The Pharmacy Alumni Association honors Langenstroer’s impact in global health outreach and urologic oncology
By Katie Ginder-Vogel
It was serendipity, says Peter Langenstroer (BS ‘87). He was set to enroll in pharmacy school at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy, with the ultimate goal of going to medical school. Then he learned about a newly created Pharmacology and Toxicology program at the School of Pharmacy.
The new PharmTox bachelor’s degree would include plenty of chemistry coursework — which is what drew him toward pharmacy — prepare him for medical school and give him the option to continue with pharmacy school.
“I was looking for something related to medicine and chemistry, and it seemed like an obvious choice for my career path and dovetailed with my plans,” he says.
After completing the program, Langenstroer attended medical school and embarked on a career at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin that would touch innumerable lives through his work and leadership in urology and urologic oncology.
For his achievements and contributions in the field, including spearheading mission trips to bring much-needed medical care to remote areas of Honduras, the Pharmacy Alumni Association is honoring Langenstroer as the 2021 PharmTox Alumnus of the Year.
“I am honored, humbled, and delighted to be recognized as a distinguished alum of the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy,” says Langenstroer. “UW–Madison and the School of Pharmacy have remained very near and dear to my heart ever since I was a student. My entire family are lifelong Badgers.”
A specialized medical career
Langenstroer was in the PharmTox program’s first graduating class of six, following the graduation of the program’s first singular student, Jack Vanden Heuvel (BS ‘86). Three members of his class became physicians and still practice, including Langenstroer.
“I’m still good friends with the other two,” says Langenstroer. “In fact, I see one of them regularly in the hallway at Froedtert.”
“I am honored, humbled, and delighted to be recognized as a distinguished alum of the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy.”
The PharmTox program prepared Langenstroer and his classmates for medical school with coursework in biochemistry, pharmaceutical science, and biology. Langenstroer also took numerous electives, including an independent study course on mass spectrometry.
“The curriculum was outstanding, in terms of preparation for medical school,” says Langenstroer. “We took biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, statistics, pharmacokinetics — all things that are super relevant for someone who was interested in medicine.”
Langenstroer attended medical school at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), where he also earned a master’s degree in pharmacology and toxicology.
“Two years into medical school, I connected with the pharmacology department, did a master’s thesis that made me more competitive when pursuing a residency in urology,” says Langenstroer. “I researched vascular function as it related to diabetes, free radicals, and nitric oxide.”
After his residency, he joined the faculty at MCW to be an educator, researcher, clinician, and mentor. A few years later, Langenstroer completed a urologic oncology fellowship at the University of Kansas Medical Center, returning to MCW in 2001 to focus on urologic oncology and erectile dysfunction.
“Seventy-five percent of my current oncologic practice is kidney cancer,” he says. “I would not have predicted that; it has been a fabulous career helping patients overcome cancer.”
Langenstroer is the director of urologic oncology at MCW and serves on cancer committees at Froedtert Hospital and the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. He has also served in the Wisconsin Urologic Society, North Central Section of the American Urologic Association, and on the Board of Government Service Urologists. As director of urologic oncology, Langenstroer oversees a portfolio of clinical trials that include medical oncology and radiation oncology. He says his PharmTox education helps him understand the clinical trials, the drugs that come out of them, and the mechanisms behind them.
“I have a better, deeper understanding of how trials are developed, how medications are developed, and how the pharmaceutical industry works,” he says. “My understanding of how all of that translates into patient care is invaluable.”
Langenstroer has been Froedtert’s urology residency program director for over 10 years.
“Interacting with bright and energetic residents every day only makes you better,” he says. “It keeps you at the top of your game.”
Langenstroer says he loves watching his residents achieve success and appreciates the lives he gets to impact simply by helping prepare other doctors to care for other people.
“These bright, ambitious people go out into the world and do amazing things themselves,” he says. “That’s the academic model and why I went into academics.”
Those trainees become lifelong friends and colleagues, which are Langenstroer’s proudest accomplishment.
“That’s the most fun part — the long-lasting relationships,” he says.
Since 1998, Langenstroer has self-funded annual medical mission trips to the remote area of Olancho Province in Honduras to perform urologic surgery, bringing with him a team of nurses, residents, surgical technicians, and colleagues.
Langenstroer says he has always been interested in philanthropic work, and in his last year of residency, a urology resident from St. Louis University connected him with a faculty member there who ran an organization of Catholic missionaries and coordinated medical missions. After joining one of the medical mission trips to Haiti, he was hooked.
“The people who needed operations were amazingly appreciative,” he says. “We’d be in a one-room ward the size of a bedroom, packed with families.”
He helped expand the mission’s reach by recruiting a pediatric urology colleague, nurses, an anesthesiologist, and a resident to join him on a trip to Honduras. Soon, Langenstroer was put in charge of adult urology for the organization.
“We schlep everything on our backs, run an operating room for a week, and come back,” Langenstroer says. “It’s always important to take a resident. It’s making a future impact.”
Some of Langestroer’s former residents and colleagues, who have since moved to institutions like the University of Kansas Medical Center and Ohio State, continue to join his mission trips to Honduras.
“We have this multi-institutional group running three operating rooms, and we’ve been able to up the ante with new technology and a greater more contemporary level of care,” says Langenstroer. “With disposable scopes and a laser, we can do laser stone surgery where in previous years we would have to make an incision.”
Langenstroer’s commitment to his medical missions has inspired his family to get involved, too.
Langenstroer’s oldest daughter — Elizabeth Langenstroer (PharmD ‘20), another School of Pharmacy alum — joined him for his last two trips, handling medication allocations and helping the nurses and surgical techs scrub some cases. She is now finishing her general pharmacy residency at Froedtert Hospital and will soon head to Columbia University in New York for a critical care pharmacy fellowship.
His younger daughter, Madeline Langenstroer, wants to join the trips, too. She will graduate from UW–Madison this spring with a bachelor’s degree in biology and will begin a Master of Public Health degree program this fall.
Langenstroer’s son, Jonathan Langenstroer, is currently a UW–Madison freshman and is eyeballing the PharmTox program, with some gentle encouragement from his father.
“You can get a job in industry or go to grad school,” he says. “It’s great for medical school, veterinary school, and any health profession. It provides a fabulous foundation and opens a lot of doors. You can do so many different things with that background, and you’ll always have a job and a career.”
The entire Langenstroer family works in health care. In fact, Langenstroer says he has the School of Pharmacy to thank for meeting his wife, Ann Trumm Langenstroer (BS ’89, PharmD ’90), at Kappa Psi pharmaceutical fraternity party.
“The School of Pharmacy has done a lot for me personally, academically, and professionally,” Langenstroer says. “UW–Madison is an amazing institution.”