March 16, 2022

Luke Zurbriggen continues family tradition of patient care

Dr. Luke Zurbriggen knew from a young age that he wanted a career in medicine. Zurbriggen, a native of Onalaska, spent much of his childhood fascinated by the
inner-workings of the hospital where his father is an internist. He especially was interested in patient care.

“From the time I was two or three years old, I would go on rounds with my dad and spend every weekend of my life in the hospital just walking around the wards and sitting at the nurses’ stations,” he said.

It was an article in one of his father’s medical journals that helped him focus his interest on hematology – a story about the use of the drug imatinib as a breakthrough treatment for certain types of leukemia.

“It was one of the first targeted treatments in the blood therapy realm that turned this progressive chronic leukemia into a disease that someone could live an entirely normal life with,” he said. “So that really piqued my interest.”

After completing his undergraduate education in Wisconsin and Iowa, he was able to focus more on his passion for hematology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He stayed on campus to complete his residency and his fellowship in hematology and oncology.

Zurbriggen now serves as an assistant clinical professor in the Division of Hematology, Medical Oncology and Palliative Care in the Department of Medicine. He specializes in benign blood disorders and prefers a mostly clinical focus, which is not a common opportunity at many institutions.

“There’s not many places that would let you be a true clinical benign hematologist—letting you see patients three or four days a week,” he said. “The division and the 1 South Park group have created this niche for me and let me stay on in a place that has become home with the these wonderful colleagues, so I’m very grateful.”

He also credits the intellectual strength of UW’s faculty, staff and researchers, as well as their willingness to help mentor new students and staff, as reasons he wanted to stay and grow within the UW community.

“It just has a different vibe and a different feel here,” he said. “Just the way that you can walk into anybody’s office and sit down and chat with the biggest researchers we have here for as long as you’d like—it’s just very different than a lot of other academic institutions around the