madison Hospital, Research Park Clinic

Renee grew up on a farm in Wisconsin — the second oldest of five girls — and knew she wanted to be a nurse, even at a young age. 

For Renee, working at UW Health is a family affair. Her husband, Peter, works in the neurosurgery intensive care unit (ICU) at University Hospital and her younger sister, Janelle, is a nurse in outpatient oncology and shadowed her at UW Health.

Renee’s nursing career started at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee in the surgical intensive care unit (SICU). “Working with nurse practitioners while I was a nurse was inspiring. I wanted to challenge myself and continue to learn and grow professionally so I decided to become a nurse practitioner.”

Renee had previous ICU and transplant experience. She first started taking care of patients with end-stage heart failure and managing their ventricular assist devices. These are used in patients who have weakened hearts and/or heart failure. She really loved the continuity of care and getting to know her patients and their families.

“When the new heart transplant advanced practice provider (APP) position opened in January, I jumped in. The program is growing and it’s incredibly exciting to see,” says Renee.

She says this position has given her the opportunity to help define and build the role because it is so new and still evolving. “I’ve been able to participate in quality improvement projects and medical management meetings, which help identify ways to improve the transplant process and make it easier for our patients. It’s all about doing better for our patients and helping them be successful at home.”

Renee’s role as a transplant medicine nurse practitioner gives her the opportunity to help patients throughout their transplant journey. “Many transplant patients have a difficult road to recovery. We are so invested in their recovery. Partnering with my patients to help them through their hospitalization and returning home has been incredibly rewarding. Seeing our patients in clinic, post-transplant and thriving, is the best part of the job. They share stories, talk about plans and discuss new things they are involved in — it’s amazing.”

Renee says the team she works with is very dedicated to patients and the transplant program. “We all work really hard to ensure our patients are successful post-transplant. My colleagues are key to this success, knowing we can count on one another and working together is so important.”

When asked to recall a memorable experience that stays with her over the years, she says watching any patient leave the hospital post-transplant is always an incredible moment. She adds that it’s hard to pick one single moment, but recalls a patient who was being discharged earlier this spring after a long and complicated post-transplant course. “The entire unit paused as they left the unit to go home. About 30 employees stopped what they were doing, lined up to watch the patient leave and applauded as they went by. It was truly remarkable and so heartwarming. This serves as a reminder of why we work so hard. We are able to make a difference and improve our patients’ quality of life.”

Holding the Highest Standards for Complex Heart Transplant Patients

Elise Strycharske

APP Champion: Elise Strycharske, NP, Cardiovascular/Transplant Medicine, University Hospital, East Madison Hospital, Research Park Clinic

As a transplant nurse practitioner, Elise Strycharske says the team effort that goes into caring for this complex population is simultaneously challenging and rewarding. When she reflects on how she got into transplant medicine at UW Health, she said it was partly out of necessity. “We hired new doctors and surgeons and then the patient base tripled,” she says. “I enjoy being a part of the process to get a patient on the transplant list. Working in this field of medicine, we really have the honor of seeing patients progress from being sick with advanced heart failure to thriving post-transplant, and working with them for the rest of their lives. I like that aspect of my job.”

Her love for medicine started at a young age. She recalls a moment when her grandfather was hospitalized for 10 weeks when she was in middle school. “Watching those intensive care unit (ICU) nurses work with and take care of him was a memorable moment for me. It was the moment I knew I wanted to pursue medicine,” Elise explains. “ICU nursing compelled me. Now today, I see my grandfather in my patients. Or sometimes he comes to me in a situation when I have to make a difficult decision. The memory of my grandfather keeps me grounded in my work.”

When Elise looks back on her education, she says nursing was second degree. Her undergraduate degree from UW-Madison is in zoology. “I thought I would go into pre-medicine but started working in the intensive care unit, loved ICU nursing and decided to shift my focus to nursing. Then, I got into the nursing program at Edgewood College in Madison.”

