Dr. Erika Pope Named Hospice Medical Director

May 9, 2024 | News, Staff Spotlight

Dr. Erika Pope Named Hospice Medical Director

After nearly a year and a half with Hospice of the Northwest, Dr. Erika Pope accepted the Hospice Medical Director position in mid-January 2024. In this role, Dr. Pope leads our dedicated team of medical providers, offering expert recommendations on medical care for patients receiving hospice services. We are thrilled to have Dr. Pope in this role, as she not only brings medical expertise, but a passion for providing exceptional care to hospice patients in our community.

A Personal Tie

As is true for many team members at Hospice of the Northwest, the desire to ensure dignity and provide compassionate care to our patients also has a personal origin for Dr. Pope. In fact, she was inspired to become a doctor because of the medical needs of someone important in her life: her little sister Melissa.

Melissa was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease in her twenties, much earlier than usual. Huntington’s disease affects the brain and, in Melissa’s case, caused restless dance-like movements and pain from muscle tension.

Her sister’s diagnosis is what inspired Dr. Pope to go into medicine in the first place. Motivated to help people like her sister, she set out to be the expert that people turned to when they needed to know the best way to treat patients living with Huntington’s disease. She wanted to find cures, save lives, and help the people who felt helpless and hopeless. Melissa’s kind heart and fearless spirit inspired Dr. Pope to work hard every day, learn all she could, and become the best doctor she could be.

In Dr. Pope’s last year of medical school, Melissa’s symptoms worsened. Dr. Pope began to lose hope in the system and felt helpless, as so many brilliant people she respected and admired could not help her sister. Huntington’s was deteriorating Melissa’s body and taking away her abilities. When it came time for the residency portion of her program, Dr. Pope chose to stay at Skagit Regional Health to train in family medicine and help her mom take care of Melissa. Eventually, her disease progression escalated and she began receiving services from Hospice of the Northwest.

Melissa was calmed by the therapeutic music and massage therapy sessions provided during the course of her care. “She had the support of an incredible Hospice team,” said Dr. Pope. “Her symptoms were changing quickly and all of the support made it possible for her to be comfortable and find peace.” The These services, which greatly improved Melissa’s quality of life, were paid for by generous donors who support Hospice of the Northwest Foundation.

Hospice of the Northwest would change Dr. Pope’s life forever

Melissa passed away at the age of 33, during Dr. Pope’s first week of residency. The loss of her sister ignited a new passion in Dr. Pope—a passion that would change the trajectory of her life.

For the next three years, Dr. Pope spent as much time as she could learning from palliative and hospice care providers. She was touched by the kindness of the doctors she met, as she learned how they approached each patient with genuine curiosity about what was most important to them. These doctors showed Dr. Pope how to meet every patient where they are to best ensure and support their autonomy and emotional needs so they can focus on what matters most to them.

Dr. Pope joined Hospice of the Northwest in June of 2022 and has been providing expert care and compassionate support to our patients ever since. Dr. Pope is not only an excellent doctor, but she embodies the kind heart and fearless spirit she so admired in her sister Melissa.

Empowered by her professional and personal experiences, Dr. Pope inspires hope for our patients and their loved ones. We are honored to have Dr. Pope on our team and are thrilled that she has continued her service with Hospice of the Northwest by stepping into the role of Hospice Medical Director.

Passing the Torch

Dr. Pope follows in the footsteps of former Hospice Medical Director Dr. Anita Meyer, who served in this position for the past 15 years. Dr. Meyer has welcomed Dr. Pope to her new role, saying:

“My work at Hospice of the Northwest has been the crown jewel of my doctoring career. I am so proud to be a part of the robust program we have built and grateful for the exceptional care our team provides. It has been my greatest honor to serve as medical director for the past 15 years.
I am excited to pass the torch to the brilliant and energetic Dr. Erika Pope, a family medicine trained physician uniquely qualified to take on this new role. Erika expressed interest in hospice care years ago as a medical trainee and has both the professional and personal experience to take us forward. The first steps in addressing suffering are to see and to care. Erika has the vison and compassion needed to extend our mission of providing excellent end-of-life care.”

We are humbled and thankful for the devotion and expert stewardship of Dr. Meyer throughout her time as Hospice Medical Director. Dr. Meyer will continue her work as a physician at Hospice of the Northwest, providing expert care to our patients. Thank you for your leadership and service, Dr. Meyer!

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