HONORING THE FIRST CLASS

Martin G. Burkland, M.D. ’50
The first students who graduated from the UW School of Medicine did so 60 years ago, in 1950. We asked graduate Martin G. Burkland, M.D. ’50, who remembers the very first years of the UW School of Medicine, to tell us about his experiences.

Martin G. Burkland set out on the great American road trip — an excursion up and down the East Coast in an old jalopy that maxed out at 35 miles per hour — not long after applying to the University of Washington School of Medicine. He was out of contact with his family for weeks, he says, and despite the years that have passed since then, he clearly remembers the scene when he returned home to Seattle.

“My mother was standing there, all dressed up,” says Burkland. “She didn’t know where I was, so she was going to go to my medical-school interview for me.” As it happens, Burkland had made it back in time to do his own interview, and out of the many candidates who applied to the new school, he was one of the 50 students accepted into the first class.

During the Great Depression, Burkland and his family moved from Astoria, Ore., to Seattle, Wash., where his father secured a job that paid $200 a month. At that time, doctors still made house calls, and Burkland remembers the family doctor, Olaf Christoferson. “He’d come over and dispense medication and orders,” says Burkland. “And just like today, we didn’t always follow them!”

Still, Dr. Christoferson inspired the young Burkland to follow him in the profession, and Burkland took pre-med courses at the University of Washington, graduating with a B.S. in chemistry in only two years.

World War II interrupted the course of Burkland’s education — he joined the U.S. Navy, becoming a communications officer on a destroyer. After active duty, he used the G.I. Bill to support his pursuit of a medical degree.

As a member of the first class, Burkland remembers the founding of the School, and the controversy it caused. Not all the local doctors were happy at the competition posed by new faculty members, he says. This did not, however, deter either the faculty or the students. It was as important to the School for the medical students to graduate as it was for the students, says Burkland. “My success was their success,” he says.

He also counts the first dean of the UW School of Medicine, Edward Turner, M.D., as a visionary, one whose influence followed the inaugural class members throughout their careers. Burkland remembers what Dean Turner told the class on the first day of school in 1946, listing the traits required of a physician: honesty and integrity, dedication and hard work, competency, an investigative mind and, above all, a willingness to accept responsibility.

Although medical school was challenging in 1950, Burkland believes today’s students face even greater challenges. “They’ve got a lot of work in front of them,” he says, noting that students today begin focusing their career paths in the third year of school. In contrast, he served as an intern for one year, and the multiple rotations helped him choose his career.

Burkland retired in 1995 from his general medicine practice, one that he maintained for 43 years. He’s proud of delivering many babies, starting a free-standing clinic in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood and establishing one of the first emergency rooms in the U.S., staffed with full-time physicians at Ballard Community Hospital.

“Medicine has certainly changed over the years,” he says.

2010 Alumni Awards

JAMAL K. GWATHNEY, M.D. ’99, MPH
2010 UW Medicine Alumni Humanitarian Award

Jamal K. Gwathney, M.D. ’99, MPH, remembers Catholic school — complete with ruler-wielding nuns — in Montclair, N.J. It was a far cry from inner-city Newark, he says, where he and his parents lived. Until seventh grade, Gwathney was the only African American in his class.

Years later, after graduating from the UW School of Medicine, Gwathney — a self-described extrovert — continues to thrive among different cultures. This time, it’s in the service of medical missions. He credits his wife, Cheryl Anderson, for the freedom to do humanitarian work. “A lot of people may want to do it,” Gwathney says, “but they don’t have the support at home.”

Gwathney is a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and a member of the elite Ready Responders Program, a group dispatched to natural and human-made disasters here and abroad. He also volunteers with Medical Wings International (MWI), which provides medical care to underdeveloped communities. Over the past few years, through the corps and MWI, he has served in Trinidad, Honduras, India and a number of other countries.

Before he travels, Gwathney investigates local customs, health concerns and gender issues —information that helps him get a sense of the people he’ll be serving. He also takes a look at the language, because learning even a few words goes a long way in establishing trust with patients and communities. “I always learn how to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’” Gwathney says.

When he’s home, Gwathney practices at Unity Health Care-Congress Heights Health Center, an inner-city clinic that serves low-income and homeless patients, located on Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue Southeast in Washington, D.C. When asked what he’d like to say to his fellow alumni, this year’s humanitarian award recipient quotes Rev. King.

“‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?’” says Gwathney. “I’ve been afforded a lot of assistance,” he continues. “Much is expected of me.”

ROGER E. MOE, M.D. ’59, RES. ’68
2010 UW Medicine Distinguished Alumni Award

This year’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, Roger E. Moe, M.D., ’59, Res. ’68, has made major contributions to breast cancer research and care, but he’s quick to emphasize that his achievements weren’t made in isolation. “My accomplishments were team accomplishments,” he says.