While at Edgewood, she studied in Guatemala. Shortly after returning, she worked in the cardiac intensive care unit at UW Health. Elise worked there for seven and a half years while completing her Doctor of Nursing degree at UW-Madison, and then took a job in advanced heart failure and transplant medicine. She has now worked in this specialty for four years.

“I was the first nurse practitioner (NP) in transplant cardiology at UW Health. I’m honored to have pioneered that role. We’ve since expanded the department quite a bit. Watching the clinic grow has been incredible to see,” Elise says.

The UW Health Transplant Center performs heart transplants to treat heart failure and heart disease, and is one of just five centers in the nation transplanting hearts from cardiac death donors using a device that preserves heart function between donation and transplant. Wait times are among the nation’s shortest. The staff use minimally invasive techniques to improve patients’ health and for some, provide support while they wait for a transplant. UW Health proudly serves veterans as a Veterans Administration-approved transplant program.

When asked about her team at UW Health, she describes them as flexible, supportive and trustworthy. “We all have a shared expectation for autonomy,” she says. “We hold each other to super high standards. We are very dependent on our team and fully reliant on our heart failure and transplant nurses to help meet the needs of our complex patients.”

Elise says she feels lucky to have such great colleagues. “They are truly the best of the best and try to share an even workload among staff members,” she continues. “We run through scenarios with each other to gain a better understanding of what is needed to do the best we can in all situations. My physician colleagues are nothing but supportive. We truly have autonomy and our leaders champion us to be leaders too. My medical director is always looking for growth and opportunities to expand our skill set and leadership roles. I appreciate that.”

Working amid a global pandemic has been hard for healthcare workers. Especially as the delta variant makes its way in. “It’s been hard for all of us but it’s especially hard for our patients. Many of them have had to be here at the hospital for weeks without family or friends at their bedside. It’s been a super challenging time. Many of us providers and staff have had to be not only the care provider but also the friend or family member too. It’s been hard but we wouldn’t do it any other way.”

Elise says her patients remind her to recognize and appreciate the joy in life. “Take each day at a time, focus on what’s important and be appreciative for good times. My patients help me realize that health and wellbeing is so important. They help me put things into perspective when I get lost from that way of thinking.”

Outside of work, Elise stays busy with her 2-year-old son, Will. She likes boating, being active and working on her fitness. She also enjoys gardening, cooking and listening to music.

Doing What’s Right for Her Cancer Patients, Daughters and Those in Need

Loyda Braithwaite

APP Champion: Loyda Braithwaite, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-BC, AOCNP, Oncology, University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

For Loyda, providing the best cancer care for her patients, empowering her daughters and giving back to those in need all boil down to doing what’s right as a professional.

Like many nurse practitioners, Loyda had a desire to work in healthcare since childhood. But her story has a different beginning than those of her colleagues. Loyda was born and raised in a small town in Panama. After high school, she moved to Panama City, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing at the University of Panama and practiced there for a few years. She says her interest in cancer care began early in her undergraduate nursing studies when she had clinical practice at the Panamanian National Oncologic Institute.

“I was inspired by one of my professors who was the only oncology-specialized nurse in Panama at the time,” Loyda says. “Since that experience, I knew oncology was my calling. This passion inspired my intensive pursuit of knowledge and motivated my development in nursing.”

Several years after establishing her nursing practice in Panama City, she met her now husband, who was an American Peace Corps volunteer serving in Panama. They fell in love and after dating for a few years, moved to the United States in 2009. “I didn’t know any English at that time,” she says. “With dedication and persistence, I learned English, obtained my nursing license in the United States and began practicing as a registered nurse in 2010.”

Loyda’s drive to succeed didn’t stop there. She continued her education and earned a Master of Science degree in Nursing at Loyola University Chicago in 2015, specializing in oncology. She then began her new role as an oncology nurse practitioner at the UW Carbone Cancer Center, and since 2018, has sub-specialized in the treatment and management of patients with breast cancer.

