Class of 2019

bisrat fekadu

Bisrat Fekadu, MD

I was born in Sudan and immigrated to the U.S. when I was a year old and we lived in Rochester, NY. At that time my brilliant, articulate, and innovative father had been awarded scholarships...

to start nursing school. Then running short on time and support, he decided to walk away from the promising career to open his own taxi service. My dad's cab was a beat-up, second-hand runner, which he initially covered with yellow house paint. From the beginning of my elementary school years, if I was not helping raise my little sister and brother, I was riding shotgun in the passenger seat of dad's place of business. Listening to him talk with his customers, organize routes and fueling schedules, and juggle fares caused me to respect those who possess true joy in their services to others. Because of my resilient dad and my life within his taxi, I found myself gravitating towards health care providers, clinics, and hospitals where there is a genuine sense of resourcefulness and vibrant energy all in service to others.

My father passed on his love of education to his children, often giving us unsolicited lectures on history, social studies, and life advice in his cab during rides home from school, always ending with the mandate that we attend college and pursue a career. Now that I think about it, our lovely yellow cab was not dissimilar to the American dinner table, with many fond memories. So, naturally I pursued higher education! After attending high school at South High in Minneapolis, I went on to study neuroscience at the University of St. Thomas. In undergrad I began to immerse myself in medicine, joining the Minnesota Future Doctors program, shadowing at community clinics in town, visiting medical schools, attending conferences. My family and I were thrilled when I was accepted into Mayo Medical School in Rochester, MN (funny how life turns full circle... honestly the two Rochester’s are quite similar!).

In medical school I came to understand that my passion was to learn about patients’ emotional and spiritual health and the health of the community and how that related to their individual situation. As my thinking on being a physician matured I understood that serving multigenerational families as a Family Physician would be a perfect fit for the things I hope to do for the community. Caring for and mentoring children and young adults has always been a passion of mine. But I now believe that by caring for the whole family and the community I can provide more meaningful and broader reaching benefits to those I serve.

My family is extremely close knit, we come as a packaged deal, it’s hard to say where one person ends and the other begins. I have four rambunctious younger sisters ranging from ages graduate school to elementary school age, and one brother (My father’s golden child and only other Y chromosome in the house). I enjoy going for jogs around my neighborhood with my younger sisters, although at times it can be tough for everyone to fit on the sidewalk together! I also use the term jogging loosely, it’s more like intermittent races down the sidewalk, and stopping to say hi to neighbors, play with their dogs, climb trees, etc… we call it jogging! I’m also an active member of St. Mary’s Tewahedo Ethiopian Orthodox Church in St. Paul and have deep roots in my community there, if you are looking for me on a Sunday you can find me there. My faith is very important part of my life and key to my positive personality.

I’m excited to start my training at the United Family Medicine Residency! I have a warm place in my heart for the West Seventh community. I actually lived in Sibley Manor during my elementary years, I attended the beloved Homecroft Elementary (do they still wear uniforms?). Those years have some of my favorite childhood memories of waiting for the bus every morning with the large group of children from each of the apartments, sharing stories and candy from the grocery store right across the street. Getting my flu shots that were stored in a refrigerator of the Sibley clinic (back then they were in one of the apartments), spending my summers on the playground and lugging home free prizes from the summer festivals run by the sisters from the Catholic Church, reading as many books as possible in the bookmobile. I’m overjoyed and feel very privileged to be able to return to West Seventh to serve the community that is so dear to my heart.

katherine howard kathan

Kate Howard Kathan, MD

Kate Howard Kathan, MD, was born on the Air Force base in Bellevue, Nebraska while her mother was finishing nursing training.  Just one month later...

the family moved to Elgin, IA (population 700) where her father became the 6th generation in the Howard family to farm in Fayette County, IA. She spent her childhood looking for newborn kittens, building hay forts, riding her horses, and bottle feeding calves. When she wasn’t helping (err… adventuring?) on the farm, she was hanging out in her mom’s office at the local hospital. She loved to check on the newborn nursery, and knew exactly which offices to visit for a chocolate.

Kate went to the same high school as both her father and grandfather, and loved being in everything. She was involved in 4H, and showed her horses and beef calves at the county fair, and even had a pie go to the Iowa State Fair! She played the trumpet in the bands, acted in drama and speech, sang in the choirs, sat on student government and played on the volleyball, softball, and track teams. When not in extracurricular activities, she had to actually go to school, where she loved science classes.

