Following her graduation from Marygrove in 1972, Beth continued her education at the University of Michigan where she earned a Medical Degree in 1976 followed by an internship at Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit. Her future path was set with a two-year residency in Family Practice at Harrisburg Hospital, Pennsylvania. Next was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Faculty Development Fellowship at the University of Iowa Department of Family Practice. She also earned a Master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology, Health Sciences Education. Beth met her husband Roger Zinser in a statistics class there in 1980. Roger, who has a Ph.D. in Botany, taught general biology.
Following the two-year fellowship, Beth joined the faculty in Family Medicine at Iowa where she handled many responsibilities during the next 13 years. She saw patients, taught, did research, community and university service and was residency director for the program. She became involved with the Domestic Violence Intervention Project and served on the board for five years and then joined the board of United Action for Youth, an after-school program to deter youth from trouble.
She left Iowa for Chicago in 1992 to become head of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Illinois, Chicago School of Medicine, clinical chief at the University Hospital and tenured professor. A former student Marisela Dominguez, MD, says, “It’s an honor for me to recommend Dr. Burns … I have been blessed with excellent training at the UIC where she was the department head, and under her direction, I was able to grow and bloom as the family physician that I am today. Her love and dedication to the medical profession has always been inspiring and with her as my role model, I could only continue following her path on my quest for excellence.” Dr. Dominguez is also an assistant professor of Clinical Family Medicine at UIC.
The back-story of her achievement is a deep commitment to the health and wellness of women and children. Her friend and former roommate, Barbara Burke Johns ’72, says, “Beth elected family practice as her specialty in order to know and better serve patients in all life stages. She recognized the need for primary care physicians at a time when most medical students were choosing higher paying specialties.”
Five years ago, Beth left Chicago for North Dakota, where she is a tenured professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Grand Forks and an elected member of the university’s graduate faculty. She also treats patients at the UND Student Health Services Clinic and is director of the ND Women’s Health Center of Excellence in Women’s Health Region VIII Demonstration Project. She completed the Bishop/ACE Fellowship Program in academic administration and leadership in 2005.
Beth’s influence reaches beyond US borders. In 2002, she traveled to the former Soviet Republic of Moldova to teach faculty how to conduct women’s health screening because women were dying of cervical cancer. She also traveled to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan teaching deans of the colleges of nursing.
She has returned to Marygrove College to serve on the Board of Trustees and is a member of the Development Committee. When Beth was elected to the Board, she said of Marygrove, “The education I received in the sciences paved the way to the University of Michigan Medical School. But the humanities and social sciences made me a better person.” Her fondness and admiration for the College are evident when she says, “Marygrove demonstrated that there are incredibly intelligent women in this world who have voices that should be heard and who do work that is significant. I had wonderful professors at Marygrove, but my Chemistry and Biology profs stand out—Sister Mary Cabrini Hohl, Sister Sue Fleming, Sister Stanislaus and Diane Hanson as well as Sister Dorothy for Physics and David Ozar for Philosophy. They were all very supportive and really believed in helping students achieve their goals.”
“Beth has pursued a career in medicine to help others,” says Beth’s mother Genevieve Lombard Burns, a Marygrove alumna from the class of 1948.