“In addition to my clinical practices, I wanted to make a larger impact for my patients, colleagues and the profession. This led me to pursue a doctoral education. I am currently a PhD student in the UW-Madison School of Nursing. As a future nurse scientist, I want to focus my research on cancer health needs in minority populations.”

When asked to describe her co-workers at UW Health, she says the nurses and physicians are the most knowledgeable people she knows. “They go the extra mile for every patient. From bedside nursing to advanced care coordination, the professionals at our cancer center are committed to providing the best care possible for every patient and their families.”

Outside of work, Loyda says her most proud accomplishment is her family. “My husband, Brandon, and I have two daughters, Ayla (7) and Hahmi (4). My mom, Esther, also lives with us here in the States. We continue to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, and honestly, working together to raise our children in a bilingual and multicultural family makes me proud every day. I hope my experience can empower my daughters to follow their dreams, because succeeding as a woman, person of color and immigrant is never easy. My family has been and will always be my greatest source of support and inspiration to do what I do.”

In addition to clinical and academic work, Loyda is involved in a variety of volunteer activities ranging from direct patient care to formal education for healthcare professionals. She has returned to Panama three times over the years to assist in orthopedic surgeries. She also helped develop and conduct an educational program for oncology nurses in Honduras, in collaboration with Health Volunteer Overseas (HVO) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). She provided rural general practice care in the Dominican Republic and volunteered with the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) and ASCO to provide oncology nursing education in Colombia and Ghana. Loyda is also a member of the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation’s (ONCC) committee that evaluates the learning needs for the oncology nurse practitioners’ national certification test.

Locally, she volunteers as a co-facilitator for a Hispanic breast cancer support group at the Catholic Multicultural Center, a social services agency in Madison assisting people in need. “COVID-19 has delayed us from meeting, but this community gathering has been the only Spanish-speaking breast cancer support group in Dane County. I look forward to the day we can safely resume our monthly meetings.”

When asked to recall moments that inspired her, she says it’s hard to narrow down because there are so many. “I enjoy and celebrate the happy moments with our patients and families,” she says. “Other times it is more difficult, particularly when patients are nearing end of life. Conversations are tough and many times there are tears of both joy and sadness. Sometimes there are physical symptoms to be managed, sometimes there are emotional ones to be healed, but the purpose of my work is to make their journey more manageable. When I hear a patient thank me for the care they have received, it’s rewarding and reassuring. Also, providing care to my Spanish-speaking patients in their own language is priceless. All of these are daily reminders that I have chosen the right profession.”

Loyda says her patients teach her humility at its best. “I think I’ve learned it’s always best to meet patients where they are. It’s never where I think they should be. No matter what I think I know, I always need to listen to my patients first. That’s very important to me as a professional.”

Creating a Safe Space for LGBTQ+ Patients Through Acceptance and Open Dialogue

Abby Murphy

APP Champion: Abby (Abigael) Murphy, PA, Family Medicine, UW Health Odana Atrium Clinic

Abby was drawn to UW Health not only because of its academic reputation but because UW Health strives to be an inclusive and equitable workplace. As a physician assistant in family medicine, Abby says she loves the variety it provides. She gets to see patients from birth to old age and no two days are ever the same. She often cares for the entire family and gets to watch them grow and thrive.

“Transgender health has become a new aspect of healthcare I am proud to call a new specialty,” Abby says. “The last few years have brought in a boom of transgender patients. I offer guidance for hormone replacement therapy, gender affirming care and mental health resources, all of which are available at UW Health.”

UW Health supports transgender, gender expansive and nonbinary adults and children, not just by providing high quality clinical services, but also by working with community partners to support each patient’s unique physical, emotional and social needs.

“Recently, I’ve seen an increase in transgender, gender nonbinary and gender fluid patients in our younger patient population,” Abby says. “I think a lot of this increase has to do with the fact that people becoming more acutely aware of UW Health’s commitment to the LGBTQ+ community.”

