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ФβͼStudent Food Center Dedicated in Memory of Dr. Karen Marcdante

Фβͼstudent food center dedicated in memory of Dr. Karen Marcdante
Family and friends of Dr. Marcdante joined faculty leaders and students at the dedication ceremony.

Family, friends and colleagues gathered on the third floor of the Фβͼ’s Medical Education Building on April 11 to honor the late Karen Marcdante, MD ‘80, GME ‘83, and professor emeritus in the department of pediatrics, and to rededicate the ФβͼFood Center in her memory. The Dr. Karen Marcdante Student Food Center commemorates her passion for supporting students and her more than 40 years of service to MCW, her patients and the community.

Speakers at the event, including Joseph Kerschner, MD ‘90, FEL ‘98, provost and executive vice president and the Julia A. Uihlein, MA Dean of the School of Medicine, recalled Dr. Marcdante’s life and career and her numerous efforts to help students. Addressing food insecurity – its prevalence and detrimental effects on academic performance – was just one of her passions. In recent years, food insecurity has emerged as a growing problem on college and medical school campuses nationwide. A 2019 preliminary study at the Yale School of Medicine found that over 25 percent of its students had experienced food insecurity.

Recognizing that students and their families might need support, Фβͼopened its food center on November 1, 2021. Dr. Marcdante was an early and staunch advocate of the food center. Faculty and students have donated funds to help stock shelves not only with food but also hygiene products. According to Jennifer Kusch, PhD, assistant provost for student affairs, the center is an invaluable resource. In 2022, 277 students visited the center which distributed more than 8,600 food/hygiene items. In 2023, the number of visitors increased to 1,326 and the number of items distributed expanded to nearly 11,200. Dr. Kusch says 7 to 50 students use the center each day. Maria Poimenidou, a PhD student from Greece, said she and so many others “are thankful knowing that the food center is here for when times get hard.”

A Milwaukee native, Dr. Marcdante came from a large family with five siblings and gained an early appreciation for how food not only nourished but forged bonds among family, friends, and community. That impression never left as she worked in restaurants to help pay for her medical school education at Фβͼand as she became a well-respected and beloved instructor in the department of pediatrics. She was an accomplished scientist and clinician who was unafraid to say tough things to her superiors. As recalled by Adina Kalet, MD, professor of medicine, she was also “very generous with the lovely things, making all of us feel that we mattered.”

Helping students feel they matter in a learning environment was more than a heartfelt passion for Dr. Marcdante; it was also an important intellectual pursuit. She participated in a collaborative research effort to teach medical educators how to make those connections with students.

Dr. Marcdante encouraged faculty to donate to the center and, before she passed away on February 7, she established a fund to help sustain the center’s work into the future. At the dedication ceremony, David Margolis, MD, GME ‘92, FEL ’93, a former mentee of Dr. Marcdante’s and chair of the department of pediatrics, said, “This campus and this community would all be better off if we all lived the way Karen did, and if we all taught the way Karen taught, and if we all cared for each other the way Karen cared for us.”

– Kevin Abing