History of

Heart and Vascular Institute of Wisconsin


In the 1960s, reports from the Framingham Heart Study foretold an epidemic of heart disease in our country. Framingham helped to identify those at risk for heart disease. But at that time, the tools to diagnose and treat heart disease were very limited.


In 1968 three doctors met in a coffee shop in Appleton, Wisconsin. They decided that their community should have the best physicians and the most advanced equipment to fight the heart disease epidemic.


John Mielke was the first cardiologist in Northeast Wisconsin. With the support of the medical staff, Dr. Mielke laid the groundwork for opening a heart program at Appleton Memorial Hospital. In 1970 Dr. Mielke recruited Dr. Lowell Peterson to join him in his practice. Also, the first cardiac catheterization was done in 1970.


The first bypass operation in Appleton, Wisconsin was performed in 1971 at Appleton Memorial Hospital.

1970’s – 1990’s

Cardiologists Dr. John Mielke and Dr. Lowell Peterson, known as Appleton Cardiology Associates, not only provided care to the patients of Appleton. They traveled to communities surrounding Appleton to see heart patients. They held clinics in Antigo, Berlin, Chilton, Clintonville, Kaukauna, Neenah, New London, Ripon, Shawano, Two Rivers, and Waupaca – wherever a community collaborated to bring heart care to the local population.

The practice grew and the patients who needed specialized heart care traveled to Appleton. Appleton Memorial Hospital became the heart hospital for the region. The cardiologists and heart surgeons organized the Appleton Heart Institute.

The technological advances in the treatment of heart disease occurred at a whirlwind pace. The cardiology practice kept up with this pace and developed a reputation for providing state of the art, comprehensive, high-quality heart care. Our group attracted the top physicians from cardiac training programs not only in the United States but also in other countries.

The new cardiologists brought new talents and continued to provide our patients with the most advanced cardiac care.


Appleton Heart Institute opened a new facility to eliminate the need for surgeons to travel between the hospitals in Appleton and in nearby Neenah, Wisconsin. The facility was designed to resolve inefficiencies in the Appleton Medical Center’s cardiology department. Cardiac surgery was now consolidated at the Appleton Heart Institute.


In 2011, Appleton Cardiology Associates became “Appleton Cardiology – ThedaCare” when the physicians and staff became employees of ThedaCare health system. This was part of a national trend that saw cardiologists go from 95% being independent practices to 75% becoming employees of hospitals or health systems.


In 2019, the physicians elected to return to being an independent practice, feeling that this allowed the physicians greater freedom and control of how they practice medicine and control of their destiny. It allows us to remain true to our principles while delivering better care. From that vision, the Heart and Vascular Institute of Wisconsin was founded and opened on April 1, 2019.


Independent thinking is in our DNA. In the changing world of healthcare, consolidation has become the new normal, and options are shrinking. We created this independent practice because we believe more choices should be available to everyone. Better health comes from having more than a healthcare provider. It takes a healthcare partner.

Today, we total 15 physicians and 90 employees and have experienced phenomenal growth and loyalty from the patients we have cared for in Northeast Wisconsin since this practice was formed in 1968.