Class of 2020

carlson sarah class of 2020

Sarah Carlson, MD

Sarah Carlson, MD, Sarah grew up in Northfield, Minnesota.  She was practically born with a…

tennis racket in her hand, just like her sister and the other thirteen Carlson cousins. Sarah lived to play - not only on the court, but also in homemade forts and up too-tall trees.

When it came time to head off to school, Sarah chose St. Olaf College. There, she tried her hand at sociology, anthropology, economics, and religion before settling - finally and firmly - on biology. During her Olaf years, Sarah studied asset-based community development in Nicaragua and spent a semester in the Middle East.

After graduation, Sarah wanted to pursue a career medicine, but she wanted to be sure it was the best way for her to contribute to her community. Once again, she tried her hand at other things first. Sarah moved to Washington, DC, where she became a program assistant and the resident bed bug expert at a shelter for women. After a year in the nation’s capital, Sarah moved to another nation altogether. Over her year in Quito, Ecuador, she taught English and sharpened her Spanish. After all this, she was sure that Family Medicine would be her next step.

Sarah chose the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Duluth Campus for its focus on primary care and community health. There, she rekindled her love of rock climbing, and reveled in the boundless beauty of Lake Superior. During her time in Duluth, she served on the Board of the student-run free clinic and helped develop a training program for medical professionals who wish to better provide trauma-informed care.

Sarah is thrilled to be part of United Family Medicine Residency. She was drawn to the residency program for its diverse patient population, its holistic approach to care, and the opportunity to speak Spanish. In their free time, Sarah and her partner, Mark, enjoy playing cribbage, practicing yoga, brewing Kombucha, running around the Twin Cities’ many lakes, and sitting down with friends for long meals.

chesser adrianne class of 2020

Adrianne Chesser, MD, PhD

Adrianne Chesser, MD, PhD, I was born in…

Portland, Oregon (pronounced Or-eh-gun NOT Or-eh-gone!) to transplants from New York and Florida. Spoiled by the temperate environment of the Pacific NW, I grew up mostly outside, either in the large backyard garden my mom meticulously maintained or in any number of local and national parks and forests my family visited regularly. Some of my clearest early memories are facts I learned from Park Ranger presentations on family camping trips. I was always outside “experimenting,” making mud potions and constantly asking questions. As soon as I learned that scientific research was the official way to ask “why?” I knew my path. In middle school, I attempted ambitious science fair projects such as “Do cell phones cause cancer?” in which I attempted to create an electric field around a petri dish of amoebas. Though my results were less than convincing, I was hooked on research.

During high school, I began working in labs at Oregon Health and Science University, becoming more and more enamored with the scientific process. I was also involved in athletics (two years of soccer before finding my ‘stride’ with Cross Country), journalism, and community service. I saw myself as a biomedical scientist studying human disease in order to improve the lives of others. Growing up in the Decade of the Brain, it was perhaps inevitable that I would develop an interest in Neuroscience. I initially did not consider medicine as a career because I thought the options were “do science” or “do medicine.” I loved research, so put medicine out of mind. I reasoned that being involved in my community outside of work would fulfill the deeply embedded drive for social justice fostered by my family and my Jewish upbringing.

When it came time for college, I chose a small liberal arts school far from home with a wonderfully quirky student body—Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. While science was important to me, so too was having a balanced curriculum and the chance to pursue activities that I loved. Surrounded by corn fields and prairie, I ran year-round on the Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Track teams, studied Sociology, Latin American History and English in addition to biology and chemistry, and joined Habitat for Humanity trips over spring break. I developed a strong appreciation for the unique mentality of those who can survive the brutal Minnesota winters, and learned the concept of ‘too cold to snow’. Carleton also encouraged me to follow my passions. When none of the available majors offered exactly what I wanted, I created a Special Major in Neuroscience—only one of many examples of my penchant for not just taking the road less traveled, but creating the path itself.

