University of Wisconsin–Madison

Place for Practice: Gifts Enhance Educational Spaces and Learning Tools

Clinical assistant professor Jessica Pritchard, right, demonstrates to students how to use a new endoscopy simulator to practice guiding an endoscope through internal organs.

William and Shirley Maeck’s impact on the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine continues to live on in the Maeck Clinical Skills Training Center.

This bright and inviting state-of-the-art teaching space, which opened five years ago, allows members of the SVM community, including students and clinicians, to get more hands-on training in core clinical skills. It is part of a remodeled student-focused hub, the Renk Learning Center, which opened in 2017. The learning center as a whole was made possible by a major gift from the late Walter and Martha Renk, generous donations from SVM alumni and friends, and a significant contribution from the UW–Madison campus.

The Maecks have supported UW–Madison and the School of Veterinary Medicine for years. In 2020, after Bill passed away, an estate gift directed to the school’s building campaign led to naming the clinical skills lab in his and Shirley’s honor.

“Students can go to this space to practice whatever skill they want to improve their techniques or get familiar with new equipment or procedures,” says instructional specialist Diego Calderon. “It’s one of the most trafficked places in the building.”

Bill and Shirley, who has also since passed, shared a love for animals and were passionate about the research advanced at UW–Madison. The pair met at UW while Bill was studying to become a nuclear chemist and Shirley worked as a surgical nurse. They married and moved to Idaho Falls in 1954. Throughout their life, they had many Labrador Retrievers and participated in several veterinary medical clinical trials with their dogs.

“Bill loved animals. They were a passion for him,” says family attorney and friend Terri Frickey.

Members of the Maeck family visit the clinical skills training center in October to see the new teaching equipment and meet faculty, staff, and students.

Before his death, Bill established the William J & Shirley A Maeck Family Foundation, which has provided additional gifts to help purchase equipment for the Maeck Clinical Skills Training Center. The foundation’s most recent donation allowed the school to expand the resources and equipment available in the skills lab.

“It’s important to us to be able to maintain this relationship with the school,” notes Frickey.

Twelve new technologies will be added to the lab through the Maecks’ generosity, from improved life-sized cow and horse models to an endoscope training tool and 3D molding device. These models and machines help students and faculty practice technical veterinary medical skills and become more confident.

“We wouldn’t have been able to get this equipment without this donation,” Calderon says.

“Students can go to this space to practice whatever skill they want to improve their techniques or get familiar with new equipment or procedures. It’s one of the most trafficked places in the building.”

And, likewise, without this equipment, students wouldn’t have the opportunity to get repeat, hands-on experiences that mimic real-world clinical scenarios. For example, with the recently purchased life-sized cow model, students can practice repositioning the fetus and palpating the ovaries — common skills needed for large animal veterinarians — “and get an understanding of what it feels like,” Calderon explains.

With the new endoscopy simulator device, instructors can create their own exercises, giving students specific and varied challenges in guiding an endoscope into mock internal organs or body cavities to examine these spaces. Students can practice the instructors’ exercises and others shared by veterinarians worldwide.

All of the new equipment will be in place by the spring 2023 semester. “It’s going to make a huge, huge impact on the school,” Calderon says.

Britta Wellenstein

This article appears in the winter 2022-23 issue of On Call magazine.