Doctors Making a Difference

Doctors can make a difference in so many ways. In our Fourth Annual Doctors Making a Difference feature, we profile four local medical professionals who go above and beyond the call of duty. Some of them travel abroad to help those in need. Others choose to devote their experience to the local community. These doctors are on the cutting edge of their fields, and they make a difference in their patients’ lives every day. Congratulations to these hard-working folks. You truly make a difference.

Foot Soldier

Dr. Byron Hutchinson dpm

Director of Residency Training,

Franciscan Foot & Ankle Institute

Franciscan Medical

Dr. Byron Hutchinson chose his field in part because when he played high school football, he got a turf toe injury that kept him sidelined for a good portion of his junior year. The injury heightened his interest in the medical field, and pointed him to the foot and ankle specialty.

Hutchinson volunteers his time as the senior surgeon for the International Foot and Ankle Foundation. Beyond what he does locally, Hutchinson travels to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico twice a year to do volunteer work with the Yucatan Crippled Children’s Project. He’s inspired by the smiling faces of the children he treats. “They have so little but have big hearts and rarely complain,” Hutchinson said. He also selects two residents from the podiatry program to donate materials and surgical experience to the foundation. Residents benefit from a wide range of medical experience while working with the program, patients get better treatment, and Hutchinson gets to watch his students make a real difference. “I also get inspired by teaching residents and seeing them progress to become excellent physicians.”

The trips to the Yucatan also have enriched Hutchinson’s life in other ways. He loves to travel, and his volunteering has developed a passion for the Mayan culture. “I visit various sites, have been to conferences and read a lot of books on the culture,” he said.

Hutchinson is honest and frank about the many health care challenges we face. “I think the most important health care issue facing Americans today is access to health care and what that means. We cannot continue to provide everything to everybody and hard choices will have to be made about what this access will mean to each and every one of us.”

If he could change one thing about the world, he would want people to “worry more about the welfare of others and less about themselves or the material world.”

More about Dr. Byron Hutchinson

What would your patients be surprised to know about you?

“That I sometimes worry about what is going on with them and I don’t always leave that at the office.”

What accomplishment are you most proud of? “Being instrumental in the development of the residency program at St. Francis Hospital and seeing my two children finish college and move on with their lives.”

Smile Innovator

Dr. Darrin Rapoport bds, mds

Owner, Pacific Northwest Periodontics
Many of us have deeply rooted fears of going to the dentist. Dr. Darrin Rapoport shared those fears as a youngster, but then he actually became a dentist. “To be honest, as a child I was absolutely terrified to go to the dentist. I guess in a way becoming a dentist was a way for me to overcome my dental phobia and at the same time try and help people who were as terrified as I was of the whole dental experience,” he said. Rapoport’s passion for his career is palpable, and this translates into a deep respect for the patient-doctor relationship. “Patients entrust the care of their bodies to us. It is a tremendous honor and responsibility,” Rapoport said.

Rapoport is part of a select group of specialists who were general dentists for 5 years prior to a three-year periodontal training. He owns Pacific Northwest Periodontics and Implant Dentistry in Tukwila. Periodontics is a branch of dentistry that deals with the structures surrounding and supporting teeth.

Rapoport has pioneered a new procedure on the West Coast called “Teeth-in-a-Day.” More and more people are requiring dental implants and partial or full dentures, and certain genetics and hygiene deficiencies make it necessary for younger patients to get periodontal treatments as well. In the past, these treatments have required more upkeep and time to heal. “Teeth-in-a-Day” surgeries take place in one day, leaving patients with a new smile and the ability to eat foods that same night. Rapoport has pioneered a technique that keeps costs down and provides patients a quicker way to a happy and healthy life.

Rapoport, originally from South Africa, sees the problems Americans face in his work in health care. He’s concerned about the “spiraling costs and the flawed health care and dental system.” Rapoport believes that real change is possible. “I wish people would focus more on our common goals than those factors that divide us,” he said.

More about Dr. Darrin Rapoport

What inspires you?

“I’m inspired by creative people and those that have overcome significant hurdles in their lives. My 11-year old son has Juvenile Macular Degeneration (Stargardt’s Disease). When he was 7-years-old his normal 20/20 vision deteriorated to legally blind in less than nine months. Despite these significant changes in his life he has always remained positive and upbeat. He has never considered himself to be disabled and it hasn’t slowed him down at all. He loves skiing, karate and is a certified scuba diver.”

