Terry B. Gernsheimer, MD
Providing hematologic care, and not looking back
“Gosh, I love what I do,” says Dr. Terry – that’s what her patients call her because her last name is so long. “It’s funny, in a strange way,” she says. “I went to college in the 1970s and took funny courses and felt school was kind of a bust. My boyfriend and I bought a van and we were going to drive across the country but were prevented from going for a variety of reasons… the van broke down, my dog got hurt… so I went back to school in September thinking I’d go to veterinary school and took straight science and math courses. I did well, and from there I followed my nose and went on to medical school.”
Sister to the man who runs the Emergency Services department in a south Bronx hospital in New York City, Dr. Terry comes from a working-class family in Brooklyn. Her brother is an incredible person and role model. Her parents never told her to be anything but honest. It was her uncle who encouraged Dr. Terry’s brother to become a doctor, but not her, she was to be the teacher. But she loved science and people, Hematology captured her passion, she says. “And, I’ve never looked back.”
Coming to the University of Washington originally for fellowship training in Hematology, Dr. Terry decided to stay in Seattle and began working jointly with the Puget Sound Blood Center, UW Medical Center, and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (after it opened in 2000), primarily to work with patients who have transfusion and bleeding issues. Today she is the director of Medical Transfusion Services as well as a professor of medicine at the UW. She also runs the fellowship program in transfusion medicine at the Puget Sound Blood Center.
“Patients like me because I care about them and provide good medicine—they feel that,” she says. “Sometimes I cry and grieve with them and that’s OK. Some things are very sad [and merit tears].” This is as important to teach the residents and fellows as other aspects of good medical care, she says.
“If you stop feeling, if it stops hurting, then you should not be doing this,” says Dr. Terry. “You have to be able to empathize, process it, and then perhaps move on, but you have to feel.”
Her advice for patients, students, or anyone in general, is to follow your heart: “If you’re paying attention to what your heart is telling you, you’ll do the right thing. That’s how you learn. Hopefully you walk out and say, ‘I'm ready for what comes next.’”
As a physician, Dr. Terry says she gets back three times as much as she gives out to patients. She is awed by what she learns from them. “When you have a disease like this [cancer], all the nonsense goes away.”
Of all the jobs she’s had in her life, waitressing may have been the one that most prepared her for becoming a doctor. “As a waitress you have to be able to read what people need from you within a couple of minutes: to be invisible, attentive, sassy… it’s fun. It’s the same thing with patients. You walk in not knowing someone and feel your way along. The patients and family all may want different things. Part of my job is to figure out what they need and then help them reach those goals, even if they don’t yet know they are or can't put it into words.”
Not a person to sit still for very long, outside of work Dr. Terry loves to travel, garden, and hike with her dog, Bruno. “Working with people who can’t always do the things they love reminds me to enjoy life, not just for myself, but for them as well.”
Terry B. Gernsheimer, MDDr. Gernsheimer treats patients with blood disorders like thrombocytopenia (low platelets), anemia, and excessive bleeding and clotting. She has an interest in transfusion medicine.
Patient Care Philosophy:
Proper diagnosis and treatment are essential but are only a part of patient care. Education and sharing decision making and responsibility allow the patient, staff, and me to form a more effective partnership to find the right solutions to wellness.
- Professor, Hematology Division, University of Washington School of Medicine
- Transfusion Services, Director, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Hematology, Transfusion Medicine, Platelet Disorders
Education And Training
- State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1979
- Residency: New England Deaconess Hosp. (Boston) Internal Medicine, 07/80-6/82
- Fellowship: University of Washington- Dept. of Medicine/Fellowship Program Hematology 07/83 - 06/87
Visit PubMed for a full listing of Dr. Gernsheimer's journal articles.