First Class of Aspirus Scholars Named to Tackle Physician Shortage

Inaugural recipients receive scholarships totaling over $200,000

WAUSAU, Wis. – The Aspirus Health Foundation’s Aspirus Scholars Program has awarded $222,000 to three college students pursuing careers in health care. The program is a community collaboration to address the national physician shortage and meet the needs of people and communities in north central Wisconsin and Upper Michigan today and for future generations.

Chris Zeman

Kristin Erickson

Hayley Schanen

The Aspirus Scholars Program provides generous scholarships for tuition to medical students and advanced practice provider students – such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners – and connects them to Aspirus and the communities served by Aspirus during their training. In return, students will commit to future employment at Aspirus in the areas of primary care, psychiatry or general surgery.

Three Aspirus Scholars recipients have accepted scholarships in return for a five-year employment commitment with Aspirus:

  • Christopher Zeman, Medical Student – Medical College of Wisconsin-Central Wisconsin Campus. $150,000 award. Interests include primary care and general surgery.
  • Kristin Erickson, Physician Assistant Student – University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin Physician Assistant Community-Based Tract (wisPACT) program.
    $36,000 award. Interests include primary care and general surgery.
  • Hayley Schanen, Physician Assistant Student – University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin Physician Assistant Community-Based Tract (wisPACT) program.
    $36,000 award. Interests include primary care and general surgery.

“Our inaugural award recipients already have strong ties to north central Wisconsin and are passionate about medicine and caring for patients,” said Kalynn Pempek, executive director, Aspirus Health Foundation and Volunteer Services. “Each will be a tremendous addition to the Aspirus family and the communities we serve.”

“Before I was in medical school my goal has always been to come back to north central Wisconsin,” said Chris Zeman. “Having an opportunity to come back as an Aspirus Scholar, this is definitely the place that we want to raise our children.”

“Aspirus has a great reputation of providing world-class treatment in northern Wisconsin,” added Kristin Erickson. “I am thankful for all the ways Aspirus has influenced my life and am excited to join a team known for their compassion and excellent service in the community. Working as a primary care or general surgery physician assistant at Aspirus would fulfill a dream four years in the making. I look forward to making a difference serving in the community I live in, with a company I love, and continuing to reach the needs of the world one patient at a time.”

“I’m really excited for this opportunity because I grew up in Wisconsin Rapids and so did my husband so I’m looking forward to paying it forward to the community that gave so much to me growing up as a child,” said Hayley Schanen. “Aspirus is the leader in health care in the Midwest so it’s really awesome to be a part of the team.”

The Aspirus Scholars Program is a forward-looking approach that could bring as many as 62 new primary care, psychiatry or general surgery providers to communities in north central Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan by the year 2030. It leverages the unique opportunity to collaborate with college and university partners whose programs are specifically designed to attract students interested in learning and working in a community setting – preferably in north central Wisconsin or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. These programs give preference to students who grew up in, or have a connection to, the region. A selection committee made up of Aspirus and community members from Wisconsin and Michigan screened the applications and selected the inaugural class of Aspirus Scholars.

“The local, state and national provider shortage is real, and the Aspirus Scholars Program was designed as an important approach to meet the needs of our communities for access to high-quality health care for future generations,” said Sid Sczygelski, chief financial officer, Aspirus, Inc. “Aspirus and our community partners are proud to invest in the students who will care for our patients and communities as physicians and advanced practice providers in the future.”

The Aspirus Scholars Program is made possible through contributions from community partners such as The Legacy Foundation of Central Wisconsin; Judd S. Alexander Foundation; Dwight and Linda Davis Foundation, B.A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation; Dudley Foundation, Molinaro Family, and individual donors.

Vital investments were also made by Aspirus Grand View Hospital (Ironwood, Mich.); Aspirus Iron River Hospital (Iron River, Mich.);  Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital (Laurium, Mich.); Aspirus Langlade Hospital (Antigo, Wis.); Aspirus Medford Hospital; Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital (Ontonagon, Mich.); Aspirus Riverview Hospital (Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.); and Aspirus Wausau Hospital.

For more information about the Aspirus Scholars Program please visit