Department of Urology

Message from the Chair

Dr. Hunter Wessells

Dr. Hunter Wessells, Department Chair and Professor of Urology

December 2017

The Department of Urology at the University of Washington offers a vibrant academic environment where we collectively Heal, Comfort, Teach and Wonder as part of our mission to improve health.

Autumn is always busy: hosting several sub-interns for a month each, residency interviews, in-service exams, AUA deadlines, conference travel and, of course, the holidays. Amid such busy schedules, our faculty, trainees and staff continue to provide extraordinary patient care, conduct translational research, and educate future surgeon-scientists. We significantly expanded our capacity to serve the needs of our community and health system with the integration of 4 urologists into the Department and our UW Medicine Northwest Hospital campus.

I was delighted to attend the launch of the Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine in early December. A collaboration between UW Medicine, Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH) and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the institute will facilitate discovery and delivery of personalized prevention and treatment approaches to diseases based on patients’ individual genetic and molecular profiles. In particular, listening to my colleague at Fred Hutch Dr. Pete Nelson explain the potential for the institute to transform prostate cancer research and patient care was inspiring. Several of our research faculty are involved in research on targeted cell treatments for prostate cancer, and published their work in in the journal Cancer Cell last month.

Our Department joins company with the prestigious training programs at UCLA, Michigan, Brigham Women’s Hospital and Wake Forest as sites selected the AUA for the Urology Care Foundation Physician Scientist Residency Training Award. Supporting three years of research training during residency, this award aligns perfectly with our mission to educate for the future by providing research training for candidates interested in a urological surgeon-scientist career.

Clinicians observe a simulated combat rescue of a manikin at the WWAMI Institute for Simulation in Healthcare (WISH) lab at UW Medical Center in Seattle. Credit: Clare McLean

Clinicians observe a triage scenario using a manikin at the WWAMI Institute for Simulation in Healthcare (WISH) lab at UWMC, directed by Dr. Robert Sweet. Credit: Clare McLean

Among recent faculty accomplishments, Chair Emeritus Dr. Paul Lange was awarded the 2017 SIU Distinguished Career Award in Lisbon, recognizing his significant contributions to global urology, which has long part a part of the UW Urology mission; Dr. Jonathan Wright and colleagues received funding of $1 million for Phase II Clinical Trial of Pembrolizumab for BCG refractory bladder cancer; Dr. George Schade received a 3-year R21 for $300,000 as part of the Russian-US Science Collaborative on “Focal Therapy of Prostate Cancer using Non-Thermal Tumor Ablation with Focused Ultrasound”; and Dr. Robert Sweet’s team will continue to develop increasingly sophisticated simulation manikins via funding from the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity.

Several of our faculty have been in the local and national media lately, including Dr. Jonathan Harper on Tom Brady’s water consumption, Dr. Tom Walsh on the impact of marijuana on male fertility, Dr. Jonathan Wright on the link between obesity and prostate cancer, and Dr. Bryan Voelzke on his role in treating a patient with extramammary Paget’s disease (EMPD) – a rare, invasive cancer often mistaken for jock itch – and working with his patient’s national support group. Other media appearances by our faculty are here.

Drs. Merguerian and Shnorhavorian treat an infant with bladder exstrophy

Drs. Merguerian and Shnorhavorian treat an infant with bladder exstrophy in Armenia

My colleagues at Seattle Children’s have been productive this fall as well: Drs. Paul Merguerian and Margarett Shnorhavorian led a medical mission to Armenia in September, providing consultation and surgery for more than 40 infants and children; Dr. Jonathan Ellison received an Academic Enrichment grant to study “Alternations in the Microbiome of Children with Nephrolithiasis”; and Dr. Tom Lendvay was an invited faculty speaker at the International Symposium on Pediatric Robotic Surgery in Bologna. SCH just launched It Starts with Yes: The Campaign for Seattle Children’s, with a bold vision of raising $1 billion to transform childhood health.

Every November, members of the Department join forces with MOVEMBER to raise awareness for men’s health issues. This year, Schuchart Construction and its mustachioed fundraisers were able to allocate 100% of their proceeds to fund a Movember Symptom Tracker to help men with prostate cancer survivorship navigation. This combined with a $25k gift from the Howard J. Cohen Foundation to support UW bladder cancer researchers, shows the power of grass roots fundraising to impact important urological health issues.

We continue our tradition of shaping policy and advocacy for our field with Dr. Richard Pelman serving as a the AACU representative for the urology caucus at the AMA Interim Meeting of the House of Delegates in November. Earlier in the year, one of our trainees spent a day in Olympia with the Washington State Urological Society.

L-R: Dr. Suzette Sutherland, ARNP Emily Schade, Chief Resident Dr. Geolani Dy, and U2 resident Dr. Tristan Nicholson

L-R: Dr. Suzette Sutherland, ARNP Emily Schade, Chief Resident Dr. Geolani Dy, and U2 resident Dr. Tristan Nicholson

Our female urologists have been increasingly visible in their advocacy for women in the field, coming out in force at the inaugural Washington State Urological Society “Women in Urology: Paving the Way” dinner in October, at which Drs. Jane Miller, Margarett Shnorhavorian and Kathleen Kieran were invited speakers. Our faculty also comprises 3/5ths of the Society for Women in Urology board, with Dr. Suzette Sutherland serving as this year’s President.

Despite the high stakes and fast pace of our work, our faculty, staff and trainees never cease contributing to our mission, reminding me of how thankful I am for the opportunity to represent and lead such an outstanding Department.

My continued thanks to all and best wishes for a happy holiday season.


Hunter Wessells, MD, FACS
Professor and Nelson Chair of Urology

Past Messages

Message from the Chair: September 2017
Message from the Chair: June 2017