Thursday, April 18, 2024

Two University of Washington School of Medicine-Spokane graduates returning to Eastern Washington to practice

Scott Hippe will be working in Chelan, Lisa Matelich in Newport

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CHELAN - For most fifth-graders appendicitis would be an uncomfortable disruption in their daily routines-- for Scott Hippe it was like a light bulb going on.

"I thought it was the coolest thing to be made well again," he said. "I've always liked science and helping people, and medicine seemed like a good balance between the two."

Raised in Snohomish, Hippe attended Gonzaga University, earning degrees in biology and Spanish.

When he was accepted into medical school at the University of Washington, he was delighted to find out he'd be studying in Spokane.

"It was like a homecoming," he said.

Though he didn't grow up in a rural community, UWSOM's Targeted Rural and Underserved Track (TRUST) intrigued him.

TRUST is an optional program that provides educational experience to prepare students for careers working in underserved rural areas and underserved small cities.

"It looked like an opportunity to explore what medicine is like in an underserved community," said Hippe.

His TRUST site was Chelan, and that's where the lure of family medicine grabbed him.

"I got hooked on the broad spectrum of medicine that family physicians practice," he said. "It's a job you'll never master-- there's always something to learn and there's never a dull moment."

The pace of small town living also proved enjoyable.

"I really liked the community and getting to know patients well," he said. "In a small practice you can ask yourself how much can I do for my patients? In a bigger place you're told what you can and cannot do for your patients."

He recently completed his family medicine residency in Boise, Idaho, and is finishing up a one-year OB fellowship there.

Knowing the shortage of OB physicians in rural areas, Hippe said he wants to be able to perform C-sections as part of his practice.

He was thrilled to accept an offer to return to Chelan to launch his career and will start in Chelan on Nov. 3.

"I'm excited to work at Columbia Valley Community Health," Hippe said. "My wife and I are looking forward to living Chelan. We love the outdoors."

"We are all extremely excited to have Scott join us at CVCH Chelan. He is an intelligent, competent, well trained physician that will be a great addition to our local medical community. As the primary preceptor for the UWSOM TRUST program in Chelan, I could not be more ecstatic. This is truly the ultimate goal of the program. To increase exposure of young medical students to rural primary care with hopes of them eventually returning to practice in our community. I have had the opportunity to watch Scott grow and mature as a medical student and now look forward to practicing along side him as a physician colleague," Tobe Harberd, CVCH Physician.

That undergrad degree in Spanish will also come in handy.

"There are many agricultural workers in Chelan, and I'll be speaking Spanish half the time," he said.

Hippe counts himself fortunate to have been part of his small 20-member UWSOM class in Spokane. This was prior to UW's partnership with Gonzaga University and the class size has since increased to 60 students.

"I found amazing mentors and made great friends," he said.

In fact, he said he was an "unintentional Cupid" for one of those friends.

He introduced fellow student, Lisa Matelich, to her husband.

"She was one of my housemates, and when one of my best friends came to visit, I introduced them, and they ended up getting married."

Now, Matelich is also returning to Eastern Washington to launch her medical career.

"I started thinking about medicine in high school," she said. "I enjoyed science classes and was interested in serving people."

Matelich grew up in Vancouver,  and said when she decided to become a physician, "It really helped that I enjoyed school and the learning process."

The University of Washington School of Medicine was her first choice, and she chose to study at the Spokane site.

"It was fabulous," said Matelich. "I felt like I found my academic, professional and personal community in Spokane."

Her introduction to rural medicine was in tiny Weiser, Idaho, 90 minutes north of Boise.

"I really enjoyed the pace and the outdoor access," she said. "I discovered a place that didn't have the noisy background of a city. When I went home for a break and heard an airplane flying overhead I thought it was thunder."

While in Weiser, she realized the impact family medicine physicians have in rural communities.

"I saw patients in the grocery store," she said. "My preceptor invited me to her kid's softball game. I feel my personality fits this specialty."

Back at school she became the leader of the family medicine interest group.

"I met a lot of family physicians, and was so inspired by the work they do, and their attitudes toward their patients," Matelich said.

After completing her family medicine residency in Colorado, Matelich returned to Spokane for a one-year OB fellowship.

"It felt like coming home," she said.

And her new home won't be far away. Matelich has accepted a position in Newport.

She said the fact that the hospital and clinic in Newport aren't owned by a major medical system was attractive.

"I love the autonomy that provides," Matelich said.

Geoff Jones, MD, Assistant Clinical Dean, Eastern and Central Washington University of Washington School of Medicine practices in Newport and is delighted to welcome Matelich to the area.

"We're excited to have Lisa join us in Newport," he said. "This is really a direct result of our TRUST program, even though she isn't a TRUST student. Without TRUST and our close connection to the UW, we wouldn't have been able to recruit such a high-quality physician to join our group".  

Matelich said she's looking forward to being part of that close-knit team.

"I never wanted to be a solo practitioner," she said. "I'm a team-player."

It helps that the practice is located in such a lovely bucolic setting.

"I'm excited to be so close to the National Forest--I've never lived in a town with a Ranger Station before!" Matelich said. "I feel like I've hit the jackpot in being able to work with a team of physicians practicing family medicine in the scope I desire, and serving patients in Eastern Washington."

John McCarthy, MD assistant dean for rural programs is delighted these former students have chosen to return to the area. He said rural physicians are in short supply.

"One of the longstanding goals of UWSOM is to develop a workforce for the region. We need about four times the number of rural docs than we're currently producing, "McCarthy said. "The decisions of Scott and Lisa to practice in Chelan and Newport fulfill a key mission. They're bringing their skills back to these communities and meeting the need for rural physicians."
 

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