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MultiCare honors legacy of 5 physician leaders in Tacoma

Posted on Mar 28, 2014 ( comments)
Physician Leaders

If you walk past the new Rainier Pavilion expansion across the street from Wright Park, you might notice five faces on the building’s pillars.

As part of the tower's grand opening festivities, MultiCare Health System honored five physicians who have made a difference in the community.

Each physician is featured in a bas-relief sculpture on the five pillars on the new Rainier Tower that opened this year.

“We honor each of these physicians not only for their unique contributions to medicine, but for their lifelong service and dedication to our community and beyond,” said Diane Cecchettini, President and CEO of MultiCare Health System.

Set in stone, the legacies and stories of these five physicians will be seen and respected for generations to come.

“I’ve served on MultiCare’s board for many years, and I’m proud to be able to honor these physicians today,” said John Folsom, Chair of the MultiCare Health System Board of Directors. “As you learn more about them, you’ll see that they left behind an impressive legacy of service to health care in this community. I know I speak for everyone on the board when I say that it’s been our honor to help carry their legacy forward into the future, and continue their work of fostering new evolutions in health care in Tacoma.”

The five physician leaders embody the true community spirit. They are pillars of our community and the “bricks” in our foundation.

Here’s a bit more about each physician leader:

Dr. Charles Larson

Dr. Charles Larson, who lived from 1910 to 1984, is known in medical circles as the “Father of Forensic Pathology.” He was the Director of Laboratories at Tacoma General Hospital and opened the state’s first crime detection laboratory here in 1941.

During his time at Tacoma General Hospital, his research expanded medical knowledge of forensic pathology for everything from firearms identification to poison detection. He served as chairman of the Pierce County Cancer Detection Center, which opened in 1946.

At the end of World War II, Dr. Larson was called to serve as the Chief Pathologist for the war crimes trials in Nuremberg, Germany. He was both the Founder and President of the American College of Forensic Pathologists, and his career was the subject of a book titled “Crime Doctor.”

While his pathology work is well known around the world, Dr. Larson was passionately dedicated to his work here in Tacoma. After completing his duties with the War Crimes Commission, Dr. Larson returned to his position as Director of Laboratories at Tacoma General.

In 1962, the AMA and the American Board of Pathology approved the “crime lab” at Tacoma General as a training school under Dr. Larson, and a one-year residency program was established. This ensured that his vast knowledge and unique insights would be shared with generations to come.

Dr. Larson has made lasting contributions to the field of Forensic Pathology, benefiting untold numbers of people worldwide. We are grateful that this pioneering, world-renowned physician chose to pursue his medical career at Tacoma General Hospital.

Dr. Stanley Tuell

Dr. Stanley Tuell, who lived from 1918 to 2009, was a dedicated surgeon who served the people of Tacoma for over 30 years at many of our community’s hospitals, including Tacoma General Hospital and Mary Bridge Children's Hospital. Born and raised in Tacoma, he graduated from Stadium High School just down the street. Dr. Tuell’s skill as a surgeon, as well as his professionalism and dedication to his patients earned him the respect and admiration of hospital staff and colleagues throughout his career.

Dr. Tuell’s commitment to serving patients and the medical community went well beyond his work in the operating room. In the early 1980s, Dr. Tuell chaired the Board of Directors for the organization that would become MultiCare Health System, a time of tremendous growth and change for health care in the community. Dr. Tuell’s visionary leadership, forward thinking and masterful ability to achieve consensus brought together three hospitals under the name of Consolidated Hospitals. This important action ensured that the legacy of quality health care would be sustained for the people of our region.

Over the years he was actively involved in many committees and organizations committed to quality health care, not only at Tacoma General Hospital, but with the Washington State Medical Association, American College of Surgeons, the Washington State Board of Medical Examiners, and the Washington State Medical Quality Assurance Commission. Even in retirement, Dr. Tuell remained an advocate for patients and medicine, and was active in a number of areas, including serving as chair of the Washington State Board of Medical Examiners, as well as on the Editorial Committee of the Pierce County Medical Society.

Those who knew him well remember his professional doctor’s demeanor, complemented by his beloved sense of humor and fun.

