Top Doctor Top Doctor
The Top Doctor award is a peer-nominated award for providers who give exceptional care.

Michelle Cowan, MD, FASCRS

Physician
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Associate Professor, Department of Surgery
University of Washington School of Medicine
Physician
UW Medicine
Specialty:
Medical Oncology
“I take my cue from my patients, basing treatment decisions on what the evidence says but also taking into account how they want to embrace life despite having an illness.”
— Dr. Cowan
How has cancer affected you personally?

When I was 18, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. That experience opened my eyes to the rigors of treatment as well as the emotional and physical toll the disease takes on patients and families. Cancer is often referred to as a battle, and that’s what it felt like at the time. Looking back, I think what I’ve carried forward professionally from that experience is an acute interest in how my patients want to live their lives. Just because we can pursue surgery doesn’t necessarily mean we should. I take my cue from my patients, basing treatment decisions on what the evidence says but also taking into account how they want to embrace life despite having an illness.

How do you like to work with patients?

As a surgeon, I have spent years accumulating a foundation of medical knowledge, so I don’t expect you to understand everything about your illness in a one-hour clinic visit. I see myself as being your coach, walking you through every step of the treatment process and having in-depth discussions about your quality of life. I strive to demystify surgery and what it can accomplish. Patients seem to appreciate my candor, the time I spend with them and the way I tailor my explanations to the individual. While I bring technical expertise to the patient-physician relationship, my patients have taught me just as much about strength, compassion and bravery.

Provider background

Specialty: Medical Oncology

Area of clinical practice

Colorectal cancers

Colon cancer, rectal cancer, gastrointestinal diseases

I am a board-certified surgeon who treats patients with diseases of the colon and rectum, including cancer. I am dedicated to applying a minimally invasive approach to the management of these diseases such as robotic, endoscopic or laparoscopic surgery whenever possible. Delivering quality cancer care is dependent upon multidisciplinary collaboration, which is why I work closely with a variety of specialists. 

My background includes providing care at the University of Colorado Hospital and the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center. Now, my current clinical practice spans SCCA, UW Medical Center - Montlake and UW Medical Center - Northwest. In addition to working with patients, I study quality-of-life issues and health care disparities as they relate to surgical cancer care.

Gastrointestinal Refers to the stomach and intestines. Also called GI. Laparoscopic surgery A surgery done with the aid of a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease. Surgery done with the aid of a laparoscope. A laparoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.

Diseases treated

Education, experience and certifications
Medical Degree
Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine
Residency
University of Chicago Hospitals, General Surgery
Fellowship
Washington University, St. Louis, Colon and Rectal Surgery
Board Certification
Colon & Rectal Surgery, 2016, American Board of Colon/Rectal Surgery; General Surgery, 2015, American Board of Surgery
Languages
English
Awards
Seattle Met's 2021 Top Doctors award

Dr. Cowan received this peer-nominated award for her exceptional patient care.

Stories

Meet SCCA’s colorectal surgical team

SCCA’s all-female colorectal surgery team pioneers a multi-disciplinary approach: Drs. Mukta Krane, Sarah Atkinson, Michelle Cowan and Joy Chen.

Research

Clinical trials

We make promising new treatments available to you through studies called clinical trials led by SCCA doctors. Many of these trials at SCCA have led to FDA-approved treatments and have improved standards of care globally. Together, you and your doctor can decide if a study is right for you.

Publications

Many of our SCCA physicians conduct ongoing research to improve standards of patient care. Their work is evaluated by other physicians and selected for publication to the United States National Library of Medicine, the largest medical library in the world. See scientific papers this SCCA provider has written.

Press

SCCA providers are often asked to give their medical expertise for press and news publications. Read articles by or about this SCCA provider.

Your care team

At SCCA, you receive care from a team of providers with extensive experience in your disease. Your team includes doctors, a team coordinator, a registered nurse, an advanced practice provider and others, based on your needs. You also have access to experts like nutritionists, social workers, acupuncturists, psychiatrists and more who specialize in supporting people with cancer or blood disorders.
Registered nurse (RN)
Registered nurse (RN)
Your nurse manages your care alongside your physician and assists with care procedures and treatments.
Patient care coordinator
Patient care coordinator
Your patient care coordinator works closely with you and your physician and serves as your scheduler.

Insurance

SCCA accepts most national private health insurance plans as well as Medicare. We also accept Medicaid for people from Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. We are working to ensure that everyone, no matter what their financial situation, has access to the care they need.