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5 Questions with Dave Ackerson

5 Questions with Dave Ackerson

Dave recently joined us to consult on changes to our Information Systems. As UW Medicine moves entirely to Epic (medical records and scheduling system) we’re examining how to best integrate with all partners. Dave also consulted at Northwest Hospital as Interim Chief Operations Officer and was Chief Information Officer with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

What drew you to work in proton therapy?

I was drawn to working in cancer treatment with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, as I’ve had several close loved ones face cancer through the years. I thought that I could help improve their experience and reduce the burden they faced. Cancer can become a full-time job with patients and their caregivers. Planning schedules, getting to appointments, traveling for treatment, recovering from procedures, it’s a tough experience with lots of information coming at you. I struggled with remembering drug regimens, lab results, appointment times, and so on. That’s tough as a caregiver. I often repeated health history, problems and challenges, allergies, adverse reactions, and so-on to care staff. 

With my background in IT and process improvement, I watched as wonderful nurses and doctors struggled with computer systems that seemed slow, difficult to use, and didn’t always have the information that the care team sought. Over time, with improving electronic medical records, and better portals for patients, I can see things improving for both patients and families, and for nurses, doctors, and staff that provide such great care.  

Proton therapy is particularly exciting as it provides a way to treat cancer while preserving the healthy tissue and organs surrounding the tumor. 

What got you started in your career?

I started my career back in the late 1980s by building cellular phone systems while I finished my undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Washington. I was very enthusiastic about what ‘wireless’ could do for us. I never imagined Facebook.

What do you like to do for fun?

I like to run marathons. I’ve run through the redwoods and along the Pacific coast in the Big Sur Marathon. I’ve checked out SoCal in the Carlsbad Marathon, gotten soaked to the bone in the Seattle Marathon, and posted my “personal best” 4 hours to complete the Portland Marathon. Everything looks like a Monet after you’ve run 15 miles, it’s beautiful. In the winter I like to ski and snowboard and we’re lucky in the PNW to have such great skiing with such long seasons. This summer I’ll be hiking a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon with my twin daughters. They’re 27 now, and they still like hanging out with me, so I’m pretty lucky.

What’s your favorite quote?

“In the event of an emergency, oxygen masks will deploy from the panel above you. Pull toward you to start the flow of oxygen, covering your nose and mouth and breathe normally. Please place your mask on before assisting those around you.”

Every time I’m on a plane, I’m reminded that to help my loved ones and the greater community, I need to take care of myself first. I think that’s great advice.

What’s your favorite vacation spot?

Bend, Oregon.  I love the outdoors, and with over 250 sunny days a year, running, hiking, and skiing at Mt. Bachelor and Hoodoo there’s so much to do all year round. The town has grown quite a bit since I spent time there as a kid, but now central Oregon has some great restaurants, breweries, and concert venues.