Welcome to Your Calling

Students from the WWAMI Idaho program, wearing their brand-new stethoscopes.

In touching ceremonies across the WWAMI region, the 240 students in this year’s entering class received their first stethoscopes, a gift from the UW School of Medicine Alumni Association. Alumni volunteers from 20 classes ranging from 1954 to 2013 were on hand at each site to make the presentation.

In Seattle, Estell Williams, M.D. ’13, spoke about her journey to medical school, the strength of the alumni community and the important role physicians play in their communities. “The stethoscope is a symbol to everyone of who you are and what you do. Being a physician is a privilege and should be a source of joy and profound satisfaction,” said Williams. “If you lose sight of that, it becomes merely a job. If you don’t lose sight, it’s a calling. Welcome to your calling.”

For one student, receiving a stethoscope was a family affair. Scott Kirkpatrick received his stethoscope from his father, Richard Kirkpatrick, M.D., ’72; his uncle John Kirkpatrick, M.D. ’73, also participated in the ceremony. “Having my dad present me with a stethoscope is a moment I will remember forever,” said Scott.

The younger Kirkpatrick is enjoying school and is impressed by his classmates. “Students are constantly going above and beyond to help others succeed. This has allowed me to learn more than I could have imagined in such a short time,” says Kirkpatrick. He’s also making sure to follow the advice — “study hard, have fun, and go to Husky football games” — given him by his dad and uncle.

Our Alumni Volunteers

Thanks to the alumni who participated in stethoscope ceremonies across WWAMI.

Anchorage, Alaska
Barbara Doty, M.D. ’82

Boise, Idaho
Mary Barinaga, M.D. ’95, Res. ’98 (family medicine)
Anne Eacker, M.D. ’97, Chief Res. ’01 (internal medicine)
Linda Fearn, M.D. ’83

Bozeman, Montana
Patrick Holland, M.D. ’76
Leslee Kane, M.D. ’07

Seattle, Wash.
Mary Bach, M.D. ’07
Tinsley Coble, M.D. ’94, Res. ’95 (obstetrics and gynecology), Res. ’97 (internal medicine)
Anne Eacker, M.D. ’97, Chief Res. ’01 (internal medicine)
John Kirkpatrick, M.D. ’73
Richard Kirkpatrick, M.D. ’72
Henry Kuharic, M.D. ’54
Raymond Vath, M.D. ’65
Estell Williams, M.D. ’13

Spokane, Wash.
Matt Hollon, M.D. ’93, Res. ’97
Geoff Jones, M.D. ’96
John F. McCarthy, M.D. ’90, Res. ’92

Laramie, Wyo.
Amanda Johnson, M.D. ’03
Mark McKenna, M.D. ’05
Kim Westbrook, M.D. ’10


From left: Ted Epperly, M.D. ‘80, George Ojemann, M.D., Res. ‘84, Erik Van Eaton, M.D .’01, Res. ‘08, Fel. ‘09, and Matt Oliva, M.D. ‘99, Res. ‘03.

Revered by their peers as innovators, leaders, researchers, teachers and compassionate physicians, four distinguished alumni received awards from the UW School of Medicine Alumni Association during Reunion Weekend, June 2014.

2014 Distinguished Alumni Award: George Ojemann, M.D., Res. ’64
Ojemann, a UW emeritus faculty member, is a leader in the fields of neurological surgery and the neurosciences and was recognized for his career long commitment to research and teaching. In the 1960s, Ojemann resurrected an electric simulation mapping technique for cortical localization that had been developed in the 1940s but had fallen out of use. It’s now the gold standard for planning cortical resections for epilepsy and brain tumors. Through his research, teaching and care, he has improved the lives of countless patients.

Alumni Humanitarian Award: Matthew Oliva, M.D. ’99, Res. ’03
Oliva, who maintains a private practice in southern Oregon, was recognized for his commitment to eradicating blindness worldwide. As a lead collaborator with the Himalayan Cataract Project, Oliva has completed thousands of sight-restoring cataract surgeries. He credits WWAMI for his interest in treating people in rural and underserved communities.

Alumni Early Achievement Award: Erik Van Eaton, M.D. ’01, Res. ’08, Fel. ’09
Van Eaton, a UW faculty member and a trauma surgeon at Harborview Medical Center and UW Medical Center, is also an entrepreneur and inventor. He is committed to improving patient care through efficiency, better communication and stronger resources for physicians. Van Eaton has developed two software programs: UWCores, which helps improve the patient handoff process in team care, and OCCAM (Online Clinical Care Algorithms and Messages), a system that can house all pharmaceutical information for a hospital or healthcare system.

