Doctors Making A Difference 2012

Doctors are a constant presence in our lives. Sometimes we develop long-lasting relationships that begin during childhood with a physician who cares for us into adulthood. Other doctors we only meet once during a time of critical need. Either way, our visits with them are usually brief, but their impact is lasting.

All doctors deserve credit for their daily contributions, but some go above and beyond. Their contributions are not only lasting, but literally life changing. For the fifth year, we requested nominations to recognize doctors who are always “on call” to make the world a better place. It is our privilege to present 425 magazine’s “Doctors Making a Difference” honorees.

Specialty: Family medicine, sports medicine
Where he’s making a difference: Overlake Medical Clinics Issaquah, Mt. Si High School

Dr. Steven Hughes has never been one to sit on the sidelines. As a young man he raced sports cars but hung up his helmet when a competitor bought his car. To fill the time, he began lending a helping hand to the racetrack physicians. They introduced him to the passion that still drives him today: medicine.

Sports medicine is a special interest for Hughes, a family practice physician and the associate medical director of primary care at Overlake Medical Clinics Issaquah. He also has volunteered at Mt. Si High School for more than 20 years as a team physician. During that time, he has overseen numerous sports, but is a guaranteed presence at every varsity football game.

“Athletics make a huge difference in these young men’s and women’s lives,” says Hughes. “I know some of these kids very well and about their family backgrounds. Some of them wouldn’t have completed high school without this (athletic) supervision and mentorship.”

About 10 years ago, Hughes helped develop a sports medicine curriculum at Mt. Si. The class fulfills a science requirement since students study anatomy, physiology and health care. Advanced students are trained to identify injuries and also work with the student athletes.

“A cool thing about the current athletic trainer (at Mt. Si) is that she was a student in the sports medicine class and went on to college, where she graduated with a degree in sports medicine and a masters in teaching. So, we grew our own trainer,” he says.

Hughes is passionate about preventative medicine both on and off the field. One of his proudest accomplishments has been his work through the Eastside Sports Advisory Committee to educate coaches, parents and players about concussion injuries.

“There is no medical test to prove that you have a concussion. It’s totally based on symptoms and history. If someone doesn’t know what to look for, people often don’t know and it makes players susceptible for repeat injuries,” explains Hughes. Concussions can result in learning and behavioral difficulties, partial paralysis and even death.

Hughes has taught and trained countless students to live healthier lives and their success is what matters most to him. “If I’m out and just walk into the QFC, people recognize me. You know that you’re part of a community and what you’ve done has been important.”

Specialty: Plastic surgery
Where she’s making a difference: Yarrow Bay Plastic Surgery

A steady hand is imperative to being a good surgeon, but compassion and a warm smile also are needed. Dr. Sarah McMillan has been a practicing plastic surgeon since 2006 and considers breast reconstruction to be a particularly rewarding aspect of her work.

“Specifically for breast-reconstruction patients, it’s rewarding to help them resume their normal activities and not to have to think about their breasts. The focus is no longer on that,” says McMillan.

A mastectomy, the surgical removal of a breast, is one form of breast cancer treatment. Surgical breast reconstruction recreates a breast through various techniques and varies depending on the patient’s needs. Annually, McMillan performs upward of 100 breast reconstructions.

“One of the most important things is to do an exceptional job with education,” she says. McMillan cites a report by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons which estimates that 70 percent of women who are eligible for reconstructive surgery are not fully informed of their options.

“It’s mind-boggling,” says McMillan. “I feel that surgeons on the Eastside and Seattle are doing a great job educating patients but, overall, things are still behind on letting women know this exists.”

Another critical component of education is devoting one-on-one time with patients. “It’s important for me to tell women realistically what can be achieved and to do it in a kind, caring manner,” says McMillan. A breast reconstruction is not always possible or sometimes it’s not wanted. In those cases, McMillan offers help in the form of scar revisions, removal of excess skin and more.

The daughter of a hospital nurse, McMillan frequently accompanied her mother to work and shadowed doctors to gain insight. Her medical training, in addition to an undergraduate degree in art history, is perhaps the perfect combination that allows her to see the bigger picture.

“I had one patient who hiked Machu Picchu (Peru) after her breast reconstruction,” says McMillan. “Making a difference in someone’s life, that’s super rewarding.”

Dr. William Crenshaw
Specialty: Vascular and Interventional Radiology
Where he’s making a difference: Overlake Hospital Medical Center, Bernard Mevs Project Medishare Hospital in Haiti

The courage displayed in Hollywood disaster movies pales in comparison to the real-life heroics of Dr. Bill Crenshaw. Crenshaw, a Puget Sound native, is co-director of vascular and interventional radiology at Overlake Hospital Medical Center. In his free time, Crenshaw saves the world – one person at a time – through his volunteer work in Haiti.