In fact, UW Health is designated as a “Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality” in the Human Rights Campaign 2020 Healthcare Equality Index. A record 765 healthcare facilities actively participated in the 2020 survey, and 495 — including UW Health’s three hospitals — earned the coveted “Leader” designation with a top score of 100. Our Gender Services Program is a key part of our comprehensive commitment to exceptional and affirming care.

Abby’s roots run deep in the Midwest, having grown up in the Sauk Prairie area of Wisconsin. She went to undergraduate school in Pittsburgh, earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Chatham University. She then earned her Master of Science degree from Baldwin Wallace University. After spending three years in Denver working in women’s health and primary care, she moved to Madison about three years ago with her partner, Michelle.

“I have a special passion for underserved populations, including the LGBTQ+ community,” she continues. “As a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I understand the challenges. It’s a personal goal of mine to be a provider who is open and accepting of all patients.”

When asked to recall a memorable moment in her career that stays with her, she says it’s hard to pick just one. But whenever she is thanked for recognizing someone for who they truly are, being respectful of their pronouns, that is a win. “Being told that my patient is ‘so excited to have a queer provider’ — these moments remind me why I so enjoy doing what I have the privilege of doing every day, which is caring for and supporting others on their life journey.”

Abby said she recently saw a patient in his early 50s who told her it was his first time coming out to a clinician. Another patient told her she had never seen a provider who was also a member of the LGBTQ+ community before. “I always ask patients what their personal pronouns are. It’s motivating to see how happy and positive my patients are when they leave my office after first being uncertain how honest they could be in their visit.”

Abby often spends her free time seeking out and bringing more attention to LGBTQ+ resources available locally. She says she often advocates for providers to have more CME training and diversity training.

“Gender expansive children and adolescents often have many questions. I use my time to listen, accept and learn about needs and offer support and resources to help them on their healthcare path.”

Abby is appreciative and thankful for her team at the UW Health Odana Atrium Clinic in Madison. She says everyone is passionate about our patients, and about learning and growing—both emotionally and intellectually, on both an individual and team basis. “No one ever seems satisfied being stagnant, complacent or ‘good enough.’ We enjoy getting to learn from and with our patients every day.”

Being a healthcare worker is difficult, especially now working during a global pandemic. Days are long, patient volumes are high. She says her patients teach her so much about herself, including reinforcing the importance and power of basic respect and friendliness. “Verifying name and pronouns, some quick chatting about their interests, pets and/or family, and a friendly smile — with the eyes these days — does so much in such an easy, short period of time.”

Coming Together for the Best Plan of Action, One Tiny Heart at a Time

Karie Canada

APP Champion: Karie Canada, NP, Pediatric Cardiovascular Medicine, American Family Children’s Hospital

If your child has open heart surgery at American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH), they likely will be seen at some point by Karie Canada, pediatric cardiovascular nurse practitioner.

Karie works with pediatric patients born with heart abnormalities—congenital heart defects (CHD)—and those with acquired heart disease. One of the primary patient populations she works with is children with single ventricle heart disease and newborns who need surgery shortly after birth. CHD can lead to problems with any part of the heart, including the upper (atria) and lower (ventricles) heart chambers, the atrial and ventricular septae, the large and smaller blood vessels and the heart valves. Genetic conditions can also be associated with CHD.

“The patients in our single ventricle population typically require surgery shortly after birth, at 3–4 months, then again at 3–4 years. I assist with our successful interstage home monitoring program for these babies,” says Karie. “Many of our patients are born at UnityPoint Health – Meriter Hospital but can be referred to us from any hospital in the region. After surgery at American Family Children’s Hospital, our little patients are cared for in our pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) by a collaborative team. Our pediatric heart care team will continue to oversee these patients’ care as they grow and develop.”