Alumni Service Award: Ted Epperly, M.D. ’80
Epperly, president and chief executive officer for the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho, was recognized for his leadership within the WWAMI program and for his advocacy for increasing access to high-quality care in Idaho. On the national stage, Epperly has been instrumental in the development of the Affordable Care Act and has met with President Obama and Congress numerous times.

We also congratulate Ed Lopez, PA-C (Seattle Class 15), honored by MEDEX Northwest with their Lifetime Achievement Award. Lopez founded a physician assistant cardiac surgery business, helping numerous individuals in Washington launch careers in cardiology.


Q & A With Resident Jack Sychev, M.D.

When did you decide to pursue ophthalmology?
Pretty early in medical school. It’s hard to explain, but everyone folds into a certain niche where they feel
comfortable. Also, you can see your diagnosis: you can take a look at the eye and often see what the problem is. The instruments we use are interesting, too. Very precise.

Why are you focusing on the retina?
The retina is probably the most interesting part of the eye. Once you have some appreciation for it, you start looking at it in a different light.

Tell me about your year away from medical school.
I wanted to take a year off medical school to do research; at the time, I was at Washington University in St. Louis. When I emailed Dr. Van Gelder [the director of the UW Medicine Eye Institute], he told me about a few projects. I chose one that I thought was unique and very novel — I was helping test a chemical on the retina of blind mice. We hoped that they would react to light after being treated, and it worked! I think it’s a very elegant solution, too.

What is your residency like?
I’m at the VA hospital, and I’m enjoying working with the veterans. It’s my fourth year, so I’m doing more surgeries. It’s exciting.

Why are you enjoying working with the veterans?
I’m working with a lot of vets from the Vietnam era, and they have a certain approach to life. They have a lot of resolve. You tell them about surgery, and they say, “ok, well, let’s just do it.”

What’s next?
I want to do retinal surgery. I’d also like to do a fellowship, and I have to find a research project and a mentor. I’d love to stay here, but you have to go where your path takes you.


Julien Pham, M.D. ’04

Julien Pham, M.D. ’04, is a nephrologist, but some of his most influential work includes the development of technology platforms. His latest venture is called RubiconMD. “What started as traditional telemedicine — linking patients to medical experts — evolved into a user-friendly platform,” says Pham. “RubiconMD allows primary-care physicians to ask specialists around the country simple questions about symptoms and medications, and they receive answers within a few hours.”

The data show that RubiconMD, operating in eight states, is working. “Thirty percent of the time, physicians don’t need to make a referral to another doctor,” Pham says. “For an additional 40 percent of cases, we optimize the referral, ensuring the patient sees the right specialist with the right set of studies and labs.”

Another mark of success: the nearly 100 primary-care physicians who use RubiconMD are reporting better physician-patient experiences, and 70 specialists are requesting more consulting opportunities.

Erik Moen, P.T. ’92

Mechanical harmony for bike and body: that’s the goal for Erik Moen, P.T. ’92, owner of Corpore Sano Physical Therapy and founder of BikePT.

A physical therapist specializing in injury recovery and performance, Moen founded BikePT to help physical therapists and bicyclists make smart equipment choices, better understand musculoskeletal tolerances and learn the rules of bicycle positioning. “There are more than 44 million bicyclists in the U.S. who ride their bikes at least six times per year. It’s critical for the bike and the body to be working well together,” says Moen.

As a nationally known leader in bicycle biomechanics and bicycle fitting, Moen works with all bicyclists: those new to the sport, professionals, Paralympic athletes. “Working with bicyclists, my job is to be the sleuth, to determine why an athlete has become injured and provide effective plans for care and return to sport,” he says.

One of his most rewarding experiences was helping a man whose hamstrings and common peroneal nerve had been lacerated in a bicycle crash while in the French Alps. “After a long and arduous rehabilitation process, we got him back biking and running,” says Moen. “Just two years after this major accident, we entered a race together.”

Alice Burden, PA-C (Seattle Class 41)

What compels a research scientist to enter the world of healthcare? Experience and inspiration. “I grew up on San Juan Island and witnessed the difficulties of a community that had more medical needs than resources,” says Alice Burden, PA-C (Seattle Class 41).

Burden, who studied fragile X syndrome, was also a former emergency medical technician and a volunteer at Harborview Medical Center. She knew she liked healthcare. “Becoming a PA seemed like the perfect way to return to my passion for providing quality care to underserved communities,” she says.

Today, Burden is a primary-care provider at Community Health Center of Snohomish County. “Small victories, like helping a diabetic patient keep their blood glucose under control, or watching a patient with depression get back to work,” says Burden, “these things make my job rewarding.”

Burden’s busy: taking care of patients, serving as a preceptor and putting in many grueling hours as an elite athlete. She finished her second IRONMAN triathlon in Whistler, B.C., this summer. “I like to say I’m living the MEDEX dream,” says Burden.