New APP Q&A: Kathleen Eich, PA

Q&A with Kathleen Eich, PA (she/her), emergency medicine physician assistant

Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky

Educational background: I am passionate about music and began playing viola at an early age. In fact, it was my first career! I obtained my bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Iowa, and completed a Master in Viola Performance and Literature at the University of Notre Dame. I played in orchestras and symphonies across the country. But at 46 years old, I wanted to explore my love of science and healthcare and began my journey to the Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) program here at UW–Madison. Eight years later, I have graduated and am excited to begin working in the emergency departments (ED) at UW Health.

What inspired you to pursue a career as an APP? And why in Emergency Medicine? Medicine as a second career was attractive to me because you are always learning and puzzling things out. I am a curious person with a busy mind, and studying medicine gave me something to sink my teeth into. As a returning adult student with kids and a husband, becoming a PA allowed me to study and practice medicine at the level I wanted to while getting into the field quickly, maximizing the number of years spent as a provider. As a basic EMT, I learned that I loved emergency medicine. Being in the ED while on rotations strengthened those feelings. The revolving door of patients of higher and lower level acuity and fast pace suits me. It is also where many of the underserved and homeless go for primary care, and those are populations I also enjoy serving.

What attracted you to the Department of Emergency Medicine at UW–Madison? UW Health is a teaching hospital, and I felt that as a new PA, I would get excellent training. I also found that providers I met at the UW ED through interviews seemed very satisfied with their work, valued wellness, gave a robust schedule for onboarding a new grad, and believed in a patient-centered approach to care. These things that are central to the practice I want to build.

What are your favorite things to do in the Madison area? I enjoy paddleboarding and kayaking on the lakes, hiking, and biking. My husband and I also enjoy going to Chicago for the art museums.

Do you feel your work relates to the Wisconsin Idea as it relates to medicine — that our efforts should influence people’s health and well-being beyond the care they receive in our emergency departments)? Medicine is a service field, and it is just a matter of finding your place in it that determines how you serve your community. In that, my education reaches beyond my training to affect those I work with and treat as a provider. The beauty of the ED is that you see everyone at the lowest point in their day, week, or life. How we treat them as a person could affect and change for the better how they see themselves and how they relate to their community.

My hobbies and other interests outside of work: Hiking, biking, yoga, reading, knitting, listening to music.

If you could have dinner with one person (passed, alive or fictional), who and at where would you make reservations? I would host them for dinner at my house. I love to cook and think the environment would be more conducive to relaxing and having great conversations. How do you pick one person!?! I chose the great composer and conductor Nadia Boulanger, who was an incredible teacher, mentor and female composer. She was instrumental in influencing and mentoring Quincy Jones, Stravinsky, Aaron Copeland, and Phillip Glass, among others. I would love to converse with her about the arts, humanity, philosophy – everything.