Bellevue Native Takes on National Leadership Role

Catherine Louw Named Regional Coordinator for National Medical Student Network

Thursday, February 02, 2012


LEAWOOD, Kan. — Catherine Louw, a second-year student at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, has been named a regional coordinator for the American Academy of Family Physicians National Family Medicine Interest Group Network. As coordinator, Louw will serve as a consultant and resource for the FMIGs on medical school campuses in the 17 states — Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming — that comprise Region 1 of the network.

The AAFP established the National FMIG Network to strengthen the on-campus organizations that focus on promoting family medicine as a career. Composed of campus faculty and student FMIG leaders, appointed regional coordinators, and an elected national coordinator, the network fosters communication among FMIGs across the country.

Louw chose medicine because she wants to help others. “All of us, I think, come from the same place, where we want to help others,” she said. “I want to make a difference in the world, to look back on my life and say I did something for the better.”

Her interest in family medicine grew from her time shadowing a family physician as an undergraduate student.

“I was in awe of the expansive knowledge this physician had as well as her compassion for the patient’s overall well-being,” Louw said of the experience. “I also witnessed the continuity of care within family medicine and how a doctor can become an integral part of the family and community. From then on, I was hooked.”

Louw has been a leader with the University of Washington FMIG program since 2010, when she began coordinating skills workshops for medical students. This year, she co-founded the King

County Academy of Family Physicians-University of Washington FMIG partnership, which provides opportunities for medical students to interact with practicing family physicians.

As an FMIG regional coordinator, Louw will serve as a role model for fellow students at a time when demand for family physicians is growing. The Affordable Care Act will implement significant changes in the way that health care is delivered. The reformed system will emphasize primary medical care provided in a patient-centered medical home — an approach that incorporates physician-led teams of professionals who work with the patient to prevent health problems, coordinate care and avoid preventable complications of chronic conditions. That new focus increases the need for family physicians and their primary care physician colleagues.

“Family Medicine Interest Groups are one of the best ways that medical students learn about the breadth, depth and rewards of family medicine,” said Glen Stream, MD, MBI, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “Regional coordinators are key to introducing students not only to family medicine, but also to the opportunities out there for both service and leadership in their communities and their profession.”

As a student member of the Washington Academy of Family Physicians and the AAFP since 2010, Louw was named a student delegate to the Washington AFP House of Delegates in 2011 and the alternate delegate to the Student Congress at the 2011 National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students.

In 2007, Louw served as a volunteer in Belize, where she helped establish day clinics and perform general health screenings. The following year, she volunteered in Ecuador with Child Family Health International, a nongovernmental organization that places health sciences students with global health education programs.

Louw earned bachelor of science degrees in biochemistry and in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, graduating with distinction from the University of Washington. She has received several academic and service honors, including the 2010-2011 University of Washington School of Medicine Service Award, induction into both Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Epsilon Delta, the health pre-professional honor society.

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 136,700 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the largest medical society devoted solely to primary care. Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.  To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website,