Katherine Bedigrew: 2010 Outstanding Graduate in Medicine

Well-prepared at WUSTL for life as a military surgeon

Although Katherine “Kat” Bedigrew has known since she was a child that she wanted to be a physician, one summer she had to quickly become ready for it.

As a pre-medicine undergraduate student and a member of the Army ROTC at Johns Hopkins University, Bedigrew spent three weeks at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany the summer prior to her senior year. Landstuhl is the U.S. Army’s overseas military triage hospital, where U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan go for treatment.

As the only student at Landstuhl, Bedigrew, who will receive a medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine May 21, says it gave her a great education.

“My first day, they put me in the intensive care unit to care for a patient who had been badly burned on his face, arms, legs and some of his torso,” she says. “I’d never seen a burn patient before. When I left the first day, I asked myself, ‘What did I get myself into?’”

But she stuck it out as the patient improved. Bedigrew later observed a total disc arthoplasty surgery and knew orthopedic surgery is where she wanted to be.

“While I found the technical details of this procedure interesting, the ability to measurably change a patient’s quality of life for the better captured my interest,” she says.

Her interest grew throughout medical school.

“I enjoy the hands-on approach to working on orthopedic surgical problems, the creative thinking that goes into the intricacies of the specific surgical procedures, and the team-like atmosphere in the orthopedic service,” she says.

The U.S. Army gave Bedigrew, a native of Topeka, Kan., full scholarships for her undergraduate degree at Johns Hopkins and for her WUSTL medical degree. In return, she will do five years of residency at the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium-Brooke Army Medical Center, followed by at least eight years of service at an Army medical center. She expects to serve about 20 years in the Army.

Bedigrew says WUSTL has prepared her well for life as a military surgeon.

“I feel confident in the training I got here,” she says. “The caliber of my peers and the residents here is really motivating.”

While at WUSTL, Bedigrew proved to be a leader among students. She was a member of the American Medical Association and a teacher and coordinator for the Students Teaching AIDS to Students program.

A track runner in college, Bedigrew was a natural fit as a coach for Girls on the Run at New City School, an elementary school in St. Louis.

In addition, as co-president of the American Medical Women’s Association, she started the Red Dress Affair, a fundraiser based on the national “Go Red for Women” campaign to raise awareness for women’s heart disease. That event continues as one of the medical school’s social events of the year.

In November 2009, the School of Medicine awarded her the Steven Dresler Prize for her commitment to promoting social good, civil rights and civil liberties through social action and volunteerism. Bedigrew accepted the award just eight days after giving birth to her daughter, Elle.

Bedigrew says she and her husband of nearly four years, Pat, will miss St. Louis and especially Forest Park, which they enjoyed for walking, running and its free attractions. The park also holds a special memory for the couple — Pat proposed to her at the fountain near the World’s Fair Pavilion just after her interview at the School of Medicine.

During her clinical rotations, Bedigrew worked with Matthew Dobbs, MD, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery, on the pediatric orthopedic service.

“Katherine possesses all of the qualities both tangible and intangible that it takes to be a successful physician,” Dobbs says. “Her approach to the pediatric patients and their parents on my service was exemplary as an approach rooted in empathy and respect. Humble but with a fire in her heart, her future as a leader is certain.”