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AP's Fearless Female Leaders

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

Last year, the Associated Physicians presidency was taken over by Dr. Peg Wilcots and Dr. Jennifer Everton. Our clinic could not be more thrilled to have them at the helm. In honor of #WomensHistoryMonth this year, we sat down with both of them to talk about their journey to this position. Read on to learn more about our fearless female leaders!


Meet Dr. Jennifer Everton, both one our presidents and a physician in our Internal Medicine department!

What was your early life like?

I grew up part of my life in Nebraska and then moved to Loveland, Colorado for high school and college. I am the youngest of my family with 3 older brothers. I spent much of my early life playing sports or watching my brothers play sports. Loveland is known as the Sweetheart City and, as my staff can attest, I love all things hearts, Valentine's Day, pink and red, as it was always a big deal growing up.

What made you want to be a physician?

As my patients know, one of my offices has a very early picture of me as a child wearing a stethoscope! Although I did not know at that time I wanted to be a doctor, I was always fascinated in school with how the human brain worked and the diagnostic process.

Originally when I first started, I was planning on doing Neurology. I had done home health care with a person during college that suffered from MS and I was fascinated with all the pathways of the brain and body connection. I started readings lots of books by Oliver Sacks-a renowned Neurologist. However, once I got into medical school many other fields fascinated me: the heart and geriatrics, and decided the only way I could do all of it would be Internal Medicine.

What brought you to Madison?

Initially, I moved here for a relationship out of residency that did not work out but stayed because of the wonderful patients and providers at AP.

What brought you to AP?

The same thing that I enjoy best, my colleagues and my patients. I have people whose whole families I have gotten to know over the years and look forward to catching up with. We have wonderful patients here who care deeply about their health care but also check in on us and see how we are doing as a clinic during difficult times (like the pandemic) which is very nice. As of this summer, I will have been with Associated Physicians for 13 years and I have enjoyed seeing so much growth and so many changes over the years from electronic medical records, to adding departments like psychotherapy, to building projects.

What do you enjoy the most about your profession?

Getting to know patients and walking with them through their health care journey and getting to know generations of patients/families.

What made you want to take on presidency at AP and how did you get involved?

Initially, we would get involved with various committees for the clinic and with time got more exposure to upper-level management. At Associated Physicians, I have never felt a "glass ceiling." Our clinic and colleagues make it easy to be rewarded for hard work. Growing up I was always taught that hard work can make anything possible.

As president, how do you want to lead and what do you hope to accomplish?

I hope to keep moving the clinic forward with the help of the AP President, Dr. Wilcots to keep our clinic as an independent leader in health care, focused on community health, patient care, and employee satisfaction.

What is it like being a female physician and leader?

There have been times all along the way where I have had teachers, attendings, and friends/family that have encouraged me to continue striving for my career goals. I have incredibly supportive colleagues who have taught me the "art of medicine" over the years, especially my internal medicine colleagues who are always willing to help, discuss cases, give professional advice, and who have always promoted getting involved in leadership activities. Dr. Goldrosen was one of my go-to mentors when I first started at the clinic and has been an exceptional role model as a wonderful, intelligent, compassionate physician.

What’s next for you professionally and/or personally?

Who knows... To be determined.

Any other thoughts/parting words/favorite quotes?

I love a good quote... This is one of my favorite quotes that I saw on a poster once:

"Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it is amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful, it's ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That's just living: heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it is breathtakingly beautiful" -LR Knost


Meet Dr. Peg Wilcots, both one our presidents and a physician in our Pediatrics department!

What was your early life like?

I grew up just outside of Rochester, New York and I am the second of six sisters. Four of us were within the first five years, so it was busy, but a lot of fun. Being in a family of all girls, my parents naturally became big advocates for girls. My father was a physicist who became an optical engineer, and my mother was a nurse, so math and science were subjects where they had high expectations for us.

One thing that drove my father crazy, and drives me crazy to this day, is when people say, “Oh, your poor father” when they hear he had all girls. My father loved having daughters (and granddaughters)!

What made you want to be a physician?

Until I was twelve, I wanted to be a teacher and there is a lot of teaching in pediatrics, so I do still get to enjoy that part. My interest in medicine started was when my seventh-grade science teacher thought it would be a great idea to show a bunch of twelve-year-olds a movie about open heart surgery on a four-year-old called, “Drama in Operating Room D.” One girl fainted, a couple of kids threw up, but I thought it was fascinating. I remember thinking, “Whoa, this is really cool.” I never wanted to be a surgeon, but it got me thinking about becoming a doctor. On both sides, there were no doctors in my family until me.

I went to college thinking I was pre-med and initially planned to major in math, but ended up majoring in chemistry. I had no desire to get a PhD or go into research and I applied to medical school straight out of college.

What got me initially interested in Peds was watching two of my sisters, who were born when I was in high school, grow and develop. Most of the time though, unless you’ve had a bunch of medical issues, you don’t really go in knowing much about the different fields of medicine, so I did go into medical school with a really open mind. I did Internal Medicine first and loved it. I didn’t like neurology or psychiatry, but I really liked almost everything else. Then I had a true “light shining from the Heavens” moment with Pediatrics. I was walking to the Peds clinic during the outpatient half of my Peds rotation. I had to walk through an Internal Medicine clinic to get there and I could hear the screaming children in Peds. My immediate thought was, “Get me over there.” That’s when I knew it was clearly Peds for me. I thought, “Okay, if you’re running to the screaming, then that’s clearly where you ought to be."

What brought you to Madison and AP?

