University of Wisconsin–Madison

Featured Alumni: Kevin Wasco, MD

Dr. Kevin Wasco and his 6 children holding soccer ball

Dr. Kevin Wasco and his wife Mitzy both played soccer in college, and their six children (ages 9 to 17) all play as well. We conducted this interview while Dr. Wasco was in the airport on his way to watch two of his children participate in a tournament.

What year did you graduate as a fellow/resident?
I did my residency in ’98-99, and finished with Drs. Sharon Weber, Nicholas Armstrong, Brad Sklow, and Paul Conte.

What was your area of surgical focus during your time here?
General surgery. Initially, I worked a lot with Dr. Belzer, and I became more interested in doing minimally invasive surgery. At the time, many minimally invasive surgeries were done in community surgeries. It influenced me to do good things as a community surgeon, it allowed me to come home to Neenah, WI, and it was exciting. I was fascinated by new technology. MIS started in community centers then later adapted to academic centers.

Where do you currently work?
I’m a partner at Surgical Associates in Neenah and Midwest Bariatric Solutions. I am the medical director of our center of excellence for the ThedaCare bariatric program, as well as the medical director of ThedaCare comprehensive cancer center. I’m an adjunct associate professor at UW Health for the rural residency program, and an adjunct associate clinical professor for the Marquette Physician’s Assistant program.

Reflecting on your time here at UW Dept of Surgery, what do you believe helped you prepare for the surgical career you have now?
I think it was the broad array of talented professors. They were excellent, both at the academic center and in the community. We were truly exposed to a broad spectrum of general surgery, open and minimally invasive, as well as vascular and critical care. I had a great group of residents with great chemistry, and impressive leadership from Belzer, Starling and Rikkers.

What is a fond or funny memory you have that brings a smile to your face when you think about your time at UW Dept of Surgery?
I don’t know if I have one specific memory, but I remember Brad Collins, a transplant fellow who is now at Duke as a transplant surgeon. He once told me “Wasco man, you don’t speak English, you speak Wascobonics because you talk so fast.” Dr. Harms was my mentor for 5 years. I remember sitting in his office and talking sports…we talked more about sports than surgery, which was probably a good thing. Dr. Turnipseed had a soccer team. I was a ringer, and he always made sure that my schedule was clear so I could play.

If you work with residents or fellows in your current surgical role, how do you instill the values and lessons learned during your UW Experience to a new generation of surgical trainees?
I had such good role models in all generations: Chairman, professors, community, fellow residents, and staff. I think I train a surgeon to become a good surgeon, but also a good person. In training, we were very collegial. Dr. Rikkers emphasized the importance in finding balance in your life. Be a good doctor and put your patient first, but remember to value your family. Dr. Rikkers, Dr. Harms, Dr. Mahvi, all stressed that you have to make time to do things that you like and that your family likes.

Do you stay in touch with any of your UW Dept of Surgery resident/fellows with whom you trained? If so, who and why?
I still talk to staff a lot, and I refer patients to Dr. Sharon Weber. Dr. Heise is a good friend. I come across alumni on the soccer field. We all get busy, but whenever I can, I try to touch base with old colleagues at ACS or get opinions from them regarding my patients.