"The Full SIU Experience"
Dr. Janet Albers, '87, receives Distinguished Alumni Award
Janet Albers, MD, always wanted to do what she’s doing right now. She just didn’t always know she’d be a doctor, too.
“I almost went into special education, because I love teaching,” says Albers, professor and chair of SIU School of Medicine’s Department of Family and Community Medicine. “Maybe that’s what I love so much about what I’m doing now.” The feeling is clearly mutual, as the medical school has honored its alumna and faculty member with its 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award. The annual award from the school’s Alumni Society Board of Governors recognizes outstanding contributions to medicine and distinguished service to humankind.
The Decatur native earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and German from Illinois Wesleyan University. She received a Fulbright Scholarship and spent a year in Germany after college, and decided “at the last minute” to go to medical school. She chose SIU School of Medicine, with its strong focus on providing primary care to the underserved populations in downstate Illinois. “I think I knew from early on that I wanted to do family medicine because I love working with patients and their families, the whole spectrum from delivering babies to nursing homes,” she says. “It just fit.”
After graduating from SIU in 1987, Albers did her residency at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. After stints at Springfield Clinic and Mayo Clinic, Albers, her husband Thomas and their children returned to Springfield for a teaching opportunity at SIU School of Medicine in 1997. In 2014, the mother of three became the chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine.
“Janet is not only the consummate professional with a wide range of experience and knowledge, but also a warm, caring and engaging person,” says Roger Wujek, MD, 1994’s Distinguished Alumni Award honoree. “She could not have accomplished all she has with just knowledge alone. It is her affable personality and delightful sense of humor that has propelled her into the top 1 percent of family physicians I know and respect.”
Albers has received numerous awards for her patient care and teaching skills. She was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians (2008), received the Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors Silver Level Program Director Recognition Award (2007) and was one of 53 finalists in the national Humanism in Medicine Award, sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges and Pfizer Medical Humanities Initiative (2002). SIU School of Medicine students awarded her the Humanism in Medicine Award (2001), sponsored by The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey.
This year, Albers celebrates her 30-year reunion from medical school. “I’ve worked with all four deans. I’ve seen SIU School of Medicine as a student; I’ve seen it as faculty. I’ve gotten the full SIU experience.” That experience has given Albers a deeper appreciation of her alma mater and place of work. “What I loved most as a student is what I love now—the accessibility of the faculty. You really got to know people and they cared about you—you weren’t just a number,” she says.
Ultimately, her lifelong desire to be a teacher has been met courtesy of the students and residents she gets to work with year after year. “They have inspired me. It’s a stressful time out there. There’s a lot of changes in our health care system nationally, and they give me a lot of hope,” she says. “It’s a privilege to do what we’re able to do in medicine, to have a window into patients’ lives in a very special way. And I don’t take that lightly.”
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