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Alumni Spotlight: Kim Mebust, MD

Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Kim Mebust neurology

Two-time Duke alumnus Kim Mebust, MD, completed her residency and sleep fellowship at what was our division of Neurology before coming to private practice in the Pacific Northwest. For this week’s “Spotlight” interview, Mebust talks to us about the camaraderie, discipline, and bird-related injuries that defined her time at Duke, how she accepted the call to conduct clinical research, and how she manages to fish, raise two children and six chickens, and make cider and artisanal bread when she’s not at work.

What are your current medical responsibilities? What does a typical workday look like for you?

My work involves wearing a variety of hats. First I have an active clinical practice in Sleep Medicine, seeing a variety of patients with different sleep disorders at 3 different offices in two counties. In addition, I manage the MultiCare Health System sleep centers, maintain center accreditation, and  interpret sleep testing. When I began private practice, our group participated in an outreach teaching program with the University of Washington to teach medical students neurology.  I have maintained that academic appointment and continue to teach medical students, residents and nurse practitioner fellows either as part of the University of Washington program or through the Family Medicine Residency Programs affiliated with MultiCare.  Currently, I am a Clinical Assistant Professor for the Department of Neurology at the University of Washington.

Research has not been my favorite endeavor, but in spite of this,  I have become involved with the MultiCare Institute for Research and Innovation. Some of my activities have included a publication in Sleep and Breathing in 2018, participation as lead physician for MultiCare's Patient Center Outcomes Research Institute grant for Positive Airway Pressure Intervention on Patients with Moderate-to-Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Resistant Hypertension (2017-2018) and lead physician for a feasibility pilot program to evaluate and treat hospitalized patients admitted with COPD or CHF for obstructive sleep apnea in order to reduce hospital readmissions (2018).

We opened MultiCare's first sleep center in 1997 and soon after it became accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). I have been the executive Facility Director since that time and we have grown to four AASM accredited Sleep Centers, providing both polysomnography in the sleep laboratory as well as home sleep apnea testing.

My other activities have included developing Schwartz Rounds for our regional hospitals, participating as chair of the Credentials Committee for Good Samaritan Hospital, Chair of the Quality Committee Good Samaritan Hospital, member of the Regional Board for Good Samaritan Hospital, Trustee for Pierce County Medical Society, and member of the MultiCare Medical Associates Executive Committee.

What’s one moment or lesson from your residency and fellowship at Duke that stand out as especially useful or memorable?
When I was looking at Neurology programs around the country to apply to, I weighed various pros and cons like where the school was, reputation, program content etc. When I selected Duke after interviewing with Joel Morgenlander, I knew that it was going to be a very tough program. But I made the conscious decision to apply for the hardest program because I knew if I could survive, I would be trained well enough to take care of the most challenging patients. I wanted to be the best I could be and Duke seemed to be the place that would provide me with the highest quality education.

My fellowship was filled with camaraderie. I enjoyed the epilepsy surgery case conferences, with both the pediatric and adult neurologists. I will never forget the day Darrell Lewis came to work with a scrape on his bald head. As I recall, he got that when a bird decided to land on his head when he was out walking in the woods. Rod Radtke asked him why he let the bird sit on his head and he replied that he didn't want to scare it. The thought of that was hilarious!

Where did you go after completing your training at Duke, and how did that lead to your current position?
After my fellowship at Duke, I traveled to Washington State to join Neurology and Neurosurgery Associates of Tacoma for private practice. At the same time I became contracted to develop MultiCare Health System's first Sleep Center in 1996. MultiCare Health System is a not-for-profit health care organization based in Tacoma, Washington.

After becoming the managing partner for Neurology and Neurosurgery Associates of Tacoma, our group made the difficult decision to dissolve our private practice which was the oldest and largest private neurology practice in the area, and join the MultiCare Health System as employed physicians in 2011. Following this transition, I developed the MultiCare Sleep Medicine program, consisting of physicians and advanced practice providers (APPs) to serve the regional clinics. It was at that time that went in to full time Sleep Medicine.

What’s been the biggest change in your practice since you became a resident?
The biggest change since I was a resident has been the over-reaching governmental regulations in healthcare, therapeutic restrictions by insurance companies and the use of "prior authorizations," and the endless red tape preventing physicians from practicing high quality medicine that the were trained to do. I long for the "good old days" when it was just the physician and the patient.

What is your life like outside of work? What passions do you have outside of neurology?
My partner works as an architect in Tacoma. I have 2 children Matthew age 16 and Annie age 14. Matt is a guitarist and wide receiver for the football team. Annie is in to piano, guitar and singing. She participates in the school and local musical theater.

We have a cat and 6 chickens as well as a "rurban" mini farm. My hobbies include making hard cider and artisanal bread. Fishing is a family past-time. I love to travel. My bucket list includes trips to Iceland, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, France and Japan. Looking forward to retirement, but that will not be for another 8-10 years.

Mebust hoists a king salmon which she caught on a trip to Alaska.