When they were young, Donald R. Chisholm’s four children had a movie they liked to watch together. It wasn’t Disney, or a holiday special. It was a video of the C-section birth of the two youngest siblings, twins Hillary and Sarah.
“It was our favorite movie — the gory, bloody delivery of my sisters,” says Alison, the oldest, with a laugh. “It was definitely a different kind of family experience.”
At the time, the four children — the three girls, plus one son, Tyler — didn’t think much about it. It was simply part of their family’s culture. Their father, a 1979 graduate of the UW School of Medicine, is a respected family medicine physician in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Their mother, Robin, a former pre-med student herself, grew up with a physician as a father, and taught high-school biology and chemistry. The kids occasionally accompanied their dad on rounds and frequently ate dinner in the hospital cafeteria.
People often stopped them on the street to praise their dad. “We grew up believing that medicine would be a great thing to go into,” says Hillary. “Our father was clearly making a difference in the lives of the people around us.”
And one by one, they all decided to become doctors. With their father and grandfather as models and a shared interest in working with underserved populations, the choice of attending the UW School of Medicine — through the WWAMI program in Idaho — wasn’t difficult.
“I knew I wanted to return to Idaho and work in a rural area, so WWAMI was ideal,” says Alison. She recently started practicing ophthalmology in Coeur d’Alene. “WWAMI gives you grounding in real-life medicine rather than an ivory-tower experience.”
Although Don wasn’t part of the WWAMI-Idaho contingent, he’s pleased that his children have had that experience. “Clinical rotations [through WWAMI] give you critical exposure in the clinic, the operating room and other areas of training,” he says.