With a passion for being involved in community events, she knew she wanted to go to a small liberal arts college with a great community, and found her way to Grinnell College. Kate planned on majoring in Biologic chemistry, but plans changed when she fell in love with the courses that explored social inequalities and cultural structures, and she majored in Sociology. She also sang in the choir, dabbled in Ultimate Frisbee, and studied for a semester in Melbourne, Australia. She also met and fell in love with her husband, Toby.

After graduation, she joined Teach for America and moved to New Orleans (Toby, came too!) to teach high school Chemistry and health. It was the most wonderfully challenging and difficult two years, and she continues to believe that improving education is the cornerstone to improving social equality. However, she missed higher level science, and saw the ways that better public health, mental health care, and access to health resources would improve her student’s lives. So back to medical school!

Kate attended the University of Iowa for medical school, and continued to be involved in social justice projects. She took a multi-year elective on Community Health Outreach, completed an elective at a Federally Qualified Health Center in Phoenix, AZ, participated in many fundraisers for local organizations, and got involved in the campus family medicine interest group. Kate has been accepted into the National Health Service Corps, but plans to work in underserved communities for her career beyond the three-year service commitment.

When she wasn’t studying, Kate was reading good fiction or traveling, especially to Washington D.C. to visit Toby while he was teaching in DC Public Schools. In the past four years, they hiked the Grand Canyon, biked on RAGBRAI, backpacked through Israel, visited Petra in Jordan, and traveled through Costa Rica. They got married in 2014, adopted the literal cutest Corgi-Beagle mix puppy on the planet (Watson), and are currently expecting their first child. They are very excited to Minnesota, and explore new restaurants, trails, parks, camping! Kate is thrilled to join the United team, and is looking forward to joining them in their dedication to the underserved.

shannon looney

Shannon Fleming, MD

Shannon Adele Fleming, MD, was born in Aiken, South Carolina and lived there through high school.  Her parents had moved from Minneapolis several years before she was born, so she had...

her first experience engaging with other cultures by going from a Midwestern home to a southern kindergarten classroom! As kind as the South has been to her for these many years, she is ready to reclaim her roots in St. Paul. Throughout her childhood, Shannon’s mother, a speech pathologist, and her father, an environmental engineer, constantly challenged her to better serve others in a balanced and open manner, and were thus highly encouraging of her desire to be a physician. They fostered in her a love of learning, taking her older sister (now a medical anthropologist) and her to the local library, the park, science museums, and on longer trips throughout the United States and Canada. As much as she loves science and pragmatism, Shannon may, in fact, be most thankful for her family’s encouragement of her imagination, of her love of the whimsical, and of the strong female protagonist! As a curly-haired tap dancer, she identified early with Shirley Temple. She later read Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie and dreamed of self-actualizing like Anne and Laura. She spent lots of time imagining being a doctor specifically. When she was about three years old, her sister created medical business cards for her, and her parents’ friends periodically came over to her “office” at the corner of the living room for checkups!

During middle and high school, life continued to draw Shannon toward a career in medicine as she found that she was fascinated by the study of human biology, and that she just kept desiring to know others more and more. She was frustrated and inspired by her experience volunteering at a local hospital; she spent 100 hours answering phones and failing at simple tasks such as finding the ice machine to refill patients’ water. She desperately desired to better understand how healthcare facilities work, and to then help others navigate through the maze. The community work that she did with Serteens and Girl Scouts felt much more meaningful to her on a human level than her work at the hospital. This was when she first realized that the outpatient clinic, the health fair, and the home visit may be where she fits long term within the medicine, rather than in the hospital.

Shannon then proceeded to the University of South Carolina Honors College. There, she pursued a self-constructed major, which consisted of French, biology, and medical humanities. She has always been more curious than time allows, so this major was perfect for her! It required her to quickly switch her brain between the sciences and humanities and to integrate entirely different concepts into a cohesive worldview. It was wonderful preparation for a career in the dynamic world of family medicine. Her junior year, she spent six months studying French language in Rennes, France, and another six months studying Women’s Health and Gender Studies in Bamako, Mali. The latter experience exposed her for the first time to stark inequality, and sharpened her ability to recognize the less obvious yet ever-present inequalities in the United States after returning home. She conducted research on midwifery and women’s perceptions of pregnancy during her time in Mali, and later converted this research into her honors college senior thesis. Additionally, she learned how to engage with advocacy, and continued to engage with service through her work with Amnesty International and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Later, she organized a Relay for Life team on two occasions for the Presbyterian Student Association. One of these times, the team sponsored a three-year-old leukemia survivor, and Shannon’s interactions with this patient and family reinforced her desire to go into a highly relational medical field.

