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For Bay Leslie-Mazwi, MD, and Nicole Mazwi, MD, medicine will always be a part of their lives.

It’s how the couple — who have been married for nearly 15 years — met.

“I walked into the emergency department and wondered who this handsome first-year resident was,” says Mazwi, a final-year medical student at the time. “I actually think meeting in the emergency department is as romantic as it gets for two physicians, so I am quite pleased that, that is where our journey began.”

It’s how they’ve grown their respective careers in neurology and rehabilitation medicine. And it’s why they’re moving their family of five across the country from Boston to Seattle.

On August 1, Leslie-Mazwi joins UW School of Medicine as the Warren and Jermaine Magnuson Endowed Chair in Medicine for Neurosciences. And on October 1, Mazwi starts her role at UW Medicine as Director of Stroke Rehabilitation.

The two joined us to chat about their time in Boston, their interests and what they’re looking forward to in the Pacific Northwest.

You’re both coming to us from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston. What have you enjoyed most about your time in the Northeast?

Leslie-Mazwi: Boston is a beautiful city with incredible history, people, medical institutions, sports teams and opportunity. All three of our children were born at MGH. So we have many happy memories, and it is so hard to leave. Some part of us will always be Bostonian.

Mazwi: Agree, it’s been amazing. I made it clear when we moved there that I only wanted to deal with nor’easters for five years, but five years turned into well over a decade. All in all, it has been an incredible opportunity and experience — a fantastic place to grow our family and our careers.

What are your clinical and research interests?

Leslie-Mazwi: I am dual fellowship trained in neurologic critical care and interventional neurology, and work in the Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery at MGH. Inhabiting the space between those two entities has been a unique opportunity. I have institutional, health system, state, regional and national roles related to this work.

My clinical interest is broad, covering the diagnosis and treatment of all acute neurological pathology. My recent focus has been large vessel occlusion stroke treatment and systems of care optimization to improve the way we triage and treat patients. As a huge fan of team sports, I find system-of-care work incredibly satisfying.

Mazwi: I am board-certified in both physical medicine and rehabilitation and in brain injury medicine. Practically, I am the first dedicated neurorehabilitation consultant at MGH, and I also have a robust neurorehabilitation clinic at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Additionally, I attend on both the stroke rehabilitation and brain injury rehabilitation units.

For the past five years I have also served as a neurotrauma consultant for the National Football League and other sports organizations in Boston, evaluating and managing athletes for concussion. My research interest is in early rehabilitation interventions in the intensive care setting for patients with stroke and other neurologic conditions.

What interested you each about UW Medicine?

Leslie-Mazwi: The former chair of the Department of Neurology Bruce Ransom, MD, PhD, told me recently that UW has “a quiet greatness about it.” That was exactly the impression by which I was struck early on. The institution serves a critical role in not just Seattle or the state, but across the entire WWAMI region. I find that mission very appealing.

However, the biggest appeal for me was the nature of the faculty within the Department of Neurology and the other areas of UW that I have interacted with. Everyone I’ve met has been remarkable, simultaneously accomplished and sincere. This is the foundation of the “quiet greatness” I referenced. I was also struck by the collaborative spirit that comes through so clearly. That is exactly the substrate for real and lasting progress.

Mazwi: My coming to UW is a direct extension of Bay’s opportunity. That being said, it feels serendipitous that the rehabilitation medicine department here is such a strong one and that my skillset, research interest and clinical expertise were an incredibly natural fit with the department’s current needs. So I’m a happy plus one.

What are you most looking forward to working on at UW Medicine?

Leslie-Mazwi: Neurology is at a major crossroads. We are uniquely challenged by the size of the mismatch between the demand for neurological services and the ability to provide those services. That mismatch is set to only widen in the decade to come, related largely to aging of the population. This poses a tremendous obstacle to effective patient care, and I’m looking forward to working at UW Medicine to help strategically address this, while we maintain our research, educational lineage and excellence, too.

To do so we will need to work on multiple fronts, involve multiple aspects of both UW Medicine system and the community, and accept that our effort will take a long time to bear fruit. I think of it like building a cathedral. The time scale is months and years, not days or weeks. But if we are successful the result, like a cathedral, is a marvel that is the manifestation of the work of hundreds of us in close coordination. The needs of our patients demand innovation and tireless focus. My hope is that we can provide a positive model for other healthcare systems in how we approach it. 

Mazwi: I am looking forward to working with the countless colleagues here that have an outstanding reputation in our field as well as in related disciplines. I am curious to understand better the cultural differences in how physiatry is practiced here compared to in the Northeast. And I am energized about the opportunity to extend another bridge from the West to the East Coast with the goal of building new collaborative efforts. I plan to invest this next phase of my career in improving systems of care delivery and enhancing our understanding of the processes underlying neurologic recovery and how we can positively affect it.

What excites you about moving to Seattle?

Leslie-Mazwi: Our extended family lives along the West Coast, so being closer to them and seeing them more often and with easier logistics is a huge positive. Beyond that, the opportunity to learn about the history of this region and explore the beautiful Pacific Northwest has us all excited. I see that camping, hiking, skiing (the kids, not adults) and swimming will be central in our experience living here. So will raincoats, I’m told.

Mazwi: During my first visit here, I was absolutely taken aback at the raw beauty all around me. Now I see why people spend so much time outdoors here. I’d like to think I have an adventurous spirit, so this huge change alone is quite thrilling. And as our children grow older, being nearer to family is priceless.

What do you want your future colleagues to know about you?

Mazwi: In my next life, I’d love to be a Bollywood dancer. Or an aeronaut, flying hot air balloons.

Leslie-Mazwi: And in this life, firmly on the ground, we’re so thrilled to be joining everyone, and we look forward to the chance to work together to advance the mission of the department and UW Medicine at large. We’re very excited to meet and get to know all of you.