Sara Zakem, MD

Fred Hutch
Clinical Assistant Professor
University of Washington School of Medicine
Radiation Oncology
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“I have a very holistic approach to patient care. What I love so much about medicine is having the chance to understand my patients. My philosophy is to always get to know the person sitting in front of me before we get into the details of their diagnosis — goals, values, fears and how they want to proceed. Using that as a groundwork, I dive into the suggested treatment plan. It's a nice mixture of individualized patient care and standardized treatment that fits within the context of their life.”
— Dr. Zakem
What's your favorite memory of working with a patient?

I was treating a gentleman in his early 40s who had metastatic melanoma. He was so interesting; he had traveled, he was outgoing and he often came by to say hello. It made me realize how much I love the aspect of my field that allows me to get to know people. It was so rewarding to feel like I made an impact on him. We had personal conversations about travel. He told me he'd been to Yosemite and I told him I'd always wanted to go there. Before he passed, he gave me a beautiful photo he’d taken at Yosemite. When I look at that photo, it reminds me of the rewards that come from getting to know each patient first and foremost as a person.

Melanoma Cancer that begins in the melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin). It may begin in a mole (skin melanoma), but it can also begin in other pigmented tissues, such as the eye or the intestines. Metastatic A metastatic cancer is a cancer that has spread to other areas of the body by way of the lymph system or bloodstream.
Have you or a loved one been affected by cancer? How did that impact your outlook on cancer or your approach to care?

My father is a medical oncologist, and after watching him, I knew medical oncology was what I wanted to do. It threw me for a loop when my sister, aunt and then mother were all diagnosed with cancer. Going through that was incredibly difficult, but each of those experiences shaped my path forward. It challenged my expectation of whether I could continue to pursue oncology, but my mother encouraged me. She really admired her physicians, and the treatment they offered made all the difference. So much of what I do is trying to treat my patients with the same care those physicians provided my mother and our family.

Medical oncologist A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer in adults using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy and targeted therapy. A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer in adults using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy and targeted therapy. A medical oncologist is often the main health care provider for someone who has cancer. A medical oncologist also gives supportive care and may coordinate treatment given by other specialists.

Provider background

Specialty: Radiation Oncology

Community Oncology

Our mission is to provide patients with the highest quality, personalized care closer to home. As part of Fred Hutch, our community oncologists offer patients multidisciplinary tumor board opinions, clinical trials and expertise in treating a variety of cancers.

Diseases treated

Education, experience and certifications
University of Colorado, Radiation Oncology
Medical Degree
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Undergraduate Degree
University of Michigan
Board Certification, Medicine
Washington State Medical License, 2021; Colorado State Medical License, 2017-2020; Illinois State Medical License, 2016


Clinical trials

We make promising new treatments available to you through studies called clinical trials led by Fred Hutch doctors. Many of these trials at Fred Hutch 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.


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

Your care team

At Fred Hutch, you receive care from a team of providers with extensive experience in your disease. Your team includes doctors, a patient care 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 doctor and assists with care procedures and treatments.
Patient care coordinator
Patient care coordinator
Your patient care coordinator works closely with you and your doctor and serves as your scheduler.


Fred Hutch 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.

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