Dr. Wendell Patrick Fleet passed away on February 28, 2019. He had been a faculty member in the Department of Medicine for nearly 50 years.
Dr. Fleet received his medical degree from Creighton University in Nebraska in 1965. Following residency and one year as a nephrology fellow at the University of Washington, he served as chief resident at the U.S. Public Health Hospital in Seattle.
First appointed to the faculty at the University of Washington in 1971 as an instructor, he rose through the ranks to professor in 2005 and was appointed professor emeritus in 2013.
Throughout his career, Dr. Fleet made significant contributions to the clinical programs at Harborview Medical Center. He had wide-ranging roles as a clinician and educator over the years, from attending on Medicine Wards, ICU, Adult Medicine, and Renal Clinics. His voice, humor, and clinical insight were session highlights at Morning Report and departmental teaching conferences.
For the 10 years (1972-82) the Walk-in Clinic at HMC existed, Dr. Fleet administered the clinic, trained and supervised the nurse practitioners, and saw patients several days a week.
"He was well matched to Harborview where our hospital’s mission and Pat’s own personal ethic were in perfect alignment," said Dr. Robert Harrington, Interim Harborview Service Chief. "He was a humanitarian first; and then an astute, creative, hilarious, humble and masterful clinician who understood the value of knowing his patients' circumstances as well as knowing their illnesses."
Dr. Fleet’s impact on medical students and residents and his relationship with his patients were extraordinary. He was known for taking some of the toughest cases, including patients fired by other doctors because they were too threatening or manipulative or even violent. "It was amazing to watch Dr. Fleet care for these people and make sure they got very good health care," said former HMC physician Audrey Young. In 1986, he took leave from the University of Washington to spend time at the Universidad National Autonomia de Nicaragua in Managua, Nicaragua.
"Pat’s influence as a teacher and as a role model for all of us cannot be overstated," said Harrington. "He was a splendid teacher who answered your questions before you knew you had them and then left you with a historical (and often hysterical) quip so that you never forgot the point."
Echoing that sentiment, Interim Department Chair Dr. Virginia Broudy shared one of her favorite quotes by Dr. Fleet:
"Patients lie. Nurses lie. Doctors lie. But urine ... urine never lies."
Dr. Fleet was the quintessential clinical teacher. He was a past recipient of the Residents' Award for Teaching Excellence, the School of Medicine Teacher of the Year Award, the Marvin Turck Award, and the Beeson Award.
In 1998, he received the James D. Haviland Award for Outstanding Achievement in Nephrology for his contributions to the care of kidney patients and to the Northwest Kidney Center. He was among the first recipients of the School of Medicine Service Excellence Award and was honored for his exemplary service as a physician-educator and commitment to the mission of the School.
"He was the best doctor and teacher many of us feel we'll ever see," said Dr. John Sheffield. "His humanism, clinical judgment and integrity were inspirational. He was just a wonderful human."
A former Nephrology Division Head once wrote about him:
"If the best philosophy classroom is Socrates on the other end of a log, maybe the best medical classroom is Pat Fleet at the end of the bed."