Michael Haugsdal: The value in mentoring

Growing up on an Iowa farm, Michael Haugsdal’s first mentor was his hard-working dad.

Michael Haugsdal, MD, enjoys mentoring medical students. Here he meets with two of his mentees, both fourth year medical students: Anne Nora and Michael Klemme.

“From very early on, I was working with him and learned by example,” says Haugsdal, MD, a clinical assistant professor in Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB-GYN). “Dad helped me establish a work ethic and critical thinking skills. Since then, I have come to view mentoring much like an apprenticeship model of learning.”

Haugsdal’s fifth grade teacher in Lake Mills also served as a mentor.

“At the end of the year, I told Mr. Iverson that I wanted to be a teacher just like him, and he told me, ‘You need to do something more with your interest in science.’”

Ultimately, Haugsdal decided to pursue medicine. And when he entered medical school at the University of Iowa, Haugsdal discovered his next mentor.

“My most enduring mentor in medicine and medical education is Dr. Peter Densen,” says Haugsdal. “He practices a very holistic approach to medicine, healthcare, and life. He also believes whole-heartedly in investing in quality medical education.”

Densen, UI emeritus professor of internal medicine, has always encouraged Haugsdal to explore and investigate different paths and perspectives, helping him to grow both personally and professionally.

Haugsdal, who is also a faculty director of the William Bean Learning Community at the Carver College of Medicine notes, “We have both come to know that he is not only helping me to take care of myself in the future, but he’s teaching me how I can approach a similar situation when I find myself in the role of the mentor for a future physician.”

From his father, to his elementary school teacher, to now Emeritus Professor Densen, Haugsdal has appreciated all the mentors he’s had. It’s one reason it’s so important to him to invest in the mentoring of others.

“Mentoring is a dynamic and ongoing kind of relationship,” he says. “I know that it’s very valuable and it’s also a huge investment for both sides, the mentor and the mentee.”

Mentoring the next generation of doctors: from mentee to mentor

Haugsdal has been fortunate to have many fine mentors and now he’s paying it forward.   

Anne Nora, a fourth-year medical student at Carver, had been mentored as an undergraduate student, but was missing that type of relationship in medical school.

“When Dr. Haugsdal provided me with feedback during my OB-GYN rotation, he said that he saw a lot of potential in me, which is something I hadn’t really heard in medical school yet,” says Nora. “Someone who is in the field that you’re interested in saying that to you, it means a lot and it really helps motivate you.”

Haugsdal has an ability to connect with younger students, according to fourth-year medical student Michael Klemme.

“I think an effective mentor is someone that you can relate to, someone that you see a little bit of yourself in, and I definitely see that in him,” says Klemme.

And he’s interested in mentoring students with passion, no matter which field they pursue. In fact, Klemme recently decided not to pursue OB-GYN.

“I have absolutely loved having him as my mentor,” says Klemme. “And now that I’ve officially made the change towards internal or emergency medicine, I have to give him up as my official mentor, but he’s going to be a part of my life forever.”

A mutually positive endeavor

Between his administrative and teaching duties, Haugsdal has something different going on just about every day. But he always makes time for mentoring.

“Mentoring is not exclusive to faculty. Whatever role you might play at UIHC or in the community, you’re going to find yourself in a position where somebody looks up to you and they observe your actions, your behaviors, your thought process, as an example to follow,” says Haugsdal.

He says everyone should be ready and willing to invest a little more time in students, because it will pay dividends for society down the road.

“I think mentoring is one of the most mutually positive things we can do, and it embodies the type of a spirit we need in our community and especially in medical education these days.”


  1. Having worked with Dr. Haugsdal as well on OB/GYN, I must echo that he is an excellent mentor and advocate for students.

  2. He carries this same passion for teaching when he talks to his patients/families about their care; I’ve seen it first hand as his interpreter for some of these cases over the years. A pleasure to work with!

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