Growing Up Strong

Lily Chavez’s life began in dramatic fashion: with blood on the brain and meconium in her system. The newborn’s need for care was so acute that her mother, Tristan Chavez, hadn’t even seen her daughter; the baby had been whisked away for pickup by Airlift Northwest.

Airlift is UW Medicine’s flying ICU, capable of transporting very sick people to hospitals offering the right level of care. They’re also very capable of something else: compassion. Before leaving the hospital, crew members learned that Chavez hadn’t yet seen her baby, and they sped back to her room for a moment’s connection between mother and child.

“Of course, they couldn’t take her out of her incubator,” says Chavez. “But they opened the little slide door so I could at least touch her tiny hand.”

Lily was flown from Bremerton, where she was born, to Madigan Army Medical Center, where she was treated in the neonatal intensive care unit. Today, she’s 5, going on 6. She loves sharks, gymnastics and kites, and when she grows up, she wants to be a helicopter pilot or a firefighter.

“We’ve seen Airlift Northwest helicopters a couple of times,” says Chavez. “I tell her they helped save her life. I don’t know what would have happened if they hadn’t been there.”

Your Smartphone Will See You Now

What if mental-health support were as close as your phone? For those living with serious mental illnesses — such as psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder or depression — a new smartphone app called FOCUS could help. Several times each day, the app prompts the user to check in. If they are experiencing symptoms, it will ask them questions and guide them to audio or video interventions, such as breathing exercises or relaxation techniques. Users can also launch the app whenever needed. Dror Ben-Zeev, Ph.D., UW professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and the app’s developer, sees FOCUS as a valuable therapeutic intervention. And early users agree: A three-year study found high satisfaction ratings and significant reductions in symptoms. The next step, conducted by UW Medicine’s Behavioral Research in Technology and Engineering (BRiTE) Center, is an implementation study involving 20 community health centers throughout Washington state.

Eye Disease and Alzheimer’s

There’s a significant link between three degenerative eye diseases — age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma — and Alzheimer’s disease. This finding, part of a study conducted by researchers from UW Medicine, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Institute and the UW School of Nursing, was recently published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. It tracked nearly 4,000 patients over five years, finding that patients with these eye conditions had a 40 to 50 percent greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

A Helping Heart

Shoulder pain, nausea, tightness in his chest. “If it weren’t for the fact that I’m not sweating,” thought Collin Hathaway, “I’d think I was having a heart attack.”

As if on cue, the sweat started just a moment later.

Not long after that, Hathaway was in the operating room at UW Medical Center, receiving a stent implant from James McCabe, M.D., UW assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology. As his health improved, Hathaway got to know McCabe — and became interested in his research, which includes understanding care disparities among hospitals and health systems.

“If your mom has a serious health problem, is her care dictated by which hospital the ambulance brings her to and which doctor happens to be on duty that day, or is it uniform and structured?” asks McCabe. “It’s a scary thought that your loved one’s care — or even survival — may be influenced by chance.”

The research appealed to Hathaway, and he and his wife, Erin, made a gift to the Division of Cardiology. He also joined UW Medicine’s Heart Health Campaign Council, a group of people who help generate support for UW Medicine. And Hathaway is keeping up his end of the conversation with McCabe about his health and his kids’ futures. That’s because the condition that caused his heart attack — familial hypercholesterolemia — is genetic. This involvement, says McCabe, speaks to a trend in medicine.

“Our younger patients like to do their own legwork and research; they want to be informed and have longitudinal discussions,” says McCabe. “We want to connect with them as we design the future of cardiovascular health care in our region.”

Need Global Health Data? Turn to Seattle.

Global health data will never be the same: In May 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UW Medicine’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) announced a formal collaboration to increase awareness of global health problems. Among other projects, the organizations will work together on the annual Global Burden of Disease study, the largest, most comprehensive effort to measure health worldwide. “By integrating our two organizations’ knowledge and expertise, we are embarking on an unprecedented and unparalleled journey to improve health systems and, in turn, the health and well-being of people throughout the world,” says Christopher Murray, M.D., D.Phil., director of IHME.

Using Genes to Go Back in Time

“I like that you can use genetic data to answer seemingly unknowable questions about past events,” says Sara Drescher, a UW School of Medicine student and newly awarded Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) research fellow. “Who infected who? Where did this viral strain originate? When was this patient infected? It has a flavor of detective work or mystery-solving that I find very exciting.”

Drescher is one of only 66 medical and veterinary students from across the country to receive a $43,000 HHMI fellowship. She and her colleagues explore high-impact research projects with their mentors, and this fall, Drescher is taking a year off from medical school to join Jesse Bloom, Ph.D., and his lab at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to investigate how the HIV virus accumulates mutations as a population grows.

“If you are able to estimate the rate at which those mutations accumulate, this information can be used to determine when an infection first occurred,” Drescher says. Her project will use this method, known as molecular clock theory, to determine exactly when HIV infection occurs in infants — in utero, during the birth process or afterwards via breast milk.

Your Generosity


and organizations gave to UW Medicine.


is an incredible outpouring of generosity.


benefited from your thoughtful support.

July 1, 2010–Sept. 30, 2018

Good Numbers

For the seventh consecutive year, UW Medical Center earned both the No. 1 hospital ranking in Washington state and in the Seattle metropolitan area in U.S. News & World Report’s annual “best hospitals” issue.

Learn More Learn more about the rankings and how they are determined.