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New Swedish chief is Islander

Lily Jung Henson - Contributed Photo
Lily Jung Henson
— image credit: Contributed Photo

Dr. Lily Jung Henson of Mercer Island has worked for the Swedish medical system for 21 years, starting at the First Hill Seattle campus as a resident. She delivered both of her own children at Swedish, and laughs about it when she tells colleagues at conferences that she’s with Swedish.

“I joke about it because I’m of Chinese descent,” she said.

Jung Henson is now the chief of staff at the new Issaquah/Sammamish Swedish hospital, which opens July 14.

She is a clinical associate professor of neurology at the University of Washington and one of the founders of the Washington State Neurological Society. She received her medical degree from Northwestern University in Chicago, and her masters in medical management from Tulane University. She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology with a passion and interest in multiple sclerosis; she is on the national board of directors for MS.

“It (her interest in MS) comes from the very first patient I had as a student,” Jung Henson said. “Back then, there were no treatments and it was a horrible course. Now there are eight drugs on the market. These patients all have amazing stories — they’re tough cookies.”

She said there are multiple factors as to why there are so many incidents of MS in the Pacific Northwest. First, many of our residents are of Northern European descent, which makes them more susceptible to MS, she said. Also, the farther away people live from the equator, they get less vitamin D, and more viral exposure in childhood from low sunlight.

As chief of staff at the brand-new hospital, she will be responsible for the medical staff in terms of verifying their credentials, peer review and making sure the hospital’s bylaws are followed, ensuring the staff are indeed who and what they say they are. She is currently the chair of credentialing for the Swedish system.

She also admits to being a bit of a geek, and is very excited about implementing Epic health care software from the get-go. Epic’s applications support all the functions related to patient care, including everything from scheduling to clinical systems for doctors, nurses and emergency personnel. All applications leverage the same central database.

It is Jung Henson’s goal to create an “Epic Utopia” at the new facility.

When asked who will be their audience at the new Swedish Issaquah/Sammamish, given that there are hospitals in Bellevue and Kirkland, Jung Henson has no doubt there is a need. She said many of their patients will come from the Sammamish plateau, Eastern Washington, and folks who live in Renton and surrounding areas don’t want to go downtown and fight the traffic. The new hospital is easily accessible off I-90 at 751 N.E. Blakely Drive in the Issaquah Highlands.

“Growth on the Eastside has been through the roof,” she said. “There is a huge need for providing care on the Eastside.”

She said what makes this a unique opportunity is that where most hospitals are added onto time and time again, this is being built from the ground up to make it easy for the patient.

“We want the patient to take the least amount of steps to get to their doctor,” Jung Henson said. “For example, when you go the ER, you’re whisked into a private ER room. On the OB (obstetrics/gynecology) floor, labor and delivery is right there so new moms will feel comfortable.”

She said patients will be able to be monitored right where they are, providing continuity of care. They won’t be shuffled from one floor to another.

She is also very proud of the facility itself. Built to be as sustainable as possible, the building uses an abundance of natural light — even the operating rooms have a view. Floor plans were designed for efficiency of the staff, to make the most of their time.

Jung Henson will continue her practice, which also includes work with dementia and Parkinson’s patients, moving it from First Hill along with her partner, Dr. Larry Murphy, also a neurologist. As founder and team captain of the Swedish Smyelin Babes bike team of the Greater Northwest Chapter’s Bike MS Ride, she raised $80,000 for MS last year. They plan to ride again this fall in the MS Bike Ride.

On a personal note, her son just graduated from Mercer Island High School, and her daughter is entering her senior year at MIHS.

Jung Henson is very proud of the new hospital, marveling at the beautiful wood walls in the main atrium made from old high school bleachers, and floors made from recycled glass.

The physician will be at the grand opening July 9, handing out squeezable brain key chains. Now that’s a doctor with a sense of fun.

For more information on the grand opening, go to www.swedish.org.

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