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Several pictures of doctors who are featured on the Local Legends web site

MEET LOCAL LEGEND: Christina M. Surawicz, M.D.

Picture of Christina M. Surawicz
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Christina M. Surawicz, M.D.

“I love teaching and clinical work. They're both challenging, and you're always learning something new.”


Jim McDermott



Christina Surawicz grew up in a family of doctors, her father a cardiologist, her mother a psychiatrist. But as a newly minted English literature major out of Barnard College, she wanted to be a poet. Like for generations of nascent poets before her, that dream faded in the hard light of daily life. "I just wasn't a good enough poet," she recalls.

Instead Surawicz went to medical school and built a career in internal medicine and gastroenterology that has brought her to the peak of her profession. She is widely recognized as a clinician, researcher, educator and administrator and as a role model and mentor for medical students, residents and faculty at the University of Washington School of Medicine (UWSM).

"I see my biggest challenge as supporting and valuing faculty and medical students," she says. "Styles have changed since I was in medical school. The old attitude was 'I did it, so they have to do it that way too.' The role models were of men who worked constantly. Women have had a huge impact in changing the way those of us in medicine live and work."

Surawicz also believes women have helped to shift the teaching and practice medicine to a better balance of personal and professional satisfaction, seen today's greater acceptance of parental leave, part-time work and children's day care, all of which have helped to bring more women into medicine.

Nominated as a Local Legend by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA-7), Surawicz came to the University of Washington in 1973 as a result of being matched for an available internship in internal medicine, a field which she knew little of. She remained to complete her residency and a fellowship in gastroenterology.

In 1981, she became the first woman faculty member of Seattle's Harborview Hospital gastroenterology department and has directed its program ever since. She is widely praised as a committed clinician who also gives much time and effort to serving the uninsured and underserved in the Seattle area.

As the first female president of the American College of Gastroenterology, and the first assistant dean for faculty development at UWSM, assuming leadership roles has become second nature for Surawicz. At the federal level, for example, she has chaired the Food and Drug Administration's Gastrointestinal Drug Advisory Council.

A member of the editorial boards of several gastroenterology journals, her work has appeared widely in numerous scientific journals and books. She is known for offering practical guidelines to physicians for improved patient care. For the past decade, she has been included in the list of "Best Doctors in America" and, from 2001 on, also in "America's Top Doctors."

A colleague has written of Surawicz, "She has never failed to amaze me with her profound scientific knowledge, her exemplary humanistic qualities, and her sincerity and generosity to her patients, students and peers."



Appointed Director Gastroenterology Department, University of Washington, and Director Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, Harborview Medical Center Seattle


Named Chief of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Harborview Medical Center


Elected President, American College of Gastroenterology


Named Assistant Dean for Faculty Development, University of Washington School of Medicine


Elected President, Western Association of Physicians




University of Kentucky School of Medicine, Lexington, KY


Internal Medicine

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