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Phil Kostka (left) looks the part at the new med students’ White Coat Ceremony.

New Community Takes Its Pulse

They’re doctors in training, they’re pioneers – but they see themselves as ambassadors as much as anything else, says Phil Kostka ’15

Kostka is in the first cohort at MCW-Green Bay, the new medical school program based on campus. And he is the first St. Norbert grad to join the program. 

The Medical College of Wisconsin’s satellite program on the St. Norbert campus is the first new medical school in Wisconsin in more than 100 years, and its foundation was particularly exciting for Kostka, whose vocation for medicine developed in parallel with plans to base the community-medicine education program at St. Norbert. He brought with him, freshman year, an inkling that medicine might be the field for him. Nothing he encountered in his undergraduate studies or examinations deterred him and, by his junior year, he had decided to become a physician.

Kostka’s proven willingness to engage helped him stand out among the 2,000-plus candidates who applied for the 26 places in the MCW program. At 16, he qualified as a certified nursing assistant and, by 18, he was working as an EMT first responder with the volunteer fire brigade in his hometown of Rosholt, Wis. 

Kostka and his classmates are already working with patients, he says. “We’re out in the community. Everyone, in this first couple of months, is allowing us to try to make our presence known. We’ve all been told we’re pioneers.”

They can already see that the new program is bent on keeping the medical student deep within the populations he or she serves. It’s a level of involvement that allows for more of a give-and-take relationship between doctor and patient, Kostka says. “There’s more to being a physician than writing prescriptions. It takes a person who is willing to be very compassionate, willing to listen, able to understand people’s issues. That’s something where this medical school, like St. Norbert College, is going to do a great job. 

“It’s a transition. Medical school and undergraduate study are two very different entities. But the focus on trying to better the community is the same.”

The group already has big dreams – dreams that look beyond their own time in med school. For instance, they’d like to establish a free medical clinic: “There are 26 of us. We’ve developed a camaraderie I can’t imagine in a bigger school. It allows us to try to make a bigger impact; to get our name out there and let people know we’re here.” 

Oct. 31, 2015