Nearing the end of college, I still thought a career in medicine was negated by my love of research until a mentor described the MD/PhD program. Realizing a dual degree would provide clinical context to inform my science plus the direct personal interactions and impact I loved from volunteering, I rerouted myself and scrambled in my last year to finish all the necessary courses. After taking a year off to work in a lab in New York City (a much-needed Big City break after four years of small-town living), I headed back West ever so slightly to the just-right-sized Rochester, NY and joined the MD/PhD program. Starting medical school, I got involved with numerous student run organizations including a free School and Sports Physicals Program, an elementary school tutoring program, an art program for hospitalized children and Medical Students for Choice. Through these experiences, my understanding of the inextricable connections between social determinants of health and healthcare outcomes continued to grow. I also discovered Zumba and the stress-relieving power of dance, took on the challenge of home-ownership and got a dog!

After finishing the first two years of clinical coursework, I pursued graduate studies in molecular Neuroscience. My final thesis project studied the role of plant-derived compounds in promoting degradation of particular forms of the tau protein that accumulate in Alzheimer disease. During graduate school I continued my involvement with the School and Sports Physicals Program, eventually developing a free bicycle helmet distribution program. I also began volunteering outside of the medical center at the LGBT Youth Center, which served Rochester and the surrounding rural areas. Having spent years studying the aging brain, I discovered that I was equally drawn to younger patients, with a special fondness for adolescents and that period of rapid growth and development. Importantly, while completing my thesis studies, I realized that I care deeply about the “how” of medicine as much as the “what” and “why”. It seemed to me that biomedical research was always on the hunt for the newest medicine that could offer a slight improvement on what already existed. I wanted to understand how different patient populations interact with the healthcare system and the ways in which we can optimize access to care. Ever stronger, I felt the pull of primary care with its strong community roots and focus on prevention.

As I returned to clinical training after completing my PhD, the sense of fulfillment I received from patient interactions was reinforced. So too was a desire to understand the myriad factors influencing an individual’s experience of health and healthcare. Interactions in the hospital with family members, ancillary staff and community resources augmented for me the importance of understanding the broader context within which health exists. I realized that I wanted to spend the majority of my time seeing patients, rather than in the lab. I also came to recognize the vast array of potential research questions that can be answered from within the community-clinic dyad. Again, my path detoured, and at the end of third year I found myself doing a Family Medicine elective and reveling in a newfound sense of belonging.

Finding United Family Medicine was a similar sense of homecoming. The passion of the individuals in the program for community engagement and social justice, the commitment to quality care for all patients and the strong ties to the community offer exactly the environment I want to train in. I am so excited to return to Minnesota, this time with a partner and two dogs in tow. I am looking forward to finding a new Zumba class, cooking exotic cuisine in a significantly larger kitchen and embarking on the adventure of chicken husbandry. 

haugen matthew class of 2020

Matt Haugen, MD

Matt Haugen, MD,  Matt grew up in Pelican Rapids, MN – a town of about 2,500 people in the west central part of the state, perhaps best known for being the home of the World’s Largest…

Pelican (his name is Pete, Pelican Pete). His dad is a high school math teacher and coach (yes, he taught Matt - three different classes including an independent study statistics course during which they likely accomplished as much related to Friday night’s game plan as they did statistics), and his mom is a nurse in town. The second child of four, he spent much of his childhood outside with his neighbors and siblings, usually doing something either sports related or relatively dangerous involving the hill outside his home. Thanks to growing up in small town, he was able to pursue a wide variety of activities during his school years, participating in three sports (football, basketball, and track), as well as band (percussion), knowledge bowl, etc., etc. He realized at some point during high school that he loved both working with people and science, and thought that medicine seemed to be the perfect intersection in that Venn diagram.

After graduating high school as part of a very diverse Class of ‘82, he went to college at the U, where he had the dream of obtaining a degree in biomedical engineering prior to attending medical school. This dream lasted approximately one week, until the very first lecture of his “Intro to Biomedical Engineering” course, when he decided engineering didn’t really sound like very much fun. He dropped the course and at the end of the semester transferred to Concordia College in Moorhead. His time at Concordia lasted a bit longer – about 2.5 years – until he left the school his senior year to do an internship in the lab at Sanford Hospital in Fargo.