Dr. George Tanbara

Dr. George Tanbara, who attended the ceremony, has long been known as a determined advocate for children and the under-served people of Pierce County. He began his solo practice in 1954 and was a guiding force behind two organizations that have become pillars of quality health care: Community Health Care and Pediatrics Northwest.

The roots of Community Health Care date to the late 1960s, when Dr. Tanbara recognized the limited access to quality health care for the county's low-income and uninsured residents. To fill that void, he and colleagues established two volunteer medical clinics for low-income residents.

Since then, Community Health Care has grown to become the largest free and low-income medical clinic system in the region, with several medical clinics and dental clinics in Pierce County. The new Hilltop Regional Health Center that opened last year, and Dr. Tanbara’s name can be found on the Kimi and George Tanbara M.D. Health Center, a three-story building in East Tacoma that was dedicated in 2009.

To this day, Dr. Tanbara has been a quiet guiding influence for this important Pierce County safety net.

Dr. Tanbara’s passion to provide the highest quality care for children also led him to form Pediatrics Northwest in 1980 with his friend and colleague, Dr. Lawrence Larson.

Their vision was to provide a highly skilled team of pediatric providers to care for the area’s children. From humble beginnings in a small office, Pediatrics Northwest has grown to become a truly a comprehensive pediatric group practice, providing care for children in the entire South Puget Sound region at four main offices with 23 physicians.

Since those early days, Dr. Tanbara’s continual challenge to colleagues and staff has been, “Put the patients first.”

His outstanding service to our community over the years includes leadership positions on the boards of Community Health Care and United Way of Pierce County, and he’s active with Tacoma Buddhist Temple.

Dr. Tanbara’s tireless work for the underserved has inspired new generations of physicians to volunteer their time and expertise. His commitment to those in need has left a lasting legacy for our community.

Dr. Gordon Klatt

Dr. Gordon Klatt, who attended the ceremony, is Board Certified in both General Surgery and Colorectal Surgery, but he’s best known as the founder of the worldwide Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

In the mid-1980s, Dr. Klatt wanted to raise money for the fight against cancer by doing something he enjoyed — running marathons. So in May 1985, Dr. Klatt spent a grueling 24 hours circling the track at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. Throughout the night, friends donated $25 to run or walk with him. He completed more than 83 miles, and raised $27,000 to fight cancer.

The next year, the event was known as the City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer, and 19 teams took part in the first team relay event on the track at the historic Stadium Bowl just down the street from our hospital campus.

From those humble beginnings, Dr. Klatt’s vision grew into more than 5,000 Relay For Life events across the United States and around the world. Over the past 28 years, the events have raised nearly $5 billion.

More than money, Relay For Life has provided inspiration and hope.

Dr. Klatt’s vision, persistence and genuine caring for cancer patients and their families turned a local Tacoma event into an international phenomenon, inspiring millions of cancer survivors, caregivers and communities around the world.

Through his actions, Dr. Klatt shows us that one person really can make a difference.

Dr. Rob Roth

Dr. Rob Roth, who attended the ceremony, is a Board Certified Pathologist, but he’s best known as a governance leader who’s a strong advocate for delivering high-quality health care.

About two years ago, during Tacoma General’s 130th anniversary celebration, Dr. Roth made some fitting remarks that especially ring true today. He said, "You never know where you're going until you know where you've been. Maybe in another 40 years, somebody will be telling stories about us."

Turns out, Dr. Roth didn’t have to wait 40 years.

Dr. Roth has served on the MultiCare Health System Board of Directors since 1999 and has chaired the Quality Committee of the Board since 1997.

Dr. Roth’s leadership of the Quality Committee during a pivotal time in MultiCare’s history defined our path for advancing clinical quality using evidence-based practices. In addition, his focus on involving patients and families in improving the care experience set the stage for patient engagement throughout the system.

Dr. Roth is admired by fellow board members, colleagues and health care executives as a highly effective clinician and governance leader.

“These five physician leaders have made a lasting impact, both here in Tacoma and Pierce County and beyond,” Cecchettini said. “For that, we are honored to extend our sincere appreciation and lasting gratitude to these physicians and their families.“

Posted in: History | News | News Briefs | Tacoma

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