Fourth-year medical student is the first Pisacano Scholar from OUWB
An image of Sarah Toates and representatives of the Pisacano organization
From left, Warren Newton, M.D., president and CEO, American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM), Sarah Toates, M4, OUWB, and Robert Cattoi, executive director, Pisacano Leadership Foundation.

A fourth-year Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine student is the first from the school to be named to the prestigious Pisacano Scholars program.

Sarah Toates is currently serving as one of nearly 40 scholars from across the nation who are participating in the one-year Pisacano Scholars Leadership Program.

Per its website, the program “offers many career development opportunities, as well as scholarship funding, to the future leaders of family medicine. The Pisacano Scholars participate in the annual Leadership Skills Development Symposia and are offered a multitude of educational programs and mentoring relationships with current leaders in the field of family medicine. These programs are designed to enhance the overall leadership skills of the Pisacano Scholars; to provide them with the historical context and scope of family medicine; and to allow the scholars to network and form professional relationships within their field.”

“Throughout my experiences in medical school…it has become clear to me that this work is as important as ever," said Toates.

"And that family medicine physicians have an irreplaceable role to play in a modern health care system that has become increasingly fragmented and depersonalized."

“It’s my hope that being a Pisacano Scholar supports and inspires me to not only become a physician, but a physician-leader who advocates for the vulnerable and underserved in our society, reclaim the physician-patient relationship from the forces that attempt to undermine it, and restore an authentic sense of humanism in medicine,” she added.

Originally from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, Toates credits a love of learning to being homeschooled through 12th grade. She graduated summa cum laude from Hillsdale College with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and philosophy.

While at Hillsdale, Toates said she enjoyed lively discussions with professors and peers, hosted an interdisciplinary bioethics conference, and wrote her senior thesis on ancient approaches to epidemic disease. These pursuits are credited with helping her discover a passion for medicine and medical ethics.

Success has been no stranger to Toates while at OUWB, and in 2023 she was among the school’s inductees into both the Gold Humanism Honor Society and Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Society.

In addition, she has volunteered with a local miscarriage support organization and recently completed training from the Institute for Reproductive Grief Care. She completed an internship at the Center for Injury Research at Nationwide Children’s, where she evaluated cocaine-related calls to poison control centers, and currently serves as the co-chair of communications for the AMWA Opioid Addiction in Women Task Force.

Further, she has served on the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) Advocacy Committee and the AAFP National Congress of Student Delegates. Currently, she is serving on the MAFP Board of Directors.

More from OUWB

Twenty-nine OUWB students inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Society

OUWB medical student leads research on importance of hospital chaplains

Sixteen OUWB medical students inducted into Gold Humanism Honor Society

Her experiences in medical school helped her decide on a specialty.

“(I) came to medical school eager to explore the ethical and humanistic foundations of medicine through the lens of intellectual ideas,” she said. “Journeying with patients facing a variety of physical, psychological, social, and spiritual concerns throughout my clinical rotations taught me that authentic relationships define a person-centered approach to medicine.”

Toates said that she landed on family medicine because it prioritizes relationships “as both one of the greatest privileges of being a physician and the cornerstone of all therapeutic progress.”

“I am passionate about reclaiming the family physician's traditional role of overseeing whole-person care with the recognition that compassionate relationships built on trust must be the cornerstone of every clinical encounter,” she said.

Toates said she applied for the Pisacano program because it was developed in honor of Nicholas Pisacano, M.D., the founder of the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) who devoted his career to promoting and preserving “family medicine (as) the keystone specialty in American medicine.”

The application process included writing several essays, obtaining multiple letters of recommendation, and providing other academic information, such as board exam scores and transcripts.

An image of Dr. Yedavally


One of the letters of recommendation was written by Srikala Yedavally-Yellayi, D.O., clerkship director, Family Medicine, co-director, Global Health, and assistant professor.

“Sarah is one of those students who has been focused and very self-directed in medical school,” said Yedavally. “From day one, she has demonstrated her passion for primary care and desire to serve the community. Volunteerism has been a large part of this, but Sarah has also recognized the importance of advocacy, for patients as well as for the family medicine profession.”

Toates said she was “humbled” at being selected.

“As a whole, the 2023 cohort of Pisacano scholars are brilliant, compassionate, and impressive future physicians and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with them throughout my career,” she said.

Yedavally shared in her excitement.

“I am very excited for Sarah to be nationally recognized for the hard work she has done to get to this point,” she said. “It is indeed an honor and an experience that is going to be transformational for Sarah's career. It is wonderful recognition for OUWB as well to have one of their students receive this scholarship.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected].

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.