Following the winding journey through undergrad, with a medical laboratory science degree in hand, he traveled across the state to start his medical education at the U of M in Duluth, where over two years he developed a love for the local brewing scene while simultaneously holding down the back row of the lecture hall with great aplomb. His efforts in Duluth won him the Permanent Screen Saver Award for being the student most likely to be doing non-lecture related things on his laptop during lecture. He probably still has the award, if you’re interested in seeing it.

He then traveled down I-35 to Minneapolis for his clinical years, which included a three-month stint in the United Family Medicine Clinic. While that was certainly his favorite rotation, he found he enjoyed nearly every rotation he completed, and especially loved working with and building relationships with patients of all ages. Family Medicine had been his plan since the beginning, and this only further encouraged him that it was the right path. His last rotation of medical school was in Costa Rica, where he gained both increased familiarity working with Latino patients as well as improved comfort with the Spanish language. After the completion of that rotation, he celebrated his newfound freedom by spending a few extra weeks in Guatemala, including scuba diving in Lake Atitlan and checking out the ruins in Tikal.

Matt fell in love with United Family Medicine on about day one of his rotation there, and is thrilled to be returning to the family now as a resident! The deep connections to the surrounding community, as well as the environment that values patients as people and emphasizes social aspects of medicine in addition to the medical aspects, are both things he values highly. He very much looks forward to training in and pursuing a broad-based career in family medicine.

Matt manages to keep himself busy even when he’s not working or studying. While his competitive sports days have passed, sports continue to occupy much of his free time, whether reading about, watching, or playing. He also tries to read some (non-medical) every day and plays the piano whenever he can (very much a work in progress). His dream is to one day accompany the great and renowned musician Dr. Tim Rumsey on stage. If he weren’t quite so busy, he’d definitely travel more often, having been, in addition to his aforementioned travels in Central America, to a good chunk of the continental 48 states, as well as Brazil (where he realized he’s about as good at soccer as he is at playing piano).

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Ngoc Pham, MD

Ngoc Pham, MD, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts and grew up in…

South Boston until moving to Sharon, MA at the age of nine. During these childhood years, she learned how to take care of her younger brothers while her mother worked to provide for the family. From a young age, she developed a passion for caring for the homeless, a population she has always identified with as she spent a portion of her own childhood without a home. She was inspired by her mother’s work ethic and her desire to break out of poverty and to provide for those living the struggles her family experienced.

Ngoc found herself drawn to Family Medicine following high school mission trips to Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, where she was able to work among the rural poor, providing medical care. She was deeply moved by the lack of access to healthcare experienced by the people in the communities she served, and felt called to reach out to those living in poverty. She had the opportunity to shadow physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital as well as a rural Family Medicine physician in Rumford, Maine during her time completing her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and European History at Bates College. She was drawn to the community aspect offered by Family Medicine – the opportunity to not only care for a community, but to be a fully integrated member of that community. She again found herself drawn to caring for the homeless, a population largely forgotten by the medical community.

Between college and medical school, Ngoc continued to work with the homeless by volunteering at a free clinic in Maine, and again pursued this work during medical school at the University of Wisconsin through her work with a number of organizations including The Road Home, a traveling shelter where she prepared and shared meals with the homeless, MEDiC, a student-run free clinic serving uninsured, refugee, and immigrant populations in Madison, The Catholic Multicultural Center, St. Vincent DePaul, and Savory Sunday, all to increase her experience working with Madison’s homeless. In April 2017, she embarked on a lifelong dream – to volunteer in Kolkata, India with the Missionaries of Charity, the organization founded by her role model, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

She was heavily involved in Integrative Medicine during her medical school years, serving as a leader of the Integrative Medicine Interest Group and being an Integrative Medicine Scholar. During clinical clerkships, she spearheaded a project to improve mental healthcare for homeless teenage girls in Beloit, Wisconsin, hoping to connect and provide inspiration for them to break out of poverty as she was able to do.

