Examining the Vital Signs

A 50-Year Checkup of the Medical College of Wisconsin

April 2018


Fifty years after civic leaders issued an urgent call to preserve a medical school in southeast Wisconsin, our report finds that the vision put forward by those leaders has been largely fulfilled. We also note, however, that the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) today faces unique challenges, including a difficult financial paradigm and stubborn disparities in health care among area residents.

Key findings:

  • MCW is a vital link in the physician pipeline. MCW graduates over half of all medical students trained in Wisconsin each year and provides hundreds of residency and fellowship positions through its affiliated hospitals. Two ongoing pipeline challenges are the need to increase diversity within MCW’s student body and the need to address a shortage of urban primary care physicians in Milwaukee.
  • MCW physician specialists provide complex medical care that would not otherwise exist in southeast Wisconsin. Staffed largely by MCW physician specialists, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Froedtert Hospital, and the VA Medical Center offer cutting-edge medical care for complex conditions in facilities that are rated among the best in the country. MCW is challenged, however, by the need to build support for its education and research activities into its professional fees, which threatens its competitiveness in the regional healthcare market.
  • MCW is southeast Wisconsin’s preeminent leader in medical and scientific research. MCW’s annual $200 million in research expenditures are roughly double the combined total of the region’s other academic institutions and its research prowess is instrumental in attracting high-quality talent. Federal research funding flowing to MCW has declined slightly since 2012, however, requiring the institution to find other ways to pay for its research costs and for the infrastructure its research requires.