Wenatchee Hematology and Oncology rotation combines high yield clinical situations with meaningful patient and provider relationships, in the unbridled bucolic beauty of Eastern Washington…

In academia, as a trainee, you are often the workhorse, the throughput machine of the hospital, and frankly the work hours and the poor compensation are maddening. Coming to a community program that hasn’t been designed to extract the maximum amount of labor from you for the gains of the institution is very refreshing. You are able to interact with patients in a way that buttresses the specialty knowledge of the providers, and because they only intermittently have residents, they find ways of fitting teaching in in a more organic way–perhaps over the course of a car ride together from a clinical site? The patient population is largely working class whites and hispanics, and there is more conservatism and religion present in the lives of patients here (Trump campaign posters abound!), another welcome contrast to our experiences in Seattle. The work hours are not yoked to the hours that the attendings keep, and are likely, in fact, less. It’s generally bankers hours, from around 8am to 6pm, with weekends free to explore the wonderful outdoors. Coming in June, trail running was possible every day after work, with the sunlight being available as a crepuscular glow to guide your feetsies til around 9:30pm. On the weekends, well, I felt very much at home in Leavenworth’s access to the Cascades at the Bridge Creek campsite, of which there is an offshoot of free camping that is frequented by the “dirtbag” climbing community–those who travel around America without jobs, cutting corners in life, for the sake of climbing. How refreshing it is to drink from that common wellspring, the quest for the stoke, the great outdoors!

The hospital here paid for a sick pad for me to crash for the month, a mother in law apartment that I would basically just rip guitar tabs out of while enjoying not being exhausted all the time.

We took trips various weeks to an outlying clinic in Moses Lake, which reminded me of my trips to the rural communities in Bolivia and Uganda. Examining the hands of patients here, sometimes with palm hides as thick as catchers mitts, from the work and toil in the orchards, was a thing of beauty, just as much as the cherries and apples that they delivered to us were. Above all, helping patients understand, plan, and cope with cancer and its accompanying freight was enormously rewarding.

Did I climb a lot? Yes. Did I poach the Enchantments? Yes. Was it hot and sunny the whole time? Yes. But the most rewarding thing, as it is wherever you find yourself as a physician, was the patients, with whom you can be intimate with in a way that so few get to be, in helping them fight illness and deal with the grief the world throws our way…

Hit me up if you’re headed out this way–I have lots more to tell you!

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