The place where medical student Sierra McCreery grew up, Twin Falls, Idaho, is surrounded by miles of farm country. As a phlebotomist at the local hospital, McCreery noticed that rural patients would delay getting care — and the accompanying 30- or 40-mile drive — until their condition required emergency treatment.
“If there were just one doctor willing to work in that rural area,” says McCreery, “that kind of thing could have been avoided.”
It’s a familiar scenario to alumnus Lawrence L. Knight, M.D. ’58. A rancher’s son, he grew up in a small town in Idaho. He remembers physicians being overworked and spread too thin. “Appropriate access to medical care was hard to come by,” he says.
Knight, a pathologist, has spent a good part of his career trying to encourage physicians to practice in Idaho. For years, he was a preceptor for medical students and residents as part of the UW School of Medicine’s five-state WWAMI program — an educational system that trains students from the region for the region.
Not long ago, Knight and his wife, Kaye, made another commitment to students: they’ve decided to contribute part of their estate — their IRA account — to the University of Washington. Eventually, the IRA will create an endowed scholarship for medical students from Idaho.
“WWAMI has opened a remarkable opportunity to very committed, wellqualified Idaho students,” he says. “It’s been a huge benefit to our state and our region, because it’s been shown that a significant number of them return here to practice.”
McCreery certainly intends to, perhaps as a pediatrician. Now in her second year, she remembers working through college — and afterwards — to finance her education. As the recipient of a scholarship, she understands the value of the Knights’ contribution. “I come from a working-class family, and they can’t help me out,” she says. “The scholarship I’m given is such a gift.”
As for Knight, he feels a great deal of pleasure in leaving a legacy for students like McCreery. “A lot of people leave decision-making to their heirs,” he says. “I’d like to know a little ahead of time that what Kaye and I have worked for is going to something we care about.”