Faculty Spotlight: Başak Çoruh
Dr. Çoruh was born in Turkey and moved to the U.S. with her family while she was in elementary school. She grew up with teachers as her role models, providing her with inspiration and motivation that she continues to carry with her in her work today.
Both of her parents are teachers. Her mother taught English as a Second Language and was a literacy volunteer and her father was a college professor of geophysics and a department chair for a decade prior to his retirement. After moving to the U.S., her mother would help her prepare for school by reading to her in English every night (the Little House on the Prairie series) and making her crossword puzzles where she had to read Turkish clues and write the answers in English. Her father taught her leadership skills, having grown up working hard to support his family from an early age.
“As a 10 year old, after a full day of school and work, he studied at night under the streetlights in his village to prepare for the next day’s classes,” she said. “But his early hardships did not harden his outlook on life - he is optimistic, kind, and endlessly patient. “
Her interest in science was then fueled by her 9th grade chemistry teacher, Julie Grady. As a passionate advocate for women in STEM, Grady helped her gain self-confidence. “She pulled me aside one day to tell me that I was smart and should confidently end my classroom answers with a period rather than a question mark,” Çoruh said. “I reconnected with her recently to thank her for this feedback that I still remember today.”
She went on to attend the University of Virginia for her undergraduate degree and the Medical College of Virginia of Virginia Commonwealth University for medical school before coming to the UW for Internal Medicine residency. She stayed at UW for Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine fellowship for the opportunity to pursue additional training in medical education, a rare opportunity in the field at the time. She credits Dr. Mark Tonelli for his early support for educator training in the UW Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine fellowship.
Clinical and education work
Çoruh is now an associate professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine. She spends her clinical time in the UWMC-Montlake Medical ICU, Oncology/Bone Marrow Transplant ICU, and Surgical ICU, serves as the fellowship director for the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine fellowship program and is an active member of several departmental committees and professional organizations.
In speaking of her work, she said, “It’s hard to pick one thing that I enjoy the most about my work, so I’ll go with three: 1) it’s a deep honor to care for critically ill patients and families during a vulnerable time in their lives, 2) the opportunity to work with an amazing interdisciplinary team of medical students, residents, fellows, nurses, advanced practice providers, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, and physical and occupational therapists, and 3) playing a part in the career development of the best fellows on the planet.”
Within the fellowship program, Çoruh said that this time of the year is especially exciting. The program celebrates their graduates and welcomes new fellows during the summer and is now is in the midst of fellowship interview season. “It is really inspiring to meet the diverse and talented applicants to our program; the future of pulmonary and critical care medicine is very bright,” she said. Fall is also the time when the program completes their program evaluation, an annual opportunity to reflect on strengths and areas for growth in clinical, education, and research training.
Additionally, she is currently working on a medical education research project on fellowship recruitment practices with Dr. Mira John, a Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine clinician-educator fellow. “It has been fun to collaborate with other educators across the country and we hope that what we learn will impact recruitment practices for both fellowship applicants and programs,” she said.
Professional and service activities
“Professional and service activities are a big part of the draw of academic medicine for me. It means that I’m doing something a little different every day when I’m not working clinically.”
Çoruh is a proud member of the Department of Medicine Gender Equity Council and Retention and Career Advancement Subcommittee and recently joined the Appointments and Promotions Committee, an opportunity that helps her better understand the promotion process.
She also appreciates the communities of the pulmonary and critical care medicine professional societies. Through her involvement with the American Thoracic Society (ATS) Education Committee and the ATS Section on Medical Education, she has valued connecting with national/international educators with shared interests. The Association of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Program Directors has also been an incredible source of peer support, which was amplified during the pandemic. She adds, “in addition to playing a part in the educational activities of the organization, I treasure the friendships I have made there.”
“People seem to always be surprised to hear that I’m deeply introverted,” she said.
“My clinical work in the ICU includes working weekends, so I’m fiercely protective of family time when I’m not at work. My family includes my Turkish-Canadian husband Ozgur, our daughter Alev (her name means ‘flame’ and she is just that in our lives), and Reggie the lab. We love family walks on the Elliott Bay trail and Discovery Park and Ozgur and I love to cook Turkish feasts together.”