On Sept. 1, Donna Brokopp started her 41st year of being a certified medical assistant (CMA) at Dean Clinic in Lancaster. For Brokopp, it has been a career that has brought her more than she expected, and one she does not plan to give up anytime soon.
“I enjoy it every day,” Brokopp said. “Helping them work through whatever they need to work through.”
Donna said she was inspired to get into the medical field because as a child she had rheumatic fever, followed by a stint in the hospital after a car accident when she was 16. “I decided I wanted to be in the medical field, but not in a hospital setting,” Brokopp said.
She said she set her sights on being a CMA because it is a position that is trained to do everything in a clinic setting. “It makes them just very valuable.”
Brokopp trained in Madison and then spent the first two years of her career in her native Monroe before moving with her husband to his hometown of Lancaster.
The first few years in Lancaster, Brokopp handled mainly paperwork as the clinic only had registered nurses working with doctors. While it took Brokopp away from what she loves the most about the position - working with doctors and patients - she felt it gave her perspective. “I learned a lot. I think when you work in every area of the clinic, you just are understanding of your co-workers.”
She said that charts and paperwork were far different than the software from Epic that they use today. “When I first started, insurance forms were handled via manual typewriter, and had to be hand-signed by each doctor.... Its been fascinating to see the evolution.”
Gradually she was able to work directly with the patients, “which is where I love to be.” In her career Donna has worked with more than 70 providers, including early on doctors Kerry and Bauman, who founded the Lancaster clinic, as well as doctors Becker and Hillery.
“One of my favorite practices was with Dr. Mark Hughes,” she said, noting Hughes’ patients were often those dealing with pregnancies.
“We learned from every one of them,” she said of the doctors she worked with.
Brokopp saw the evolution of the clinic. In 1995 the clinic was taken over by Dean, and in 1999 moved from its original location of where American Bank is now to its current location in the lower level of the Grant Regional Health Center complex.
Currently she and Jane Uppena are the only CMAs in the clinic, but Brokopp said she sees the trend coming back to having more, as other clinics in the area have several CMAs. “They have found out how versatile we are,” Donna said that she was working in the lab, directly with the doctors, participating in minor surgeries.
Brokopp said that she feels the position has been even more diverse than she imagined when she chose to be a CMA, partly due to working in a smaller clinic, she has been able to do many things a bigger clinic does.
Donna not only helps patients but other CMAs as well, serving as President of the Southwest Wisconsin Medical Assistants chapter, helping with finding information so fellow CMAs can keep up their credits to stay certified.
Donna said that over the years, she has seen several generations of families come to the clinic, with some of the children of women she worked with as expectant mothers now coming in as teens. She said some of the younger patients ask her about her job, and as they have grown up, some have joined the medical field as well. “They can tell I enjoy my career,” she noted.
Donna enjoys the job as well, and doesn’t plan on retiring soon. She said that maybe in two years, when she is 65, but then again, maybe not. “ I just talked to an 80-year-old who is still working part-time, and it has kept her so young.”
Donna has also enjoyed the community. “Its been a wonderful place to grow older together.” She added she enjoyed putting her children through school here, as both her sons are principals in Monticello (Allen) and Whitewater (David).