A Half-century With Harborview

Neil Duncanson, M.D., Res. ’61, FAAP

A good listener. That’s a quality that came in handy for alumnus Neil Duncanson, M.D., Res. ’61 (pediatrics), FAAP, who spent much of his career treating children — and much of it teaching medical students.

Duncanson is a graduate of the University of Washington, and while he left Seattle to attend the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle Children’s and UW Medicine drew him back for a residency in pediatrics. “Harborview was an intern’s hospital in the sense that we interns were the primary doctors,” says Duncanson. “We made admissions, and we diagnosed and treated patients. Residents and attending physicians were the consultants. Harborview’s rotating internship was highly sought-after.”

He left again — for a stint in the U.S. Army Medical Corps — but he came back to UW Medicine as the assistant director of the birth defects program in 1963 and as an attending physician at Harborview. Even after going into private practice in Burien in 1968, Duncanson maintained a connection with Harborview as a preceptor at the pediatric outpatient clinic. He enjoyed emphasizing some of the more practical aspects of being a pediatrician, from how to hold an infant during a physical exam to how to gauge a baby’s developmental age with a tongue depressor.

Still, he learned as much from his students as they did from him. “Teaching made me keep up,” says Duncanson. “When you teach or precept, you have to be up to date and stay on your toes.” Now planning to retire, Duncanson will spend more time with his family. But the nearly six-decade relationship with Harborview was something special. “It’s been a great ride, and I’ve enjoyed it all,” he says.

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