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Kenneth R. Wilske

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Kenneth R. Wilske Obituary
Kenneth R. wilske

Kenneth R. Wilske, M.D. was born to Emil and Emelia Wilske on January 4th, 1935 in American Falls, Idaho and died suddenly on the afternoon of September 17th, 2013 as he prepared to tee off for his weekly golf game in Fall City, Washington. Ken attended middle school and high school in Nampa, Idaho and was a superb student. During his sophomore year geometry class, he became friends with an equally bright classmate that would soon become his lifetime partner and wife of 54 years. Ken graduated with honors in 1955 with a BA in Biology from the College of Idaho, in Caldwell before receiving his MD from the University of Washington Medical School in 1959. He completed his medical residency at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, New York in 1961 before finishing his training in a two year medical fellowship program back at the UW. After joining Seattle's Virginia Mason Clinic in 1964, word of his diagnostic expertise spread as he quickly became a go-to resource for the clinic's most complicated medical cases. During his 40 year career Ken took on many leadership positions at Virginia Mason, including the section Head of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Deputy Chief of Medicine and leading the Continuing Medical Education program. In support of his field he served as President of the Northwest Society for Clinical Research, President of the Northwest Rheumatism Society and was a member of the FDA Arthritis Advisory Committee.

His impacts beyond Virginia Mason included authoring and co-authoring 76 articles in peer-reviewed journals, numerous books and book chapters for both medical colleagues and the public. His contributions of clinical research culminated in the development of a new paradigm and strategy for early aggressive treatment of rheumatoid arthritis to control disease activity prior to joint damage, disease resistance and increasing drug toxicity. Known as "Inverting the Therapeutic Pyramid", this concept is now a standard approach for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other collagen-vascular diseases. For his contributions, the American College of Rheumatology awarded him the honor of Master of Rheumatology in 2000 and the Distinguished Rheumatologist award in 2001.

Ken contributed toward the development and growth of Seattle's Benaroya Research Institute for 32 years in various roles including the president of the board of trustees, the chairman of the executive committee and chairman of their long-range planning committee.

Ken was a loyal alumnus of the UW School of Medicine. He joined the UW School of Medicine Alumni Association in 1964 and served in many leadership positions until his death. Ken proudly received the UW School of Medicine Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2005.

While his contributions to medicine brought him recognition, he always stated that "the destination of life is the journey". He enjoyed every day of that journey whether he was working with his patients, traveling the world with friends, puttering in his garden, indulging his granddaughters with chocolate sundaes or just walking his dogs through the neighborhood.

After a 40-year career at Virginia Mason he retired in 2004, and his lasting legacy was recognized through the creation of the Wilske Center for Translational Research at Virginia Mason as well as the Benaroya Research Institute Kenneth R. Wilske Lecture Series in Science and Medicine. Remembrances may be made to these institutions in his honor through the Virginia Mason Foundation, PO Box 1930, Seattle, WA 98111.

Ken Wilske is survived by his beloved wife of 54 years, Janean, three daughters, Lisa, Ashley and Kendell (Jon), three granddaughters, Isabella, Claire and Michaela, and his sister Kathleen. A celebration of his life will be held for family, friends, colleagues and patients on Saturday, October 12th. Please contact the family directly (or email jonnorelius@gmail.com) for time and location information.
Published in The Seattle Times on Sept. 29, 2013
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