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Born in Munich, Germany in 1948 after World War II to a Polish father and Dutch mother, Christine Surawicz moved with her family to the United States in 1951.
She attended Barnard College in New York City and medical school at the University of Kentucky, where she met her future husband, James Bushyhead, who was doing a residency there.
In 1973 the computer match program sent her to Seattle - something she considers to be the best thing a computer has ever done for her - where she has stayed, working at the University of Washington, for the rest of her professional career. She is currently Assistant Dean for faculty development.
Her main area of interest in gastroenterology is the role of mucosal biopsy in the differentiation of inflammatory bowel disease from infectious colitis. She has been very interested in Clostridium difficile disease due to studies of the probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii and its use for recurrent C. difficile. Christina Surawicz has also studied human papilloma virus and its relationship to anal cancer in homosexual men.
Her husband, Jim Bushyhead, is an internist in private practice, and they have three sons (20 year-old twins, and an 18 year-old). They also have 2 dogs and 2 cats.
- What made you decide to become a gastroenterologist?
- I decided to become a gastroenterologist during my second year of residency when I evaluated many subspecialties and found this to be the most attractive. I specifically remember looking at Howard Spiro's single author Gastroenterology text in the library. I looked at the chapter on constipation and remarked at the clear writing. The subject matter seemed clear in contrast to the journals in fields such as immunology and rheumatology.
- Who was the teacher you admired the most?
- My major mentor in gastroenterology has been Cy Rubin who recognized in me an interest in GI pathology far before I recognized it myself. Cy's attention to detail and his passion for GI pathology have been remarkable. I must also say that Rodger Haggitt, who joined the UW faculty fourteen years ago, was a tremendous partner to Cy in GI pathology. His tragic death this summer is something from which we (his family, our Medical School, and the discipline of GI pathology) will never recover.
- What is the most important fact that you have discovered?
- The most important papers I wrote were two papers confirming the finding that colorectal biopsy is helpful in distinguishing inflammatory bowel disease from infectious colitis because the chronic changes in architecture and inflammation are already present in inflammatory bowel disease biopsies early in the course of the disease especially in ulcerative colitis. Surawicz CM, Belic L. (1984) Rectal biopsy helps to distinguish acute self-limited colitis from idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease. Gastroenterology 86:104-113. Surawicz CM, Haggitt RC, Hussemann M, McFarland LV. (1994) Mucosal biopsy diagnosis of colitis: acute self limited colitis and acute idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease. Gastroenterology 107:755-63.
- What is the biggest mistake that you have made?
- I spent far too long as a fellow doing a fruitless horseradish peroxidase study, because I did not have the courage to admit how bored I was with doing rat experiments.
- What is your unfulfilled ambition?
- I don't have an unfulfilled ambition. I was honored to finish the Presidency at the American College of Gastroenterology last year but I do not see this as the culmination of my academic career.
- How do you relax?
- I jog every day for physical and mental health, although I have had some injuries associated with this.
- What car do you drive?
- I drive an Acura, which I purchased two years ago - my first new car in fourteen years.
- What is your best electronic 'toy'?
- I am learning to bond with my Palm Pilot.
- What book are you reading at the moment?
- Currently I am reading "House of Sand and Fog" by Andre Dubus III, an amazing novel. Probably the best book I have read in the last two years was "A Fine Balance" by Rohinton Mistry. I enjoy fiction but am trying to learn to read some nonfiction as well.
- What has been your greatest challenge??
- The biggest challenge in my life has been being a mother. Being a parent makes work look easy by comparison.
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