Dr. Andrew Overturf, an anesthesiologist for Aurora Memorial Hospital of Burlington, speaks to teacher Troy Everson’s anatomy and physiology class at Burlington High School. A partnership with Aurora allows students in the course to observe surgery at the hospital.

Partnership with Aurora inspires BHS students to medical careers

By Alex Johnson


A partnership between Aurora Memorial Hospital of Burlington and Burlington High School has been in place since 2001 and is paying dividends by inspiring some students to return to their hometown as freshly minted doctors.

The program allows students at the junior and senior levels to participate in a college-level anatomy and physiology course.

Starting with 43 students the first year of the class, the yearlong course now serves 66 students across three separate sections.

Started by a group of medical professionals, the class is meant to expose students to a career in medicine while also encouraging them to bring those skills back to Burlington.

Troy Everson, the current instructor for the anatomy class at the high school, said his students are able “to see and benefit firsthand from the up-close methods” in the curriculum.

Once per year students are welcome to experience a live, surgical procedure at Memorial Hospital, which is then followed by a reflective piece written by each student.

The surgeries last from one to four hours and show students the rigor and intensity of actual procedures, according to Aurora Senior Integration Specialist Greg Hoffman.

“Seeing the procedures live shows the students what they truly wanted,” said Hoffman, explaining how some students do turn away from medicine after the class.

Hoffman elaborated on the class, saying it welcomes various speakers throughout the year, including surgical pathologists and other specialists around the area, depending on the unit of study.

Also deeply committed to the partnership is Dr. Leif Erickson, a BHS graduate and a vascular surgeon at the hospital who strived to make the class “as valuable as possible,” while also developing a connection to the community.

“We wanted to give them as many connections as we could to the medical personnel – getting the kids pumped up about medicine,” he said.

Former student Erin Grinhaug went through the anatomy class and is now an emergency department physician at Memorial Hospital. She was able to see an open-heart surgery during her time at the high school.

“It was really neat to come back and help the community that helped me,” Grinhaug said.

The class encouraged Grinhaug to become more interested in medicine after initially wanting to pursue a career in the field. The anatomy course taught her to work harder early on in preparation for medical school.

Her favorite part about being a doctor in the area, Grinhaug said, is that she sometimes gets to treat former teachers. It’s a chance for her to help the people who helped her get to where she is now.

The partnership with Aurora also benefits the course by providing anatomical models and microscopes that Everson describes as “sturdy, accurate, and detailed.”

To help fund the class and materials such as the anatomical models, the Wisconsin Hospital Association awarded the partnership a grant of $2,500. It’s the only program in the state to receive that type of grant at that time.

The partnership received equal funding between the Burlington School District and Aurora.

Everson continues to teach the anatomy class. “When the community invests in the kids, the community is investing its own future. We get our own back.”