Virginia Listens: Chris's Story

Chris Snow, Patient, Bainbridge Island

This feature is part of our “Virginia Listens” story series, which explores how our health care providers and patients are engaging in real conversations and individual connections that drive better care. This story comes from the tight-knit community of Bainbridge Island, where Chris Snow shared the benefits of being part of a regional health care system.

Chris Snow doesn’t make decisions lightly. A former U.S. Foreign Service Officer in diplomatic service, he chooses his words carefully, researches matters thoroughly and considers all the outcomes.

That deliberation paid off when he searched the world for “the most exciting and interesting place in the world to retire” in 1998. And when he found his paradise in Bainbridge Island, another thorough round of research helped him and his wife to find their home for medical care in Virginia Mason.

After living in places as varied as Pakistan and Paris, and experiencing a wide range of health care quality, they knew exactly what they wanted: convenient primary care close to home, with easy access to world-class specialists and surgical facilities. And Virginia Mason, with its Bainbridge Island Medical Center, Seattle hospital, and other regional locations, was the only source that could deliver.

“The way Virginia Mason was organized, it just seemed to have everything we could possibly need.”

The choice revealed itself to be prophetic. While Chris’s retirement has been very fulfilling overall, even including a stint as mayor of Bainbridge Island, it has also been punctuated by serious health issues that required Virginia Mason providers to collaborate extensively across locations and specialties.

Chris’s primary care doctor at Virginia Mason Bainbridge Island was concerned over his occasional difficulty swallowing, which led to a diagnosis of esophageal cancer in coordination with a specialist at Virginia Mason Hospital and Seattle Medical Center. In only a week, the thoracic surgeon had coordinated all of Chris’s specialist visits and tests, reviewed the findings and met with the specialists to create a treatment plan to remove his esophagus.

“The teamwork was just phenomenal. It was major surgery, but I had confidence in the process.”

That confidence in Virginia Mason’s coordination from his home on Bainbridge across specialties throughout their system has grown as Chris has dealt with other challenges like a hip replacement requiring coordination among his primary care physician, local orthopedic specialist and surgeons in Seattle. And as the Virginia Mason system has become even more integrated and advanced over the last 16 years, he’s leaving the island for health care less and less.

“I can’t think of any specialty we might need that we can’t get on Bainbridge Island now,” said Chris. “Virginia Mason cardiologists and dermatologists have a regular rotation here, and you’ll see the MRI machine coming over on the ferry every week. It’s smart — all the locations can share in the best resources.”

When asked what that means to him personally, Chris said, “I have my personal physician on Bainbridge. And he has his colleagues and they can become my personal physicians or surgeons. And they do. And that’s powerful medicine.”

A public servant through and through, he adds, “Having a network of medical services available is crucial and a measure of a community’s maturity. And the contribution that Virginia Mason makes to our community, in that regard, is outstanding. Just outstanding.”