UW Health Kids heart specialists provide experience and expertise in caring for the tiniest hearts. In fact, our team offers advanced heart surgery at American Family Children’s Hospital, which ranks among the nation’s best hospitals for pediatric cardiology and heart surgery.

UW Health is lucky to have Karie and her incredible dedication to her young patients. As a pediatric cardiovascular nurse practitioner, she provides comprehensive and seamless care for patients and families coping with cardiovascular conditions. Nurse practitioners enhance communication among team members, provide continuity of care and facilitate inpatient throughput. They also carry out therapeutic procedures as well as monitor, maintain and report on the progress of patients to the supervising physician. On the inpatient units, they initiate transfers and discharges, place orders, and evaluate new consultations with the entire pediatric heart specialist team.

Karie first worked at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital in the PICU as a bedside nurse. She moved to Wisconsin in 2008 and worked in the PICU at American Family Children’s Hospital from 2008–2016. While working, Karie went back to school and earned her Master of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Alabama to become a primary care nurse practitioner. In July 2015, she accepted the position for an advanced practice provider (APP) in cardiovascular pediatric medicine.

“During my years as a bedside nurse, I had a passion for working with patients with cardiac disease. I often would care for post-surgical cardiac patients and loved learning the anatomy and physiology of cardiac disease. Although my job can be challenging at times—there is always something new to learn in cardiology—to watch our patients recover from surgery and go on to thrive in life is extremely rewarding.”

Karie enjoys the interstage home management part of her job, which is essentially the period between the first and second surgery for single ventricle patients or those with similar physiology. This is a crucial time as these patients can be very tenuous. It also puts added stress on the families due to the tasks and monitoring that must be done at home.

“During the interstage period, we monitor many things such as weight, oxygen saturations and feeds. I typically call the patient’s family about twice a week to check in. They can page me if they have any concerns or questions. Most of the patients graduate from interstage at about 3–4 months of age, but there are some unique circumstances where I follow kids for a few years,” Karie explains. “My favorite part is building relationships with the families and watching the children grow. It’s valuable time. My goal in the interstage program is not only to make sure the child is thriving but also offer resources, education and support for the family going through a stressful time in their life. I have several patients I keep in touch with even after I no longer see them in interstage. To see these children grow and thrive is the ultimate goal.”

Karie attributes patient success to the team approach in providing care. She works alongside pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons, cardiac anesthesiologists, cardiac intensive care nurse practitioners and intensivists, physician assistants, nurses, nutrition specialists, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, and occupational and speech therapists who are specially trained to care for newborns with heart defects.

“I am fortunate to work with such a collaborative team to provide the best care for our patients. The thing I value the most about this collaboration is we all bring different experiences, thought processes and values to provide comprehensive decision-making,” says Karie. “We do see a variety of complex congenital heart disease patients since we are a referral center for many health systems throughout Wisconsin, Illinois and South Dakota.”

Outside of work, Karie finds time to get involved in community education and volunteering. Her cardiology team is active in the American Heart Association Heart Walk in Madison each year. In fact, she was team captain for a few years prior to COVID-19 and organized fundraising and a face-painting stand at the event.

“Since the pandemic, we have been restricted on social events for the local CHD support group, which used to be held at AFCH. Support groups are a wonderful way to create community, offer support and nurture a healing environment for our families. I am hoping we will be able to resume them soon.”

Caring for Patients on Their Worst Day

Mike Horowitz

APP Champion:  Mike Horowitz, PA, Emergency Medicine, University Hospital, East Madison Hospital

Mike Horowitz has always loved emergency medicine. It’s fast paced, unpredictable, requires astute assessment skills, flexibility and the ability to function in a high-stress department. Working as an EMT/firefighter in the past, Mike says emergency medicine just comes naturally to him, maybe even instinctual. “It’s always been my home base. I’m often seeing a patient on their worst day. My day-to-day is their worst day.”

