Holding space to serve the community: The Sheehy Family Fund for Medical Residents

Dr. Talar Kharadjian and Dr. Ann Sheehy

The intensity of residency training is marked by three years of extraordinarily long hours, with trainees immersed in attaining clinical skills and caring for patients. In the midst of this intensity, dedicating time to the underserved population of Madison – those who face a shortage of primary care health services due to economic, cultural, or linguistic barriers – upholds a value that is at the heart of the practice of medicine. To encourage and recognize such work, a fund has been established by the Sheehy family, which counts among its members two physicians well-known to the Department of Medicine community: Ann Sheehy, MD, MS, associate professor and head, Hospital Medicine, and her father Gregory Sheehy, MD, retired internist and former General Internal Medicine faculty member. The Sheehy Family Fund for Medical Residents provides an annual award totaling $1,000 to an internal medicine resident for a community service project proposed by the awardee.

Dr. Gregory Sheehy holds commitment to the service of humanity as the highest calling of the medical profession. He has been a lifelong advocate for the free clinics and community health resources in Madison. “The heart of primary care can be found in such resources,” he asserts, “and strengthening them is worthy work.”

“Our aim is to support internal medicine residents at UW so that they can engage in community health projects during their training,” explained Dr. Ann Sheehy. “It requires their leadership to identify a need and outline a proposed solution.” The inaugural award winner is Talar Kharadjian, MD, whose project is entitled “What’s in your pill box?”

“Medication nonadherence is a tremendous problem for many people living with chronic diseases. For example, fewer than 1 in 4 patients with heart failure take medications at the dosage and frequency prescribed by their cardiologists,” explained Dr. Kharadjian. Reasons for non-adherence include patients’ lack of understanding about their disease or how their drugs help protect their health, and feared side effects.

Dr. Kharadjian’s project will initiate a weekly information booth at public library branches at which internal medicine residents and pharmacy residents will provide health literacy counseling, talk with individuals about challenges they might be facing with taking medications accurately, and offer conventional pill minder boxes as well as automated pill dispensers for those with cognitive impairment.

“My aim is to build added trust in the patient-doctor relationship, empower patients by encouraging their autonomy and informed decision-making, fill the knowledge gap that may be hindering the delivery of evidence-based medical care, and offer an opportunity to have a positive encounter with health professionals as a form of psychosocial support,” said Dr. Kharadjian. The booth also gives trainees a chance to hone their skills in motivational interviewing and gain a deeper understanding of pharmacotherapy barriers.

Building such skills is precisely the goal of the Sheehy Family Fund, echoing values articulated in a 1993 essay favored by Dr. Gregory Sheehy entitled “On Professionalism.” The essay reads in part, “….a doctor who worshipped his [or her] calling without worshipping himself [or herself], who was busy beyond belief, but who had time – time to smile, to chat, to touch the shoulder and take the hand, and who had time enough for Death as well as life; now there was a professional.”


  • MEDiC - UW School of Medicine and Public Healthstudent-run free, volunteer-staffedhealth care clinics

Photo caption (top): Internal Medicine resident Dr. Talar Kharadjian (pictured at left) with Dr. Ann Sheehy (right).Ann’s father, Dr. Gregory Sheehy, together with the entire Sheehy family, have established a fund for an annual grant to an internal medicine resident pursuing health care community service work.