Peter Olivier Ways, MD
June 28, 1928 ~ April 6, 2018
Peter Olivier Ways, physician, educator, devoted husband and father, died the morning of April 6, 2018, surrounded by his family. He was three months shy of his 90th birthday.
Peter's life centered on Gretchen, his wife of 28 years, his children and grandchildren, friends scattered all over the country, and his dogs Rudi and Griffey. He led a complex and principled life, leaving a legacy of educational innovation in the medical field, as well as service to national and international humanitarian causes. A runner before it was fashionable, an advocate of taking charge of one's health, poet, author, and editor, he remained a diehard Seattle Mariners fan. There was no place on earth sweeter to him than the cabin he built on Henry Island.
He did not suffer fools gladly, could get easily frustrated, and took some pride in being a curmudgeon later in life. Charming, with a good sense of humor, he was sensitive, kind, and an exquisite listener. Introverted and slow to speak, his wisdom made his verbal contributions worth waiting for. Twelve-Step spirituality was at the core of his being. When he was wrong, he promptly admitted it.
Peter was born in Baltimore, Maryland and educated at Harvard College and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He met his first wife, Ruth Farrell, in New York City and with her created a family of four remarkable children who also became physicians and educators.
An internship at Harborview Hospital in Seattle was followed by service in the Air Force, with two years at Hahn Air Force Base in Germany. Peter completed his internal medicine residency in Rochester, New York and then moved to Seattle in 1959 where he did a fellowship in hematology and taught biochemistry at the University of Washington Medical School.
In 1967 Peter joined the faculty of the College of Human Medicine in East Lansing as one of the founding faculty and guiding spirits. He was the first Chairman of the Curriculum Committee and, as the new school developed, he presided over one of the most progressive curricula in medical education. Peter himself contributed the "focal problem" approach to clinical training, the refinement of the community-based clinical clerkship and his own comprehensive program, titled "The Fundamentals of Patient Care (FPC)." Years later Harvard Medical School claimed credit for their new ideas about medical training: most of those ideas were brought forward in East Lansing by Peter Ways ten years before. He was a superb hematological researcher, a wonderful clinical teacher, and a caring and precise physician.
After his career as a professor of medicine, he led an educational initiative to improve the prevention and management of alcoholism and other addictions. In the late 80's he chaired the steering committee for Creating a Sober World and made two trips to the Soviet Union to establish Alcoholics Anonymous there. Later, with Peace Trees Vietnam, he traveled to the old DMZ to plant trees for a peace park.
Peter is survived by his devoted wife, Gretchen Gundrum; children Heather (Jerry Sgro), Carol (Robert Kruzel), Martha (Timothy Lee), and Peter (Joe Breakey); grandchildren, Sam, Max, Anthony, Clara, Cory, Peter, and Aliza; sister Brigid Ways Marcuse and her children and grandchildren; brother John Ways (Lois); dear friends Tim Wallace, Peter Finkelstein, the Henry Island community, and many "friends of Bill." He is predeceased by his parents, Dorothea (Smith) Ways and Warner Olivier, and step-parents, Max and Connie Ways.
A celebration of Peter's life will be held at the Recovery Cafe;, 2022 Boren Ave., Seattle, WA, on Sunday, April 22, 2018 at noon. Carpooling is encouraged.
For those who wish to honor Peter further, donations can be made to the Recovery Cafe; or the San Juan Preservation Trust.
To plant trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store
Published by The Seattle Times on Apr. 15, 2018.