Ngoc is ecstatic to continue her Family Medicine training at Allina United Family Medicine Residency. She is looking forward to the opportunities to continue working with the homeless and underserved population of St. Paul. Her professional interests include Integrative Medicine, Addiction Medicine, and Behavioral Health. Despite her New England roots, Ngoc considers herself a true Midwesterner, and hopes to continue practicing medicine in the Midwest after residency.

When she isn’t in the hospital or clinic, Ngoc loves spending time with her family and friends, being active in her church community, and volunteering her time with organizations that serve the poor, hungry, and forgotten in society. She is an avid runner, coffee drinker, and Lord of the Rings aficionado. She enjoys home brewing, yoga, discovering new ethnic foods, cooking, surfing, and playing cards and board games. An explorer at heart, in the past year, Ngoc has made a serious dent in her goal of exploring every national park in the United States! Her favorite so far has been Olympic National Park, for its diversity of ecosystems from mountains to ocean to rainforest. She looks forward to discovering all of the new and exciting adventures St. Paul will hold!

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Carrie Wojick, MD

Carrie Wojick, MD, grew up on a family farm in southeastern Minnesota.  She started working in…

middle school helping neighbors with farm chores and learned early how to round up herds of escaped Texas long-horn cattle with nothing but a couple of tennis rackets.

Her passion for medicine started in elementary school where she was often caught paging through her mom’s nursing books after school. She was engaged by the diversity of diseases from pictures of multiple different dermatologic conditions to developmental disorders. In fourth grade each student was asked to pick a newspaper article of interest to them; to her teacher’s surprise, she chose to present on ovarian teratomas which perhaps forebode her future in medicine.

In high school her grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She began volunteering at an assisted living facility for residents with dementia and was amazed at the variety of presentations a single disease such as dementia can have. She expanded on her interest in the disease by researching the effects of nutrition on cognition. This research revealed that some foods not only slowed the progression of neurodegeneration, but also improved mental examination performance after a mere weeklong dietary change. It was a strong demonstration of how studying medicine can provide knowledge pertaining not only to those affected by disease, but also towards disease prevention.

Carrie’s passion for research and disease prevention led to her decision to attend medical school while attending St. Olaf College. During her time at St. Olaf, she studied Chemistry, Chinese, and Biomedical Studies. She spend a month abroad in Bangladesh studying rural healthcare access and public health education. Carrie’s time in Bangladesh ignited her passion for underserved medicine, and she looked for a way to give back to underserved communicates while pursuing her interest in healthcare prior to attending medical school.

She began serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA College Health Corps member, where she gained experience and new passions in health literacy, patient communication, and teaching. During her

VISTA experience she helped manage a free clinic for refugees and immigrants located in an Adult Basic Education Center in Rochester, MN. Carrie worked with a population of 2,000 students of whom 85% were below the federal poverty level and who spoke more than 62 different languages. Working with many diverse and underserved patients, she saw many patients who unnecessarily suffered because of lower health literacy and communication lapses on crucial issues such as medication compliance and nutrition care plans. While a medical student at the University of Minnesota, Duluth Campus, Carrie continued to address health literacy barriers by teaching Women’s Health Literacy in Jalapa, Nicaragua.

Carrie is excited to join the United Family Medicine Residency Program to continue her passion of working with underserved and diverse populations through direct community engagement and health literacy education.

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Jenny Zhang, MD

Jenny Zhang, M.D., I was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised around the Twin Cities area. My parents immigrated…

to Minnesota from China over 30 years ago. They had grown up during the Cultural Revolution, and education was one of the many aspects of their lives that were disrupted. After having school halted for several years, my parents did not take their education for granted when they were given the opportunity to return. Through sacrifice and hard work, they earned college degrees and my dad was selected for a scholarship to earn a graduate degree in the United States. Because of the losses they faced, my parents deeply ingrained in me the importance of gratitude for my education and my community.