Sight for Sore Eyes

Dr. Cheryl Croft od

Cascade Eye and Skin Centers
Dr. Cheryl Croft of Cascade Eye and Skin Centers has always loved math. “I wanted to be able to use that in a way that would help people. The mathematics and optics of vision are amazing,” she said. Croft has used her training and love of math to not only better her career, but people’s lives as well.

Outside of the day-to-day clinical setting where she helps patients see better, Croft volunteers for Project Homeless Connect, an annual free event for the homeless in downtown Tacoma. The event provides free medical and social services. During this event, Croft spends her time in the vision clinic, where she gives eye exams and fits patients with free prescription eye glasses.

In addition to making a difference here in the South Sound community, Croft also has taken her considerable skills and donated her time to the international community. She’s volunteered in Honduras, Costa Rica and Mexico, where she’s provided eye exams and set up patients with donated eyeglasses that were brought along on the trip. On these trips, Croft and her group provided medications and eye drops to help treat eye parasites and bacterial infections.

Croft loves her career. “I enjoy interacting with different people from different backgrounds every day. Hopefully I can help them see better or make their eyes healthier, and they in turn enrich my life by sharing their lives and stories with me,” she said. Croft values her field because it’s constantly changing and she is able to continuously learn. It keeps her from getting bored. Even when Croft isn’t working, she manages to stay occupied. She’s passionate about her family. “I have a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old that keep me very busy,” she said.

Like many physicians, Croft is deeply alarmed by “the large number of people who can’t afford or don’t have access to health insurance.” Her concern for the less fortunate is highlighted by her volunteerism, but also indicated by personal creed and philosophy. “I try to treat everyone, whether homeless or wealthy, young or old, with dignity and respect,” she said. If she had the power to do so, Croft would “make sure every child and vulnerable adult had an effective advocate.”

More about Dr. Cheryl Croft

What inspires you?

Croft offers her favorite inspirational quote: “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” -Micah 6:8

What would your patients be surprised to know about you?

“I dread going to the dentist.”

A giving nature

Dr. James Wyman

Orthopedic Surgeon, MultiCare Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Dr. James Wyman’s work with orthopedic surgeons early on in his training laid a clear path for him to his current career as an orthopedic surgeon for MultiCare Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. “They seemed happy in what they were doing. I enjoy the complexity of what we do, and the fact that we care for all parts of the body. We’re never doing something over and over again, it’s always something a little different,” he said. Wyman loves his career because of the immediate gratification of fixing what’s wrong. With orthopedic surgery, he says results can be immediate, which can be rare in medicine.

In March 2011, Wyman, a Gig Harbor resident, had the opportunity to travel to Peru with the Scalpel at the Cross medical team to spend a week working at a community hospital in Pucallpa. The team, consisting of four surgeons and a dedicated missionary support staff, worked with dozens of patients and performed more than 30 surgeries on patients of all ages and who had all sorts of injuries.

Wyman’s giving nature is bolstered by his humbleness. According to the doctor, he believes his patients would be surprised at how much and how often he volunteers his time. In addition to his trip to Peru with Scalpel at the Cross, Wyman has worked with Project Homeless Connect in Tacoma, Project Access (a program that provides free medical care for people who don’t have medical insurance or who can’t afford it) and even at the Tacoma Rescue Mission working in the kitchen.

Although he has spent plenty of spare time helping others in need, Wyman feels he’s made the biggest difference in raising his children. “My biggest passion right now is my four kids. They keep me busy. … They’re good kids and they’ve done well so far. My oldest is getting ready to head off to college. I’m most proud that I’ve been able to balance my career and take care of my family,” he said.

Wyman feels privileged to have been able to travel to Peru to help people. “It was a unique opportunity … a chance to contribute to a community that has real need for orthopedic medical care, which allowed me to volunteer my surgical skills.”

More about Dr. James Wyman

What do you think is the most important health care issue Americans are facing today?

“I’ve done mission work in other countries that are truly impoverished and it’s only when you’re in that situation that you understand how lucky we are to have what we have. Unfortunately, people have come to think of medicine as a right instead of a privilege, and once people feel they’re entitled to get anything they want, I think it loses its value. In the United States, I don’t think we have a problem with access – people in this country have tremendous access to care. There’s an overuse and almost abuse of medical care in this country. People don’t realize how much care they get. In some ways, people take advantage of the system and abuse it. They don’t appreciate it.”