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Dr. Genevieve Pagalilauan, internist at UW Medical Center-Roosevelt, was born in the Philippines and emigrated when she was a preschooler.

“Apparently I was fluent in Tagalog, but I have no capacity to speak it now. I can’t even fake a good accent,” Pagalilauan quips with trademark good humor.

Her grandfather was an old-fashioned general practitioner in a rural community, the kind who did a little bit of everything. Their home in the Philippines was directly above his clinic, and Pagalilauan grew up hearing stories about the courtyard filling up with patients and her grandfather working in the clinic until every one of them had been seen. He practiced until he was 83 and dying of metastatic prostate cancer.

“He had bone metastasis, and he was still going down and seeing people. He practiced until he truly couldn’t anymore.”

When Pagalilauan came to medical school at UW, she thought she was going to be an emergency medicine doctor. “But what I learned about myself in medical school is I’m a continuity junkie. I couldn’t let it go — I wanted to know what happened to everybody! I learned that long-term relationships matter to me, seeing change over time matters to me, walking a path with people through the good times and the bad times matters.”

Pagalilauan takes great joy in caring for people their entire adult lives. “I’m people’s hospice doctor. I can home-visit. I can get to know their families if that’s helpful for them. I have a philosophy that I never shut my pager off — I don’t ever want to not be there for my patients.  Nobody has ever abused it — no one.”


“Please don’t use your shotgun. You just wave it at the bear and don’t go outside.”


“I have a sweet patient in her 90s who lives on her own on the Olympic Peninsula, and she has a shotgun by her bed in case of bears. The kickback alone would shatter everything in her body! I tell her, ‘Please don’t use your shotgun. You just wave it at the bear and don’t go outside.’ She has my cell phone number because she’s alone, and it makes her feel better to have it. Once in a while she calls me, and that’s OK.”

As well as being committed to her patients, Pagalilauan is creative and resourceful. When she and some colleagues were looking for a way for students to practice placing a chest tube without having to spend a disproportionate amount of their budget, they came up with a simulated human chest — fashioned from neoprene, fake skin, and “a lot of pork ribs.”

“I’m at Costco with a dozen slabs of ribs. It won’t even fit into a normal cart — I have to use that giant flat kind. People think I’m having a massive barbecue, and I’m thinking, ‘You don’t want to know what I’m really doing!’”

Guest Writer: Wilson Diehl

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