Next, Shannon went to medical school at the Medical University of South Carolina. She attended a Family Medicine Interest Group physician panel within her first month. As she heard those doctors talk about what they do every day, she felt like dawn was breaking. She thought, “This is my vocation! This is a career where I can be in the community, be part of patients’ lives, and be completely myself - engaging with many different ways of thinking and doing over the course of every day.” It was a thrilling revelation, and her life has pointed toward family medicine ever since! She started working with underserved patient populations as early as possible through the CARES Clinic, a student-run evening clinic for the uninsured. Her work at the clinic showed her some of the unique challenges of organizing the limited resources of our current medical system to address the many needs of people negatively affected by social determinants of health. Her first year, she was able to act on her love of nutrition by taking part in a project entitled Improved Access to Weight Management, which allowed her to create a curriculum about healthy living and then to implement this curriculum in a community of people unable to access paid weight management services. During her last year, she took this a step further with a culinary medicine class at the Culinary Institute of Charleston. She now not only feels prepared to (sometimes) use a knife like a chef would, but also to give practical advice on how to use healthier cooking methods without sacrificing flavor!

Shannon is thrilled to become part of the United family! She loves the program’s emphasis on community engagement and is excited about the challenging full-spectrum nature of the training offered here. She is also impressed by the excellent medical practice and down-to-earth social justice mindedness of the faculty and residents here. She and her husband love St. Paul and are extremely excited to finally be in the Midwest! In her free time, Shannon enjoys spending time with her husband, cooking pescetarian food, running, baking, wedding coordinating, watching anime, and reading and discussing interesting books.

dane nimako

Dane Nimako, MD

Dane Nimako, MD, hails from just over the other side of the Mississippi river, born and raised in South Minneapolis. His last name comes from his father, who emigrated from Ghana, Africa...

although Dane never knew him well. Dane grew up with just his mother, who came from a Midwestern family from which she was estranged. For most of his life it felt like it was just them against the world. Little did he know, the friends he was making would someday become like close family.

While attending South High School, Dane’s mother started to grow ill, and he spent most of his adolescence taking care of her. Despite being sick, his mother still sought out educational opportunities for him, such as TRIO Upward Bound, a college preparatory program at the University of MN – Twin Cities. This experience prompted Dane to attend the U of MN – Twin Cities after high school, with the goal of becoming a medical scientist.

However, Dane discovered in college that medicine wasn’t just about science. As his mother’s health deteriorated, her mental well-being followed, and this was worsened by her lack of family or community support. Dane noticed patients in similar experiences while he was volunteering for a nutrition and fitness class at Hennepin County Medical Center; and even while studying abroad, teaching basic health in the far-flung mountains around Riobamba, Ecuador. When his mother passed away, his friends came out in droves to support him, and Dane realized how vital such connections are to one’s health. It was then he decided to become a family physician.

And Dane didn’t have to go far: he stayed at the U of MN – Twin Cities for medical school. He went straight to work as a Spanish interpreter and patient advocate at Phillips Neighborhood Clinic, a free interdisciplinary clinic near where he grew up. He also organized a community health fair at his old high school and an orientation on urban health equity for incoming medical students. During his clinical years, Dane spent nine months learning about urban underserved medicine from some great family physicians over at Sheridan and Central clinic as well as North Memorial in North/Northeast Minneapolis, through the Metropolitan Physician Associate Program. After staying put for so long, Dane spent six weeks in Costa Rica practicing at a public clinic, improving his Spanish, and learning even more about urban underserved medicine (also how to surf).

“I am honored to be part of the United Family. It feels like it was just yesterday when I met the program director and faculty at a family medicine conference, but it was actually my third month of medical school! I have truly found my people, as the doctors here are as committed to the community as I want to be some day. If you see me in person, you’ll have to recommend your favorite place to be in St. Paul. My hobbies include playing and designing computer games, board games, creative writing, running, yoga, and, of course, hanging out with my friends/family.”

chrissy ripp

Christine Ripp, MD

Christine Ripp, MD, was born and raised in the Frozen Tundra, otherwise known as Green Bay, WI.  She grew up believing that squeaky cheese curds and beer brats are an essential part of the food pyramid, that it is completely acceptable to wear a...

Packers jersey any day of the year, and that everyone knows what a “bubbler” is. Despite Wisconsin winters lasting nine months out of the year, summers were filled with sunny weekends spent lakeside at the family cottage. There, she perfected the art of marshmallow roasting and became the self-proclaimed world champion of inner tubing.

After graduating from Preble High School, Christine attended the University of Wisconsin- Madison, becoming a dedicated badger fan. The most difficult decisions faced in those early college years were deciding which red shirt to wear to the football game or what flavor of Babcock ice cream to order (chocolate peanut butter usually won).