The catastrophic January 2010 earthquake in Haiti killed hundreds of thousands and left just as many critically injured. Crenshaw wanted to help and contacted Medishare, an organization founded in 1994 to address Haiti’s medical needs. Medishare was mobilizing medical professionals to volunteer. He arrived in Haiti with his wife in March 2010 for his first weeklong stay.

“People worked nearly around the clock treating patients in makeshift tents. It was chaos,” recalls Crenshaw. To corral the chaos, Crenshaw was appointed to oversee operations.

Crenshaw’s boots-on-the-ground dedication has remained constant. After the initial disaster, Medishare recognized Haiti’s continuing need for a critical-care facility. They partnered with an existing hospital, Bernard Mevs, and Crenshaw was appointed chief medical officer. The 50-bed hospital now has three operating rooms, a spinal unit and a pediatric ward. Over 50,000 patients have been treated in the last eight months.

“It’s like having a 50-bed hospital to serve the greater Seattle area,” says Crenshaw.

He visits Haiti every three months and his current focus is on training. “Our ultimate goal is to train native Haitians to be the healthcare providers,” he says. He also continues work to equip the hospital – a hands-on endeavor. To ensure that a digital x-ray machine arrived safely, he enlisted 27 volunteers who each carried two suitcases filled with the machine’s components.

While he inspires those abroad, Crenshaw’s example resounds at home, too. He was inspired to pursue medicine by his father. And now Crenshaw’s eldest daughter, who recently accompanied her parents to Haiti, now wants to study medicine and to continue the family legacy of saving the world one patient at a time.

Specialty: Pediatric electrophysiologist
Where he’s making a difference: Seattle Children’s Hospital Bellevue Clinic and Surgery Center, University of Washington School of Medicine

Dr. Jack Salerno is all heart. At home, the father of three is frequently found playing Legos. At work, his big-hearted love for kids is just as obvious. At Seattle Children’s Hospital Bellevue Clinic, he has been singled out as “the fun doctor” thanks to his quick laugh and ready smile.

“I enjoy being with kids because there is more humor and fun in pediatric medicine,” says Salerno.

Of course, his heart expertise also has a clinical side. As a pediatric electrophysiologist, Salerno specializes in heart issues such as arrhythmia and the causes of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in children. The Nick of Time Foundation, a Mill Creek-based organization, works to educate the public about SCA. They enlisted Salerno’s help and, two years ago, began offering SCA screenings to identify young people potentially at risk.

Screenings are held once every few months at area high schools. Salerno has been at every event since the beginning.

“We review the personal histories and physicals provided in advance. Then the kids get an EKG (electrocardiogram). If we find an abnormality, they also get an echocardiogram and then follow up with their physician and probably a cardiologist,” explains Salerno. Each event serves an average of 300 to 500 students.

Student athletes are a primary population who need SCA screening since exercise can trigger a previously-undiagnosed condition.
For Salerno, helping children live healthy, happy lives is the best reward of all. “I think working with kids is one of the best things you can do,” he says.

Specialty: Emergency medicine/family medicine
Where he’s making a difference: Swedish Medical Center Issaquah/Sammamish

It may be entertaining to watch George Clooney race around a fictional ER, but real-life emergencies are rarely resolved in an hour. Dr. Joel Wasserman, senior medical director for Swedish Medical Center’s freestanding emergency departments, is a leader in creating ER models that offer high-quality care with less drama.

“The average emergency room is bursting at the seams with patients sometimes waiting four to six hours,” says Wasserman, who is also chief of clinical operations at Swedish Issaquah. “Building more ERs right now is serving our communities and helping to provide high-quality care.”

Wasserman views independent emergency departments (ED) as an innovative approach toward better serving patients. Traditional ERs are attached to hospitals and a new facility can cost hundreds of millions. In comparison, an ED is a fraction of the cost, which potentially means more locations and better access for outlying areas.

“Nationally, an average of only 20 percent of patients who visit an ER end up staying in a hospital — 80 percent just go home. Most people just need an urgent problem evaluated and treated,” says Wasserman.

A hands-on doctor, Wasserman never loses sight of what inspired him to pursue medicine. “My family came from a tradition of service,” says Wasserman, whose father was a medical school teacher and mother worked with charities. “In the ER, sometimes you save a life or you fix a broken bone and both are hugely rewarding. Any day when somebody is better off after their visit is a great day,” he says.

Swedish’s Lake Sammamish (formerly Issaquah) freestanding ED and ambulatory care center (ACC) was the first in the region when it opened in 2005, and Wasserman has been there since day one. It was so successful that additional locations in Mill Creek and Redmond have opened in the past few years. Wasserman was instrumental in overseeing their development.

“It’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever been involved with,” says Wasserman.

See our previous Doctors Making a Difference stories: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

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