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It’s not uncommon for several doctors to be part of the same family. In fact, the American Medical Association estimates that nearly 40% of physicians end up marrying another doctor. What is rare, however, is when all the doctors in the family work for the same hospital.

That’s exactly the case at Harborview Medical Center. Pediatrician Frederick Rivara, MD, MPH, started at Harborview 38 years ago. Today, his son Matthew Rivara, MD, his daughter-in-law Amelia Dubovsky, MD, and son-in-law Colin Raelson, MD, MPH, all work at Harborview.

While they each practice in different specialties — Matthew Rivara is a nephrologist, Dubovsky is a psychiatrist and Raelson is an interventional cardiologist — their familial ties have given them shared experiences and insights about the medical profession.

A common vision

Despite their different concentrations and patient populations, the family shares the same approach to medicine. They are all dedicated to serving patients who have limited access to healthcare. They all attended medical school and did post-graduate residencies on the east coast but came to Seattle to practice and be close to family.

“We believe strongly in the mission of Harborview to provide care to marginalized and underserved populations,” says Frederick Rivara. “We understand the importance of providing care to those who have difficulty getting the right kind of services elsewhere. We all have chosen to work at Harborview because of its mission.”

Their commitment comes with a recognition of the challenges that accompany patients who have unmet medical and social needs, as well as the health complications that can arise at any time.

“I care deeply about working with marginalized populations who often struggle to access high quality care, including those struggling with homelessness, addiction, or who are incarcerated,” says Dubovsky.

Deeper colleague connections

While the family members are too busy to grab lunch together most days, working at the same facility gives them a chance to connect in other ways. They often collaborate on patient care. There’s a close connection between their specialties, and they often find themselves treating the same individuals.

“Nephrology and psychiatry often intersect in the clinical care of inpatients in the hospital,” says Matthew Rivara, noting the same is often true with cardiology.

“Amelia and I often share patients where I’m taking care of their dialysis needs and issues, and she is being consulted on their acute or chronic psychiatric needs,” he says.

In fact, Dubovsky is collaborating with Raj Mehrotra, MD, division head of Nephrology, on researching depression in patients with chronic kidney disease.

Raelson is new to Harborview, having just started this fall. In his work within interventional cardiology, he has appreciated input from the other family members in learning how Harborview works and the critical role it plays in the UW Medicine system as well as for patients in the city, county and region.

These close collaborations have also strengthened the family’s other relationships throughout the hospital.

“Working together has allowed us to get to know an enormous number of people across many specialties at Harborview and in the community. It’s not just doctors. It’s nurses and technicians on the floor, staff members in the clinics, social workers throughout the hospital and hospital leadership,” says Matthew Rivara. “That initially helped me feel like a part of the Harborview community far faster than I would have otherwise.”

Ambassadors for health

Over time, their impact as a medical family has grown beyond Harborview’s walls. Through their expertise and efforts, they consistently promote health and wellness within the wider community.

As a pediatrician and founder of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, Frederick Rivara has actively advocated for gun safety in the Seattle community and nationally. Because of his influence, Dubovsky asks every patient about gun ownership and their knowledge of gun safety. Routinely posing those questions has undoubtedly saved lives, she says.

Saving lives was also top of mind during the pandemic, when their shared medical knowledge became a valuable resource for local schools. The schools received advice from the entire family to craft the safest policies for navigating the outbreak.

Ultimately, as a medical family, they have had many opportunities to positively affect the overall health of the area’s population, says Matthew Rivara. And it’s been a privilege.

“We’ve ended up being representatives of UW Medicine to different parts of our own communities,” he says.