Mike is a physician assistant (PA) in the emergency room, working at both University Hospital and UW Health at The American Center. He’s been with UW Health for five years. About a year ago, he took on the role as assistant medical director for Waunakee and Sun Prairie emergency medicine services (EMS). He assists with education and training for physician assistant students, prehospital providers and advanced practice providers.

Mike became a physician assistant in 2013 after earning his Master’s of Physician Assistant Studies at Drexel University and 18-month postgraduate residency program in emergency medicine at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia.

PAs are medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. With thousands of hours of medical training, PAs are versatile and collaborative. They practice in every medical setting and specialty, improving healthcare access and quality.

Mike also pursues his passion for emergency medicine by volunteering as a medical provider for a local street medicine program called Madison Area Care for the Homeless OneHealth (MACH OneHealth). With compassion and respect, the organization works to bridge gaps in area healthcare systems by connecting with people experiencing homelessness. “We bring medical attention, preventive care and acute care services to local homeless populations,” Mike says. “I visit Madison homeless shelters about once a month or every other month, about 3–4 hours each time.”

Mike says MACH OneHealth helps with whatever is needed, such as chronic illness management, primary care, general health concerns or acute medical issues. “We often work with them to avoid hospitalizations, and if they do need emergency attention, we refer them to the emergency department (ED) and work together to coordinate that care. We advocate for housing and general health and wellness. It’s totally independent and volunteer funded. It’s really rewarding work.”

Teamwork is essential in the ED. In fact, when Mike was asked to describe his teammates, he says teamwork and people are really the crux of how the emergency department works. “Rarely is the emergency room the definitive care for a patient. But there are times when it is, and that is one of the reasons why I’m in medicine. We can be the safety net for those patients. I discuss cases with other providers and work to transfer patients for specialized care. Sometimes it takes several phone calls to outside agencies or other units, depending on what they need. There are a lot of great people within UW Health who really want to get involved in their care.”

Mike says his colleagues are a pleasure to work with. “Not enough can be said about how great the emergency room staff are—they are fantastic. The heart of a high-functioning healthcare organization is the team element. The emergency room is a well-oiled machine.”

The intensity of an emergency can provide a memorable moment for anyone, whether you are on the giving or receiving side. “I can’t recall a specific experience but maybe a cumulative experience,” Mike says. “Critical care, street medicine and emergency care are all that I do. One of the reasons I went into medicine was to have the fluidity of working in that environment. My mission as a physician assistant is to serve the underserved. That has kept me grounded. Caring for a patient who has no place else to go. Helping them navigate the healthcare system—sometimes it’s a real struggle—I’ve found that many times my role can be very helpful with those aspects of care.”

Mike says his patients have taught him how to stay humble because things can often surprise you in medicine. “Emergency medicine can become depersonalized with medical issues glossing over the personal aspects of a patient. My patients have taught me not to lose any thread of humanity,” he says.

Mike understands that patients have emotions and fears. Many times, he works with a patient’s family to help in the care process. “Sometimes patients lack income and/or other resources, so I like to help them find the resources they need for care. These issues all impact the way they see their care. If I don’t take a moment to learn about a patient and their frame of reference, I’m doing them a disservice.”

Advocating for Patients, Especially Women of Color, Through the Complexities of the Healthcare System

Emelle Holmes-Drammeh

APP Champion: Emelle Holmes-Drammeh, PA, Obstetrics and Gynecology, UW Health 20 S. Park Clinic.

Throughout Emelle’s 14 years in the medical field, she has always had a desire to take care of women.

Her love for medicine started when she was a young girl living in Gary, Indiana. “I was in fifth grade. I wanted to be a doctor. I would read encyclopedias from cover to cover and was fascinated with the human body and how it worked,” she says with a smile.

Emelle’s mother was a nurse and avid volunteer, which is where Emelle says her investigative medical curiosity started. Her path in medicine quickly switched when she learned how daunting and long her education and training would be to get her medical degree. “I wanted to be a mom and start my family as soon as possible. I learned about the physician assistant career and the rest is history, as I would be able to have the best of both worlds.”