I spent my elementary and middle school days running around the streets of St. Paul as I attended Capitol Hill Magnet School. I was fortunate to have had amazing teachers who laid the foundation to my education that undoubtedly carried me to where I am today. It was at Capitol Hill where I heard a teacher say for the first time in my life, “You could be a doctor one day!” They planted the seed in my head about pursuing medicine, and the idea of being able to help others excited me. My parents were always active members of the Chinese community and stressed the importance of giving back to others, and medicine was a career where I knew public service was an inherent part of it.

After graduating Roseville Area High School, I left for a sunnier side of the country at the University of California-Berkeley. Attending this university, where the Free Speech Movement was born and the spirit of activism was still very much alive, was incredibly inspiring. Channeling my inner hippie, I majored in Molecular Environmental Biology with an emphasis in Environmental Health, and I minored in Global Poverty and Practice. Sitting through the powerful lectures of Professor Ananya Roy, I was struck by how greatly socioeconomic, political, environmental, and biological forces were intertwined. I became passionate about dedicating myself to a career that would allow me to address this bigger picture. During my semester studying abroad in Barbados, I was given the opportunity to intern at the University of the West Indies HIV & AIDS Response Programme. The community leaders taught me the art of community engagement and also the struggles of creating social change. Although non-profit work fulfilled my passions for public health and social justice, I missed the science and lifelong learning that a career in medicine could additionally provide. I was ultimately drawn back to medicine because of the multiple ways that physicians could partner with communities to address health disparities, whether it was through direct clinical care, research, public health, education, or policy.

After graduating Roseville Area High School, I left for a sunnier side of the country at the University of California-Berkeley. Attending this university, where the Free Speech Movement was born and the spirit of activism was still very much alive, was incredibly inspiring. Channeling my inner hippie, I majored in Molecular Environmental Biology with an emphasis in Environmental Health, and I minored in Global Poverty and Practice. Sitting through the powerful lectures of Professor Ananya Roy, I was struck by how greatly socioeconomic, political, environmental, and biological forces were intertwined. I became passionate about dedicating myself to a career that would allow me to address this bigger picture. During my semester studying abroad in Barbados, I was given the opportunity to intern at the University of the West Indies HIV & AIDS Response Programme. The community leaders taught me the art of community engagement and also the struggles of creating social change. Although non-profit work fulfilled my passions for public health and social justice, I missed the science and lifelong learning that a career in medicine could additionally provide. I was ultimately drawn back to medicine because of the multiple ways that physicians could partner with communities to address health disparities, whether it was through direct clinical care, research, public health, education, or policy.

My journey continued at the University of Minnesota Medical School, where my clinical training solidified the importance of social medicine. During my longitudinal 12-week clerkship in the Urban Community Ambulatory Medicine (UCAM) program, I worked at United Family Medicine, where I had the privilege of building relationships with patients from diverse backgrounds. I learned how the daily stresses our patients encounter compound over time and manifest in damaging ways. I saw how family physicians were able to partner with patients, nurses, social workers, and counselors to address these stressors. It also revealed how family physicians have the unique privilege of knowing the patient in the context of their family, community, and environment, which was crucial in providing truly patient-centered care.

I am beyond excited to start my training at the United Family Medicine Residency Program. Having spent a large portion of my life in St. Paul, I am thrilled to be returning here. It means so much to me to be a part of a program that is so embedded with its community. It feels like home and I know it is a place where I will be supported by my fellow residents, faculty, and staff. Education and community—two pillars that were so strongly emphasized by my parents, will undoubtedly be built stronger through this residency.

My family is my biggest support system. My dad is an engineer and an avid soccer fan. My mom is a biochemist and huge fan of free samples at Costco. My sister Julia is inarguably the kindest person in this entire universe, and I am incredibly lucky to have her as a sister and best friend. Another benefit of having Julia in my life is being the fun aunt to her adorable corgi named Bailey. One of my favorite things to do on a sunny afternoon is to take Bailey to the dog park and watch her tiny legs sprint around. Other hobbies of mine include playing soccer, running, biking, binge-watching TV shows (especially Chopped), and traveling. I’m also SCUBA certified and have gone diving in Barbados, Honduras, and Thailand. I’m hoping to add to this list in the future!