UW News

January 5, 2011

Q&A with UW Medicine CEO Dr. Paul Ramsey

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Dr. Paul Ramsey gives his annual address Jan. 31.

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As UW Medicine CEO Dr. Paul Ramsey prepares to give his annual address to the UW Medicine community on Jan. 31, UW Today talks with him to learn about the latest developments in academic medicine at the University.

Dr. Ramsey is also the UW’s executive vice president for medical affairs and dean of the UW School of Medicine.

Below are Dr. Ramsey’s answers to the questions we posed.

Q: What has UW Medicine accomplished during the past year?

Dr. Paul G. Ramsey

Dr. Paul G. Ramsey


Q: What distinguishes UW Medicine from other academic heath systems?

UW Medicine is unique among U.S. academic health systems. We are one of the few academic health systems in the nation that maintains a highly successful dual focus on research and on primary care.  We are committed to the mission of improving health for five states, and we have a remarkable global reach. The WWAMI program, that offers medical education for the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho, is celebrating its 40th anniversary in the next academic year, and our global health programs are having major impacts in many areas.

Q: What is happening regionally with the WWAMI Program?

Im not sure how many people know about our regional medical education program in Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho — the WWAMI states.  Through the WWAMI program, we serve as the medical school for roughly one-quarter of the American land mass.  That is unique in our nation—no other medical school has that breadth of reach.  The WWAMI program started nearly 40 years ago because our neighbor regions and states needed medical education but didnt have the resources to develop the programs on their own.  The result is an enduring high quality and cost-efficient partnership among five states in medical school and in graduate medical education.  Our medical school graduates go into primary care at a rate that is higher than the national average, and many return to the WWAMI states to practice.

In 2010, we held the first ever WWAMI Graduate Medical Education (GME) Summit in Spokane and initiated work to enhance and expand graduate medical education programs. Graduate medical education is the required training phase after completion of medical school and, depending on ones specialty, can take from three years to seven or more years.  Being a “resident” is when you learn to perfect the skills of your specialty and practice increasingly independently.  Its a critical period of training.  The nation is facing a shortage of physicians, and we need to focus efforts on building GME positions in order to supply the physicians we need for the region.

Q: What else distinguished 2010 at UW Medicine?

We successfully completed accreditation of the medical school by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) and received the maximum (8 year) full accreditation. This is a wonderful statement about the quality of our medical school.  After completing LCME accreditation, we launched the planning process to initiate a review of our medical school curriculum in 2011. It has been 10 years since our last curriculum review, and we plan to focus on enhancing the medical school and residency curricula to train physicians who deliver high-quality, safe, cost efficient and effective patient care.  Its a very exciting time.  We will look at what we do well and what we can improve and work as a community to enhance our educational process.

UW Medicine researchers also had another very successful year, both in obtaining funding and in their research findings.  .  We are second in the nation among all medical schools, behind only Harvard, for receipt of NIH funding, which is an indication of the excellence  of our research community.  There are many examples of successes in the laboratory and in clinical settings. One major accomplishment was identifying new approaches to DNA sequencing that involved the discovery of more than 2,000 new DNA sequences corresponding to 730 regions on the human genome.  The long-range implications of this work are tremendous. Another was identification of a gene that is involved in susceptibility and resistance to tuberculosis.  TB is a disease that devastates many people around the world, and this is a step toward eradicating TB.  And in 2010, UW Medicine surgeons implanted the first device in a patient with Menieres disease to treat the balance problems associated with that disease.  I am always humbled by the brilliance and dedication of UW Medicine researchers, educators, and clinicians.  It is a privilege to be associated with them.

Q: Does UW Medicine have principles that are used to guide plans for 2011?

We remain committed to the strategic goals and objectives that were developed in 2008. These goals and objectives are outlined in the UW Medicine website related to our strategic plan (web link). Our work for 2011 will be guided by the four pillars of the UW Medicine Patients First Program:

  1. Serving all patients and family members with compassion, respect and excellence;
  2. Providing the highest quality, safest, and most effective care to every patient;
  3. Recruiting and retaining highly competent health care professionals, students and trainees focused on serving patients and families.;
  4. Practicing fiscal responsibility and investing in strategies that improve the health of the public.

Q: What is your New Years resolution for UW Medicine?

At UW Medicine, we have an outstanding community of healthcare professionals, staff, students and trainees.  My New Years resolution is that at UW Medicine, we will continue to advance our mission of improving the health of the public.  I have no doubt that the UW Medicine community will have another successful year in 2011.  The global, national, and state financial barometers remain very troubling, but our faculty, staff, students and trainees have so far been able to meet difficult challenges.  I anticipate the same positive attitudes and success in 2011.

Q: What is your New Years resolution for yourself?

To exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle, to enjoy my family, and to encourage, enjoy, and work hard on behalf of the wonderful community that exists throughout UW Medicine.  I cant imagine a better group of colleagues to address our mission of improving health.


Dr. Paul Ramsey will give his annual address to the UW Medicine community at 4:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 31, in Hogness Auditorium at the UW Health Sciences Center. Everyone is welcome to attend. For more information, call Julie Monteith at 206.543.7718.