After she completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Pre-Medicine and Chemistry at Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she earned her Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, California. Emelle then worked for a few years in colorectal surgery at UW Health in Madison, prior to starting and completing the Mark B. Adams Postgraduate Surgical Residency for PAs at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. She says she loved working in the hospital setting and especially in the operating room.

“I enjoy advocating for all patients through the complexities of the healthcare system. I am a proud advocate for women and especially women of color.”

Emelle is involved in several community health initiatives, including humanitarian work in The Gambia, West Africa, where she does an annual back-to-school drive for different community primary schools in the country. She also works as a member of the Madison-Kanifing Sister City to help bring donated medical supplies and other resources to the country. Emelle is a physician assistant preceptor, leading obstetrics skills labs and she serves on two UW Health diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) committees, one for PAs and the other for OB-GYN. She is also a parent member of the DEI committee at Prairie View Middle School in Sun Prairie. In 2018, Emelle and previous colleagues started a local not-for-profit called Beat the Blues Cruise that brings awareness to suicide prevention. Recently, she started her training to become a doula through the Harambee Village in Madison. 

Last year, Emelle wrote a statement of support for H.R.6142 Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020, which was introduced in the House in March. This act would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to address maternal health outcomes among minority populations. And in 2016, she developed a pain protocol at the hospital where she previously worked, that decreased narcotic use in the postpartum population by 76 percent over three years. This protocol was presented and adopted systemwide. She was also just notified, pending senate confirmation, Gov. Evers has appointed her to the newly formed Physician Assistant Affiliated Credentialing Board.

Emelle is proud of the work UW Health is doing with DEI in dismantling healthcare disparities and racism. “We are doing important work but we need to do more. We all need to take a step back and really check ourselves for those biases that we do not even recognize we have. We have to check them at the door of every patient’s room and give them the same level of care that we would want our own family members to receive.”

“One memory that touches my heart is when I worked in the OB-GYN inpatient unit at a local hospital. There was a patient I was going to see after her second delivery. When I walked into the room, her husband started yelling, “She’s here! She’s here!” It startled me. I didn’t know what he was talking about. The patient came out of the bathroom and when she saw me, she began to cry. She went on to state that when she had her last pregnancy, it resulted in an emergency C-section. She said she remembered me holding her hand and calming her down as she was whisked away to the operating room where I helped deliver her baby. I don’t recall that time, because I aim to treat all of my patients that way. But it makes my heart happy because it reminds me that our actions have great impact on the people we come in contact with.”

Emelle says her patients have taught her that we all have a lot in common in terms of our anatomy and the disease processes we may experience. “Where we differ is in the communities we come from and the life experiences we have had. All these things make us who we are. I’ve learned that when I see a patient who presents with pelvic pain, and all work-up has been negative, I must look at her as more than another young woman with pelvic pain. There is so much more to them than their chief complaint. By tapping into who they are as people, understanding their experiences and treating them holistically, we can actually heal their spirits as well as their ailments.”

When asked to describe the team of professionals she works with at UW Health, she said she is surrounded by very kind providers, nursing staff, medical assistants and schedulers who all work together to make the ship run. “Not one of us can do the job alone. They are dedicated, consistent and caring.”

Emelle lives in Madison with her two daughters, Taylor (12) and Nyima (7), and her husband of 9 years, Lamin.

Advanced Practice Providers at UW Health

For nearly 40 years, UW Health has employed Advanced Practice Providers (APPs) including nurse practitioners (NP), physician assistants (PA) and certified nurse midwives (CNM).

UW Health also employs other advanced practice professionals, including certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA), certified nurse specialists (CNS) and other allied health professions across our health system.

Our providers play an integral role in our inpatient and ambulatory care teams by providing high-quality, cost-effective care to patients through interdisciplinary team collaboration that results in a satisfying experience for our patients.

Read our program brochure (pdf)

Facts About UW Health Advanced Practice Providers