Although she knew that she wanted a career in healthcare, it took her a while to come around to medicine. As an undergrad, Christine studied nutritional sciences, which she loved for its variety and relevance to human life. It was not until after she spent the summer in the Dominican Republic that she turned her focus to medicine. In addition to consuming copious amounts of rice and beans, her time in the DR was also spent interviewing locals about their concerns regarding their health and food security. This experience exposed her to issues in global health and helped prompt her to further pursue medicine upon returning to the United States.

After graduating from college, Christine decided to take a short break from higher education. Instead, she spent a year as an AmeriCorps volunteer, serving as a member of City Year Milwaukee. She spent her days in an inner-city seventh grade class in as a tutor and mentor for at-risk students. The students provided just as much entertainment as challenges, but all the hard work was made enjoyable by the support of her City Year teammates. Her year with AmeriCorps exposed her to issues of disparity, not just in education, but also in all areas of health and wellness. It sparked an on-going interest in public health.

As the time-honored saying goes, once a badger, always a badger, hence the happy return to Madison to complete her medical degree at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. However, her stay in Madison only lasted two years: Christine enrolled in the Training in Urban Medicine and Public Health (TRIUMPH) program, allowing her to return to Milwaukee and work on public health initiatives while finishing her clinical training. She partnered with a Latino community organization and channeled her love of biking into a new health initiative. Through the Biking for Health program, local students learned bicycling skills from training sessions, trail rides, and a summer bike camp. The success with the student groups paved the way for the later establishment of adult and family group rides.

All this experience working with communities made Christine realize that her passion is in primary care. She is excited to start with United Family Medicine, as she shares the program’s dedication toward community medicine. In her free time, Christine can be found exploring the Twin Cities bike trails, scouting out coffee shops, testing Pinterest recipes, both winning and loosing board games, and sharing in her Packer pride (despite being in Vikings territory).

jeffrey sachs

Jeffrey Sachs, MD

Jeffrey Sachs, MD, was born and raised just a few hundred miles down the Mississippi River from St. Paul in St. Louis, Missouri, and grew up with two older sisters and a (slightly younger) twin sister. His father Mike, a pharmacist, has instilled in him the value of family, hard work, and an appreciation for...

questionable puns. His mother Teri, an oncology certified nurse, has exemplified truly caring for others and inspired him to keep a more detailed calendar.

The go-to question in St. Louis, perhaps as in some other places with large areas of unincorporated townships and neighborhoods, is “where did you go to high school?” Jeff’s answer is Mehlville High School, not far from his first job at the car wash across the street. It was during high school that his favorite English teacher, journalism classes, and the start of a long affair with learning Spanish engendered in Jeff a lifelong love of language. He always loved math and science, too, and was able to culminate his primary education with an excellent senior year physiology course. This course, his varied interests, and exposure to the medical field from discussions at the dinner table with his parents and older sister (now a Family physician) led him to pursue medicine; he was ultimately drawn to the science and stories of people.

With aspirations to someday afford medical education, Jeff enrolled at Truman State University, a small public liberal arts school in Northeast Missouri. He majored in biology and had planned on completing a minor in Spanish. But after studying abroad in Costa Rica for three months (the most formative and enriching trip of his life), he decided he just couldn’t face semesters of organic chemistry and physics without the balance that courses like Hispanic literature and medical Spanish add to the mix.

After graduating with degrees in biology and Spanish, Jeff took a detour and headed to Sioux Falls, SD for a job with Sanford Research, investigating serum and tissue markers for breast and ovarian cancer. During this first foray into the “Upper” Midwest, the northern/prairie winter treated him kindly... for the most part. He was happy to return to St. Louis for his four years of medical school at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

In medical school, he was fortunate to have the opportunity to take two compelling elective courses that helped him appreciate the value of preventative medicine, health literacy, and public health in a tangible way. The first was a Latino patient advocacy course that focused on cultural competency, Spanish-speaking skills, and training to become a patient navigator. The second was an HIV in medicine course through which he was trained as an HIV counselor by the St. Louis Department of Health. He was able to apply the skills developed in these courses by volunteering at Casa de Salud, a clinic serving the Latino community in St. Louis, and at a student-run health center in North St. Louis City that serves patients with barriers to accessing care. He was also able to return to Latin America, where he volunteered in a rural third world primary care setting in Guatemala.

It quickly became apparent to Jeff during clinical training that Family Medicine physicians are best positioned to treat the whole patient while employing shared decision making to help patients and communities take control of their health. Each of his life experiences has led him to choose the broad scope and surprising depth of Family Medicine.