My husband got a job in 1995 that was supposed to last for two years and then he was offered a faculty position. I had initially started work at the Beloit Clinic because there were no jobs in Madison. Then, through a series of ridiculous coincidences, I ended up getting hired at Associated Physicians in 1996 and starting my practice on March 31, 1997. This year will be 25 years at AP for me!

What growth/changes have you seen over the years?

When I started at AP, we didn’t have any computers outside of the Business Office, so I remember even just getting our first computers to be able to make appointments. Technology has really changed in the last 25 years. We’ve obviously grown, we’ve added a building, we’ve added physicians, but the spirit of the place really hasn’t changed a whole lot in terms of the family feel and the departments working together.

What do you like best about AP?

My colleagues! That’s on the physician side, the nurse side, other medical staff, reception, the business office, etc. Having been around longer than a lot of them, it’s really been fun to watch the place grow and form relationships with people. Those are relationships that persist even after people retire. It’s really nice to be in a place where you enjoy being with your colleagues both inside and outside of work.

What made you want to take on presidency at AP and how did you get involved?

I got started on a committee that works on how the doctors pay themselves, and I was the physician liaison to the Business Office for a time, so I got to learn a lot about the business side from that. The longer you’re here, the more you know and are teaching others about how things have been.

Dr. Olson indicated that he was stepping down as president, and I felt like I had the experience with the group and a vision for how the group was moving forward, so I decided to give it a try.

Did you ever feel a glass ceiling?

I never really felt a glass ceiling. One of the things about AP is that we get you going pretty quickly in becoming part of the place through physician committees and so on. Your input, even when you’re not yet a partner, is always appreciated and listened to.

As president, how do you want to lead and what do you hope to accomplish?

Taking over during a pandemic has been a challenge. You’re sort of just trying to keep the lights on and keep everything going. So, for the next year, as things hopefully normalize with the pandemic, I would really like to see us get back to in person meetings, gatherings, the holiday parties—the family aspect of our clinic.

The very first Summer that I was at AP, two doctors were leaving and a couple of us had just joined, so they had a clinic-wide barbecue/picnic. There are pictures of me at that barbecue holding my then one-year-old who is now 25. It was so much fun and a great introduction to the clinic. I would like to get back to the fun stuff that we used to do. A lot of people are new employees, and they don’t even know what

people’s chins look like, much less what it’s like to be social with us, so I’d like to be able to build up that sense of community again.

“Staying the course” is a goal, because so much in healthcare is moving towards not having a relationship with a physician and being standardized as opposed to personal. I think keeping those personal relationships is somewhat revolutionary in today’s medicine.

What is it like being a female physician and leader?

I was lucky enough to go to a medical school that was nearly 50% women when that was not common at all, and I was in a field where there were already a lot of women when I joined it. There were women who were prominent in my training program who we could just sit down with and have lunch with and ask them questions about having a family when you’re a doctor, being in academia versus being in practice or both, etc. Also, when I came to AP, Dr. Nondahl and Dr. Sia really had built the department up from nothing and were amazing partners to have for 20 years.

What do you enjoy the most about your profession?

The relationships with the families, especially over the years. One of the unique things about Pediatrics is that you see these patients from birth to college, and you watch them grow into people, which is incredible. I even have two complete “grand-patients”—which are kids whose parents were newborns of mine. Having that relationship and knowing the family that well is really incredible. In fact, one of my patients, whose c-section I was at, came to her 18-year check-up and told me that she wanted to major in my husband’s field and I said, “Hm. I can connect you with somebody.” She ended up taking one of my husband’s undergraduate classes at UW-Madison and worked with him in his department for four years. It’s a thrill to be someone who can be helpful to a family and really help develop that relationship over time.

What’s next for you professionally and/or personally?

One of the things about Pediatrics and being in one place for so long is that a lot of my patients are outgrowing me. When a new Pediatrician starts, they tend to get all the newborn patients. So, I was getting a ton of newborns when I started in 1997 up until 2004, when Dr. Buencamino started. Most of my patients now are in high school or older, so I spend a fair amount of time every week telling my patients that I need to “sail them off into the adult sunset.” My practice, which has been huge, is just slowly getting smaller on its own. I am anticipating that like Dr. Sia and Dr. Nondahl, I will probably retire sometime in my early 60’s because there are other things that I still want to do.

I have stopped taking newborns and I’m helping “grow up” the last of my patients and get them off to college, work, or into Internal Medicine, and into their grown-up lives. It feels like the clinic part of things are winding down a little bit, and weirdly, I’m finding I like the administrative part of things and that I really am liking the business side more. As I got more information, I started having more ideas and opinions about it, but I am realizing now getting into the AP Presidency that there is so much to do that I need to slow down the clinic part of things a bit to make time for that and, you know, sleep. So, I am transitioning to be a bit more administrative and less clinical.

Any other thoughts/parting words/favorite quotes?

My philosophy with Pediatrics is that I am there to support my patients and help the parents to care for their children. I have zero patience for anything that makes parents feel bad about themselves. I can’t stand “Mommy wars” for example; we’re all just doing our best and don’t need anyone to help us feel guilty about how we’re doing. I have very little patience for people who make it hard to parent, because it’s hard enough on its own. My job is to help you get through it, enjoy it when you can, endure when you must, and come out the other side realizing that it just gets better.

Some of the rules for parents that I’ve become known for over the years:

Dr. Wilcots’ Rule Number 1: Never wake a sleeping baby once they’re over birth weight.

Dr. Wilcots’ Rule Number 2: Never give a child medicine for the first time right before you get on an airplane (also never right before bed).

Dr. Wilcots’ Rule Number 3: Don’t ask a yes/no question if the answer can’t be no.

Dr. Wilcots’ Rule Number 4: Don’t negotiate with terrorists, and they’re all terrorists.

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