Alumni and Student Updates

The Alumni Survey: Results and Next Steps

The UW School of Medicine’s Alumni Task Force conducted a survey of alumni in late 2012. Its goal was to better understand what services the alumni association should provide and how alumni want to be engaged with one another and current students.

We received 539 responses and invaluable feedback. The next step? Focus groups to gather more in-depth commentary — then a presentation of the conclusions at the board meeting held on June 1 during reunion weekend.

View the survey results »

Our Students: Serving on MLK Day

Our Students: Serving on MLK Day

Tired, dirty and happy, the volunteers at Hammond House Women’s Shelter included (L to R): medical students Emanuel Eguia, Mary Eguia, Anna Ohlsson and Kate Arbon; Sarah Rothschild, alumni relations director, standing behind Arbon; Zhi Lin Huang and her mother, Mu Yi Zhang, a School of Social Work student; medical student Dallin Andersen; and two friends of the Eguias: Steven Lashley and Megan Lashley.
Photo courtesy of Hammond House

When is free time really valuable? When it’s donated to a great cause! On the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on January 21, more than 100 health sciences students, family members and friends turned out for a day of service. The volunteers coordinated art projects with young patients at Seattle Children’s and did some deep cleaning at YouthCare’s Orion Center, among other projects.

More than 320 “health sciences” hours were donated for the MLK Day of Service, a partnership between the University of Washington’s Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center and United Way of King County. Anyone can join, and if you’re interested in next year’s service projects, save the date of Jan. 20, 2014, and contact Lauren Henricksen at or 206.685.2009 for more information.

Alumna Is Changing Our Approach to Ovarian Cancer

What if ovarian cancer doesn’t actually start in the ovaries? This is the question Elizabeth Swisher, M.D., Res. ’93, began to ask while caring for women at high risk for developing the disease. Though her patients had normal cancer screening results prior to receiving preventive surgery for ovarian cancer, Swisher noticed a pattern: many of these women still had early signs of cancer, but in the fallopian tube, rather than the ovary.

“Without a clear understanding of how the disease develops, it’s difficult to screen or treat it,” says Swisher, a UW professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and adjunct professor of medicine in the Division of Medical Genetics. “Research can lead to improved prevention and treatment strategies by providing a window into how cancer develops at earlier stages.”

Ovarian cancer is an insidious disease. Its symptoms tend to mirror those of other common conditions, and screenings are ineffective. Most women are not diagnosed until the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, so it’s no surprise that ovarian cancer has the highest mortality rate of cancers affecting the female reproductive system.

The goal of Dr. Swisher’s research is not only to understand where ovarian cancer starts — in the fallopian tubes for some women — but also how one kind of tumor differs from another. Recently, she discovered that 25 percent of ovarian carcinomas have genetic roots — previously, researchers thought only 10 percent of ovarian cancers were family linked.

Swisher’s discoveries prompted the Department of Defense and the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation to award her three grants, totaling $2.6 million, to research genetic alterations in ovarian carcinomas. “Though each type of genetic alteration is rare, together they explain a large fraction of ovarian cancer. Understanding each one will help us personalize therapy and improve cure rates,” says Swisher.

Medex Graduates Recognized For Excellence

MEDEX Northwest and the Washington Academy of Physician Assistants (WAPA) held their annual Alumni Award Reception in the Seattle area in January. MEDEX faculty presented awards to the distinguished alumni listed below — many congratulations on this recognition.

Lifetime Achievement Award
MEDEX Seattle faculty member Lois Thetford, PA-C (Seattle Class 14)

Humanitarian Service Award
F. J. (Gino) Gianola, PA-C (Seattle Class 8)

Outstanding Preceptor Award
Corey Hatfield, PA-C (Seattle Class 34)

Excellence in Teaching Award
MEDEX Spokane site faculty member T. J. Byrne, M.A., PA-C

Medex Graduates Recognized For Excellence

The reception also included another round of awards (see photo). Ruth Ballweg, MPA, PA-C (Seattle Class 11) and MEDEX Northwest section chief, awarded the Future of MEDEX Award to six outstanding graduates. From left to right: Stephanie Rubright, MCHS, PA-C (Spokane Class 14), Ahna Patterson, MCHS, PA-C (Spokane Class 14), Christine Mikhael, MCHS, PA-C (Seattle Class 44), Stephanie Rubright’s mother, who became a mother to the entire group, Ruth Ballweg, Wendy Monteon, MCHS, PA-C (Seattle Class 44), Karla Rugamas, MCHS, PA-C (Spokane Class 14) and Maurice (Tony) Adkins, MCHS, PA-C (Spokane Class 14).

Photo courtsey of MEDEX Northwest

Women: Moving Ahead in Residency

Every two years, the American Association for Medical Colleges releases a snapshot that reviews the presence of female students, residents, faculty and administrative leaders in U.S. academic medicine and science. The 2011–2012 version was issued last fall, and the UW School of Medicine’s Graduate Medical Education office reports that the School has made gains on the residency front.

In 2001, 39 percent of the trainees in the School’s residency programs were women; in 2011, the number jumped to 48 percent, two percentage points ahead of the national average.

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