Falling in Love With Primary Care

Asking Peter McGough, M.D., Res. ’82, about UW Neighborhood Clinics is a bit like asking a proud dad if he happens to have any baby pictures. As he praises the work of the clinics and their role in providing primary care to the King County community, his voice warms with fondness and pride.

After all, he’s not just the clinics’ medical director. He’s also a very committed doctor.

“What I like about primary care is getting to know people over many years and building really strong relationships,” says McGough. “I have patients I’ve known for over 30 years, and I’m taking care of kids I delivered who are now adults. I think that’s one of the most enjoyable parts of our clinical practice.”

McGough wasn’t planning on staying in Seattle when he came north for a family medicine residency rotation in 1978. Having grown up surfing in southern California, he admits he had a slightly inaccurate mental image of the Pacific Northwest. “I had a vision of land underneath a bunch of snow,” he remembers. “But I came up here and fell in love with the place.” After his residency, he practiced medicine and taught, then joined UW Neighborhood Clinics in 2003.

“A lot of important things happen in hospitals,” says McGough, “but the work of keeping people healthy and achieving the best quality of life is primarily done in the communities, and that’s what we’re committed to at the neighborhood clinics.”

During McGough’s 14 years as medical director, the clinic system — which extends from Olympia to Smokey Point — has grown enormously, doubling the number of providers and adding five primary-care sites and six urgent-care sites. They’ve also made innovations, like team-based approaches to diabetes treatment and integrated behavioral health. And, as the clinics have grown, so have their residency training programs, in which newly minted M.D.s take on primary-care specialties like family medicine, pediatrics and internal medicine.

It’s mentoring students, in part, that prompted McGough and his wife, Colleen, to make a planned gift, one that will help provide scholarships to medical students interested in primary care. The community — the entire nation, in fact — needs more doctors. Financial issues factor into the shortfall.

“Medical training in the U.S. is expensive,” says McGough. “If you’re deciding what part of medicine to go into, sometimes you want to go into the specialty that pays more, and often that’s not primary care.” Financial assistance allows medical students to choose a specialty that is meaningful to them while reducing their burden of debt — something McGough knows from personal experience. He received full scholarships during college and medical school.

“I couldn’t have gone to school without scholarship support,” says McGough. “That’s why the idea of supporting a scholarship fund is of huge interest to me.”

By making his gift soon after he retires, McGough says, he’ll enjoy seeing firsthand how medical students are benefiting. “I’m impressed, year after year, with how bright and committed these students are,” he says. “They deserve our support.”

Accelerate Education

Through the UW Medicine Scholarship Fund.

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