University of Washington School of Medicine Student, Bellevue Native Takes on National Leadership Role

Catherine Louw Named Regional Coordinator for National Medical Student Network

Thursday, Feb. 07, 2013


LEAWOOD, Kan. — Catherine Louw, a third-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.

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

As an FMIG regional coordinator, Louw provides a role model for fellow students at a time when demand for family physicians is growing. Health care delivery is changing dramatically as provisions of the Affordable Care Act are implemented. The reformed health 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.

Louw’s decision to go into medicine came on the heels of a medical trip to Belize when she was a college sophomore. “I saw how, in one day, a physician can completely change the lives of people,” she said.

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

“She took care of babies, elderly people, teenagers, adults, and I realized that she knew just about everything about medicine and health,” Louw said. “As a family physician, I can make a difference in people’s lives. I can treat everyone. Family medicine should be the most respected specialty, because we know just about everything by the time we’re done training.”

Louw has been a leader with the University of Washington FMIG program since 2010, when she began coordinating skills workshops for medical students. In 2011, 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 a student member of the Washington Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians 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 2008, Louw 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,