Encouraging Family Physicians

In five years, the Robert F. and Irma K. Korbitz Endowed Scholarship in Family Medicine has helped 23 University of Wisconsin-Madison medical students remain in primary care.

For Nathan Vakharia, a 2011 graduate and member of the first Wisconsin Academy of Rural Medicine class, the award meant his wife and children could stay with him during rotations and become part of the rural communities in which he worked.

Michelle Clark-Forsting called herself a small-town girl with a high school graduating class of 34 who married her high school sweetheart and retains strong ties to Merrillan, Wisconsin. The award helps cover medical school debt. “But more than that, I am truly honored … to be recognized as a medical student who upholds strong traditions in the field,” she wrote.

“I think he just loved the human contact of being a general practitioner and a family practitioner.”

Adam Korbitz

Establishing the scholarship recognizes his family’s commitment to family medicine, Eric Korbitz said. His dad, however, did not plan to be a physician. Robert Korbitz earned an engineering degree from the UW-Madison in 1952, becoming an aeronautical engineer. When his youngest brother, Bernie (’57 BS L&S, ’60 MD, ’62 MS UNKN) began talking about medical school, Robert followed him, earning his medical degree in 1962. “He wanted to work more directly with people than machines,” Adam Korbitz said of his father.

Robert Korbitz joined Monona Grove Clinic as a general practitioner, delivering babies and taking call. In the ‘70s, he was among the first class of board-certified family practitioners. He loved his job, Eric Korbitz said. “I think he just loved the human contact of being a general practitioner and a family practitioner,” Adam Korbitz added, saying his dad also enjoyed being a diagnostician.

Robert and Irma Korbitz met at the UW-Madison, where she earned an education degree in 1952, then taught until her Eric was born in 1961l. After earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1981, she served as a psychiatric nurse, then nurse manager.

When mother and sons discussed establishing a scholarship fund, they recognized the increasing challenge of attracting medical students to fields such as family practice, Adam Korbitz said. The scholarship honors his father’s interests and passion and allows the family to help those who choose family medicine.