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Van Life Rocks: Dr. Elizabeth McMurtry and Emergency Medicine in the Pacific Northwest

July 25, 2019

In addition to sitting on our Board of Directors at the NBOME, and frequently contributing test items for COMLEX-USA Level 3 and the EM COMAT, Elizabeth McMurtry, DO, FACEP, serves as Assistant Dean for Clinical Education and Faculty Development for Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine (PNWU-COM) in Yakima, WA. She also practices emergency medicine across Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland, otherwise known as Washington’s Tri-Cities area.



The NBOME caught up with Dr. McMurtry in her Airstream Interstate, somewhere in the vicinity of Walla Walla, Washington, where we had a chat to learn a little more about her career and community — and her Airstream.

NBOME: What drew you to the Pacific Northwest?

EM: If you’re a fan of the outdoors like me, there’s a lot of it here. I love camping, hiking, whitewater rafting, etc. Walla Walla’s climate is suited to outdoor adventures, and it’s a wine town; plus, it’s a lot of fun to do some of the cultural things that revolve around a tourist town. By the way, the Northwest’s wine country happens to rival any other wine area in the world.


NBOME: Good to know! So what is the osteopathic medical community like in your area?

EM: Osteopathic medicine in Walla Walla is on the rise overall, thankfully. Unfortunately there isn’t much in the way of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) available to patients here. We have plenty of DOs, but there aren’t many focusing and practicing OMT. So if you’re a DO who wants to come to a more rural town that’s got a whole lot going on and you want to practice OMT, Walla Walla is wide open.


NBOME: What drew you to emergency medicine specifically?

EM: In emergency medicine you have to approach patients very holistically, whatever their critical issue is. When they come into the emergency department we have to consider their cultural needs, their home environment, their ability to pay for medications or therapies, whether they need to be hospitalized, etc. There’s a lot that goes into it from a whole-person treatment standpoint. That was always very appealing to me as an osteopathic physician.


NBOME: There’s been some buzz around the office about your Airstream motorhome. Tell us a little more.

EM: I practice at much larger facilities about an hour and a half away in the Tri-Cities. Between working my clinical shifts, traveling for my full-time job with PNWU-COM’s clinical education team, and my NBOME Board obligations, I’m away from home about half of the month every month — if not more. For years I’ve had an RV of some sort or another, but I bought this one a couple years ago to be a little more comfortable while traveling and have more flexible working shifts.


NBOME: Aside from the convenience, do you think the Airstream has any benefits to your practice?

EM: Absolutely. It allows me to stay in the area, rather than travel back and forth. That allows me to stay more involved in my facility and be more supportive of my colleagues. In my free time, it also lets me get the lay of the land in the communities I’m working in. Sure it’s fun to go play after work, but when we’re talking about holistic, whole-person-care, it’s so important to understand the environment your patients are coming from.


NBOME: Anything else you want to share?

EM: 1. Walla Walla is ready for OMT. 2. It has some of the best wine in the world. 3. Van life rocks!


Elizabeth A. McMurtry, DO, of Washington State, is an educator and clinical leader in emergency medicine. She serves as assistant dean for clinical education and faculty development for Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, where she is devoted to improving community-based education and enhancing the clinical learning experience. Dr.McMurtry has extensive experience precepting medical students and residents in community emergency departments, and she enjoys sharing successful models of education with community clinicians.