Nuns, Planes & Lifelong Learning

Ted Phillips, M.D., had only recently established the Department of Family Medicine when he and his colleague, William Gore, a UW professor of political science, wrote a grant that sent a medical student to learn hands-on medicine at Mount Carmel Hospital in Colville, Wash. Their quest? To see if community doctors could teach medical students. Their guinea pig? Richard A. McLandress, M.D. ’74, who spent two summers learning with Edmund W. (Ed) Gray, M.D. ’53, and Jack Herman, M.D. The result? See below.

UW Medicine magazine: What was it like in Colville?
Richard McLandress: Colville was a very small community in the early 1970s — maybe about 5,000 people. It was a lumber and mining town. There were five family docs and one surgeon, and they handled all the medical care. There was no emergency air transport, and those doctors could do unbelievable things in the ER.

UWM: How was your experience at the hospital?
RM: I lived in a small room right next to the ER. Mount Carmel was run by Catholic nuns — one administrator, one nurse anesthetist and one nun who directed the lab. I was inspired by them; they were totally committed to service. And being at Mount Carmel was an immersion in old-time medicine. I spent two summers doing everything with Dr. Herman and Dr. Gray. After my first summer, I had delivered 10 babies. It was an amazing time.

UWM: How do you feel about small planes?
RM: Well, I spent a lot of time in a Cessna 150. Dr. Gore and I flew from Boeing Field to Colville and back again numerous times. But one day we ran into bad weather, so we turned around. Unfortunately, the instruments had gone offline, so the air control guy told us to fly around until we saw a break in the clouds. We flew in circles for an hour. It was scary; we were both watching the gas tank. Eventually, we found a break and dropped through the sky. By the time we landed, I was pretty much done with flying in the Cessna.

UWM: Now that you’re a preceptor, what do you try to teach your residents?
RM: A few things. The first is the value in knowing your patients. If you know them and their families, you can provide better treatment when they have serious medical issues. Secondly, I’ve seen doctors who literally burn out because they forget about the importance of vacation, family, time away from medicine. So work-life balance is really important. Dr. Gray and Dr. Herman also taught me that doctors have to commit to lifelong learning. Medicine’s constantly changing, and being a clinician-teacher pretty much guarantees that you’re a lifelong learner. So my colleagues and I are working together to develop a new family medicine residency in the Kootenai-Coeur d’Alene area. Not only will this expand the School’s Family Medicine Residency Network, but it will help us respond to the shortage of physicians working in the field.\

UWM: Do you have a WWAMI hero?
RM: Dr. Philips was one. He loved his practice in Alaska, but he moved to Seattle to create the Department of Family Medicine. He saw the need to train family doctors, and I think he showed all of us, by example, that it was possible to be a really good generalist. I really admired Dr. Gray, too. I saw Ed save people’s lives in the ER in Colville, and he is the epitome of a well-trained, committed doctor.

Saving Lives With WWAMI

NASA astronaut Yvonne D. Cagle, M.D. ’85, reflects on how WWAMI supported her career.

The WWAMI program was pivotal in equipping me for my ultimate career in remote medical operations — initially as an Air Force flight surgeon and currently as a NASA astronaut. Enlightening WWAMI training experiences in Alaska in ob-gyn introduced me to critical strategies and the innovative thought required to access and deliver health rescue and care under remote conditions with limited resources. Applying vital principles of triage, stabilization and transport learned and refined during my WWAMI clerkship were instrumental time and time again for me throughout my career — in saving lives and in preparing medical checklists and kits crucial to enabling the deployment and administration of preventive health-care measures and interventions.

Medicine in a Struggling Economy

Catherine Delostrinos, M.D. ’09, pediatrics resident, practices medicine outside the clinic.

I have spent many months on various WWAMI rotations as a student, but nothing compares to the two months I was able to spend as a pediatrics resident in Sandpoint, Idaho. It was a beautiful place to live and an amazing place to learn and practice pediatrics.

My favorite memory of Sandpoint happened on a Saturday afternoon as I walked home from a full day of seeing patients in clinic. I was walking on the main street when suddenly a truck parked right beside me, and a man came out and walked up to me. At first I was a little startled, but I recognized him as the father of one of the patients I had seen that morning, and the toddler staring out of the back window confirmed it.

The father apologized for approaching me, knowing that I was off work, but he had just spent two hours at the pharmacy and had not been able to pick up the prescriptions I had written for his son because his insurance did not cover prescriptions. He asked if I could call in alternative prescriptions that he could afford. Without hesitation, I called the pharmacy, and we were able to get more affordable medicines. He drove away, all three of us with smiles on our faces.

This was such a great lesson for me to learn. It opened my eyes to the sacrifices families must make in this struggling economy and made me more mindful in my medical decision-making. I could only have had this kind of experience in a small town like Sandpoint.