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Dr. Michelle Wysong ’84 Migliore battles pandemic on frontlines

Michelle-MiglioreLike many of Manchester’s alumni physicians, Dr. Michelle Wysong ’84 Migliore is battling the COVID-19 pandemic on the frontlines.

A physician at Activate Healthcare in Mishawaka, Migliore says the mental demands are worse than the physical. “It’s more psychologically exhausting because you want to be vigilant.”

Migliore is the physician for City of Mishawaka employees, including their first responders. Her clinic is located in a former EMT station, so she and her medical partner are using its former ambulance bay as a dedicated space for treating patients who are symptomatic or need to be tested. Donned in personal protective equipment (PPE), Migliore spends her afternoons seeing patients in the bay of the clinic.

When Migliore diagnoses a COVID patient, she sends them home with a pulse oximeter, a small electronic device worn on the finger that measures the level of oxygen in the blood. “They can crash and burn pretty quickly,” she says of COVID patients, “but if I can get them past Day 8, then we’ve dodged a bullet.”

“Hopefully, we won’t see this again for another 100 years,” she adds.

Migliore wanted to be a doctor since she was a child on the family farm near Winchester, Ind.  “I had very good science teachers and math teachers and I knew that I really liked science. I liked people. So I decided, ‘I’m going into medicine.’”

That suited her parents just fine. “My father was very adamant that we get an education so that we didn’t have to haul manure for the rest of our lives,” Migliore says of the four Wysong children.

Money was tight. Michelle and her older brother, David Wysong ’82, now a Fort Wayne physician, sometimes skipped school to plant crops while their dad worked in a factory to supplement the family income. “We really did have to work hard,” she says. Her younger sister, E. Nicole Wysong ’90, an elementary education major, graduated from Manchester, too.

The hard work prepared them all for Manchester. Migliore worked for the Admissions Office, which included summer recruiting travel, and gave campus tours. She played saxophone in the band, played intramural sports and was active in the American Chemical Society chapter. She also volunteered in the nursing center at Timbercrest Senior Living in North Manchester, passing trays at dinner and helping feed patients.

Most demanding of all was her biology-chemistry major, known for preparing students for the rigors of medical school – if they’re up to the challenge. “It was very hard,” recalls Migliore, who at times doubted her career decision. “It worked out because I was stubborn,” she says. “I had such excellent preparation for medical school.”

Despite the challenges – maybe because of them – Migliore loved Manchester. “It opened up so many doors. It gave me a sense of roots,” she says. “I really liked the idea of simplicity, community and peace,” she added. She joined the Church of the Brethren as a student and remains active at Crest Manor Church of the Brethren in South Bend. 

Migliore’s holistic perspective, cultivated at Manchester, led her to the Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine, where she earned her Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. She was in her third year of residency at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in South Bend when she met her husband, Juan, a mathematics professor at the University of Notre Dame.

She set up practice with another female physician and together they gave new meaning to the term family medicine: The young mothers turned the basement of the clinic into a nursery for their young children. “We brought our kids with us to work” and, when they were very young, nursed them between patient appointments, she says.

For years, Migliore delivered babies and was on staff at three hospitals. It was a demanding schedule, but Juan and her partner’s husband were “very supportive spouses.”

In their 20s now, both of the Migliores’ daughters attended Notre Dame. Emily graduated this spring from Harvard Law School and works in Chicago, while Claire is a staff advocate at Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) in St. Joseph County. 

Both daughters have a deep interest in peace and social justice, undoubtedly influenced by their Manchester-educated mom.

“I really, with all of my being, feel that Manchester made me who I am,” says Migliore. “It helped to shape me and my attitude toward the world.”

As for medicine, she adds, “It’s what I was meant to do. It was my calling. Taking care of people and being such an intimate part of their lives from birth until their last breath," she says, “has been an incredible privilege and honor.”

By Melinda Lantz ’81