Jeff is ecstatic to join the United Family Medicine Residency Program because of its reputation for preparing well-rounded, compassionate physicians, its tight-knit connection to the community it serves, and for the feeling of “family” among its patients, faculty, residents, and staff. He simply cannot wait to continue his journey in medicine with some amazing people.

In his free time, Jeff enjoys watching baseball (he’ll be rooting for a Cardinals-Twins World Series), reading, traveling, baking, skiing, hiking, trying new restaurants as if it were a second vocation, and spending time with his nieces and nephew. During residency, he also hopes to expand his repertoire of winter sports like a true Minnesotan.

rebecca zimmerman

Rebecca Zimmerman, MD

Rebecca Zimmerman, MD, was raised on a farm near the small town of Chokio (Shuh-KYE-oh), Minnesota. Upon hearing this, most people say, "Oh, Chicago! What a great city!" Well, with a population of 400 and not even a single stoplight, Chokio...

couldn't be much further from the Windy City. While it isn't much of a tourist destination, Chokio is a wonderful community in the wide-open prairie of west central Minnesota. Rebecca's father is a third-generation farmer who raised pigs and grows corn and soybeans. Her mother is a family nurse practitioner whose tireless dedication to her patients sparked Rebecca's interest in medicine. Rebecca is a classic middle child, sandwiched between an older trailblazing brother, and a younger fun-loving sister. Her father's German roots are overshadowed by her mother's Norwegian heritage, as lefse and "uuf da!" are commonplace in the Zimmerman household.

Rebecca spent her childhood seeking adventures around the farm, playing on the local all-boys Little League baseball team, and fishing with her dad. She has had a love of animals from a young age. Over the years she has cared for a random assortment of pets, including chinchillas, guppies, hermit crabs, hamsters, Pygmy goats, a Guinea pig, a sugar glider, rabbits, and too many dogs and cats to count. As she got older, Rebecca found a love for athletics and played high school volleyball, basketball, and softball. Each summer, she earned a few extra bucks selling sweet corn, rock picking, and throwing hay bales at the neighbor's dairy farm. Eventually, she traded in sweaty farm labor for a position as a Certified Nursing Assistant for nearly six years throughout high school and college.

While attending Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, Rebecca followed a path toward medicine by earning a major in biology and a minor in chemistry. She also studied abroad in China, focusing on the influence of spirituality and culture on medicine, and earned a minor in religion along the way. She continued to pursue her athletic interests by playing for four years on the Concordia Fast Pitch Softball team. After realizing her passion for patient care and fascination of science, Rebecca knew that a career in medicine would be right for her...but there was just something missing. She craved experience outside of textbooks and the comfort of Small Town USA.

After graduation, she packed up her belongings and moved to downtown Denver, Colorado, to volunteer through AmeriCorps. Some were convinced she was throwing her life away to become a washed-up hippy and never come home again. This fear was somewhat understandable, as she lived in an intentional community with nine other volunteers, and spent many hours sitting in a circle reflecting on new experiences and discussing social justice issues. Rebecca volunteered and eventually became an employee at The Gathering Place, Denver's only daytime resource center for women, children, and transgender individuals experiencing poverty and homelessness. She taught computer and resume skills, and helped connect clients with vital resources such as food, shelter, medical care, and transportation. She definitely found the 'real world' experience she was looking for, and learned more during two years in Denver than a textbook could have taught her in a lifetime.

While she loved working at The Gathering Place, the draw of her frigid Minnesota roots and her vocation in medicine were too hard to ignore. She returned to study at The University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth, where she shoveled record amounts of snow during her study breaks. She continued her interest in working with underserved populations by volunteering at HOPE Clinic, a free student-run organization in Duluth. To further explore her interest in rural primary care, she completed the Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP). During RPAP, she lived in Faribault, Minnesota, and gained exceptional hands-on training at Allina District One Hospital and Clinic. Her RPAP experience solidified her desire to become a Family Medicine physician in rural Minnesota.

Rebecca is thrilled to be part of United Family Medicine Residency Program. She is especially drawn to the program because it focuses on teaching Community-Oriented Primary Care that reaches out to underserved populations who do not have access to medical care. She is also impressed with the rigorous full-spectrum training that prepares residents to practice in any setting they choose. Additionally, it is obvious that the residents and faculty are happy and thriving, which made the United Family Medicine Residency a very easy choice!

In her free time, Rebecca enjoys spending time with her family and significant other, Derik. Like a true Minnesotan, she loves fishing and relaxing on the lake. Additionally, she likes cooking and trying out new recipes, traveling to destinations off the beaten path, acrylic and watercolor painting, watching great television series with her cat on her lap, and playing co-ed volleyball and softball.