Keeping Oshkosh Healthy Winnebago County

UW Connections in Winnebago County

Data Source: University of Wisconsin Service Center

Did you know that mentoring by UW faculty can extend throughout careers?

When Eric Smiltneek ’01, MD’06 was in medical school, he dreamed of being able to help both individuals and an entire community. Today his dual roles in Oshkosh as a family medicine doctor at ThedaCare Physicians and a medical director at Nova, an addiction-treatment center, have allowed him to do just that. “I’ve enjoyed both being a family and a community doctor,” he says.

Even 10 to 15 years out, I’m still learning from the people I was learning from at the UW.”

After earning his UW undergraduate degree, Smiltneek spent a year with AmeriCorps in Chicago, where he learned about substance abuse and its devastating impact. When he returned to UW–Madison for medical school, he says, “I had fantastic mentors.” Dr. Michael Miller in particular encouraged him to continue his work with addiction, and Miller still serves as a mentor for Smiltneek today. “Even 10 to 15 years out, I’m still learning from the people I was learning from at the UW,” Smiltneek says.

After arriving in Oshkosh, he first focused on treating prescription-drug addiction and then helped to address the expanding heroin epidemic. Smiltneek is also involved with a Wisconsin Department of Corrections pilot program to help recently released nonviolent drug offenders. The program, he says, has doubled or even tripled the number of clients able to avoid relapse after one year.

Smiltneek also approaches addiction from a prevention angle. A former member of the Wisconsin Hoofers with a lifelong passion for the outdoors, he leads a youth sailing club and he also founded Dr. Eric’s Skate Club in Oshkosh to lay the foundation for appreciating physical activities at a young age.

“I realized what an awesome release this was for stress and feeling sad and needing something exciting to happen,” he says. “If people can have something that gets them outside and find something that really grounds them, then I hope the need for drugs and alcohol is less, and we can get more healthy addictions.”