After Moe graduated from the University of Washington with a B.A. in psychology and a stint in the ROTC, he became an officer in the Navy — a cryptologist. After medical school, and while learning about clinical immunology as an attending surgeon in transplantation, he found his life’s work: the intricacies of breast cancer.

“Breast cancer is an array of different kinds of cancers,” says Moe. Given that it varies widely from patient to patient, he says, providing good care requires specialists from different disciplines to work together.

That’s why Moe and partner Dr. Robert Parker founded UW’s multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Program at UW Medicine in 1970. First they recruited Katharan Spike, perhaps the first patient care coordinator at UW Medical Center. Then they added physician-researchers from radiation oncology and medical oncology. “You find that talent begets talent,” says Moe.

Talent and collaboration also make patients feel more secure. The Breast Cancer Specialty Center at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (a collaboration among UW Medicine, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Children’s), brings together experts from various departments together twice a week to consult on patient cases. “It basically empowers women. It gives them hope,” says Moe. “It also empowers physicians.”

Moe is proud of the colleagues he’s assembled and worked with over the years, and he has a deep affection for the group — Benjamin O. Anderson, M.D., David R. Byrd, M.D., Res. ’87, Janet R. Daling, Ph.D., Georgiana F. Ellis, M.D. ’82, Res. ’85, Julie R. Gralow, M.D., Fel. ’95, Mary-Claire King, Ph.D., Constance D. Lehman, M.D. ’93, Res. ’95, and Carlos A. Pellegrini, M.D. — which includes oncologists, surgeons and epidemiologists.

He’s also proud of his role in discovering an increase in lobular carcinoma — a marker for future breast cancer — that starts in women’s milk-producing glands. The increase, Moe says, was related to the use of hormone replacement therapy. Other career highlights include developing an ovarian-breast cancer clinic. And, of course, he remembers his patients, who evoke many fond memories.

Moe has been retired a few years, but he still keeps a hand in: going to seminars, visiting his colleagues. And he looks forward to what molecular genetics will reveal about breast cancer.

“The beauty of biology,” says the former cryptologist, “is increasing as it gets more complicated.”

JOHN N. “JACK” LEIN, M.D. ’55
2010 UW Medicine Alumni Service Award

Jack Lein credits his commanding officer in the Navy for setting him on the path to medical school. “He saw me with a rifle and decided to give me a bedpan,” Lein says.

It’s a good one-liner, and Jack Lein, M.D. ’55, was, in fact, a medical corpsman during World War II. In the years that followed, he became one of the finest advocates the UW School of Medicine has ever had.

In 1964, the Dean of the UW School of Medicine, John R. Hogness, M.D., Res. ’51, offered Lein — then in practice in obstetrics and gynecology in Spokane, Wash. — a job that involved patient care, teaching, and community and legislative involvement. Hogness’s goal was to help the School of Medicine become more of a presence in eastern Washington, an area that badly needed more doctors.

Lein took the job. At the same time, he notes, America’s medical culture was shifting. Great Society initiatives such as Medicare and Medicaid were founded, and the government divided the nation into medical-geographical regions. Under this new system, Washington and Alaska were grouped together, and Lein and his cohorts found that, like eastern Washington, Alaska suffered from a doctor shortage. In the 1960s, Lein says, there were more than 450 cities and towns in Alaska, and approximately 400 of them had no medical providers. “We knew we needed more family doctors,” says Lein.

At that point, a number of ideas — all in the service of developing doctors for a multi-state region — began to coalesce. Lein and School of Medicine leadership, under Dean Robert L. Van Citters, M.D., developed a novel training model, one in which Alaskan students would receive their first year of medical training at home, with the remaining three years spent at the School of Medicine in Seattle. Another idea: a community doctor in Omak, Wash., volunteered to train residents interested in family medicine. A third factor: Lein and his cohorts were also mindful of the needs of neighboring Montana and Idaho, largely rural states, largely underserved by doctors. “They didn’t have medical schools, either,” says Lein.

These ideas were the seeds of what would become the WWAMI program, a regional medical-training model, one in which the University of Washington School of Medicine works with the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho to provide a variety of programs for medical students and trainees.

In helping found the WWAMI system, Lein logged many miles on the road as well as many hours in Olympia, Wash., and Washington, D.C. He was a connector, establishing ties between the School’s faculty and community doctors, between legislators and the School, between rural communities and urban ones. “I guess I was a traveling salesman, like my dad,” says Lein, whose titles at the University included federal relations coordinator, assistant dean and vice president of health sciences.

Although he enjoyed receiving the UW Medicine Alumni Service Award, he says, “I don’t think you live for awards.” Rather, he lives for his legacy — a thriving medical school. “As far as I’m concerned,” says Lein, “our alumni are graduates of one of the best medical schools in the country.”