A View from the Chair

What a year it has been. In addition to being my first year, shortly after arriving in September of 2019 and settling into life here, a sequence of unprecedented events unfolded. As we were all presented with many unforeseen challenges, I am doubly excited to highlight some of the numerous accomplishments we achieved together over the past year, and our plans for the future.

Awards

Department faculty, trainees, students and staff received numerous honors, awards and special appointments over the past year, including national distinguished teaching awards, lifetime achievement awards and leadership awards and positions. Three faculty were elected to the American Association of Physicians and two to the American Society for Clinical Investigation. We also honored several faculty and trainees locally with UW, SOM and DOM awards.

Honoring our staff

We launched the staff spotlight series in March to highlight staff achievements, help our staff get to know each other and what we all do, and encourage engagement and camaraderie across the department. We also honored over 100 “legacy” staff" members who have worked at the UW for 20 or more years (as of 2020.) These staff bring a wealth of history, knowledge and dedication to our department, and showcase how this University and department are great places to work! 

Research achievements

Our faculty continue to attract funding from public and industry sources and to lead efforts in basic and translational research. Since September 2019, our researchers received over 800 new, continuing and supplemental grants, totaling over $250 million. We established the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Center for Transformative Research, Sepsis Center of Research Excellence, and Kenya Tuberculosis Research & Training Program. The UW Medicine Diabetes Institute opened, bringing together basic research, clinical care and translational research under one roof.

We created the DOM Diversity Academic Development Scholar Award to assist URM’s in their T/F to K transition or potentially in the K to R01 transition.

Patient care

The integration of Northwest Hospital into UW Medicine – which included transitioning 124 Physicians and Advanced Practice Professionals to UW/UWP employment, 56 into the Department of Medicine in six divisions – brought with it many new colleagues and opportunities to expand our clinical practices and culture.

In August, we launched the Kidney-Heart Service (KHS) at UWMC-Montlake. This new inpatient and outpatient consultation service will focus on specialized care of patients with concomitant kidney and heart disease.

Early in 2020, COVID-19 hit, and everything changed.

I am so proud of how our community united together to fight this pandemic. We are credited with first identifying its presence in Washington state and led the way through uncharted waters. We mobilized and came together as a Department and a community, and showed we can face an immense challenge. People from all over the world looked to us for guidance, and we provided it.

Volunteer teams tested staff and patients in local area nursing homes. We converted regular ambulatory visits to telehealth visits to not only serve the rapidly expanding patient population with COVID-19 but also to keep otherwise healthy patients away from the hospital and protect health care providers.

Sharing resources

Many of our doctors contributed to the UW Medicine COVID-19 Resource Site to share our protocols with colleagues around the world; we offered a primer to provide advice on how talk about difficult topics related to COVID-19, and created a plan to manage the increasing need for palliative care during a crisis. We are also part of the COVID-19 & Cancer Consortium (CCC19), a group of more than 30 cancer centers and organizations across the country working to understand the unique effects of COVID-19 on patients with cancer.

Researching a cure

Several of our faculty are researching a cure for COVID-19, including studying hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir, antibodies in survivor’s blood, monoclonal antibodies, and cancer-fighting NK-cells as an immunotherapy treatment for the coronavirus.

We also will be the site for one of the vaccine trials, spearheading efforts to prevent COVID-19.

Care and Share

We created a website to help match UW Medicine frontline employees with child care. This tool, which we called “care and share” garnered national attention and we had many other departments reach out to learn from us and adopt our strategies.

Education

All of our residency programs had successful matches and we welcomed 150 new clinical and research fellows.  Four residents matched into the newly created Physician Scientist Learning Pathway in our Seattle Internal Medicine Residency Program, which was very exciting and in line with our focus to create robust pathways.

Building on the success of our Visiting Scholars Program for medical students, we created the Visiting Resident Scholars Program, a funded program designed to give Internal Medicine Residents with a diverse background a chance to experience the training that the University of Washington Department of Medicine has to offer. Our first visiting resident, Tara Reid, subsequently matched into our Infectious Disease fellowship.

Our new Master of Science in Genetic Counseling (MSGC) program, set to start its first class in September 2021, received accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC).

Our Seattle Addiction Medicine Fellowship increased from 2 to 4 fellows, and we created a Boise Addiction Medicine Fellowship Program.

Recruitment

We are truly the academic leader in the region. In addition to taking exceptional care of patients, we are launching the next generation of caregivers and performing transformative medical research.

We also attract the most talented, mission-driven work force, which results in innovative patient-centered scientific discovery. I hope to continue to build on these strengths.

We hired two new division administrators: Sonja Stella in Medical Oncology and Kelly Uckun in Metabolism, Endocrinology and Nutrition, our first associate division head (Dr. Andrew White, General Internal Medicine) and we currently have searches open for several key leadership positions, including three new Division Heads (Gastroenterology, General Internal Medicine and Nephrology) and a vice chair of administration and finance.  

To be most effective, we also need to deliver culturally-sensitive care and understand and represent the population we are treating. We need to keep up with change of the population of our country and increase the recruitment, retention and advancement of staff, faculty, fellows and residents from groups under-represented in medicine and academia.

I plan to continue our efforts to increase and sustain a diverse faculty, and promote an inclusive environment across the department.

Culture

How we personally feel about the work we do is hugely important. Purpose and balance allow for long and productive careers. The degree of burnout in the medical field is alarming and proactively addressing burn out is the only way to long-standing academic success.

I want to create and sustain a joyful work environment that is reflective of our mission. I have worked hard to increase engagement and workplace morale and I have been so encouraged but many of you responding so positively. I much enjoy receiving personal feedback, a testament to faculty, trainees and staff engagement in our department’s future.

To that end, we have embarked on the first department-wide strategic plan since 2006. We are including all stakeholders of the department to collectively define success as well as priorities and outcomes. I am excited to spend much of the fall working with you on this important task.

Outreach

Getting to know our outstanding staff, faculty, trainees and students has been my priority right from the start. I held informal “meet and greets” at UWMC-Montlake, UWMC-Northwest, Harborview, South Lake Union, and the Seattle VA. I gave Medicine Grand Rounds, and posted on my blog about my hopes and goals for the future of the Department of Medicine.

Since the pandemic began in March of 2020, I have written a weekly email to all department employees (and one video message!) which allows all faculty and staff to directly engage with me.

I also was honored to personally thank all members of our faculty who worked in the ICU during COVID-19 for their selfless care.

Even though, or maybe because these are extraordinary and unprecedented times, I have seen the resilience, dedication, passion, and compassion in this department. There is such a commitment to excellence, which makes my role easy and full of joy.

I am so proud to be here with all of you, and thank you all so much for your support during my first year as your chair.